The letter related to the French fleet, wrecking of a British ship, and moving the army into winter quarters
In early November 1778, General Washington attentively followed reports of British fleet and troop movements. At first these pointed to an impending evacuation of New York City, but by mid-November it become apparent that General Clinton had no intention of abandoning the city. Instead, he had dispatched amphibious expeditions not only to...
In early November 1778, General Washington attentively followed reports of British fleet and troop movements. At first these pointed to an impending evacuation of New York City, but by mid-November it become apparent that General Clinton had no intention of abandoning the city. Instead, he had dispatched amphibious expeditions not only to St. Lucia in the West Indies, but to Pensacola, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. The Savannah expedition, which resulted in the capture of that city on December 29, marked the beginning of a British campaign to conquer the southern states, which would last until the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. Also on Washington’s mind was the army’s imminent dispersal from its camp at Fredericksburg to winter cantonments elsewhere in New York, Connecticut, and in New Jersey. Washington himself would end up in Philadelphia, where he spent six weeks as the guest of the President of Congress, Henry Laurens.
On November 14, 1778, Washington wrote to General Alexander McDougall, telling him the French fleet is gone, discussing the wreck of the HMS Somerset, and issuing orders to put a portion of the Continental Army into winter quarters. The Writings of George Washington indicates that the letter said, “I think it will be on every account better for the officers of the Connecticut line, to take their places as they were posted by the new arrangement, and I desire that Generals [Jedediah] Huntington and [Samuel] Parsons may do it. I have received advices from Boston that the Somerset of 64 guns, one of [British] Admiral Byron’s Fleet, went on shore on Cape Cod in a gale of wind the 31st last month. The officers & crew (except 40 or 50 drowned) are prisoners…”
This is the free frank once attached to this letter. The address panel for the letter stating it is “On the public service,” addressed to Major General McDougall at Hartford, and free franked by Washington. Notations indicate the docket and that the letter is to be opened by General Huntington in McDougall’s absence. It is in fine condition.
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