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The bar of the River Shrewsbury, the officer, sailors, and boats that I have lost in the waves, have not hindered Colonel Laurens from braving them twice, to come and deliver me himself the letter that you did me the honor to write me on the 14th of this month. The desire of communicating with you alone would have induced me to hard a descent myself the first, and with four grenadiers as my only sup port, in a place, the debarkation of which is as difficult as it was unknown ; and where there existed not a single spot proper for embarkation. The sacrifice of several of my men appeared to me less affecting, as it was the sole means of communication I could have.
I have occupied myself less with discovering the number of English vessels of war in the Road of Sandy Hook, than the means of entering it. I sup pose there are fourteen vessels of war, a throng of frigates, and a multitude of transports. This superiority of number, and the goodness of the English navy, will not hinder me from attacking Lord Howe in his retrenchment, and under his batteries, if the depth of the water do not forbid me. I only received three pilots yesterday ; they have need of re-collecting their ideas, and are at this time sounding the river. The hope of giving you something positive on this head engaged me to pray your estimable, well-informed, and most amiable Aid-de-camp, to pass a bad night on board the Languedoc.
He will give you an account, Sir, of the regret I shall feel, if this powerful mark of friendship, which the King has given his allies, who are so dear to him, should not prove of so great utility as he might promise himself.
I will not enter into any further detail in this letter. Mr. Laurens will tell you more than I can write. But it will be very important that the arrival of so great a naval succour should produce at the same time a general effort by land. If, unfortunately, that should be impossible, you are too good a patriot and too good a soldier not to feel the necessity I shall be under of going to seek elsewhere an opportunity of injuring our common enemy. The places that you shall point out to me will appear to me preferable, whenever naval circumstances and the state of my supplies will permit. It is with the greatest pleasure that I learn, from M. Gerard, the King's Minister, that you are clothed with the most ample powers to treat with me on military operations. I cannot act, either far or near, under the auspices of a greater master. You are a master; and you know that, the instant one thing becomes , we ought to attempt another.
I have received a printed list of the eleven English vessels of the line, which are announced to us on very good part. This news, published by the order of Congress, acquires an authenticity which merits the highest attention.
Accept my compliments upon your last victory. Even were not the success of America our own, by the intimate bands which bind us together, it would be impossible, as a soldier and as a man, not to participate in it. It is natural to love to see one laurel more adorning the brow of a great man. I have the honor to be, with respect,
Your very humble, and very obedient servant,
- Correspondence of the American Revolution; Being Letters of Eminent Men to George Washington, from the Time of His Taking Command of the Army to the End of His Presidency, Volume II., Jared Sparks, 1853