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Fortune seems to smile upon the perseverance of Great Britain. Count do Grasse's defeat, mentioned in my official letter, appears to be much more important than I expected. Since I wrote, I have seen Admiral Rodney's letter. Count de Grasse is a prisoner, and has lost six ships of the line; and I fear the rest of the fleet are so shattered as to be incapable of attempting any thing for a long time. This misfortune will put it out of the power of our ally to cooperate with us in these States or to the northward. I expect the enemy, from finding it impracticable for the French to cooperate with us, and from having again the command of the sea, will detach from New York to this quarter to prosecute farther operations. However, this will depend upon the force they have at New York. All that "will he necessary there, will he a good garrison. They cannot have offensive operations in view there. Their force is unequal to it; but, by detaching a part to this quarter, they can improve it to advantage, and leave New York in perfect security.
I have always been of opinion that farther attempts would be made for the subjugation of this country, should fortune favor them in the West Indies. I can see no other reason for having held footing in it so long. Should Count Rochambeau be ordered to this quarter for offensive operations, I hope your Excellency will also come yourself; for it will not be for the honor of America that a foreigner command an American department. If this cannot take place, I could wish the American force could act independent of his command, and only act by conjunction. I believe my rank will give several French officers a right to command me ; but, if the honor of the nation was not connected with it, I should have no objection. However, I shall be perfectly satisfied with whatever you may think necessary for the good of the service. My desire to be useful is so much greater than my wish for command, that there are no conditions to which I will not cheerfully submit, that are not personally disgraceful, to promote the interest of this country.
I fear Virginia will do little, while the French army is in that State, either for herself or the Union. As far as I can learn, little or nothing has been done for seven months past; nor can I learn that any decisive measures are pursuing for the purpose. Whatever may be your Excellency's intentions with regard to the French army, it would not be amiss to inform the Governor that they may expect that army to leave them shortly, and that great exertions are necessary for their own security. It may serve as a spur, and the genius of America often requires spurring.
I wish to know your Excellency's intentions in this quarter, as early as possible. Many measures will be requisite to accommodate matters to your views, if you have any thing offensive in view. Could the French army have arrived in this country by the middle of this month, I am confident we could have obliged the enemy to have evacuated it. Reports say here your Excellency had a narrow escape through the Clove. Mrs. Greene joins me in respectful compliments to yourself and Mrs. Washington.
With esteem and affection, I am, &c.,
- Nathanael Greene
- 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 III., Jared Sparks, 1853