WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("G:o Washington"), to Gen. James Clinton, Head Quarters, Dobbs Ferry, 20 July 1781. 1½ pages, folio, closed tear along horizontal crease.
GATHERING FORCES FOR THE CLIMACTIC BATTLE OF YORKTOWN
Washington at last sees his chance for a knockout blow against the British, either in New York City or the Chesapeake. Here, he plans to concentrate his forces in readiness for joint operations with Comte de Grasse's French naval squadron. "I have received your favor of the 12th. I imagine before this reaches you, the first detachment of Boats will have been sent down. Should they not, you will be pleased to have the Light Company of Cortland's compleated and sent down with them. Should the Boats have come away, you will consider whether you can spare the light Company and have a sufficient number of men left to the light Company and have a sufficient number of men left to bring down the remainder of the Boats which are building under the direction of Genl. Schuyler. In that case you will send the Company immediately down and Major [Nicholas] Fish with it. If you cannot, you will let the Light Company man the next Boats that are ready. Be pleased to let me know whether any Militia from Massachusetts have come in, or whether you have heard any thing of them, or of Genl. Stark."
The following day, Washington wrote to De Grasse explaining that he hoped to concentrate the Franco-American forces for an attack against New York City. "The second object, in case we should find our force and means incompetent to the first, is the relief of Virginia...by transporting the principal part of our force suddenly to that quarter" (Fitzpatrick, 22:402). That is exactly what happened. Washington finally saw that British defenses in New York required more men and firepower than he had at hand. But the mere presence of Washington's troops at Dobbs Ferry and the Bronx caused Sir Henry Clinton to call up reinforcements from Howe in Virginia. Given British naval control of the Atlantic coast, Clinton assumed Washington could not move south to attack Cornwallis. So when Washington's force did indeed start southward, Clinton thought they were planning some a move against Staten Island. Only by 2 September, when Washington had gotten as far as Philadelphia, did Clinton grasp the threat to Cornwallis. On 5 September, Washington learned that Comte de Grasse, with his 29 warships and 3,000 troops had reached the Chesapeake. The allied forces were in place for the climactic battle of the war. Published in Fitzpatrick, 22:398-399. Provenance: See note preceding 316.