<br /> Lee Letter: n438

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Arthur Lee

My dear Brother,

Having written you very lately1 from hence it
would have been unnecessary to write so soon again if some military
events had not taken place that you may be desirous to know. The Count
D’Estaing has no doubt informed his Court of his Maneuvres with the
British fleet commanded by Lord Howe. We have here no accurate
knowledge of this affair, but what we do know is as follows, that the
Count, in conjunction with Gen. Sullivan who commanded the Continental
Army, was beseiging about 6000 English & foreign Troops that had
retired within Lines round the Town of Newport on Rhode Island, when
Ld. Howe appeared in the offing. This suspended operations on the
Island as the Count immediately reshipped his Troops and went out to
fight the British fleet, which, tho consisting of many Vessels, was
inferior in number of guns & weight of metal to the Counts fleet.
The British fled & were pursued the first day, on the next day a
furious Storm arose which saved Ld. Howes fleet by dispersing both
fleets. The Count lost all his Masts before he fired a Gun, and a ship
of 74 lost her foremast and Bowsprit. A partial fighting between single
ships took place but nothing of consequence happened in this way. The
Count returned to R. Island missing the Caesar of 74 Guns and he
carried in prizes the Senegal Sloop of war & a Bomb Ketch. We hear
the Caesar has since arrived at Boston. The French Admiral determined
to go to Boston (and refit his Squadron) which he did immediately. By
this time Gen. Sullivan had approached within Musket Shot of the
enemies Lines. The departure of the fleet, exposing our Army to the
arrival of Succors from N. York quickly thro the Sound, and Ships also
to cut off our retreat, determined a Council of War to raise the seige
of Newport and return to the Main. The enemy, upon our retreat came
out, and a battle ensued, the consequence of which was victory on our
Side as you will see by the inclosed Gazette. The Army was not off the
Island when the last Express came away, but no doubt they would soon as
possible return to the Continent. We hear that Succors were on their
way from N. York thro the Sound for R. Island. Gen. Clintons Army is
still shut up in N. York by the American Army which lays just above
Kingsbridge at White Plains. Congress has not yet taken up the
consideration of foreign affairs, but they soon will, I expect in a few
days, when I will write you more fully. We are very anxious here to
know that Spain has acceeded to our
Alliance,2 and it would be very pleasing
that Holland had determined to open Trade with us. We impatiently
expect to hear from Europe – I refer You to my last in which I request,
with regard to Ludwell that you may either keep him with you, or send
him to me, as your judgment and most perfect convenience shall direct,
remembering that I have a large family, and that I wish to do them
equal justice – That I am very willing to assist Ludwells genius &
application as far as I am able to render him useful to himself and
beneficial to his Country. Send our brother Alderman this intelligence
with my love,


Richard Henry Lee

[P.S.] My love to my dear Ludwell. We do not know whether the British fleet
has ever returned to N. York in the whole – Reports are various – Some say
they are all returned – Others that they have met with great loss.


Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia Archives

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 433 – 35.

1 Richard Henry’s most recent letter to Arthur that has been found is dated
27 May 1778. Other letters that Lee wrote at about this time which
do not survive include one of 6 September to Washington and one of
the seventh to Edmund Pendleton. For an indication of the substance
of these, which is reflected in the responses of his correspondents,
see Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 12:484 – 85; and Edmund
Pendleton, The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, 1734 – 1803, ed.
David J. Mays, 2 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of
Virginia, 1967), 1:269 – 70.

2 Arthur Lee’s conduct as American commissioner to Spain as well as his
diplomatic and personal activities in France and Prussia are
sensitively analyzed in Louis W. Potts, Arthur Lee: A Virtuous
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981),
chaps. 5 – 7.