George Washington to Lafayette, 8 May 1780

The following letter, which will appear in a future volume of the Revolutionary War Series, expresses Washington’s delight to hear of Lafayette’s arrival to America.

The letter printed below is taken from the typed transcript with notes included.

Morris-town May 8th 1780.

My dr Marqs

Your welcome favour of the 27th of April came to my hands yesterday–I received it with all the joy that the sincerest friendship could dictate–and with that impatience which an ardent desire to see you could not fail to inspire.

I am sorry I do not know your rout through the State of New York, that I might, with certainty, send a small party of Horse (all I have at this place) to meet & escort you safely through the Tory settlements between this and the North River.

At all events Majr Gibbs will go as far as Pompton (where the roads unite) to meet you, & will proceed from thence as circumstances may direct, either towards Kings-ferry or New Windsor.

I most sincerely congratulate with you on your safe arrival in America & shall embrace you with all the warmth of an Affectionate friend when you come to head Qrs–where a bed is prepared for you.[1] adieu till we meet Yrs

Go: W<2n>n


1. Lafayette reached GW’s Morristown quarters on 10 May and consulted with the general until leaving for Philadelphia on 13 May (see Lafayette to the president of Congress, 16 May, and to Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, 20 May, in Lafayette Papers, 3:13, 26-29; see also GW to Lafayette, 16 and 19 May, both in DLC:GW). [back]

George Washington to Lafayette, 18 March 1780

The following letter, which will appear in a future volume of the Revolutionary War Series, illustrates Washington’s close bond to Lafayette and his appreciation for Lafayette’s efforts and assistance in the war.

The letter printed below is taken from the typed transcript with notes included. Original manuscript images of Washington’s letter to Lafayette at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3

Hd Qrs Morristown Mar. 18th 178<0>

My dear Marqs

Your polite and obliging letter of the 10th of Octr from Havre came to my hands since the begin[nin]g of this Month[1]–It filled me with a pleasure intermixed with pain–To hear that you were well–to find you breathing the same affection[at]e sentiments that ever have most conspicuously markd your conduct towards me & that you continued to deliver them with unabated attachmt contributes greatly to my happiness–On the other hand, to hear that not one of the many letters which I have written to you since you left this Continent had arrived safe was not only surprizing but mortifying,[2] notwithstanding you have the goodness to acct for it on its true principles–With much truth I can assure you, that besides the Letter which ought to have been delivered to you at Boston (containing such testimonials of your merit & services as I thought a tribute justly due from me) & which was dispatched soon after it returned to me,[3] I wrote you two or three times between that and the openin[g] of the Campaign in June.[4] In the Month of July I wrote you a long letter from New Windsor.[5] About the first of Septr I addressed you again–the last of the same Month, after I had been favoured with yr affectionate letter by the Chevr de la Luzerne, I wrote you a very long letter to go by Monsr Gerard; & some time in October I again wrote to you by Monsr de la Colombe, Copys of all which, to the best of my recollection, have been duely forwarded;[6] it is a little unfortunate then that out of the whole I should not be able to get one of them safe.

I have been thus particular My dear friend that in case there should be the least suspicion of my want of friendship or want of attention, it may be totally removed; as it is my earnest wish to convince you by every testimony that an affectionate regard can dictate, of my sincere attachment to your person–and fortunes.

For the copy of your letter to Congress, and the several pieces of intelligence which you did me the favor to transmit, you will be pleased to accept my warmest thanks.[7] our eyes are now turned to Europe–the manœuvres of the field, long ‘ere this, must have yielded to those of the cabinet, & I hope G. Britn will be as much foiled in her management of the latter as she has been in the former–her having formed no alliances, nor been able to contract for more forei[g]n troops, exhibits interesting proofs of it; which are not a little enlivened by the dispositions of the People of Ireland; who feel the importance of a critical moment to shake off those badges of Slavery they have so long worn.[8]

Since my last, a Detachment (if it can be called a detachment where the Commander in chief of an army is) consisting of the Gren[adie]rs & light Infantry & some other chosen corps–amounting in the whole to between five & 6000 Men–embarkd for Georgia–The 26th of Decr they left Sandy hook under Convoy of 5 Ships of the line & Several frigates commanded by Admiral Arbuthnot. Gener[a]l Clinton & Lord Cornwallis went with them.[9] We have accts that part of this fleet had arrived at Savanna (in Georgia)–that it suffered very considerably in the stormy weather that followed their Sailing–in which there is good reason to believe that most of their Horses were thrown overboard, & that some of their ships foundered. indeed we are not without reports that many of the Transports were driven to the West Indies; how far these accts are to be credited I shall not unde[r]take to determine, but certain it is, the fleet has been much dispersed & their operations considerably delayed, if not deranged, by the tempestuous weather they had to encounter during the whole month of January.[10] The enemy, that they might bend their operations more forceably to the Southward, & at the sametime leave New York & its dependancies sufficiently garrisoned have withdrawn their troops from Rhode Island.[11]

As the enemys intentions of operating in the Southern States began to unfo I began to detach Troops to their aid–accordingly in Novr the North Carolina Brigad[e] took up its March for Charles-town,[12] and were followed abt the middle of Decr by the Troops of Virginia;[13] but the extreme cold–the deep Snows–& other impediments have retarded the progress of their March very considerable–The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before.[14] I beg leave to make a tender of my best respects to Madm La Fayette, & to offer fresh assurances, of being with sentiments of great & sincere friendship–My dear Marqs Yr Most Obed. & Affect.

Go: Washington


1. GW is referring to Lafayette’s letter to him of 7 Oct. 1779. [back]

2. Lafayette had departed Boston on 11 Jan. 1779 and arrived in France on 6 Feb. (see GW to Benjamin Franklin, 28 Dec. 1778, and n.1 to that document). [back]

3. See GW to Lafayette, 29 Dec. 1778. [back]

4. GW is alluding to his letters to Lafayette of 8-10 and 27 March 1779. [back]

5. See GW to Lafayette, 4 July; see also GW to Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, 5 July, and Gérard to GW, 16 July. [back]

6. See GW to Lafayette, 12 and 30 Sept. and 20 Oct.; see also Lafayette to GW, 12-13 June. [back]

7. For Lafayette’s letter to the president of Congress dated 12-13 June, see the Frenchman’s letter to GW, also 12-13 June, n.2. In this letter to GW, Lafayette mentioned plans for an expedition to Ireland and advised less contentiousness among American diplomatic personnel in Europe (see notes 4 and 7). [back]

8. For unrest in Ireland and GW’s awareness of that development, see the postscript of his letter to William Livingston of 10 March and the general orders for 16 March; see also William Gordon to GW, 29 Feb.-1 March, and GW to Gordon, 3 May. [back]

9. For an overview of the British expedition from New York City to Charleston, S.C., see Anthony Wayne to GW, 26 Dec., source note. [back]

10. For British accounts of the difficult winter voyage southwards, see Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 11-12 Feb. 1780, n.4; see also Benedict Arnold to GW, 6 March. [back]

11. The British evacuated Rhode Island on 25 Oct. 1779 (see GW to Duportail and Alexander Hamilton, 30 Oct., and notes 1 and 2 to that document). [back]

12. See GW to Thomas Clark, 19 Nov., and notes 2 and 4 to that document; see also Samuel Huntington to GW, 11 Nov., and n.3, and GW to Huntington, 20 November. [back]

13. For GW’s decision to send the Virginia line to the southern department, see his letter to Huntington, 29 Nov., and the source note to that document. [back]

14. GW kept a record of the severe winter weather beginning on 1 Jan. 1780 (see Diaries, 3:342-49). [back]

Lafayette to George Washington, 27 April 1780

Lafayette, carrying news of France’s willingness to aid the American effort in the war, announces his arrival to America and urgent wish to speak with Washington in person.

The following letter, which will appear in a future volume of the Revolutionary War Series, is taken from the typed transcript with notes included. A finding aid for this document is available at the Lafayette College.

At the Entrance of Boston harbour 27th April 1780

here I am, My dear General, and in the Mist of the joy I feel in finding Myself again one of your loving Soldiers I take But the time of telling you that I Came from france on Board of a fregatt Which the king Gave me for my passage[1]–I have affairs of the utmost importance that I should at first Communicate to You alone–in Case my Letter finds you Any where this side of philadelphia, I Beg You will wait for me, and do Assure You A Great public Good May derive from it[2]–to Morrow we go up to the town,[3] and the day after I’ll Set off in My usual way to join My Belov’d and Respected friend and general. Adieu, My dear General, You will Easily know the hand of Your Young Soldier[4]


My Compliments to the family.[5]


1. Lafayette had sailed from France aboard the L’Hermione. Inclement weather and damage to the ship delayed his departure until 20 March (see Lafayette to his wife, 18 March, and to Benjamin Franklin, 20 March, in Lafayette Papers, 2:379-80). [back]

2. Lafayette carried instructions from Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, French secretary of state for foreign affairs, dated 5 March. These instructions directed Lafayette to “hasten to join General Washington. He will inform him confidentially that the king, wishing to give the United States a new testimony of his affection and his concern for their security, has resolved to send to their aid six ships of the line and 6,000 regular infantry troops at the onset of spring.

“The convoy is ordered to land at Rhode Island, if there is no obstacle, in order to be better able to assist the American army and to join it if General Washington considers it necessary. . . .

“The corps of French troops will be purely auxiliary, and in this capacity it will act only under General Washington’s orders. The French land general will take orders from the American commanding general for everything that does not relate to the internal regulation of his corps, which on the whole is to retain its system of justice and govern itself by the laws of its country. The naval general will be enjoined to support with all his power all operations in which his cooperation is required. It is understood that the Americans will be concerned to plan and consult with him and to listen to objections that he might make to them.

“Since operations must depend upon circumstances and local possibilities, we do not propose any. It is for General Washington and the council of war to decide which operations will be most useful. All the king wishes is that the troops he sends to the assistance of his allies, the United States, cooperate effectually to deliver them once and for all from the yoke and tyranny of the English. His Majesty expects that the reciprocal attention that friends owe each other will assure that General Washington and the American general officers see that the officers and the French troops enjoy all the amenities that are consistent with the good of the service.

“It is indispensable that General Washington advise on the means to facilitate the subsistence of the French troops. For this purpose, he must have provisions assembled in advance for the crews and the troops and suitable places prepared to receive the sick at the place where he expects the squadron to land and the troops to disembark. In short, he must take the necessary precautions so that the corps of French troops can be assured of its subsistence and at a reasonable price.

“When M. le Marquis de Lafayette has agreed with General Washington on all the measures to take with respect to the arrival of the corps of French troops and to the security of their disembarkation, he will go to Congress; but first he will decide with the American general to what extent he is to reveal to Congress the secret of our arrangements.

“When he has arrived in Philadelphia, M. le Marquis de Lafayette will first of all see M. le Chevalier de La Luzerne; he will communicate to him his instructions and any additional instructions that may be given to him; he will confide to him everything that has passed between him and General Washington and will take no step without the concurrence and cooperation of the king’s minister, by whose counsels he should guide himself. His Majesty honors his minister with his esteem and wishes him to have a part in everything that needs to be arranged with the United States. . . .

“If the land operations do not require the support of the squadron, it will be free to initiate cruises, at whatever distance from the coasts the commander judges proper to inflict the greatest possible harm on the enemy. He will be especially ordered not to go too far off and not to decide upon any course except in concert with and with the consent of the land generals” (Lafayette Papers, 2:364-68; see also GW’s draft letter to Samuel Huntington, 13 March, DLC:GW). [back]

3. For Lafayette’s arrival in Boston on 28 April, see William Heath to GW, 30 April. [back]

4. GW received this letter on 7 May and replied to Lafayette on the next day. [back]

5. Lafayette is referring to GW’s aides-de-camp and secretaries. [back]

Buckner Stith to George Washington, 22 Mar. 1787

This letter from Buckner Stith (1722-1791), originally of the Chotank area of the Northern Neck of Virginia, is unique in that it is the only known letter from a companion of GW’s childhood recalling the days of their youth. Stith, who was living at this time at his home Rock Spring in Brunswick County, was a justice of the county and a captain in the Brunswick militia. His sons John (1755-1808) and Robert Stith were married to Ann (d. 1824) and Mary Townshend Washington respectively, daughters of GW’s cousin and childhood friend Lawrence Washington of Chotank, the “old Laurence” mentioned in this letter. In July 1764, Buckner Stith paid £32 to Joseph Royle to have printed 1,000 copies of his detailed tract on tobacco which was reprinted in Richmond in 1824 (Virginia Gazette Daybook, 1764-66, ViU; Christopher Johnston, “The Stith Family,” WMQ, 1st ser. 21 [1912-13], 181-93). Buckner Stith’s Opinion on the Cultivation of Tobacco was advertised in Royle’s Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), 6 July 1764.

Original manuscript images of Stith’s letter at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Page 2

George Washington to William Gordon, 20 Dec. 1784

Washington was not always so serious in his thoughts on love and marriage, particularly when it came to his contemporaries. With tongue in cheek, in a letter of 20 December 1784 to the historian William Gordon, he remarked upon the recent marriage of Revolutionary war veteran Joseph Ward, who was 47 at the time of his marriage to Prudence Bird.  This letter is part of a series; more information can be found on the “Washington’s Advice on Love and Marriage” page. Please also see related documents below.

Original manuscript images of Washington’s letter to Gordon at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Page 2

George Washington to Robert Morris, 2 June 1784

The June 1784 correspondence between Washington and Robert Morris regards effective icehouse construction. GW requests details from Morris, who writes back on 15 June with information on the construction of and methodology behind the design of his icehouse. Washington later incorporated some of these ideas into his own icehouse at Mount Vernon.

Formerly on Ice, Past Unearthed the Icehouse Found in Philadelphia Gives a Glimpse into Colonial History

The Region – The Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 February 2001
By Faye Flam

Rebecca Yamin (left) and Jed Levin of the archaeology firm John Milner Associates stand near the foundation of an 18th-century icehouse. Photo by Michael S. Wirtz, Inquirer Staff

When President George Washington occupied the long-demolished Executive Mansion at what is now Sixth and Market Streets, he threw dinner parties every Thursday night. On Philadelphia’s languid summer evenings, said archaeologist Rebecca Yamin, “he would have needed ice.”

Washington probably sent a servant behind the mansion to the ice-house—a huge, stone-lined pit covered with an insulated shed, the remains of which Yamin and colleague Jed Levin excavated over the last year.

Though they knew from historical records that the mansion featured an icehouse, the archaeologists were surprised to find this primitive freezer in such good condition. They were also astonished by its unusual octagonal shape.

“It’s really quite an extraordinary find,” Levin said at a news conference yesterday.

Built by Robert Morris, who is often referred to as the financier of the American Revolution, the icehouse is an unusual example of an amenity that was common among well-to-do Philadelphians of the time.

philly2Levin said that people would be hired to go to the Schuylkill in the depths of winter and haul back large chunks of ice. Tons of these chunks would be broken up and thrown into the pits, which in the case of the Morris house stretched 16 feet wide and 18 feet deep. Then people would tamp the ice down, essentially creating a gigantic ice cube.

The well-insulated shed above it would have shielded the pit from the summer heat to preserve at least some ice through summer. As the ice slowly melted, the water would have simply seeped into the gravel-covered ground at the pit’s bottom.

To retrieve ice, the servants probably opened a trap door leading to the pit and cut out a block. Levin said residents might have used the ice to chill drinks or make frozen delicacies. Ice cream, for instance, was popular in colonial times.

Some of the ice might have been used for the more mundane purpose of preserving food, though people of that era tended to rely on smoking, salting, drying and other methods of preservation, Levin said.

What makes the icehouse particularly intriguing, Levin said, is that is became a subject of a 1784 correspondence between Washington and Morris.

It’s not clear exactly when the icehouse was built, but it was probably close to 1780 when Morris built his mansion at Sixth and High Streets from the remains of earlier buildings that had burned down, including the home of Benedict Arnold.

In 1784, Washington, who had often visited Morris in his new mansion, wrote to ask about the design of the icehouse after the snow he had loaded into his own version at Mount Vernon had melted.

“If you will do me the favor to cause a description of yours to be taken, the size, manner of building and mode of managements, and forwarded to me,” Washington wrote, “I shall be much obliged.”

Morris explains some details of the construction, though he never described the reason for the octagonal shape. Levin and Yamin, who work for the archaeology firm John Milner Associates, say the shape might have been the creative whim of a stonemason charged with building it.

In Morris’ reply to Washington, he advised: “I tried snow one year and lost it by June. The ice keeps until October or November.”

In 1790, when Philadelphia was designated as the nation’s capital, Morris lent his mansion to the country’s first president and moved next door.

The uncovering of the icehouse was part of a larger excavation Yamin and Levin carried out in the Independence Mall area, which is being renovated. Such excavations are now required in historic areas before buildings can be constructed.

Yamin said that on Sixty Street, between Market and Arch, she found many fascinating bits and pieces of ordinary life in two “privy” deposits—holes that were once toilets and later trash dumps.

One, dating to the 1790s, was used by William Simmons. According to historical records, Simmons was chief clerk for the auditing office in the federal Department of the Treasury. His boss was Alexander Hamilton.

Little could the accountant have dreamed that people more than 200 years later would rifle through his trash and reveal so much from his personal life.

Though he was considered successful and praised by Hamilton, Simmons lived a spartan life as a bachelor, eating off common, rough-hewn dishes that more refined people would have only used for baking, said Yamin, a fact she divined by noting scratch marks on his plain clay-red dishes.

His personal belongings, including his underwear buttons, were also basic and utilitarian, and his trash was full of ale bottles, wine bottles, gin bottles, and decanters.

“There was so much alcohol-related stuff we thought it was a tavern,” Yamin said.

Yamin said he might have drunk in frustration over his job, which is recorded in conflicts he had with his bosses, or as a way of entertaining members of Congress who would often stay with him when meeting in Philadelphia. It is not known whether he was able to borrow ice from his neighbor, the president, to drink his liquor chilled.


This rudimentary roach trap was filled with molasses as bait.

She also unearthed the belongings of members of the Everly family, owners of a comb store in the 1940s. Although they were well-to-do, Yamin said, she found among the ruins a strange, red-clay contraption revealed to be an early version of a Roach Motel—to be filled with molasses for bait.

“You don’t get this from history books,” she said. Such details come from archaeology.

Artifacts from the finds will be displayed at the new Independence Visitor Center, being erected at the Independence Mall.

© 2001 The Region – The Philadelphia Inquirer