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The Papers of George Washington
6 May–4 July 1781Revolutionary War Series, Volume 32
George Washington. Edited by Washington Papers Editors
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In May 1781, talks with Lieutenant General Rochambeau enlivened Gen. George Washington’s spirits with prospects of active operations against the British forces holding New York City. Having convinced the French that New York City should be their objective unless developments were to shift the emphasis southward, Washington resumed appeals for recruits and supplies as American troops camped along the lower Hudson River awaited the arrival of Rochambeau’s expeditionary force from Rhode Island. Puzzling news came from Major General Lafayette in Virginia, however, where the British under Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis had withdrawn toward the coast after having driven far into the northwestern uplands. What they did not know was that captured mail had alerted British Gen. Henry Clinton to allied intentions, and Cornwallis was taking a position to reinforce the British forces in New York City. Washington attempted a coordinated attack on British fortifications guarding northern Manhattan as French troops joined his army, and though the maneuver fizzled, it allowed a junction of the armies closer to New York City than originally planned. Politics in Virginia and domestic concerns back home also demanded Washington’s attention during this time, as Martha Washington fell ill and returned home to Mount Vernon.
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