The British had the colonies pinned down with two large concentrations of troops. The first was in the New York area and the second was in Virginia. The colonial war council minutes from a secret meeting in Connecticut on May 22 concluded that their primary target should be New York.
De Grasse received this news and pondered what to do.
Without first gaining the support of anyone he decided to take his entire fleet to the Chesapeake Bay. He knew that he had a limited amount of time. Perhaps he just thought to overtake another squadron of British ships and destroy them. Then he would send some ships back to protect the French Caribbean interests and sail back to France.
De Grasse set sail after sending notice to Washington. He proceeded stealthily through the hazardous gap between Cuba and the Bahamas because it was less likely to alert the British. It was hurricane season but on this occasion and several others as well the weather was on the side of the colonialists.
A large fleet cannot leave port without alerting both friends and enemies but the British apparently did not know the tremendous numbers of ships involved nor their destination. However they clearly knew that their assets in Virginia could possibly be cut off from supplies and reinforcements. So Admiral Hood and his squadron of 12 warships was ordered to leave the Caribbean and go to the Chesapeake Bay. Orders were also sent to Admiral Graves in New York to head south but the ship that was carrying them was captured by an American privateer. Tooo bad!
Admiral Hood arrived in the Chesapeake three days before de Grasse and seeing no sign of him ASSUMED he had already passed through and was heading to New York. So he decided to head on up the coast while the French fleet of 28 ships sat peacefully a few hundred miles to the south.
A battle was shaping up and luck was on the side of David not Goliath.
Soon all would be decided.
(to be continued)