Memoirs, Correspondence and Manuscripts of General Lafayette

Part 3 out of 9

ask questions of my good, excellent friend, M. de Valfort, for my paper
is coming to a close. It is dreadful to be reduced to hold no
communication but by letter with a person whom one loves as I love you,
and as I shall ever love you, until I draw my latest breath.

I have not missed a single opportunity, not even the most indirect one,
without writing to you. Do the same also on your side, my dearest life,
if you love me; but I should indeed be unfeeling and ungrateful if I
were to doubt your love.


Camp of Whitemarsh, November 6th, 1777.

You will perhaps receive this letter, my dearest love, at the
expiration of five or six years, for I am writing to you by an
accidental opportunity, in which I do not place great trust. See what a
circuit my letter must make. An officer in the army will carry it to
Fort Pitt, three hundred miles in the interior of the continent; it
will then embark on the great Ohio river, and traverse regions
inhabited only by savages; having reached New Orleans, a small vessel
will transport it to the Spanish islands; a ship of that nation--God
knows when!--will carry it with her on her return to Europe. But it
will even then be very distant from you; and it is only after having
been soiled by the dirty hands of all the Spanish post-masters that it
will be allowed to pass the Pyrenees. It may very possibly be unsealed
and resealed five or six times before it be finally placed in your
hands; but it will prove to you that I neglect no opportunity, not even
the most indirect one, of sending you news of myself, and of repeating
how well I love you. It is, however, for my own satisfaction only that
I delight to tell you so at present; I hope that I shall have the
pleasure of throwing this letter in the fire when it arrives, for be it
understood I shall be there also, and my presence will render this
piece of paper very insignificant. The idea is most soothing to my
heart, and I indulge it with rapture. How enchanting to think of the
moments when we shall be together! but how painful also to recollect
that my joy is only caused by an illusion, and that I am separated from
the reality of my happiness by two thousand leagues, an immense ocean,
and villanous English vessels! Those wretched vessels make me very
unhappy. One letter, one letter only, have I yet received from you, my
love; the others have been lost or taken, and are probably at the
bottom of the sea. I must consider our enemy the cause of this dreadful
loss; for I am certain you do not neglect to write to me from every
port, and by all the despatches sent by Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane. And
yet some ships arrived; I have sent couriers to every corner of the
continent; but all my hopes have been frustrated. Perhaps you have not
been properly informed. I entreat you, my love, to inquire carefully in
what manner you may best send your letters. It is so dreadful for me to
be deprived of them, and I am so unhappy at being separated from all I
love! I am guilty, it is true, of having caused my own calamity; but
you would pity me if you knew all that my heart endured.

But why tell you news in a letter destined to travel about the world
for years, which will reach you perhaps in shreds, and will represent
antiquity personified? My other despatches must have informed you of
the various events of the campaign. The battle of Brandywine, in which
I most skilfully lost a small part of my leg; the taking possession of
Philadelphia, which will by no means, however, be attended with the ill
consequences which have been expected in Europe; the attack of a post
at Germantown, at which I was not present, from having received a
recent wound, and which did not prove successful; the surrender of
General Burgoyne, with five thousand men--that same Burgoyne who wished
to devour us all, last spring, but who finds himself this autumn the
prisoner of war of our northern army; and finally, our present
situation, stationed immediately opposite each other, at four leagues
distance, and General Howe established at Philadelphia, making great
exertion to take certain forts, and having already lost in the attempt
one large and one small vessel. You are now quite as well informed on
the subject as if you were general-in-chief of either army. I need only
at this moment add, that the wound of the 11th of September, of which I
have spoken to you a thousand times, is almost completely healed,
although I am still a little lame, but that in a few days there will
scarcely remain any traces of this accident. All these details will be
given you very circumstantially by my friend Mr. de Valfort, to whom I
have given a letter for you, and on whose accounts you may implicitly
rely. I have just learnt that he has sailed, not, as I expected, in a
packet, but in a good frigate of thirty- five guns: it would be unlucky
indeed if he were taken. From his lips, and the epistle which I
confided to him five or six days ago, you will learn all that your
affection for me may make you wish to know. I wish you also knew the
precise day of my return, and I am most impatient to fix that day
myself, and to be able to say to you, in the joy of my heart,--upon
such a day I set out to rejoin you, and obtain all earthly happiness.

A little gentleman, in a blue coat, with lemon-coloured facings and a
white waistcoat, a German, coming hither to solicit an employment,
(which he will not obtain,) and speaking wretched French, told me that
he quitted Europe in the month of August: he talked to me of politics
and of the ministry; he upset all Europe generally, and every court
individually; but he knew not a word of what was most interesting to my
heart. I examined him in every way; I mentioned fifty names to him; his
answer was always, _"Me not know them noblemen_."

I will not weary you with a long account of the state of my finances.
The accident which occurred to my vessel was a source of vexation to
me, because that vessel would have been useful to me in the present
settlement of my affairs; but it is no longer in being, and I should
reproach myself with having sent it back, had I not been obliged to
make its return a clause in my engagements, on account of my
minority.~[1] Everything here is incredibly dear. We feel the
consolation of the malevolent in thinking that the scarcity is still
greater in Philadelphia. In time of war, we become reconciled to all we
may ourselves endure by making our enemies suffer ten times more. We
have here an abundance of provisions, and we learn with pleasure that
our English neighbours are not so fortunate.

Do not think at present of being uneasy on my account; all the hard
blows are over, and there can be, at most, but some little miniature
strokes, which cannot concern me; I am not less secure in this camp
than I should be were I in the centre of Paris. If every possible
advantage to be attained by serving here; if the friendship of the army
in gross and in detail; if a tender union with the most respectable and
admirable of men, General Washington, sustained by mutual confidence;
if the affection of those Americans by whom I wish to be beloved; if
all this were sufficient to constitute my happiness, I should indeed
have nothing to desire. But my heart is far from being tranquil. You
would compassionate me, if you knew how much that heart suffers, and
how well it loves you!

The present season of the year makes me hope to receive some letters.
What may they announce to me? what may I hope? O, my dearest love, how
cruel it is to endure this painful anxiety, under circumstances which
are so all-important to my happiness! Have I two children? have I
another infant to share my tender affection with my dearest Henriette?
Embrace my dear little girl a thousand times for me; embrace them both
tenderly, my dearest life. I trust they will know one day how well I
love them.

A thousand respectful compliments to Madame d'Ayen; a thousand tender
ones to the viscountess and my sisters; to my friends a million of kind
regards; remember me to every one. Adieu! take care of your own health;
give me circumstantial details of all things; believe that I love you
more than ever, that you are the first object of my affection, and the
surest guarantee of my felicity. The sentiments so deeply engraven on a
heart which belongs to you alone, shall remain, whilst that heart
continues to vibrate. Will you, too, always love me, my dearest life? I
dare believe it, and that we shall mutually render each other happy by
an affection equally tender and eternal. Adieu, adieu! how delightful
would it be to embrace you at this moment, and say to you with my own
lips, I love thee better than I have ever loved, and I shall love thee
for the remainder of my life.


1. It will be seen by the memoirs that that vessel was wrecked on the
bar of Charlestown.



Haddonfield, the 26th November, 1777.

Dear General,--I went down to this place since the day before
yesterday, in order to be acquainted of all the roads and grounds
around the enemy. I heard at my arrival that their main body was
between Great and Little Timber Creek since the same evening. Yesterday
morning, in reconnoitering about, I have been told that they were very
busy in crossing the Delaware. I saw them myself in their boats, and
sent that intelligence to General Greene as soon as possible, as every
other thing I heard of. But I want to acquaint your excellency of a
little event of last evening, which, though not very considerable in
itself, will certainly please you, on account of the bravery and
alacrity a small party of ours shewed on that occasion. After having
spent the most part of the day to make myself well acquainted with the
certainty of their motions, I came pretty late into the Gloucester
road, between the two creeks. I had ten light-horse with Mr. Lindsey,
almost a hundred and fifty riflemen, under Colonel Buttler, and two
piquets of the militia, commanded by Colonels Hite and Ellis: my whole
body was not three hundred. Colonel Armand, Colonel Laumoy, the
chevaliers Duplessis and Gimat, were the Frenchmen who went with me. A
scout of my men, with whom was Mr. Duplessis, to see how near were the
first piquets from Gloucester, found at two miles and a half of it a
strong post of three hundred and fifty Hessians with field-pieces,
(what number I did know, by the unanimous deposition of their
prisoners,) and engaged immediately. As my little reconnoitering party
was all in fine spirits, I supported them. We pushed the Hessians more
than an half mile from the place where was their main body, and we made
them run very fast: British reinforcements came twice to them, but,
very far from recovering their ground, they went always back. The
darkness of the night prevented us then to push that advantage, and,
after standing upon the ground we had got, I ordered them to return
very slow to Haddonfield. The enemy, knowing perhaps by our drums that
we were not so near, came again to fire at us; but the brave Major
Moriss, with a part of his riflemen, sent them back, and pushed them
very fast. I understand that they have had between twenty-five and
thirty wounded, at least that number killed, among whom I am certain,
is an officer; some say more, and the prisoners told me they have lost
the commandant of that body; we got yet, this day, fourteen prisoners.
I sent you the most moderate account I had from themselves. We left one
single man killed, a lieutenant of militia, and only five of ours were
wounded. Such is the account of our little entertainment, which is
indeed much too long for the matter, but I take the greatest pleasure
to let you know that the conduct of our soldiers is above all praises:
I never saw men so merry, so spirited, so desirous to go on to the
enemy, whatever forces they could have, as that small party was in this
little fight. I found the riflemen above even their reputation, and the
militia above all expectations I could have: I returned to them my very
sincere thanks this morning. I wish that this little success of ours
may please you, though a very trifling one, I find it very interesting
on account of the behaviour of our soldiers.

Some time after I came back, General Varnum arrived here; General
Greene is, too, in this place since this morning; he engaged me to give
you myself the account of the little advantage of that small part of
the troops under his command. I have nothing more to say to your
excellency about our business on this side, because he is writing
himself: I should have been very glad, if circumstances had permitted
me, to be useful to him upon a greater scale. As he is obliged to march
slow in order to attend his troops, and as I am here only a volunteer,
I will have the honour to wait upon your excellency as soon as
possible, and I'll set out to-day: it will be a great pleasure for me
to find myself again with you.

With the most tender affection and highest respect I have the honour to


I must tell, too, that the riflemen had been the whole day running
before my horse, without eating or taking any rest.

I have just now a certain assurance that two British officers, besides
those I spoke you of, have died this morning of their wounds in an
house; this, and some other circumstances, let me believe that their
lost may be greater than I told to your excellency.


1. All the letters addressed to General Washington, as well as to other
Americans, were written in English. Since the death of General
Washington, his family have returned to General Lafayette the original
letters he had addressed to him, and these are now in our possession.
The originals of Washington's letters were almost all lost in the
French revolution; but M. de Lafayette, during his last journey to the
United States, had a great number of them copied from minutes preserved
by Washington himself: they have been inserted in the collection we
have so frequently quoted from, published by Mr. Sparks.


Camp Gulph, Pennsylvania, Dec. 16th, 1777.

This letter, if it ever reaches you, will find you at least in France;
some hazards are averted by this circumstance, but I must not indulge
in many hopes. I never write a letter for Europe without deploring
before hand the fate most probably awaiting it, and I labour,
undoubtedly, more for Lord Howe than for any of my friends. The bad
season is fortunately drawing near; the English ships will be obliged
to quit their confounded cruising stations; I may then receive letters,
and forward them from hence with some degree of security; this will
make me very happy, and will prevent my wearying you by a repetition of
events which I wish you to be acquainted with, but which I do not wish
to remind you of each time I write. I am very anxious for the account
of your journey. I depend principally on Madame de Lafayette for its
details; she well knows how interesting they will be to me. The
Marshall de Noailles tells me, in general terms, that the letters he
receives from Italy assure him the travellers are all in good health.
From him I have also learnt the confinement of Madame Lafayette; he
does not speak of it as if it were the happiest of all possible
circumstances; but my anxiety was too keen to be able to make any
distinction of sex; and by kindly writing to me, and giving me an
account of the event, he rendered me far, far happier than he imagined,
when he announced to me that I had only a daughter.~[1] The Rue de St.
Honore has now for ever lost its credit, whilst the other Hotel de
Noailles has acquired new lustre by the birth of Adrian.~[2] It is
truly an ill-proceeding on my part to throw that disgrace on a family
from whom I have received so much kindness. You must now be freezing on
the high roads of France; those of Pennsylvania are also very cold, and
I endeavour vainly to persuade myself that the difference of latitude
betwixt this and Paris ought to give us, comparatively speaking, a
delightful winter: I am even told that it will be more severe. We are
destined to pass it in huts, twenty miles from Philadelphia, that we
may protect the country, be enabled to take advantage of every
favourable opportunity, and also have the power of instructing the
troops by keeping them together. It would, perhaps, have been better to
have entered quietly into real winter quarters; but political reasons
induced General Washington to adopt this half-way measure.

I wish I had sufficient skill to give you a satisfactory account of the
military events passing in this country; but, in addition to my own
incapacity, reasons, of which you will understand the weight, prevent
my hazarding in a letter, exposed to the capture of the English fleet,
a relation which might explain many things, if I had the happiness of
conversing with you in person. I will, however, endeavour to repeat to
you, once more, the most important events that have occurred during
this campaign. My gazette, which will be more valuable from not
containing my own remarks, must be preferable to the gazettes of
Europe; because the man who sees with his own eyes, even if he should
not see quite correctly, must always merit more attention than the man
who has seen nothing. As to the gazettes which the English shower upon
us, they appear to me only fit to amuse chairmen over their mugs of
ale; and even these men must have indulged in liberal potations, not to
perceive the falsehoods they contain. It seems to me that the project
of the English ministry was to cut in a line that part of America which
extends from the bay of Chesapeak to Ticonderoga. General Howe was
ordered to repair to Philadelphia by the Elk river; Burgoyne to descend
to Albany, and Clinton to ascend from New York by the North river: the
three generals might in this manner have joined hands; they would have
received, or pretended to receive, the submission of the alleged
conquered provinces; we should only have retained for our winter
quarters the interior of the country, and have depended solely for our
resources on the four southern states. An attack on Charlestown may
also, perhaps, have been intended: in the opinion of the cabinet of the
King of England, America was thus almost conquered. Providence
fortunately permitted some alterations to take place in the execution
of this finely-conceived project--to exercise, probably, for some time,
the constancy of the British nation.

When I arrived at the army, in the month of August, I was much
astonished at not finding any enemies. After having made some marches
into Jersey, where nothing occurred, General Howe embarked at New York.
We were encamped, and expecting their descent, on the Chester side,
when we learnt that they were at the mouth of the Elk river. General
Washington marched to meet them, and after having taken up several
stations, resolved to wait their arrival upon some excellent heights on
the Brandywine stream. The 11th of September the English marched to
attack us; but whilst they were amusing us with their cannon, and
several movements in front, they suddenly detached the greater part of
their troops, the choicest men of their army, with the grenadiers,
under the command of General Howe, and Lord Cornwallis, to pass a ford
four miles distant on our right. As soon as General Washington became
aware of this movement, he detached his whole right wing to march
towards them. Some unfounded reports, which had all the appearance of
truth, and which contradicted the first accounts received, arrested for
a length of time the progress of that wing, and when it arrived, the
enemy had already crossed the ford. Thus it became necessary to engage
in an open field with an army superior in numbers to our own. After
having for some time sustained a very brisk fire, though many were
killed on the side of the English, the Americans were obliged to give
way. A portion of them was rallied and brought back: it was then that I
received my wound. In a word, to cut the matter short, everything went
on badly on both sides, and General Washington was defeated--because he
could not gain the first general battle which had been fought during
the war. The army reassembled at Chester; but having been carried to a
distance from it, I have not been able to follow its different
movements. General Howe took advantage of the disorder which a
tremendous rain had occasioned in our army to pass the Schuylkill; he
repaired to Philadelphia, to take possession of it, and stationed
himself between that town and Germantown. General Washington attacked
him on the 4th of October; and we may assert that our general beat
theirs, although their troops defeated ours, since he surprised him,
and even drove back the English for some time; but their experience
proved again triumphant over our unpractised officers and soldiers.
Some time before this event, an American brigadier, placed in
detachment on the other side of the river, had been attacked at night
in his camp, and had lost some of his men. These are the only important
events which took place on our side during the six weeks that I was
absent from the camp, whilst obliged to keep my bed from my unclosed
wound: at that time we received good news of General Burgoyne. When I
first rejoined the army, whilst General Howe was on the water, I learnt
that Ticonderoga had been precipitately abandoned by the Americans,
leaving there several cannons and a quantity of ammunition. This
success inflamed the pride of General Burgoyne, and he issued a pompous
proclamation, for which he has since paid very dearly. His first act
was to send a detachment, which was repulsed; he was not, however,
discouraged, but marched on, through immense forests, in a country
which contained but a single road. General Gates had under his orders
fifteen or sixteen thousand men, who distressed the enemy by firing
upon them from behind the trees. Whether conqueror or conquered,
General Burgoyne's force became gradually weakened, and every quarter
of a league cost him many men. At length, surrounded on all sides, and
perishing with hunger, he was obliged to enter into a convention, in
virtue of which he was conducted by the New England militia into that
same state of Massachusets in which it had been asserted in London he
was to take up his winter quarters. From thence he is to be conveyed,
with whatever troops he may have remaining, to England, at the expense
of the king his master. Ticonderoga has been since evacuated by the

General Clinton, who had set out rather late from New York, after
having taken and destroyed Fort Montgomery, on the north river,
endeavoured to reach the rear of Gates; but, hearing of the convention,
he returned on the same road by which he had advanced. If he had been
more rapid in his march, the affairs of General Gates would not have
ended so fortunately.

When my wound permitted me, after the space of six weeks, to rejoin the
army, I found it stationed fifteen miles from Philadelphia; our
northern reinforcements had arrived; General Howe was much incommoded
by two forts, one on the Jersey side, the other on the little Island of
Mud, that you will find on your map, below the Schuylkill. These two
forts defended the chevaux de frise of the Delaware; they held out for
a long time, against all the efforts of the English troops, both by sea
and land. Two young Frenchmen, who were acting there as engineers,
acquired much glory by their conduct; MM. de Fleury, of the regiment of
Rouergue, and Mauduit Duplessis, who had also at the same time the
command of the artillery: he is an artillery officer in France. Some
Hessians, commanded by Count Donop, attacked the fort in which Mauduit
was stationed, and were repulsed with considerable loss. Count Donop
was taken and received a mortal wound. These forts, after having made a
vigorous resistance, were at length evacuated. Lord Cornwallis then
passed into Jersey with five thousand men. The same number of our
troops was stationed there, under one of our
major-generals. As I was only a volunteer, I went to reconnoitre the
ground, and having met, accidentally, with a detachment near the
enemy's post, the good conduct of my soldiers rendered an imprudent
attack justifiable. We were told that his lordship had been wounded. He
then again re-crossed the river, and we also did the same. Some days
afterwards our army assembled at Whitemarsh, thirteen miles from
Philadelphia. The whole army of General Howe advanced to attack us: but
having examined our position on every side, they judged it more prudent
to retire during the night, after four days of apparent hesitation. We
then executed the project of crossing over on this side of the
Schuylkill, and after having been delayed on the opposite side, from
finding on this shore a part of the enemy's army, (although they only
fired a few cannon balls at us,) they left us a free passage the next
day, and we shall all repair unto our huts for the winter.

Whilst remaining there, the American army will endeavour to clothe
itself, because it is almost in a state of nudity,--to form itself,
because it requires instruction,--and to recruit itself, because it is
feeble; but the thirteen states are going to rouse themselves and send
us some men. My division will, I trust, be one of the strongest, and I
will exert myself to make it one of the best. The actual situation of
the enemy is by no means an unpleasant one; the army of Burgoyne is fed
at the expense of the republic, and the few men they may obtain back,
for many will be lost upon the road, will immediately be replaced by
other troops; Clinton is quite at ease in New York, with a numerous
garrison; General Howe is paying court to the belles of Philadelphia.
The liberty the English take of stealing and pillaging from friends as
well as foes, places them completely at their ease. Their ships at
present sail up to the town, not, however, without some danger, for,
without counting the ship of sixty-four guns and the frigate which were
burnt before the forts, and without counting all those that I trust the
ice will destroy, several are lost every day on the difficult passage
they are obliged to undertake.

The loss of Philadelphia is far from being so important as it is
conceived to be in Europe. If the differences of circumstances, of
countries, and of proportion between the two armies, were not duly
considered, the success of General Gates would appear surprising when
compared to the events that have occurred with us,--taking into account
the superiority of General Washington over General Gates. Our General
is a man formed, in truth, for this revolution, which could not have
been accomplished without him. I see him more intimately than any other
man, and I see that he is worthy of the adoration of his country. His
tender friendship for me, and his complete confidence in me, relating
to all military and political subjects, great as well as small, enable
me to judge of all the interests he has to conciliate, and all the
difficulties he has to conquer. I admire each day more fully the
excellence of his character, and the kindness of his heart. Some
foreigners are displeased at not having been employed, (although it did
not depend on him to employ them)--others, whose ambitious projects he
would not serve,--and some intriguing, jealous men, have endeavoured to
injure his reputation; but his name will be revered in every age, by
all true lovers of liberty and humanity; and although I may appear to
be eulogising my friend, I believe that the part he makes me act, gives
me the right of avowing publicly how much I admire and respect him.
There are many interesting things that I cannot write, but will one day
relate to you, on which I entreat you to suspend your judgment, and
which will redouble your esteem for him.

America is most impatiently expecting us to declare for her, and France
will one day, I hope, determine to humble the pride of England. This
hope, and the measures which America appears determined to pursue, give
me great hopes for the glorious establishment of her independence. We
are not, I confess, so strong as I expected, but we are strong enough
to fight; we shall do so, I trust, with some degree of success; and,
with the assistance of France, we shall gain, with costs, the cause
that I cherish, because it is the cause of
justice,--because it honors humanity,--because it is important to my
country,--and because my American friends, and myself, are deeply
engaged in it. The approaching campaign will be an interesting one. It
is said that the English are sending us some Hanoverians; some time ago
they threatened us with, what was far worse, the arrival of some
Russians. A slight menace from France would lessen the number of these
reinforcements. The more I see of the English, the more thoroughly
convinced I am, that it is necessary to speak to them in a loud tone.

After having wearied you with public affairs, you must not expect to
escape without being wearied also with my private affairs. It is
impossible to be more agreeably situated than I am in a foreign
country. I have only feelings of pleasure to express, and I have each
day more reason to be satisfied with the conduct of the congress
towards me, although my military occupations have allowed me to become
personally acquainted with but few of its members. Those I do know have
especially loaded me with marks of kindness and attention. The new
president, Mr. Laurens, one of the most respectable men of America, is
my particular friend. As to the army, I have had the happiness of
obtaining the friendship of every individual; not one opportunity is
lost of giving me proofs of it. I passed the whole summer without
accepting a division, which you know had been my previous intention; I
passed all that time at General Washington's house, where I felt as if
I were with a friend of twenty years' standing. Since my return from
Jersey, he has desired me to choose, amongst several brigades, the
division which may please me best; but I have chosen one entirely
composed of Virginians. It is weak in point of numbers at present, just
in proportion, however, to the weakness of the whole army, and almost
in a state of nakedness; but I am promised cloth, of which I shall make
clothes, and recruits, of which soldiers must be made, about the same
period; but, unfortunately, the last is the most difficult task, even
for more skilful men than me. The task I am performing here, if I had
acquired sufficient experience to perform it well, would improve
exceedingly my future knowledge. The
major-general replaces the lieutenant-general, and the field-marshal,
in their most important functions, and I should have the power of
employing to advantage, both my talents and experience, if Providence
and my extreme youth allowed me to boast of possessing either. I read,
I study, I examine, I listen, I reflect, and the result of all is the
endeavour at forming an opinion, into which I infuse as much common
sense as possible. I will not talk much, for fear of saying foolish
things; I will still less risk acting much, for fear of doing foolish
things; for I am not disposed to abuse the confidence which the
Americans have kindly placed in me. Such is the plan of conduct which I
have followed until now, and which I shall continue to follow; but when
some ideas occur to me, which I believe may become useful when properly
rectified, I hasten to impart them to a great judge, who is good enough
to say that he is pleased with them. On the other hand, when my heart
tells me that a favourable opportunity offers, I cannot refuse myself
the pleasure of participating in the peril, but I do not think that the
vanity of success ought to make us risk the safety of an army, or of
any portion of it, which may not be formed or calculated for the
offensive. If I could make an axiom, with the certainty of not saying a
foolish thing, I should venture to add that, whatever may be our force,
we must content ourselves with a completely defensive plan, with the
exception, however, of the moment when we may be forced to action,
because I think I have perceived that the English troops are more
astonished by a brisk attack than by a firm resistance.

This letter will be given you by the celebrated Adams, whose name must
undoubtedly be known to you. As I have never allowed myself to quit the
army, I have not been able to see him. He wished that I should give him
letters of introduction to France, especially to yourself. May I hope
that you will have the goodness of receiving him kindly, and even of
giving him some information respecting the present state of affairs. I
fancied you would not be sorry to converse with a man whose merit is so
universally acknowledged. He desires ardently to succeed in obtaining
the esteem of our nation. One of his friends himself told me so.


1. Madame Charles de Latour-Maubourg.

2. A son of the Viscount de Noailles, who was the son of Marshal de
Mouchy, and married the eldest daughter of the Duke d'Ayen.



Camp, 30th December, 1777.

MY DEAR GENERAL,--I went yesterday morning to head-quarters with an
intention of speaking to your excellency, but you were too busy, and I
shall lay down in this letter what I wished to say.

I don't need to tell you that I am sorry for all that has happened for
some time past. It is a necessary dependence of my most tender and
respectful friendship for you, which affection is as true and candid as
the other sentiments of my heart, and much stronger than so new an
acquaintance seems to admit; but another reason, to be concerned in the
present circumstances, is my ardent and perhaps enthusiastic wishes for
the happiness and liberty of this country. I see plainly that America
can defend herself if proper measures are taken, and now I begin to
fear lest she should be lost by herself and her own sons.

When I was in Europe I thought that here almost every man was a lover
of liberty, and would rather die free than live a slave. You can
conceive my astonishment when I saw that toryism was as openly
professed as whiggism itself: however, at that time I believed that all
good Americans were united together; that the confidence of congress in
you was unbounded. Then I entertained the certitude that America would
be independent in case she should not lose you. Take away, for an
instant, that modest diffidence of yourself, (which, pardon my freedom,
my dear General, is sometimes too great, and I wish you could know, as
well as myself, what difference there is between you and any other
man,) you would see very plainly that if you were lost for America,
there is no body who could keep the army and the revolution for six
months. There are open dissensions in congress, parties who hate one
another as much as the common enemy; stupid men, who, without knowing a
single word about war, undertake to judge you, to make ridiculous
comparisons; they are infatuated with Gates, without thinking of the
different circumstances, and believe that attacking is the only thing
necessary to conquer. Those ideas are entertained in their minds by
some jealous men, and perhaps secret friends to the British Government,
who want to push you in a moment of ill humour to some rash enterprise
upon the lines, or against a much stronger army. I should not take the
liberty of mentioning these particulars to you if I did not receive a
letter about this matter, from a young good-natured gentleman at York,
whom Conway has ruined by his cunning, bad advice, but who entertains
the greatest respect for you.

I have been surprised at first, to see the few establishments of this
board of war, to see the difference made between northern and southern
departments, to see resolves from congress about military operations;
but the promotion of Conway is beyond all my expectations. I should be
glad to have new major-generals, because, as I know, you take some
interest in my happiness and reputation it is, perhaps, an occasion for
your excellency to give me more agreeable commands in some interesting
instances. On the other hand, General Conway says he is entirely a man
to be disposed of by me. He calls himself my soldier, and the reason of
such behaviour to me is, that he wishes to be well spoken of at the
French court, and his protector, the Marquis de Castries, is an
intimate acquaintance of mine; but since the letter of Lord Stirling I
inquired in his character. I found that he was an ambitious and
dangerous man. He has done all in his power, by cunning manoeuvres, to
take off my confidence and affection for you. His desire was to engage
me to leave this country. Now I see all the general officers of the
army against congress; such disputes, if known by the enemy, would be
attended with the worst consequences. I am very sorry whenever I
perceive troubles raised among the defenders of the same cause, but my
concern is much greater when I find officers coming from France,
officers of some character in my country, to whom any fault of that
kind may be imputed. The reason of my fondness for Conway was his being
by all means a very brave and very good officer. However, that talent
for manoeuvres, and which seems so extraordinary to congress, is not so
very difficult a matter for any man of common sense who applies himself
to it. I must pay to General Portail, and some French officers, who
came to speak me, the justice to say, that I found them as I could wish
upon this occasion; for it has made a great noise among many in the
army. I wish, indeed, those matters could be soon pacified. I wish your
excellency could let them know how necessary you are to them, and
engage them at the same time to keep peace, and simulate love among
themselves till the moment when those little disputes shall not be
attended with such inconveniences. It would be, too, a great pity that
slavery, dishonour, ruin, and unhappiness of a whole world, should
issue from some trifling differences between a few men.

You will find, perhaps, this letter very useless, and even inopportune;
but I was desirous of having a pretty, long conversation with you upon
the present circumstances, to explain you what I think of this matter.
As a proper opportunity for it did not occur, I took the liberty of
laying down some of my ideas in this letter, because it is for my
satisfaction to be convinced that you, my dear general, who have been
indulgent enough to permit me to look on you as upon a friend, should
know the confession of my sentiments in a matter which I consider as a
very important one. I have the warmest love for my country and for
every good Frenchman; their success fills my heart with joy; but, sir,
besides, Conway is an Irishman, I want countrymen, who deserve, in
every point, to do honour to their country. That gentleman had engaged
me by entertaining my head with ideas of glory and shining projects,
and I must confess, to my shame, that it is a too certain way of
deceiving me.

I wished to join to the few theories about war I can have, and the few
dispositions nature gave, perhaps, to me, the experience of thirty
campaigns, in hope that I should be able to be the more useful in the
present circumstances. My desire of deserving your satisfaction is
stronger than ever, and everywhere you will employ me you can be
certain of my trying every exertion in my power to succeed. I am now
fixed to your fate, and I shall follow it and sustain it as well by my
sword as by all means in my power. You will pardon my importunity in
favour of the sentiment which dictated it. Youth and friendship make
me, perhaps, too warm, but I feel the greatest concern at all that has
happened for some time since.

With the most tender and profound respect, I have the honour to be, &c.


1. This letter was occasioned by the momentary success of an intrigue,
known in American history under the name of Conway's cabal. Conway, who
wished to oppose Gates to Washington, had written to the former a
letter, in which he attacked the general-in-chief. An aide-de-camp of
Lord Stirling gained knowledge of that letter, and communicated its
contents to Washington, who entered immediately into an explanation
with Conway, in consequence of which the latter sent in his
resignation, and announced the intention of re-entering the service
of France. The resignation was not accepted by congress, and Conway
was, on the contrary, named inspector-general of the army, with the
rank of major-general, and the formation of the war office in relation
to the mercenary troops. We see, by a letter from General Washington,
that M. de Lafayette was the only person to whom he shewed General
Conway's letter, transmitted by Lord Stirling's aide-de-camp.--(Letter
to Horatio Gates, of the 4th of January, 1778, written from Washington.
V. 1st, Appendix No. 6.)



Head-quarters, December 31st, 1777.

MY DEAR MARQUIS,--Your favour of yesterday conveyed to me fresh proof
of that friendship and attachment, which I have happily experienced
since the first of our acquaintance, and for which I entertain
sentiments of the purest affection. It will ever constitute part of my
happiness to know that I stand well in your opinion; because I am
satisfied that you can have no views to answer by throwing out false
colours, and that you possess a mind too exalted to condescend to low
arts and intrigues to acquire a reputation. Happy, thrice happy, would
it have been for this army and the cause we are embarked in, if the
same generous spirit had pervaded all the actors in it. But one
gentleman, whose name you have mentioned, had, I am confident, far
different views; his ambition and great desire of being puffed off, as
one of the first officers of the age, could only be equalled by the
means which he used to obtain them. But finding that I was determined
not to go beyond the line of my duty to indulge him in the first--nor
to exceed the strictest rules of propriety to gratify him in the
second--he became my inveterate enemy; and he has, I am persuaded,
practised every art to do me an injury, even at the expense of
reprobating a measure that did not succeed, that he himself advised to.
How far he may have accomplished his ends, I know not; and except for
considerations of a public nature, I care not; for, it is well known,
that neither ambitious nor lucrative motives, led me to accept my
present appointments, in the discharge of which, I have endeavoured to
observe one steady and uniform system of conduct, which I shall
invariably pursue, while I have the honour to command, regardless of
the tongue of slander, or the powers of detraction. The fatal tendency
of disunion is so obvious, that I have, in earnest terms, exhorted such
officers as have expressed their dissatisfaction at General Conway's
promotion, to be cool and dispassionate in their decision about the
matter; and I have hopes that they will not suffer any hasty
determination to injure the service. At the same time, it must be
acknowledged, that officers' feelings upon these occasions are not to
be restrained, although you may control their actions.

The other observations contained in your letter have too much truth in
them; and, it is much to be lamented, that things are not now as they
formerly were. But we must not, in so great a contest, expect to meet
with nothing but sunshine. I have no doubt that everything happens for
the best, that we shall triumph over all our misfortunes, and, in the
end, be happy; when, my dear marquis, if you will give me your company
in Virginia, we will laugh at our past difficulties and the folly of
others; and I will endeavour, by every civility in my power, to shew
you how much, and how sincerely, I am your affectionate and obedient



Valley Forge, December 31st, 1777.

My Dear General,--I should have much reproached myself the liberty I
took of writing to your excellency, if I had believed it could engage
you in the trouble of answering that letter. But now, as you have
written it, I must tell you that I received this favour with the
greatest satisfaction and pleasure. Every assurance and proof of your
affection fills my heart with joy, because that sentiment of yours is
extremely dear and precious to me. A tender and respectful attachment
for you, and an invariable frankness, will be found in my mind as you
know me better; but, after those merits, I must tell you, that very few
others are to be found. I never wished so heartily to be entrusted by
nature with an immensity of talents than on this occasion; I could be
then of some use to your glory and happiness, as well as to my own.

What man do not join the pure ambition of glory with this other
ambitious of advancement, rank, and fortune? As an ardent lover of
laurels, I cannot bear the idea that so noble a sentiment should be
mixed with any low one. In your preaching moderation to the brigadiers
upon such an occasion, I am not surprised to recognise your virtuous
character. As I hope my warm interest is known to your excellency, I
dare entertain the idea that you will be so indulgent as to let me know
everything concerning you, whenever you will not be under the law of
secrecy or particular circumstances.

With the most tender and affectionate friendship--with the most
profound respect--I have the honour to be, &c.


Camp, near Valley-Forge, January 6th, 1778.

What a date, my dearest love, and from what a region I am now writing,
in the month of January! It is in a camp, in the centre of woods,
fifteen hundred leagues from you, that I find myself enclosed in the
midst of winter. It is not very long since we were only separated from
the enemy by a small river; we are at present stationed seven leagues
from them, and it is on this spot that the American army will pass the
whole winter, in small barracks, which are scarcely more cheerful than
dungeons. I know not whether it will be agreeable to General Howe to
visit our new city, in which case we would endeavour to receive him
with all due honour. The bearer of this letter will describe to you the
pleasant residence which I choose in preference to the happiness of
being with you, with all my friends, in the midst of all possible
enjoyments; in truth, my love, do you not believe that powerful reasons
are requisite to induce a person to make such a sacrifice? Everything
combined to urge me to depart,--honour alone told me to remain; and
when you learn in detail the circumstances in which I am placed, those
in which the army, my friend, its commander, and the whole American
cause were placed, you will not only forgive me, but you will excuse,
and I may almost venture to say, applaud me. What a pleasure I shall
feel in explaining to you myself all the reasons of my conduct, and, in
asking, whilst embracing you, a pardon, which I am very certain I shall
then obtain! But do not condemn me before hearing my defence. In
addition to the reasons I have given you, there is one other reason
which I would not relate to every one, because it might appear like
affecting airs of ridiculous importance. My presence is more necessary
at this moment to the American cause, than you can possibly conceive;
many foreigners, who have been refused employment, or whose ambitious
views have been frustrated, have raised up some powerful cabals; they
have endeavoured, by every sort of artifice, to make me discontented
with this revolution, and with him who is its chief; they have spread
as widely as they could, the report that I was quitting the continent.
The English have proclaimed also, loudly, the same intention on my
side. I cannot in conscience appear to justify the malice of these
people. If I were to depart, many Frenchmen who are useful here would
follow my example. General Washington would feel very unhappy if I were
to speak of quitting him; his confidence in me is greater than I dare
acknowledge, on account of my youth. In the place he occupies, he is
liable to be surrounded by flatterers or secret enemies; he finds in me
a secure friend, in whose bosom he may always confide his most secret
thoughts, and who will always speak the truth. Not one day passes
without his holding long conversations with me, writing me long
letters, and he has the kindness to consult me on the most important
matters. A peculiar circumstance is occurring at this moment which
renders my presence of some use to him: this is not the time to speak
of my departure. I am also at present engaged in an interesting
correspondence with the president of congress. The desire to debase
England, to promote the advantage of my own country, and the happiness
of humanity, which is strongly interested in the existence of one
perfectly free nation, all induces me not to depart at the moment when
my absence might prove injurious to the cause I have embraced. The
General, also, after a slight success in Jersey, requested me, with the
unanimous consent of congress, to accept a division in the army, and to
form it according to my own judgment, as well as my feeble resources
might permit; I ought not to have replied to such a mark of confidence,
by asking what were his commissions for Europe. These are some of the
reasons, which I confide to you, with an injunction of secrecy. I will
repeat to you many more in person, which I dare not hazard in a letter.
This letter will be given you by a good Frenchman, who has come a
hundred miles to ask me for my commissions. I wrote to you a few days
ago by the celebrated Mr. Adams; he will facilitate your sending me
letters. You must have received those I sent you as soon as I heard of
your confinement. How very happy that event has rendered me, my dearest
love! I delight in speaking of it in all my letters, because I delight
in occupying myself with it at every moment of my life! What a pleasure
it will give me to embrace my two poor little girls, and make them
request their mother to forgive me! You do not believe me so hard
hearted, and at the same time so ridiculous, as to suppose that the sex
of our new infant can have diminished in any degree my joy at its
birth. Our age is not so far advanced, that we may not expect to have
another child, without a miracle from Heaven. The next one must
absolutely be a boy. However, if it be on account of the name that we
are to regret not having a son, I declare that I have formed the
project of living long enough to bear it many years myself, before I
yield it to any other person. I am indebted to the Marshal de Noailles
for the joyful news. I am anxiously expecting a letter from you. I
received the other day one from Desplaces, who mentioned having sent a
preceding one; but the caprice of the winds, without speaking of
English ships, often deranges the order of my correspondence. I was for
some days very uneasy about the Viscount de Coigny, who, some of my
letters announced, was in a precarious state of health. But that letter
from Desplaces, who told me all were well, without mentioning the
viscount's name, has quite reassured me. I have also received some
other letters which do not speak of his health. When you write, I
entreat you to send me many details of all the people whom I love, and
even of all my acquaintance. It is very extraordinary that I have not
heard of Madame de Fronsac's confinement. Say a thousand tender and
respectful things from me to her, as well as to the Countess Auguste.
If those ladies do not enter into the reasons which force me to remain
here, they must indeed think me a most absurd being, more especially as
they have opportunities of seeing clearly what a charming wife I am
separated from; but even that may prove to them what powerful motives
must guide my conduct. Several general officers have brought their
wives to the camp; I envy them--not their wives--but the happiness they
enjoy in being able to see them. General Washington has also resolved
to send for his wife. As to the English, they have received a
reinforcement of three hundred young ladies from New York; and we have
captured a vessel filled with chaste officers' wives, who had come to
rejoin their husbands: they were in great fear of being kept for the
American army.

You will learn by the bearer of this letter that my health is very
good, that my wound is healed, and that the change of country has
produced no effect upon me. Do you not think that, at my return, we
shall be old enough to establish ourselves in our own house, live there
happily together, receive our friends, institute a delightful state of
freedom, and read foreign newspapers, without feeling any curiosity to
judge by ourselves of what may pass in foreign countries? I enjoy thus
building, in France, castles of felicity and pleasure: you always share
them with me, my dearest love, and when we are once united, nothing
shall again separate us, or prevent our experiencing together, and
through each other, the joy of mutual affection, and the sweetest and
most tranquil happiness. Adieu, my love; I only wish this project could
be executed on this present day. Would it not be agreeable to you also?
Present my tender respects to Madame d'Ayen: embrace a thousand times
the viscountess and my sisters. Adieu, adieu; continue to love me, and
forget not for a moment the unhappy exile who thinks incessantly of
thee with renewed ardour and tenderness.



DEAR GENERAL,--I shall make use, in this particular instance, of the
liberty you gave me, of telling freely every idea of mine which could
strike me as not being useless to a better order of things.

There were two gentlemen, same rank, same duty to perform, and same
neglect of it, who have been arrested the same day by me. As I went in
the night around the picquets, I found them in fault, and I gave an
account of it the next day to your excellency. You answered, that I was
much in wrong not to have had them relieved and arrested immediately. I
objected that it was then very late for such a changement, and that I
did not know which was the rule in this army, but that the gentlemen
should be arrested in that very moment. The last answer of your
excellency has been, "they are to have a court-martial, and you must
give notice of it to the adjutant-general." Therefore, Major Nevil made
two letters in order to arrest them, _one for having been surprised in
post_, and the other, for the same cause, _and allowing his sentries to
have fires, which he could see in standing before the picquet_. I give
you my word of honour, that there was not any exaggeration.

Now I see in the orders, the less guilty punished in a manner much too
severe indeed, and dismissed from the service, (it is among all the
delicate minds deprived of his honour,) when he was only to be severely
reprimanded and kept for some time under arrest. But it can be
attributed to a very severe discipline.

What must I think of the same court, when they unanimously acquit (it
is to say that my accusation is not true) the officer who joins to the
same fault, entirely the same this, of allowing his sentries to have
fire in his own sight; for in every service _being surprised_ or being
found in the middle of his picquet without any challenging or stopping
sentry, as Major Nevil, riding before me, found him, is entirely the
same thing; and Major Nevil, riding before me, when I was busy to make
a sentry pull off his fire, can swear that such was the case with that
officer--he can do more than swearing, for he can give his word of
honour, and I think that idea _honour_ is the same in every country.

But the _prejuges_ are not the same thing; for giving publicly the best
of such a dispute (for here it becomes a trial for both parties) to an
officer of the last military stage against one of the first, should be
looked on as an affront to the rank, and acquitting a man, whom one
other man accuses, looked upon as an affront to the person. It is the
same in Poland, for Count de Pulaski was much affronted at the decision
of a court-martial entirely acquitting Colonel Molens. However, as I
know the English customs, I am nothing else but surprised to see such a
partiality in a court-martial.

Your excellency will certainly approve my not arresting any officer for
being brought before a court-martial for any neglect of duty; but when
they will be robbers or cowards, or when they will
assassinate--in all, when they will deserve being cashiered or put to

Give me leave to tell your excellency how I am adverse to
court-martials. I know it is the English custom, and I believe it is a
very bad one. It comes from their love of lawyers, speakers, and of
that black apparatus of sentences and judgments; but such is not the
American temper, and I think this new army must pick up the good
institutions, and leave the bad ones wherever they may be. In France,
an officer is arrested by his superior, who gives notice of it to the
commanding officer, and then he is punished enough in being deprived of
going out of his room in time of peace--of going his duty in time of
war. Nobody knows of it but his comrades. When the fault is greater, he
is confined in a common room for prisoner officers, and this is much
more shameful. Notice of it is immediately given to the general officer
who commands there. That goes, too, to the king's minister, who is to
be replaced here by the commander-in-chief; in time of war, it goes to
the general-in-chief.

Soldiers are punished the same, or next day, by order of proper
officers, and the right of punishing is proportionate to their ranks.

But when both officers and soldiers have done something which deserves
a more severe punishment; when their honour, or their life, or their
liberty for more than a very short time, is concerned, then a
court-martial meets, and the sentence is known. How will you let an
unhappy soldier be confined several weeks with men who are to be
hanged, with spies, with the most horrid sort of people, and in the
same time be lost for the duty, when they deserve only some lashes.
There is no proportion in the punishments.

How is it possible to carry a gentleman before a parcel of dreadful
judges, at the same place where an officer of the same rank has been
just now cashiered, for a trifling neglect of his duty; for, I suppose,
speaking to his next neighbour, in a manoeuvre for going into a house
to speak to a pretty girl, when the army is on its march, and a
thousand other things? How is it possible to bring to the certainty of
being cashiered or dishonoured, a young lad who has made a considerable
fault because he had a light head, a too great vivacity, when that
young man would be, perhaps, in some years, the best officer of the
army, if he had been friendly reprimanded and arrested for some time,
without any dishonour?

The law is always severe; and brings with it an eternal shameful mark.
When the judges are partial, as on this occasion, it is much worse,
because they have the same inconvenience as law itself.

In court-martial, men are judged by their inferiors. How it is averse
to discipline, I don't want to say. The publication exposes men to be
despised by the least soldier. When men have been before a
court-martial, they should be or acquitted or dismissed. What do you
think can be produced by the half condemnation of a general officer?
What necessity for all the soldiers, all the officers, to know that
_General Maxwell has been prevented from doing his duty by his being
drunk?_ Where is the man who will not laugh at him, if he is told by
him, _you are a drunkard;_ and is it right to ridiculize a man,
respectable by his rank, because he drank two or three gills of rum?

These are my reasons against courts-martial, when there is not some
considerable fault to punish. According to my affair, I am sorry in
seeing the less guilty being _the only one punished_. However, I shall
send to courts-martial but for such crimes that there will be for the
judges no way of indulgence and partiality.

With the most tender respect, I am, &c.


York, February 3rd, 1778.

I shall never have any cause to reproach myself, my dearest love, with
having allowed an opportunity to pass without writing to you, and I
have found one by M. du Bouchet, who has the happiness of embarking for
France. You must have already received several letters in which I speak
of the birth of our new infant, and of the pleasure this joyful event
has given me. If I thought that you could imagine the happiness I feel
at this event had been at all diminished because our Anastasia is only
a daughter, I should be so much displeased with you, that I should but
love you a very little for a few moments. O, my love! what an
enchanting pleasure it will be for me to embrace you all; what a
consolation to be able to weep with my other friends for the dear
friend whom I have lost!

I will not give you a long account of the proofs of confidence with
which I have been honoured by America. Suffice it to say that Canada is
oppressed by the English; the whole of that immense country is in the
power of the enemy, who are there in possession of troops, forts, and a
fleet. I am to repair thither with the title of General of the Northern
Army, at the head of three thousand men, to see if no evil can be done
to the English in that country. The idea of rendering the whole of New
France free, and of delivering her from a heavy yoke, is too glorious
for me to allow myself to dwell upon it. My army would, in that case,
increase at an immense rate, and would be increased also by the French.
I am undertaking a most difficult task, above all taking into account
the few resources I possess. As to those my own merit offers, they are
very trifling in comparison to the importance of the place; nor can a
man of twenty be fit to command an army, charged with the numerous
details to which a general must attend, and having under his direct
orders a vast extent of country.

The number of the troops I shall command would appear, I own, trifling
in Europe, but it is considerable for America. What gives me most
pleasure in all this is, that, under any circumstances, I shall be now
sooner able to rejoin you. How delightful it will be to hurry through
my affairs with the English there above! I am just setting out for
Albany, and from thence to another place, nearly a hundred and fifty
leagues from hence, where my labours will commence. I shall go part of
the way on sledges; having once reached that spot, I shall have only
ice to tread upon.

I do not write to any of my friends by this opportunity. I have an
immense deal of business to do; there is an infinite number of military
and political affairs to arrange; there are so many things to repair,
so many new obstacles to remove, that I should require, in truth, forty
years' experience, and very superior talents, to be able to conquer all
the difficulties I meet with. I will, at least, do the best I can, and
if I only succeed in occupying the enemy's attention in the north, even
if I do them no other injury, it would be rendering an important
service, and my little army would not be wholly useless. Be so kind as
to tell the prince~[1] that his youthful captain, although now a
general-in-chief, has not acquired more knowledge than he possessed at
Polygone, and that he knows not how, unless chance or his good angel
should direct him, to justify the confidence which has been placed in
him. A thousand tender respects to Madame d'Ayen. A thousand assurances
of my tender affection to the viscountess and all my sisters. Do not
forget me to your father, Madame de Tesse, and the Marshal de Noailles.
Adieu, adieu, my dearest love; embrace our dear children; I embrace a
million of times their beloved mother. When shall I find myself again
within her arms?


1. The Prince de Poix, colonel of the regiment de Noailles, in which M.
de Lafayette was captain.



Hemingtown, the 9th February, 1778.

Dear General,--I cannot let go my guide without taking this opportunity
of writing to your excellency, though I have not yet public business to
speak of. I go on very slowly; sometimes drenched by rain, sometimes
covered by snow, and not entertaining many handsome thoughts about the
projected incursion into Canada; if successes were to be had, it would
surprise me in a most agreeable manner by that very reason that I don't
expect any shining ones. Lake Champlain is too cold for producing the
least bit of laurel, and if I am not starved I shall be as proud as if
I had gained three battles.

Mr. Duer had given to me a rendezvous at a tavern, but nobody was to be
found there. I fancy that he will be with Mr. Conway sooner than he has
told me; they will perhaps conquer Canada before my arrival, and I
expect to meet them at the governor's house in Quebec.

Could I believe, for one single instant, that this pompous command _of
a northern army_ will let your excellency forget a little us absent
friends, then, I would send the project to the place it comes from. But
I dare hope that you will remember me sometimes. I wish you, very
heartily, the greatest public and private happiness and successes. It
is a very melancholy idea for me that I cannot follow your fortunes as
near your person as I could wish; but my heart will take, very
sincerely, its part of everything which can happen to you, and I am
already thinking of the agreeable moment when I may come down to assure
your excellency of the most tender affection and highest respect. I
have the honour to be, &c.



Albany, the 19th February, 1778.

Dear General,--Why am I so far from you and what business had the board
of war to hurry me through the ice and snow without knowing what I
should do, neither what they were doing themselves? You have thought,
perhaps, that their project would be attended with some difficulty,
that some means had been neglected, that I could not obtain all the
success and the immensity of laurels which they had promised to me; but
I defy your excellency to conceive any idea of what I have seen since I
left the place where I was quiet and near my friends, to run myself
through all the blunders of madness or treachery (God knows what). Let
me begin the journal of my fine and glorious campaign.

According to Lord Stirling's advice, I went by Corich-ferry to Ringo's
tavern, where Mr. Duer had given me a rendezvous; but there no Duer was
to be found, and they did never hear from him.

From thence I proceeded by the State of New York, and had the pleasure
of seeing the friends of America, as warm in their love for the
commander-in-chief as his best friend could wish. I spoke to Governor
Clinton, and was much satisfied with that gentleman. At length I met
Albany, the 17th, though I was not expected before the 25th. General
Conway had been here only three days before me, and I must confess I
found him very active and looking as if he had good intentions; but we
know a great deal upon that subject. His first word has been that the
expedition is quite impossible. I was at first very diffident of this
report, but have found that he was right. Such is, at least, the idea I
can form of this ill-concerted operation within these two days.

General Schuyler, General Lincoln, General Arnold, had written, before
my arrival, to General Conway, in the most expressive terms, that, in
our present circumstances, there was no possibility to begin, now, an
enterprise into Canada. Hay, deputy quarter-master-general; Cuyler,
deputy commissary-general; Mearsin, deputy clothier-general, in what
they call the northern department, are entirely of the same opinion.
Colonel Hazen, who has been appointed to a place which interferes with
the three others above mentioned, was the most desirous of going there.
The reasons of such an order I think I may attribute to other motives.
The same Hazen confesses we are not strong enough to think of the
expedition in this moment. As to the troops, they are disgusted, and
(if you except some Hazen's Canadians) reluctant, to the utmost degree,
to begin a winter incursion in a so cold country. I have consulted
everybody, and everybody answers me that it would be madness to
undertake this operation.

I have been deceived by the board of war; they have, by the strongest
expressions, promised to me one thousand, and (what is more to be
depended upon) they have assured to me in writing, _two thou-sand and
five hundred combatants, at a low estimate_. Now, Sir, I do not believe
I can find, _in all_, twelve hundred fit for duty, and most part of
those very men are naked, even for a summer's campaign. I was to find
General Stark with a large body, and indeed General Gates had told to
me, _General Stark will have burnt the fleet before your arrival_.
Well, the first letter I receive in Albany is from General Stark, who
wishes to know _what number of men, from whence, for what time, for
what rendezvous, I desire him to raise_. Colonel Biveld, who was to
rise too, would have done something _had he received money_. One asks,
what encouragement his people will have, the other has no clothes; not
one of them has received a dollar of what was due to them. I have
applied to every body, I have begged at every door I could these two
days, and I see that I could do something were the expedition to be
begun in five weeks. But you know we have not an hour to lose, and
indeed it is now rather too late, had we every thing in readiness.

There is a spirit of dissatisfaction prevailing among the soldiers, and
even the officers, which is owing to their not being paid for some time
since. This department is much indebted, and as near as I can
ascertain, for so short a time, I have already discovered near eight
hundred thousand dollars due to the continental troops, some militia,
the quartermaster's department, &c. &c. &c. It was with four hundred
thousand dollars, only the half of which is arrived to day, that I was
to undertake the operation, and satisfy the men under my commands. I
send to congress the account of those debts. Some clothes, by Colonel
Hazen's activity, are arrived from Boston, but not enough by far, and
the greatest part is cut off.

We have had intelligence from a deserter, who makes the enemy stronger
than I thought. There is no such thing _as straw on board the vessels
to burn them_. I have sent to congress a full account of the matter; I
hope it will open their eyes. What they will resolve upon I do not
know, but I think I must wait here for their answer. I have inclosed to
the president, copies of the most important letters I had received. It
would be tedious for your excellency, were I to undertake the minutest
detail of everything; it will be sufficient to say that the want of
men, clothes, money, and the want of time, deprives me of all hopes as
to this excursion. If it may begin again in the month of June, by the
east, I cannot venture to assure; but for the present moment such is
the idea I conceive of the famous incursion, as far as I may be
informed, in a so short time.

Your excellency may judge that I am very distressed by this
disappointment. My being appointed to the command of the expedition is
known through the continent, it will be soon known in Europe, as I have
been desired, by members of congress, to write to my friends; my being
at the head of an army, people will be in great expectations, and what
shall I answer?

I am afraid it will reflect on my reputation, and I shall be laughed
at. My fears upon that subject are so strong, that I would choose to
become again only a volunteer, unless congress offers the means of
mending this ugly business by some glorious operation; but I am very
far from giving to them the least notice upon that matter. General
Arnold seems very fond of a diversion against New York, and he is too
sick to take the field before four or five months. I should be happy if
something was proposed to me in that way, but I will never ask, nor
even seem desirous, of anything directly from congress; for you, dear
general, I know very well, that you will do everything to procure me
the only thing I am ambitious of--glory.

I think your excellency will approve of my staying here till further
orders, and of my taking the liberty of sending my despatches to
congress by a very quick occasion, without going through the hands of
my general; but I was desirous to acquaint them early of my
disagreeable and ridiculous situation.

With the greatest affection and respect, I have the honour to be, &c.



The 23rd February, 1778.

DEAR GENERAL,--I have an opportunity of writing to your excellency
which I will not miss by any means, even should I be afraid of becoming
tedious and troublesome; but if they have sent me far from you, I don't
know for what purpose, at least I must make some little use of my pen,
to prevent all communication from being cut off between your excellency
and myself. I have written lately to you my distressing, ridiculous,
foolish, and, indeed, nameless situation. I am sent, with a great
noise, at the head of an army for doing great things; the whole
continent, France and Europe herself, and what is the worse, the
British army, are in great expectations. How far they will be deceived,
how far we shall be ridiculed, you may judge by the candid account you
have got of the state of our affairs.

There are things, I dare say, in which I am deceived--a certain colonel
is not here for nothing: one other gentleman became very popular before
I went to this place; Arnold himself is very fond of him. Every part on
which I turn to look I am sure a cloud is drawn before my eyes;
however, there are points I cannot be deceived upon. The want of money,
the dissatisfaction among the soldiers, the disinclination of every one
(except the Canadians, who mean to stay at home) for this expedition,
are as conspicuous as possible; however, I am sure I will become very
ridiculous, and laughed at. _My expedition_ will be as famous as the
_secret expedition_ against Rhode Island. I confess, my dear general,
that I find myself of very quick feelings whenever my reputation and
glory are concerned in anything. It is very hard indeed that such a
part of my happiness, without which I cannot live, should depend upon
schemes which I never knew of but when there was no time to put them
into execution. I assure you, my most dear and respected friend, that I
am more unhappy than I ever was.

My desire of doing something was such, that I have thought of doing it
by surprise with a detachment, but it seems to me rash and quite
impossible. I should be very happy if you were here to give me some
advice; but I have nobody to consult with. They have sent to me more
than twenty French officers; I do not know what to do with them; I beg
you will acquaint me the line of conduct you advise me to follow on
every point. I am at a loss how to act, and indeed I do not know what I
am here for myself. However, as being the eldest officer, (after
General Arnold has desired me to take the command,) I think it is my
duty to mind the business of this part of America as well as I can.
General Gates holds yet the title and power of commander-in-chief of
the Northern department; but, as two hundred thousand dollars are
arrived, I have taken upon myself to pay the most necessary part of the
debts we are involved in. I am about sending provisions to Fort
Schuyller: I will go to see the fort. I will try to get some clothes
for the troops, to buy some articles for the next campaign. I have
directed some money to be borrowed upon my credit to satisfy the
troops, who are much discontented. In all, I endeavour to do for the
best, though I have no particular authority or instructions; and I will
come as near as I can to General Gates's intentions, but I want much to
get an answer to my letters.

I fancy (between us) that the actual scheme is to have me out of this
part of the continent, and General Conway in chief, under the immediate
direction of General Gates. How they will bring it up I do not know,
but you may be sure something of that kind will appear. You are nearer
than myself, and every honest man in congress is your friend; therefore
you may foresee and prevent, if possible, the evil a hundred times
better than I can: I would only give that idea to your excellency.

After having written in Europe (by the desire of the members of
congress) so many fine things about my commanding an army, I shall be
ashamed if nothing can be done by me in that way. I am told General
Putnam is recalled; but your excellency knows better than I do what
would be convenient, therefore I don't want to mind these things

Will you be so good as to present my respects to your lady. With the
most tender affection and highest respect, I have the honour to be,




Head Quarters, 10th March, 1778.

MY DEAR MARQUIS,--I have had the pleasure of receiving your two favours
of the 19th and 23rd of February, and hasten to dispel those fears
respecting your reputation, which are excited only by an uncommon
degree of sensibility. You seem to apprehend that censure, proportioned
to the disappointed expectations of the world, will fall on you in
consequence of the failure of the Canadian expedition. But, in the
first place, it will be no disadvantage to you to have it known in
Europe that you had received so manifest a proof of the good opinion
and confidence of congress as an important detached command; and I am
persuaded that every one will applaud your prudence in renouncing a
project, in pursuing which you would vainly have attempted physical
impossibilities; indeed, unless you can be chargeable with the
invariable effects of natural causes, and be arraigned for not
suspending the course of the seasons, to accommodate your march over
the lake, the most prompt to slander can have nothing to found blame

However sensibly your ardour for glory may make you feel this
disappointment, you may be assured that your character stands as fair
as ever it did, and that no new enterprise is necessary to wipe off
this imaginary stain. The expedition which you hint at I think
unadvisable in our present circumstances. Anything in the way of a
formal attack, which would necessarily be announced to the enemy by
preparatory measures, would not be likely to succeed. If a stroke is
meditated in that quarter, it must be effected by troops stationed at a
proper distance for availing themselves of the first favourable
opportunity offered by the enemy, and success would principally depend
upon the suddenness of the attempt. This, therefore, must rather be the
effect of time and chance than premeditation. You undoubtedly have
determined judiciously in waiting the further orders of congress.
Whether they allow me the pleasure of seeing you shortly, or destine
you to a longer absence, you may assure yourself of the sincere good
wishes of,

Dear Sir, &c.

P. S. Your directing payment of such debts as appear to be most
pressing is certainly right. There is not money enough to answer every
demand; and I wish your supplies of clothing had been better. Your
ordering a large supply of provisions into Fort Schuyler was a very
judicious measure, and I thank you for it.



Albany, March 12th.

Permit me to express my satisfaction at your having seen General
Washington. No enemies to that great man can be found except among the
enemies to his country; nor is it possible for any man of a noble
spirit to refrain from loving the excellent qualities of his heart. I
think I know him as well as any person, and such is the idea which I
have formed of him; his honesty, his frankness, his sensibility, his
virtue, to the full extent in which this word can be understood, are
above all praise. It is not for me to judge of his military talents;
but, according to my imperfect knowledge of these matters, his advice
in council has always appeared to me the best, although his modesty
prevents him sometimes from sustaining it; and his predictions have
generally been fulfilled. I am the more happy in giving you this
opinion of my friend with all the sincerity which I feel, because some
persons may perhaps attempt to deceive you on this point.



Albany, 20th March, 1778.

... His Excellency General Washington will, I believe, mention to
congress that, at the request of the commissioners of Indian affairs, I
send Colonel Gouvion, and have given proper directions for the building
of a small fort, which they and myself have thought very necessary to
be granted to the Oneydas. The love of the French blood, mixed with the
love of some French _Louis d'or_, have engaged those Indians to promise
they would come with me.~[1]

As I am very certain the Congress of the United States will not propose
anything to me but consistent with my feelings and the sentiment I
flatter myself to have obtained from them, I can assure them, by
advance, that any post they will give, any disposition they will make,
with such manners, will be cheerfully received and complied to by me
with acknowledgment. However, I will beg leave to say, that any
command, whatever honourable it may be, where I would not be so near
the danger or occasions of doing something, I shall always look upon as
not suited to me.

I never mentioned to congress a long letter I have written, four months
ago, to France, about a project for the East Indies, to which I expect
the answer. Was I to succeed in my expectation, it would bring, soon,
that so much desired French war, in spite of some peaceful men, and be
of some use to the noble cause of freedom, without bringing the
continent in any expense.

With the greatest respect, I have the honour to be, &c.


1. M. de Lafayette, during this journey, some curious relations with
the Indian, in a letter of the 27th of February, to General Washington,
which, being void of interest in other respects, has been suppressed.
It appears that he was solicited by General Schuyler to be present at a
numerous meeting of Indians, convoked for a treaty. The traces of those
communications will be found further.



Albany, 25th March, 1778.

Dear General,--How happy I have been in receiving your excellency's
favour of the tenth present; I hope you will be convinced by the
knowledge of my tender affection for you. I am very sensible of that
goodness which tries to dissipate my fears about that ridiculous
Canadian expedition. At the present time we know which was the aim of
the honourable board, and for which project three or four men have
rushed the country into a great expense, and risked the reputation of
our arms, and the life of many hundred men, had the general, your
deceived friend, been as rash and foolish as they seem to have
expected. O, American freedom, what shall become of you if you are in
such hands?

I have received a letter from the board and a resolve of congress,~[1]
by which you are directed to recall me and the Baron de Kalb, whose
presence is deemed absolutely necessary to your army. I believe this of
General Conway is _absolutely necessary_ to Albany, and he has received
orders to stay there, which I have no objection to, as nothing,
perhaps, will be done in this quarter but some disputes of Indians and
tories. However, you know I have wrote to congress, and as soon as
their leave will come, I shall let Conway have the command of these few
regiments, and I shall immediately join my respectable friend; but till
I have received instructions for leaving that place from yourself, I
shall stay, as powerful commander-in-chief, as if congress had never
resolved my presence absolutely necessary for the great army.

Since your last letter, I have given up the idea of New York, and my
only desire is to join you. The only favour I have asked of your
commissioners in France, has been, not to be under any orders but those
of General Washington. I seem to have had an anticipation of our future
friendship, and what I have done out of esteem and respect for your
excellency's name and reputation, I should do now out of mere love for
General Washington himself. I am glad to hear General Greene is
quarter-master-general; it is very interesting to have there an honest
man and a friend of yours. But I feel the greatest pain not to hear
anything about reinforcements. What can you do with a handful of men,--
and my poor division, whom I was so desirous of instructing, clothing,
managing myself in the winter, whom, I was told, I should find six
thousand strong at the opening of the campaign? Don't your excellency
think that I could recruit a little in General Greene's division now
that he is quarter-master-general? By that promotion I find myself very
proud to be the third officer of your army.

With the utmost respect and affection, I have the honour to be, &c.


1. That congress entertain a high sense of his prudence, activity, and
zeal, and that they are fully persuaded nothing has or would have been
wanting on his part, or on the part of his officers who accompanied
him, to give the expedition the utmost possible effect.--(Secret
Journal, March 2.)


Valley Forge Camp, in Pennsylvania, April 14th, 1778.

If thirty opportunities were to present themselves at once, my dearest
love, you may rest assured that I would write thirty letters; and that,
if you do not receive any news from me, I have nothing, at least, to
reproach myself with. This letter will be accompanied by others, saying
nearly the same things, and having nearly the same date; but accidents
are unfortunately very common, and by this means, some letters may
reach you safely. Respecting your own, my love, I prefer accusing fate,
the waves, Lord Howe, and the devil, to suspecting you for one moment
of negligence. I am convinced that you will not allow a single
opportunity to escape of writing to me; but I should feel, if possible,
still more so, if I could only hope that you knew the degree of
happiness your letters give me. I love you more ardently than ever, and
repeated assurances of your affection are absolutely necessary to my
repose, and to that species of felicity which I can enjoy whilst
separated from all I love most fondly--if, however, the word _felicity_
can be applied to my melancholy, exiled state. Endeavour to afford me
some consolation, and neglect no opportunity of writing to me. Millions
of ages have elapsed since I have received a line from any one. This
complete ignorance of the situation of all those who are most dear to
me, is, indeed, a dreadful calamity: I have, however, some reason to
believe that it cannot last for ever; the scene will soon become
interesting; France must take some decisive part, and vessels will then
arrive with letters. I can give you no news at present; we are all in a
state of repose, and are waiting with impatience for the opening
campaign to awaken us from our stupor. In my other letters, I mentioned
my journey to Albany, and my visit to an assembly of savages. I am
expecting some good Iroquois who have promised to rejoin me here.
Either after, or before receiving this letter, Madame d'Ayen, the
viscountess, and my grandfather,~[1] will receive letters by an
opportunity which, I believe, is more secure than the one I am now
writing by; I have written a longer letter to you also at the same
time. I write an immense number of epistles; God grant that they may
arrive! Present my affectionate respects to your mother, and my
grandfather; embrace a thousand times the viscountess and my sisters;
recall me to the remembrance of the Countess Auguste, Madame de
Fronsac, and all your and my friends. Embrace a thousand times our
dearest family. When shall I be able to assure you, my dearest life,
that I love you better than any other person in the world, and that I
shall love you as long as I live? Adieu; I only look upon this letter
as a note.

Present my respects to the Marshal de Noailles, and tell him that I
have sent him some trees from Albany; but I will send him others also
at various times, that I may feel certain of his receiving a few of
them. When you present my compliments to my acquaintance, do not forget
the Chevalier de Chastellux.


1. The Count de la Riviere, (Charles-Ives-Thibault), lieutenant-captain
of the black musketeers, was grandfather of the mother of M. de
Lafayette of whom he had been appointed guardian.


Germantown, April 28th, 1778.

I write to you, my dearest love, by a very strange opportunity, since
it is an English officer who has taken charge of my letter. But your
wonder will cease, when you hear that that officer is my friend
Fitz-Patrick.~[1] He is returning to England, and I could not resist my
wish of embracing him before his departure. It was the first time we
had met unarmed in America, and that manner of meeting suits us both
much better than the hostile appearance which we had, until now,
thought proper to affect. It is long since I have received any news
from France, and I am very impatiently expecting letters. Write
frequently, my love, I need the consolation of hearing often from you
during this painful separation. There is no important news; neither
would it be proper for Mr. Fitz-Patrick to carry political news from a
hand at present engaged in fighting with his army. I am in perfect
health; my wound is completely healed, but my heart is far from being
tranquil, for I am far from all those I love; and my anxiety about
them, as well as my impatience to behold them, increase every hour. Say
a thousand things for me to all my friends; present my respects to
Madame d'Ayen, and to the Marshal de Noailles. Embrace, above all, our
children, my dearest love, and be convinced yourself that every moment
that separates me from you and them appears to me an age. Adieu; I must
quit you, for the hour is far advanced, and to-morrow will not be an
idle day. Adieu, Adieu!


1. M. de Lafayette had become very intimate with him in England: he is
the same General Fitz-Patrick, who made two famous motions in the House
of Commons; the one March 17th, 1794, for the prisoners of Magdebourg,
and the other, December 16th, 1796, for the prisoners of Olmutz.



Valley Forge Camp, the 19th May, 1778.

MY DEAR GENERAL,--Agreeable to your excellency's orders, I have taken
the oath of the gentlemen officers in General Woodford's brigade, and
their certificates have been sent to the adjutant-general's office.
Give me leave, now, to present you with some observations delivered to
me by many officers in that brigade, who desire me to submit them to
your perusal. I know, sir, (besides I am not of their opinion in the
fact itself) that I should not accept for you the objections those
gentlemen could have had, as a body, to any order from congress; but I
confess the desire of being agreeable to them, of giving them any mark
of friendship and affection which is in my power and acknowledging the
kind sentiments they honour me with, have been my first and dearest
considerations. Besides that, be pleased to consider that they began by
obeying orders, and want only to let their beloved general know which
were the reasons of their being rather reluctant (as far as reluctance
may comply with their duty and honour) to an oath, the meaning and
spirit of which was, I believe, misunderstood by them. I may add, sir,
with a perfect conviction, that there is not one among them but would
be thrice happy were occasions offered to them of distinguishing yet,
by new exertions, their love for their country, their zeal for their
duty as officers, their consideration for the civil superior power, and
their love for your excellency.

With the greatest respect and most tender affection, I have the honour
to be, &c.



Camp, 17th May, 1778.

DEAR SIR,--I received yesterday your favour of the 15th instant,
enclosing a paper subscribed by sundry officers of General Woodford's
brigade, setting forth the reasons for not taking the oath of
abjuration, allegiance, and office; and I thank you much for the
cautious delicacy used in communicating the matter to me. As every oath
should be a free act of the mind, founded on the conviction of its
propriety, I would not wish, in any instance, that there should be the
least degree of compulsion exercised; nor to interpose my opinion, in
order to induce any to make it of whom it is required. The gentlemen,
therefore, who signed the paper, will use their own discretion in the
matter, and swear, or not swear, as their conscience and feelings

At the same time, I cannot but consider it as a circumstance of some
singularity, that the scruples against the oath should be peculiar to
the officers of one brigade, and so very extensive. The oath in itself
is not new. It is substantially the same with that required in all
governments, and, therefore, does not imply any indignity; and it is
perfectly consistent with the professions, actions, and implied
engagements of every officer. The objection founded on the supposed
unsettled rank of the officers, is of no validity, rank being only
mentioned as a further designation of the party swearing; nor can it be
seriously thought that the oath is either intended to prevent, or can
prevent, their being promoted, or their resignation.

The fourth objection, stated by the gentlemen, serves as a key to their
scruples; and I would willingly persuade myself, that their own
reflections will point out to them the impropriety of the whole
proceeding, and not suffer them to be betrayed in future into a similar
conduct. I have a regard for them all, and cannot but regret that they
were ever engaged in the measure. I am certain they will regret it
themselves;--sure I am that they ought. I am, my dear marquis, your
affectionate friend and servant.



SIR,--The detachment under your command, with which you will
immediately march towards the enemy's lines, is designed to answer the
following purposes; namely, to be a security to this camp, and a cover
to the country, between the Delaware and the Schuylkill, to interrupt
the communication with Philadelphia, to obstruct the incursions of the
enemy's parties, and to obtain intelligence of their motions and
designs. This last is a matter of very interesting moment, and ought to
claim your particular attention. You will endeavour to procure trusty
and intelligent spies, who will advise you faithfully of whatever may
be passing in the city, and you will, without delay, communicate to me
every piece of material information you obtain. A variety of concurring
accounts make it probable that the enemy are preparing to evacuate
Philadelphia; this is a point of the utmost importance to ascertain,
and, if possible, the place of their future destination. Should you be
able to gain certain intelligence of the time of their intended
embarkation, so that you may be able to take advantage of it, and fall
upon the rear of the enemy in the act of withdrawing, it will be a very
desirable event; but this will be a matter of no small difficulty, and
will require the greatest caution and prudence in the execution. Any
deception or precipitation may be attended with the most disastrous
consequences. You will remember that your detachment is a very valuable
one, and that any accident happening to it would be a severe blow, to
this army; you will, therefore, use every possible precaution for its
security, and to guard against a surprise. No attempt should be made,
nor anything risked, without the greatest prospect of success, and with
every reasonable advantage on your side. I shall not point out any
precise position to you, but shall leave it to your discretion to take
such posts occasionally, as shall appear to you best adapted to the
purposes of your detachment. In general, I would observe, that a
stationary post is unadvisable, as it gives the enemy an opportunity of
knowing your situation, and concerting plans successfully against you.
In case of any offensive movement against this army, you will keep
yourself in such a state as to have an easy communication with it, and,
at the same time, harass the enemy's advance.

Our parties of horse and foot, between the rivers, are to be under your
command, and to form part of your detachment. As great complaints have
been made of the disorderly conduct of the parties which have been sent
towards the enemy's lines, it is expected that you will be very
attentive in preventing abuses of the like nature, and will inquire how
far complaints already made are founded in justice.

Given under my hand, at head quarters, this 18th May, 1778.


1. This instruction has been inserted as the one which M. de Lafayette
received to repair, as a detached body, betwixt the Delaware and
Schuylkill. It was after this movement that he made the retreat of
Barren Hill, which was praised by General Washington. (See the Memoirs,
in Mr. Spark's collection, the letter Of Washington, May 24th, 1778.)


Valley Forge Camp, June 16, 1778.

Chance has furnished me, my dearest love, with a very uncertain
opportunity of writing to you, but, such as it is, I shall take
advantage of it, for I cannot resist the wish of saying a few words to
you. You must have received many letters from me lately, if my writing
unceasingly, at least, may justify this hope. Several vessels have
sailed, all laden with my letters. My expressions of heartfelt grief
must even have added to your distress. What a dreadful thing is
absence! I never experienced before all the horrors of separation. My
own deep sorrow is aggravated by the feeling that I am not able to
share and sympathize in your anguish. The length of time that elapsed
before I heard of this event had also increased my misery. Consider, my
love, how dreadful it must be to weep for what I have lost, and tremble
for what remains. The distance between Europe and America appears to me
more enormous than ever. The loss of our poor child is almost
constantly in my thoughts: this sad news followed immediately that of
the treaty; and whilst my heart was torn by grief, I was obliged to
receive and take part in expressions of public joy. I learnt, at the
same time, the loss of our little Adrien, for I always considered that
child as my own, and I regretted him as I should have done a son. I
have written twice to the viscount and viscountess, to express to them
my deep regret, and I hope my letters will reach them safely. I am
writing only to you at present, because I neither know when the vessel
sails, nor when she will arrive, and I am told that a packet will soon
set out which will probably reach Europe first.

I received letters from M. de Cambrai and M. Carmichael. The first one
will be employed, I hope, in an advantageous and agreeable manner; the
second, whom I am expecting with great impatience, has not yet arrived
at the army: how delighted I shall be to see him, and talk to him about
you!--he will come to the camp as soon as possible. We are expecting
every day news from Europe; they will be deeply interesting, especially
to me, who offer up such earnest prayers for the success and glory of
my country. The King of Prussia, it is said, has entered into Bohemia,
and has forgotten to declare war. If a conflict were to take place
between France and England, I should prefer our being left completely
to ourselves, and that the rest of Europe should content herself with
looking on; we should, in that case, have a glorious war, and our
successes would be of a kind to please and gratify the nation.

If the, unfortunate news had reached me sooner, I should have set out
immediately to rejoin you; but the account of the treaty, which we
received the first of May, prevented my leaving this country. The
opening campaign does not allow me to retire. I have always been
perfectly convinced that by serving the cause of humanity, and that of
America, I serve also the interest of France. Another motive for
remaining longer is, that the commissioners have arrived, and that I am
well pleased to be within reach of the negotiations. To be useful in
any way to my country will always be agreeable to me. I do not
understand why a minister plenipotentiary, or something of that kind,
has not been already sent to America; I am most anxious to see one,
provided always it may not be myself, for I am but little disposed to
quit the military career to enter into the diplomatic corps.

There is no news here; the only topic of conversation is the news from
Europe, and to that many idle tales are always prefixed: there has been
little action on either side; the only important affair was the one
which fell to my share the 20th of last month, and there was not any
blood shed even there.

General Washington had entrusted me to conduct a detachment of two
thousand four hundred chosen men to the vicinity of Philadelphia. It
would be too long to explain to you the cause, but it will suffice to
tell you, that, in spite of all my precautions, I could not prevent the
hostile army from making a nocturnal march, and I found myself the next
morning with part of the army in front, and seven thousand men in my
rear. These gentlemen were so obliging as to take measures for sending
to New York those who should not be killed; but they were so kind,
also, as to permit us to retire quietly, without doing us any injury.
We had about six or seven killed or wounded, and they
twenty-five or thirty, which did not make them amends for a march, in
which one part of the army had been obliged to make forty miles.

Some days afterwards, our situation having altered, I returned to the
camp, and no events of importance have occurred since. We are expecting
the evacuation of Philadelphia, which must, we fancy, soon take place.
I have been told that on the 10th of April they were thinking of
negotiating rather than of fighting, and that England was becoming each
day more humble.

If this letter ever reaches you, my dearest love, present my respects
to the Duke d'Ayen, the Marshal de Noailles, and Madame de Tesse, to
whom I have written by every vessel, although she accuses me of having
neglected her, which my heart is incapable of doing. I have also
written to Madame d'Ayen by the two last ships, and by several previous
ones. Embrace a thousand times the dear viscountess, and tell her how
well I love her. A thousand tender regards to my sisters; a thousand
affectionate ones to the viscount, M. de Poix, to Coigny,~[1] Segur,
his brother, Etienne,~[2] and all my other friends. Embrace, a million
of times, our little Anastasia;--alas! she alone remains to us! I feel
that she has engrossed the affection that was once divided between my
two children: take great care of her. Adieu; I know not when this may
reach you, and I even doubt its ever reaching you.


1. Probably the Marquis de Coigny.

2. The Count Etienne de Durfort, now peer of France.



Sir,--You are immediately to proceed with the detachment commanded by
General Poor, and form a junction, as expeditiously as possible, with
that under the command of General Scott. You are to use the most
effectual means for gaining the enemy's left flank and rear, and giving
them every degree of annoyance. All continental parties that are
already on the lines, will be under your command, and you will take
such measures, in concert with General Dickinson, as will cause the
enemy the greatest impediment and loss in their march. For these
purposes you will attack them, as occasion may require, by detachment,
and if a proper opening could be given, by operating against them with
the whole force of your command. You will naturally take such
precautions as will secure you against surprise, and maintain your
communications with this army.

Given at Kingston, this 25th day of June, 1778.



Ice Town, 26th June, 1778, at a quarter after seven.

Dear General,--I hope you have received my letter from Cranberry, where
I acquaint you that I am going to Ice Town, though we are short of
provisions. When I got there, I was sorry to hear that Mr. Hamilton,
who had been riding all the night, had not been able to find anybody
who could give him certain intelligence; but by a party who came back,
I hear the enemy are in motion, and their rear about one mile off the
place they had occupied last night, which is seven or eight miles from
here. I immediately put Generals Maxwell and Wayne's brigades in
motion, and I will fall lower down, with General Scott's, with
Jackson's regiment, and some militia. I should be very happy if we
could attack them before they halt, for I have no notion of taking one
other moment but this of the march. If I cannot overtake them, we could
lay at some distance, and attack tomorrow morning, provided they don't
escape in the night, which I much fear, as our intelligences are not
the best ones. I have sent some parties out, and I will get some more
light by them.

I fancy your excellency will move down with the army, and if we are at
a convenient distance from you, I have nothing to fear in striking a
blow if opportunity is offered. I believe that, in our present
strength, _provided they do not escape_, we may do something.

General Forman says that, on account of the nature of the country, it
is impossible for me to be turned by the right or left, but that I
shall not quite depend upon.

An officer just from the lines confirms the account of the enemy
moving. An intelligence from General Dickinson says that they hear a
very heavy fire in the front of the enemy's column. I apprehend it is
Morgan, who had not received my letter, but it will have the good
effect of stopping them, and if we attack, he may begin again.

Sir, I want to repeat you in writing what I have told to you, which is,
that if you believe it, or if it is believed necessary or useful to the
good of the service and the honour of General Lee, to send him down
with a couple of thousand men, or any greater force; I will cheerfully
obey and serve him, not only out of duty, but out of what I owe to that
gentleman's character.

I hope to receive, soon, your orders as to what I am to do this day or
to-morrow, to know where you are and what you intend, and would be very
happy to furnish you with the opportunity of completing some little
advantage of ours.


The road I understand the enemy are moving by, is the straight road to



Cranberry, 26th June, 1778.

My Dear Marquis,--General Lee's uneasiness, on accouut of yesterday's
transaction, rather increasing than abating, and your politeness in
wishing to ease him of it, have induced me to detach him from this army
with a part of it, to reinforce, or at least cover, the several
detachments at present under your command. At the same time, that I
felt for General Lee's distress of mind, I have had an eye to your
wishes and the delicacy of your situation; and have, therefore,
obtained a promise from him, that when he gives you notice of his
approach and command, he will request you to prosecute any plan you may
have already concerted for the purpose of attacking, or otherwise
annoying the enemy; this is the only expedient I could think of to
answer the views of both. General Lee seems satisfied with the measure,
and I wish it may prove agreeable to you, as I am, with the warmest
wishes for your honour and glory, and with the sincerest esteem and
affection, yours, &c.~[1]


1. The combination offered by M. de Lafayette, and desired by General
Washington, did not prove successful. In spite of the happy issue of
the battle of Monmouth, the results were not such as might have been
expected, on account of the conduct of General Lee, who was summoned
before a court martial, and condemned to be suspended for one year.
(See on this subject the Memoirs of the Life of Washington, by
Marshall, and the Appendix No. 8, of the 5th vol. of the Letters of



White Plains, 22nd July, 1778.

Sir,--You are to have the immediate command of that detachment from
this army, which consists of Glover's and Varnum's brigades, and the
detachment under the command of Colonel Henry Jackson. You are to march
them, with all convenient expedition, and by the best routes, to
Providence, in the state of Rhode Island. When there, you are to
subject yourself to the orders of Major-General Sullivan, who will have
the command of the expedition against Newport, and the British and
other troops in their pay, on that and the Islands adjacent.

If, on your march, you should receive certain intelligence of the
evacuation of Rhode Island, by the enemy, you are immediately to
counter march for this place, giving me the earliest advice thereof.
Having the most perfect reliance on your activity and zeal, and wishing
you all the success, honour, and glory, that your heart can wish, I am,
with the most perfect regard, yours, &c.


1. Order for the expedition of Rhode Island.



Head Quarters, White Plains, 27th July, 1778.

DEAR MARQUIS,--This will be delivered to you by Major-General Greene,
whose thorough knowledge of Rhode Island, of which he is a native, and
the influence he will have with the people, put it in his power to be
particularly useful in the expedition against that place, as well in
providing necessaries for carrying it on, as in assisting to form and
execute a plan of operations proper for the occasion. The honour and
interest of the common cause are so deeply concerned in the success of
this enterprise, that it appears to me of the greatest importance to
omit no step which may conduce to it; and General Greene, on several


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