Memoirs, Correspondence and Manuscripts of General Lafayette

Part 5 out of 9

present state of affairs. The situation of the army was a very bad one;
it was in want of money, and it was become almost impossible to raise
recruits; in short, some event was necessary to restore the energy of
the different states, and give the army an opportunity of displaying
its vigour. It was then that Lafayette announced to the commander-in-
chief what had been done, and the succours which might soon be expected
to arrive. General Washington felt the importance of this good news,
and considered it as deciding the successful issue of their affairs.
All the necessary preparations were made: the secret was well kept,
although steps were obliged to be taken for the arrival of the troops,
who landed safely at Rhode Island, and who, in spite of their long
inaction, formed a necessary and powerful force to oppose to the
English army.

During the campaign of 1780, the French corps remained at Rhode Island.
After the defeat of Gates, Greene went to command in Carolina; Arnold
was placed at West Point; the principal army, under the immediate
orders of Washington, had for its front guard the light infantry of
Lafayette, to which was joined the corps of the excellent partisan,
Colonel Lee. This is the proper time to speak of that light infantry.
The American troops had no grenadiers; their _chasseurs_, or riflemen,
formed a distinct regiment, under the orders of the colonel, since
Brigadier-General Morgan, and had been taken, not from different corps,
but from parts of the country on the frontiers of the savage tribes,
and from amongst men whose mode of life, and skill in firing their long
carabines, rendered them peculiarly useful in that service. But the
regiments of the line supplied some chosen men, whose officers were
also all picked men, and who formed a select band of about two
thousand, under the orders of Lafayette. The mutual attachment of that
corps and its head had become even a proverb in America. As a traveller
brings from distant countries presents to his family and friends, he
had brought from France the value of a large sum of money in ornaments
for the soldiers, swords for the officers and under officers, and
banners~[3] for the battalions. This troop of chosen men, well
exercised and disciplined, although badly clothed, were easily
recognised by their red and black plumes, and had an excellent and a
very pleasing appearance. But, except the few things which M. de
Lafayette himself supplied, none of the things France had promised to
send arrived: the money she lent proved, however, of essential service
to the army.

During that year, a conference took place at Hartford, in Connecticut,
between the French generals and General Washington, accompanied by
General Lafayette and General Knox; they resolved to send the American
Colonel Laurens, charged to solicit new succours, and above all, a
superiority of force in the navy. On their return from this conference,
the conspiracy of Arnold was discovered. General Washington would still
have found that general in his quarters; if chance, or rather the
desire of showing Lafayette the fort of West Point, constructed during
his absence, had not induced him to repair thither before proceeding to
Robinson's house, in which General Arnold then resided.~[4]

It is impossible to express too much respect or too deep regret for
Major Andre. The fourteen general officers who had the painful task of
Historians have rendered a detailed account of the treachery of Arnold.
When, at his own request, the command of West Point was confided to
him, he urged General Washington to inform him what means of
information he possessed at New York. He made the same request to
Lafayette, who accidentally had several upon his own account, and to
the other officers who commanded near the enemy's lines. All these
generals fortunately considered themselves bound by the promise of
secrecy they had made, especially as several of the correspondents
acted from a feeling of patriotism only. If Arnold had succeeded in
discovering them, those unfortunate persons would have been ruined, and
all means of communication cut off.

Arnold was very near receiving the letter of Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson
in the presence of the commander-in-chief: he had turned aside, with
Lafayette and Knox, to look at a redoubt; Hamilton pronouncing his
sentence, the commander-in-chief, and the whole American army; were
filled with sentiments of admiration and compassion for him. The
conduct of the English in a preceding circumstance had been far from,
being similar. Captain Hale, of Connecticut, a distinguished young man,
beloved by his family and friends, had been taken on Long Island, under
circumstances of the same kind as those that occasioned the death of
Major Andre; but, instead of being treated with the like respect, to
which Major Andre himself bore testimony, Captain Hale was insulted to
the last moment of his life. "This is a fine death for a soldier!" said
one of the English officers who were surrounding the cart of execution.
"Sir," replied Hale lifting up his cap, "there is no death which would
not be rendered noble in such a glorious cause." He calmly replaced his
cap, and the fatal cart moving on, he died with the most perfect

During the winter, there was a revolt in the Pennsylvanian line.
Lafayette was at Philadelphia; the congress, and the executive power of
the state, knowing his influence over the troops, induced him to
proceed thither with General Saint Clair. They were received by the
troops with marked respect, and they listened to their complaints,
which were but too well grounded. General Wayne was in the midst of
them, and had undertaken a negotiation in concert with the state of
Pennsylvania. Lafayette had only, therefore, to repair to head
quarters. The discontent of the Pennsylvanians was appeased by the
measures of conciliation which had been already begun; but the same
kind of revolt in a Jersey brigade was suppressed with more vigour by
the general-in-chief, who, setting out with some battalions of
Lafayette's light infantry, brought the mutineers to reason, and the
generals, no longer restrained by the interference of the civil
authority, re-established immediately that military discipline which
was on the point of being lost.~[6]

(1781.) General Arnold was at Portsmouth in Virginia; Washington formed
the project of combining with the French to attack him, and take the
garrison. Lafayette set out from the head quarters with twelve hundred
of the light infantry; he pretended to make an attack on Staten Island,
and marching rapidly by Philadelphia to Head-of-Elk, he embarked with
his men in some small boats, and arrived safely at Annapolis. He set
out from thence in a canoe, with some officers, and, in spite of the
English frigates that were stationed in the bay, he repaired to
Williamsburg, to assemble the militia, whilst his detachment was still
waiting for the escort which the French were to send him. Lafayette had
already blockaded Portsmouth, and driven back the enemy's picquets,
when the issue of the combat between Admiral Arbuthnot and M.
Destouches, the commander of the French squadron, left the English
complete masters of the Chesapeake. Lafayette could only then return to
Annapolis, to re-conduct his detachment to the camp. He found himself
blockaded by small English frigates, which were much too considerable
in point of force for his boats; but having placed cannon on some
merchant ships, and embarked troops in them, he, by that manoeuvre,
made the English frigates retreat, and taking advantage of a favourable
wind, he reached with his men the Head-of-Elk, where he received some
very important despatches from General Washington: The enemy's plan of
campaign was just at that time become known: Virginia was to be its
object. General Phillips had left New York with a corps of troops to
reinforce Arnold. The general wrote to Lafayette to go to the succour
of Virginia. The task was not an easy one; the men whom he commanded
had engaged themselves for a short expedition: they belonged to the
northern states, which still retained strong prejudices as to the
unhealthiness of the southern states; they had neither shirts nor
shoes. Some Baltimore merchants lent Lafayette, on his bill, two
thousand guineas, which sufficed to buy some linen. The ladies of
Baltimore, whom he met with at a ball given in his honour when he
passed through the town, undertook to make the shirts themselves. The
young men of the same city formed themselves into a company of
volunteer dragoons. His corps were beginning to desert. Lafayette
issued an order, declaring that he was setting out for a difficult and
dangerous expedition; that he hoped that the soldiers would not abandon
him, but that whoever wished to go away might do so instantly; and he
sent away two soldiers who had just been punished for some serious
offences. From that hour all desertions ceased, and not one man would
leave him: this feeling was so strong, that an under officer, who was
prevented by a diseased leg from following the detachment, hired, at
his own expense, a cart, rather than separate from it. This anecdote is
honourable to the American troops, and deserves to become publicly

Lafayette had conceived that the capital of Virginia would be the
principal object of the enemy's attack. Richmond was filled with
magazines; its pillage would have proved fatal to the cause. Lafayette
marched thither with such rapidity, that when General Phillips,
arriving before Richmond, learnt that Lafayette had arrived there the
night before, he would not believe it. Having ascertained, however, the
truth of the report, he dared not attack the heights of Richmond.
Lafayette had a convoy to send to the southern states; he reconnoitred
Petersburg carefully. This threatened attack assembled the English, and
whilst the removing of cannon, and other preparations for an assault,
amused them, the convoy was sent off rapidly with the munition and
clothes which General Greene required. After the death of General
Phillips, who died that same day, Arnold wrote, by a flag of truce, to
Lafayette, who refused to receive his letter. He sent for the English
officer, and, with many expressions of respect for the British army,
told him that he could not consent to hold any correspondence with its
present general. This refusal gave great pleasure to General Washington
and the public, and placed Arnold in an awkward situation with his own

Lord Cornwallis, on entering Virginia by Carolina, got rid of all his
equipage, and did the same also respecting the heavy baggage of the
army under his orders. Lafayette placed himself under the same regimen,
and, during the whole of that campaign, the two armies slept without
any shelter, and only carried absolute necessaries with them. Upon that
active and decisive conflict the issue of the war was to depend; for if
the English, who bore all the force of the campaign on that point,
became masters of Virginia, not only the army of Lafayette, but also
that of Greene, who drew from thence all his resources,--and not only
Virginia, but all the states south of the Chesapeake, would inevitably
be lost. Thus the letters of the commander-in-chief, whilst telling
Lafayette that he did not deceive himself as to the difficulties of the
undertaking, merely requested him to prolong as much as possible the
defence of the state. The result was far more successful than any
person had dared to hope, at a period when all eyes and all thoughts
were directed towards that one decisive point.

The military scene in Virginia was soon to become more interesting.
General Greene had marched to the right, to attack the posts of South
Carolina, whilst Lord Cornwallis was in North Carolina. Cornwallis
allowed him to depart, and, marching also to the right, burnt his own
equipage and tents, to be enabled to remove more easily; he then
advanced rapidly towards Petersburg, and made Virginia the principal
seat of war. General Washington wrote to Lafayette that he could send
him no other reinforcement than eight hundred of the mutinous
Pennsylvanians, who had been formed again into a corps on the side of
Lancaster. Lord Cornwallis had obtained, and generally by the aid of
negroes, the best horses in Virginia. His Tarleton front guard, mounted
on race horses, stopped, like birds of prey, all they met with. The
active corps of Cornwallis was composed of more than four thousand men,
of which eight hundred were supplied with horses. The command was
divided in the following manner: General Rochambeau remained at Rhode
Island with his French corps; Washington commanded in person the
American troops before New York; he summoned, some time after, the
corps of Rochambeau to join him. That French lieutenant-general was
under his orders the same as the American major-generals, for when
Lafayette asked for the succour of troops, he took care to stipulate,
in the most positive manner, that it was to be placed entirely under
Washington's orders. The Americans were to have the right side; the
American officer, when rank and age were equal, was to command the
French officer. Lafayette had wished to give the rising republic all
the advantages and all the consequence of the greatest and longest
established powers. Washington had sent, the preceding year, General
Greene to command in the southern states; Virginia was nominally
comprised in that command, and had not yet become the theatre of war,
but the distance between the operations of Carolina and those of
Virginia was so great, and the communications were so difficult, that
it was impossible for Greene to direct what was passing in Virginia.
Lafayette took, therefore, the chief command, corresponding in a direct
manner with General Washington, and occasionally with the congress. But
he wished that Greene should retain his title of supremacy, and he only
sent to the head quarters copies of General Greene's letters, who was
his intimate friend, in the same way that both he and Greene had always
been on the most intimate footing with General Washington. During the
whole of this campaign the most perfect harmony always subsisted
between the generals, and contributed much to the success of the

Lafayette, after having saved the magazines of Richmond, hastened to
have them evacuated; he had taken his station at Osborn, and wrote to
General Washington that he would remain there, as long as his weakest
point, which was the left, should not be threatened with an attack.
Lord Cornwallis did not fail soon to perceive the weakness of that
point, and Lafayette retreated with his little corps, which, including
recruits and the militia, did not exceed two thousand five hundred men.
The richest young men of Virginia and Maryland had come to join him as
volunteer dragoons, and from their intelligence, as well as from the
superiority of their horses, they had been of essential service to him.
The Americans retreated in such a manner that the front guard of the
enemy arrived on the spot just as they had quitted it, and, without
running any risk themselves, they retarded as much as possible its
progress. Wayne was advancing with the reinforcement of Pennsylvanians.
Lafayette made all his calculations so as to be able to effect a
junction with that corps, without being prevented from covering the
military magazines of the southern states, which were at the foot of
the mountains on the height of Fluvana. But the Pennsylvanians had
delayed their movements, and Lafayette was thus obliged to make a
choice. He went to rejoin his reinforcement at Raccoon-Ford, and
hastened, by forced marches, to come into contact with Lord Cornwallis,
who had had time to make one detachment at Charlottesville, and another
at the James River Fork. The first had dispersed the Virginian
assembly; the second had done no material injury; but the principal
blow was to be struck: Lord Cornwallis was established in a good
position, within one march of the magazines, when Lafayette arrived
close to him on a road leading towards those magazines. It was
necessary for him to pass before the English army, presenting them his
flank, and exposing himself to a certain defeat: he fortunately found
out a shorter road which had remained for a long time undiscovered,
which he repaired during the night; and the next day, to the great
surprise of the English general, he was established in an impregnable
station, between the English and the magazines, whose loss must have
occasioned that of the whole southern army, of whom they were the sole
resource; for there was a road behind the mountains that the English
never intercepted, and by which the wants of General Greene's army were
supplied. Lord Cornwallis, when he commenced the pursuit of Lafayette,
had written a letter, which was intercepted, in which he made use of
this expression: _The boy cannot escape me_. He flattered himself with
terminating, by that one blow, the war in the whole southern part of
the United States, for it would have been easy for him afterwards to
take possession of Baltimore, and march towards Philadelphia. He beheld
in this manner the failure of the principal part of his plan, and
retreated towards Richmond, whilst Lafayette, who had been joined in
his new station by a corps of riflemen, as well as by some militia,
received notice beforehand to proceed forward on a certain day, and
followed, step by step, the English general, without, however, risking
an engagement with a force so superior to his own. His corps gradually
increased. Lord Cornwallis thought proper to evacuate Richmond;
Lafayette followed him, and ordered Colonel Butler to attack his rear
guard near Williamsburg. Some manoeuvre took place on that side, of
which the principal object on Lafayette's part was, to convince Lord
Cornwallis that his force was more considerable than it was in reality.
The English evacuated Williamsburg, and passed over James River to
James Island. A warm action took place between the English army and the
advance guard, whom Lafayette had ordered to the attack whilst they
were crossing the river. Lord Cornwallis had stationed the first troops
on the other side, to give the appearance as if the greatest number of
the troops had already passed over the river. Although all were
unanimous in asserting that this was the case, Lafayette himself
suspected the deception, and quitted his detachment to make
observations upon a tongue of land, from whence he could more easily
view the passage of the enemy. During that time, a piece of cannon,
exposed, doubtless, intentionally, tempted General Wayne, a brave and
very enterprising officer.

Lafayette found, on his return, the advance guard engaged in action
with a very superior force; he withdrew it, however (after a short but
extremely warm conflict), in good order, and without receiving a check.
The report was spread that he had had a horse killed under him, but it
was merely the one that was led by his side.~[7]

The English army pursued its route to Portsmouth; it then returned by
water to take its station at Yorktown and Gloucester, upon the York
River. A garrison still remained at Portsmouth. Lafayette made some
demonstrations of attack, and that garrison united itself to the body
of the army at Yorktown.

Lafayette was extremely desirous that the English army should unite at
that very spot. Such had been the aim of all his movements, ever since
a slight increase of force had permitted him to think of any other
thing than of retiring without being destroyed and of saving the
magazines. He knew that a French fleet was to arrive from the islands
upon the American coast. His principal object had been to force Lord
Cornwallis to withdraw towards the sea-shore, and then entangle him in
such a manner in the rivers, that there should remain no possibility of
a retreat. The English, on the contrary, fancied themselves in a very
good position, as they were possessors of a sea-port by which they
could receive succours from New York, and communicate with the
different parts of the coast. An accidental, but a very fortunate
circumstance, increased their security. Whilst Lafayette, full of hope,
was writing to General Washington that he foresaw he could push Lord
Cornwallis into a situation in which it would be easy for him, with
some assistance from the navy, to cut off his retreat, the general, who
had always thought that Lafayette would be very fortunate if he could
save Virginia without being cut up himself, spoke to him of his project
of attack against New York, granting him permission to come and take
part in it, if he wished it, but representing how useful it was to the
Virginian army that he should remain at its head. The two letters
passed each other; the one written by Lafayette arrived safely, and
Washington prepared beforehand to take advantage of the situation of
Lord Cornwallis. Gen. Washington's letter was intercepted, and the
English, upon seeing that confidential communication, never doubted for
a moment but the real intention of the Americans was to attack New
York: their own security at Yorktown was therefore complete.~[8]

The Count de Grasse, however, arrived with a naval force, and three
thousand troops~[9] for the land service. He was met at the landing
place of Cape Henry by Colonel Gimat, a Frenchman by birth, commander
of the American battalion, who was charged with despatches from
Lafayette; which explained fully to the admiral his own military
position, and that of the enemy, and conjured him to sail immediately
into the Chesapeake; to drive the frigates into the James River, that
the passage might be kept clear; to blockade the York River; to send
two vessels above the position of Lord Cornwallis, before the batteries
on the water-side, at Yorktown and Gloucester could be put in a proper
state. The Count de Grasse adhered to these proposals, with the
exception of not forcing the batteries with two vessels, which
manoeuvre would have made the blockade of Cornwallis by the land troops
still more easy of achievement. The Marquis de St. Simon landed with
three thousand men at James Island. Lafayette assembled a small corps
in the county of Gloucester, led, himself, the American forces on
Williamsburg, where he was met by the corps of the Marquis de St.
Simon, who came to range themselves under his orders, so that Lord
Cornwallis found himself suddenly, as if by enchantment, blockaded both
by sea and land. The combined army, under the orders of Lafayette, was
placed in an excellent situation at Williamsburg. It was impossible to
arrive there except by two difficult and well-defended passages. Lord
Cornwallis presented himself before them in the hope of escaping, by
making a forcible attack; but having ascertained the impossibility of
forcing them, he only occupied himself with finishing speedily the
fortifications of Yorktown; his hopes, however, declined, when the
Count de Grasse, having only left the ships necessary for the blockade,
and having gone out of the harbour to attack Admiral Graves, forced the
English to retire, and returned to his former station in the bay. The
French admiral was, however, impatient to return to the islands; he
wished that Yorktown should be taken by force of arms. The Marquis de
St. Simon was of the same opinion; they both represented strongly to
Lafayette that it was just, after such a long, fatiguing, and fortunate
campaign, that the glory of making Cornwallis lay down his arms should
belong to him who had reduced him to that situation. The admiral
offered to send to the attack not only the garrisons from the ships,
but all the sailors he should ask for. Lafayette was deaf to this
proposal, and answered, that General Washington and the corps of
General Rochambeau would soon arrive, and that it was far better to
hasten their movements than act without them; and, by making a
murderous attack, shed a great deal of blood from a feeling of vanity
and a selfish love of glory; that they were certain, after the arrival
of the succours, of taking the hostile army by a regular attack, and
thus spare the lives of the soldiers; which a good general ought always
to respect as much as possible, especially in a country where it was so
difficult to obtain others to replace those who fell. General
Washington and Count Rochambeau were the first to arrive; they were
soon followed by their troops; but, at the same moment, the Admiral de
Grasse wrote word that he was obliged to return to the islands. The
whole expedition seemed on the point of failing, and General Washington
begged Lafayette to go on board the admiral's ship in the bay, and
endeavour to persuade him to change his mind: he succeeded, and the
siege of Yorktown was begun. The Count de Rochambeau commanded the
French, including the corps of St. Simon; the Americans were divided in
two parts; one, under Major-general Lincoln, who had come from the
north with some troops; the other, under General Lafayette, who had
been joined by two more battalions of light infantry, under the orders
of Colonel Hamilton. It became necessary to attack two redoubts. One of
these attacks was confided to the Baron de Viomenil, the other to
General Lafayette. The former had expressed, in a somewhat boasting
manner, the idea he had of the superiority of the French in an attack
of that kind; Lafayette, a little offended, answered, "We are but young
soldiers, and we have but one sort of tactic on such occasions, which
is, to discharge our muskets, and push on straight with our bayonets."
He led on the American troops, of whom he gave the command to Colonel
Hamilton, with the Colonels Laurens and Gimat under him. The American
troops took the redoubt with the bayonet. As the firing was still
continued on the French side, Lafayette sent an aide-de-camp to the
Baron de Viomenil, to ask whether he did not require some succour from
the Americans;~[10] but the French were not long in taking possession
also of the other redoubt, and that success decided soon after the
capitulation of Lord Cornwallis, (19th October, 1781.) Nor must the
mention of an action be omitted here which was honourable to the
humanity of the Americans. The English had disgraced themselves
several times, and again recently at New London, by the murder of
some imprisoned garrisons. The detachment of Colonel Hamilton did not
for an instant make an ill use of their victory; as soon as the enemy
deposed their arms, they no longer received the slightest injury.
Colonel Hamilton distinguished himself very much in that attack.~[11]

Lord Cornwallis had demanded, in the capitulation, the permission of
marching out with drums beating and colours flying; the Count de
Rochambeau and the French officers were of opinion that this request
ought to be granted; the American generals did not oppose this idea;
Lafayette, recollecting that the same enemy had required General
Lincoln, at the capitulation of Charlestown, to furl the American
colours and not to play an English march, insisted strongly on using
the same measures with them in retaliation, and obtained that these two
precise conditions should be inserted in the capitulation. Lord
Cornwallis did not himself file out with the detachment. The Generals,
Washington, Rochambeau, and Lafayette, sent to present him their
compliments by their aides-de-camp. He retained Lafayette's
aide-de-camp, young George Washington, and told him that having made
this long campaign against General Lafayette, he wished, from the value
he annexed to that general's esteem, to give him a private account of
the motives which had obliged him to surrender. He told him several
things which have since been found in his discussion with General
Clinton. Lafayette went the next day to see him. "I know," said Lord
Cornwallis, "your humanity towards prisoners, and I recommend my poor
army to you." This recommendation was made in a tone which implied that
in Lafayette alone he felt real confidence, and placed but little in
the Americans. Lafayette therefore replied, "You know, my lord, that
the Americans have always been humane towards imprisoned armies;" in
allusion to the taking of General Burgoyne at Saratoga.~[12] The
English army was in fact treated with every possible mark of attention.

Although the French troops held in every respect the place of auxiliary
troops, yet the Americans always yielded them every preference in their
power relating to food or any other comfort. It is a singular
circumstance that when the troops of the~[13] the young general,
although a Frenchman, took upon himself to order that no flour should
be delivered to the American troops until the French had received their
full provision for three days. The Americans had therefore seldom any
thing but the flour of Indian corn. He gave the horses of the gentlemen
of that country to the French hussars, and the superior officers
themselves were obliged to give up theirs: yet not one murmur escaped
as to that preference, which the Americans felt ought to be shewn to
foreigners who came from such a distance to fight in their cause.~[14]

The news of the capture of Yorktown was carried to France by a French
frigate, who made the voyage in eighteen days. The English were thrown
into consternation at that news, which occasioned the downfall of the
ministry of Lord North. It was felt in London, as in the rest of all
Europe, that the decisive check the English had received, had
completely settled the final issue of the conflict, and from that
period nothing was thought of but to acknowledge the independence of
the United States on favourable terms for Great Britain.

Generals Washington and Lafayette wished to take advantage of the
superiority of the Count de Grasse in order to attack Charlestown, and
the English who remained in the southern states. Lafayette was to take
his light infantry, as well as the corps of St. Simon, and land on the
Charlestown side, to co-operate with General Greene, who still
commanded in Carolina. It is evident that this project would have been
successful. It has since become known that Lord Cornwallis, when he saw
Lafayette enter into a canoe to go on board the fleet of the Count de
Grasse, said to some English officers, "He is going to decide the loss
of Charlestown." But the admiral refused obstinately to make any
operation upon the coast of North America.~[15]

General Lafayette afterwards repaired to congress. To him, who was then
but four-and-twenty, the happy issue of that campaign was as flattering
a success as it had been decisive to the American cause. He received
the instructions of congress, in relation to the affairs of the United
States in Europe; and embarked at Boston in the frigate _the Alliance_.
He reached France in twenty-three days. The reception he met with, and
the credit he enjoyed both at court and in society were constantly and
usefully employed in the service of the cause he had embraced.


1. These Memoirs are extracted from the American Biography of M. de
Lafayette, written by himself, which we have designated under the name
of Manuscript, No. 1. We have completed them by extracts of Manuscript,
No. 2, which contains observations on the historians of America.

2. It was settled that that corps of six thousand men, commanded by
Lieutenant-General Rochambeau, was to be completely under the orders of
the American commander-in-chief, and was only to form a division of his
army. The order of service was regulated in such a manner that the
French were only to be looked upon as auxiliaries, keeping the left of
the American troops, and the command belonging, when there was
equality, of rank and age, to the American officers. In a word, the
advantages to be derived by the government, the general, and the
American soldiers, were stipulated beforehand in such a manner as to
prevent all future discussions. (Manuscript, No. 2.)

3. Upon one of these banners a cannon was painted, with this device:
_Ultima ratio_, suppressing the word _regum_, which is used in Europe;
upon another, a crown of laurel united to a civic crown, with the
device--_No other_. And thus with the other emblems.--(Note de M.
de Lafayette.)

4. West Point, a fort on a tongue of land which advances upon the
Hudson, and governs its whole navigation, is such an important position
that it is called by an historian the Gibraltar of America. Arnold had
been entrusted with its command, and his treachery, if it had proved
successful, and been even attended with no other result but that of
yielding up this fort to the enemy, would have inflicted a deadly wound
upon the cause of the United States. He had entered, during eighteen
months, into a secret relation with Sir Henry Clinton, who confided the
whole charge of that affair to an aide-de-camp, Major Andre. Arnold
failed at an appointment for the first interview with Andre the 11th
September, at Dobb's Ferry. A second one was proposed on board the
sloop of war the _Vulture_, which Clinton sent for that purpose, on the
16th, to Teller's Point, about fifteen or twenty miles below West
Point. General Washington, who was repairing, with M. de Lafayette, to
the Hartford conference, crossed the Hudson the 18th, and saw Arnold,
who shewed him a letter from Colonel Robinson, on board the _Vulture_,
which stated that that officer requested a rendezvous with him to
converse upon some private affairs. Washington told him to refuse the
rendezvous. Arnold then made arrangements for a private interview.
Major Andre quitted New York, came on board the sloop, and from thence
proceeded, with a false passport, to Long Clove, where he saw Arnold,
the night of the 21st. They separated the next morning. Andre, on his
return to New York, was taken at Tarry Town, by three of the militia,
and conducted to the post of North Castle, commanded by
Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson, who gave notice of this event, on the 23d,
to his superior officer, General Arnold. The latter received the letter
on the 25th, the same day on which he expected General Washington on
his return from Hartford. He fled immediately; a few minutes after the
general-in-chief arrived, and he received, only four hours later, the
despatches which apprised him of the plot--(Washington's, Writings,
vol. vii. Appendix No. 7.) and Mac-Henry, lieutenant-colonels, the one
aid-de-camp to Washington, the other to Lafayette, had gone on before
to request Mrs. Arnold not to wait breakfast for them. They were still
there, and Arnold with them, when he received the note: he turned pale,
retired to his own room, and sent for his wife, who fainted. In that
state he left her, without any one perceiving it: he did not return
into the drawing room, but got upon his aide-de-camp's horse, which was
ready saddled at the door, and desiring him to inform the general that
he would wait for him at West Point, hurried to the bank of the river,
got into his canoe, and was rowed to the _Vulture_. The general, when
he learnt on his arrival that Arnold was at West Point, fancied that he
had gone to prepare for his reception there, and without entering into
the house, stepped into a boat with the two generals who accompanied
him. When they arrived at the opposite shore, they were astonished at
finding they were not expected: the mystery was only explained on their
return, because the despatches of Lieutenant-Colonel Jameson had
arrived in the interim.

An historian has spoken of the generosity with. which Mrs. Arnold was
treated. It is, in truth, highly honourable to the American character
that, during the first effervescence of indignation against her
husband, she was able to go to Philadelphia, take her effects, and
proceed with a flag of truce to New York, without meeting with the
slightest insult. The same historian (Mr. Marshall) might have added
that, the very evening of Arnold's evasion, the general, having
received from him a very insolent letter, dated on board the _Vulture_,
ordered one of his aides-de-camp to tell Mrs. Arnold, who was in an
agony of terror, that he had done everything he could to seize her
husband, but that, not having been able to do so, he felt pleasure in
informing her that her husband was safe.~[5]

5. General Arnold is the only American officer who ever thought of
making use of his command to increase the fortune. The
disinterestedness of those soldiers, during a period of revolution,
which facilitates abuses, forms a singular contrast with the reproach
of avidity that other governments, who have not shown the same
moderation themselves, have thought proper to make against the citizens
of the United States. The generals and American officers have almost
all of them fought at their own expense; the affairs of many of them
have been ruined by their absence. Those who had professions lost the
power of exercising them. It has been proved, by accounts exacted in
France during times of terror and proscription, that Lafayette had
spent in the service of the American revolution, independent of his
income, more than seven hundred thousand francs of his capital. The
conduct of Washington was even more simple, and according to our
opinion, more praiseworthy: he would neither accept the profit of
emolument, nor the pride of sacrifice; he was paid for all necessary
expenses, and, without increasing his fortune, only lessened it, from
the injury it unavoidably received from his absence. Whilst all the
American officers conducted themselves with the most patriotic
disinterestedness, and all the pretensions of the army were satisfied
with the compensation of seven years pay, we can only quote the single
example of the traitor Arnold, who endeavoured to draw the slightest
pecuniary advantage from circumstances. Some grants of lands have been
made by the southern states to Generals Greene and Wayne, and Colonel
Washington, but only since the revolution. The shares of the Potomac,
given also since the revolution to General Washington, were left by him
in his will for the foundation of a college: in a word, we may affirm,
that delicacy and disinterestedness have been universal in the American
army. (Note of M. de Lafayette.)

6. The writings of that period give an account of the revolt of the
soldiers of Pennsvlvania; the complaints of most of them were well
founded. When General Saint Clair, Lafayette, and Laurens, repairing
from Philadelphia to head quarters, stopped at Princetown, as they had
been desired to do by the council of state of Pennsylvania, they found
a negotiation begun by General Wayne, and Colonels Stewart and Butler,
who were all three much beloved by the Pennsylvanian soldiers;
committees arrived from the congress and state, to arrange the affair,
not in a military, but in a civil manner: they remained but a few hours
at Princetown, and the business was soon settled in the same manner in
which it was commenced. But when the soldiers of the Jersey line wished
to imitate the revolt of the Pennsylvanians, General Washington stifled
it in its birth by vigorous measures. But it should be added that the
sufferings and disappointments of that brave and virtuous army were
sufficient to weary the patience of any human being: the conduct of the
continental troops, during the revolution, has been, in truth, most

7. Mr. Marshall relates the affair of Jamestown. There were no militia
present, except the riflemen, who were placed in advance in the wood.
They threw down successively three commandants of the advance post,
placed there by Cornwallis, that what was passing behind might not be
seen. This obstinacy in covering the position excited the suspicion of
Lafayette, in spite of the unanimous opinion that a rear guard was
alone remaining there. As soon as he saw, from the projecting tongue of
land, that those who had crossed over were placed in such a manner as
to appear numerous, he returned with all possible haste; but General
Wayne had yielded to the temptation. He fortunately perceived his
error, and being a good and brave officer, came forward with much
gallantry; fortunately, also, Lafayette had only placed the
Pennsylvanians in advance, and had left the light infantry in a
situation to offer them some assistance. The first half of his
continental troops retired upon the other half, and the whole were
placed in such a manner that Lord Cornwallis feared an ambuscade, and
the more so, observes Mr. Marshall, as he had always been deceived as
to the real force of Lafayette's army.--(Manuscript, No. 2.)

8. James Moody rendered an ill service to those who employed him, by
seizing the letter-bag in the Jerseys. Among the letters, those in
which General Washington informed Lafayette of the project respecting
New York, contained friendly and confidential communications, written
in the General's own hand, which could not leave the slightest doubt in
any person's mind: they may be found in the publications of the
Generals Clinton and Cornwallis, which contain also Lafayette's
intercepted letters. But the enemy did not take those in which General
Lafayette gave an account to General Washington of his manoeuvres, of
his hopes, and of all that determined the commander-in-chief to adopt
the project on Virginia, nor Washington's answers to that effect; so
that when the combined troops made their first march towards the south,
General Clinton still remained deceived, owing to the singular chance
of the capture of the letter-bag by Moody.--(Manuscript, No. 2.)

9. The entreaties of Count de Rochambeau contributed much towards
persuading the Count de Grasse to bring his whole fleet, to land there
the three thousand two hundred men, who joined, on their arrival, the
army of Lafayette, and to repair immediately to Cape Henry, in
Virginia. This is one more obligation which the common cause of the
allies owes to General Rochambeau, who, from his talents, experience,
moderation, and his subordination to the general-in-chief, respect for
the civil power, and maintenance of discipline, proved that the King of
France had made an excellent choice for the command of the auxiliary
corps sent to the United States. (Note of M. de Lafayette.)

10. The French were much struck on this occasion by the extreme
coolness of one of the officers whom Lafayette sent to the Baron de
Viomenil, from a secret feeling of pleasure, perhaps, in marking how
much the present comparison stood in favour of the American troops.
However this might be, Major Barber received a contusion in his side,
but would not allow his wound to be dressed until he had executed his
commission.--(Manuscript, No. 2.)

11. The humanity of the American soldiers in that assault has been
attested by all historians. The following letter must be quoted:--


_New York, August_ 10, 1802.

Sir,--Finding that a story, long since propagated, under circumstances
which it was expected would soon consign it to oblivion, (and by which
I have been complimented at the expense of Generals Washington and
Lafayette,) has of late been revived, and has acquired a degree of
importance by being repeated in different publications, as well in
Europe as America, it becomes a duty to counteract its currency and
influence by an explicit disavowal.

The story imports, in substance, that General Lafayette, with the
approbation or connivance of General Washington, ordered me, as the
officer who was to command the attack on a British redoubt, in the
course of the siege of Yorktown, to put to death all those of the enemy
who should happen to be taken in the redoubt, and that, through motives
of humanity, I forbore to execute the order.

Positively, and unequivocally, I declare, that no such order or similar
order, was ever by me received, or understood to have been given, nor
any intimation or hint resembling it.

It is needless to enter into an explanation of some occurrences on the
occasion alluded to, which may be conjectured to have given rise to the
calumny. It is enough to say, that they were entirely disconnected with
any act of either of the generals who have been accused.

With esteem, I am, sir, your most obedient servant,


The circumstance alluded to in this letter has been related in the Life
of Hamilton, published by his son. A short time before the taking of
Yorktown, a Colonel Scammell, surprised by the English whilst
reconnoitring, had been taken prisoner and dangerously wounded. When
the redoubt was taken, and Colonel Campbell, who commanded, advanced to
give himself up, a captain, who had served under Scammell, seized a
bayonet, and was on the point of striking him; Hamilton turned aside
the blow, and Campbell exclaimed, "I place myself under your
protection," and was made prisoner by Laurens. (The Life of A.
Hamilton, vol. i., chap. 14.)

12. Lord Cornwallis affected being indisposed, in order that he might
not march out at the head of his troops: they passed between two rows
of the American and French army, commanded by General O'Hara, and
surrendered their arms at the order of General Lincoln. Each of the
generals, Washington, Rochambeau, and Lafayette, sent as aide-de-camp
to offer their compliments to Lord Cornwallis. He retained Lafayette's
aide-de-camp, Major Washington, the nephew of General Washington, to
tell him how anxious he was that the general against whom he had made
this campaign should be convinced that he only surrendered from the
impossibility of defending himself any longer. The American, French,
and English generals visited each other, and everything passed with
every possible mark of attention, especially towards Lord Cornwallis,
one of the most estimable men of England, who was considered their best
general. O'Hara having said one day, at table, to the French generals,
affecting not to wish to be overheard by Lafayette, that he considered
it as fortunate not to have been taken by the Americans alone, "General
O'Hara, probably," replied Lafayette, "does not like repetitions." He
had, in, fact, been taken with Burgoyne, and has since been taken for
the third time at Toulon.--(Manuscript, No. 2.)

13. Marqius de St. Simon joined those of Lafayette.

14. See at the end of the volume a precise account of this whole
campaign in Virginia, edited by M. de Lafayette--(Part, No. 1.)

15. General Lafayette was to have taken two thousand Americans and St.
Simon's corps, who, landing near Charlestown, on the sea side, and
co-operating with the troops of General Greene, would have secured the
capture of the capital of Carolina, and of all the English who were
remaining south of New York. Lowering their demands, they then
requested that Lafayette should take the five thousand men who were at
Wilmington, and who were so much struck by the dangers they had
encountered, that they did not retain that post. At length, they
contented themselves with asking the admiral to conduct General Wayne
and his detachment, which were sent to reinforce Greene's army. He
would not do so. It has also since become known, that when Lafayette,
returning from his last visit to the admiral, landed at Yorktown, Lord
Cornwallis, who was still there, said to his officers, "I lay a bet
that he has been making arrangements for our ruin at Charlestown." The
English acknowledged that the expedition could not fail; but the Count
de Grasse did not think he ought to lose more time upon the North
American coast, before returning to the defence of the West
Indies.--(Manuscript, No. 2.)




Paris, 24th February, 1779.

SIR,--A desire to render an exact obedience to the orders of the king,
impels me to take the liberty of importuning you to let me know what is
my duty. The prohibition which the Marshal de Noailles has put upon me,
makes no exception as to one, whom I do not think, nevertheless, I
should be forbidden to visit. Dr. Franklin was to have met me at
Versailles this morning, if I had been there, to communicate to me some
affairs of importance, as he said. I have informed him of the cause
that detained me at Paris; but I did not think I ought to refuse an
interview, which might not be wholly useless to the king's interests.
He is coming to-morrow morning, and I trust you will add to your
kindnesses that of directing me how to conduct myself in this matter.

Suffer me, sir, to inform you that I have heard many persons speak of
an expedition, somewhat resembling the one proposed by congress. I
flatter myself I am too well known by you to have it suspected of me,
that any tie of kindred or friendship could make me forget the profound
secrecy which is due to affairs of state. I have added to nature some
acquired skill in this particular. My sole reason for mentioning the
subject, therefore, is to add, that the indiscretion of some of the
members of congress, and the number of officers returning from America,
will always spread rumours, which it will be impossible to suppress.
Truth cannot remain hidden but by being buried in a mass of false
reports. Hence, caution is necessary in order to preserve our secrets
from all the inconveniences to which they are subject in America, both
from the form of the government and from the character of some of those
at the head of affairs. I have the honour to be, with profound respect,


1. During this period of three years, we do not find, as in the
preceding years, a great number of family letters and those of
friendship. We have inserted all those we have been able to discover.
In amends, more than two hundred political, diplomatic, or military
letters, are in our hands. We do not publish a third of them, although
there are few that would not be interesting to the historian of the
American revolution. We again repeat, that all the letters to
Americans, or from Americans, were written originally in English.



Camp, at Middlebrook, 8th March, 1779.

My Dear Marquis,--I am mortified exceedingly, that my letter from
Philadelphia, with the several enclosures, did not reach Boston before
your departure, from that port. It was written as soon as congress had
come to a decision upon the several matters, which became the subject
of the president's letter to you, and was committed for conveyance to
the messenger, who was charged with his despatches to that place.

Monsieur la Colombe did me the honour of delivering to me your favours,
and will probably be the bearer of my thanks for the affectionate
manner in which you have expressed your sentiments in your last adieu,
than which nothing can be more flattering and pleasing; nor is there
anything more wished for by me, than opportunities of giving
substantial proofs of the sincerity of my attachment and affection.

Nothing of importance has happened since you left us, except the
enemy's invasion at Georgia, and possession of its capital; which,
though it may add something to their supplies, on the score of
provisions, will contribute very little to the brilliancy of their
arms, for, like the defenceless island of St. Lucia, it only required
the appearance of force to effect the conquest of it, as the whole
militia of the state did not exceed twelve hundred men, and many of
them disaffected. General Lincoln is assembling a force to dispossess
them, and my only fear is, that he will precipitate the attempt before
he is fully prepared for the execution. In New York and at Rhode
Island, the enemy continued quiet till the 25th ultimo, when an attempt
was made by them to surprise the post at Elizabethtown; but failing
therein, and finding themselves closely pressed, and in danger from
detachments advancing towards them from this army, they retreated
precipitately through a marsh, waist-deep in mud, after abandoning all
their plunder; but not before they had, according to their wonted
custom, set fire to two or three houses. The regiment of Anspach, and
some other troops, are brought from Rhode Island to New York.

We are happy in the repeated assurances and proofs of the friendship of
our great and good ally, whom we hope and trust, ere this, may be
congratulated on the birth of a prince, and on the joy which the nation
must derive from an instance of royal felicity. We also flatter
ourselves, that before this period the kings of Spain and the two
Sicilies may be greeted as allies of the United States; and we are not
a little pleased to find, from good authority, that the solicitations
and offers of the Court of Great Britain to the Empress of Russia have
been rejected; nor are we to be displeased, that overtures from the
city of Amsterdam, for entering into a commercial connexion with us,
have been made in such open and pointed terms. Such favourable
sentiments, in so many powerful princes and states, cannot but be
considered in a very honourable, interesting, and pleasing point of
view, by all those who have struggled with difficulties and misfortunes
to maintain the rights, and secure the liberties, of their country.
But, notwithstanding these flattering appearances, the British King and
his ministers continue to threaten us with war and desolation. A few
months, however, must decide whether these or peace is to take place.
For both we will prepare; and, should the former be continued, I shall
not despair of sharing fresh toils and dangers with you in America; but
if the latter succeeds, I can entertain little hopes, that the rural
amusements of an infant world, or the contracted stage of an American
theatre, can withdraw your attention and services from the gaieties of
a court, and the active part you will more than probably be called upon
to share in the administration of your government. The soldier will
then be transformed into the statesman, and your employment in this new
walk of life will afford you no time to revisit this continent, or
think of friends who lament your absence.

The American troops are again in huts; but in a more agreeable and
fertile country, than they were in last winter at Valley Forge; and
they are better clad and more healthy, than they have ever been since
the formation of the army. Mrs. Washington is now with me, and makes a
cordial tender of her regards to you; and if those of strangers can be
offered with propriety, and will be acceptable, we respectively wish to
have them conveyed to your amiable lady. We hope and trust, that your
passage has been short, agreeable, and safe, and that you are as happy
as the smiles of a gracious Prince, beloved wife, warm friends, and
high expectations, can make you. I have now complied with your request
in writing you a long letter, and I shall only add, that, with the
purest sentiments of attachment, and the warmest friendship and regard,
I am, my dear Marquis, your most affectionate and obliged, &c.

P. S. Harrison and Meade are in Virginia. All the other officers of my
staff unite most cordially in offering you their sincere compliments.

10th March, 1779.--I have this moment received the letters which were
in the hands of Major Nevill, accompanying yours of the 7th and 11th of
January. The Major himself has not yet arrived at head quarters, being,
as I am told, very sick. I must again thank you, my dear friend, for
the numerous sentiments of affection which breathe so conspicuously in
your last farewell, and to assure you that I shall always retain a warm
and grateful remembrance of it. Major Nevill shall have my consent to
repair to France, if his health permits it, and if the sanction of
congress can be obtained, to whom all applications of officers for
leave to go out of the United States are referred.


1. We believe this letter never reached M. de Lafayette.


Paris, April 1st, 1779.

Sir,--From what M. de Sartine said to me, I requested M. de Chaumont
yesterday to send for Captain Jones, and although the place of his
present residence be unknown, our messenger will do all that can be
done to bring him immediately to us. I gave him an urgent letter for
Jones, and as Dr. Franklin was not at home, I left one also for him, in
which I expressed our desire to see the captain, rather as if to
consult him, than as if we had formed any definite project. The time I
passed with M. de Chaumont enabled me to discover what I shall now have
the honour of relating to you.~[1]

The armament of the _Bonhomme Richard_ (the vessel of fifty guns) goes
on as slowly as possible. The refusal to supply what is wanted,
especially guns, from the king's magazines, will retard the expedition
for a whole month, because it will be the same for all the other ships.
The only way to obviate this delay, would be to charge one man with the
whole armament, and to send him to the ports with orders to get all
that was necessary.

I have discovered that Jones had a little plan for an enterprise formed
under the direction of M. Garnier, and in which M. de Chaumont has
taken part. The manner in which M. de Sartine brought him to us, was by
making M. de Chaumont a half confidant, (the most dangerous of all
things, because it gives information without binding to secrecy,) and I
think it would be now better to communicate the secret of the armament
without betraying that of the expedition, and desire him to employ all
his activity in completing it. The other person need not, in that case,
take any part in it, and according to the orders received from M. de
Sartine, it appeared to me, from what M. de Chaumont said, that the
_Bonhomme Richard_, and other vessels, if required, might be in
readiness before the expiration of three weeks.

I intend to have the honour of paying my respects to you after dinner
on Saturday. If you approve of my idea, M. de Chaumont, or any other
person you may prefer, might be summoned at the same time; for by the
ordinary method this business will never be achieved. I hope that, in,
consequence of my aversion to delays in military affairs, you will
pardon the importunity which my confidence in you has inspired, in
favour of a project of which you feel the importance.

I have the honour to be, with the most sincere respect and affection,

Permit me to confide to you, also, under the same secrecy, my fears
that orders have not yet been sent to all the ports.


1. In the previous recital a few words have been said relating to this
armament. Two frigates, bearing the American colours, were to have been
placed under the orders of Paul Jones, and M. de Lafayette was to
command the small army intended to descend unexpectedly upon the
western coast of England, and to ransack Bristol, Liverpool, and other
commercial towns, for the advantage of the American finances. But this
expedition was soon considered below the position in which M. de
Lafayette was placed, and was abandoned for the plan of a descent on
England, which was to be executed by the combined forces of France and
Spain. The slowness of the latter power occasioned, at a later period,
the failure of the project; and the only result it produced was Paul
Jones's expedition, and the conflict between the _Bonhomme Richard_ and
the _Serapis_. See farther on the first letters to congress and to
Washington. In a collection of Franklin's private letters, there is
also found a letter relating to this affair, and the note written by M.
de Lafayette to Paul Jones when the expedition was abandoned. (_A
Collection of the Familiar Letters and Miscellaneous Papers_ of B.
Franklin, Boston, 1833. Washington's writings, Vol. vi., Appendix


Paris, April 26th, 1779.

Sir,--Allow me the honour of proposing to you a plan, the success of
which, uncertain as it now is, will depend perhaps upon your
approbation. As your means of attack or defence depend on our maritime
force, would it not be doing a service to the common cause to increase
for a time that of our allies? To purchase vessels would be too
expensive for a nation so destitute of money; it would answer all
purposes to hire them, and would enable, us to make such diversions, or
to undertake such operations, as might be deemed necessary.

Do you not think, sir, if the King of Sweden would lend to America four
ships of the line, with the half of their crews, and the United States
would engage to return them within a year upon certain conditions, that
the step would be advantageous for us? The vessels might come to us
under the Swedish flag. France need not be implicated at all. We could
supply them in part, provide them with officers in blue, and send them
out under the American flag. It would only be necessary to know,
whether France would engage to be responsible for the sum requisite for
the hire, and would help to complete the equipment. Even if the first
part should meet with obstacles, the government might pledge itself
only in case it should exceed my fortune.

I have not as yet spoken to Dr. Franklin about the scheme, but I have
sounded the Swedish ambassador on the subject, much to my satisfaction;
he asked me for a letter, directed to him, which might be sent to his
king; and since I saw that this important project might result in
something advantageous, I was constrained to confide it to you, and ask
your opinion. The Swedish ambassador states that the vessels may be
here in two months and a half; consequently, including the rest of the
fleet, the whole might be at sea in the month of August; and arrive at
Rhode Island, Bermuda, or somewhere else in America, in the month of
October, which would be a good season.

It will be necessary for Dr. Franklin to send a trustworthy man, or,
what would be better, for you to send one, upon whom he might depend.
The proposed engagement requires some promise, and especially some
hopes, of commerce, that would diminish the expense which must be
incurred. Inform me, sir, I pray you, whether this little romantic
scheme offers any difficulties, and whether I am to prosecute or resign
my proposition.

I am, &c.

If, whilst we are arranging the negotiation with Sweden, the
contributions of England should yield us anything, I might then recal
to your attention a favourite project of mine.



St. Jean d'Angely, near Rochfort, June 12, 1779.

Sir,--How happy I shall think myself whenever a safe opportunity of
writing to congress is offered, I cannot in any way better express than
in reminding them of that unbounded affection and gratitude which I
shall ever feel for them. So deeply are those sentiments engraven on my
heart, that I every day lament the distance which separates me from
them, and that nothing was ever so warmly and passionately wished for,
as to return again to that country of which I shall ever consider
myself as a citizen; there is no pleasure to be enjoyed which could
equal this, of finding myself among that free and liberal nation, by
whose affection and confidence I am so highly honoured; to fight again
with those brother soldiers of mine to whom I am so much indebted. But
congress knows that former plans have been altered by themselves, that
others have been thought impossible, as they were asked too late in the

I will therefore make use of the leave of absence they were pleased to
grant me, and serve the common cause among my countrymen, their allies,
until happy circumstances may conduct me to the American shores, in
such a way as would make that return more useful to the United States.
The affairs of America I shall ever look upon as any first business
whilst I am in Europe. Any confidence from the king and ministers, any
popularity I may have among my own countrymen, any means in my power,
shall be, to the best of my skill, and till the end of my life, exerted
in behalf of an interest I have so much at heart. What I have hitherto
done or said relating to America, I think needless to mention, as my
ardent zeal for her is, I hope, well known to congress; but I wish to
let them know that if, in my proposals, and in my repeated urgent
representation for getting ships, money, and support of any kind, I
have not always found the ministry so much in earnest as I was myself,
they only opposed to me _natural fears_ of inconveniences which might
arise to both countries, or the conviction that such a thing was
impossible for the present; but I never could question their good will
towards America. If congress believe that my influence may serve them,
in any way, I beg they will direct such orders to me, that I may the
more certainly and properly employ the knowledge I have of this court
and country for obtaining a success in which my heart is so much

His excellency, Doctor Franklin, will, no doubt, inform you, sir, of
the situation of Europe, and the respective state of our affairs. The
Chevalier de la Luzerne will also add thereto the intelligence which
will be intrusted to him at the time of his departure. By the doctor
you will learn what has been said or thought on account of finances.
Germany, Prussia, Turkey, and Russia, have made such a peace as the
French have desired. All the northern kingdoms, the Dutch themselves,
seem rather disgusted with English pride and vexations; they put
themselves in a situation to protect their trade of every kind with
France. Irish intelligence you will be fully and particularly
acquainted of. What concerns Spain will also be laid before you; so
that I have nothing to add but to tell you that our affairs seem going
very fast towards a speedy and honourable end. England is now making
her last effort, and I hope that a great stroke will, before long,
abate their fantastic, swollen appearance, and shew the narrow bounds
of their actual power.

Since we have taken Senegal I don't know of any military event which I
can mention. There has been a privateering expedition against Jersey
Island, which has been stopped by the difficulty of getting ashore.
That little attempt, made by some few private volunteers, England
honoured with the name of a public French expedition, and very unwisely
employed there Admiral Arbuthnot, which will interpose a great delay to
his reported departure. Congress will hear of an expedition against our
friends of Liverpool and other parts of the English coast; to show
there French troops under American colours, which on account of raising
contributions, my concern for American finances had at length brought
into my head. But the plan was afterwards reduced to so small a scale
that they thought the command would not suit me, and the expedition
itself has been delayed until more important operations take place.
There I hope to be employed, and if anything important should be the
matter, I shall, as a faithful American officer, give an accurate
account thereof to congress and General Washington.

The so flattering affection which congress and the American nation are
pleased to honour me with, makes me very desirous of letting them know,
if I dare speak so friendly, how I enjoyed my private situation. Happy,
in the sight of my friends and family, after I was, by your attentive
goodness, safely brought again to my native shore, I met there with
such an honourable reception, with such kind sentiments, as by far
exceeded any wishes I durst have conceived; I am indebted for that
inexpressible satisfaction which the good will of my countrymen towards
me affords to my heart, to their ardent love for America, to the cause
of freedom and its defenders, their new allies, and to the idea they
entertain that I have had the happiness to serve the United States. To
these motives, sir, and to the letter congress was pleased to write on
my account, I owe the many favours the king has conferred upon me;
there was no time lost in appointing me to the command of his own
regiment of dragoons, and every thing he could have done, every thing I
could have wished, I have received on account of your kind

I have been some days in this small town, near Rochefort harbour, where
I have joined the king's regiment, and where other troops are stationed
which I for the moment command; but I hope to leave this place before
long, in order to play a more active part and come nearer the common
enemy. Before my departure from Paris I sent to the minister of foreign
affairs, (who, by the bye; is one of our best friends,) intelligence
concerning a loan in Holland, which I want France to make or answer for
in behalf of America; but I have not yet heard any thing on that head.
M. le Chevalier de la Luzerne will give you more explicit and fresher
news, as he is particularly ordered to do so, and he sets out directly
from Versailles. That new minister plenipotentiary I beg leave to
recommend most earnestly to congress, not only as a public man, but
also as a private gentleman. From the acquaintance I have made with
him, I conceive he is a sensible, modest, well-meaning man; a man truly
worthy of enjoying the spectacle of American freedom. I hope that by
his good qualities and his talents, he will obtain both public
confidence and private friendship.

Wherever the interests of beloved friends are seriously concerned,
candid and warm affection knows not how to calculate, and throws away
all considerations. I will frankly tell you, sir, that nothing can more
effectually hurt our interests, consequence, and reputation, in Europe,
than to hear of disputes or divisions between the whigs. Nothing could
urge my touching upon this delicate matter but the unhappy experience
of every day on that head, since I can hear, myself, what is said on
this side of the Atlantic, and the arguments I have to combat with.

Let me, sir, finish this long letter, by begging you will present once
more to the congress of the United States, the tribute of an unbounded
zeal and affection, of the highest respect and most sincere gratitude,
with which I shall be animated, till the last moment of my life.

With the most, &c.


1. This relates to the project of an expedition to Canada, and other
plans of the same kind.



St. Jean d'Angely, near Rochefort harbour, June 12,1779.

My Dear General,--Here is at length a safe opportunity of writing to
you, and I may tell you what sincere concern I feel at our separation.
There never was a friend, my dear general, so much, so tenderly
beloved, as I love and respect you: happy in our union, in the pleasure
of living near to you, in the pleasing satisfaction of partaking every
sentiment of your heart, every event of your life, I have taken such a
habit of being inseparable from you, that I cannot now accustom myself
to your absence, and I am more and more afflicted at that enormous
distance which keeps me so far from my dearest friend. I am the more
concerned at this particular time, my dear general, as I think the
campaign is opened, you are in the field, and I ardently wish I might
be near you; and, if possible, contribute to your success and glory.
Forgive me for what I am going to say, but I cannot help reminding you
that a commander-in-chief should never expose himself too much; that in
case General Washington was killed, nay, even seriously wounded, there
is no officer in the army who could fill his place, every battle would
most certainly be lost, and the American army, the American cause
itself, would, perhaps, be entirely ruined.

Inclosed I send your excellency a copy of my letter to congress, in
which you will find such intelligence as I was able to give them. The
Chevalier de la Luzerne intends going to congress by passing through
head quarters. I promised I would introduce him to your excellency, and
I have requested him to let you know of any news he may have been
entrusted with. Such a conversation will better acquaint you than the
longest letter. The ministry told me they would let him know the true
state of affairs before his departure. By what you will hear, my dear
general, you will see that our affairs take a good turn, and I hope
England will receive a good stroke before the end of the campaign.
Besides the good dispositions of Spain, Ireland is a good deal tired of
English tyranny. I, _in confidence_, tell you that the scheme of my
heart would be to make her as free and independent as America. I have
formed some private relations there. God grant that we may succeed, and
the era of freedom at length arrive for the happiness of mankind. I
shall know more about Ireland in a few weeks, and then I will
immediately communicate with your excellency. As to congress, my dear
general, it is too numerous a body for one safely to unbosom oneself,
as with one's best friend.

In referring you to M. le Chevalier de la Luzerne, for what concerns
the public news of this time, the present situation of affairs, and the
designs of our ministry, I will only speak to your excellency about
that great article, money. It gave me much trouble, and I insisted upon
it so much, that the director of finances looks upon me as a devil.
France has met great expenses lately; those Spaniards will not give
their dollars easily. However, Dr. Franklin has got some money to pay
the bills of congress, and I hope I shall determine them to greater
sacrifices. Serving America, my dear general, is to my heart an
inexpressible happiness.

There is another point for which you should employ all your influence
and popularity. For God's sake prevent their loudly disputing together.
Nothing hurts so much the interest and reputation of America, as to
hear of their intestine quarrels. On the other hand there are two
parties in France: MM. Adams and Lee on one part, Doctor Franklin and
his friends on the other. So great is the concern which these divisions
give me, that I cannot wait on these, gentlemen as much as I could
wish, for fear of occasioning disputes and bringing them to a greater
collision. That, my dear general, I intrust to your friendship, but I
could not help touching upon that string in my letter to congress.
Since I left America, my dear General, not a single line has arrived
from you;~[1] this I attribute to winds, accidents, and deficiency of
for I dare flatter myself General Washington would not lose that of
making his friend happy. In the name of that very friendship, my dear
general, never miss any opportunity of letting me know how you do. I
cannot express to you how uneasy I feel on account of your health, and
the dangers you are, perhaps at this moment, exposing yourself to.
These you may possibly laugh at, and call womanlike considerations; but
so, my dear friend, I feel, and I never could conceal the sentiments of
my heart.

I don't know what has become of Colonel Nevill and the Chevalier de la
Colombe. I beg you will make some inquiries respecting them, and do
every thing in your power for their speedy exchange, in case they have
been taken. Inclosed I send you a small note for Mr. Nevill. Give me
leave to recommend to your excellency our new plenipotentiary minister,
who seems to me extremely well calculated for deserving general esteem
and affection.

I know, my dear general, you wish to hear something about my private
affairs: these I give an account of to congress, and shall only add
that I am here as happy as possible. My family, my friends, my
countrymen, made me such a reception, and shewed me every day such an
affection, as I should not have dared to hope. I have been for some
days in this place, where there is the king's own regiment of dragoons,
which I command, and some regiments of infantry, which are, for the
present, under my orders; but I hope soon to begin a more active life,
and in consequence thereof my return to Paris is, I believe, very near
at hand; from thence I shall get employed in whatever may be done
against the common enemy. What I wish, my dear general, what would make
me the happiest of men, is to join again American colours, or to put
under your orders a division of four or five thousand countrymen of
mine. In case any such co-operation or private expedition should be
desired, I think (if peace is not settled this winter) that an _early_
demand might be complied with for the next campaign.

Our ministry is rather slow in their operations, and have a great
propensity for peace, provided it be an honourable one, so that I think
America must shew herself in good earnest for war till such conditions
are obtained. American independence is a certain, undoubted point, but
I wish to see that independence acknowledged with advantageous
conditions. This, my dear general, is between us; as for what concerns
the good will of the king, of the ministers, of the public, towards
America, I, an American citizen, am fully satisfied with it; and I am
sure the alliance and friendship between both nations will be
established in such a way as will last for ever.

Be so kind, my dear general, as to present my best respects to your
lady, and tell her how happy I should feel to present them myself to
her at her own house. I have a wife, my dear general, who is in love
with you, and her affection for you seems to me to be so well justified
that I cannot oppose myself to that sentiment of hers. She begs you
will receive her compliments and make them acceptable to Mrs.
Washington. I hope, my dear general, you will come to see us in Europe,
and most certainly I give you my word that if I am not happy enough to
be sent to America before the peace, I shall by all means go there as
soon as I can escape. I must not forget to tell you, my dear friend,
that I have the hope of being soon once more a father.

All Europe wants to see you so much, my dear general, that you cannot
refuse them that pleasure. I have boldly affirmed that you will pay me
a visit after the peace is settled, so that if you deny me, you will
hurt your friend's reputation throughout the world.

I beg you will present my best compliments to your family, and remind
them of my tender affection for them all. Be so kind, also, to present
my compliments to the general officers, to all the officers of the
army, to every one, from the first major-general to the last soldier.

I most earnestly entreat you, my dear general, to let me hear from you.
Write me how you do, how things are going on. The minutest detail will
be infinitely interesting to me. Don't forget anything concerning
yourself, and be certain that any little event or observation
concerning you, however trifling it may appear, will have my warmest
attention and interest. Adieu, my dear general, I cannot lay down the
pen, and I enjoy the greatest pleasure in scribbling you this long
letter. Don't forget me, my dear general; be ever as affectionate to me
as you have been; these sentiments I deserve from the ardent ones which
fill my heart. With the highest respect, with the most sincere and
tender friendship that ever human heart has felt, I have the honour to
be, &c.

For God's sake write me frequent and long letters, and speak chiefly
about yourself and your private circumstances.

St. Jean, d'Angely, 13th June, 1779.

I Have just received, my dear general, an express from court, with
orders to repair immediately to Versailles. There I am to meet M. le
Comte de Vaux, Lieutenant-General, who is appointed to, the command of
the troops intended for an expedition. In that army I shall be employed
in the capacity of aide-marechal-general des logis, which is, in our
service, a very important and agreeable place; so that I shall serve in
the most pleasing manner, and shall be in a situation to know
everything and to render services. The necessity of setting off
immediately prevents my writing to General Greene, to the gentlemen of
your family, and other friends of mine in the army, whom I beg to
accept my excuses on account of this order, which I did not expect so
soon. Everything that happens you shall most certainly be acquainted of
by me, and I will for the moment finish my letter in assuring your
excellency again of my profound respect and tenderest friendship.
Farewell, my dear general, and let our mutual affection last for ever.


1. This conjecture was a just one: by the correspondence of General
Washington, who kept copies of all his letters, we perceive that he
often wrote to M. de Lafayette, whose letters, on the contrary, during
this voyage, consist but of two, because we have been able to find only
those that arrived in America.


Havre, 30th July, 1779.

Sir,--I have received the letter which you have had the goodness to
write to me, and in which you promise me another after having read to
M. de Maurepas the paper which I addressed to you.~[1] It is shewing me
a great favour to employ, in answering me, a part of your time, which
is so precious; and I remain in eager expectation of your second
letter. Being convinced that there is no time to lose in adopting the
measures which I propose, my love for my country makes me feel an
impatience, which I fear may pass for importunity; but you will excuse
a fault arising from a feeling which is dear to every good citizen.

The Prince de Montbarrey will give you, with regard to Havre, all the
information you may desire. You are certainly right in saying that my
blood is in fermentation. We hear nothing of M. d'Orvilliers. Some say
that he has gone to the Azores, to intercept the West Indian fleet, and
to join M. d'Estaing, who was to return here, as I was informed by
yourself and M. de Sartine; others affirm that he has gone to America.

The reasoning of the latter does not bring me over to their opinion;
and it is very probable that if our fleet had been sent, as they
suppose, I should not now be in Normandy. Be that as it may, you know,
I hope that any arrangement, and any station, will satisfy me, and that
I do not claim promotion, or assistance, or any mark of favour
whatsoever. If M. d'Orvilliers, or a detachment, is now in the
independent states of America, and my presence there can be in any way
more serviceable than here, I shall be very willing to go over in an
American frigate, which I will take on my own authority; and with the
very natural pretext of rejoining the army in which I served, I will go
and endeavour to use my influence for the advantage of my country.
Several persons say, also, that Spanish dollars have been sent to the
Americans; I earnestly hope it is so, as my last advices shew the
necessity for them.

If the project, for want of sufficient means, should not be adopted
this year, I deem it my duty to submit to you a proposition which would
in a great measure accomplish the same object.

While waiting until next year to commence combined operations with a
squadron, why might you not send to Boston three thousand, or even two
thousand men, with three hundred dragoons, who should be joined in the
spring by ships of war and a reinforcement of troops? This detachment
could be sent by two fifty gun ships, using one of the India Company's
ships for a transport, or Spanish vessels, if you prefer them. To avoid
expense, let them sail in company with the ships destined for the West
Indies, with the escort of the merchantmen, with the _Bonhomme
Richard_, and all the frigates at Lorient. These troops will be left in
America until the next campaign, and I will now mention what would be
the result of such a measure; it being well understood that the convoy
would proceed to the West Indies, or to any other destination, after
having landed the detachment. First, we should raise by our presence
the value of their paper money, an important point for French commerce;
secondly, we should be at hand to obtain information, and might take
such preliminary steps as would conduce, eventually, to our obtaining
possession of Halifax; thirdly, such a detachment would inspire, the
American army with new vigour, would powerfully support an attack for
retaking the forts on the north river, and would lead the Americans to
such undertakings as circumstances might render advisable.

You have told me to give you all my ideas. It is my duty to submit to
you this last one, which, as it seems to me, is not liable to any
objection. At first, I was afraid of expressing my opinion so strongly
as I was inclined to do, lest I should be suspected of peculiar motives
and predilections; but, now that people must know me better, and that
you have my entire confidence, I speak more freely, and I solemnly
affirm, upon my honour, that if half my fortune were spent in sending
succours of troops to the Americans, I should believe that, in so
doing, I rendered to my country a service more important than would be
to me this sacrifice.

You will say, perhaps, that it will be difficult to find subsistence
for the troops during the winter; but in paying in specie, we should
obtain provisions very cheap, and the additional number of mouths would
be very small in comparison to the population of the country.

Permit me, sir, to offer you the assurance of my attachment.


1. This letter, in the form of a memorial, and containing the plan of
an expedition to America, has been placed at the end of the
volume.--(See Appendix 2.)


Paris, Monday morning, August, 1779.

It is not, sir, to the king's minister that I am now writing, but my
confidence in your kindness makes me hope that I am addressing a man
whom I may safely call my friend, to whom I am merely giving an account
of all that is most interesting to me. You may confer a great
obligation upon me, (and render one perhaps to the public,) by
employing in a less useless manner the few talents a soldier may
possess, who has been hitherto rather fortunate in war, and who
supplies his want of knowledge by the purest ardour in the cause.

I have seen the Comte de Maurepas, and I told him what I have the
honour of communicating to you; he would not agree to the projects in
question, and was doubtless right, although my own opinion remains
unchanged; but he thinks that I, who was one of the first to speak of
the expedition with fifteen hundred or two thousand men, must now
command six hundred hussars, and that this change would be injurious to
me. He, perhaps, imagined, as some others have done, from kindness
towards me, that such a command would be beneath me. I ought not,
besides, he added, to exchange a certainty for an uncertainty.

To this I answer, in the first place, that from the extreme kindness of
the public towards me, nothing (I mean in relation to what passes in my
own heart) can ever be injurious to me; that my setting out with only
six hundred men would have been attributed to its real motive, and
therefore pardoned. In the second place, to suspect me of entering into
a calculation with my country, and of despising any means whatever of
serving her, would either prove a want of discernment or of memory; and
to the last objection, I reply, that the expedition of which I spoke to
you yesterday, is quite as certain as my own.

If the troops had remained in a state of inactivity, it would have been
very natural if my ardour had induced me to adopt the trade of a
corsair; nay, it would have been natural if I had set out in an armed
boat; but when an opportunity offers for employing on a grander scale
the talents of a man who has never exercised a soldier's trade but on a
wide field, it would be unfortunate for him to lose the power of
distinguishing himself, and rendering, perhaps, some important services
to his own country; and it would be injudicious in the government not
to put to the test that reputation which has been gained in foreign

May I, sir, speak to you with frankness? What is most proper for me,
would be an advance guard of grenadiers and _chasseurs_, and a
detachment of the king's dragoons, making in all, from fifteen hundred
to two thousand men, to raise me above the line, and give me the power
of action. There are not many lieutenants-general, still fewer
field-marshals, and no brigadiers, who have had such important commands
confided to them as chance has given me. I also know the English, and
they know me--two important considerations during a war. The command I
wished for has even been given to a colonel.

It is said that M. de Maillebois, M. de Voyer, and M. de Melfort, will
be employed; I know then first and last of these gentlemen; M. de
Melfort is a field-marshal, and although I have exercised that trade
myself, I should be well pleased to be under his orders. I wish to be
chosen in the report of the army, not of the court; I do not belong to
the court, still less am I a courtier; and I beg the king's ministers
to look upon me as having belonged to a corps of the guards.

The Count de Maurepas only replied to me, perhaps, to divert my
attention from some projects which are known unto me; I shall see him
again on Wednesday morning, and my fate will then be decided. You would
give me, sir, a great proof of friendship, by paying him a visit either
to-night or to-morrow morning, and communicating to him the same
sentiments you expressed to me yesterday. It is more important that you
should see him at that time, because, if I hear from Lorient that the
vessels are in readiness, I know not how to dissemble, and I must
demand my farewell audience. The little expedition will then be given
to some lieutenant-colonel, who may never have looked with the eye of a
general, who may not possess great talents, but who, if he be brave and
prudent, will lead the six hundred men as well as M. de Turenne could
do if he were to return to life. The detachment of dragoons might then
be kept back, the more so, as when reduced to fifty it would only
become ridiculous; and the major, who takes charge of the detail, would
likewise attend to the detail of my advance guard, in which I place
great dependence.

I acknowledge to you, that I feel no dependence on M. de Montbarry, and
I even wish, that my affairs could be arranged by you and M. de
Maurepas. I know, sir, that I am asking for a proof of friendship which
must give you some trouble, but I request it because I depend fully
upon that friendship.

Pardon this scrawl, Sir; pardon my importunity; and pardon the liberty
I take in assuring you so simply of my attachment and respect.



Passy, 24th August, 1779.

Sir,--The congress, sensible of your merit towards the United States,
but unable adequately to reward it, determined to present you with a
sword, as a small mark of their grateful acknowledgment: they directed
it to be ornamented with suitable devices. Some of the principal
actions of the war, in which you distinguished yourself by your bravery
and conduct, are therefore represented upon it. These, with a few
emblematic figures, all admirably well executed, make its principal
value. By the help of the exquisite artists of France, I find it easy
to express everything but the sense we have of your worth, and our
obligations to you for this, figures, and even words, are found
insufficient. I, therefore, only add that, with the most perfect
esteem, I have the honour to be,


P.S. My grandson goes to Havre with the sword, and will have the honour
of presenting it to you.



Havre, 29th August, 1779,

Sir,--Whatever expectations might have been raised from the sense of
past favours, the goodness of the United States to me has ever been
such, that on every occasion it far surpasses any idea I could have
conceived. A new proof of that flattering truth I find in the noble
present, which congress has been pleased to honour me with, and which
is offered in such a manner by your excellency as will exceed
everything, but the feelings of an unbounded gratitude.

In some of the devices I cannot help finding too honourable a reward
for those slight services which, in concert with my fellow soldiers,
and under the god-like American hero's orders, I had the good fortune
to render. The sight of those actions, where I was a witness of
American bravery and patriotic spirit, I shall ever enjoy with that
pleasure which becomes a heart glowing with love for the nation, and
the most ardent zeal for its glory and happiness. Assurances of
gratitude, which I beg leave to present to your excellency, are much
too inadequate to my feelings, and nothing but such sentiments can
properly acknowledge your kindness towards me. The polite manner in
which Mr. Franklin was pleased to deliver that inestimable sword, lays
me under great obligations to him, and demands my particular thanks.

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



West Point, 30th Sept., 1779.

MY DEAR MARQUIS,--A few days ago, I wrote a letter in much haste; since
that, I have been honoured with the company of Chevalier de la Luzerne,
and by him was favoured with your obliging letter of the 12th of June,
which filled me with equal pleasure and surprise; the latter at hearing
that you had not received one of the many letters I had written to you
since you left the American shore. It gave me infinite pleasure to hear
from your sovereign, and of the joy which your safe arrival in France
had diffused among your friends. I had no doubt that this would be the
case; to hear it from yourself adds pleasure to the account; and here,
my dear friend, let me congratulate you on your new, honourable, and
pleasing appointment in the army commanded by the Count de Vaux, which
I shall accompany with an assurance that none can do it with more
warmth of affection, or sincere joy, than myself. Your forward zeal in
the cause of liberty; your singular attachment to this infant world;
your ardent and persevering efforts, not only in America, but since
your return to France, to serve the United States; your polite
attention to Americans, and your strict and uniform friendship for me,
have ripened the first impressions of esteem and attachment which I
imbibed for you into such perfect love and gratitude, as neither time
nor absence can impair. This will warrant my assuring you that, whether
in the character of an officer at the head of a corps of gallant
Frenchmen, if circumstances should require this; whether as a major-
general, commanding a division of the American army; or whether, after
our swords and spears have given place to the ploughshare and pruning-
hook, I see you as a private gentleman, a friend and companion, I shall
welcome you with all the warmth of friendship to Columbia's shores;
and, in the latter case, to my rural cottage, where homely fare and a
cordial reception shall be substituted for delicacies and costly
living. This, from past experience, I know you can submit to; and if
the lovely partner of your happiness will consent to participate with
us in such rural entertainment and amusements, I can undertake, in
behalf of Mrs. Washington, that she will do everything in her power to
make Virginia agreeable to the Marchioness. My inclination and
endeavours to do this cannot be doubted, when I assure you that I love
everybody that is dear to you, and, consequently, participate in the
pleasure you feel in the prospect of again becoming a parent; and do
most sincerely congratulate you and your lady on this fresh pledge she
is about to give you of her love.

I thank you for the trouble you have taken, and your polite attention,
in favouring me with a copy of your letter to congress; and feel, as I
am persuaded they must do, the force of such ardent zeal as you therein
express for the interest of this country. The propriety of the hint you
have given them must carry conviction, and, I trust, will have a
salutary effect; though there is not, I believe, the same occasion for
the admonition now that there was several months ago. Many late changes
have taken place in that honourable body, which have removed, in a very
great degree, if not wholly, the discordant spirit which, it is said,
prevailed in the winter, and I hope measures will also be taken to
remove those unhappy and improper differences which have extended
themselves elsewhere, to the prejudice of our affairs in Europe.

I have a great pleasure in the visit which the Chevalier de la Luzerne
and Monsieur Marbois did me the honour to make at this camp; concerning
both of whom I have imbibed the most favourable impressions, and I
thank you for the honourable mention you made of me to them. The
chevalier, till he had announced himself to congress, did not choose to
be received in his public character; if he had, except paying him
military honours, it was not my intention to depart from that plain and
simple manner of living which accords with the real interest and policy
of men struggling under every difficulty for the attainment of the most
inestimable blessing of life, _liberty_. The chevalier was polite
enough to approve my principle, and condescended to appear pleased with
our Spartan living. In a word, he made us all exceedingly happy by his
affability and good humour, while he remained in camp.

You are pleased, my dear marquis, to express an earnest desire of
seeing me in France, after the establishment of our independency, and
do me the honour to add, that you are not singular in your request. Let
me entreat you to be persuaded, that, to meet you anywhere, after the
final accomplishment of so glorious an event, would contribute to my
happiness; and that to visit a country to whose generous aid we stand
so much indebted, would be an additional pleasure; but remember, my
good friend, that I am unacquainted with your language, that I am too
far advanced in years to acquire a knowledge of it, and that, to
converse through the medium of an interpreter, upon common occasions,
especially with the ladies, must appear so extremely awkward, insipid,
and uncouth, that I can scarcely bear it in idea. I will, therefore,
hold myself disengaged for the present; but when I see you in Virginia,
we will talk of this matter, and fix our plans.

The declaration of Spain in favour of France has given universal joy to
every Whig; while the poor Tory droops like a withering flower under a
declining sun. We are anxiously expecting to hear of great and
important events on your side of the Atlantic; at present, the
imagination is left in the wide field of conjecture, our eyes one
moment are turned to an invasion of England, then of Ireland, Minorea,
Gibraltar; in a word, we hope everything, but know not what to expect,
or where to fix. The glorious success of Count d'Estaing in the West
Indies, at the same time that it adds dominion to France, and fresh
lustre to her arms, is a source of new and unexpected misfortune to our
_tender and generous parent_, and must serve to convince her of the
folly of quitting the substance in pursuit of a shadow; and, as there
is no experience equal to that which is bought, I trust she will have a
superabundance of this kind of knowledge, and be convinced, as I hope
all the world and every tyrant in it will be, that the best and only
safe road to honour, glory, and true dignity, is _justice_.

We have such repeated advice of Count d'Estaing's being in these seas,
that, though I have no official information of the event, I cannot help
giving entire credit to the report, and looking for his arrival every
moment, and I am preparing accordingly; the enemy at New York also
expect it; and, to guard against the consequences, as much as it is in
their power to do, are repairing and strengthening all the old
fortifications, and adding new ones in the vicinity of the city. Their
fears, however, do not retard an embarkation which was making, and
generally believed to be for the West Indies or Charlsetown: it still
goes forward; and, by my intelligence, it will consist of a pretty
large detachment. About fourteen days ago, one British regiment (the
forty-fourth completed) and three Hessian regiments were embarked, and
are gone, as is supposed, to Halifax. The operations of the enemy this
campaign have been confined to the establishment of works of defence,
taking a post at King's Ferry, and burning the defenceless towns of New
Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk, on the Sound, within reach of their
shipping, where little else was, or could be, opposed to them, than the
cries of distressed women and helpless children; but these were offered
in vain. Since these notable exploits, they have never stepped out of
their works or beyond their lines. How a conduct of this kind is to
effect the conquest of America, the wisdom of a North, a Germain, or a
Sandwich can best decide, it is too deep and refined for the
comprehension of common understandings and the general run of

Mrs. Washington, who set out for Virginia when we took the field in
June, has often, in her letters to me, inquired if I had heard from
you, and will be much pleased at hearing that you are well and happy.
In her name, as she is not here, I thank you for your polite attention
to her, and shall speak her sense of the honour conferred on her by the
Marchioness. When I look back to the length of this letter, I have not
the courage to give it a careful reading for the purpose of correction:
you must, therefore, receive it with all its imperfections, accompanied
with this assurance, that, though there may be many inaccuracies in the
letter, there is not a single defect in the friendship of, my dear
Marquis, yours, &c.



Havre, 7th October, 1779.

My dear general--From those happy ties of friendship by which you were
pleased to unite yourself with me, from the promises you so tenderly
made me when we parted at Fishkill, gave me such expectations of
hearing often from you, that complaints ought to be permitted to my
affectionate heart. Not a line from you, my dear, general, has yet
arrived into my hands, and though several ships from America, several
despatches from congress or the French minister, are safely brought to
France, my ardent hopes of getting at length a letter from General
Washington have ever been unhappily disappointed: I cannot in any way
account for that bad luck, and when I remember that in those little
separations where I was but some days from you, the most friendly
letters, the most minute account of your circumstances, were kindly
written to me, I am convinced you have not neglected and almost
forgotten me for so long a time. I have, therefore, to complain of
fortune, of some mistake or neglect in acquainting you that there was
an opportunity, of anything; indeed, but what could injure the sense I
have of your affection for me. Let me beseech you, my dear general, by
that mutual, tender, and experienced friendship in which, I have put an
immense portion of my happiness, to be very exact in inquiring for
occasions, and never to miss those which may convey to me letters that
I shall be so much pleased to receive.

Inclosed I send to your excellency the copy of my letters to congress,
which, in concert with Mr. Franklin's longer despatches, will give you
a sketch of European intelligence. Contrary winds have much delayed an
expedition which I think should have been undertaken much sooner: the
kings of France and Spain seem desirous of carrying it on before the
winter; it may be, however, deferred till next spring, and the siege of
Gibraltar would be the only land expedition for the present campaign.
In a few weeks time, when West India successes may be compared to those
in Europe, my gazettes and predictions will have a greater degree of
certainty, but one must not be a conjuror to see that England is in
such a way that one may defy her to get up again, and that a happy
peace, blessed with American independence, will, in this or the ensuing
campaign, be the certain effect of the present war.

As my private circumstances are somewhat interesting to your
friendship, I will tell you, my dear general, that since my last letter
I have hardly quitted this place, where head-quarters had been fixed. I
was to disembark with the grenadiers forming the vanguard, and am,
therefore, one of the first who will land on the English shore. The
king's own regiment of dragoons, which he gave me on my return, was to
embark at Brest, and join us a few days after the landing. From Count
d'Estaing's expedition on the American coasts, the nation raises great
expectations, and very impatiently waits for intelligence. How unhappy
I am to find myself so far from you on such an occasion you will easily
conceive. The impression of sorrow such a thought gives me cannot be
alleviated but by the sense I have that the general opinion of the turn
warlike operations will take this campaign, the ties of my duty towards
my own country, where my services had been employed for the expedition
against England, and the hope I entertained of being here more useful
to the United States, had not left me the choice of the part I should
take for this campaign. I hope, my dear sir, you will agree in opinion
with me.

Whatever may be Count d'Estaing's success in America, it will bring on
new projects and operations. My ideas I laid before your excellency at
Fishkill; but permit me to tell you again how earnestly I wish to join
you. Nothing could make me so delighted as the happiness of finishing
the war under your orders. That, I think, if asked by you, will be
granted to congress and your excellency. But be certain, my dear
general, that in any situation, in any case, let me act as a French or
as an American officer, my first wish, my first pleasure, will be to
serve again with you. However happy I am in France, however well
treated by my country and king, I have taken such a habit of being with
you, I am tied to you, to America, to my fellow soldiers by such an
affection, that the moment when I shall sail for your country will be
one of the most wished for and the happiest in my life.

From an American newspaper I find that a certain English intelligence
had been propagated through the United States, that, at the head of
fifteen hundred officers or non-commissioned officers, I was going to
embark for America, and that, with soldiers of your army embodied under
them, I wanted to teach military discipline throughout the _American
army_. However remote I am from thinking of teaching my own masters,
and however distant from such views was that command in France, whose
end you very well know, I could not help taking it as a reflection on
the _American army_. The English troops may remember that on some
particular occasions I have not had to lament the want of discipline
and spirit in the troops which I had the honour to command. Whilst we
have but the same British army to fight with, we need not be looking
out for any other improvement than the same qualities which have often
enabled my fellow American soldiers to give, instead of receiving,
pretty good lessons to an enemy, whose justly-reputed courage added a
new reputation to American bravery and military conduct.

The above article, my dear general, I beg you will have _printed in the
several newspapers_.

As there is but a little time to write before the sailing of the
vessel, I cannot call to mind all the friends I have in the army,
unless your excellency is pleased to make them a thousand compliments
from one who heartily loves them, and whose first wish is to be again
in their company.

I congratulate you, my dear general, on the spirited expedition of
Stony Point,~[2] and am glad it has added, a new lustre to our arms.

Be so kind, my dear friend, as to present my best respects to your
lady. Mine begs leave to be kindly remembered to you and to her.
Thousand assurances of friendship wait from me on your family.

Oh! my dear general, how happy I should be to embrace you again!

With such affection as is above all expressions any language may
furnish, I have the honour to be, very respectfully, &c.


1. To this letter was joined a long letter to the president of
congress, which contained nearly the same things, expressed in a
different manner.

2. A brilliant exploit of General Wayne, who, on the 15th of July, took
by assault the fort of Stony Point, and forced five hundred and
fifty-four English to capitulate.


Versailles, February 2d, 1780.

You approved, sir, of my putting down in writing, before conversing
with you upon the subject of the expedition, some of the measures
necessary to be taken in either of the following cases: first, if I
should command the French detachment; and secondly, if I should resume
an American division.~[1]

I must begin by observing that this commission is not only a military
and political, but also a social affair: and from the circumstances
under which I am now placed, I assure you, on my honour, that I believe
the first measure would be most favourable to the public service, and
the interest of France as regards her allies.

As I must immediately begin my preparations, I should wish to be
informed of the decision in sufficient time to select some officers of
proper age, experience, and talents, with whom I can become acquainted
before I take charge of the corps; and on this account it is necessary
to arrange matters immediately with the Prince de Montbarrey. Two old
experienced lieutenant-colonels should command the infantry under me:
in distant expeditions, it is necessary that officers should suit each
other, and I am particularly fond of old officers.

In regard to myself, sir, I ask for nothing,--and as during the course
of a war I may hope to acquire rank, you might either give me one of
those commissions of M. de Sartine, which are only of use in America,
or one that would not prevent my seniors from resuming afterwards their
rank, or else letters of service, to enable me simply to command in the
capacity of an American general officer.

There are three methods of concealing the real aim of the expedition:
1st, to set out together for Lorient, under pretence of taking an
island, and operating in Carolina in the autumn;--2nd, to pretend to
send troops to M. de Bouille; there need be no commander, and I should
have the title of _marechal-des-logis;_--3d, for me to set out
immediately with the grenadiers and dragoons for America, and that the
four battalions, commanded by the two ancient officers, should join me
at Rhode Island.

If I should have the command, you may act with perfect security,
because the Americans know me too well to feel the slightest anxiety. I
will bind myself, if it be desired, to ask for neither rank nor titles,
and, to put the ministry quite at their ease, I will even promise to
refuse them should they be offered me.

In the second case, sir, it would be necessary to prevent, beforehand,
in America, the bad effects that the arrival of another commander would
excite: that I am not to lead that detachment is the last idea that
could ever occur in that country; I will say, therefore, that for
myself I prefer having an American division.

I must be in the secret to prepare the various measures, and inform
General Washington of the transaction. A secret with which I was not
acquainted would appear very suspicious at Philadelphia.

Three merchant frigates and a transport ship would be procured at
Lorient. We have, it is said, an American crew; the fifteen thousand
suits of clothes, and fifteen thousand guns, &c. might be embarked; at
the end of the month it would be necessary to set out for the

On arriving at a port, I should endeavour to commence my operations
with General Washington; I should take a division in the army, and,
with M. de la Luzerne's aid, prepare everything for the arrival of the
French. To increase the number of my division,--to serve as an example
to them,--to change the ideas entertained respecting us,--and to shew
in what perfect good intelligence French and Americans may live
together,--I should request to take with me, at once, a battalion of
six hundred grenadiers, three hundred dragoons, and one hundred

Two or three officers, whom I should bring back with me, must obtain
the same rank in France which they had in America, and I should say
that I have refused that rank myself from motives which are purely
social. This attention is necessary to flatter the self-love of the
Americans. We may stop at Bermuda on our way, and establish there the
party for liberty.

I shall set out on Wednesday for Nantes, where the clothes are making;
I shall also attend to the selection of the arms; I shall see the
king's regiment at Angers, to form a detachment from it; I shall repair
to Lorient to hasten the arrangement of the frigates, and to see the
battalion of grenadiers; I shall only be here the 20th, and as my
departure must be public, I shall take leave the 25th, in an American
uniform, and if the wind be favourable, I shall sail the 1st of March.

As it is physically impossible that a detachment commanded by a
foreigner should amalgamate together well, I believe it would be
necessary to increase it by a battalion, which would raise the number
to about three thousand six hundred, and the grenadiers would remain
more particularly attached to me during the campaign.

If that little corps be given to an old field-marshal, we should
certainly displease all the American chiefs. Gates, Sullivan, and Saint
Clair, would not like to be under the orders of others, and their
opinion in the council would be opposed to combined expeditions. I
think it necessary, very necessary, to select a brigadier, and name him
field-marshal, which he would look upon as a promotion. The corps must
consider itself as a division of our army; its commander must abjure
all pretensions, think himself an American major-general, and execute,
in all respects, the orders of General Washington. The naval commander
may have more power placed in his hands.

Conclusion. 1st, I think it would be best to give me the corps.--2d, If
it be not given to me, I must instantly set out with the powers I
demand. In either case, it is, unfortunately, necessary to reveal to me
the secret, and set me immediately to work.

I shall have the honour, sir, of paying my respects to you during the


1. This letter contains the basis of the plan which was finally
adopted. We have been obliged to retrench several letters which relate
to projects analogous to those presented at various periods by M. de
Lafayette. It was at length determined to send an auxiliary corps even
stronger than he had hoped to obtain. As to himself, he was to precede
it to America, whither he repaired with political instructions from the
French cabinet, and to resume a command in the army of the United
States. His instructions are dated the 5th of March; his departure took
place the 19th.



At the entrance of Boston harbour, April 27, 1780.

Here I am, my dear general, and, in the midst of the joy I feel in
finding myself again one of your loving soldiers, I take but the time


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