George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 9 May 1776

To John Hancock

New York. May 9th 1776.


When I was on the Road from Cambrid[g]e to this Place, I received a Letter from a Gentleman who subscribed it, Le Baron de Colbiac.1 He therein mentions that he was a Captain of Dragoons in the French Service, that he comes to offer his Service to the United Colonies, that he attempted to come about the latter End of November, was taken by an English Frigate commanded by Capt. Young with 160 Fuses & 20 Barrels of Powder,2 that he got his Liberty thro the Friendship of Captn Young, got to Dominique, from thence to Guadaloupe, took Passage again on Board of a Vessel bound to Philadelphia or New London, which by contrary Winds was obliged to put into Bedford Harbour to the Eastward. He has a Pass from the Governor of Guadaloupe, which gives him his Title. He desires a Line to you from me, & what I have mentioned is all I know of the Bearer.3 I am respectfully Sir your most hble Ser.

Go. Washington.

LB, DLC: Hancock Papers.

1This letter has not been identified.

2In November 1775 Vice Admiral James Young put his son William Young in command of the sloop Pomona, one of five warships in the squadron that Admiral Young commanded in the West Indies. The Admiralty disapproved the appointment in August 1776, and William Young was obliged to serve as second lieutenant on his father’s flagship, the Portland.

3Calbiac presented his letters and credentials to the Continental Congress later this month and apparently asked without success to be appointed an engineer with the rank of lieutenant colonel. “The Board of War,” John Adams informed Thomas McKean on 15 Aug. 1776, was not “inclined from any thing they could learn of the Baron to give him the Rank and Pay to which he aspires” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 4:682–83; see also Calbiac to the Continental Congress, June–August, DNA:PCC, item 78; Calbiac to GW, 22, 30 July, GW to Calbiac, 23 July, GW to Thomas McKean, 6 Aug., McKean to John Adams, 9 Aug., in Taylor, Papers of John Adams description begins Robert J. Taylor et al., eds. Papers of John Adams. 17 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1977—. description ends , 4:440–42; and Calbiac to Richard Peters, 13 Aug. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:934). GW’s wording in this letter and his reference in his letter to McKean of 6 Aug. to “the French Gentleman . . . in the character of the Baron de Calbiact,” suggest that he was suspicious of the man’s claims to nobility.

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