To John Hancock
Head Quarters Morris town 11th Feby 1777
I was yesterday waited upon by two French Gentlemen Monss. Romand de Lisle and Robillard. The first produced a Commission signed by you in Novemr last appointing him a Major of Artillery, but by the inclosed Letter from him to me, he claims much higher Rank, under the promise of Congress, that of Commandant of the Continental Artillery. Whether any such promise was made, I leave you to determine.1
Robillard claims a Captaincy of Artillery, but upon what he grounds his pretensions I do not know, I never saw him but once before, and that was upon his way from Boston to Philada.2
You cannot conceive what a weight these kind of people are upon the Service, and upon me in particular, few of them have any knowledge of the Branches which they profess to understand, and those that have, are intirely useless as Officers from their ignorance of the English Language. I wish it were possible to make them understand when Commissions are granted to them, that they are to make themselves Masters of the english Language in some degree, before they can be attached to any particular Corps. I am Sir with the greatest Respect Yr very hble Servt
LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. The Continental Congress executive committee forwarded this letter to Hancock on 15 Feb., and on 18 Feb. Congress read it and resolved to direct GW to inquire into the “military abilities and conduct of the French gentlemen in the army, and how far they can be usefully employed in the service of these States, and to dismiss such of them as he shall find unworthy of commissions, or unable to render service in the military line” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:130–31).
1. These two Frenchmen, Claude-Noël-François Romand de Lisle (d. 1784) and Louis-Joseph-Henri Robillard d’Antin, had visited GW at White Plains, N.Y., in early November 1776 while en route from Boston to Philadelphia (see James Bowdoin to GW, 17 Oct. 1776, in DNA:PCC, item 78, and Robert Hanson Harrison to Hancock, 4 Nov. 1776, in DNA:PCC, item 152, and JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:950). In his undated letter to GW, Lisle, who was born in Grenoble, France, claimed to have served as a captain in the “Corps Royal artillierie in the french service” in Hanover, Spain, and the West Indies before coming to the United States in 1776 (DNA:PCC, item 152). Congress appointed Lisle a major in the Continental artillery on 12 Nov. 1776 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:952).
2. Robillard’s undated letter to GW is in DNA:PCC, item 152. Robillard claimed that “he quitted his family & a Considerable state” at Hispaniola because of Congress’s promise to commission him a captain in the Continental artillery.