George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Baron de Knobelauch, 2 September 1778

From Baron de Knobelauch

2d Septr 1778

To His Excellency General Washington

I would think myself happy were I able to make to Your Excellency the first Address of my humble Respects in Words of Your national Language: The time of my travelling over the Country was too short to learn it but I shall use my endeavours to make some tolerable Progress therein.

perhaps Your Excellency are already informed by Congress that on my Memorial of the 12. Aug. they have given me Permission to repair as Volunteer to the American Camp with an Allowance of 125 Dolls. per month two Rations and Forage for two Horses.1

In consequence of these Resolves I have the Honour to present myself to Your Excellency. My highest Wishes are to meet Opportunities to distinguish myself in the Army to become useful to the United States and by these means to render myself worthy Your kind Notice and Confidence.

I have had some Experience of the military Service to which I entred about 30 Years ago: my first Apprenticeship was made in His Prussian Majestys Seminary of War. And in his last septennial glorious War I have been present at Six decisive Battles Seventeen Encounters and two Sieges.

Anno 1762. His Prussian Majesty at the Instance of the Russian Emperor Peter 3d yielded him three Officers and I was one of that Number. From the Rank of a Staffs Captain I was advanced to that of Premier Major and received a Commission to introduce the Prussian Exercise Evolutions &ca among the Infantry and special Commissions of Major of the Exercise and Vice Commandant of Oranienbaum. After the Revolution I was by Order of the Empress retained in the Service of the Grand Duke with a pension of 800 Rubles.2 Of this Favour I did not avail myself a long time, I sued for my Dismission and obtained it in the Caracter of Lieutenant Colonel.

Two Months after in the Spring of 1764. I entred in the King of Denmarks Service as Lieutenant Colonel in Fact, and Commander of His Majestys Regiment of Hollstein Infantry. In this Service I have under the Direction of the then Field Marshall Count de St Germain (now His most christian Majestys Minister of the War-Department) drawn the Reglement of the Exercise and Service.3 In the last Year of my Service I had the Honour to Command the Kings Guard of Foot; an Honour which in that Kingdom had never before been conferred upon any Foreigner. At that time her Imperial Majesty of Russia was pleased to require of the King of Dennemark to remove from his Presence a certain Count of Goertz and myself pretending that we had meddled with State Affairs against the Russian Interest,4 Whereupon I lost the Command of the Kings Foot Guard and shortly after quitted that ungrateful Service, But the King accompanied the very honorable Letters Patent of my discharge with a present of 1200 Guineas.

All I have had the Honour to mention to Your Excellency is supported by the Original Patents or Commissions and the Discharges from the Sovereigns I have served, so as I have brought the same Originals over with me. These papers have been considered by Congress as good Evidence of the Fairness of my Caracter as an Officer And being a Stranger in this Country I offered at the same time in proof of my military Knowledge any Discourse or Commentary on some Articles relating to military affairs which Articles I have hereto subjoined. The Committee to whom Congress had referred my proposal did single out the 17. 18. & 19. of the said Articles and I have made out and delivered to them my Report accordingly.5

Permit me, Sir, to assure You upon Honour, that from mere Inclination without any Views of own Interest or political I have set out from my own Country to serve the United States of this, under the Command of Your Excellency, Who in all Europe is now in possession of the Reputation of one of the greatest Generals in this Age So it is that I flatter myself in the Way of Honour to attain and deserve Your Excellencys Approbation and Countenance of my Intentions.

On this Occasion I beg leave to deliver to Your Excellency a Letter of Dr Franklin and another from Mr Penet at Nantes This Gentlemen has intrusted me with the Care of his youngest Brother Mr Peter Penet to present him to You, and desired that I might become a Suitor with him to Your Excellency to place him any way in the Service.6

S. W. B. de Knobelauch:


1Knobelauch was apparently referring to his memorial of 27 July, on which Congress had taken action on 12 Aug. (DNA:PCC, item 78; 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 , 11:725, 764, 778–79). Henry Laurens enclosed a copy of the resolutions in his letter to GW of 13 August.

2Oranienbaum, now Lomonsov, Russia, is about eighteen miles east-southeast of St. Petersburg. The name is retained for the palace there. In the summer of 1762 Czar Peter III of Russia was forced to abdicate in favor of his wife Sophie, who became Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great). Peter was assassinated not long after.

3Claude-Louis, comte de St.-Germain (1707–1778), who had been appointed the French secretary of state for war in October 1775, had left office in September 1777 and died in January 1778.

4Knobelauch was probably referring to Count Karl Friedrich Adam von Goertz (1733–1797), who acted as a colonel in the Danish service before becoming a Prussian cavalry general.

5In the enclosed undated list of “Some Articles upon which I shall communicate my Sentiments, whenever order’d thereto by the Honorable Congress,” articles 17, 18, and 19 of the 30 concern “the Field Apothecary’s Shop,” surgeons, and hospitals (DLC:GW).

6For Benjamin Franklin’s letter to GW of 24 Aug. 1777, see Laurens to GW, 13 Aug. 1778, n.4. The letter from Pierre (Peter) Penet of Nantes has not been found. When GW wrote Henry Laurens about Penet’s brother on 21 Nov., he said that Penet had “importuned me to recommend his brother to Congress for an appointment by brevet to the rank of Captain, which he observes will have no effect in this country, as his brother will immediately return to France, which he makes an essential condition of the appointment.” The brother, who did not receive a commission at this time, may have been Ignace (Ignatius) Penet, who was appointed a lieutenant in Colonel Armand’s legion on 6 Jan. 1781.

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