George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Marianne Camasse Deux-Ponts, 25 March 1779

From Marianne Camasse Deux-Ponts

Forbach [France] the 25th of March 1779


Suffer, my General, that I recommend to your kindness and to your protection, Mr De Fontevieux, my relation, who passed a year since into America,1 and who was then particularly recommended to you by the good and obliging Mr Franklin.2 He made the last campaign with your army attached to the corps commanded by Mr De la Rouerie, in quality of first lieutenant of dragoons—He there acquired the approbation of his chief and of the Marquis De la fayette, who, in consequence of the good testimonies which he had of his conduct, requested of you my General, the commission of Captain for him, at the moment of his embarkation to return to France.3 Permit me to join my solicitations to those of this charming protector of my young relation to obtain this rank of Captain which is the object of his wishes and mine because it will furnish him more occasions of distinguishing himself and of spilling his blood, for the justest of causes and the most interesting to humanity. The love of this cause, of its brave defenders and of the hero, who guides their valour, determined me to second the love of glory of Mr De Fontevieux, which will very soon become at home the love of country; If as I hope Sir you ⟨d⟩eign to grant your good will and obtain him that of Congress, which I dare entreat you to ask without delay, as well in your own name as in that of the person, who renders the most perfect devotion to your sublime virtues and to those of your wise legislators.4 Mr Franklin may attest to you this truth as well as the zeal the attachment to your interests of which I have made profession since the first moment of your quarrels.

Receive Sir the homage of my admiration and of all the very distinguished sentiments with which I have the honor to be My General, Your most humble & Most Obedt servt

Contsse De Forbach
widow and dowager of the late Duke des deuxponts

Translation, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; ALS, in French, DLC:GW.

1Marianne Camasse Deux-Ponts, comtesse de Forbach, was a dancer with no royal lineage when she married a German nobleman, who died in 1775. Taking up residence at Forbach, France, she traveled in elevated social circles and became friendly with Benjamin Franklin. Jean-Baptiste-Georges de Fontevieux (1759–1793), Deux-Ponts’s nephew, was in the military from his youth. Coming to America in the spring of 1778, he volunteered with Colonel Armand’s partisan corps and served under that commander for the entire war, advancing from brevet lieutenant in January 1779 to lieutenant in March 1780 (see GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Jan. 1780, first letter, 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 , 16:242; see also n.3 to this document). Returning to France, Fontevieux allied himself with Armand in opposition to the revolutionaries and was subsequently guillotined.

2Deux-Ponts is referring to a letter of 2 March 1778 from Benjamin Franklin to GW. Written at “Passy, near Paris,” it reads: “M. de Fontevieux, who hopes to have the honour of delivering this into your hands, is a young Gentleman of a considerable Family, and of excellent Character, who goes over with Views of improving himself in the military Art under your Auspices. He is willing to serve as Volunteer, in any Capacity for which your Excelly shall find him qualified. He is warmly recommended to me by Persons of great Distinction here, who are zealous Friends to the American Cause: And I beg leave to recommend him earnestly to your Excellency’s Protection, being confident that he will endeavour to merit it” (ALS, UkOxU; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW).

3Lafayette had departed from Boston on 11 Jan., and no letter shortly before that date from Lafayette to GW recommending Fontevieux has been found. Deux-Ponts may be referring, however, to a letter of 27 Nov. 1778 from Lafayette to Henry Laurens, president of Congress. Written at Fishkill, N.Y., it reads: “The Bearer of this letter is Chevalier de fontevieux Volunteer in C[o]l[one]l Armand’s Corps who had for me letters of Reccommandation to which I owe Much attention—one of them is from the lady of the late sovereign duke of deux ponts with whom I had the Advantage of being acquainted and to whose Memory I pay Much Regard—this lady is Much interested in favor of the Chevalier de fontevieux—I beg leave to Reccommend him strongly to Congress and would be under great obligations to them if they did think proper to grant him a Brevet of Captain” (DNA:PCC, item 156). Congress read this letter on 11 Dec. 1778, and it was referred to the Board of War (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 , 12:1211). The board recommended that Fontevieux be commissioned a brevet lieutenant, and Congress adopted this recommendation on 13 Jan. 1779 (see 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 , 13:57; see also Fontevieux to Congress, February 1779, in n.4 to this document).

4While in Philadelphia, Fontevieux had written Congress a letter dated February 1779 that reads: “The Letters of Recommendation I have brought with me from Dr Franklin to General Roberdeau, have Sufficiently shewn the intentions of my family in Sending me over, and my desire of making it last Two Campaigns under the American colours. I have therefore, undertaken the Voyage at my own Expence, and when at my arrival I found that notwithstanding the Several Recommendations I had been favoured with, it would be very difficult for me to get Employed, I have not troubled this Congress with importunate Sollicitations, and that I might not lose any time, I went as a Volunteer in Colo. Armand’s Corps, and as Such I served the last Campaign. I was honoured with a Lieutt Brevet, by virtue of a Resolve of Congress, who was so good as to grant brevets and the sum of four hundred Dollars as a Reward of Services to Every Volunteer of Colo. Armand’s Corps.

“I beg, Gentlemen, you will accept of my respectful acknowledgments for it, but as I greatly desire to answer the Views of my Parents and gratify my own inclination, I beg you will permit me to Serve in the Ensuing Campaign as a supernumerary Lieutt in the same Corps of Colo. Armand.

“If I am happy Enough to have my request granted, I will look on the four hundred Dollars I have already received as a payment for future Services, nor will I ask for anything more, till I have served so long as the sum of my monthly pay as a Lieutenant may amount to four hundred Dollars.

“I still make my best Endeavours to prove worthy of this favour by my Zeal for the Service” (DNA:PCC, item 78). After reading this letter on 17 Feb., Congress granted Fontevieux’s request (see 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 , 13:191–92).

Index Entries