George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Holtzendorf, 4 June 1785

From Holtzendorf

Nymegen [Holland] June the 4th 1785.


This Letter will come to your hands by favour of Colonel Senf, who is returning to america very soon. I thought it incumbent to me to take that opportunity in order to renew to you, Sir, my most grateful thanks for all the marks of Benevolence you shewed to me during my Stay under your Commands in th’ American Army, the satisfaction about my military Character, as well as the Regrets about my Leaving the said service, you was pleased to manifest even by your laest Letter, I was honoured with in answer of that by wich I informed you of my returning to France,1 make me hope you will be glad to learn, that I Stay as yet in the Service of the united States of Holland, having been granted by the General Count de Maillebois with a Place of Lieutenant Colonel in the Legion which he is raising for this Service.

I’ll allways regret sincerely, that circumstances did not allow my terminating with you, Sir, a war by yourself so gloriously ended; for, the French Regiment, I was from, though destinated in the year 1780 to go to america with the corps of army of the G[ener]al Rochembeau, which became one of them of his 2nd Division, that could not be carried over for want of vessels, I was obliged to see myself disappointed of that hope. I’m the more sorry as I believe I would have been granted with the admission to your association of Cinsinnatus, which favour would have flatterd me particularly, as I would have considered it not only as a recompense of my zeal I shewed, you Know sir, whilst I Served your own country, but of the real hopes, Even the unjustice, I proved by the particular Illwill of Mr Lovel, whose influence prevented their good intensions to me, as well as the fulfilling of one of their Resolveds, which I Keep in original, and according to which I should be indemnified.

Will you, Sir, give me leave to beg your influence about both them Subjects? If you think it possible, I should be very happy to be honoured with the admission to your association of Cinsinnatus. for the rest, it would be indeed an act of justice and Even of honour to congress to fulfill a resolved they gave in favour of myn in the beginning of 1778.2

this new mark of your Benevolence, Sir, shall increase the gratitude consecrated to you for ever, with which I have the honour to remain very respectfully Sir your most obedient humble servant

Lewis Casimir Baron de holtzendorff

Lt Coll of the Legan of maillebois
in garrison at Nymegen


The service in America of Louis-Casimir, baron de Holtzendorf of Prussia, was brief. In response to his letter of 16 Aug. 1777 from Philadelphia, GW wrote Holtzendorf on 18 Aug. that he was attaching him to Gen. Nathanael Greene’s division as a lieutenant colonel. On 30 Dec. 1777, dissatisfied with his treatment, Holtzehdorf presented a memorial to Congress making a number of extraordinary demands and asking permission to return to France (DNA:PCC, item 41). Congress voted on 31 Jan. that Holtzendorf might “have liberty to depart for France” and on 21 Feb. voted to give him the funds to do so (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 10:105, 188). Holtzendorf entered the Dutch service in 1785.

1When Holtzendorf asked GW for a certificate of his conduct, GW wrote him on 3 Feb. 1778: “I shall be always ready, Sir, to declare that you uniformly supported a good character during your stay in the Army under my command, and that it is to be regretted that the Nature of your Post did not afford you a favorable opportunity of displaying your military talents.” Christian Senf, an engineer who returned to Europe after the war, came back to America in 1785 and visited Mount Vernon 11–14 June 1786, when he delivered this letter.

2GW replied to Holtzendorf from Mount Vernon on 31 July 1786: “Sir, The letter of the 4th of June 1785 which you was pleased to address to me by Colo. Senf, has very lately been put into my hand; in answer to which I have the honor to observe, that having divested myself of an official character & retired to private life, I can have no agency whatever in matters of a public nature. This, I thought, had been made known extensively enough by the manner of my resignation & retirement. The want of being acquainted with these facts seems however, to have involved some gentlemen at a distance in unnecessary & unavailing applications. All therefore, that I have it in my power to advise you on the two objects of your letter, is, that application for admittance into the Society of the Cincinnati, must be either to the Society of the State in whose line the officer served; or, if the Officer was a foreigner, to the Society in France; and that with respect to pecuniary claims, recourse must be had either to the Paymaster General, or Secretary for the Department of War. With due consideration & regard I have the honor to be &c. G: Washington” (LB, DLC:GW). The copyist spelled Senf’s name “Serf.”

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