Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Stephen Rochefontaine, 28 April 1796

From Stephen Rochefontaine1

West Point, April 28, 1796. Asks for Hamilton’s “advice in a very disagreeable case” concerning the aftermath of an abortive duel between Rochefontaine and Lieutenant William Wilson.2 Describes the case, his continuing difficulties with Wilson and other officers at West Point, and submits “a few Queries which I would wish you to favor with your opinion upon and as soon as convenient, in order that I may avoid if possible the Inconveniency of a writ, which may be served against me upon the application of my adversaries.”

ALS, United States Military Academy Library.

1Lieutenant Colonel Etienne Nicolas Marie Bechet, Sieur Rochefontaine, later known as Stephen Rochefontaine, was a French engineer who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. In 1792 Louis XVI appointed him Adjutant General of the Army of Santo Domingo. Following the death of Louis XVI in January, 1793, Rochefontaine returned to the United States, and on March 29, 1794, Secretary of War Henry Knox appointed him an engineer for the fortification of ports and harbors. On February 26, 1795, he was appointed to command the first regularly organized Corps of Artillerists and Engineers of the United States at West Point. See Edward Hagaman Hall, “Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Rochefontaine,” Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, 1921 (Albany, 1922), 247–69.

2William Wilson of Maryland was appointed a lieutenant in the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers on January 7, 1795, to rank from July 17, 1794 (Exexecutive Journal, I, 167, 169).

A court of enquiry on the dispute was held at West Point in May and June, 1796. During the proceedings Rochefontaine suspected the men composing the court of being prejudiced against him and sought the advice of Timothy Pickering. In the end, however, no charges were brought against him. An account of the enquiry may be found in Rochefontaine to Pickering, May 28, 31, June 5, 7, 11, 19, July 1, 1796 (ALS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston).

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