George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Benjamin Harrison, 19 August 1777

To Benjamin Harrison

Neshamony Bridge [Pa.] August 19. 1777

Dear sir

If I did not misunderstand what you, or some other Member of Congress said to me respecting the appointment of the Marquis de, le, Fiatte, he has misceived the design of his appointment, or Congress did not understand the extent of his views, for certain it is, If I understand him, that he does not conceive his Commission is merely honorary; but given with a view to command a division of this Army.1 True, he has said that he is young, & inexperienced, but at the same time has always accompanied it with a hint, that so soon as I shall think him fit for the Command of a division, he shall be ready to enter upon the duties of it; & in the meantime, has offer’d his service for a smaller Command; to which I may add, that he has actually applied to me (by direction he says from Mr Hancock) for Commissions for his Two Aid, de, Camps.2

What the designs of Congress respecting this Gentn were—& what line of Conduct I am to pursue, to comply with their design, & his expectations, I know no more than the Child unborn, & beg to be instructed. If Congress meant that this rank should be unaccompanied by Command I wish it had been sufficiently explain’d to him—If on the other hand it was intended to vest him with all the powers of a Major Genl why have I been led into a contrary belief, & left in the dark with respect to my own conduct towards him?—this difficulty with the numberless applications for Imployment by Foreigners, under their respective appointments, adds no small embarrassment to a command which, without it, is abundantly perplexed by the different tempers I have to do with, & different modes which the respective States have pursued to nominate & arrange their officers; the combination of all which, is but a too just representation of a great Chaos from whence we are endeavouring (how successfully time can only tell) to draw some regularity & order.

I was going to address Congress for Instructions in the case of the Marquis de, Le, Fyatte, but upon second thought concluded to ask some direction of My conduct in this matter through a Member, and therefore have imposed this task upon you. Let me beseech you then my good Sir to give me the sentiments of Congress on this matter, that I may endeavour, as far as it is in my power, to comply with them, with respect to Commissions for his Aid de Camps, I told him that I should write to Mr Hancock about them and wish to be instructed. The Marquis is now in Philadelphia but expected up this day or to morrow. With sincere regard I am Dr Sir Your most Affecte

G. Washington

Df, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The chevalier Dubuysson in his memoir discusses Congress’s motives and actions in appointing Lafayette a major general of the Continental army (see Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 1:77–82).

2Lafayette’s aides-de-camp were Edmund Brice (1751–1784) and Jean-Joseph Soubadère de Gimat (1747–1793). Brice, a native of Annapolis, met Lafayette while studying art in Europe and accompanied him to America in June 1777. As Lafayette’s aide-de-camp Brice was commissioned a major, and in October 1778 Congress made him a brevet lieutenant colonel. Gimat was first lieutenant of a company of French chasseurs in December 1776 when Silas Deane promised him the rank of major in the American army as aide-de-camp to Lafayette. Congress confirmed Gimat’s commission, and he arrived in America with Lafayette in June 1777. Lafayette regarded Gimat very highly, and he secured Gimat’s promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in February 1778. In November 1778 Congress gave Gimat the brevet rank of colonel and defrayed his expenses for a trip to France. He returned to America by March 1780, when he was appointed to command a battalion of New England troops under Lafayette. Gimat served in that capacity during the Virginia campaign of 1781, and he was wounded in the assault on redoubt no. 10 at Yorktown in October 1781. Gimat returned to France in January 1782, by which time he had been promoted to colonel in the French army. Gimat served as governor of St. Lucia from 1789 to 1792.

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