From Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen
Cape Look out [N.C.]
26th February 1778
Deign to accept the humble respects of a Stranger, who has taken every method to land near your Camp—in order to offer you the more readily such succours as his Cargo may afford—the inclosed contains a list of the articles which compose it and I shall wait for your orders before I begin to sell any thing.1
I dare flatter myself that you will be pleased to accept my respectful Compliments of Congratulation upon the Success of your Arms—I regret that I was not bred to the Land-Service, as I would in that case have sollicited the honor of serving under you—I should esteem myself very happy could I be of the number of victims, in your glorious cause—If I should be judged worthy of being employed in the naval Service, and my Vessel could be made useful to the Continent, I shall always be ready—and I flatter myself that if I should not fulfill the end of my mission, it would appear that any other man would have failed—Having been forced to anchor in Cape Look out bay (my Vessel drawing too much water to go into Beaufort) where I was not sufficiently guarded against attacks from the enemy—I established a battery of Six twelve pounders on Shore—and posted a guard at the point—The Chevalier de Cambray, an Artillery Officer, who is going to offer his Service to you2—directed the work with all the Skill of his profession—when the Cargo is discharged, I propose to go into Beaufort and erect another Battery—I intend to name them Forts Washington and Hancock—I flatter myself that you will not take it amiss, and that you will consent that one of these Forts should bear your name—it is too good an Omen to a Battery placed for the Defence of Vessels, to allow of your refusing your assent—The name alone will be more formidable to the Enemy, than the Cannon of the Fort3—Deign to accept the assurances of profound respect with which I have the honor to be General yours &c.
Capt. of the Frigate Ferdinand
L, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW. This letter is probably a translation of a French original that has not been identified.
Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen (c.1745–1808), a Breton naval captain, later commanded the 32–gun U.S. frigate Pallas in the squadron of John Paul Jones. During the celebrated naval battle of 23 Sept. 1779 off Flamborough Head, England, when Jones’s Bonhomme Richard captured the Serapis, Cottineau distinguished himself by capturing the 22–gun British warship Countess of Scarborough. He left for Saint Domingue after the war but eventually had to flee the insurrection there, immigrating to the United States and eventually settling permanently in Savannah. An honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati since 1795, Cottineau visited Mount Vernon in October 1797 (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:265–66).
1. The enclosed “List of The Cargo of Ship Ferdinand Capt. Cottineau” includes items such as clothing, sugar, salt, wine, and coffee as well as “Boxes of Drugs,” “New fashion, lace & head Dresses,” and “Watches of Silver & Gold” (DLC:GW).
GW received Cottineau’s letter on 3 April and forwarded it to Henry Laurens the next day, writing Cottineau at the same time that he thought Congress would be interested in purchasing the cargo. Congress already had read another letter of 26 Feb. from Cottineau, however, and it resolved on 31 Mar. to purchase the more useful articles (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 , 10:298, 333; see also Henry Laurens to GW, 14 April). For the negotiations to purchase Cottineau’s goods, see N.C. State Records description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 13:84–85, 93–94, 111–12, 119.
2. Louis-Antoine-Jean-Baptiste, chevalier de Cambray-Digny (1751–1822), an Italian-born French noble who had served as an artillery officer in the Polish service, was appointed a lieutenant colonel and assigned to the corps of engineers in June 1778 (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 , 11:604–5). After participating in the Battle of Monmouth later that month, Cambray constructed Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River and directed the fortification of Charleston, S.C., before being captured at that place in May 1780. Exchanged eighteen months later, Cambray returned to France shortly after his promotion to colonel in May 1783 (see Cambray to GW, 27 February).
3. In April 1778 the North Carolina general assembly passed “An Act for fortifying Cape Lookout Bay,” appointing commissioners to oversee construction of a fort with a garrison of fifty-six men, “receiving at the same Time all such Aid and Assistance as Captain Cottineau, Commander of the French Frigate Ferdinand, now lying in the Bay of Cape Lookout aforesaid, shall offer and freely contribute” (N.C. State Records description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 24:174). For more on the fortifications erected under Cottineau and Cambray’s supervision, see ibid., 13:85–86, 126–27.