George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 17 April 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

War Office April 17. 1778

Sir,

Mr de Wolffen, a Prussian officer, of the rank of lieutenant, will have the honour of delivering your Excellency this letter.1 He came to America to engage in the service of the United States. He appears to be extremely active and alert; and having been (as he informs us) an Aid Major to an Inspector General of Discipline in the Prussian Armies, we conceived he might be a useful assistant to the Baron Steuben: as such we have sent him to camp. No rank or commission is yet given him: but should his services be approved of by your Excellency, they will be duly rewarded. In the mean time, such pay and subsistance may be allowed him as your Excellency shall judge proper. I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obedient servant,

Horatio Gates president

LS, in Timothy Pickering’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers.

1According to a later report by Richard Peters, when Johann Heinrich Wulffen (Wolfen), appeared before the Board of War, he “produced no satisfactory Credentials” and “appeared too to be somewhat disordered in his Intellect,” so the Board refused him a commission but sent him to the army in hopes that he could assist Steuben. Steuben, however, “discovered Wolfen to be a Person totally unqualified for any Business which depended on Discretion” (Peters to James Duane, 9 Dec. 1780, DNA:PCC, item 26; see also the report based on Peters’s information in 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 , 18:1179–80). Wulffen was then nominated for a commission as lieutenant in the Maréchaussée corps, and he appears to have served for a time in that capacity, but the board again refused to grant him a commission. Given a small sum of money to pay his debts and return to Europe, Wulffen there styled himself as “Capitaine & chef dun Corps de Cavalerie Legere au Service des 13. Etats Unies de L’amerique.” He told Benjamin Franklin, from whom he obtained money, that he had been captured by the British in New Jersey in October 1779, at which time he “received eleven Wounds, four with a Bayonet after he had surrendred,” and was not exchanged until 18 April 1780 (Wulffen to Franklin, c.1, 6, 10, and c.25 June 1780, and Franklin to M. A. de Sonnemaens, 16 June 1780, Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 32:457, 486–87, 503–4, 597–98, 538). Leaving debts unpaid in Paris, Wulffen appeared in Amsterdam, where he presented a bill of exchange drawn on Congress to the firm of Jean de Neufville & fils, to whom he apparently represented himself as an aide-de-camp of GW. Congress reluctantly honored that bill, while warning the Dutch firm not to accept such bills in the future (Franklin to Dumas, 26 July 1780, and Neufville & fils to Franklin, c.31 Aug, 1780, ibid., 33:128, 241; 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 , 18:1179–80). Wulffen’s claim of Prussian service was, he informed Franklin, as “lieutenant & Aide major au Regiment Infanterie de general major de Rohrt” (Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 32:457).

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