George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy, 4 October 1778

From Captain Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy

Providence 4—8bre [Oc tober] 1778.


Gl de la Fayette had desired me to deliver in your hands the two Inclosed draughts,1 & Shou’d have thought my Self happy in finding an opportunity to pay my respects to your Excellency; but as I am Sick at Providence I can not do my Self that honour therefore take the liberty to Send them to you. I am very Sorry that I am deprived of the possibility of Waiting on you in person, and assureing you of my Great Respect I am yr most obedient humle sert



Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy (1746–1804), a geographical engineer who previously had served in the French army as a lieutenant attached to the Regiment d’Aquitaine, came to America in the spring of 1777 as one of Lafayette’s entourage of French officers. Becoming ill soon after landing at Charleston, S.C., he convalesced at Salisbury, N.C., until April 1778, when he came north and was appointed a captain in the Continental corps of engineers by Congress. Initially assigned to map the Susquehanna River, Capitaine soon completed that task and rejoined Lafayette as a supernumerary aide-de-camp with the principal duty of mapping the engagements in which Lafayette participated. Capitaine was breveted a major on 5 Nov. 1778, and the following January he accompanied Lafayette to France, where in June 1779 he was breveted a captain in the King’s Dragoons. In the spring of 1780 Capitaine returned to America with Lafayette and continued serving him as an aide-de-camp until December 1781, when they again sailed to France. Although Capitaine never returned to America, he retained his Continental rank until November 1783. He subsequently served as an assistant on the French army general staff until 1790.

GW replied to Capitaine du Chesnoy on 16 Oct., acknowledging receipt of this letter and thanking him “for the elegant plans which accompanied it—they appear to me to be executed with great accuracy and military intelligence—and will have a place among the papers on which I set a value” (Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW).

1These enclosures have not been identified. By this time, Capitaine apparently had drawn maps of the retreat from Barren Hill on 28 May 1778, the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, and American positions after their retreat from Rhode Island on 30 Aug. 1778 (see Guthorn, American Maps and Map Makers of the Revolution description begins Peter J. Guthorn. American Maps and Map Makers of the Revolution. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1966. description ends , 9–12).

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