George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lieutenant Colonel Fleury, 13 December 1778

To Lieutenant Colonel Fleury

Head Quarters Middle Brook [N.J.] 13th Decemr 1778

Dear Sir

I recd your favr of the 2d upon the Road between the North River and this place.1 I also at the Same time recd a letter from the president of Congress upon the same subject—In answer to which I have informed him, that, in my opinion, the application to the French Minister plenipotentiary for a renewal of your Furlough would be made with more propriety by yourself than by Congress, and that could you obtain further leave of Absence, I should, agreeable to my promise to you, take an occasion of employing you in a manner suitable to your Rank and deserts, whenever an opportunity offered of doing it without interfering in commd with the Officers of the line.2 I have also mentioned to the president my good opinion of your former Merits and services, of which I still entertain the same favorable Ideas.

I imagine the French Officers to whom you allude are Genl du Portail and the Gentlemen of the Royal Corps of Engineers. They are in a very peculiar situation. They were particularly requested from the Court of France and their services granted for a limited time; that time being nearly expired, the States must either sollicit their leave of Absence to be prolonged or they will be under a necessity of returning home. Upon this principle I desired Congress to express their wishes to the Minister plenipotentiary that Genl du portail and the Gentlemen of his department might if agreeable to themselves, be allowed to remain in America.3

Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found.

3See GW to Henry Laurens, 16 Nov., and to John Jay, 31 December. GW’s interpretation of his standing relative to the other four French engineers did not please Fleury, who replied from Philadelphia on 23 Dec.: “i begg Leave to Represent to your excellency; that the only difference that i know between the gentlemen engineers, & Myself is, that they have been Requested by doctor franklin, & Received order to Come over from Mr De st germain, & that, i was Requested by Mr Dean, & Came over by order of mr le prince de Monbarey secretary of war.

“the difference that your excellency puts between them, & Mes, at this Moment, will certainly be very injurious to my Caracter in my own Contry, by comparison, & i must consider it as a disgrace.

“however My Respect for your excellency, defends me to insist upon that favour from Congress, against your desire; & submitting, with grief but with Respect, i shall Remain for ever very Respectfully. sir. Your Most obedient servant . . . i have Received for answer from our Minister, that i cannot take upon him to Renew My furlough, but by yours, or congress desire” (DLC:GW).

Congress resolved on 5 Jan. 1779 that “Congress do not think it proper to apply to the minister of France in his behalf, though they should be pleased with his continuance in the service of the United States, if he can himself obtain leave for that purpose” (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 , 13:26). Fleury secured the necessary permission and remained in America.

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