To Captain Ezekiel Belden
Head Quarters West-point 5th Septr 1779.
I have advice of the ministers setting out from Boston for Philadelphia.1 You will therefore on receipt of this proceed without delay to Ridgefield—from thence to Fairfield—to New-Haven—and to Harford, halting at this last place for his coming should you not meet him at some of the intermediate stages.2 Immediately upon joining him you are to acquaint me by express, mentioning the stages and route which he proposes, that I may know how to regulate matters for his reception. Should any accident occur to detain him, I am also to be informed by express.
It is probable that Major Genl Baron Steuben will accompany the minister—in this case—you will put yourself wholly under his orders, leaving the management of the above intirely to the Baron.3 I am &
Df, in James McHenry’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.
On 18 Aug., GW had ordered Maj. Gen. Robert Howe to select a captain to command the cavalry escort for La Luzerne, the new minister plenipotentiary of France, who had arrived at Boston on 3 Aug. and was setting out for Philadelphia. Howe had apparently selected Belden. Presuming that La Luzerne would have a cavalry escort from Boston to the Hudson, GW had originally intended for Belden to meet La Luzerne at Fishkill, New York. But, on this date, GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton received a letter from Major General Steuben, dated 30 Aug. at Boston, in which Steuben informed Hamilton that La Luzerne had refused the cavalry escort offered by the Massachusetts council. In consequence, GW directed Belden to meet La Luzerne en route (Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:146, 156). For the initial orders sent to Belden on 22 Aug. by GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman and the itinerary of La Luzerne’s party on their journey from Boston to Philadelphia, which included a visit with GW at West Point, see GW to Howe, 18 Aug., n.1; see also GW to Howe, this date. For La Luzerne’s visit with GW at West Point, see Substance of a Conference with La Luzerne, 16 Sept., and the notes to that document.
This same day, GW issued orders through his aides for two additional troops of dragoons to escort La Luzerne’s party from New Windsor, N.Y., to Philadelphia. On this date GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Kidder Meade, at headquarters, wrote to the officer commanding Henry Lee’s corps: “I am commanded by His Excellency to desire you will have a party of thirty picked Horse and Men, properly Officered, at New Windsor on Saturday next [11 Sept.], in order to escort the Minister of France on his way to Philadelphia. This party will go, as far as pompton, where Col. Washington will be instructed to relieve it by a like number. You will be pleased to direct the Officer who commands the Party to give notice at Head Quarters of his arrival at New-Windsor” (DLC:GW).
Meade also wrote a letter on this date from headquarters at West Point to Col. William Washington: “I am commanded by his Excellency to inform you that the Officer commanding Major Lees Corps has directions to have a party of thirty picked horse & men properly Officered at New Windsor on Saturday next [11 Sept.], in order to escort Count de la Luzerne Minister of france on his way to Philadelphia & to request that you will have a like number in readiness on monday following some where on the road near Pompton Church to relieve this party, & proceed to Philadelphia—When you have determined on the precise spot where your party will be, you will be pleased to let the commanding Officer of Major Lees Corps know it” (DLC:GW).
1. On this date, GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton received a letter from Major General Steuben, dated 30 Aug. at Boston, in which Steuben advised Hamilton that La Luzerne intended to set out from Boston on 4 or 5 September (Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:146–48, 156–57).
2. The following text is lined out at this point on the draft: “You will present your services in my name to the minister agreeably to the instructions you have received.” The word “self” is written above the line over the word “services,” but it is not lined out.
In his 30 Aug. letter to Hamilton, Steuben had conveyed this sequence of towns as the route La Luzerne planned to follow.
3. In his letter of this date, in which Hamilton replied to Steuben’s 30 Aug. letter that had indicated La Luzerne desired to visit GW at West Point, Hamilton wrote: “The General requests you will make his respectful compliments to your Chevalier, and gives you charte blanche to say every handsome thing you think proper in his name of the pleasure which this visit will give him.” Hamilton asked Steuben to send an express to GW informing him of La Luzerne’s daily route of travel and also the time he expected to arrive at Fishkill (Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:146, 156–57).
On 8 Sept., Hamilton wrote to Steuben from headquarters at West Point: “The General on reflection is a little uneasy about the route you intend to take. He thinks it not quite safe, as the enemy have troops on Long Island and may easily throw a party across the Sound—So that you would be in danger of having your agreeable dreams interrupted, if you should sleep any where from New Haven to Fairfield. It is probable one of The Count’s motives for coming this way may be to see the ruins of those places; and if he could do it without risk, it would be desireable; but he would not probably be altogether at his ease, if in consequence of it, he should be obliged to attend the levy of Sir Henry Clinton. This may happen if he continues his intention, unless very good precautions are taken to avoid the danger. The General recommends it to you, at least, to be very vigilant upon your post, and not to suffer yourself to be surprised.
“You will be so good as to let us have timely notice of your approach for we shall at least meet you at Fish Kill landing with boats to take you down to Head Quarters. I hope your escort will arrive in time” (Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 2:160–61).