George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lieutenant Colonel Dubuysson, 2 September 1780

From Lieutenant Colonel Dubuysson

Hilsborough [N.C.] Sept. 2d 1780


the Baron Requested me in his last moment to Inform Your Excellency of the Particulars of His Death, I must Begge leave for this moment to refear You to the letter wrote to Col. Hamilton, I think it will be Improper in me to say more on the subject, Except Your Excellency should think Proper in that Case at my Arrival at Philedelphia I shall be ready to Enlarge.1

being myself wounded in Both hands and Arm and Very much Brused in the Brest I have Obtained leave to Go to Philedelphia to Sollicet my Exchange for Lt Col. Hamilton but I have been Informed since how Powerfull he is with the Indians and how hurtfull it may be to the states if I have not any other way to Go to france I am Determined not to make any Proposels of that sort and had rether suffer then be Hurtfull to this Country—if Your Excellency can Obtain my Exchange in any way that is not Injurous to this Country I should Esteem it as Great A favor as Can Under my Present Circumstance to Done to me.2 and Ever remain with the Greatest respect and Esteem—Your Excellencys most Obedient and Very Humble servent

Le Chr Dubuysson


1Dubuysson refers to an unidentified letter that he presumably wrote GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton regarding Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb’s death.

Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates had written Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis in August after the Battle of Camden seeking permission for Dubuysson, “aid de camp to the Baron de Kalb, to go to Philadelphia upon parole, as he has the Baron’s dying directions with regard to his private family concerns as well in France as America” (Saberton, Cornwallis Papers description begins Ian Saberton, ed. The Cornwallis Papers: The Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in The Southern Theatre of the American Revolutionary War. 6 vols. Uckfield, England, 2010. description ends , 2:337–38; see also Gates to GW, 3 Sept.).

2Dubuysson wrote Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, from Hillsborough on this date that North Carolina governor Abner Nash had mentioned the “very great influence among some Indian Tribes” of Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant governor of Detroit, then in Virginia custody at Williamsburg. Dubuysson also described Kalb’s mortal wounding (DNA:PCC, item 78).

Dubuysson wrote GW from Annapolis on 21 Sept.: “I had the honour of writing to Your Excellency as soon as I arrived at Hillsborough Informing You of the Death of the Baron, and of my going to Philedelphia, I flattered myself of having the Pleasure of seeing You by this, but the Continueall Pains in my brest and wounds, and my Fever, Allow me but A few hours in the Day to travel, as I fear I shall be Detained too long on the road, I must beg leave to Lay before Your Excellency my Present situation.

“After the Death of the Baron the British Doctors having Declared the impossibility of my recovering my health in this Country; Lord Cornwallis Immedeately Granted me permission to go to Philedelphia, to sollicit my Exchange, and Nominated Lt Col. Hamilton for that purpos⟨e⟩, if that Gentleman or some Other is not found I shall be Obliged to Deliver myself Up in New York by the first of November.

“and as the Exchange of Lt Col. Hamilton Cannot take place, it being So hurtfull to the states, and as my health is much impaired by the wounds I have receved, and no likelihood of its mending Very soon in this Country, I must beg Your Excellency to Obtain from Genl Clinton my Exchange, as soon as Possible, that I may not be Obliged to Go to York, but may have the priviledge of returning to my Country” (ALS, DLC:GW).

Dubuysson again wrote GW from Philadelphia on 4 Oct.: “I have already written twice to Your Excellency Since my being made a prisoner, & nothing but the Circumstances pressing So hard upon me could induce me to trouble you with a third Letter—A few Days after the unfortunate Death of my late General, three of the best English Physicians declared that my native Air was absolutely necessary for me to recover from my Wounds. Lords Cornwallis & Rawdon, to whose kindness I am extremely obliged, gave me leave to come to Philadelphia to sollicit my Exchange, & in case I Should not Succeed, I am to repair to New York against the beginning of next Month—I am conscious of what disadvantage it would be to the states to Exchange a disabled Officer as myself, for one capable of doing Services to the Enemy, I therefore, unwilling to make any improper demand, will be very well satisfied if I can but get leave to go to France, there to stay till I am perfectly cured of my Wounds, or till Congress are pleased to Exchange me. It is now impossible for me to go to New York, unless compelled, the ill state of my health & the loss of every thing I had in this Country having reduced me to a most miserable situation. I beg Your Excellency will be pleased to take these things into consideration & I Shall willingly abide by whatever you will think proper to decide” (LS, DLC:GW).

GW wrote Dubuysson from headquarters at Preakness on 10 Oct.: “I have recd your several favors from Hillsborough—Annapolis and Philada. I sincerely lament the loss of the Baron de Kalb. The manner in which he died fully justified the opinion which I ever entertained of him, and will endear his memory to this Country.

“The State of Virginia, sensible of the dangerous influence which Governor Hamilton holds over the Indians, have absolutely refused to exchange him on any terms, for the present at least; and as I have never deviated from a Rule which I laid down at the beginning of the War, of exchanging Officers in course, according to the time of their captivity, I cannot, without manifest injury to several Gentlemen of your Rank, who have been prisoners more than three years, propose your exchange in preference to theirs. I am glad to find that you yourself seem aware of this difficulty, in your letter from Philada.

“Being bound by the terms of your parole to render yourself at New York by a certain time, unless you effect an exchange, I do not see how you can possibly avoid a compliance as soon as the state of your wounds will admit of it—Sir Henry Clinton m⟨ay⟩ perhaps in consideration of your circumstances extend your parole to Europe, as a similar indulgence has been allowed to several Officers of the British Army, on account of their health. This application can only be made to him, either personally, or by your informing him by letter of your arrival at Philadelphia, and requesting liberty, on acct of the peculiarity of your situation, to go to France” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, enclosed in GW to Huntington, 29 Oct., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; see also Thomas Jefferson to GW, 26 Sept.).

Dubuysson next wrote GW from Philadelphia on 12 Oct.: “I just now received a letter from Coll Hamilton by which I find that your Excellency did not receive my last, therefore I beg leave to acquaint you that, I am now confind to my Bed with a Violent Fever, am also greatly afflicted with a Spitting of Blood occasioned by the Bruises I received on my Breast, and it is the Opinion of the Doctors that I should goe to Europe for the recovery of my Health, I beg Your Excellency to Obtain leave for me to goe to France, as the same Favor has been granted to some of Burgoyne’s Officers and Coll Ramsey, By my Parole, I am under Obligation to goe to New York the latter End of this Month, which I am afraid will not be in my Power to perform owing to my present weakness, I beg Your Excellency will let me know what I am to do in this disagreable Situation. In Spight of all the many Advantages I should have in serving again, I would willingly give them all up for the obtaining Permission to goe to France, and to remain a Prisoner there untill exchanged” (LS, PHi: Gratz Collection; Sprague transcript, DLC:GW). Alexander Hamilton’s letter to Dubuysson has not been identified.

Dubuysson again wrote GW from Philadelphia on 13 Oct.: “I receive this moment the Letter with which Your Excellency has honored me, & I have written the Enclosed which I beg you will be pleased to transmit to H. E. Sir Henry Clinton. I rather fear that as I am Absolutely unknown to that General, it will have but little Effect, & certainly not that which a few Words from Your Excellency might have produced. However, as your Excellency does not think proper to take this step, I will content my Self with waiting patiently for the Event of an application which I have too much reason to believe will prove unsuccessfull” (LS, DLC:GW). The enclosure has not been identified, but see William Phillips to GW, 8 Dec. (DLC:GW).

GW replied to Dubuysson from headquarters near Passaic Falls on 17 Oct.: “I yesterday recd your favr of the 13th inclosing a letter for Sir Henry Clinton, which I immediately forwarded. I shall be happy to hear that he has granted your request” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Dubuysson reached France late in 1781 after being exchanged (see Lafayette to Noailles, 23 Oct. 1780, in Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 3:204–6; Dubuysson to GW, 16 Jan. 1781, DLC:GW; and Dubuysson to Benjamin Franklin, 21 Nov. 1781, in Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 42 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 36:88–89).

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