George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 13 November 1780

To Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Passaic Falls 13th Novemr 1780

Dear Sir

The inclosed from the Marquis de la Fayette announces the expected arrival of several French Officers of distinction upon a visit to the Army. Should they pass the posts under your command I am convinced you will pay them every attention and honor due to their Rank. As I should wish to have notice of their approach to this Camp, you will oblige me by dispatching an Express as soon as they arrive with you, with an account of the Route which they mean to take.1 I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers. GW signed the cover, which was addressed to Heath at West Point. Heath replied to GW on 15 Nov. (first letter).

1GW enclosed Major General Lafayette’s letter to Heath written from the Light Infantry camp near Cranetown, N.J., on this date: “I intended having the pleasure to write you A Long letter, and was expecting the Confirmation of the Southern News that My epistle Might [b]e Some what interesting. But Upon intelligence Being Receiv’d that Some of our Rhode island friends Were on theyr Way to Camp, I hasten to impart to You this News, and to Request your Advices for the Best Route.

“Marquis de Laval, Chevalier de Chastelux, ViCount de Noailles, Count de Charlus are those whom I know to be on the Road, tho’ they don’t travel together, and duke de Lauzun May be Some time after them expected.

“I have wrote to them on theyr passage at hartfort, advising them to Go to fishkills and take the Back Road to head quarters for fear of Accident—But least My letters had Miscarried, I think you will do Better to Send your orders to the Commanding officer at King’s ferry as well As to fishkills.

“they will prefer Arriving to My Camp in order to Go with Me to head quarters—I therefore Request You Will advise them to take the Back Road to paramus from where they must pass By My Quarters Near Totawa Bridge.

“Be So kind, My Good friend, as to order that on the coming of the aforemension’d Gentlemen an express be immediately dispatch’d to Me—The General has express’d to me a wish of knowing theyr Arrival Before hand.

“You know theyr Ranks in the french Army—You know that each Nation pays honor Agreable to its own Regulation—You know My sentiments about appearing to Advantage—You know every french officer as well, and the Greater part of them Better than I do. … I think that the Advices as to the Route may be left at the Several posts for All french officers who will Come that Way—it would not do to have them Catch’d By tories—My Best Compliments wait on the Gentlemen of Your family and my friends at West point” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Lafayette’s first letter to GW, this date, postscript, and GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Nov., and the source note to that document).

Heath replied to Lafayette from headquarters at West Point on 15 Nov.: “I was this Day honored with yours of the 13th. am happy to hear that Some of our French Friends are on their Journey this way, I have given a hint to the officer at Fishkill and Kings ferry The former will give me immediate notice if the Officers take that rout which I shall communicate to you, if they pass by Kings ferry, I have directed the Commanding Officer at that Post to keep an express in readiness and on their approach to dispatch him to His Excellency General Washington and to You.

“not only duty to my Country, and a wish to gratify you, but the warmest regard and friendship for the Characters you mention will lead me to pay them every attention in my Power” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath wrote Col. James Livingston from headquarters at West Point on 15 Nov. to have him watch for “Several French officers of distinction … on their way to Head Quarters” and to send an express to Lafayette and GW “with a Line, announcing this passing … before You Send the express please enquire whether Count Chatleux, the Marquiss de Laval Viscount Noallies or Count Charlus be of the Company or the Duke de Lauzun—if either of those Send off the express instantly and not otherwise—keep this to Your Self my Dear Sir for reason obvious” (MHi: Heath Papers). Livingston acknowledged the orders when he replied to Heath from Verplanck Point, N.Y., on 17 Nov. and added a postscript: “I have no Information of any armed Vessels of the Enemy being this Side of Dobbs Ferry. as Ive not had Intelligence from the Lieut. of the Guard Boat” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also GW’s first letter to Heath, 16 Nov.).

Heath also wrote Maj. John Keese, assistant deputy quartermaster at Fishkill, N.Y., from headquarters at West Point on 15 Nov.: “Some French officers of distinction are momently expected this way, Should they come by the way of Fishkill pay every attention to them and the moment they arrive give me notice of it by express if they arrive in the Day time and determine to prosecute their Journey immediately to Head Quarters, without coming this way please direct them by the road through Newburgh, Chester and ringwood to paramus, If they should Stay at Fishkill for a night and an Officer by the name of Count Chatleaux be with them request the Capt. of the Guard to Send two Sentinels well dressed to their Quarters, I repeat the moment they arrive at or near Fishkill give me notice, and Send a Guide with them whether they come this way or go by the way of Chester. … P.S. keep this to your self” (MHi: Heath Papers). Keese subsequently wrote Heath from Fishkill on 20 Nov., 9:00 P.M.: “I have this moment return’d from waiting on the Count Chatelieux; who arrived in this Town, early this Afternoon—I was not inform’d of his being there till an Hour ago; tho’ I had made constant enquiry of several persons—He will be with you to morrow at one oClock or sooner, as he intends setting off at eight oClock in the Morng.” Major General Chastellux told Keese that he had seen Heath’s “politeness before this instance of it—He wou’d, by no means, consent to have any Centinels, tho’ I urg’d him, repeatedly, and inform’d him that I was particularly directed to furnish him with them. …

“I shall have the Honor of waiting on him again in the morning, and will send a guide to Attend him to your quarters” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath then wrote Lafayette from West Point on 21 Nov.: “I have the pleasure to acquaint you, that Count Chatsleu⟨x⟩ and Others arrived at Fishkill Yesterday afternoon, he will be here to dine this Day, and I apprehend will proceed on his Journey for Head Quarters this afternoon or tomorrow” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Heath to GW, same date).

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