George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Brigadier General James Clinton, 19 December 1780

To Brigadier General James Clinton

Head Qrs New Windsor 19th Decr 1780

Dear Sir,

I have the pleasure of introducing to you the Chevr de Chatteleaux Majr Genl in the French Army, and the Viscount de Noailles & Count Damas who are anxious to see the Northern Frontier of New York, & may perhaps go as far as lake George.

As they are Gentlemen of the first rank in France, I would wish every attention paid to them. You will be pleased to offer them an escort if they incline to go beyond Saratoga, and will recommend them to persons on whom they may confide as guides, or for any assistance of which they may stand in need.1 I am with esteem Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, in private hands; ALS (photocopy), NN: Rosenbach Collection; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

GW also wrote New York governor George Clinton from headquarters on this date: “I do myself the honor of introducing to your Excellency the Viscount de Noiailles and the Count de Damas, who intend to make a tour to the Northward on their return to the Army at Newport—They are both Gentlemen of very particular Merit and of the first Rank in their Nation—I therefore recommend them in the warmest manner to your Excellency’s attention—They are accompanied by the Chevalier du plessis, of the French Artillery with whom you are probably acquainted, as he served a considerable time in this Country with great reputation. I recommend him likewise to Your Excellency’s Civilities” (Df, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW). Captain Damas abandoned his plans for this tour (see his letter to GW, this date).

Lieutenant Colonel Noailles wrote GW from Fishkill, N.Y., on this date: “the travellor that left Newport to go to the American Camp had certainly rode a great deal out of his way to pass at New Windsor, if he had not be afraid to be indiscreet. there is no mark of kindness of which I am not due to your Excellency, I will trouble ther again to give My respectfull thanks for the letters colonel Duplessis has delivered to me. I hope that during my Stay in America I Shall find opportunities to Shew my gratitude by giving proofs of my zeal to the cause of liberty and of my highest Sentiments to the defender of it” (ALS, DLC:GW; see also GW to Lafayette, 26 Dec.). Senior Adjutant Mauduit du Plessis probably delivered to Noailles the two letters GW wrote James Clinton on this date (see n.1 below).

1GW again wrote James Clinton from New Windsor on 21 Dec.: “This letter will be handed to you by the Chevr de Chatteleaux Major Genl in the French Army and an Officer of great merit whom I recommend to your particular attention—and request that he may be furnished with Guards for any tour he may incline to make towards Lake George or &ca” (ALS, NyNyMVHM).

Major General Chastellux wrote in his journal entry for 20 Dec. that he left an inn “as early as possible … to spend the greater part of the day with General Washington. I met him two miles from New Windsor; he was in his carriage with Mrs. Washington, going on a visit to Mrs. Knox, whose quarters were a mile farther on, near the artillery barracks. They wished to return with me, but I begged them to continue on their way. The General gave me one of his aides-de-camp (Colonel [David] Humphreys) to conduct me to his house, assured me that he should not be long in joining me, and he returned accordingly in half an hour. I saw him again with the same pleasure, but with a sentiment different from that inspired by our first interview. I felt that inner satisfaction, in which self-love may perhaps have some share, but which we always experience in finding ourselves in an intimacy already formed, in real society with a man we have long admired without being able to approach him. It then seems as if this great man more particularly belongs to us than to the rest of mankind. Heretofore we desired to see him; henceforth, so to speak, we exhibit him; we know him, we are better acquainted with him than others, have the same advantage over them, that a man having read a book through, has in conversation over him who is only at the beginning.

“The General again insisted on my lodging with him, though his house was much smaller than the one he had at Preakness.” Chastellux dined and conversed with GW and other officers “till supper. War was frequently the subject: on asking the General which of our professional books he read with the most pleasure, he answered me that they were the King of Prussia’s Instruction to his Generals, and the Tactics of M. de Guibert; from which I concluded that he knew as well how to select his authors as to profit by them” (Chastellux, Travels in North America description begins Marquis de Chastellux. Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782. Translated and edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr. 2 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1963. description ends , 1:189–90, brackets in source; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 27 Nov., and n.1). GW apparently had read Military Instructions, Written by the King of Prussia, for the Generals of his Army: Being His Majesty’s own Commentaries On his former Campaigns. … (London, 1762), and referenced with language assistance, Comte de Guibert, Essai Général de Tactique, Précédé D’un Discours Sur l’état actuel de la Politique & de la Science Militaire en Europe. … 2 vols. (, 1772), or a subsequent edition. The earliest English translation of Guibert’s work was published in 1781.

Chastellux wrote in his journal entry for 21 Dec.: “I should have been very happy to accept General Washington’s pressing invitation to pass a few days with him, had I not made a solemn promise, at Philadelphia, to the Vicomte de Noailles and his traveling companions, to arrive twenty-four hours after them at headquarters, if they stopped there, or at Albany if they went straight on. … I was thus far faithful to my engagement, for I arrived at New Windsor the same day that they left West Point; I hoped to overtake them at Albany, and General Washington, finding he could not retain me, was pleased himself to take me in his barge to the other side of the river. We went ashore at Fishkill Landing Place, to reach the eastern road, which travelers prefer to the western. I now took leave of the General, but he insisted that Colonel Smith should accompany me as far as Poughkeepsie” (Chastellux, Travels in North America description begins Marquis de Chastellux. Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782. Translated and edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr. 2 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1963. description ends , 191; see also William Heath to GW, 20 Dec., n.3). Chastellux missed meeting George Clinton at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on 21 Dec. and arrived at Albany on 24 Dec., when he delivered his letters of recommendation to James Clinton, “an honest man, but of no distinguished talents.” Clinton provided Chastellux’s party with horses and directed Majs. William Popham and John Graham to served as guides (Chastellux, Travels in North America description begins Marquis de Chastellux. Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782. Translated and edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr. 2 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1963. description ends , 191–92, 199–200, quote on 199).

James Clinton wrote his brother from Albany on 27 Dec. that Noailles had handed him “Letters from His Exc’y Gen. Washington” and that he had “been as attentive to [his French visitors] as Circumstances would admit” (Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 6:525).

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