George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jean-Daniel de Gambs, 24 February 1784

From Jean-Daniel de Gambs

Metz [France] 24 Feby 1784


The kindness you were pleased to shew me, when we had the honor of being commanded by you, encourages me to claim your protection for admittance into the Order of Cincinnatus. I should be much flattered with the honor—I have been the oldest Major in Count Rochambeau’s army, and in this quality made three Campains in America as Major of Brigade: and independant of the siege of Yorck, fortune was so kind to me, as to place me with the Marquis Laval aboard the Conqueror, in the action in the Chesapeak the 16th of march 81; making part of a detachment for Virginia—The success of this expedition was not answerable to our expectations, but you are not ignorant Sir, that this vessel was much worse treated than any in the Squadron—I have seized with eagerness the opportunity that presents, of sending you a letter by General Roberdeau with whom I have corresponded since his arrival in London:1 having first become acquainted with him on our journey through Philadelphia, and knowing well his relation, a Colonel who stays with me, and has served the King a long time with great honor—Without this opportunity, which I consider as the most ready, I should have begged Count Rochambeau to have interceded with you and Congress for me, as I am well convinced of this General’s good inclinations towards me. As the stay I made in America, and the time I served under your orders General, will allways constitute an Epocha dear to me; you cannot doubt of the pleasure it will give me to be honored with such an Order, as that of Cincinnatus. I have the honor to be with the most profound respect, General, Your very Hble servnt

Major of the regiment of Bourbonnais

Translation, in David Stuart’s hand, DLC:GW; ALS, DLC:GW. A transcription of the original French letter is in CD-ROM:GW. Gambs’s letter was forwarded to GW by James Milligan, 4 June 1784.

Jean-Daniel de Gambs (c.1740–1823) arrived at Newport, R.I., in July 1780 with his régiment de Bourbonnais under the command of Anne-Alexandre-Marie-Sulpice-Joseph Montmorency-Laval, marquis de Laval (1747–1817). Gambs fought at Yorktown in 1781 before returning to France. He was made lieutenant general in the French army in 1787, and in 1799 he became governor of Naples under Joseph Bonaparte. Because he did not hold rank above that of major during his American service, Gambs did not qualify for membership in the French Cincinnati.

1Daniel Roberdeau (1727–1795), who was a Philadelphia merchant engaged in the West Indian trade before the Revolution, became a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania forces in 1776. He was also a member of Congress from 1777 to 1779. After his return from a visit to Europe in 1783–84, he settled in Virginia, living first in Alexandria and later in Winchester. When Milligan forwarded this letter to GW (see source note), he also sent a copy of a letter from Gambs to Roberdeau, whom Milligan mistakenly believed to be lost at sea. The letter from Gambs to Roberdeau, dated 24 Feb., and David Stuart’s translation is in DLC:GW.

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