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One Day Before Marching to Yorktown,
Washington Adds Troops in Virginia (SOLD)
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After the Comte de Grasse’s fleet arrives in Virginia, Washington requests troops to aid the combined militia and French force during the Siege of Yorktown. Washington and Virginia militia Brigadier General George Weedon had been corresponding for several weeks regarding the arrival of the Duc de Lauzun’s legion in Virginia, and Washington’s concerns that Weedon pay the Frenchman the respect appropriate to his rank.

GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed, to George Weedon. “Head Quarters” [Williamsburg, Va.], September 27, 1781. 1 p., 11½ x 7½ in. Text in David Humphreys’s hand. Washington’s signature is fine, but the text of the letter is significantly faded and priced accordingly.

Inventory #22783.01       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Complete Transcript

                              Head Quarters, Williamsburg

                               September 27, 1781

Dear Sir:

I have received your favors of the 25th and 26th together with the Examination of the Deserters.

I am now making application to the Count de Grasse for some of the Marines of the Fleet; should they be landed to assist in our Operations (as I expect they will be) they will then be employed on the Gloster side, in that case an Officer senior to the Duke de Lawzun [sic]or yourself, will be appointed to the Command, and I have no doubt, you will put yourself under his Orders with great chearfulness.

                                                                        I am Dear Sir/Your Most Obedt Servt

                                                                        G:o Washington

Brig. Gen. Weedon

Historical Background

On September 25, Weedon wrote to Washington that French troops under the Duc de Lauzun, “Lauzun’s Legion,” had not yet arrived as promised. While Lauzun’s cavalry, commanded by Count D’Arotte, had already joined the Virginians, an aide-de-camp sent in search of the infantry units returned “without being able to gain any intelligence of ‘em.” Earlier, Weedon had written that he was moving camp in order to support the Continentals, but since the French infantry had not yet arrived, Weedon, already lacking food, supplies, artillery, and ammunition, decided it best to hold his position. “I am sorry I gave your Excellency reason to believe we had advanced,” he was forced to write Washington the following day. Weedon then promised to move his militia, as Lauzun’s infantry had arrived late the previous evening.

Weedon served under Washington in 1776, crossing the Delaware for the Christmas raid on Trenton and the wintering at Valley Forge. However, he resigned in a dispute over a promotion in 1778. Not even Washington’s personal pleas could entice him to remain in Continental service. Instead, he joined the Virginia militia, and by the Siege of Yorktown, had risen to his previous rank of brigadier general. For much of the summer, Weedon and the militia had been skirmishing with British forces commanded first by Benedict Arnold and then by Lord Charles Cornwallis. Still, he found militia command “perplexing,” as a third of the men present upon his arrival had departed without replacements. In his September 26 letter, he provided Washington a report on the deserters; hence George Washington’s reference to that report in our letter’s first sentence.

As the main body of French and Continental forces arrived in Virginia, Weedon had been rather unceremoniously put in charge of arranging carriages for Rochambeau and other French officers. “I shall not apologize for this freedom or the trouble it will give you,” Washington wrote him on September 10, “because I am sure you will take pleasure in shewing civilities to the Representatives of a Nation to which we are so much indebted.” The arrival of Lauzun’s Legion of French reinforcements presented its own set of challenges. In an earlier letter, Washington assured Weedon that he would be in charge of the joint force “if you are the Seniour Officer.” Washington then revised his plan, informing Weedon that Lauzun would command “the Legion of his own Name.” Ever-mindful of rank and seniority, Weedon must have chafed at the idea of the recently-arrived Lauzun leading a legion in battle. Just four days before this letter, Washington had to remind Weedon to pay Lauzun his due respect.  “I shall pay the most pointed attention to this distinguished Character,” Weedon then curtly assured Washington, “& shall embrace every opportunity of improving his advice so far as relates to the Service on this Side.”

Lauzun, for his part, considered Weedon ineffective: “I went with my regiment to join General Weedon’s corps,” Lauzun wrote. “His method of blockading Gloucester was original; he was more than 15 miles from the enemy’s outposts, was frightened to death, and dared not send out a patrol as much as half a mile from his camp.” When he arrived and found Weedon unreliable, Lauzun immediately wrote to Rochambeau requesting additional French troops. Rochambeau complied and sent 800 men, artillery, and a commander with seniority over both Weedon and Lauzun. Considering the Virginia militiaman’s tendency to take offense over matters of rank and seniority, Washington had good reason to doubt Weedon’s “chearfulness” at relinquishing command to a recently-arrived French officer.

The day after he wrote this letter, Washington moved his army out of Williamsburg to begin the Siege of Yorktown. He allowed the Marquis de Choisy, who had arrived with Lauzun’s reinforcements, to command both Lauzun’s and Weedon’s troops. The two men’s personal disdain no doubt complicated matters for Washington, who was attempting to coordinate pieces on a chessboard made up of the Virginia peninsulas and Chesapeake Bay.

Armand Louis de Gontaut (1747 – 1793) was the fourth Duc de Lauzun. He led a body of troops known as “Lauzun’s Legion” first to Senegal in a bid to reclaim French colonial possessions from the British, and later, to the United States as an advance party for the Comte Rochambeau’s army. His unit began by guarding Rochambeau’s flank from Loyalist raids, and observing British movements around Long Island Sound, but Lauzun wrote to Alexander Hamilton, asking to be reassigned to Lafayette’s command. During the Siege of Yorktown, his unit was assigned to Gloucester, Virginia, to block one of Cornwallis’s escape routes. He returned to France a hero, and even during the French Revolution, commanded French Revolutionary forces. However, suspicions over his noble background led to his execution in 1793.

George Weedon (1734 – 1793) received a lieutenant’s commission in the 3rd Virginia regiment in 1776. He led troops across the Delaware River with Washington’s forces on December 25, 1776, in the attack on Trenton that produced a pivotal American victory. Weedon became Brigadier General in February 1777. The 3rd regiment saw action at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and Weedon commanded a brigade consolidated from Pennsylvania and Virginia troops during the winter at Valley Forge. Despite his rapid rise through the ranks, Weedon resigned in 1778 after Congress reorganized the Continental Army and promoted his less-senior rival, Brigadier General William Woodford, ahead of him. Weedon never rejoined the Continental Army, although he continued to serve in the Virginia militia and rose to his former rank. During the Siege of Yorktown, Weedon’s brigade engaged British forces under Colonel Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton and seized their position at Gloucester Point, effectively blocking one of Cornwallis’s escape routes and forcing his surrender to Washington’s army. 

Condition

Treated by a professional paper conservator. Text faded but signature bold.

Sources

“George Weedon to George Washington, September 18, 1781.” The George

Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 4, General Correspondence 1697 – 1799. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw4&fileName=gwpage081.db&recNum=61

“George Washington to George Weedon, September 25, 1781.” The George

Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 4, General Correspondence 1697 – 1799. http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mgw/mgw4/081/0100/0181.jpg

“George Washington to George Weedon, September 26, 1781.” The George

Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 4, General Correspondence 1697 – 1799. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw4&fileName=gwpage081.db&recNum=204&tempFile=./temp/~ammem_5dJJ&filecode=mgw&next_filecode=mgw&prev_filecode=mgw&itemnum=4&ndocs=100

Leslie Andrich, “History of Lauzun’s Legion.” http://www.lauzunslegion.com/History.html