A French Volunteer of the War of Independence/Biographial Notes

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES.

Note A, page i.

The opening passage of the book is the only one which it has been found necessary to change. It runs in the original as follows:—

"Je me souviens d'avoir lu qu'en 1637 la reine Anne d'Autriche habitait á Paris: le roi Louis XIII retournant de Vincennes à Saint Germain fut surpris par un violent orage, et coucha aux Tuileries; Louis-le-Grand, naquit le 5 Septembre, 1638. En lisant dans l’histoire de France et cette remarque et ce rapprochement, je me suis toujours rappelé, mais jamais sans rire, que feu mon père, qui avait des préventions contre moi, m'a dit plus d'une fois; "Monsieur, vous ne seriez pas là, si telle nuit, telle année, je n'avais pas trouve des puces dans mon lit." Le lit conjugal fut naturellement et légitimement le refuge de monsieur mon pere: je suis devenu, le plus honnetement du monde, l’éffet de cette cause, et je suis né sous les auspices des puces, le 21 avril, 1758, It may here be remarked that the Chevalier, though he gives the date of his birth correctly, has made a mistake of a year, either in the date of his imprisomnent or in the time he was at Pierre-en-Cize. As La Fayette was already in America when Pontgibaud joined him, either the lettre de cachet must be post-dated by a year or the Chevalier was 30 months, not 18, in prison.


Note B, page 61.

Comte de la Rouarie—known in the American army as Colonel Armand—had a strange career. He was born in 1756 at St. Malo, and, when quite a young man, obtained a commission in one of the regiments of Royal bodyguards. Though destined afterward to become one of the staunchest supporters of royalty, he was at first almost a republican, before the Republic was thought of, and his free and fearless criticisms on the Court caused him to be regarded with disfavour by the military authorities. He did not improve his prospects by falling madly in love with Mile. Beaumesnil,[1] a pretty but not very clever actress, who was his uncle's mistress, and proposing to marry her. She refused him, very sensibly remarking that their marriage would create a scandal, involve his social ruin, and ultimately cause him to loathe her. Finding that she was firm in her resolve, he first fought a duel with Comte Bourbon-Brisset,—whom he believed to be a favoured rival,—and then retired to the Monastery of La Trappe.

When the war broke out in America, he threw aside the monk's cowl, and joined La Fayette. At the termination of the campaign, he returned to France, and when the Revolution occurred espoused the royalist cause. For some time he, as leader of the Breton peasants, carried on a not altogether unsuccessful warfare against the Revolutionary troops, but his forces were eventually defeated or dispersed, and he was forced to disguise himself as a beggar. For eighteen months he wandered about Brittany, and at last, 30th January, 1793, died of an illness brought on by exposure, and want of food. His body was buried in a grave dug in the midst of a forest. His "papers" were buried with him, in a glass bottle. One of the Revolutionary spies found out the place of his interment, dug up the grave, and secured the papers. The information thus se cured led to the execution of fourteen persons, including the proprietor of the chateau where La Rouarie had died.

Lebegne Duportail was a very skilful engineer officer. At the end of the American War he returned to France, and was sent to instruct the Neapolitan army in military engineering. A quarrel with one of the Italian Generals led to his early recall. In 1790, La Fayette, who was all-powerful at that time, caused Duportail to be named Minister of War. He imprudently allowed the soldiers to frequent the political clubs. Whilst he was in Lorraine, in 1792, he was "denounced." He at once returned to Paris and remained in concealment for twenty-two months, but in 1794 a law was passed punishing with death all who concealed a proscribed person, and he made his escape to America, and resided there for eight years. In 1802 he was recalled by Bonaparte, but died whilst on the voyage back to France.

Of Duplessis-Mauduit I have been unable to learn any particulars. His name is mentioned in Balch's Les Franqais en Amerique, but, as he died young, and all that he did accomplish was performed in the New World, there is no record of him in French histories.

Note C, page 62.

The "M. Thomas" here alluded to was Antoine Leonard Thomas "of the Academy," born at Clermont Ferrand, i October, 1732, died 17th September, 1785. He was one of a family of seventeen children. A perusal of Jumonville is calculated to induce the reader to believe that there were not brains enough to go round, for though not very long,—the four cantos contain less than a thousand lines in all,—it is hopelessly dull and uninteresting, never rising to pathos, though often sinking to bathos. The couplet describing the death of Jumonville will serve as an example:

Par un plomb homicide indignement percé,
Aux pieds de ses boureaux il tombe renversė''.

There is no mention of Washington in the poem;—either the poet had never heard of him at the time (1759) or could not make the name fit into his verses.


Note D, page 88.

The author is not quite fair towards Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle (b. 1748, d. 1825). Though a fop in his early days,—he and Fox were esteemed the two best dressed men in town,—he developed into a fairly good Statesman, with a cultivated literary taste. He is, perhaps, best known as the guardian of Lord Byron, who dedicated the Hours of Idleness to him, abused him in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers ("The paralytic puling of Carlisle ") and made the amende honorable in Childe Harold c. iii, 29, 30. His reply to La Fayette's challenge was not quite as given by our author, but was to the effect that " he considered himself solely responsible to his country and king, and not to an individual." It is quite true that the opposition papers in England made sarcastic remarks about him, and no doubt, if he still continued to wear paint and patches, the fact was not forgotten. Horace Walpole said of him, that, "he was very fit to make a treaty that will not be made."


Note E, page 89.

If Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing (b. 1729), had been able to do the English half the harm that he wished them, they would have been swept off the face of the earth. The cause of his animosity was not very creditable to him. He was taken prisoner by the English at the siege of Madras (he was then a soldier) and released on parole. He broke his parole, and at the head of a party of Frenchmen "did a good deal of harm to English commerce." He was again captured, and as his word was obviously of no value, he was sent to England, and spent some time in Portsmouth Jail. When he was released he returned to France, "vowing eternal hatred to the English," though as his French biographer owns, "his not very loyal conduct had provoked the punishment under which he groaned." He was appointed Admiral in 1763. He did not achieve any very remarkable feat in American waters, against Howe. In the Revolution he tried to "sit on the fence," but there was a short method with mugwumps in those days, and he was brought before the tribunal and condemned to death, 28th April, 1794.


Note F, page 91.

Pierre Andre de Suffren Saint-Tropez, generally called Bailli de Suffren, was one of the best and bravest sailors France ever had. He was born at St. Cannat, in Provence, 13th July, 1726, died 8th December, 1788. He opposed the English in the East, and in 1782 fought five obstinately contested naval battles with Admiral Sir Edward Hughes. Of these battles Professor Laughton says (Dict. Nat. Biog.), "There is no other instance in naval history of two fleets thus fighting five battles within little more than a year (four of them within seven months) with no very clear advantage on either side. French writers speak of the five battles as ’five glorious victories,’ but in reality they were very evenly balanced in point of fighting, whilst as to strategic results, the English had a slight advantage from the first three, the French from the last two. The tactical advantage, however, commonly lay with the French, who were prevented from reaping the benefit of it solely by the mutinous or cowardly conduct of the French captains." It is possible that De Suffren would not have fared so well if pitted against Rodney, Hood, or Howe, but at any rate he would have shown himself a fearless fighter and a skilful seaman—a veritable "sea-dog" of a type which, unfortunately for France, has been all too rare in the annals of her navy.


Note G, page 98.

The letter given is quite characteristic of its writer, and though not included in Lomenie's valuable Life of Beaumarchais, is no doubt genuine, being exactly in the sarcastic strain he would be likely to employ. Of his quarrel with Congress this is not the place to speak, but we cannot unreservedly accept the Chevalier de Pontgibaud's estimation of him.

Note H, page 121.

Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse (b. 1753), though a brave man was not a great tactician. He was also unfortunate in being opposed to Hood, whom Nelson called, "the best officer, take him altogether, that England had to boast of." In January, 1782, De Grasse, with 32 ships, allowed Hood, with only 23, to get into the harbour at St. Christophers, take 1300 men who were being besieged there, and get out again unscathed. Three months later, Rodney and Hood inflicted a heavy defeat on De Grasse, sinking his flag ship and taking him prisoner. Anglo-Saxons always respect a brave man, and De Grasse was treated more like a guest than a prisoner whilst in England. On his release he returned to France, but did not again assume the command of a squadron, and died in Paris, 14th January, 1788, in the 65th year of his age.

Note I, page 123.

Armand Louis de Gontaut Bifon, Duc de Lauzun, bom 15th April, 1747, died on the scaffold 31st December, 1793. His youth was passed in dissipation, but in 1777, he startled everybody by bringing out a pamphlet on The State of Defence of England and her Possessions in all the four quarters of the World, which led to his being entrusted with the command of an expedition to destroy the English settlements on the coast of Senegal. This he successfully accomplished (January, 1779), and in 1780 he was fighting in America. He took the Revolutionary side, and received the command of the Army of the Rhine in 1792, and in 1793 was employed against the Vendeans. As a matter of course he was accused of uncitizenly conduct "and too much moderation towards the rebels," was deprived of his command, imprisoned, condemned, and executed.


Note J, page 141.

Philippe Pinel a celebrated doctor, distinguished for his knowledge of mathematics and philosophy, but best known for having introduced the humane treatment of the insane, who until that time had been treated as dan- gerous animals, and left to rot neglected in noisome dungeons. He was the author of over twenty scientific works. He died 25th October, 1826.


Note K, page 145.

When Louis XIV was shown the newly-completed palace of Trianon, he asked De Louvois, who was not only Prime Minister, but "Inspector of Royal Buildings," why one of the windows was smaller than the others? De Louvois rudely declared that they were all the same size. The King said nothing, but the next day sent for Le Notre, a celebrated artist and architect, and asked him in the presence of De Louvois whether the windows were all the same size? Le Notre declared that one of them was a trifle smaller than the others, and the King turned in triumph towards De Louvois. The Minister went home in a rage. "I must give this young fool something better to think about than the size of windows," he said, and within the next few hours he had declared war against Holland. The story is of doubtful authenticity, but if not true is ben trovato.

Note L, page 149.

Marie Jean Herault de Seychelles, who owing to influence at Court, obtained several good appointments. In the Revolution he became a Girondin, was a follower of Danton, and perished with his leader and Camille Desmoulins on the scaffold.


Note M, page 178.

In spite of the author's prejudices Moreau de St. Mery must be deemed a good man;—in fact if it may be said that La Fayette was the only man who "kept his head" in the Revolution, it might also be averred that Moreau de St. Mery was the only man who kept his heart. He was born in the island of Martinique, 13th January, 1750. When he was only three years old he lost his father, and his mother would not let him go to France to be educated. His grandfather was a judge or magistrate, and young Moreau de St. Mery was when a boy always interceding for some unfortunate prisoner. At his grandfather's death he inherited a sum of money, destined to defray the cost of his legal education in France, but he used the money to pay the old man's debts. At the age of nineteen he came to Paris, and studied hard. He resolved to sleep only one night in three. He acquired in fourteen months such a knowledge of Latin that he wrote a thesis in that language, and could declaim long passages, not only from the works of the poets, but from treatises on law, etc. During the first part of the Revolution he entered the National Assembly as representative of Martinique, but he was far too moderate or good-hearted. He was attacked whilst returning home one night, and left for dead on the pavement, with half a dozen sabre cuts on his head and body. He recovered, and retired to the little village of Forges, where he was arrested by the spies of the Terror. One of these bravos, however, helped him to escape, and he got to Havre, where hearing that Robespierre had issued fresh orders for his arrest, he sailed for America. He kept a book-store and printing business at Philadelphia. The author's statement that he had little or no stock in his shop, and failed for a large amount, is not confirmed by the biographical dictionaries, which assert that he lived in some style in Philadelphia, and was often able to help poor French emigrants. He returned to France and was employed by Napoleon on several missions, but he was too soft-hearted, and having remonstrated with Junot for having burned a few villages and slaughtered the inhabitants, he was recalled from Parma, the seat of his last mission. Napoleon did not employ him again, and did not pay him his salary. Moreau de St. Mery sought an interview with the Emperor. "I do not expect you to recompense my honesty," he said, "only to recognize it Do not be afraid," he added sarcastically, "the disease is not contagious." Napoleon nevertheless allowed him to nearly starve, but, at the Restoration, Louis XVIII gave him 15,000 francs, and this enabled him to pay his few debts and pass the remainder of his days in comfort. He died 28th January, 1819, aged 69. The motto of his life, and to which he always acted up, was "Il est toujours l’heure de faire le bien."


Note N, page 184.

Louis Marie, Vicomte de Noailles (born 1756), fought in the War of Independence. Like many others of the "gilded youth" of France, he imbibed in America revolutionary notions which he carried back to France, and in the Revolution he was one of the most "advanced" members of the Convention. At last he found he could not conscientiously follow the leaders of the people, and in May, 1792, he went to England, expecting a change in affairs to soon take place. Then came the "10th August," and De Noailles was shortly afterwards proscribed as an emigre. His father, mother, and wife were guillotined. To return was impossible, so he went to the United States and settled at Philadelphia, where he became a partner in the banking house of Bingham and Co. He learned to speak English so well that on one occasion he conducted a law-suit that lasted fifteen days. Towards the close of the year 1800 his name was removed from the list of émigrés, but his business affairs in the United States were so extensive that he refused to return to France. In 1803 he went to Hayti on business, and there met Rochambeau, who entrusted him with the command of a fort garrisoned by 1800 men, but which was blockaded by a British squadron, whilst "20,000 blacks" (?) besieged it by land. Rochambeau, who commanded the main army of some 5000 men, was forced to capitulate, but was allowed to transport his troops to Cuba. De Noailles was summoned to surrender, but he replied that "a French general who had provisions, ammunition, and devoted soldiers could not surrender without shame.^ He had been privately informed that Rochambeau's convoy would pass near his fort on a certain night, and he cleverly got all his men on board ship, ran out under cover of the darkness and joined Rochambeau without being perceived by any of the British vessels. They got to Cuba, but De Noailles wished to join a French force at Havannah. He and a company of grenadiers who were faithful to him, embarked on board a small French ship, called the Cornier, mounting only four small guns. They fell in with a British sloop of war, the Hazard, seven guns. De Noailles displayed the British flag, and when hailed replied in such excellent English that the captain of the Hazard was deceived, and asked if they had seen anything of "General de Noailles" whom the Hazard had been commissioned to capture. De Noailles replied that he was on the same errand, and he would accompany the Hazard. In the middle of the night he ran his vessel into the Hazard and boarded her. The English though taken by surprise, fought well, and though the Hazard was captured De Noailles was mortally wounded, and many of his men killed. De Noailles died of his wounds a week later (9th January, 1804) at Havannah. His heart was inclosed in a silver box, and his grenadiers attached it to their flag and carried it back to France.


Note O, page 186.

There is not much difficulty in identifying the "Bishop of A——" with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, Bishop of Autun. The particulars of his life are so well known that there is no need to recapitulate them here, but a few words may be said about his attempt to "blackmail" the United States Envoys. It is perfectly true that Talleyrand extorted bribes from everybody who was willing to pay him, and that he called the sums he so received douceurs. The "negociators" from the United States—Messrs. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry,—had not been long in Paris before they were informed by a Mr. Bellamy (said to be a partner with Talle)rrand in this blackmailing business), Ste. Foix, and a lady, who cannot easily be identified, that "nothing could be done without money; the members of the Directory must be paid." According to the popular story, Pinck- ney replied, "War be it then. Millions for defence but not a cent for tribute." This does not quite agree with the Chevalier's statement that he heard one of the Envoys,—probably Pinckney,—inform Congress that they had paid Talleyrand 50,000 francs, and only stopped when they found the blackmailers but increased their demands the more they received. I cannot help fancying that the popular version is the correct one; it accords more with the dignity of the American people, and is borne out by the undoubted fact that Talleyrand was frightened, and wrote to Mr. Pinckney to ask the names of the persons who had demanded money, who, he alleged, had done so without authority from him. Talleyrand did not display his usual cunning in the transaction, for his letter aroused the wrath of Bellamy, who thereupon wrote to Mr. Gerry, that, "he had done nothing, said nothing, and written nothing about the instructions of Citizen Talleyrand."

The "woman of colour" to whom the Chevalier alludes, was doubtless Madame Grand, "an Indian beauty" who was Talleyrand's mistress for many years, and whom he would have married if he had not been prevented by the unalterable formula of the Homan Catholic Church, "once a priest, always a priest." She survived him by a few years, and is buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery, at Paris.


Note P, page 198.

Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney, was a well known philosopher and author. His Ruins was once a popular book. It involved him in a discussion with Dr. Priestley who called him "an atheist, an ignoramus, a Chinese, and a Hottentot." His theories have long since fallen into desuetude in France and oblivion elsewhere, and it is therefore unnecessary to criticise him here. His name still remains familiar to most travelled Americans, as a street in Paris is called after him.


Note Q, page 199.

The Princes d'Orleans mentioned in these pages were Louis Philippe and his two brothers. Louis Philippe arrived in America towards the end of 1796, and was joined by his brothers early in 1797. After spending some time in America they left for England, where they lived on an allowance from the British Government until the Restoration.

Note R, page 261.

The Chevalier, writing many years after the events occurred, has rather mixed up his dates. Of the Duke of Ragusa (Marmont) who was the first governor of Illyria he says nothing. General J. is, of course, Junot He went out of his mind, and it is most likely he was kidnapped in the manner stated. A very few months later he threw himself out of window, fractured his thigh and died of the effects of the consequent amputation,—July, 1813. "General B——," who preceded, not followed Junot, as the Chevalier states,—was Bertrand. There were several officers of this name. The one mentioned, I believe, was not the Bertrand who accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena, but a skilful engineer, who was removed from his command in Illyria and sent to fortify Antwerp, and render it—"a pistol held at the breast of England." He afterwards resided in the United States where he undertook several important engineering works. Joseph Fouche, Duke of Otranto, was such a well-known personage that he will be found mentioned in any good biographical dictionary.

Note S, page 266.

Gustavus IV was only 14 when he succeeded his father. An intense hatred of the French, or rather Napoleon, made him almost a monomaniac, and involved his country in wars with both France and Russia, with defeat and loss of territory in both cases. He was at last deposed and the throne given to his uncle the Duke of Sudermania. Gustavus wandered about Europe under the names of Comte Gottorp, or Duke of Holstein-Eutin, and after 1816 called himself simply "Gustafson," or the son of Gustavus. It is possible that he was a congenital lunatic, and his misfortunes aggravated the disease. An instance of his eccentricity is the curious advertisement which he inserted in all the leading journals of Europe previous to starting for the Holy Land. He advertised for ten travelling companions, viz., an Englishman, a Dane, a Spaniard, a Frenchman, a Hungarian, a Dutchman, an Italian, a Russian, a Swiss, and an inhabitant of Holstein-Eutin. They were all to have good certificates as to morals and character, and each was to bring 4000 florins, or at least 2000 florins, to be put into a common fund. They were all to dress in black robes, to let their beards grow "as a sign of their manly resolution"; and they were to be known as the Black Brotherhood. They were to meet at Trieste on a certain day. Apparently the people of Europe were disinclined to avail themselves of the privilege of a trip to Palestine in the company of a royal "crank," for no one answered this extraordinary advertisement, and Gustavus started off by himself,—but soon returned. He retired to Switzerland, where he lived in the greatest poverty, for he refused to receive any money from Sweden, and would have starved had not his divorced queen and children contrived without his knowledge to supply his wants. He died in 1837 in such obscurity that there are even doubts as to the place of his death. An English encyclopaedia says that he died at St. Gall in Switzerland;—a French one that he died in Moravia.


Note T, page 268.

Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon I, was born at Ajaccio, November, 1784, and died at Villegenis (Seine el Oise), 24th June, i860. He came to France at an early age, and, after a very little school- ing had been wasted upon him, was given a commission in the Consular Guards. A quarrel and a duel, with the son of General Davout, caused him to quit the army and join the navy. In 1803 he visited the United States, where he married Miss Patterson, but the marriage was declared null and void by the Emperor.

After seeing some naval service, he returned to France and was eventually received into the favour of his elder brother, given the command of an army corps, and eventually created king of Westphalia and married the Princess Catharine of Wurtemberg. He was a mere "Carnival King," and indulged in every sort of dissipation, took baths of Bordeaux wine, bestowed enormous gifts of money on his male and female favourites, and wasted nearly a quarter of the revenues of his extensive kingdom in vice and debauchery.

When the fall of the Empire seemed imminent, he at first thought of joining his brother's enemies, but finding that such a step would bring him nothing but disgrace, retired first to France, and then to Trieste, with his wife, who still refused to leave him.

After Napoleon's escape from Elba, Jerome again rejoined his brother, and fought gallantly at Charleroi, Quatre-Bras and Water loo. Imprisoned along with his wife by the Allies, he was after a few months set free, and went to reside first at Naples, then at Trieste, Rome, and Florence. In 1847 Permitted to return to France. He took no part in the Revolution of 1848 beyond giving it his moral support," but favoured the ambitious views of his nephew, who, in return created him Governor of the Invalides, a Marshal of France, and after the Coup d’Etat, President of the Senate. He took little or no part in politics, however, and was almost forgotten by the public when he died in 1860.

THE END.

  1. In Michaud's Biographie Universelle, the name of the actress is incorrectly given as Mile. Fleury.