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VISIT OF DE CHASTELLUX.
ers. He arrived with his aides-de-camp on the afternoon of November 23d, and sought the head-quarters of the commander-inchief. They were in a large farm-house. There was a spacious tent in the yard before it for the general, and several smaller tents in an adjacent field for his guards. Baggage waggons were arranged about for the transportation of the general's effects, and a number of grooms were attending to very fine horses belonging to general officers and their aides-de-camp. Every thing was in perfect order. As De Chastellux rode up, he observed Lafayette in front of the house, conversing with an officer, tall of stature, with a mild and noble countenance. It was Washington. De Chastellux alighted and was presented by Lafayette. His reception was frank and cordial. Washington conducted him into the house. Dinner was over, but Generals Knox, Wayne, and Howe, and Colonels Hamilton, Tilghman, and other officers, were still seated round the board. Washington introduced De Chastellux to them, and ordered a repast for the former and his aides-decamp all remained at table, and a few glasses of claret and Madeira promoted sociability. The marquis soon found himself at his ease with Washington. "The goodness and benevolence which characterize him," observes he, "are felt by all around him; but the confidence he inspires is never familiar; it springs from a profound esteem for his virtues, and a great opinion of his talents."
In the evening, after the guests had retired, Washington conducted the marquis to a chamber prepared for him and his aidesde-camp, apologizing with nobly frank and simple politeness, that his scanty quarters did not afford more spacious accommodation.
The next morning, horses were led up after breakfast; they were to review the troops and visit Lafayette's encampment seven
The horses which De Chastellux and Washington rode, had been presented to the latter by the State of Virginia. There were fine blood horses also for the aides-de-camp. "Washington's horses," writes De Chastellux, "are as good as they are beautiful, and all perfectly trained. He trains them all himself. He is a very good and a very hardy cavalier, leaping the highest barriers, and riding very fast, without rising in the stirrups, bearing on the bridle, or suffering his horse to run as if wild."
In the camp of artillery where General Knox received them, the marquis found every thing in perfect order, and conducted in the European style. Washington apologized for no salute being fired. Detachments were in movement at a distance, in the plan of operations, and the booming of guns might give an alarm, or be mistaken for signals.
Incessant and increasing rain obliged Washington to make but a short visit to Lafayette's camp, whence, putting spurs to his horse, he conducted his French visitors back to head-quarters on as fast a gallop as bad roads would permit.
There were twenty guests at table that day at head-quarters. The dinner was in the English style, large dishes of butcher's meat and poultry, with different kinds of vegetables, followed by pies and puddings and a dessert of apples and hickory nuts. Washington's fondness for the latter was noticed by the marquis, and indeed was often a subject of remark. He would sit picking them by the hour after dinner, as he sipped his wine and conversed.
One of the general's aides-de-camp sat by him at the end of the table, according to custom, to carve the dishes and circulate the wine. Healths were drunk and toasts were given; the latter were sometimes given by the general through his aide-de-camp.
IMPRESSIONS OF DE CHASTELLUX.
The conversation was tranquil and pleasant. Washington willingly entered into some details about the principal operations of the war, "but always," says the marquis, “with a modesty and conciseness, which proved sufficiently that it was out of pure complaisance that he consented to talk about himself."
Wayne was pronounced agreeable and animated in conversation, and possessed of wit; but Knox, with his genial aspect and cordial manners, seems to have won De Chastellux's heart. "He
is thirty-five years of age," writes he, "very stout but very active; a man of talent and intelligence, amiable, gay, sincere and loyal. It is impossible to know him without esteeming him, and to see him without loving him.”
It was about half-past seven when the company rose from the table, shortly after which, those who were not of the household departed. There was a light supper of three or four dishes, with fruit, and abundance of hickory nuts; the cloth was soon removed; Bordeaux and Madeira wine were placed upon the table, and conversation went on. Colonel Hamilton was the aide-decamp who officiated, and announced the toasts as they occurred. "It is customary," writes the marquis, "towards the end of the supper to call upon each one for a sentiment, that is to say, the name of some lady to whom he is attached by some sentiment either of love, friendship, or simple preference."
It is evident there was extra gayety at the table of the commander-in-chief during this visit, in compliment to his French guests; but we are told, that gay conversation often prevailed at the dinners at head-quarters among the aides-de-camp and young officers, in which Washington took little part, though a quiet smile would show that he enjoyed it.
We have been tempted to quote freely the remarks of De
Chastellux, as they are those of a cultivated man of society, whose position and experience made him a competent judge, and who had an opportunity of observing Washington in a familiar point of view.
Speaking of his personal appearance, he writes: "His form is noble and elevated, well-shaped and exactly proportioned; his physiognomy mild and agreeable, but such, that one does not speak in particular of any one of his traits; and that in quitting him there remains simply the recollection of a fine countenance. His air is neither grave nor familiar; one sees sometimes on his forehead the marks of thought, but never of inquietude; while inspiring respect he inspires confidence, and his smile is always
that of benevolence.
"Above all, it is interesting," continues the marquis, "to see him in the midst of the general officers of his army. General in a republic, he has not the imposing state of a marshal of France who gives the order; hero in a republic, he excites a different sort of respect, which seems to originate in this sole idea, that the welfare of each individual is attached to his person."
He sums up his character in these words: "Brave without temerity; laborious without ambition; generous without prodigality; noble without pride; virtuous without severity; he seems always to stop short of that limit, where the virtues, assuming colors more vivid, but more changeable and dubious, might be taken for defects."
During the time of this visit of the marquis to head-quarters, news was received of the unexpected and accidental appearance of several British armed vessels in the Hudson; the effect was to disconcert the complicated plan of a coup-de-main upon the British posts, and finally, to cause it to be abandoned.
1780.] THE ARMY GOES INTO WINTER-QUARTERS.
Some parts of the scheme were attended with success. The veteran Stark, with a detachment of twenty-five hundred men, made an extensive forage in Westchester county, and Major Tallmadge with eighty men, chiefly dismounted dragoons of Sheldon's regiment, crossed in boats from the Connecticut shore to Long Island, where the Sound was twenty miles wide; traversed the island on the night of the 22d of November, surprised Fort George at Coram, captured the garrison of fifty-two men, demolished the fort, set fire to magazines of forage, and recrossed the Sound to Fairfield, without the loss of a man: an achievement which drew forth a high eulogium from Congress.
At the end of November the army went into winter-quarters; the Pennsylvania line in the neighborhood of Morristown, the Jersey line about Pompton, the New England troops at West Point, and the other posts of the Highlands; and the New York line was stationed at Albany, to guard against any invasion from Canada.
The French army remained stationed at Newport, excepting the Duke of Lauzun's legion, which was cantoned at Lebanon in Connecticut. Washington's head-quarters were established at
New Windsor, on the Hudson.
We will now turn to the South to note the course of affairs in that quarter during the last few months.