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French Troops in Virginia

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 7.—A correspondent now in the camp of Lafayette’s army in Virginia, says:—”Let me make you acquainted with Major-General the Marquis de St. Simon, and the French army; you have seen the British troops and the troops of other nations, but you have not seen troops so universally well-made, so robust, or of such an appearance, as those General St. Simon has brought to our assistance. These are all under the command of our general. They now encamp nearly on the ground the British occupied before they evacuated Jamestown. I do not pretend to know the secrets of our commander, or I would tell you what is to be done; I pretend, however, to see a great general in the Marquis de St. Simon, an affectionate politeness in his officers towards ours, and a general impatience in the French army to complete the Gordian knot, in which our second Fabius Fayette has been entangling his lordship; some of its cords already press him, and, I believe, if there were hopes of succeeding, he would attempt to cut it. But notwithstanding his lordship is, perhaps, the first officer in the British service, yet he may not be in possession of the sword of Alcides.

“The light infantry are advanced to Williamsburgh; the Pennsylvanians lay near us, and it is the talk of the camp that the French troops will take their position to-morrow in its vicinity. The French ships lay in James River, to prevent a retreat in York River, and at the capes. You are a soldier as well as a philosopher, and will experience our feelings on the present occasion. We have a brave army to contend against, furnished in provisions, with all the necessaries for a gallant resistance, and in number fully sufficient for the defence of their post; but we shall do very well, for to the common motives of our profession will be joined an emulation arising from the fighting by the side of our allies.

“The British are intrenching at York with great industry. Every thing is landed from their shipping, and dispositions made for their destruction. A propos, yesterday evening a patrol of nine or ten militia fell in with a patrol of Colonel Tarleton’s legion, of an equal number, and commanded by a lieutenant, the whole of which the militia captured; it is a trifle, but it is a trifle that was very prettily done.”1


1 Pennsylvania Packet, September 18.