The German Element in the War of American Independence/4 General John Kalb
|←Baron von Steuben||The German Element in the War of American Independence by
General John Kalb
GENERAL JOHN KALB.
Verga gentil di picciola gramigna.
Dante, Purgatorio, xiv.
On the 29th of June, 1721, John Kalb, the child of Hans Kalb and Margaret, his wife, peasants, was born in the German town of Hüttendorf. On the 19th of August, 1780, Major-General Baron de Kalb died prisoner of war in the American town of Camden, of wounds received three days before, in the defeat of the American General Gates by the English General Cornwallis. How and when did this peasant become a baron, and mingle his name with great historic names and great historic events? We find him at school at Kriegenbronn, a peasant boy still. We see him leave his native place at sixteen to earn his living as a butler. We lose sight of him for six years, and suddenly find ourselves face to face with him a gain to wards the end of 1743, with the distinctive de between the Jean and Kalb of his half gallicized name, and the rank of lieutenant in the regiment of Lowenthal, a body of German infantry in the service of France. Had his regiment been composed of Frenchmen, it would have been easier to conceive how this young Ariovistus, six feet high, with his searching brown eyes, his ample forehead that suggested thought, his distinctly chiseled nose which like the great Condé's suggested the beak of the eagle, the self-control and quiet consciousness of strength which mingled upon his lips somewhat as they did on Franklin's, and the aristocratic double chin and haughty mien, could have passed himself as a noble in times when the herald's office was consulted less than the air and bearing of the claimant of a title. But it was composed of Germans, familiar with the name and grades of German nobility and rigorous advocates of its privileges. By what arts or by what chance did our young adventurer succeed in persuading them that he was a nobleman? How, too, did he, in six short years, succeed in transforming the obsequious butler into the proud baron? That he did thus pass from a peasant to a noble, and put on, as though they had been his birthright, the air and bearing of nobility, is a fact which Mr. Kapp has fully established, although he has not been able to explain it, and, accepting it as one of the secrets of history, we pass directly with him from the peasant's cottage to the camp in Flanders.
Frederick of Prussia, the greatest general of his own day, was the teacher of Steuben, the subject of Mr. Kapp's first contribution to American history. Kalb's teacher was Marshal Saxe, “the professor,” according to Frederick himself, “of all the European generals of his age.” And thus the lessons of the two greatest soldiers of their time passed through two brilliant adventurers to the camp of Washington. Both lives belong in part to the American historian. Toward the end of 1743, when Washington was going to Mr Williams's school at Brydges Creek, and Greene was a babe in the arms, Kalb comes into the light of history as a lieutenant in one of the most brilliant German regiments in the service of France. In a single year he took part in three sieges and one hotly contested battle; and still following the history of his regiment, through which only we can trace his own, we find him at Fontenoy and every decisive action of the war except the battles of Lafeld and Raucoup. In 1747 he was made captain and adjutant, and was intrusted with the important duties of “officer of detail,” an office of great responsibility, comprehending the internal administration of the regiment and an active correspondence with, the minister of war. In his brief intervals of leisure he found time for study, devoting himself chiefly to modern languages and those branches of the higher mathematics which were essential to the scientific departments of his profession.
The eighteenth century, it will be remembered, was still an age of mercenary soldiers. Men of hereditary rank let themselves out for military rank and the chances of military distinction. To be colonel and give your name to a regiment was to open the way to a new ribbon or a new star and the choicest circles. Even the lowest commission was a patent of nobility; for none were entitled to it in the French service who could not trace their claims through four generations. The German regiments in the French service were especially favored, and commissions in them eagerly sought after. “There is not a general officer in Germany,” said Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick to Boisgelin, “whatever his nobility, who would not consider himself as very fortunate in being able to enter the service of France. What a happiness to fight by the side of Frenchmen, and live with them in Paris during peace!”
The foreign regiments in the French service were not all upon the same footing. Each had its own contract, and its own articles of war. Questions of discipline were decided differently in different regiments, one capitulation approving what another condemned. It was the duty of the officer of detail to make himself familiar with all these distinctions, and be prepared to defend the rights of his own regiment before the minister of war; an office of toil and difficulty, comprising the whole internal administration of the regiment, from the minutest detail to the most difficult question of jurisprudence. The colonel commanded in battle, but the officer of detail conducted the correspondence with the minister of war and the commanding general.
Such were Kalb's duties in the garrisons of Pfalzburgh and Cambrai, during the peace which preceded the Seven Years' War. The records of his regiment bear witness to his intelligence and zeal. But war was approaching. While deciding the European question, the treaty of Aix la Chapelle had left the American question undecided; and the American question was the question of the age, carrying with it the transformation of dependent colonies into the greatest of republics. War with England was inevitable. Kalb looked to it for honor and fortune. As a first step toward them he addressed a memorial to the minister of marine, containing a detailed plan for the formation of a foreign regiment of marine infantry. Germany, Denmark, Sweden, England, and above all, Ireland, were to furnish the men, who were to be thoroughly trained to service in different parts of the world, and especially to sudden landings on a foreign coast. An invasion of England has long been a cherished idea of France, and that it is not altogether a vain idea may be argued from the anxiety, amounting almost to terror, with which every repetition of the menace has been received. Kalb aimed high, but he aimed justly. He would have made Irish discontent a source of weakness to England and of strength to France. But he lacked court patronage, and failed.
A minute history of the Seven Years' War would hardly bring the name of Kalb into prominence. He took part in nearly all its great battles, however, and won the favor of De Broglie, the best of the French generals. But his subordinate position kept him in the shade, and his useful devices were counted only as a part of the general history of his regiment. The court intrigue which removed the successful De Broglie in order to make room for the incompetent Soubise, very nearly deprived him of his position. The peace of 1763 found him a lieutenant-colonel in rank, though in fact only a captain by purchase in the regiment of Anhalt. It gave him, however, an opportunity of adding largely to his private fortune, by his successful advocacy of the claims of several princely and noble families of Wetterau for supplies furnished the French army during the war.
The war was over; what was to become of those for whom war was a profession? Assistant quartermaster-general, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Kalb had strong claims to promotion; but none of his hopes in this direction were realized. Fortunately the customs of the age had allowed him to purchase a captaincy in the Anhalt regiment, for one of whose companies he had been reported as if in actual command during the last three years of the war. Upon this he now fell back for the moment, resolved, meanwhile, to push his fortune in another direction. He had once before tried to make his way by personal application, and had failed for want of protection. He was stronger now, by the friendship and protection of men of rank, and for a while his hopes were high. Eight new staff officers were to be created, and the Marquis de Castries exerted himself to procure one of the appointments for him. But the new creations were not made. A vacant lieutenant-colonelcy for which he had made application was given to another. It was a severe disappointment. Still, fortune had not forsaken him.
During the administration of the provident Colbert, a Hollander, named Robin, skilled in the manufacture of cloth, had been allured to France, where his services were rewarded by a patent of nobility. The occupation was handed down from father to son, and at the time of Kalb's visit to Paris, a grandson of the original immigrant was living with his wife upon the fruits of his own and his ancestors industry, in pleasant retirement at Courbevoye, near Paris. A younger daughter, “accomplished, sprightly, and beautiful,” lived with them. How and when Kalb learnt to know them, no record tells; but it is easy to understand how, as he listened to her intelligent and sprightly conversation and looked upon her beautiful face, he thought that with such a being by his side he might forego his commission; and how, as she looked upon his noble form and listened to his tales of siege and encampment and battle-field, she felt that his would be a strong arm to go through life with. She was betrothed to Kalb in the first winter after the peace, and married on the 10th of April, 1764. They were both Protestants, and the marriage service was performed in the Protestant chapel of the Dutch legation.
Kalb was very happy. He had never fallen into the dissolute habits of his times and profession. Temperate in all things but the thirst of glory, he sought happiness at his own fireside. His wife, who had married him because she loved him, felt her love increase as she became more familiar with his sterling qualities of mind and heart. An adventurer hitherto, dependent upon his sword and the protection of the great, he was now the head of an honorable family and the master of an independent fortune. Money, like other gifts of fortune, came flowing in upon him from many sources. He threw up his captain's commission, and retired from service with a pension as lieutenant-colonel.
But he had not read his own heart aright. The memories of his old life, of its adventures, its vicissitudes, its brilliant rewards, began to stir within him. There were higher grades to win, honors and crosses to decorate his breast with, and point him out to the common eye as a man of mark. Before a year of that domestic life which promised such happiness was over, he was once more knocking at the doors of men in power. His letters to his wife show how warmly he loved her, and how readily she entered into his feelings.
A brilliant opening seemed prepared for him. A celebrated warrior of the school of the great Frederick, Count William of Schaumburg-Lippe, having successfully defended Portugal from a Spanish invasion, had been employed to raise three German regiments for the Portuguese service. Supported by both the De Broglies, Kalb asked for a brigadier's commission in them. He hoped that after a few campaigns in the Portuguese army, he might return to the French army as a general. But the war was not renewed, and the new regiments were not raised.
Thus far Kalb had aimed only at military promotion. A general's commission would have satisfied his highest aspirations; a cross of St. Louis would have made him happy for the rest of his life. But a new field was opening for him, in which his power of accurate observation and his sound judgment were to be brought into active exercise. It was now that his attention was called for the first time to the dispute between England and her colonies.
French indignation at the ignominious treaty of Paris of 1763, which stripped France of her colonies in North America, had found utterance in the ministry of the Duke of Choiseul. France had reached the lowest depths of humiliation. Her troops had lost their moral strength by a succession of defeats. Her ships of war had been annihilated. Her ships of commerce had been driven from the seas. Even in the Mediterranean, which she had learnt to look upon as her own, they crept stealthily from port to port. Had Pitt remained at the head of the ministry, the house of Bourbon, which he hated so bitterly, would have become a third-class power both in France and in Spain. But the fall of Pitt opened the way, if not for the recovery of all that had been lost, at least for revenge.
Choiseul availed himself skillfully of the opportunity. He resolved to renew the struggle for the mastery of the ocean, and in a few years had sixty-four ships of the line and thirty-six frigates afloat. To make up for the losses in the East Indies and North America, he encouraged the development and commerce of the French Antilles. Santo Domingo, Guadaloupe, and Martinico began to pour their rich harvests into the French markets and extend French commerce into new fields. Already in the first year of his administration he had formed that compact of the Bourbon family which plays so important a part in the history of the times. In the very same year he had begun, through skillful emissaries, to open the way for extending the French power in Corsica and enlarging French commerce in the Levant. Like the great Napoleon nearly half a century later, he resolved to make Egypt his base of operations against the English possessions in the East Indies. The treaty of Paris had been signed in 1763. In 1764 M. de Fontleroy, an agent of the active minister, was sent to North America to study on the spot, and see whether the report that a question of taxation was fast alienating the affections of the British colonists from the mother country was true. In 1766 the answer came. Fontleroy, entering fully into the views of his employer, traveled over the land in its length and breadth, taking careful note of its rich soil, its abundance of grain, its vast stores of iron, its boundless forests of timber, its capacious harbors, and mighty rivers. The inhabitants, he said, were a hardy, bold, and enterprising race, growing daily in wealth and power, and fully conscious of their strength. Choiseul smiled at the flattering report, so favorable to his own wishes, and continued his inquiries. How well they were conducted the extracts from New England sermons still preserved in the French archives attest.
It was evident that there was a general fermentation in the colonies, but how extensive, and how like to prove lasting, it was difficult to say. The minister resolved to send a new agent, and fixed upon Kalb for the delicate and difficult office. “M. de Kalb,” say his instructions, “will repair to Amsterdam and there direct his particular attention to the rumors in circulation about the English colonies. Should they appear to be well founded, he will immediately make preparations for a journey to America.
“On his arrival he will inquire into the intentions of the inhabitants, and endeavor to ascertain whether they are in want of good engineers and artillery officers, or other individuals, and whether they should be supplied with them.
“He will acquaint himself with the greater or lesser strength of their purpose to withdraw from the English government.
“He will examine their resources in troops, fortified places, and forts, and will seek to discover their plan of revolt and the leaders who are expected to direct and control it.
“Great reliance is placed in the intelligence and address of M. de Kalb in the pursuit of a mission requiring an uncommon degree of tact and shrewdness, and he is expected to report progress as often as possible.”
Honorable as this mission was, it was not with out hesitation that Kalb accepted it. “Do not decline the mission with which I have intrusted you,” said Choiseul. “I know that it is difficult and requires great sagacity. But I have fixed my choice upon you after much deliberation, and know that you will see no reason to regret it. Ask of me the means which you think necessary for its execution; I will furnish you with them all.” It was no longer time to hesitate. On the 2d of May he received his passports, letters, letters of introduction to the French ambassadors at Brussels and the Hague, and twelve hundred francs for his traveling expenses. On the 15th of July he addressed his first dispatch to Choiseul from the Hague.
He had done his duty thoroughly, visiting all the sea-ports of Holland, and conversing with men who had lived in the colonies. A German who had passed fifteen years there, and was actually collecting new colonists to carry back with him, assured him that, in spite of appearances, the breach between the colonies and the mother country was as wide as ever. The English troops were but twenty thousand in number, and those twenty thousand were so widely scattered that they would find it hard to cope with the four hundred thousand militia of the colonies. The Germans of Pennsylvania could raise sixty thousand men. The Irish population was numerous and ready for revolt. The provincial assembly were resolved to maintain their rights by the sword. The English, on the contrary, asserted that the spirit of resistance had been laid by the repeal of the Stamp Act. Kalb listened attentively to both statements, and suspected exaggeration in both. “This may be said for effect, and to conceal the actual condition of things,” was his comment on the English report. “I am only repeating his assertions, without being convinced of their truth,” he says of the German emigrant. He had early learnt the art of judicious doubt. Choiseul, with his hot Celtic blood, was more sanguine than his Teutonic agent.
Meanwhile, the work of raising emigrants for the colonies went briskly on. At Rotterdam he saw twelve hundred of them, traveling from Cologne, by way of Maestricht and Herzogenbush. Frederick had forbidden them to pass through his territories. We can form some idea of the discomforts of their passage across the Atlantic from the fact that they were all crowded into four of the small and inconvenient ships of those days. If we would form an idea of the manner in which, at about this same time, Englishmen were lured into emigration, we have only to follow George Primrose in the “Vicar of Wakefield” to the emigrant agent's office in London: “In this office Mr. Crispe kindly offers all his majesty's subjects a generous promise of £30 a year, for which promise all they give in return is their liberty for life, and permission to let him transport them to America as slaves.”
Kalb's first dispatch had hardly reached the minister, when tidings of the temporary lull in the tempest which followed the repeal of the Stamp Act reached Europe. He asked for new instructions. “As it is possible and even probable,” answered Choiseul, with the sure perception of a true statesman, “that this quiet will not be of long duration, it is the will of his majesty that you should make immediate preparations for a speedy tour to America, in order to satisfy yourself by personal inspection as to the condition of the country, its harbors, ships, land forces, resources, weapons, munitions of war, and provisions — in short, as to the means at our command if disposed, in case of a war with England, to make a diversion in that direction. You will adopt the greatest precautions in sending me your report, and will immediately upon your arrival inform me where to direct such letters as I shall have occasion to write you.”
It throws a pleasant light upon Kalb's relations with his wife that he asked the minister to send his “commands and answers” through her. The instructions of Choiseul were promptly obeyed. On reaching London he found that to wait for the monthly packet would cause a delay of ten days. “I prefer, therefore,” he writes, “to take the merchantman Hercules, Captain Hammet, which sets sail from Gravesend to-morrow for Philadelphia.” Had he been inclined to superstition he might have looked upon his stormy passage of three months as the forerunner of disaster. On the 12th of January, 1768, he landed at Philadelphia.
An expression in his first report, written three days after his arrival, shows how promptly he had fathomed the real nature of the relations of the mother country to the colonies. He calls them an “invaluable magazine of raw productions, and a most profitable market for English manufactures.” Looking at them from this point of view he cannot conceive that the British government will spare any efforts to secure such a mine of wealth. He quickly saw, also, that the dispute was far from being adjusted. In Holland the English party had assured him that the repeal of the Stamp Act had been voluntary. In Philadelphia he learnt that it had been wrung from the ministers by organized resistance. He was struck by the substantial union of the provincial assemblies. He attached great importance to the renunciation by Boston of British commerce. He saw the full significance of the part borne by women in the dispute, a part of sacrifice and self-denial. “They deny themselves tea, they deny themselves foreign sugar. They will have no more fine linens from England, but sedulously ply their spinning-wheels to prepare them linens of their own. Silks, which they cannot yet make for themselves, they will do without.” He detects, also, signs of forbearance on the part of the Parliament. The troops treat the colonists with greater forbearance. The commanding general, instead of prosecuting libels and pasquinades, pretends to ignore them; and the authors, though well known, go unpunished. He has not had time to study the military question, but foresees many obstacles to carrying on war with militia, and obstacles equally great to the formation of an army in a country so extensive and so divided. In one thing he saw that the temper of the colonists had been misjudged. The remoteness of the centre of government inspired them with a spirit of freedom and enterprise; and their taxes were very light; but they had no desire to “shake off the English supremacy with the aid of foreign powers.” The immediate object of popular hatred was the House of Commons; of popular admiration, William Pitt.
On the 20th of January he writes again. He has had time to look about him, and to sift and verify his observations. It is very interesting to study the impressions of an intelligent foreigner at this critical moment, and compare them with those of our own public men. America was so little known that the wildest stories were repeated without exciting a doubt; and it required no common sagacity to form a calm and deliberate opinion in the midst of so many contradictions. A circumstance which caused him no little alarm was to find that his letters had been opened in their passage through the post-office. Would they not all be opened and the information which he had so laboriously collected be read in Downing Street before it reached Versailles? What, too, would become of his mission if the letters of the minister should be intercepted? He resolved to forestall the danger by hastening his tour of observation and returning home in April. The few days that had passed between his first and second dispatches were sufficient to convince him that the indignation excited by the Stamp Act had not been appeased by its repeal. The declaratory act, by which Parliament claimed the right to bind the colonies in all cases whatever, was equally unacceptable, and the tax on tea, paper, and glass which followed was interpreted as an indirect method of enforcing the principle of the Stamp Act. Concerning the nature of this principle the colonists had no doubt. With taxation went representation. By the English constitution no province could be taxed without being represented, and “England ought to be content with the profits it derives from selling the colonists worthless goods at high prices, and purchasing necessaries from them for a song.” Neither did it escape Kalb's attention that an equally bitter feeling had been awakened by the restraints with which the Parliament had hampered American industry. No sooner had the manufacture of iron become almost equal to that of England than it was prohibited by law. The same repression of manufacturing enterprise had been extended to other branches of industry. Could the colonists doubt that they were to be systematically cut off from the most important sources of wealth, and their prosperity made to depend upon the caprice of the mother country? And he esteemed the restrictions imposed upon American commerce equally unwise and unjust. It was not with raw material alone that the colonists purchased English goods. The balance of trade was against them and they were compelled to drain themselves of their gold and silver to make up the difference. Now the specie required to meet the demands of the English merchant was drawn from the commerce of the colonists with the West Indies and the Spanish Main; and as fast as it reached the hand of the American merchant it passed to those of the English merchant. But instead of promoting this commerce, Parliament prohibited it. Kalb thought that the decrease of specie was real, but that it was an exaggeration to attribute it wholly to the decay of the commerce with the West Indies. “There is reason to suppose,” he writes, “that it is hoarded on account of the disturbed state of affairs. I cannot believe the statements made with regard to the sums exported to England; it is pretended that the article of tea alone, has netted them three hundred thousand pounds. As soon as I can obtain an insight into this matter I shall report upon it.” He looked to the non-intercourse resolves as a fatal blow to English industry. “The result of all these facts,” he writes, “is that the colonies are more than ever willing to retrench their expenditures and live exclusively upon their own productions.”
On the 25th of January, 1768, he started for New York. It was a long, tedious, and disastrous journey. The land carriage was cold and slow; the passage of the Delaware was difficult and dangerous. It took three days to reach Princeton. A fresh wind was blowing when he reached the Kill, but it was fair, and the landlord of the Ferry Inn and the ferryman himself said that the passage was safe. There were five men to cross and four horses, and although it was already between eight and nine in the evening they set sail. But no sooner had they reached the middle of the stream than the wind chopped round, and drove the helpless little craft upon a small island halfway between the ferry and the mouth of Fish-Kill Creek, where she sank. The horses were drowned and the baggage lost; but the passengers, partly by wading and partly by swimming, reached the shore. It was but half a mile from the ferry, but they could not make themselves heard. There was neither tree nor shrub to shelter them from the bleak wind. They huddled close together to get what warmth they might from the contact of their bodies. They stamped with their feet and thrashed with their arms, and walked up and down to keep off the sleep which leads to death. The heavy hours wore slowly on. At eleven the ferry boy died. At three, Mr. George, a passenger. Day came at last, but it was not till nine that they were seen from the shore and a boat sent for them. Benumbed, unconscious, hardly able to move their limbs, they were placed in a sleigh and conveyed to the house of Mr. Mercerau, whose name reappears a few years later in a useful, though not brilliant position in the war of independence. The first instinct of the half-frozen men was to crowd around the fire, and they paid for the imprudence by the loss of fingers or toes, and in one instance, of a leg. The wiser Kalb bathed his feet and legs in ice-water and then ate and went to bed. His baggage was lost, and with it “several hundred louis d'or, the badge of his order, and the key to his cipher.” It was not till the end of February that he was able to renew his correspondence with the minister. His time had not been lost, and his report bears the marks of a careful study of his subject.
“The colonies,” he writes on the 25th of February, “seem to intrench themselves more and more in their system of opposition and of economy. It is said that the merchants of London are already beginning to feel the effects of this policy; that in consequence of it the wages of labor are fallen off; that a number of the trades, by combining among themselves, have destroyed the business of those who worked for less than the established prices.” Then passing to the subject of taxation, which he has evidently studied with great intelligence and care, he embodies his conclusions in these words: “The assembly at Boston have just resolved to remonstrate with the court against the tea tax, as will appear from the accompanying English documents, which I inclose in the original in order to excite less suspicion in case this letter should be intercepted. The dissatisfaction with the impost grows out of their aversion to being taxed by the Parliament instead of by the representatives of their own provinces. It would seem to me that the court of St. James mistakes its own interest. If the king, would ask the colonies for sums much larger than the proceeds of the imposts in dispute, they would be granted without any objection, provided the colonists were left at liberty to tax themselves, and, as free subjects, to give their money with their own consent. During the late war they have paid enormous sums, larger ones than the king demanded, because he approached their assemblies with the same formalities as he observed in calling upon Parliament for subsidies. It is a matter of surprise that the court has discarded this advantageous method, and that the people of Great Britain are ready to subvert the fundamental polity of the kingdom by taxing their fellow-citizens without their consent, when they submit to the same proceeding only at the hands of their representatives in the House of Commons. The colonies have the same right; they can only be taxed by their own assemblies. The king would therefore have to make an application for that purpose to every single colony. But the colonies themselves would not favor the last alternative, partly on account of the expense involved, and partly on account of the certainty of finding themselves in a minority on all occasions, which would unavoidably constrain them to participate in every war waged in Europe by England or by the Elector of Hanover. They would prefer a Parliament or a continental assembly, a power which, however, would soon become dangerous to the crown. All classes of people here are imbued with such a spirit of independence and freedom from control that if all the provinces can be united under a common representation an independent state will soon be formed. At all events, it will certainly come forth in time. Whatever may be done in London, this country is growing too powerful to be much longer governed at such a distance. The population is now estimated at three million, and is expected to double itself in less than thirty years. It is not to be, denied that children swarm everywhere like ants. The people are strong and robust, and even the English officers admit that the militia are equal to the line in every respect.
“I have not yet obtained accurate information as to the number of the militia, but shall soon be able to submit a reliable report. The English troops under General Gage, occupying the country from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, muster sixteen regiments, each of ten companies, numbering seventy men in time of peace and a hundred in time of war, besides a company of artillery and a number of engineers. I believe I have already mentioned that these troops are changed every three years.” Nor does he hesitate to touch by the wayside upon a kindred question. “From conversations with several prominent individuals here I have learned that the English government greatly regrets having made peace with Spain without demanding possession of the island of Porto Rico, the possession of which is in every respect so favorable to English interests. Under the pretext of protecting their trade, the English government has many men of war at sea and a large number of troops on the continent, not to mention those already stationed on the islands. It is evident that these troops are so distributed for the special purpose of being prepared to pounce upon the French and Spanish settlements on these islands at the first speck of war. That the English have treated as good prizes several ships captured near the island of St. Juan in the course of last year, you have doubtless been informed.”
His observations at Boston confirm his observations at Philadelphia and New York. “I meet,” he writes, “with the same opinions as in the provinces already visited, only expressed with greater violence and acrimony. The four provinces composing New England — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire — appear to be more firmly united among themselves, on account of the community of interests, than the remaining colonies. Massachusetts in particular, the most wealthy and populous, gives the impulse and the signal of independence to the rest. In spite of this restive spirit, however, they all, from the leaders down to the humblest citizen, seemed to be imbued with a heartfelt love of the mother country. The inhabitants of this province are almost exclusively Englishmen or of English stock, and the liberties so long enjoyed by them have only swelled the pride and presumption peculiar to that people. All these circumstances go to show but too clearly that there will be no means of inducing them to accept of assistance from abroad. In fact they are so well convinced of the justice of their cause, the clemency of the king, and of their own importance to the mother country, that they have never contemplated the possibility of extreme measures. The government is accused of fomenting the existing discontent for selfish purposes. The inclosed English slip will acquaint you with the internal dissensions on this subject, and reveal the causes of complaint which are urged against the government. I adhere to the opinion that the incendiaries will not alone succumb, but that the colonies will yet have the satisfaction of seeing the mother country admit herself to have been in the wrong, and do her best to repair it.”
Nothing struck him with such surprise as the commercial spirit of the colonists. “I am more and more astonished,” he writes, “at the number of merchantmen to be seen in the ports, rivers, and bays, from the Potomac and Chesapeake to Boston harbor. And in addition to these, numberless ships are in course of construction. What must have been the trade of these colonies before the disturbances began? Nor am I less struck with the flourishing appearance of the interior. On my return to France I shall report the most minute particulars in this connection.”
From Boston, Kalb went to Halifax, making everywhere the same inquiries and obtaining the same answers. The ultimate separation of the colonies from the mother country he looked upon as inevitable, but did not believe that they would ever call in a foreign power to their aid. It was to the steady increase of their population and prosperity, and not to foreign bayonets, that he looked for the final separation.
He had done a great deal of work in a very short time, and developed civil talents of a very high order. His reports contain views of the colonies which threw a clear but sober light upon the aims and character of the colonists and the resources of the country. He saw from the first what our own statesmen were several years in seeing, that the Canadians could not be counted by the French government as allies. “There are,” he writes, “but few persons in those immense provinces in sympathy with France. The most devoted to us have left the country since the close of the war, and those who remain are satisfied with their present condition or expect no improvement of it from a change of rulers. Their lands have risen in value, they pay but trifling taxes, enjoy unqualified freedom of conscience as well as all the privileges of the English people, and take part in the management of public affairs. Besides, they have become closely allied with the inhabitants of the neighboring provinces by intermarriages and other ties. I regard it as my duty to speak candidly on all these matters, because I will not deceive you, and do not wish you to be deceived by others. In case of a war with our neighbors beyond the Channel, it would be difficult, therefore, to make a diversion to this part of their possessions. I always recur to my belief that the quarrels of the English with their colonies will terminate to the satisfaction of the latter. A war with us would only hasten their reconciliation, and on the footing of restored privileges, the English court would even direct all the troops, resources, and ships of this part of the world against our islands and the Spanish Main. A foreign war is less hurtful to England than internal discord, which, however, would at once yield to the necessity of defense against a common foe.”
To extend the field of his observations, Kalb proposed to go from Halifax to Maine, thence by sleigh to Lake Champlain, and return to New York by the valley of the Hudson. But, meanwhile, a grave difficulty arose. In spite of all the pains he had been at to secure the transmission of his letters, they had reached his wife with the seals broken. It was evident that he was an object of suspicion, and should his communication with the minister be interrupted, it would be impossible for him to continue his work. A task so delicate as that which had been assigned him could not be performed without frequent instructions. He resolved, therefore, to return to France, make new arrangements for his correspondence, and hold himself at the minister's orders if a new mission should be thought necessary. “Even admitting the possibility of a positive rupture,” he writes, “the opening of positive hostilities between the court and the colonies cannot but be far distant, as it presupposes the participation of the people, the shipment of large masses of troops, and extensive levies of soldiers and sailors. On the other hand, the colonies, if hard pressed, would make a pretense of submission, to gain time for erecting a navy, concentrating and disciplining their forces, and making other needful preparations.”
These reasonings and conjectures of an intelligent foreigner have a deep interest for the student of our revolutionary history. It is evident that Kalb had been strongly impressed with the resources and rapid growth of the colonies. It is equally evident that he detected the foreshadowings and the eventual necessity of independence. Such sources of wealth could not long remain at the unquestioned disposal of a distant central government. A people so enterprising and intelligent and bold could not fail to become independent by their natural growth. Would they begin the struggle now, or, although the quarrel seemed almost forced upon them, would they wait till they were more fully prepared? They had not yet been pushed far enough to make them willing to accept foreign aid. They still loved their mother country, although she did nothing to win their love. What was the part of France to be in the impending contest? Evidently that of an interested state, seeking for an opportunity to avenge itself on an enemy. And how could that revenge be made sure? The period of enthusiastic sympathy had not yet been reached. A premature foreign war would efface the sense of their wrongs in the hearts of the colonists and check the crown in its career of usurpation. Kalb believed that France would only obtain her end by watching. The day of separation would surely come. To endeavor to hasten it would be risking all on a single throw when the game was already in her hands.
There is another value in these reports. They bear directly on the question of the motives of France in the treaty of 1778. Of these I have already spoken in my “Historical View of the American Revolution.” But I would call attention to them again, as Kalb's mission affords the strongest evidence that whatever may have been the aims of Vergennes, Choiseul was seeking the humiliation of England.
In April Kalb sailed for England, and on the 12th of June was in Paris. Of all his reports, five only had reached the minister. But he had the materials of other reports in his portfolio, which he arranged and sent to the duke. Through the rest of the summer and early fall Choiseul's interest in the colonies was unchanged. But another question had risen which now absorbed his attention. He had long been trying to strengthen France in the Mediterranean by the subjugation of Corsica. And here first comes to view the Garibaldi of the eighteenth century, the Italian Paoli. To seize upon Corsica was to weaken England. Still more deadly was the blow which he meditated through the colonies. By a system common to all, the commerce of each was confined to the mother country. Could this restriction be removed and the productions of North America be admitted into the colonies of France and Spain, what a blow would be given to the commercial prosperity of England! So thought Choiseul. So thought Count Châtelet, the French ambassador at the court of St. James. But the Spanish ambassador, Grimaldi, saw in it the building of the English colonies into a powerful republic, an evil example to the French and Spanish colonies, and his reasoning prevailed. Had he gone a little further he would have foreseen that the colonies were making rapid strides towards independence by virtue of a law more powerful than the decrees of parliaments or kings. Absorbed by these questions the French minister felt that he had no more need of Kalb and his reports, and coolly threw him off. Choiseul was a great minister, but, like most of his class, regarded men as tools, to be taken up and laid down at will. A few months later he found that in spite of all his services, and while his brain was still teeming with designs for the glory of France, he too was but a tool to be cast aside at the caprice of a vile woman and still viler king. Had Choiseul remained in power it is difficult not to believe that the war of independence would have begun under different auspices and led to speedier results. Still, Kalb's mission was not lost, and his reports and the documents which he collected are still classed among the most valuable records of the early efforts of France, after the treaty of Paris, to undermine the power of England in North America.
The next two years were years of deep humiliation for those who loved France. The power of the infamous Du Barry had become absolute. Ministers and officers of every grade were dependent upon her favor. The king himself was seen standing hat in hand by her carriage at a public review. The downward impulse which society had received from the licentious administration of the Duke of Orleans reached the lowest point of degradation during the last years of Louis XV. The position which the bold bearing and broad statesmanship of Choiseul had won for France was lost by the incompetence and corruption of his successor. A bold and resolute intervention might have prevented the partition of Poland. D'Aiguillon could only negotiate and intrigue; and it should not be forgotten that England was compelled by the menacing character of her relations with her colonies to confine her action to an unheeded protest. Individual sympathy found a stronger expression, and French and English officers, acting upon their own responsibility, were found in the Polish army. Kalb was urged to join them, but upon terms that he could not accept. It was not till Vergennes was firmly seated in the chair of foreign affairs that America was again a subject of interest in the French cabinet.
For Kalb these years were not without their pleasures, although tranquil beyond any others of his restless life. They were years of domestic happiness and that pleasant provision for the future which so naturally follows the appearance of children at the fireside. He bought the château of Milon la Chapelle with its lands and feudal rights. He made a general arrangement of his affairs; and, carrying into private life all the order and method of his public life, won for himself that independence which accompanies freedom from pecuniary cares. Still the ambitious and active nature would out. No chance of promotion escaped his watchful eye. He was only a colonel; he longed to be a brigadier. He had done meritorious service. He could not be happy without a ribbon or a cross to tell it by. Nature had given him a vigorous frame and great powers of endurance. Tranquil walks over his own grounds, though accompanied with the feeling that they were his own, that every tree that he planted, every path that he opened, would add to their value for himself and his children, could not satisfy his longing for excitement and motion. The duties and resources of domestic life were insufficient to satisfy the demands of his active and aspiring nature. But while Louis XV. lived, all his efforts to obtain active service failed. The accession of Louis XVI. opened brighter prospects. His friends and early patrons, the two brothers De Broglie, returned to court, and soon we find Kalb in active life. A new rule of service required that retired staff officers should from time to time do duty in garrison, and when in 1775 the Count de Broglie went to Metz as military commander-in-chief, he took Kalb with him. His exemplary performance of his duties won him a warm recommendation to the Count of St. Germain, the new minister of war. “When you shall have returned here, M. le Comte,” wrote the minister, “we shall see what disposition may be made of M. de Kalb.” America, too, was looming up on the political horizon again, and Vergennes, like Choiseul, hated England. Kalb's hopes were now high. The minister of war gave him a private audience, and he obtained a furlough of two years. He asked for a brigadiership, but there was no vacancy, and the grade of maréchal de camp was promised him instead. In November the question of promotion was decided by a commission of brigadier-general for the islands. It was in the colonies that he was to win his grade. This period of his career deserves a care ful study for its connection with the history of the French alliance. It was a period of secret negotiations and public disavowals, of promises made or broken according to the exigencies of the hour, of half-concealed distrust and secret preparation. Never was diplomacy more stained with deceit. Lord Stormont had spies on the track of Vergennes. The spies of Vergennes kept close on the traces of Lord Stormont. France and Spain were in sincere accord with regard to England. But the full story of the wiles and craft by which the way was prepared for the treaty of 1778 would carry us too far beyond the circle of Kalb's individual action. We confine ourselves to that, and find enough there to afford important side lights for the general picture.
Kalb now knew what was expected of him by the government, and what he might expect from it in return. Assistance was to be given to the colonies as far as it could be done without compromising France. War was to be avoided as long as possible, and accepted only when the Americans had given unequivocal proofs of their strength and perseverance. With this view arms and money were to be supplied secretly, and for this purpose Colonel du Coudray, an artillery officer of distinction, was sent on an apparent tour of inspection to the forts and arsenals, but with secret instructions to select an ample supply of arms for the use of the insurgents. It is in this connection that we first meet the name of Beaumarchais in American history. Kalb was to go as a volunteer, on leave, and without imperiling his position in the French army. Too cautious to hazard himself without a positive agreement with some trustworthy agent, he resolved to wait the arrival of Silas Deane, the secret agent of the Americans, who was daily expected at Paris. Of this somewhat equivocal character in American history I have already told as much as the occasion required in the work referred to above. He eagerly grasped at the opportunity of securing the services of so experienced an officer, and assured him of the grade of major-general, with rank from the 7th of November, 1776. Kalb and Vergennes would have smiled could they have seen the closing sentence of the dispatch in which the unskilled agent announced the negotiation to Congress. “This gentleman,” he writes, “has an independent fortune, and a certain prospect of advancement here, but being a zealous friend to liberty, civil and religious, he is actuated by the most independent and generous principles in the offer he makes of his services to the States of America.” On the 1st of December a formal contract was signed, Kalb affixing his name to it for himself and fifteen others. On the 7th of December a new contract was signed, and on this we find the name of Lafayette, the first time that we meet this beloved name in American history. This important transaction did not escape the watchful eye of the English ambassador, who immediately reported it to his government. But England did not want a war with France, and delayed her revenge.
Meanwhile the arms and military stores destined for the insurgents reached different ports at which they were to be embarked; a large number of officers also appeared in the streets of Havre and other seaport towns. Love of adventure, thirst for distinction, an ill-defined zeal for the rights of men, had kindled the enthusiasm of the young nobility. Some of them, of large fortunes and high rank, resolved to take an active part in the contest. But instead of following the course which the relations between France and England required, they talked loud in the streets, discussed their plans in coffee-houses, and went further than Lord Stormont's spies in supplying him with materials for remonstrance. Even the shrewd Beaumarchais, forgetting his rôle, gave the rein to his vanity as a dramatist, and had some of his plays brought out on the stage at Havre.
On the 14th of December the Amphitrite sailed with Du Coudray and his suite. Like Kalb, Du Coudray, on reaching Philadelphia, was to rank as major-general, thus outranking native officers of the highest merit. When the tidings reached the colonies it excited a menacing dissatisfaction. But for the moment the danger was averted. The accommodations of the Amphitrite and the storage of her cargo were found unsuitable for a long voyage, and she returned to L'Orient. With such evidence in his hands Lord Stormont addressed an energetic remonstrance to the French minister, who, not yet prepared for war, forbade the expedition. At this critical moment arrived the tidings of the disheartening campaign of 1776. Vergennes felt that the hour was not yet come, and ordered the stores which had already been put on shipboard to be detained. Du Coudray sailed alone on the 14th of February, 1776. Kalb resolved to wait a more favorable opportunity.
And now I have a story to tell which has lain hidden for near a century among the papers of Kalb, and was brought to light by the exhaustive researches of Mr. Kapp. It is a striking confirmation of the importance of the preservation of documents. At first blush it seems almost too strange to be believed. But the circumstances under which it was found leave no doubt of its authenticity. It throws so strong a light on the motives by which some, at least, of our foreign assistants were actuated, that I should do injustice to the reader were I to weaken it by abridgment.
“I have seen with pleasure,” writes De Broglie at his country seat, Ruffec, the llth of December, “from the relations of M. Dubois Martin, as well as from your last letter of the 5th instant, the good progress of your affairs, and hope that all your wishes will continue to be realized. You may rest assured that, on my part, I shall not neglect your interests, which, as you will not fail to remember, I have at all times advocated, the more cheerfully that I know that the favor of the king could not be better bestowed.
“I do not doubt that the plan communicated to you by M. Dubois meets your entire approbation. It is clearly indispensable to the permanence of the work. A military and political leader is wanted, — a man fitted to carry the weight of authority in the colony, to unite its parties, to assign to each his place, to attract a large number of persons of all classes and carry them along with him, not courtiers, but brave, efficient, and well educated officers, who confide in their superior and repose implicit faith in him. There need not be many grades of a higher order; but there is need of some, because the corps and the country are separate from each other. Not but what there is room enough for a number of persons from among whom a selection may be made. The main point of the mission with which you have been intrusted will therefore consist in explaining the advantage, or rather the absolute necessity, of the choice of a man who would have to be invested with the power of bringing his assistants with him and of assigning to each the position for which he should judge him to be fitted. The rank of the candidate would have to be of the first eminence; such, however, would have to be confined to the army, excluding the civil service, with perhaps the single exception of the political negotiations with foreign powers. In proposing such a man, you must of course not appear to know whether he entertains any wish for such a position; but at the same time you must intimate that nothing but the most favorable stipulations would induce him to make the sacrifices expected of him. You would have to observe that three years would be the longest period for which he could possibly bind himself, that he would claim a fixed salary, to continue after the expiration of that period of service, and that on no account would he consent to expatriate himself forever. What should make you particularly explicit on this point is, that the assurance of the man's return to France at the end of three years will remove every apprehension in regard to the powers to be conferred, and will remove even the semblance of an ambitious design to become the sovereign of the new republic.
“You will therefore content yourself with stipulating for a military authority for the person in question, who would unite the position of a general and president of the council of war with the title of generalissimo, field marshal, etc.
“Of course, large pecuniary considerations would have to be claimed for the preparations for the journey, and for the journey itself, and a liberal salary for the return home, much in the same way as has been done in the case of Prince Ferdinand. You can give the assurance that such a measure will bring order and economy into the public expenses, that it will reimburse its cost a hundred fold in a single campaign, and that the choice of officers who follow their leader at his word, and from attachment to his person, is worth more than the reinforcement of the army with ten or twenty thousand men. You well know the persons who adhere to this leader, and the unlimited number of subalterns; you know that they are not courtiers, but excellent and well tried soldiers; you know better than others the great difference between the one candidate and the other, and will lay particular stress upon this point. You will be equally mindful to dwell upon the effect necessarily produced by such an appointment on its mere announcement in Europe. Even in a good European army, everything depends upon the selection of a good commander-in-chief; how much more in a cause where everything has yet to be created and adjusted! It is not easy to find a man qualified for such a task, and at the same time willing to undertake it. If matters down there — ‘là bas’ — should turn out well, you should induce Congress to send immediately little Dubois back to Mr. Deane, with full powers and directions. These powers should be limited in no respect, except in so far as to remove all danger of a too extensive exercise of the civil authority or of ambitious schemes for dominion over the republic. The desire is to be useful to the republic in a political and military way, but with all the appropriate honors, dignities, and powers over subordinate functionaries; in short, with a well-ordered power.
“If you send back little Dubois, advise me at the same time of the true condition of affairs and of the state of public feeling, adding your suggestions of what is best to be done. Also inform me of the nature of the power conferred upon the agents of the insurgents. Farewell! I wish you and your caravan a pleasant journey. I shall execute your commissions, and shall see M. de Sartiges, when I get to Paris.
“Acquaint me with the receipt of this letter, and with the moment of your departure, and write to me under the direction of Abbé St. Evrard, at the bureau of M. St. Julien, treasurer general of the clergy. I leave this unsigned. You know who I am.”
It is hard to say how far Kalb shared in the delusion of his patron. His knowledge of the colonies was the result of personal intercourse, and is so correct in most particulars that it seems impossible that he could have fallen into so great an error upon so important a point as their willingness to put a foreigner at the head of their government. The visions of power and wealth and glory which dazzled the eyes of De Broglie can hardly have disturbed the imagination of the cool-headed and deliberate German. Yet Silas Deane, fresh from Congress, believed that the young nation, distrustful of its actual leaders, would gladly put a general of approved skill at its head. The affair of Du Coudray soon taught him better, and when Kalb reached Philadelphia, and saw what grave dissatisfaction the introduction of foreigners into places of trust and authority awakened, he shut up in his portfolio the record of his patron's ignorance and presumption. The secret, so wounding to the French general's vanity, was well kept, and no attempt was made to carry out the foolish and impracticable scheme.
The closing days of 1776 were not favorable to the American cause in France. None but the bad news from the American army had reached Europe. The brilliant movements on Trenton and Princeton were unknown, and the American cause, if not desperate, was looked upon as too doubtful to justify so bold an intervention as the transmission of arms in French bottoms, even though it was ostensibly made for the service of the French colonies. Lord Stormont's remonstrances were loud and apparently successful. Kalb returned to Paris to await a more auspicious moment.
His name now becomes intimately associated with the name of Lafayette. It was a profitable union for both. Kalb had age, experience, and practical knowledge; Lafayette, wealth, high rank, and the ardor and enthusiasm of youth. Both had firmness of purpose and strong wills. For them the expedition possessed a singular charm: the charm of generous sympathy and romantic adventure for the young man, of military distinction and honorable activity for the old. They resolved that the temporary delay should not prevent them from carrying out their plan. Lafayette had serious obstacles to apprehend from the opposition of his family, especially from that of his father-in-law, the Duke d'Ayen. At his request, in fact, rather than from any political considerations, the ardent young nobleman was ordered to renounce his project and travel in Italy with his family. In a conversation with the Comte de Broglie, in which Kalb and the count's secretary, Dubois Martin, took a part, it was resolved that Lafayette should buy and freight a ship, and sail without delay for the colonies, Kalb and eleven officers accompanying him. Kalb's letters to his wife contain a minute history of the embarrassments, both small and great, which delayed their embarkation. At length, on the 20th of April, they sailed, and on the 13th of June made land on the coast of South Carolina.
It may not be undeserving of remark that Lafayette, one of the earliest of abolitionists, should have been brought for the first time into contact with slavery on his first landing in the country in which he first fought the battles of freedom. The captain was out in his reckoning and did not know where he was. Lafayette and Kalb, with one of their companions and seven sailors, took to the boat and rowed towards the shore to look for a pilot. The first persons they met were three negro oystermen, who could only tell them that they belonged to a major in the American army, and that the coast was infested by hostile cruisers. The negroes guided them to their master's house. They reached it about ten in the evening, and were received with characteristic hospitality. There was much to ask and to tell. Huger, for that was the major's name, told the progress of the war. Kalb and Lafayette could speak of the public sentiment in France, to which American eyes were turned with such deep anxiety. It was an auspicious beginning of their adventurous career.
From Huger's hospitable mansion they proceeded to Charleston, where their ship had already arrived, and, disposing profitably of the cargo, hastened towards Philadelphia with as much speed as the heat of July would permit. The day after their arrival they presented themselves at the door of Congress; and now, for the first time, they saw what trouble Deane had caused by his unauthorized promises of rank and high pay to foreigners. Du Coudray's position was still equivocal, and here was a new body to provide for, three of them major-generals. The president of Congress referred them to Mr. Lovell, chairman of the committee of foreign affairs, who, receiving their letters and recommendations, told them that Congress had refused to ratify the agreements made by Mr. Deane. They had come at an unfortunate moment. Du Coudray's arrogant claims had raised a general ferment of indignation. Congress was fast losing the confidence of the army. Greene, Knox, and Sullivan had offered their resignations. Would it be just or even safe to accept them, and fill their places with foreigners? Congress resolved to make the best of its awkward position. It was resolved that the officers for whom no provision could be made should have their expenses paid, and return home. Lafayette asked to be allowed to serve as a volunteer and without pay. He had brought private letters from Franklin, as well as Deane, which called attention to the moral strength which his name would give to the American cause in France. His prayer was granted, and he received the commission of major-general. But his generous nature did not allow him to stop here. He felt himself drawn towards Kalb by a sense of gratitude, and a conviction that the services of the experienced soldier would be very useful to the half-trained army of the new republic. He resolved to use all his influence to secure them, and assured his friend that he would not accept his own commission unless one of equal rank should be given to him. With equal generosity Kalb refused the offer, and advised the young general to join the army with out delay.
The position of Congress was a difficult one, even for very wise men. To ratify Deane's contracts would be not only to offend their own officers, and through them their immediate constituents, but, what could not be done without danger, it would put the most important positions in the army in the hands of foreigners, who had no other interest in the contest than that of pay and rank. The contracts, on the other hand, were technically binding, and if brought before a court would be decided against the Congress. Another point also required their careful consideration. Without the aid and sympathy of France it would be impossible for them to obtain arms and military stores in the quantity which their needs required. The commerce with England, whence the colonies had drawn their annual supplies for house and home, was broken off, and they looked to that of France and Spain for a compensation. To send a body of discontented officers home to tell in every coffee-house that the young nation had begun its career by violating a solemn contract would have dulled the edge of sympathy and excited the suspicions of commerce. The discarded officers took their disappointment to heart, and even the cool and judicious Kalb gave vent to his indignation in a bitter letter to the president of Congress. But bitterly as Kalb felt on this occasion, he had seen too much of the world not to feel that Congress was substantially in the right, and that an army commanded by foreigners would be a dangerous foundation to build upon in a civil war. In a letter to his wife, to whom he seems to have communicated all his thoughts and feelings, with the utmost confidence, he acknowledges that “his company was too numerous and invested with too many positions of a high grade not to have excited the natural discontent of the American officers.” In this dangerous dilemma Congress took the wisest course, disavowed Deane, and assumed the expenses of the rejected officers. Kalb was employed to arrange and present their accounts, which were accepted and promptly paid.
Meanwhile the shrewd diplomatist had not passed so many weeks in Philadelphia in vain. Part of the time, it is true, he was confined to a sick bed, but even that was a means of bringing him into personal contact with some of the leading members of government. No one could converse with him often without being convinced of his fine parts, extensive observation, and sound judgment. As these gentlemen compared their observations, they became convinced that Kalb was too valuable a man to be rejected. Accordingly Congress resolved to appoint another major-general, and offered the commission to him, with the same date as that of Lafayette. The offer found him at Bethlehem, where he was making a visit to his Moravian brethren. His first impulse was to reject it, for he did not know in what light his acceptance would be looked upon by his patrons, the De Broglies, and the officers who had accompanied him. Further reflection convinced him that there was no good reason for a refusal. On the 13th of October he set out for the army.
He was welcomed by the officers as a brother in arms. Conway alone, who was already engaged in the infamous cabal which bears his name, looked coldly upon him, complaining that Kalb had been his inferior in France and could not justly be allowed to outrank him here. But Conway was already well known in the army, and little importance was attached to his opinion, although in Congress he had friends enough to procure him the coveted promotion, even in direct opposition to the avowed wishes of Washington. Kalb's story now becomes closely interwoven with the story of the war. He was sent in November, with St. Clair and Knox, to examine the fortifications of Red Bank, by which Washington still hoped to starve Howe out of Philadelphia. He was present at the council of war which was called to decide upon the propriety of an attack upon Philadelphia, and voted with the majority against it. Fortunately for the historian he was as fond of his pen as of his sword, and his minute and frequent letters to his wife and the Comte de Broglie are full of history, and valuable not merely as a record of events but of opinions. It was some time before he was able to form a correct idea of Washington. His personal qualities he was struck with at once; but the campaign of '77 had not been a brilliant one, and mistakes had been made which he erroneously laid at the door of the commander-in-chief. “I have not yet told you anything of the character of General Washington,” he writes to the Comte de Broglie, on the 24th of September. “He is the most amiable, kind-hearted and upright of men; but as a general he is too indolent, too slow, and far too weak; besides he has a tinge of vanity in his composition, and overestimates himself. In my opinion, whatever success he may have will be owing to good luck and to the blunders of his adversaries rather than to his abilities. I may even say that he does not know how to improve even upon the grossest blunders of the enemy. He has not yet overcome his old prejudices against the French.” This language sounds strangely as applied to Washington; yet it is historically important to know that it was actually used. If we inquire when, we shall find that it was at the time of the Conway cabal, when Washington's enemies were bold and loud, although there is no reason to suppose that Kalb was in any way connected with them.
A few weeks later his opinion is materially modified. “He is the bravest and truest of men,” he writes, “has the best intentions and a sound judgment. I am convinced that he would accomplish substantial results if he would only act more upon his own responsibility; but it is a pity that he is so weak and has the worst of advisers in the men who enjoy his confidence.” He had already written: “It is unfortunate that Washington is so easily led.” This is nearly the language of Lee and Reed a year before. They had all mistaken for want of decision the self-distrust which arose from a consciousness of inexperience. It was not long before Kalb's opinion was still farther modified. “He must be a very modest man. He did and does more every day than could be expected from any general in the world in the same circumstances, and I think him the only proper person (nobody actually being or serving in America excepted), by his natural and acquired capacity, his bravery, good sense, uprightness, and honesty, to keep up the spirits of the army and people, and I look upon him as the sole defender of his country's cause. Thus much I thought myself obliged to say on that head. I only could wish, in my private opinion, he would take more upon himself, and trust more to his own excellent judgment than to councils.” This language was a decided renunciation of the schemes of De Broglie. “If I return to Europe,” he writes to the count himself, “it will be with the greatest mortification, as it is impossible to execute the great design I have so gladly come to subserve. M. de Valfort will tell you that the project in question is totally impracticable: it would be regarded no less as an act of crying injustice towards Washington, than as an outrage on the honor of the country.”
Kalb was with the army during its last operations before Philadelphia, and its bleak winter encampment at Valley Forge. He was restless and dissatisfied. Among his many hard experiences this was the hardest. His judgment as a scientific soldier was offended. His aspirations for military distinction were thwarted. He longed for the well clad and thoroughly disciplined armies with which he had fought under Saxe and against Frederick. He pours out his soul to his wife and his friend, and there was a great deal of bitterness in it. Like all his letters, those of this period are full of materials for his tory. He writes with freedom of acts and opinions, often using strong expressions, though seldom speaking of persons by name. He condemns in unmeasured terms the choice of encampment, saying that none but an enemy of the commander-in-chief could have advised him to risk his army in such a position. His picture of camp-life is almost a satire. He hardly seems to know how to speak of the love for titles which makes every man a colonel; or of the love of display which wearied the troops with unprofitable parades, and led officers of every grade to strip the ranks in order to secure a full array of unnecessary servants. The expense of living he finds enormous, and believes that many bills are paid which will not bear examination. “I am the only general,” he writes, “who practices economy. Nevertheless, at the last camp I had to pay my purveyor of milk and butter two hundred and forty-two francs for the consumption of two weeks.” He does not know what his pay is, whether a hundred and fifty dollars a month or two hundred, but whichever it may be it will be paid in paper and subjected to a discount of four hundred per cent, before he can get silver for it. The contractors make, he has no doubt, fifty per cent. on their contracts; and throughout the whole department of supplies he finds a dangerous spirit of peculation. Nothing, however, gives him greater pain than the jealousies and bickerings of the French officers. Few as they comparatively were, they were divided into parties, and embittered against each other by an intolerant party spirit. The only exception was Lafayette, who, attaching himself to Washington, seemed to have no other view than the success of the cause to which he had dedicated his fortune and life. “I always meet him,” Kalb writes, “with the same cordiality and the same pleasure. He is an excellent young man, and we are good friends. It were to be wished that all the Frenchmen who serve here were as reasonable as he and I. Lafayette is much liked; he is on the best of terms with Washington; both of them have every reason to be satisfied with me also.” With Greene and Knox he does not seem to have formed any close association, even if he did not go further and avoid them as Washington's evil counselors.
Be this as it may, the winter at Valley Forge was a trying winter to Kalb. He could not adapt himself to American camp life, and, what tried him yet more, he could not see those prospects of laurels in it which had been his chief aim in coming to America. Then came rumors of European wars, and visions of honors won under his old commander, De Broglie, began to float before his dazzled eyes. Then his diplomatic ambition was awakened, and he thought it would be a pleasant thing to be the French envoy to Congress, or to represent France in Protestant Geneva. Sometimes, also, while he wrote to his wife, he longed for more tranquil scenes and a purer happiness; he would throw up his commission and go home to live with her and their children. Dreams, all of them. The weeks and months passed on, and every day the fetters which his ambition had forged grew firmer.
But the winter was not altogether an inactive one. It was the winter of the Conway cabal, and Kalb's good sense led him to the side of Washington. From the Conway cabal sprang the expedition to Canada, framed solely to detach Lafayette from the commander-in-chief. The snare was avoided by Lafayette's insisting upon Kalb instead of Conway for the second in command. When the two generals reached Albany, they found that no preparations had been made for the opening of the campaign; neither men nor stores had been collected. It was too late to begin, and they returned to camp. During this fruitless expedition Kalb was brought more directly into collision with Conway, who, claiming to have outranked him in France, claimed not to be outranked by him here.
Meanwhile came the tidings of the French alliance, which seemed to make the victory of the Americans sure. They were received in camp with great exultation, and a day set apart for public rejoicing. On this occasion Kalb commanded the centre, and Lafayette the left wing. A council of war was called to decide how this accession of a great ally could be made available. “But for the late treaty,” Kalb writes to his wife on the 25th of May, 1778, “I should have returned to you ere this. Now I cannot and will not do it for various reasons, two of which I shall here specify. In the first place, war between England and France having become inevitable, should I fall into the hands of the English while at sea my treatment would be that of a French prisoner of war, possibly without a claim to being exchanged, inasmuch as I should have left America without leave from my own government. In the second place, the alliance with the United States transforms me from an officer on two years furlough into a general of the French army, with the same, if not a better, title to promotion than if I had never quitted France. Henceforward, therefore, I shall only return by express command of the minister.”
Kalb was one of those who thought the contest virtually ended by the alliance with France. “Since France has interfered in the war,” he writes to his wife, on the 7th of October, “the subjugation of the continent by the English is out of the question. Possibly they will even surrender Rhode Island, New York, Long Island, and Staten Island, to defend their own country and their remaining colonies. At all events, there will be no more movements of importance. I therefore regard the war as ended, as far as I am concerned, having no disposition to do battle against the savages on the frontier.” But his conjecture was not realized. It was not merely her rebellious colonies that were in arms against England, but her rival and natural enemy, France. The same narrow policy which had cost so much blood and treasure was desperately clung to in this day of trial and danger, and although there could be but one end to such a war, she declared war against France. For four more campaigns Kalb remained with the army, sharing all its hardships, but by a singular fatality not being present at any of its battles. Among its hardships was that of the second winter encampment at Morristown, when the ice in the Hudson was six feet thick, and cavalry and heavy ordnance went from New York to Staten Island on it. These were not the laurels which Kalb had left his pleasant home and beautiful wife to win. His patience was sorely tried. “As often as a Frenchman returns home,” he writes to his wife, “my heart is ready to burst with homesickness.” New campaigns come and go monotonously. I shall not follow his steps in detail, but content myself with gathering a few side lights to bring out the characteristic points of my picture more faithfully.
“What I am doing here,” he writes to his wife on the 15th of July, “is extremely disagreeable. Without my excellent constitution, it would be impossible to bear up long under this service. Yesterday I made the most wearisome trip of my life, visiting the posts and pickets of the army in the solitudes, woods, and mountains, clambering over the rocks, and picking my way in the most abominable roads. My horse having fallen lame, I had to make the whole distance on foot. I never suffered more from heat. On my return I had not a dry rag on me, and was so tired that I could not sleep. My temperate and simple habits greatly contribute to keep me in good health. My general health is very good, and I hardly notice the annoyances of camp life. Dry bread and water make my breakfast and supper; at dinner I take some meat. I drink nothing but water, never coffee, and rarely chocolate or tea, in order to avoid irritating my eyes, which are the more useful to me as my four aids, partly from ignorance and partly from laziness, leave the writing incident to the service unattended to. So I am compelled to do it all myself, while they cultivate their digestions. I have now no more earnest wish than soon to see you and the children again, and never to leave you more. If our separation is destined to be of any advantage to us, it is dearly paid for.”
Earnest as this longing for home unquestionably was, it may well be doubted whether a few weeks of domestic repose would not have brought back his yearning for active life.
ποθέεσκε δ′ ἀυτήν τε πτόλεμόν τέ.
For well he loved clamor and combat.
He bears emphatic testimony to the barbarity with which the war was carried on on the part of the enemy. The English peace commissioners had threatened it when they saw that their mission had failed, and Sir Henry Clinton did not scruple to put the threat in execution. “General Clinton,” Kalb writes, “having left a garrison in New York, is amusing himself with plundering, burning, and ravaging. Fairfield, Bedford, Norwalk, New Haven, and West Haven have already felt his rage. The mode of warfare here practiced is the most barbarous that could be conceived; whatever the enemy cannot carry off in their forays is destroyed or burned. They cannot possibly triumph in the end. Their cruelty and inhumanity, must sooner or later draw down upon their heads the vengeance of Heaven, and blast a government which authorizes these outrages.” Such words from an officer who had gone through the Seven Years' War, and seen with his own eyes the inhumanity with which it was waged, afford a strong confirmation of the charges which the Americans brought against the English.
We have seen that there was a great mystery hanging over Kalb's education. From this point of view the following passage has a peculiar interest. “Yesterday,” he writes in the letter from which I last quoted, “I was reconnoitring all day in the vicinity of my post, of course on foot; I must repeat the same operation forthwith, in order to be familiar with my position by dinner time. . . . Though very tired I have already returned from my excursion,” he continues at four o'clock of the same day, “and I have just dined. The staff officers of my division were my guests. We were all very hungry, and did full justice to the mutton and beef which constituted the repast; large round crackers served as plates in the absence of any kind of crockery. The scene forcibly reminded me of the conquest of Italy by Æneas, and the words of Ascanius, when they had reached the future site of Rome. There, too, hunger compelled them to devour the cakes upon which their food had been served up, and recalled the oracle of the harpies, that they would not reach the end of their wanderings and toils, nor call Italy theirs, until they should have eaten their tables with their meals. I have, unfortunately, no Ascanius with me, but I desire most ardently that my fate may be decided as was that of Æneas, that the independence of America, like the conquest of Italy, may now be realized, and that, after we too have eaten our tables, the close of our warfare and toils may be likewise approaching.”
It is pleasant to find a burst of enthusiasm in so deliberate a man as Kalb. A letter from Washington, announcing the capture of Stony Point, came while his party was still at table. “I drank no wine,” he writes, “as the others did, yet I was carried away by the same enthusiasm. I called Mr. Jacob, and told him to bring me a bottle of champagne. He stared at me with astonishment, saying he had none. ‘Then there must be some port wine at least?’ ‘That is on the baggage wagons.’ I apologized for my defective memory, and was sorry to have tantalized the company with delusive hopes; but they were satisfied to take my good will for the deed. I promised all my guests to give them the best of champagne at Paris, and shall be delighted to keep my word.”
We meet another trait, in these letters, worth remembering: “The taking of Stony Point forms an epoch in the history of the war of American independence, because it was on this occasion that our troops first ventured to attack the intrenchments of the enemy, and because they displayed great valor in doing so. The action lasted only twenty-five minutes. A hundred or a hundred and twenty of the British were killed and wounded, while we had thirty killed and sixty wounded. I mean to tell the truth, in spite of what the newspapers will say about our losses, greatly exaggerating, of course, the number of the fallen foe, and cutting down our own casualties. But I am unable to appreciate the subtlety of this system of lies told by everybody and believed by no one, and prefer to comfort myself with the well tried proverb, ‘On ne fait point d'ommelette sans casser des œufs.’” (You cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs.)
From the French alliance to the spring of 1780, Kalb was constantly with the army, sharing all its hardships, cold, hunger, fatigue, the nights on a camp-stool or on the bare ground, clothes falling about him in rags, and his ink freezing in his pen as he writes close by the fire. He resolves to go to Philadelphia to buy clothes. He has to pay four hundred dollars for a hat, for a pair of boots the same, and other things in proportion. He wants a good horse, but is asked a price equivalent to ten years of his pay, and therefore falls back on his old stock. His letters to his wife are filled with interesting details, some of them not very creditable to the public spirit of the times. His division was composed of one regiment from Delaware and seven from Maryland, divided into two brigades, the first under Smallwood and all Marylanders, the second under Gist, and containing three Maryland and one Delaware regiment; two thousand and thirty men in all. From time to time some of the States sent their officers supplies of a kind which could not be found in the market, coffee, cognac, tea, and sugar. As commanding officer, Kalb would be entitled to a share, but Smallwood, violating both the laws of military subordination and the laws of good breeding, set a watch over them to prevent any of them from going into the hands of Kalb, who, he said, not being a Marylander, had no right to them. Fortunately not all of our officers were so churly or so ignorant of the proprieties of life.
“My march,” he writes to a German friend from Petersburg, Virginia, when on his way to reinforce the southern army, “my march costs me enormous sums. I cannot travel with my equipage, I am therefore compelled to resort to inns. My six months earnings will scarce defray the most indispensable outlay of a single day. Not long since I was compelled to take a night's lodging at a private house. For a bed, supper, and grog for myself, my three companions, and three servants I was charged, on going off without a breakfast next day, the sum of eight hundred and fifty dollars. The lady of the house politely added that she had charged nothing for the rooms, and would leave the compensation for them to my discretion, although three or four hundred dollars would not be too much for the inconvenience to which she had been put by myself and my followers.” No wonder that he should add, “And these are the people who talk of sacrificing their all in the cause of liberty.”
I give these details with reluctance, but I feel myself bound to give them, because they are a part of the history of the times. Those who look upon the history of our war of independence as an unqualified history of generous sacrifices, take a false view of the subject. Base and ignoble passions manifested themselves by the side of the noblest passions. Some men were always true, as some were always false. We had but one Arnold, but we had many lesser villains, who played the spy on both sides, sometimes fought on both sides, and grew rich by speculating upon the necessities of their country. Our national history, like the early history of Rome, has suffered greatly from apocryphal heroism.
Meanwhile a change had taken place in the strategy of the British general. Experience had shown the impossibility of conquering the Americans by the north. He resolved to carry the war into the south. Savannah was taken; siege was laid to Charleston. Lincoln, who was in command in the south, called earnestly for reinforcements; and, on the 3d of April, Kalb was ordered to march with his division to the succor of the besieged city. It was a long and weary march, during which men and officers were exposed to great hardships. It was an occasion, also, which called out Kalb's military and executive talents to the best advantage. Supplies of all kinds were wanted, and he hurried on to Philadelphia to urge upon Congress the necessity of employing all its authority in order to collect them. The means of transportation, in particular, were wanting. “Virginia promised them, but,” he writes to his friend, Dr. Phyle of Philadelphia, “I meet with no support, no integrity, and no virtue in the State of Virginia, and place my sole reliance on the French fleet and army which are coming to our relief.” With every step in advance his embarrassments increased. “What a difference between war in this country and in Europe,” he writes to his wife. “Those who do not know the former know not what it is to contend against obstacles.” At Petersburg he received the tidings of the fall of Charleston, an event which had been foreseen and provided for. The enemy had as yet no firm footing in the Carolinas, and he was to prevent them from gaining one. He presses on, his difficulties daily increasing, for the further he advanced the more difficult he found it to obtain wagons and food. North Carolina had prepared no supplies for the Union troops, reserving all her stores for the militia; a body utterly untrustworthy for a campaign of marches and countermarches, and which in North Carolina was deeply tainted with toryism. As chief in command, and consequently brought into frequent contact with dilatory legislatures and ignorant militia, Kalb had much to endure. He had physical trials also, hardly less annoying, which he describes to his wife in those long and frequent letters that give so pleasant a picture of his married life. “Here I am at last,” he writes from Goshen, on the borders of North Carolina, “considerably south, suffering from intolerable heat and the worst of quarters, and the most voracious insects of every hue and form. The most disagreeable of the latter is what is commonly called the tick, a kind of strong black flea, which makes its way under the skin, and by its bite produces the most painful irritation and inflammation, which last a number of days. My whole body is covered with their stings.”
One of his worst foes was hunger. Failing to obtain provisions from the State executive, he was compelled to send out foraging parties, a painful and yet an insufficient resource, for the farmers were living on the last year's crop, which was nearly exhausted, while the new crop, though full of promise to the eye, was not yet ripe; and although the commanders of these parties were ordered to treat the inhabitants with the greatest leniency, they could not but add materially to the miseries of the suffering country. When this resource failed, he was compelled to advance towards the richer districts.
It is only by minute details that such pictures as these can be made faithful, or such services as Kalb's be placed in their true light. Yet even in this hasty sketch there is enough to prove that he possessed some of the soldier's highest qualities in the highest degree. But we are near the end. On the 13th of July a letter from General Gates announces to Kalb that the command of the southern army has been transferred to the successful leader of the northern army of 1777. Kalb replies, on the 16th, from his camp on the Deep River, giving a concise description of his condition and prospects, and expressing his satisfaction at the promise of being relieved from so difficult a command. If anything could have prepared Gates's mind for a true conception of the condition of his army, it would have been an unvarnished tale like this. But his brain had been heated by success, and, fancying that the men who had turned a deaf ear to the representations of Kalb would act with energy and promptitude at the call of the favorite of Congress, he pushed on to Wilcox's Mills on the Deep River, where the famishing army lay encamped. Kalb received him with a salute of thirteen guns and all the pomp and circumstance that his scanty means would permit, and then sank, with a lightened heart, into the subordinate position of a commander of division. Gates paid him the compliment of confirming his standing orders, but startled officers and men by ordering them to hold themselves in readiness to set out, the next morning, on the direct route to Camden. When reminded in a written memorial, signed by all the leading officers, that the direct route led through a desolate and barren region, and that there was not food enough in camp for a single day, he replied that supplies of provisions and rum were on their way from the north, and would reach the army in two days at the furthest. “I have but to stamp my foot,” said Pompey, “and armed men will start from the soil of Italy.” “I have but to show myself,” thought Gates, “and Cornwallis will take refuge in Charleston.”
The disastrous march began. Disease, heat, and hunger fought for the enemy. Mutiny was twice at the door. Neither supplies nor reinforcements came. Molasses was used to temper the brackish water. The meat was the meagre beef of the pine barrens, in small quantities. For bread they ate unripened corn and peaches still half green. By the 13th of August they were within thirteen miles of the enemy. On the 15th, the heavy baggage, camp equipage, the sick, and women and children were sent to the rear, and orders issued for a night march. A council of war was called, not for consultation, but to confirm the general's plan of action. The confidence in his judgment had not been increased by the knowledge that he had estimated his strength at 7000 men, when he had but 3052 fit for duty. The confidence in his tactics was shaken when it was seen that, against all the laws of tactics, he had placed at the head of a column in a night march Armand's cavalry, a body of raw and undisciplined foreigners. Kalb urged that they should remain at Clermont, a place strong by nature and capable of being made stronger by art. This, too, he argued, was the true course for the American army, the motley composition of which was much better adapted to defense than to attack; but this wise counsel was not heeded. “We may have Cornwallis against us,” said an officer. “He will not dare to look me in the face,” was Gates's reply. “I wonder where we shall dine to-morrow,” said another. “Dine, sir,” was the answer, “why, where, but in Camden? I wouldn't give a pinch of snuff for the certainty of eating my breakfast at Camden to-morrow, and seeing Lord Cornwallis my guest at table.”
At ten in the evening the tents were struck, and the troops, filing into position, began their march. The sky was clear, the stars shone brightly, but the air was sultry, and night had none of its wonted coolness to repair the strength consumed by the burning heat of the day. Silence was enjoined under penalty of death. The deep sand deadened the rumbling of the artillery and the heavy tread of the men. The air gleamed with myriads of fire-flies. But every now and then men sickened and fell out of the ranks. Meanwhile Cornwallis, little dreaming that his enemy was so near, was advancing at the head of 2233 men, in the hope of coming upon the Americans by surprise at Clermont. Thus the two armies were fast approaching each other, each ignorant of the proximity of his enemy. At about two in the morning they met in a glade in the pine forest which fell off with a gentle declination towards Saunder's Creek, about half a mile distant, and was covered on both flanks by impenetrable marshes; a position not wanting in strength, but too narrow for the easy management of troops. A brisk fire followed the collision, and in the skirmish Armand's cavalry was thrown back upon the first Maryland brigade, which caught the panic and broke. But Porterfield's light infantry held its ground and drove the English, though with the loss of their gallant leader. Both sides paused, and drawing a little back, waited with throbbing hearts to see what daylight might reveal.
From some prisoners, who had been taken in the skirmish, Williams, the adjutant-general, learned that Cornwallis himself was at the head of the hostile army, and hastened with the intelligence to Gates. The inconsiderate general could not conceal his amazement. “Let a council be called,” was his comment upon the unwelcome tidings. Williams hurried to Kalb. “Well,” said the veteran, “did not the commanding general immediately order a retreat?” The council met in the rear of the American lines. “You know our situation, gentlemen,” said Gates, “what had we better do?” A deep and ominous silence followed. Kalb had already twice offered wise council which had been rejected. It was not in his nature to offer it again. The first to speak was the impetuous Stevens. “We must fight, gentlemen: it is not yet too late: we can do nothing else, we must fight.” “We must fight then,” said Gates. “Gentlemen, to your posts!”
At break of day the battle began. The first scene was soon ended. Unable to stand the fierce onset of Cornwallis's veterans, the Virginia militia broke and fled, carrying the North Carolinians with them in their headlong flight. “I will bring the rascals with me back into line,” exclaimed Gates, and spurred after them, not stopping till he reached Charlotte, sixty miles from the field of battle. And now the interest centres in Kalb. The final hour of the veteran, who had fought under Saxe, and taken an honorable part in the Seven Years' War, was come in the last and only honorable hour of the battle of Camden. He had drawn up the army, putting himself at the head of the men of Delaware and Maryland. A dense fog hung over the battle-field, pressing the smoke so low that it was impossible to distinguish objects even at a small distance, and it was some time before he became aware of the flight of the left wing and centre. Then, gathering all his forces around him, conscious of his danger but not despairing of victory, he led them to the charge. It must have been a thrilling sight to see how firmly they held their ground, how they fired volley after volley into the enemy's ranks, how, when they had opened their way by their musketry, they followed it up by the bayonet. Above them all towered the gallant German at their head. His sword was stained deepest, his battle-cry rang clearest; there was triumph in the keen flash of his eye, if not the victor's triumph, the triumph of duty done. Three times he led his willing men to the charge. Three times they were forced back by superior numbers. For numbers began to tell. His horse was shot under him. His head was laid open by a sabre stroke. Jaquette, the adjutant of the Delaware regiment, bound up the wound with his scarf and besought him to withdraw from the fight. Without heeding the appeal, Kalb led the charge on foot. Wound followed wound, but he held his ground desperately. At last, concentrating his strength in a final charge, Cornwallis came on. The Marylanders broke. Kalb fell, bleeding from eleven wounds; still at this supreme moment strong enough to cut down a soldier who was aiming his bayonet at his breast. “The rebel general, the rebel general!” shouted the enemy, as they caught sight of his epaulettes. “Spare the Baron de Kalb,” cried his adjutant, Dubuysson, vainly throwing himself upon his body and trying to shield it with his own from the thirsty bayonets. He spoke to hearts hardened by the fierce spirit of battle. The furious English raised the helpless warrior from the ground, and leaning him against a wagon began to strip him. At this moment Cornwallis and his suite rode up. They found him already stripped to his shirt and with the blood streaming from eleven wounds. “I regret to see you so badly wounded, but am glad to have defeated you,” said the victorious general, and immediately gave orders that his brave antagonist should be properly cared for. For three days Kalb's strong frame struggled with death. Dubuysson watched by his bedside. English officers came to express their sympathy and regret. Soldier to the last, his thoughts were with the brave men who had faced the enemy so gallantly at his command, and just before he expired he charged his faithful adjutant to give them his “thanks for their valor, and bid them an affectionate farewell.”
On the 19th he died, — three days after the battle. The masons of the British army took part in his funeral, and buried him with masonic rites. Gates announced his death to Congress in terms of warm admiration; and Congress voted a monument to his memory which has never been erected. Till 1821, the solitary tree under which he had been buried was the only record of the spot where he lay. Then proposals were made to erect a monument to him at Camden, and after some delay the work was begun. Little progress had been made, when Lafayette's last visit to this country in 1825 revived, for a moment, the sense of local rather than of national obligation, and the illustrious Frenchman, who had been Kalb's first companion, was, with peculiar propriety, asked to lay the corner-stone of this tardy tribute to the memory of his heroic friend.
- Leben des Amerikanischen Generals Johann Kalb. Von Friedrich Kapp, mit Kalb's Portrait. “In deiner Brust sind deines Schicksals Sterne.” — Schiller. Stuttgart: Cotta'scher Verlag. 1862.
The Life of John Kalb, Major-General in the Revolutionary Army. By Friedrich Kapp. New York: privately printed. MDCCCLXX.