Louis Duportail Engineers the American Revolution
Louis Duportail was a Frenchman who came to American and became Washington’s trusted Chief of Engineers.
Louis Duportail was a Lieutenant Colonel in the French royal Corps of Engineers when Benjamin Franklin arrived in Paris.
Franklin, then on his famous mission to recruit France’s assistance in the War of Independence, plead with King Louis XIV for help defeating their common British enemy. The King was hesitant, but agreed to secret away Louis Duportail, an up and coming engineer in his army.
Arriving in the United States, Duportail was introduced to General Washington and after a brief discussion the young man was suddenly Chief of Engineers for the Continental Army.
Chief of Engineers
As Chief of Engineers, Duportail was responsible to oversee the construction of all military buildings. This was especially important for defensive structures.
Technically, Louis was in charge of every works which might protect a city, town, fort or outpost. He did, of course, delegate much of this responsibility to his team but it should be noted that he personally oversaw the winter encampments at Valley Forge and Morristown.
Additionally, Louis was present to during the fortification of Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, the city was still overrun by the enemy and he was taken prisoner.
After his release from captivity, Duportail rejoined the Continental Army.
Washington had retained Louis’ position as Chief of Engineers, and he was instructed to build the siege works necessary for the Battle of Yorktown.
When the American Victory was complete, Duportail was promoted to Major General. Louis stayed in the United States until the British evacuated New York City before returning to France.
As the French Revolution began, Duportail, having seen the birth of republican government in the United States, supported the movement. He was even chosen as Minister of War by his fellow revolutionaries.
However, as the French Revolution disintegrated into the Reign of Terror, Louis found himself a target of hostile factions. He fled France for the safety of Pennsylvania.
Duportail purchased a home outside of Valley Forge where he lived peacefully for a decade. Once Napoleon took over France and things seemed to have settled down, Louis decided to return.
Unfortunately, he caught an unknown disease on the ship and passed away in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean…far away from either Country or Continental he called home.
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