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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: July 1, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Greenburgh Slice of History

A: Philosopher, Poet, Scientist, and Soldier in Greenburgh: The Extraordinary Life of General François-Jean de Chastellux

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A: Philosopher, Poet, Scientist, and Soldier in Greenburgh: The Extraordinary Life of General François-Jean de Chastellux

By :Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber

 

Introduction:

 

The Town of Greenburgh played a pivotal role in the American Revolution: George Washington and his troops camped in the Village of Ardsley. The 1781 American or Continental Encampment was mainly where Ardsley High School is now, at 300 Farm Road in Ardsley, approximately 1 mile away from the Odell House, whereas, General Washington himself, stayed at the Appleby Farm, now the site of WFAS tv tower (Click here for more details: https://greenburghny.com/DocumentCenter/View/7160/A-Fateful-Journey-The-Uniqueness-of-Ardsley-and-The-Story-of-Washingtons-and-Rochambeaus--Journey-through-Greenburgh). The Battle of Edgar’s Lane was fought in the Village of Hastings (Click Here for more details: https://greenburghny.com/DocumentCenter/View/8505/A-Tavern-and-an--Ambush), and the decisive Battle of Yorktown was planned at the Odell House in the Hamlet of Hartsdale (Click Here for more details: https://greenburghny.com/DocumentCenter/View/5654/A-Small-House--an-Important-Meeting--A-Huge-Victory). Now, let us once again return to Greenburgh during the American Revolution, to discuss the role of a particular Frenchman who aided the Americans during the Revolution and who led an extraordinary life. His name is Chastellux (pronounced “Shat- ta- Loo”), General  François-Jean de Chastellux.

 

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Chastellux:

 

François-Jean de Chastellux was born on May 5th1734 (Selig 2020 p. 16). Chastellux served during the French and Indian War as the Colonel of le Regiment La Marche which fought in the Battle of Minden against an allied army consisting of British soldiers and Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy serving King George II, of Great Britain. By 1762, Chastellux had command of his own brigade operating in western Germany (https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/francois-jean-de-chastellux/).

 

As an aristocrat, he was also “a man of letters” (18th century slang for “educated man”). He was educated at the distinguished Académie Française. Since he was an educated man, he was a prolific writer. He wrote many: books, plays, and poems. He was also a philosopher. As a philosopher, he was particularly concerned with how to maximize public happiness. While in France, he was close friends with the Enlightenment Era Philosopher Voltaire (https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/francois-jean-de-chastellux/).

 

In July 1780, he set sail for the thirteen colonies as part of General Rochambeau’s French Expeditionary Force (https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/francois-jean-de-chastellux/). He had the rank of Lieutenant – General. This force arrived in May of 1781. They first arrived in Newport Rhode Island and were not well liked by the Americans (https://www.c-span.org/video/?526407-1/franois-jean-de-chastellux-american-independence). When Chastellux arrived, he traveled all around America.

 

He wrote down his observations in a travel diary. He was quite the naturalist. He had a lot of observations about cows and horses and birds how these different animals moved, and how they interacted with one another. However, while he greatly enjoyed scientific study, he was keenly aware of his primary mission in the colonies. They had a war to win.

 

Picture 1

 

Chastellux was a: Philosopher, Poet,

Scientist, and a Soldier. This photo reflects the

many sides of this multifaceted man.

 

On May 19th 1781, Rochambeau and Chastellux left Newport for Wethersfield. When George Washington arrived in Wethersfield to meet Rochambeau and Chastellux, he was accompanied by General Henry Knox. The next day Rochambeau and Chastellux spent the night at Daniel “White’s Tavern (Selig 2020 p.34). On May 21st 1781, Rochambeau and Chastellux arrive in Wethersfield and lodge at Stillmann's Tavern. At this meeting, they discuss strategy.

 

Unfortunately, unlike many of his contemporaries such as: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison, General Washington couldn’t speak or read any language but English(https://fs.blog/george-washington-self-education/#:~:text=Washington%20couldn't%20speak%20or,Washington%20wasn't%20very%20bookish). Due to his strong knowledge of the English language, Chastellux served as an important (and perhaps the principle) liaison between Rochambeau and Washington (https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/francois-jean-de-chastellux).

 

The conclusion at this meeting is to attack British General Henry Clinton’s forces in New York City (Selig 2020 p.34). However, after George Washington had several meetings with General Rochambeau between July 6, 1781 and August 9, 1781 at the Odell House located at 425 Ridge Road Hartsdale, this plan was abandoned in favor of a plan to attack British General Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. As with the earlier meetings in Rhode Island, General François-Jean de Chastellux once again acted as General George Washington’s interpreter(Selig 2020 p.34).

 

While serving in this capacity, Chastellux lived in a house that still stands on 8 Thomas Lane in unincorporated Greenburgh (Personal communication from Susan Seal June 5, 2023). He also was close friends with almost every founding father: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams (https://www.c-span.org/video/?526407-1/franois-jean-de-chastellux-american-independence).

 

Conclusion:

 

In conclusion, François-Jean de Chastellux was a philosopher, scientist, poet, and playwright who was also an exemplary soldier, but what makes General François-Jean de Chastellux interesting to us is that since General George Washington couldn’t speak or write French, Chastellux served as his interpreter whenever Washington met with General Rochambeau. He was so well respected in this position, that he was liked by both Jefferson and Hamilton, something that few men of that era could claim.

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Previous Slices of History include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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About the Authors:

 

We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.

 

Riley Wentzler:

I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at historian@greenburghny.comor to help me find employment, you can contact me at rjwentzler413@gmail.com.

 

Felicia Barber:

I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at historian@greenburghny.comTo learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at feliciadbarber@gmail.com.

 

 

Two Interviews with the authors:

 

https://riverjournalonline.com/around-town/a-love-of-history-and-each-other/13708/

 

https://wcbs880.radio.com/articles/news/stories-main-street-couple-cerebral-palsy-brings-manytalents-town-greenburgh 
 

References:

 

Selig, R. A. (2020). The Franco-American Encampment in the Town of Greenburgh, 6 July – 18 August 1781. Greenburgh, NY: Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.

 

Stoltz III, J. F. (2023, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). François-Jean de Chastellux. Retrieved from mountvernon.orghttps://www.mountvernon.org/

 

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