Marquis de Choisy

Brig. Gen. Claude Gabriel marquis de Choissey (French: Claude Gabriel de Choisy) was at the siege of Yorktown in command of Lauzun's Legion and Gen. George Weedon's Virginia militia, at Gloucester, Virginia, under the command of Rochambeau, opposite Banastre Tarleton.

Capture of Cracow

France was allied with Poland against Russia, in the Bar Confederation. On 2 February 1772, he led 270 men, in the capture of Kraków Poland, from 1,500 Russians. A small party entered through a sewer, surprised the guard, and opened the postern gate. Not being reinforced in time, they retreated to the citadel, Wawel Castle.[1] They held it through a siege of several weeks against 18,000 Russians,[2] until it fell to Suvorov on 28 April 1772.[3]

On 24 March 1772, he was appointed Brigadier General of Infantry, and in 1779 appointed to be Mestre of the Camp for the Fourth Regiment Chasseurs a Cheval.

Joining the Expédition Particulière

Competition was fierce among French officers to join the expedition to America, to gain fame and promotion. Marquis de Choisy arrived at Brest with five others officers to join the Army, but was turned away. Then he sailed, with ten officers, on the Sybille for Santo Domingo, changing ships to La Gentille, arriving at Newport on 29 September 1780.[4]

Tensions ran high among officers in camp; he sought to reconcile officers who had fought a duel.[5]

On 29 October, Rochambeau sent Brigadier General Choisy with Lauzun's Legion, as they marched from Rhode Island to Head of Elk, Maryland, traveled by water to Alexandria, Virginia, and marched to Glouchester Courthouse.[6]

Skirmish with Tarleton

Glouchester point was an obvious escape route from Yorktown. Marquis de Choisy was assigned the Virginia militia, Lauzun's Legion, and 800 French Marines. Opposite them was Tarleton's Legion, Simcoe's Rangers, the 80th Foot regiment, and the Erb Prinz (Prince Hereditaire) regiment.[7]

On 4 October 1781, Marquis de Choisy was marching towards Gloucester by the Severn road (Route 17), while John Mercer, with the Virginia militia, "veterans", took the York River road. Tarleton, who had crossed the river the night before, led a covering force for a "grand forage", for supplies.[8]

Lauzun and Tarleton charged and countercharged over the open ground. Tarleton was unhorsed, and Lauzun's Legion skirmished allowing the infantry to fire upon the British. Tarleton withdrew within his lines, and the French pursued, before being ordered to withdraw by the Marquis de Choisy.[9][10] The British lost killed or wounded one officer and eleven men; the French lost two officers and fourteen hussars.[11]

Marquis de Choisy wrote Washington:

Sir, I have the hounor to inform you that by our arrival at Saoul's Tavern we have met with the ennemi who was in number about 500 men Cavalry and Infantry, that the Cavalry of the Duc of Lauzun has attaqued them, pierced through and that we have had a great advantage on them We can esteem they have 30 men killed or wounded The 200 men grenadier Americans who were the only Infantry advanced enough to have part in the affair and who have behaved excedingly well have killed one officer who was at the head of the Infantry of the ennemi. T'is a general report that Tarleton has been wounded. The ennemi have retired to Gloucester and we are quickly in our Camp where I expect you will join to morrow as we have already agreed.

I have the hounor to be your Most humble servant,


After the battle

Washington corresponded with him about captured horses after the battle.[13]

There was some controversy, about horses and lodging, and returning runaway slaves.[14]

He returned to France with the Comte de Rochambeau, from Annapolis, sailing in January, 1783.

He was presented the medal, Libertas Americana, by Benjamin Franklin.[15] He was promoted to Maréchal de Camp (major general) on 5 December 1781, and commander in 1784. He was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Louis. He was promoted to be Lieutenant General, 20 May 1791, and honorably retired on 4 February 1793.[16]

Général of the French Révolution

The revolutionary government, which had just published, on 26 October 1791[17] the decree cementing Avignon and Comtat Venaissin with France, dispatched "civil police chiefs" who were escorted by troops placed under the command of the general Choisy (with the 9th regiment of dragoons).[18] Arriving on the spot, they ordered, after the Massacres of La Glacière, arrests, but on 19 March 1792, a general amnesty was voted by the National Assembly putting a rest to the inquiry.


  1. William Russell, The History of Modern Europe, p.539
  2. Imbert de Saint-Amand, The Youth of the Duchess of Angoulême, p. 237
  3. Arthur Hassall, The Balance of Power, 1715-1789, p. 312
  4. Robert A. Selig, Ph. D., The Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1781 - 1783, p.56
  5. Lauberdière Journal, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, The Connecticut Experience (1781)
  6. Robert E. Selig, The Duc de Lauzun and his Legion
  7. John D. Grainger, The Battle of Yorktown, 1781, p.104
  8. Henry Phelps Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis, 1781, p. 129
  10. Richard M. Ketchum, Victory at Yorktown, p. 216
  11. Washington Irving, Life of George Washington, p. 612
  12. D. Carter, Battle of the Hook...the history
  13. Washington, George, 1732-1799, The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library
  14. Samuel F. Scott, From Yorktown to Valmy, p.79
  15. Lester C. Olson, Benjamin Franklin's Vision of American Community, p. 163
  16. Asa Bird Gardiner, The order of the Cincinnati in France, p.78
  17. René Moulinas, History of the Revolution d' Avignon, p. 206
  18. Antoine-Vincent Arnault, Antoine Jay, Etienne de Jouy, Norvins, New biography of the contemporaries, or historical and reasoned Dictionary of all the men who, since the French revolution, acquired of the celebrity by their actions, their writings, their errors or their crimes, either in France, or in the foreign countries, Paris, historical Bookshop, 1822, p 181

Internal References

Yorktown order of battle

External links

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