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The Marquis de Chastellux's Account of a Visit to Fishkill- 1780

The Marquis de Chastellux was one of three major generals who accompanied Rochambeau and the French Expeditionary Forces to America from 1780 to 1782. Marquis's account of his travels through Early America give us an intriguing glimpse of the Fishkill Supply Depot. The following is a reprint of passages from the 1963 translation of Chastellux's writings by Howard C. Rice, Jr.

November 20, 1780: Morehouse's Tavern (Wingdale) NY. HopeWell-Fishkill

"My intention was to sleep five miles on this side of Fishkill, at Colonel Griffin's Tavern. I found him cutting and preparing wood for fences: he assured me his house was full, which was easy to believe, for it was very small. So I continued my journey and reached Fishkill about four o'clock. This town, in which there are not more than fifty houses in the space of two miles, has long been the principal depot of the American army: it is there they have placed their magazines, their hospitals, their workshops, etc. but all of these form a town in themselves, composed of handsome large barracks, built in the wood at the foot of the mountains; for the Americans, like the Romans in many respects, have for winter quarters only wooden towns, or camps, composed of barracks, which may be compared to the hiemalia of Romans."

"As for the position of Fishkill, the events of the campaign of 1777 had proved how important it was to occupy it. It was clear that the plan of the English had been, and was still, to render themselves masters of the whole course of the North [Hudson] River, and thus to separate the eastern states from those to the west and south. It was necessary therefore to secure a post on this river; West Point was chosen as the most important point to fortify, and Fishkill as the place the best adapted to the establishment of -the principal depot of provisions, ammunition, etc.; these two positions are connected with each other."

November 21, 1780: Fishkill-West Point

"After passing some time in visiting these different establishments, I got on horseback, and under the conduct of a state guide whom the quartermaster had given me, I entered the woods and followed the road to West Point, where I wanted to arrive for dinner. Four or five miles from Fishkill, I saw some felled trees and a clearing in the wood, which on coming nearer I discovered to be a camp, or rather huts inhabited by several hundred invalid soldiers. These invalids were all in very good health; but it is necessary to observe that in to American armies every solider who is unfit for service is called an invalid; now these had been sent here behind the lines because their clothes were truly invalid. These honest fellows, for I will not say unfortunates (they know too well how to suffer, and are suffering in too noble a cause) were not covered, even with rags; but their assured tearing and arms in good order seemed to cover their nakedness, and to show only their courage and patience."