Louis Lebègue Duportail
Louis Lebègue Duportail
|Minister of War|
25 May 1791 – 7 December 1791
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Louis de Narbonne-Lara|
|Secretary of State for War|
16 November 1790 – 25 May 1791
|Preceded by||Jean-Frédéric de la Tour du Pin-Gouvernet|
|Succeeded by||Office abolished|
|Chief Engineer of the Continental Army|
22 July 1777 – 10 October 1783
|Preceded by||Col. Rufus Putnam|
|Succeeded by||Lieut. Col. Stephen Rochefontaine (as Commandant of the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers)|
|Born||14 May 1743|
|Died||12 August 1802(aged 59)|
|Allegiance|| Kingdom of France|
|Years of service||1765–1790|
|Wars||American Revolutionary War|
Louis Antoine Jean Le Bègue de Presle Duportail[a] (French: [lwi ləbɛɡ dəpʁɛl dypɔʁtaj]; 14 May 1743 – 12 August 1802) was a French military leader who served as a volunteer and the Chief Engineer of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He also served as the last Secretary of State for War and first Minister of War during the beginning of the French Revolution.
Early life and education
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Royal Corps of Engineers, Duportail was secretly sent to America in March 1777 to serve in Washington's Continental Army under an agreement between Benjamin Franklin and the government of King Louis XVI of France. He was appointed colonel and chief engineer of the Continental Army, July 1777; brigadier general, November 17, 1777; commander, Corps of Engineers, May 1779; and major general, November 16, 1781.
Duportail participated in fortifications planning from Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was captured following the surrender of the city in May 1780, and helped Washington evolve the primarily defensive military strategy that wore down the British Army. Subsequently exchanged, he also directed the construction of siege works at the Battle of Yorktown, site of the decisive Franco-American victory of the Revolutionary War. During the encampment at Valley Forge in late-1777 and early-1778, his headquarters was at Cressbrook Farm.
Returning to France in October 1783, Duportail became an infantry officer and in 1788 a Marechal-de-Camp (Brigadier General). He served as France's minister of war from November 16, 1790, through December 7, 1791, during the beginning of the French Revolution and promoted military reforms. Forced into hiding by radical Jacobins, he escaped to America and bought a farm near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He lived there until 1802, when he died at sea while attempting to return to France.
- Some sources spell his name as Louis Le Bèque de Presle du Portail, with a mistaken ⟨q⟩ instead of a ⟨g⟩.
- Historic Valley Forge – General Chevalier Louis Lebègue dePresle Duportail
- "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). ARCH: Pennsylvania's Historic Architecture & Archaeology. Retrieved 2012-11-02. Note: This includes Pennsylvania Register of Historic Sites and Landmarks (January 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Cressbrook Farm" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- Walker, Paul K. (2002). Engineers of Independence: A Documentary History of the Army Engineers in the American Revolution, 1775-1783. Minerva Group. ISBN 1410201732.