Louis L. Duportail

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Louis Lebègue Duportail (1743-1802) - Major General,Chief Engineer, Continental Army (July 22, 1777-October 10, 1783)

Louis L. Duportail

One of General Washington's most trusted military advisors, Louis Lebègue Duportail was born near Orleans, France, in 1743. He graduated from the royal engineer school in Mézières, France, as a qualified engineer officer in 1765. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Royal Corps of Engineers, Duportail was secretly sent to America in March 1777 to serve in Washington's Army under an agreement between Benjamin Franklin and the government of King Louis XVI of France. He was appointed colonel and commander of all engineers in the Continental Army, July 1777; brigadier general, November 1777; commander, Corps of Engineers, May 1779; and major general (for meritorious service), November 1781. Duportail participated in fortifications planning from Boston to Charleston and helped Washington evolve the primarily defensive military strategy that wore down the British Army. He also directed the construction of siege works at Yorktown, site of the decisive American victory of the war. Returning to France in October 1783, Duportail became an infantry officer and in 1788 a field marshal. He served as France's minister of war during the revolutionary years (1790 and 1791) 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.


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