chevalier de Chastellux

Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, c. 1782

1734 in Paris, France
28 October 1788 in Paris, France

  • Voyages de M. le Marquis de Chastellux dans l'Amérique septentrionale, dans les années 1780, 1781 et 1782, (Travels in North America; 2 volumes), 1788


François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux, was a French military officer, writer, and traveler. Born in the Burgundy region of France, in 1734, hee was the son of a distinguished noble family and received an excellent education, which prepared him for a life of intellectual pursuits and military service.

Chastellux began his military career at the age of 17, serving in the French army during the Seven Years’ War. He rose through the ranks and gained the respect of his superiors for his bravery and tactical skill. In 1765, he was appointed as a colonel and given command of a regiment, which he led with distinction.

In 1780, Chastellux was sent to America to serve under comte de Rochambeau. He arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, and was immediately struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the American people. He met with General George Washington, who was impressed by Chastellux’s military knowledge and appointed him as a major general in the Continental Army.

Chastellux participated in several battles during the American Revolution, including the Siege of Yorktown, where he played a crucial role in securing the victory for the American and French forces. He was also instrumental in securing French naval support for the American cause, which helped turn the tide of the war.

After the war, Chastellux returned to France, where he continued his military service and became a prolific writer. He wrote several books on military tactics, including Essai sur la guerre civile, which was considered a groundbreaking work on the subject. He also wrote a travelogue titled Voyage de M. le chevalier de Chastellux dans l’Amérique septentrionale, which chronicled his experiences in America during the Revolution.

Chastellux was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and a close friend of many influential French intellectuals, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. He was a strong supporter of the American Revolution and saw it as an opportunity to promote the ideals of liberty and democracy.

Chastellux died in 1788 at the age of 54. His contributions to the American Revolution and his writings on military tactics and travel continue to be studied and celebrated today. He is remembered as a brave and talented military leader and a skilled writer who made important contributions to the study of American culture and politics.


Visitors to Monticello often wonder at its practical accessories. Jefferson labored a month to save a minute. His home was impractical from the start — by reason of its very site (on a mountain), by the height given the first version of the building (later disguised in a way that left useless spaces in and around its dome), by the perpetual course of its dismantling and reassembly. To make the house more convenient, he made his daughter and her children live for years in a chaos of artistic second thoughts, sometimes sheltered only by canvas as the roof rose, fell, and assumed new shapes in his mind.

Garry Wills
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1978)