[AMERICAN REVOLUTION]. KALB, Johann, "Baron de Kalb" (1721-1780), General, Continental Army. Autograph letter signed ("The Baron de Kalb," with flourish) to "The Delegates in Congress for the State of South Carolina," Philadelphia, [PA], 28 August 1777. 1 1/8 pages, folio, on light blue paper, integral address leaf, left margin neatly mended.
THE BARON DE KALB IS SWINDLED UPON HIS ARRIVAL IN AMERICA
Kalb, popularly known in the Continental Army as the Baron de Kalb, complains vociferously about the theft of his personal baggage upon arrival in America. The Bavarian-born Kalb had served in the French army and had fought through the War of Austrian Secession and the Seven Years' War, but married an heiress and retired in 1765. Three years later, he had been sent to America as a secret agent to report on the sentiments of the colonists. Recommissioned a Brigadier in 1776, he received permission to join the Marquis de Lafayette in volunteering his services to the American cause. Upon arrival in Charleston, S.C., Kalb paid William McCafferty 900 pounds South Carolina currency to carry the baggage of several officers, including his own, to Philadelphia. Kalb complains to the delegates of South Carolina that "He loaded his wagon and left Charlestown on 26th June last, in Company of three other Waggons [sic] belonging to the Marqis delafayette and others of our officers. He went with them as far as charlotte but then staid [sic] at home, would on no account go farther with them, and nothing was heard of him since. As all th'other Waggons are arrived, it seems this man has a manifest design of defrauding us of our goods, as well as to keep to himself forty Louis d'ors in Gold belonging to Mr. Lecher defayolles Which said MacCafferty promised to return for three hundred Dollars in Paper money." Now, Kalb asks the Congressional delegates, "To have Said MacCafferty do us justice ... to cause Such orders to be issued as will be most effectual to the purpose."
Baron de Kalb endured other obtacles besides the loss of his luggage. Kalb's aristocratic manners did not suit the Continental Congress which, at first, refused to accomodate him as they did Lafayette. It is likely that when he wrote to place his claim against MacCafferty, he was already seriously considering a return to France and a possible suit against the American Government for breach of contract. Before either event occurred, he received a commission in the Continental Army on September 15 (although it is uncertain if he ever resolved his dispute with MacCafferty). Kalb served the Continental Army well, particularly in the southern campaigns, and fought with remarkable tenacity at Camden, where he received 11 wounds, from which he died three days later.
Very rare. Letters of this German-born French officer in American service are very seldom obtainable. In 25 years only one brief autograph document has appeared at auction, according to ABPC.