The Birth of Lauzun's Legion in 1779
Rare separately published map of the Gambia and Senegal River regions, published in Paris by Longchamps and dedicated to "Monsieur le Duc de Lauzun, Colonel Proprietaire des Volontaires Etrangers, Gouverneur du Senegal, Chevalier de l'Ordre Royal et Militaire de Saint Louis," who would next lead his "Legion" in combat during the American Revolution and become one of the primary protagonists in the Yorktown Campaign.
Lauzon's Forces Take Senegal From the British In 1779 -- Launching Lauzon's Legion
While the role of the Duke of Lauzun's role during the Yorktown Campaign is well reported, it was the Duke's actions in Sengal in 1779 which catapulted him to prominence among French Military Officer. Dispatched from France as the commander of the Second Legion of France's 5th Hussar Regiment, Lauzun would quickly capture the British held Fort St. Louis in Senegal, securing a French victory against the British, before returning to France.
His next combat command would take him to America, where he would distinguish himself at White Plains and in the Yorktown Campaign, receiving accolades from Rochambeau, who called Lauzon one of the two most important senior commanding officers during the campaign.
The map is centered on Dakar and the Goree Island region, covering the trading regions at the mouth of the two major rivers in this part of West Africa. The map includes inset maps of:
- Entrance to the Senegal River (from the Atlantic)
- Plan of Fort St. Joseph
- Plan of James Fort
- Plan of Fort St. Louis
- View of ther Fortified Island of Goree (Dakar)
At the left, the map description includes and historical overview of trade in the region, dating backing to the Norman merchants arrival in the region from Dieppe and in 1364. At the right, an extensive discussion of the different national claims in the region is given, including the activities of the French, English, Dutch, and Portuguese.
The dedication to Lauzun provides insight into his rise and the map was quite likely published with his sponsorship, as a means of gaining notice and favor with Louis XVI and senior command of the French Military. In addition to being a nortorious libertine and ladie's man, Lauzun was famously ambitious and in search of combat commands. While the map describes him as Governor of Senegal, he served in his capacity for only a few weeks (February 11, 1779 to March 1779), before returning to France.
Armand Louis de Gontaut, the Duke of Lauzun and Biron
The map is dedicated to Armand Louis de Gontaut, the Duke of Lauzun and Biron (1747-1793), a French soldier and politician, best known for the part he played in the American Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars.
In 1767, The Duke was breveted a colonel. He served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Chauvelin during the expedition to Corsica in 1769. Because of various military duties in the Department of War, Lauzun traveled extensively throughout England and Europe during the early 1770's. He visited Frederick the Great in 1774 and presented a paper to the French War Ministry detailing Prussian military training, organization and recruitment. In 1776, he was offered the command of a new corps of foreign hussars being formed in Russia by Catherine the Great, but King Louis XVI would not grant him permission to serve in a foreign army. He also wrote a pamphlet outlining an invasion of England via the Channel Islands. (État de defense d'Angleterre et de toutes ses possessions dans les quatres parties du monde),
In September 1778, he was given command of the Second Foreign Legion in Africa, a part of the newly formed French Naval Legion and in October 1778, he was dispatched to Senegal to recapture the French slave stations from the British, which Lauzun captured by February 1779. Taking the position of Governor of Senegal, Lauzun signed treaties with the local African kings and princes, before returning to France in March 1779.
Lauzun's next combat command was in America, where he would lead his "Volontaires-etrangers de Lauzun," a band of about 1,000 troops, to New England, as part of Rochambeau's force which would across the Atlantic in 1780.
Lauzon's Legion was a hghly unconventional and undisciplined force, one of six legions of the French forces in Count Rochambeau's expedition, which famously caused about two-thirds of the trouble, with rampant insubordination, desertion and looting of local communities. Lauzon arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in July 1779, and followed the Washington-Rochambeau Road from New England to Virginia as part of the French expeditionary force, seeing action in White Plains and during the Yorktown Campaign. At the conclusion of war, Rochambeau would comment that the Duke of Lauzun's performance during the Yorktown campaign made him one of "the two superior officers who have performed the two most distinguished feats" during the campaign.
After the successful campaign at Yorktown and subsequent British surrender, Lauzun returned to France a hero and was made maréchal de camp. He would go on to serve as a senior officer in the French Revolutionary Army, before being accused of Treason during the Reign of Terror, which resulted in his execution in 1793.
The map is exceptionally rare. OCLC locates only the example in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.