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Louis Lebègue Duportail

File:Duportail exb.jpg
Louis Lebègue Duportail

Louis Lebègue Duportail (14 May 1743 – 12 August 1802) was a French military leader who served as a volunteer and the chief engineer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He also served as the French Minister of Defense during the beginning of the French Revolution.

Duportail was born near Orléans, 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 Continental 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 17, 1777; commander, Corps of Engineers, May 1779; and major general (Brevet), November 16, 1781.

Duportail participated in fortifications planning from Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina and helped Washington evolve the primarily defensive military strategy that wore down the British Army. He also directed the construction of siege works at the Battle of Yorktown, site of the decisive American victory of the Revolutionary War. During the encampment at Valley Forge in late-1777 and early-1778, his headquarters was at Cressbrook Farm.[1]

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 du Presle du Portail. Also, the middle name Lebèque ('q' instead of a 'g') is sometimes used, but this is simply because the "g" has been mistaken for a "q", there being no controversy in this matter (cf the article in the French Wikipedia).


  1. ^ "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. 

This article contains public domain text from "Major General Louis Lebègue Duportail". Portraits and Profiles of Chief Engineers. Archived from the original on April 4, 2005. Retrieved May 11, 2005. 

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Military offices
Preceded by
Rufus Putnam
Chief of Engineers
Succeeded by
Stephen Rochefontaine
Political offices
Preceded by
Jean-Frédéric de la Tour du Pin-Gouvernet
Secretaries of State for War
16 November 1790 – 7 December 1791
Succeeded by
Louis, comte de Narbonne-Lara

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