Johann de Kalb
Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb (19 June 1721 – 19 August 1780), born Johann Kalb, was a Bavarian-born French military officer who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was killed in action by the British during the Battle of Camden.
- On the whole, I have annoyances to bear, of which you can hardly form a conception. One of them is the mutual jealousy of almost all the French officers, particularly against those of higher rank than the rest. These people think of nothing but their incessant intrigues and backbitings. They hate each other like the bitterest enemies, and endeavor to injure each other wherever an opportunity offers. I have given up their society, and very seldom see them. La Fayette is the sole exception; I always meet him with the same cordiality and the same pleasure. He is an excellent young man, and we are good friends... La Fayette is much liked, he is on the best of terms with Washington.
- Letter to Madame de Kalb (5 January 1778), as quoted in The Marquis de La Fayette in the American Revolution (1894), by Charlemagne Tower. J.B. Lippincott Company, p. 241.
- No! No! Gentlemen, no emotion for me. But, those of congratulation. I am happy. To die is the irreversible decree of him who made us. Then what joy to be able to meet death without dismay. This, thank God, is my case. The happiness of man is my wish, that happiness I deem inconsistent with slavery, and to avert so great an evil from an innocent people, I will gladly meet the British tomorrow, at any odds whatever.
- It is with equal regret, my dear sirs, that I part with you. Because I feel a presentiment that we part to meet no more.
- Oh, no! It is impossible. War is a kind of game, and has its fixed rules, whereby, when we are well acquainted with them, we can pretty correctly tell how the trial will go. Tomorrow it seems, the die is to be cast, and, in my judgement, without the least chance on our side. The militia will, I suppose as usual, play the back game. That is, get out of battle as fast as their legs will carry them. But that, you know, won't do for me. I am an old soldier, and cannot run, and I believe I have some brave fellows that will stand by me to the last. So, when you hear of our battle, you will probably hear that your old friend, De Kalb, is at rest.
- Well, sir. Perhaps a few hours will show who are the brave.
- I thank you sir for your generous sympathy, but I die the death I always prayed for, the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man.
- To a British military officer (August 1780), as quoted in Washington and the Generals of the American Revolution (1856), by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, William Gilmore Simms, and Edward Duncan Ingraham. J.B. Lippincott, p. 271. Also quoted in "Death of Baron De Kalb" (1849), by Benjamin Franklin Ells, The Western Miscellany, Volume 1, p. 233. These were reportedly his last words.
Quotes about de Kalb
- Save the Baron de Kalb! Save the Baron de Kalb!
- De Kalb died, as he had lived, the unconquered friend of liberty.
- So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits!
- Kalb was thus attacked on all sides, but remained during the whole encounter, fighting bravely to the last. Bareheaded and dismounted, with sword in hand, he engaged in one personal encounter after another, encouraging his men with his voice as well as his example, till he had received eleven wounds.
- As quoted in "Kalb, Johann de" (1892), Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.