Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Charles-Eugène-Gabriel, Maréchal de Castries Papers, 1722-1814

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, March 1992

Summary Information
Title: Charles-Eugène-Gabriel, maréchal de Castries papers
Creator: Castries, Charles-Eugène-Gabriel, maréchal de, 1727-1801
Inclusive dates: 1722-1814
Extent: 86 items (0.5 linear feet)
The Castries papers include four major areas of interest: The civil and military administration of French Caribbean colonies; French participation in the American Revolution; the 1784 trial to fix blame for the defeat of the French Navy at the Battle of Saints Passage, 1782; and Royalist conspiracies against the French Republic during the 1790s.
Language: The material is in French and English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1989-1991. M-2507, M-2651, M-2729.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Charles-Eugène-Gabriel, maréchal de Castries Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


In 1743, when the 16 year-old Charles de Castries received a commission as Lieutenant in the Régiment du Roi, Infanterie, it would have been hard to predict just how long a career he would have in the public service, or to imagine the series of brilliant successes, promotions, and royal decorations he would garner or the intense devotion he would hold for the crown even under the direst circumstances. During the War of Austrian Succession, Castries distinguished himself as an officer in the Régiment du Roi, Cavalrie, and for his part at the Battle of Dettingen and the Siege of Maastricht, he was rewarded with promotion to Maréchal de Camp and assignment as commander of Corsica (1756).

It was during the Seven Years' War, however, that Castries truly established an enduring military reputation. Attached to the Armée de l'Allemagne under the Prince de Soubise, Castries received three blows of a saber to his head at the Battle of Rosbach, but nevertheless, he refused to retire from action until the end of the battle. Returning to service in 1758 as commander of a separate corps in the same army, he fought at Lutzelberg, Saint-Goar, at the capitulation of the castle of Rhinfelds, and at Minden. His military career reached its zenith with a stunning defeat delivered to the forces of the hereditary Prince of Brunswick at Clostercamp in 1760. After five hours of intense fighting and sustaining tremendous casualties, the Duke's army was forced to retreat across the Rhine and to abandon the siege of Wesel, a key to controlling the countryside between the Meuse and Rhine. A monument was erected on the battlefield at Clostercamp in Castries' honor, and Louis XVI named him Chevalier des Ordres du Roi for his role in this pivotal engagement.

After participating in the German campaigns of 1761 and 1762, Castries was appointed, successively, as Commander in Chief of the Gendarmerie and Governor General in Flanders and Hainault. Skillfully playing the court and using his own talent and the influence of his sometime lover, Mme. de Blot, Castries rose to an appointment as Ministre de la Marine in 1780, and was honored with a promotion to Maréchal de France in 1783. Castries' ministry came at a critical period, following the massive naval buildup overseen by Choiseul and coinciding with the final stages of the American Revolution, the Peace negotiations between Britain and her former colonies, and the transfer of a number of Caribbean colonies between Britain and France. Castries is credited with orchestrating the highly successful naval campaign of 1781 and elevating Suffren de Saint Tropez to command of French naval forces, as well as instituting a variety of progressive reforms in the French Navy, including the de facto introduction of a new naval code. Castries resigned his ministry in 1787 in the midst of court intrigues and attempts to limit naval spending.

At the start of the French Revolution, Castries cast his lot with the most militant Royalists, and left France to take refuge with his former rival, the Duke of Brunswick. He became a key figure in assisting French Royalists to escape and subsist in exile, and he was important in coordinating the efforts of the various counterrevolutionaries. Castries joined the Conseil des princes in August, 1791, and the following year led a division of the Army of Princes in an invasion of the Champagne region that occupied the heights along the Moselle River near Thionville. Though forced to retreat and faced with limited and declining prospects of success, Castries remained firm in his opposition to the Republic and was rewarded in 1797, with his last royal appointment, helping the comte de Saint-Priest to direct the cabinet of Louis XVIII. Castries died at Wolfenbuttel on the 12th of January, 1801, and is buried at Brunswick, Germany, near the memorial erected by the Duke to the victor at Clostercamp.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Castries papers represents only a small portion of the original "archives" of the Maréchal. The core of the Castries Papers includes four major areas of interest:

1. The civil and military administration of French Caribbean colonies;

2. French participation in the American Revolution;

3. The 1784 trial to fix blame for the devastating defeat of the French Navy and the capture of Admiral de Grasse at the Battle of Saints Passage, 1782, and;

4. Royalist conspiracies against the French Republic during the 1790s.

The materials relating to French Caribbean colonies were collected by Castries in his capacity as Ministre de la Marine, a position that gave him some oversight of colonial affairs. Though undated, many of these documents appear to have been prepared in about 1783, and are perhaps related to negotiations at the Treaty of Paris or to the immediate outcome of that treaty. These documents include detailed descriptions of the French colonies in the Isles du Vent and Isles sous le Vent, with notes on administration, police, religious advancement, agriculture, trade, and defense.

Among the items from the period of the American revolution is an important document titled "Memoire en forme de Plan de la Campagne en Amerique dans l'année 1783 redigée par la Compte d'Estaing..." in which the author lays out a plan for global imperial conquest, beginning with the defeat of the British in North America. Also of great interest is the "Order à prendre du Roi, relativement à l'amérique Septentrionale," which contains an analysis of French military strategy in the Americas following Yorktown. A "Projet d'Arrêt du Conseil" of January, 1782, relates to reparations to the residents of Saint Eustatius for depredations committed there during its capture by British forces. Also present is the 1782 appointment of François Barbé de Marbois as consul in the United States.

The de Grasse trial materials contain an extensive body of records of the Conseil de Guerre Extraordinaire held at L'Orient, France, in 1784. These include a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the action at the Battle of Saints Passage (including manuscript maps, housed in the Map Division), interviews with French naval officers, manuscript and printed version of the findings of the Conseil with judgments against the naval officers (most were acquitted of any misconduct), and defenses written by the baron d'Arros d'Argelos and Pontèves-Gien to justify their conduct. All together, these comprise a thorough, though not quite complete documentation of the official inquiry into a major French naval defeat.

The 14 items relating to counterrevolutionary activity in the 1790s present a somewhat less complete picture than that for the de Grasse trial, but serve to indicate the breadth and depth of Castries' involvement in Royalist circles. These include letters from Royalists seeking assistance, documents outlining plans for a proposed invasion of the west coast of France, discussions of the possibility of Royalist forces capturing the colony of Saint Domingue and reestablishing it as a monarchy under Louis XVIII, and analyses of the potential for support among other European powers. Perhaps the most intriguing item in this part of the collection is a lengthy report from a British spy containing information on influential members of the French Directory with notes on whether they can be made useful to the Royalist cause.

The Castries papers are arranged chronologically. Eight maps entered as evidence at the Conseil de Guerre held at L'Orient have been transferred to the Maps Division.

Subject Terms

    • Counterrevolutions--France.
    • France. Armee. Artillerie.
    • France. Armee--Colonial forces.
    • France. Armee--Organization.
    • France. Marine--Colonial forces.
    • France. Marine--Officers.
    • France. Marine--Organization.
    • France--Colonies--Administration.
    • France--Colonies--Census.
    • France--Colonies--Commerce.
    • France--Colonies--Defenses.
    • France--Colonies--Economic conditions.
    • France--Foreign relations--United States.
    • France--History--Revolution, 1789-1799.
    • Grasse, François Joseph Paul, comte de, 1722-1788--Trials, litigation, etc.
    • Guadeloupe.
    • India.
    • Labor productivity--France--Colonies.
    • Martinique.
    • Military government of dependencies.
    • Royalists--France.
    • Saintes, Battle of the, Guadeloupe, 1782.
    • Sea-power--France.
    • Slavery--France--Colonies.
    • Spain. Armada--Officers.
    • Taxation--France--Colonies.
    • Trinidad and Tobago.
    • United States--Foreign relations--France.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French.
    Genre Terms:
    • Maps.
    • Judicial records.
    • Military records.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Charles-Eugène-Gabriel, maréchal de Castries papers [series]
    Box   1  
     December 1722-[ca. May 21, 1784]
    Box   2  
     [after October 1799]-April 30, 1814
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Housed in the Clements Library Map Division: Eight manuscript maps by Capt. d'Ethy of the Citoyen, presented to the Conseil de Guerre held at L'orient, 1784 (Map Div. 8-I-36a).

    a) 1ère position: from 7.45 a.m. until the commencement of firing;

    b) 3ème position: from 9-10 a.m., during which the English broke the French line, the Glorieux demasted;

    c) 4ème position: from 10-11.30 a.m., during which the French lose the wind;

    d) 5ème position: from 12-2 p.m., during which French are scattered into three groups;

    e) 6ème position: 2-3 p.m., French scattered, César unrigged, English come about and gather in battle formation;

    f) 7ème position: 3-4.30 p.m.; the César surrounded, the Hector taken, the Citoyen attempts to rescue the Ville de Paris;

    g) 8ème position: 5-5.30 p.m., Ville de Paris surrounded by the English;

    h) 9ème position: 6-6.15 p.m., Ville de Paris taken, comte de Grasse given up, towed to Jamaica, command of French to marquis de Vaudreuil of the Triomphant.

    Related Materials

    There is a considerable quantity of material on military and administrative affairs for the British West Indies during the later 18th century, and some information on the Battle of the Saints in particular, in the following collections: Clinton, Germain, Lyttelton, Macartney, Shelburne, Sydney, Vaughan, and Winstone.

    Aspects of the anti-Republican activities of Castries and his associates are documented in the Melville and Shelburne Papers.

    Partial Subject Index
    Adams, John, 1735-1826.
    • 64
    Arbaud de Jouques, Bache Elzéar Alexandre, comte d', 1720-1793.
    • 20, 22, 23
    Arros d'Argelos, Jean-François, baron d'.
    • 32
    Aristizábel, Gabriel de.
    • 68
    Aussigny, M. d'
    • 66
    Barras, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de, 1755-1829.
    • 69
    Bengal (India)
    • 37, 58
    Bienville, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de1680-1767.
    • 1
    Bombay (India)
    • 37
    Bouillette, Guillaume
    • 57
    Bourlamaque, François-Charles de, 1716-1764.
    • 3
    Boutin, Vincent-Yves, 1772-1815.
    • 69
    Breteuil, Louis-Auguste le Tonnelier, baron de, 1730-1807.
    • 60
    Brissot de Warville, J.P. (Jacques Pierre), 1754-1793.
    • 56
    Carnot, Joseph François Claude, 1752-1835.
    • 69
    Catherine II, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796.
    • 60
    Damas, Claude-Charles de, (vicomte de Damas-Marcillac), 1731-1800.
    • 53
    Dillon, Arthur Richard, 1750-1794
    • 56
    • 12
    Dominica, Battle of, 1782.
    • 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 32
    Dubois de Crancé, Edmond-Louis-Alexis, 1746-1814.
    • 69
    Du Pont de Nemours, Pierre Samuel, 1739-1817.
    • 70
    Dutheil, Nicolas-François, ca. 1760-1822.
    • 71
    • 46, 49.
    Estaing, Charles Hector, comte d', 1729-1794.
    • 8
    Europe--Foreign relations.
    • 60, 61, 68
    Europe--Kings and rulers--18th century.
    • 60, 61
    • 6
    European nations--Politics and government--18th century.
    • 6, 64
    France--Bourbons, 1589-1789.
    • 60, 61
    France--Colonies--Administration--18th century.
    • 8, 47, 50
    • 4
    • 59
    France--Foreign relations--Great Britain.
    • 52, 65
    France--Foreign relations--Spain.
    • 8, 68
    • 10, 37, 52
    France--History--First Republic, 1792-1804.
    • 60-67, 69, 70-72
    France--History--Restoration, 1814-1830.
    • 72
    France--History, Naval--18th century.
    • 4, 8, 11, 17-42, 47, 53, 62, 68
    Francis I, Emperor of Austria, 1768-1835.
    • 60
    Frederick William II, King of Prussia, 1744-1797.
    • 60, 61
    Gálvez, Bernardo de, 1746-1786.
    • 8
    Grasse, François Joseph Paul de Grasse, comte de, 1722-1788.
    • 20, 32
    • 2, 3, 12, 13
    • 14
    Havana (Cuba)
    • 68
    • 8, 10
    Jamaica--Politics and government.
    • 66
    Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
    • 64
    Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneberg, 1735-1806.
    • 61
    Lacroix, Jean-François de, 1753-1794.
    • 69
    Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834.
    • 8
    La Tour, LeBlond de, d. 1723
    • 1
    Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, 1747-1792.
    • 60
    Louis XVI, King of France, 1754-1793.
    • 5, 7, 43, 44, 45, 57
    Louis XVII, King of France, 1785-1795.
    • 65, 66
    Louisiana--History--To 1763.
    • 1
    Louvet de Couvray, Jean-Baptiste, 1760-1797.
    • 69
    Maleveaul, chevalier de.
    • 68
    Malouet, Pierre-Victor, baron, 1740-1814.
    • 66
    Marbois, Sieur du
    • 7
    • 5, 12, 15, 71
    Méhée de la Touche, Jean Claude Hippolyte, ca. 1760-1826.
    • 69
    Moissac, M. de.
    • 3
    • 56
    Morris, Gouveneur, 1752-1816.
    • 64
    Moustier, Eléonore-François-Elie, marquis de, 1751-1817.
    • 63, 64
    Natchez Indians.
    • 1
    Nolivos, Pierre-Gédéon de, 1714-17??
    • 3
    Ogé, Vincent, ca. 1750-1791.
    • 69
    Pondicherry (India)
    • 10, 37
    Ponteves-Gien, Henry Jean Baptiste, vicomte de, 1740-1790.
    • 35
    Raynal, abbé, 1713-1796.
    • 58
    Rivière, Charles-François, duc de, 1763-1828.
    • 71
    Robespierre, Maximilien, 1758-1794.
    • 69
    Rochambeau, Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de, 1755-1813.
    • 8, 9
    Saint Domingue.
    • 48, 58, 59, 65, 66
    Saint Eustatius (Netherlands Antilles)--History--18th century.
    • 5
    Saint Lucia.
    • 15
    Seven Years' War, 1756-1763.
    • 2
    Sieyès, Emmanuel-Joseph, comte, 1748-1836.
    • 69
    Sugar laws and legislation--France.
    • 6
    Sugar factories--West Indies.
    • 6
    Tobago--History--18th century.
    • 55-56
    Tallien, Jean Lambert, 1767-1820.
    • 69
    Treaty of Versailles, 1783.
    • 52
    Truguet, Laurent Jean François, 1752-1839.
    • 69
    United States--Foreign relations--France--18th century.
    • 7, 63, 64
    United States--Foreign relations--Great Britain--18th century.
    • 63
    United States--History--1783-1815.
    • 64
    United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • 8, 9
    Valmont de Bomare, Jacques-Christophe, 1731-1807.
    • 69
    Vergennes, Charles Gravier, comte de, 1719-1787.
    • 10
    Wachmeister, Sieur de.
    • 4
    Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • 8, 64
    West Indies--African Americans--18th century.
    • 16
    West Indies.
    • 54
    West Indies, Dutch.
    • 14
    West Indies, French.
    • 3, 6, 12, 14, 15
    West Indies, French--Politics and government--18th century.
    • 43, 44, 45