One reason I love being an engineer is because of the great examples we have of foreign officers - especially French - shaping our corps in the American Revolution

There's a reason that we've got a French motto and that no one can pronounce the name of our medal
At the outset of the Revolution, we only had a few people with experience as military engineers. Richard Gridley, for one, but he was old and got wounded at Bunker Hill. Then there was Jeduthan Baldwin, but his name was Jeduthan, which is just weird
The Continental Army was pretty desperate, and so accepted all kinds of foreign officers who boasted of the technical acumen to build fortifications, bridges, and roads. Some of them were frauds. Some, however, were unlikely heroes, like Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko
Kosciuszko, born in Poland, educated as an artist in France, became the chief engineer of the Northern Army and managed to do amazing things with zero resources, & helped orchestrate the victory at Saratoga. More on this BAMF here.…
But it was from France that the real heavy hitters came. Remember, war in the 18th century relied heavily on sieges, which was basically using math to kill each other. And the French wrote the book on that. Literally. Sebastien de Vauban was the absolute expert
By 1777, the nascent US and France had an agreement to bring French engineer officers over and give them temporary commissions in the Continental Army. Think, like, embedded advisors. Chief amongst these was Louis Duportail, who advised the formation of a Corps of Engineers
By 1779, this Orleans native was the commandant of the Corps of Engineers - which also meant managing the hodge-podge of American and European engineer officers in all the theaters of war, building a cartographical service, & forming companies of Sappers & Miners
Duportail, then, got to be the first - but not the last - engineer to complain about:
- infantry being bad at digging in & understanding defensive positions
- commanders stealing the engineers to fortify their own HQ
- lack of dig assets
- infantry not rehearsing with engineers
Duportail would be essential to Washington throughout the war. He was also key in persuading Congress that they should maybe keep a few engineer officers after the war ended - and so for that, he gets to be Engineer Dad

I mean, Father of the Army Corps of Engineers
But you know, Duportail, he's all theoretical & stuff (altho his rants to Washington are super familiar for EN officers). For a guy who was a total sapper, check out Francois de Fleury, who was the chief EN at Fort Mifflin on the Delaware River in 1777
Fleury, from Provence, was merely a major, but was responsible for the defenses of the fort that kept the Brits in Philly from getting supplies. The 500-man garrison of Fort Mifflin was about to feel the full brunt of British anger in Oct-Nov, 1777. But they had de Fleury
Fleury noted that on Oct 15, the Brits opened fire with two grand batteries. He notes that they didn't do much damage. But this is the beginning of a month of some of the heaviest firing of the entire war, on this one little fort. The batteries increased in size and number
By the end of the month, the fort was mostly mud, and was under constant artillery fire. Fleury noted to Washington that if the enemy attacked, they might be overrun, but "we shall do all that can be expected of brave men" & kept hard at work rebuilding defenses at night
By November, Royal Navy vessels were adding to the mess, making daytime hellish. But night after night, Fleury roused the nearly crazed defenders and kept repairing their works even as he was wounded from shell splinters & had a building fall on him. NBD
Adding to the mess was that the fort's commander didn't like this French kid telling him what to do, prompting Washington to write to him & be the first commanding officer in the US Army to tell an infantry O-6 to STFU and listen to the engineer
Eventually, the British solved the problem by wounding the fort's commander, leaving Fluery in charge, where he somehow managed to keep the fight going, even as RN vessels pulled alongside the fort & Royal Marines fired down from the crosstrees and threw grenades
On Nov 15, the Brits multiplied their efforts, completely destroying most of the fort. Fleury was commanding part of a battery that fired until all their guns were destroyed. MAJ Thayer of the infantry sent the order to surrender, while Fleury...ran to the magazine for more ammo
He persuaded Thayer to keep the flag flying until nightfall, while somehow ALSO getting a 32 pounder and some 18 pounders back in action, completely confusing the Brits who thought that they had defeated the annoying pile of mud after firing on it all day with over 200 guns
That night, the officers held a council of war, where they argued about what to do: try to get resupplied or escape in the night. Fleury was arguing for resupply when he got knocked out by a falling timber. The fort evacuated that night, but with the flag still flying
Fleury served thru the rest of the war, most notably at Stony Point in 1779, where he led an assault party of US light infantry that recaptured the post, being the first man over the redoubt - making it historically correct that sappers do in fact lead the damn way
It's safe to say that without these heroic engineers, Washington wouldn't have gotten far. The French influence looms large. That's why the Corps of Engineers motto is "Essayons," - "Let us try" aka "get outta the way, we're fixin to fix some shit"
And that BAMF, Francois de Fleury, who embodied the sapper spirit in both defense and offense? We named our Corps' honorary medal after him. I'm proud to be part of the Steel Order of the de Fleury Medal, and even prouder to be a U.S. Army Engineer
For more reading on this, check out "Engineers of Independence:"…

And "Essayons:"…

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More from @pptsapper

22 Feb
There's a large segment of men on Twitter who should have their Twitter rights revoked until they can learn what not being an asshole to women means

My experience on Twitter as a man is so dramatically different than that of military women - so much harassment directed at them
There's a reason that @16thSMA is calling out harmful shit he sees on social media - because he understands that even the surface of our culture is infected with this toxic BS that demeans, harasses, & attempts to intimidate our sisters in arms. We should ALL care about this
If you're tired of hearing about it, how the fuck do you think women in uniform feel, having to endure this CONSTANTLY? After Marines United, after SPC Vanessa Guillen, after the Fort Hood Report and STILL harassment continues as a routine matter

These are attacks on US troops
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19 Feb
Historians of the American Revolution, has anyone done a comprehensive study of Continental Army demographics since Selesky's 1987 review of the Main Army at Valley Forge?

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TIL that in 1847, Congress authorized the War Department to raise a regiment of Voltigeurs and Foot Riflemen, with a "rocket and mountain howitzer battery"

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Holy tactical development, batman! this is a fascinating use of light infantry/Riflemen during the 1847 war with Mexico that I hadn't ever heard of. The regt used actual rifle tactics, fighting in companies & in open skirmish order. Often supported by their howitzers and rockets
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Welp, it's Valentine's Day

Guess it's time to watch Gettysburg again

I don't make the rules
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and I will not brook dissent on this
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I can hear most of his commentary in my head as I watch this. And how he would whistle the score

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Read 56 tweets
14 Feb
Ya know, the French might've gotten their idea for their bayonet charge if they had been observing some shit that went down with the 27th RCT exactly one week prior to this engagement

Oh yes, thread incoming on this #ValetinetoBayonets day
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