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Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb passes away in 1780.

Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb was a Bavarian-born French military officer.

De Kalb was born in Hüttendorf, Bavaria near Erlangen. He was commissioned in the Loewendal German Regiment of the French Army. He served during the Seven Years War and the war of Austrian Succession.

In 1768, De Kalb traveled to America to determine the level of discontent on the part of the American colonists. During the trip he was inspired by the "spirit of independence" he saw in the colonies.

In 1777, De Kalb returned to the Americas, this time with his protégé the Marquis de Lafayette and the two joined the continental army. When De Kalb learned he was not made a major general, he was very disturbed and decided to return to France. Lafayette used his influence to gain De Kalb the rank he sought.

In the winter of 1777 and 1778, De Kalb was in Valley Forge. There he wrote an introduction letter to the French Court for John Adams. In the letter he wrote:

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.

De Kalb was assigned to command a division of Maryland troops. He was sent south to the Carolina's as reinforcements for the troops already engaged with the British. He was disappointed again upon arriving in South Carolina when he learned Horatio Gates took command instead of him. They soon engaged in the Battle of Camden which was a disastrous defeat for the continental army and Gates. During the Battle of Camden, De Kalb's horse was shot out from under him and before he could rise to his feet he was shot several times and stabbed multiple times with bayonets.

It is claimed Cornwallis himself supervised as De Kalb's wounds were treated. On August 19th, 1780, De Kalb died from his wounds.

Several years later George Washington visited the grave of De Kalb. Washington was reported to have said:

So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who come 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!

De Kalb was a member of Pennsylvania Lodge No. 29.