Fermoy, Matthias Alexis de Roche

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Fermoy, Matthias Alexis de Roche

FERMOY, MATTHIAS ALEXIS DE ROCHE. Continental general. Born in Martinique about 1737, he reached America in 1776 claiming to be a French colonel of engineers and wearing the Croix de St. Louis (and the title of chevalier). Commissioned brigadier general on 5 November 1776, he commanded a brigade in the attack on Trenton on 26 December 1776. Starting out at the head of General John Sullivan's division as part of the right wing, he subsequently was moved behind Nathanael Greene's division and sent with Adam Stephen to block the enemy's retreat toward Princeton, New Jersey. He and Stephen met the Hessians with small arms fire while other American forces completed the encirclement and forced the enemy's surrender.

In the next phase of the New Jersey campaign, Fermoy unaccountably left his post as commander of a large force whose mission was to delay the expected enemy advance on Trenton from Princeton. Sent north in March 1777 to oppose General John Burgoyne's offensive, Fermoy was given command of Fort Independence over General George Washington's protest. Contrary to General Arthur St. Clair's orders, Fermoy set fire to the fort when he abandoned it on the morning of 6 July 1777, alerting the British of the American retreat.

After persistent efforts to win promotion from Congress were rebuffed, Fermoy resigned on 31 January 1778 and was awarded $800 to go back to the West Indies. Nothing further is known of Fermoy.

SEE ALSO New Jersey Campaign; Ticonderoga, New York, British Capture of.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles

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