Johann Kalb

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Kalb, Johann [Baron De] (1721–1780), Revolutionary War general.Johann Kalb grew up a peasant's son in the Bavarian town of Hüttendorf. Despite humble origins, he became a military officer, a French Army veteran with service under maréchal de Saxe, and a protégé of the militarily influential Broglie family. He first traveled to North America in 1768 to assess the growing Anglo‐American split, and with the outbreak of war returned to seek a command in the Continental army.

Kalb's skill and credentials, coupled with the Marquis de Lafayette's influence and devotion to the Revolution's principles, overcame Congress's suspicion of foreign adventurers and earned a major general's commission. Despite the appointment, Kalb found battle elusive. Congress made him second in command for a proposed invasion of Canada in 1778, then canceled the operation. Washington subsequently ordered him to relieve the Continentals at the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, but the city fell before Kalb's arrival. He reorganized the Southern Department's remaining forces, only to have Congress place Horatio Gates at their head. On 16 August 1780, Kalb led a Continental regiment at the disastrous Battle of Camden, where he received numerous bayonet wounds. He died three days later.
[See also Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Adolf E. Zucker , General de Kalb: Lafayette's Mentor, 1966.

J. Mark Thompson

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Johann Kalb (Ger. yō´hän kälp), 1721–80, American general in the Revolution, known generally as Baron de Kalb, b. Hüttendorf, Germany. He assumed his title for military reasons and as Jean de Kalb served France in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. He again served France in 1768 as a secret agent in the English colonies in America. Silas Deane offered (1776) commissions to Kalb, Lafayette, and other European soldiers of fortune, which the Continental Congress at first refused to honor. Finally Kalb was made general and was with Washington at Valley Forge. In 1780 he was made second in command to Horatio Gates in the Carolina campaign, and he died (Aug. 19, 1780) from wounds received in the battle of Camden.

See A. E. Zucker, General de Kalb, Lafayette's Mentor (1966).