On this day in 1777, General George Washington is informed that a conspiracy is afoot to discredit him with Congress and have him replaced by General Horatio Gates. Thomas Conway, who would be made inspector general of the United States less than two months later on December 14, led the effort.
Conway, who was born in Ireland but raised in France, entered the French army in 1749. He was recruited to the Patriot cause by Silas Deane, the American ambassador to France, and after meeting with Washington at Morristown in May 1777, he was appointed brigadier general and assigned to Major General John Sullivan’s division.
Conway served admirably under Sullivan at the battles of Brandywine, in September 1777, and Germantown, in October 1777, before becoming involved in an unconfirmed conspiracy to remove General Washington from command of the Continental Army. The rumored conspiracy would go down in history as the “Conway cabal.”
After the Continental Army suffered several defeats in the fall of 1777, some members of Congress expressed displeasure with Washington’s leadership and Conway began writing letters to prominent leaders, including General Horatio Gates, that were critical of Washington. After Washington got wind of Conway’s letter to General Gates, he responded with a letter to Congress in January 1778. Embarrassed, Conway offered his resignation in March 1778 by way of apology, and was surprised and humiliated when Congress accepted. After General John Cadwalader wounded him in a duel defending Washington’s honor, Conway returned to France, where he died in exile in 1800.