Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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CON WAY, Thomas, Count de, soldier, born in Ireland, 27 February, 1733; died about 1800. Hewas educated in France, entered the army, and in 1777 had attained the rank of colonel and the decoration of St. Louis. On the recommendation of Silas Deane he came to the United States and offered his services to congress. He was made a brigadier-general, 13 May, 1777, was present at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. It is chiefly as the leader of the "Conway cabal," a conspiracy to deprive Washington of the command of the army, that he is known to history. This plot was developed during the autumn of 1777, and received the open or secret support of a strong faction in congress, including some able and patriotic men, who were dissatisfied with what they thought the supineness of Washington and the southern army, in contrast with the victory that had just been won at Saratoga by the northern army under Gates. Even John Adams exclaimed: "I am weary with so much insipidity," while Dr. Benjamin Rush actively supported the dissidents. Through the influence of this faction Gates was made president of the board of war, and a Canadian campaign was proposed, which Lafayette was to lead, with Conway to assist him. Embittered by Washington's opposition to his promotion, Conway wrote anonymous letters to prominent men, alleging Washington's responsibility for recent military disasters. He was thought to have even forged Washington's name to papers designed to further the plans of the conspirators. But General James Wilkinson, under the influence of wine. disclosed some passages that had appeared in a letter from Conway to Gates, and Washington thus becoming apprised of the conspiracy against him, its power was soon gone. Lafayette, also, refused to lead the proposed expedition unless Baron de Kalb should be made his second. Conway's promotion to major general was confirmed, 14 December, 1777, in spite of Washington's disapproval. But in the following March, having lost favor with congress. his resignation, offered conditionally, in a fit of petulance, was accepted unconditionally, and he was obliged, against his will, to leave the army. In July, 1778, General John Cadwallader, a stanch adherent of Washington, challenged Conway to mortal combat because of his attacks upon the commander-in-chief. The meeting took place, 22 July, and Conway was. badly wounded in the mouth. He fell on his face, but raised himself and remarked to his adversary," "You fire with much deliberation, general, and certainly with a great deal of effect." As soon as he was able to sit up he wrote a humble apology to Washington. He shortly afterward returned to France, where he re-entered the military service, and was appointed governor of Pondicherry and the French settlements in Hindustan. He is charged with having ruined the French prospects in India by a quarrel with Tippoo Saib. In 1792 he was sent to take command of the royalist army in the south of France, but during the revolution was obliged to flee the country.
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