225th Anniversary of the Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary War Route.
Friday, June 30 through Sunday July 2, 2006
March to Victory Weekend- Ridgefield

National History
» Why was a French Army in Ridgefield?
» Rochambeau's Campaign in America
» National Newsletter for W3R

Why was a French Army in Ridgefield?

The summer of 1780 King Louis XVI of France dispatched an expeditionary force under General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, to help the Colonies win independence from England.

Rochambeau’s army consisted of four crack infantry regiments -- the Bourbonnais, Saintonge, Soissonnais, and Royal Deux-Ponts -- supported by a 600-man artillery unit and the dashing sky-blue-clad mounted Hussars of Duc du Lauzun. After wintering in Rhode Island, the French marched across Rhode Island and Connecticut to join General George Washington’s Continental Army near White Plains, New York.

And so, on July 1&2, 1781 Rochambeau’s 4800-man army camped in Ridgebury ....in fields next to the Congregational Church that still stands today!

Learning that a powerful French fleet under Admiral De Grasse would cooperate with them, the allied army rapidly marched south to Virginia and trapped Lord Cornwallis’ British army at Yorktown. Cornwallis surrendered his entire garrison on October, 19, 1781 to Washington’s 9,000 troops augmented by 8,000 French soldiers and 15,000 French seamen. The victory eventually guaranteed independence for the fledgling United States.

Now, 225 years later, Ridgebury’s French military encampment will be re-created near its actual site! In celebration of our American Independence and to remember the significant contributions of our Gallic ally, the town of Ridgefield is proud to host this

 "March to Victory" Weekend program  !!!

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Rochambeau’s Campaign in America

Reprinted from Connecticut Preservation News, January/February 2003

In 1780 France assembled an auxiliary army of 10,000 troops for the purpose of providing much-needed assistance to the Americans in their war for independence against the British. Known as the Expeditionary corps, the French auxiliary army was commanded by Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, le Comte de Rochambeau. The Expeditionary Corps left Brest on May 2, 1780. On the ships were 5,000 troops from the Bourbonnais, Royal Deux-Ports, Soissonais, and Saintonge Regiments, 500 men in the Auxonne Artillery Regiment, and 600 men of Lauzun’s Legion of mounted Hussars. After a difficult crossing, the French fleet anchored off Newport, Rhode Island, on July 11, 1780. The 400 cavalrymen of Lauzun’s Legion were sent to winter in Lebanon, Connecticut, a rural area where horse forage was readily and more economically available.

In May of 1781, General Washington and Rochambeau met at Joseph Webb’s house in Wethersfield, and Washington asked the French Army to join his forces in New York, at which point a plan of attack upon the British would be chosen and executed. The Expeditionary Corps left Newport on June 10, proceeding west through Connecticut to the Hudson River valley. In New York, Washington decided to attack the British in Yorktown, Virginia, and the combined French-American army marched south from there.

The French formed into four equal contingents, each comprised of one regiment, with the field artillery and baggage trains among them, and each with a field hospital. The regiments marched separately, along the same line of march, on successive days. A day’s march averaged 15 miles and each night a division would occupy the same campsite as the previous division had left that morning. Lauzun’s Legion traveled independently on the south as a left flank to protect the army from British attack. Rochambeau and his aides lodged in inns and private homes, and divisional headquarters were also established in houses. The troops camped in tents in fields. In addition to the soldiers, the army included numerous people who performed special services: musicians to play marching songs; surgeons and medical corpsmen; crafts men such as tailors, harness makers and blacksmiths; axe-men to clear vegetation from the roads; cooks, some of whom were American women; and drivers who had charge of the hundreds of supply wagons.

Following the British capitulation on October 19, 1781, Rochambeau’s army wintered in Virginia, and did not reach Connecticut again until October of 1782.

Historians agree that France’s generous assistance, in the form of men, expertise, supplies, money and tactical strategy, made victory possible. But available sources deal more with big events and global politics. Little is written on the French influence and impact, on a more intimate level, in America. There is barely any cohesive understanding of the experience of the French soldiers and officers here, and even less of a grasp of their interaction with and effect on the American people whose homes and fields they stayed in or near as they moved on toward Yorktown. How did these Frenchmen, recent enemies of Americans, view Americans? What was life like on the march and in the camps? Historical and archaeological research of the campsites, structures and route remnants can help answer these and other historically significant questions. Several officers and one enlisted man left diaries, and from these can be gleaned important information. Combined with archaeological data, the historical record helps shed light on patterns of camp placement, camp formation, life on the march and in the camps, and cultural differences between French and Americans.

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National Newsletter for W3R
Website: w3r-us.org

The National W3R Association is a nine-state partnership to support designation of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route as a National Historic Trail and to educate the public on:

  • the three-year presence of the French Expeditionary Force in the U.S.
  • the march south of the allied armies to the climactic battle at Yorktown under the joint leadership of Generals Washington and Rochambeau, and
  • their triumphant return north.

For more information visit the W3R website>>

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The 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution
Aquarion Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism
The Connecticut Humanites CouncilThe Friends Of The Ridgefield Library Association KIWANIS
Ridgefield Bank
The Russell Wadsworth Lewis Trust
March to Victory Weekend
Friday, June 30 through Sunday July 2, 2006 - Ridgefield, Connecticut
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