A Victorious Allied Army Passed Here-1781 was a momentous year for the United States. A French Army, led by General Rochambeau, had arrived in Rhode Island in July 1780. By June 1781, it was ready to join the U.S. Continental Army against the British armies occupying several cities in the U.S. After marching to join General Washington's army north of New York City, the allied armies moved south toward Virginia, passing through Delaware on September 1-8. The march south was through Philadelphia to Wilmington, Christiana, Elkton and Baltimore.
Preceding the army by several days were units of French light cavalry from Lauzun's Legion escorting French cartographers to map the route south and French quartermasters to purchase food for 4,000 French solders and pasturage for 1,000 horses and oxen as they passed through Delaware. Next came the Continental Army units, happy to have been paid in Philadelphia after long service without pay. Finally came the French army—equal in number to the population of Wilmington—taking two days to pass by, hour after hour of marching troops and wagons pulled by groaning oxen. The dust and smell were overwhelming. The Old Baltimore Pike is the only road in the nation that witnessed the passage of the entire allied army on its way south in September of 1781.
was interested in the Battle of Cooch's Bridge and led his officers on an instructional horseback tour of the battle area. The U.S. cannon and ammunition came down the Delaware River to the Christiana River, overland via the Old Baltimore Pike, then down the Elk River to the Chesapeake Bay. The U.S. troops and most of Lauzun's Legion embarked from Elkton MD by boat; the rest marched south.
On October 19 the British Army in Yorktown VA surrendered to the allies, effectively ending hostilities in the U.S. As the allied troops returned north—the Continentals in November 1781 and the French in August 1782—they were greeted with rejoicing and praise in Delaware and elsewhere.
Long live liberty, brotherhood, equality, justice, and peace!
Vive laliberte, fraternite, egalite, justice et paix.
Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur count de Rochambeau-The Comte de Rochambeau was born at Vendome on July 1, 1725. Educated for the Church, he entered the army at the age of 17 and fought with bravery and skill in the War of the Austrian Succession, serving in Bohemia, Bavaria, and along the Rhine. A colonel by 1747, he took part in the Seven Years War as a brigadier general and achieved distinction in the expedition to Minorca and battles in Germany.
As a lieutenant general, Rochambeau was named commander of the French forces sent to America,
and in July 1780 he landed at Newport, R.I., with about 5,000 troops. Although he was to launch combined operations with the Americans against New York, he was blockaded by a British fleet and was forced to spend a year entrenched while he awaited the arrival of French naval forces.
Rochambeau conferred with Washington in the spring of 1781, and they agreed that together they could overwhelm Henry Clinton at New York or Charles Cornwallis in Virginia, but not both. They decided to have Adm. De Grasse sail from the West Indies to Chesapeake Bay to cut the British communications and prevent mutual support between Clinton and Cornwallis; to avoid Clinton; and to strike Cornwallis.
The French forces under Rochambeau joined the Americans at White Plains, NY, in June and marched to Williamsburg, VA, where they met the Marquis de Lafayette's army in September. Reinforced by 4,000 troops brought by De Grasse from Haiti, Washington and Rochambeau besieged the British forces under Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 2. De Grasse's naval forces turned back Adm. Graves's ships coming to Cornwallis's rescue and thereby prevented Cornwallis's escape or his reinforcement. On October 19 Cornwallis surrendered. Rochambeau spent the winter in Virginia, returned to Rhode Island in the fall of 1782, and went back to France in 1783.
In 1790, during the revolutionary period
in France, Rochambeau commanded the Army of the North. He was made a marshal of France in 1791. In the following year, disenchanted with governmental policy and the conduct near Lille of poorly trained troops sent to him, he resigned his command and was succeeded by Lafayette. He was arrested for treason but escaped the guillotine.
In 1804 Napoleon made him a grand officer of the Legion of Honor. His two volumes of Memoires, militaries, historiques, et politiques were published in 1809, after his death at Thore on May 10, 1807.
A striking figure, Rochambeau was simple in his tastes and dignified in his behavior. He eschewed ostentation and airs of self-importance. In America, he placed himself without reservation under Washington's orders and ensured the Franco-American cooperation that finally defeated the British in the American Revolution.