December 11, 1999 -Give One Away
Editor: Hans DePold, Bolton Town Historian
This newsletter is to provide a means for keeping historians, re-enactors, and other interested people aware of the activity to list the Revolutionary Road on the National Register of Historic Places. Rochambeau’s French army defined the Revolutionary Road when they marched from Newport to Yorktown and back to Boston. The goal is to encourage creation of a National Historic Trail with the registration of the entire route that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, and to raise to a higher level, the quality of heritage preservation all along the route.
December 16, 1999 will be the historic launch date for the national Washington-Rochambeau trail project. At that meeting a group will put their hands to the plow and not look back until it is done. In New England, names like Revolutionary Road, Liberty Road, and Freedom Trail have a popular ring. In the south, Victory Road and Washington-Rochambeau Trail seem to carry favor. There is at present only one National Historic Revolutionary War Trail and it is located in North Carolina.
There is no national historic trail commemorating George Washington. But a Washington trail alone would be difficult because Washington seems to have traveled almost everywhere. Rochambeau and the French army allow us to focus on one trail that happens to be one of the few roads in New England that Washington also traveled in 1781 and as president in 1791.
The Washington-Rochambeau Partnership
The Rochambeau memoirs originally printed in 1838 were printed again in English in 1971. In the last newsletter we heard from M. Blanchard. Now we can see what Rochambeau said of M. Blanchard. Rochambeau says,
“I feel bound, on this occasion, to render justice to the zeal and activity of M. Blanchard, of the commissariat department, and. . . officers of health, who, by their assiduous care and attention to the sick and wounded in the military hospital, both friends and foes, rendered essential service to humanity in the course of these three memorable campaigns.”
Some revisionists tell us Washington was not entirely competent, and was obsessed with attacking New York City. But it is gratifying to have proof they are wrong. Rochambeau leaves no doubt that he and Washington finalized the strategy for the attack on Yorktown while at the Wethersfield Conference in Connecticut. He makes it clear that the plans to attack New York City were a deception. But he admits the plans were fluid because Washington and Rochambeau had learned of a British plan to reinforce General Cornwallis and to drive the American rebels into the cold wilderness west of the Hudson and north of New York City. This British plan came just after the coldest and most disheartening winter Washington faced at Valley Forge. Had the British already moved the troops thereby weakening the defense of New York City, Rochambeau says the attack could have been at NYC.
To forestall British troops leaving NYC to reinforce Cornwallis in the south, a deception was born. But for it to work, the staff of both Washington and Rochambeau also had to be totally deceived. After the Wethersfield Conference, Rochambeau gave the real battle plan to Admiral De Grasse. An attack on NYC was not in the cards. The siege guns would not be dragged through Connecticut to White Plains for a NYC offensive. The die was cast. The heavy siege guns would go south by boat. Lafayette would not bring the American army north, he would instead close the supply roads and isolate Cornwallis in Yorktown. Then Admiral De Grasse would announce the true objective at the last possible moment. But let Rochambeau tell you of their deception himself.
“But what completely deceived the English general, was a confidential letter written by the Chevalier de Chatelus to the French representative at Congress, where in he boasted of having artfully succeeded in bringing round my opinion to concur with that of General Washington; stating, at the same time, that the siege of the island of New York had been at length determined upon, and that our two armies were on the march for that city, and that orders had been sent on to M. de Grasse to come with his fleet and force his way over the bar of Sandyhook to the mouth of the harbour of New York.
The English officer who had charge of every branch of the spying department sent me a copy of the intercepted missive and, by so doing, his intention had not been most assuredly to set my wits at ease. I sent for the Chevalier de Chatelus; showed him the letter, and then threw it in the fire, and left him a prey to his own remorse. Of course, I did not endeavour to undeceive him, and, in the sequel, we shall see to what extent this general officer had been made the confidant of the real project which I proposed to the Count de Grasse when I returned to Newport.”
The French army had brought uniforms to clothe the American army. And then in a most generous gesture just before the final assault against the British in the Battle of Yorktown, the French shared their remaining silver so the destitute American army could at last be paid.
“General Washington prevailed on two thousand troops of the northern states to accompany him to the South, and unite with the troops under LaFayette. One hundred thousand livres, which remained in the coffers of the French corps, were divided among the two armies. They commenced moving … and under forced marches of sixty miles a day, we reached Williamsburg on the 14th of September, and found there the LaFayette and St-Simon divisions, who had taken a good position together to await our arrival.”
The Continental army had swelled to about 9000 as farmers left their fields for what many Americans were calling the final battle. Then after the victory at Yorktown, with national independence in sight, dressed in the new uniforms provided by the French, General Washington had the Continental Army embrace the French Army in a way that should always be remembered.
“The general, as a mark of respect to France, and of gratitude for the services she had rendered America, made us march between a double row of his troops. General Washington made his drums beat the French march during the whole time of the review, and the two armies met again with evident marks of reciprocal satisfaction.”
This was collective act of gratitude and brotherly love. The time has now come to embrace and honor this partnership that won the American Revolution.
President George Washington’s Prayer For the Nation
Here is the prayer that Washington gave at Newburg, June 8, 1783 and then sent to all the Governors.
“Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.
And finally, that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.
Grant our supplications, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” G. Washington
American Heritage Strained to The Limit
Sadly, what poverty has preserved, prosperity continues to pressure with urban blight. If we who are interested in heritage are unwilling to partner for preservation, what will our children inherit? Many important historic sites survived because prosperity passed them by. They are ripe for preservation as open space and national vistas and landmarks. But if we act in splendid isolation in our separate communities and refuse to work together, how can we possibly purchase and preserve these national treasures? We are seeing a proliferation of historical organizations which provide nothing but, entertainment, high school level seminars, and an opportunity for history buffs to chat. For those organizations history is a spectator sport. If we continue along that path American heritage will transition into the realm of virtual reality. For heritage preservation we need people and organizations that realize it must be a contact sport requiring strategy and teamwork. As dragoon Cpt. Sal Tarintino put it, “your heritage is my heritage.”
The corollary to poverty preserves is that lack of preservation impoverishes. If we continue to act in splendid isolation we will continue to fail at every historic district attempt, modern houses like weeds will crowd out our remaining historic village greens, and the bull dozers will continue to lay low the historic vistas. Our nation can only be culturally impoverished by the lose of our historic assets and vistas as our historic sites fall before the tide of urban blight. Then our children will inherit only the wind.
We all have a stake in raising the level of preservation of each of Washington’s Headquarters, of the Hale Homestead and other historic monuments to reflect the esteem we hold for those who helped shape our culture. Today, for survival, every important site needs a gift shop with historical and cultural artifacts and books. Every site needs clean bathrooms and adequate parking. These basic improvements are needed so that the sites can become self sustaining. If we can further thread a common theme through many of the sites we can create trails that people will follow to retrace the footsteps of history. Trails can relieve the strain on many smaller sites that today cannot make it on their own.
The 5th Rochambeau Encampment @ Bolton
Bolton Camp 5 is an important archaeological site and a pristine historic vista on Rochambeau’s route. The holidays, would be a good time to send a letter of support for a Connecticut open space grant to help preserve this important national historic site. The application is currently at the Department of Environmental Protection for review. A letter to The Honorable Governor John Rowland with a copy to the DEP Land Acquisition department can only help show that there is widespread recognition of the importance of preserving this site. Remember these letters go into the public domain so you may want to polish them a little.
It was the Governor’s idea to double the amount of open space in CT. The Governor and his wife are very interested in expanding the state tourism industry. The Governor is interested in preserving heritage and is a member of the SAR. Therefore even out-of-state interest is a confirmation of the importance of this type of heritage as well as verification of the trail’s potential as an arterial for tourism growth.
Governor John Rowland cc: Charles Reed, Director
State Capital Building DEP Land Acquisition
210 Capital Avenue 79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106 Hartford, CT 06106
Saving Bolton’s 5th Camp preserves both open space and heritage, and will help reduce the strain on other historic sites along the trail sharing their themes to make them more viable with increased tourism.