May 30, 2000
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 create a national historic trail, the WRRR. Rochambeau’s French army defined the route 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.
They were a foreign legion speaking eight languages. They spoke politely in French, bargained in English, gave orders in German, and by tradition, cursed in Hungarian. They were the most colorful, the most daring, and unquestionably the most troublesome unit sent by France to fight for American independence. They were Lauzun’s Cavalry.
While Lauzun was quartered in Connecticut he made several trips along the WRRR. He visited Washington and delivered messages on some occasions. He accompanied French Engineers who mapped the campsites. The Legion left graffiti as their primary art form. The WPA Writers Project of 1933 indicates it was Lauzun’s men who left bayonet holes in Bolton’s White Tavern. The Trumbull Historical Society should be happy to hear that Historian Dr. Selig confirmed their beautiful site as one of those used by Lauzun as his unit split into detachments to foil any possible plans of attacks on the main French army.
I believe the dotted lines on Rochambeau’s map #65 are the paths of Lauzun’s detachments. I gave out many copies of map #65 and often had questions about the dotted lines. Clearly they begin in Middletown after Lauzun’s Legion crosses the Connecticut River in 1781. They show a detachment goes to Hartford, another down to Saybrook and across to New Haven, and another directly to New Haven. Two units meet in New Haven and go along the coast as far as Stamford. Another unit goes from Middletown across to Ridgefield and on to NY. Clearly Lauzun’s Legion traveled the old Boston Post Road along the coast as well as the historic route nine miles south of Rochambeau.
When You Harbor Trust, Honor Will Dock There.
Why would the Puritans get along so well with the French army? The French were predominantly Catholic and the Puritans were the most protesting of Protestants. According to Rochambeau’s memoirs the Puritan New Englanders were the first to protest the intolerable acts.
“The violent doings of the English and of the Hessians, their allies, carried this revolution rapidly on from the north to the south. The opinion of the inhabitants of the north, consisting principally of land holders of equal fortune, were naturally of a democratical tendency� All quickly united, however, to stand up for the liberty, equality, and independence of the mother country, taking care to preserve a certain respect for property in general.”
The Puritans in the countryside lived in small houses with little privacy. A bath usually meant a basin and a cloth, except in the summer time when there were rivers, Lakes, and streams. By the time the French troops arrived the American volunteer soldiers were short of clothing. Some britches were so badly torn that part of the anatomy showed through.
The Puritan society had become less strict but was isolated, and protective so that most were trusting of strangers. This trust brought out the most honorable qualities of the French. The French with their swords and cannons were completely disarmed and at the mercy the young inquisitive American women. They had only begun to march through Puritan territory when Louis-Alexandre Berthier noted from Windam CT, “the women here are very pretty.”.
Clermont-Crevecoeur’s in Bolton notes: “Foreigners are cordially welcomed by these good people. You find a whole family bustling about to make you happy. Such are the general characteristics of the people of Connecticut.”
The French tents were their private bedrooms. Young Puritan women gave the French many stories to write home about. General Verger wrote the following in his diary, “The inhabitants of Connecticut are the best people in the United States, without any doubt. They have a lively curiosity and examined our troops and all our actions with evident astonishment. When they visited our camp, the girls came without their mothers and entered our tents with the greatest confidence.”
Baron Ludwig von Closen said, “The inhabitants of Hartford have heaped us with attentions, and beyond a doubt, Connecticut has been the province which has welcomed the French the most.”
Young comte de Lauberdiere notes, “A charming simplicity of manners reigns throughout this land. The war is a scourge, of which they feel the full weight, but within their families nothing can trouble them, they display a happy air about them. …”
At Breakneck CT, Private Flohr of the Deux Ponts regiment wrote, “entertainments were even greater what with dancing and frolicking with the lovely beautiful American girls who lived there.”
More arrogant or conceited soldiers would have credited themselves for their popularity. The French for the most part credit the goodness of the Americans and that tells us that the French troops were good and decent people.