December 26, 2001

Six essays are at this site- http://www.bartleby.com/238/

A Washington Rochambeau Trail Committee

Recently I sent out a synopsis of the Smithsonian’s Enola Gay ignominy and comeback. Most of those underlying problems now have a familiar ring for the W3R.

  • First, the stakeholders were disenfranchised and a like minded chorus of revisionists and self-interest groups were substituted.
  • Then the Federal Congress and the Senate were ignored.
  • Finally, after a fortune was spent on displays of elaborate and expensive historical distortions, American public outrage forced the replacement of their props with the much more affordable truth.

In the last two months the initiators and stakeholders have recognized that we have a serious problem with the W3R interpretation and have begun to take action:

  • The SAR has energized its committee to deal with revisionism. In addition, Russ Wirtalla, recent president of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and V-P General for the New England states, is now the national SAR focal point for the W3R national trail proposal, and is leading a committee representing the 9 states along the route.
  • The DAR has been energized on the W3R issues. Jean Sutton is the national focal point reporting to the President General Mrs. Watkins. Marolyn Paulis, recent president of the Connecticut Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution is the D.A.R. focal point in Connecticut.
  • Jay Jackson, current national President General, for the Society of the Cincinnati, and Chancellor (or legal advisor) for the Connecticut Sons of the American Revolution, has been making an exceptional effort to bring everyone back together. He is a former member of Connecticut Historical Commission. He is an active attorney at law, and has been legal counsel to two former Connecticut governors. He is the Society of the Cincinnati ‘s national focal point for this national trail proposal. On October 27 he had dinner with the French Ambassador, who shares the same concerns of the stakeholders.

Students in the Rensselaer MBA program put together a report defining the goals, form, and functions of the needed W3R Committee based on an interview with stakeholders.

A Maryland Report is Now Available

Robert Reyes has finished assembling the description of the route and camps from Maryland to Georgetown-Washington, DC. Copies are available upon request (reyeser@hotmail.com). Robert used the volumes of Rice and Brown, which contain most of the objective W3R history collected to date as well as other sources.

The Thesis for the Trail

There are many secondary reasons for having a Washington-Rochambeau National Historic trail. Those include expansion of tourism, preservation of the environment, greenway trails, and coordinated Franco-American cultural events. Those benefits are reasons why there are so many partners supporting this legislation. But we must not lose sight of our primary purpose which is to preserve American heritage. The stakeholders who originated this proposal had as their purpose the honoring of the patriots, and the Franco-American alliance without which Liberty would not be standing tall today in the harbor of New York City. But our purpose presupposes that there is actually something to honor and to recognize. It presupposes there was a true alliance with cooperation not coercion. It presupposes that Washington and Rochambeau were honorable leaders, and that they were the ones responsible for the consequences of their planning and joint actions. We would not seek to honor the alliance or Washington and Rochambeau had the alliance been a farce of back stabbing intrigues, or had these patriots been vane, ignorantly proud, clumsy strategists who by coercion and chance, blundered their way to victory.

As our evidence that the trail is true and worthy American heritage we can quote any American author prior to the 1960’s surge of revisionism and politically correct thinking. We can also read the source documents and see that:

  • Immediately after the Wethersfield Conference Washington and Rochambeau sent numerous letters indicating New York City was the object of their plan and that Washington considered that the other object, a march to the south, would be extraordinarily difficult. But never did they specifically say that New York City would be attacked nor that they would not march south.
  • On May 28 Rochambeau wrote to Admiral de Grasse in secret code that the Chesapeake region was the planned field of battle that year. Washington received a copy a few weeks later and agreed with it.
  • Washington, without the aid of secret code, convinced Lafayette with his May 31 1781 letter, that the real plan was the southern objective, and Lafayette should stay there. Lafayette was profusely thankful.
  • Washington, on June 13, began assembling the boats for a New York objective, which turned out to be to ferry the allied army across the Hudson River for the feigned attacks (diversion) from New Jersey and Staten Island, and for the march to the south. He reported the ships were ready and in place August 1.
  • On June 20, Washington told General Knox to stop bringing artillery north because it would just have to be carried back to the south.
  • On August 2. Washington ordered Robert Morris to inventory the ships in Philadelphia and Baltimore that could be commandeered for the flotilla needed to get the allied army’s land troops into position around Cornwallis in the Chesapeake.
  • On August 14, Washington and Rochambeau received word that de Grasse was about to arrive in the Chesapeake Bay. The decision was made then to break camp at New York City, execute the second part of the plan, to continue the march to Virginia.

The source documents for all of these facts are in the newsletters on the CTSSAR web site given above.

How the Stakes Have Been Raised

On 28 September 2001, Larry Gall and Project Manager Brian Aviles of the NPS and their consultant met with a revisionist group claiming to represent the W3R. The SAR, DAR, Society of the Cincinnati, our Congressional champion, and myself had not even been told that the NPS and their consultants were having such a meeting or that the NPS had any new information to share. We, the initiators and stakeholders, were all seemingly disenfranchised. Since Jay Jackson has now intervened, the NPS has shared some of the information they released September 28. I still do not receive current information from the NPS nor from Jim Johnson’s revisionist group which the NPS has apparently selected to be their public sounding board. The NPS has been successful in excluding all the stakeholders and in empowering the revisionists and those academics that will benefit from the largess of the federal funds distribution. This type of exclusionary behavior is typical of the politically correct revisionists.

Some of the stakeholders fear the NPS may retaliate if we insist on historical truth. The NPS has stated: “A first phase of the study culminates in November 2002, when the NPS Advisory Board determines whether the route is nationally significant. If it is not, we will assess non-federal alternatives: partnerships with state and local governments, private groups and nonprofit organizations, to preserve the memory of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.”

Some stakeholders are concerned that if the stakeholders insist on historical fidelity and no revisionism, that the NPS’s revisionists will spend all the money on themselves and then simply say the route is not nationally significant or that it is not sufficiently intact. We know we have nine states involved and the majority has not been able to commit resources during the past 200 years to mark the trail. The states already demonstrated they lack sufficient resources to do the trail on their own or they would have done it. Therefore if there were no national trail proposed the concept in any other form would very likely die for now and for all time.

The NPS has ignored the congressionally legislated mandate that they had originally accepted. Originally Senator Lieberman’s staff estimated the trail recommendation would run $100,000 and could be done in a year under previously existing legislation. Congressman John Larson took the NPS recommendations, made new legislation, and doubled the first estimated price tag and time allotment as the NPS suggested. Then on March 14, 2001, at Congressman John Larson’s Washington office, the National Park Service outlined their plan (project directors Steve Elkinton, Larry Gall and John Haubert) and announced they had all the requisite $200,000 funding. Also present were Congressman Maurice Hinchey (NY), Congressman Larson’s staff, and myself. Now the NPS consulting fees alone through 2002 (13 months) are estimated to be $275,000. And now they only hope to have it done by 2006 (an additional four or five years)! The legislation called for the completion of just the feasibility study within two years not for the completion of the route interpretation. It was intended that the bulk of the money would be spent after the route was determined to be feasible and acceptable to Congress and the stakeholders as a National Trail. Then individual states could seek funds for a coordinated effort under NPS guidance. Now we risk rejection and embarrassment for all the congressmen and stakeholders involved if revisionist nonsense is in any way associated with the route.

The NPS has raised the stakes and is planning to take too long, apparently unilaterally deciding it is all or nothing in 2006. It therefore is more imperative than ever that the SAR, DAR, and the Society of the Cincinnati see to it that no revisionism be either publicly visible or hidden away in the fine print of the NPS documentation of this route. If the patriots are presented proudly, the way they would want it to be done, then we will still have a route we can truly celebrate in 2006.

French Ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand

Essays of former French Ambassador to the USA basically support the historical record we have related in our W3R newsletters. The unpublished works of Jean Jules Jusserand (1855-1932) are accessible at the web sitehttp://www.bartleby.com/238/. Ambassador Jusserand recounts that while the NY and southern objectives were both part of the Wethersfield plan, both Washington and Rochambeau first sent letters telling people New York City was the objective. Then shortly afterward (within a little more than a week) they were in general agreement on the southern objective. La Luzerne is credited for the agreement on the secret plan.

“The great question was what should be attempted-the storming of New York or the relief of the South?”

“The terms of the problem had been amply discussed in letters and conferences between the chiefs, and the discussion still continued. The one who first made up his mind and ceased to hesitate between the respective advantages or disadvantages of the two projects, and who plainly declared that there was but one good plan, which was to reconquer the South, that one, strange to say, was neither Washington nor Rochambeau, and was not in the United States either as a sailor or a soldier, but as a diplomat, and in drawing attention to the fact I am only performing the most agreeable duty toward a justly admired predecessor. This wise adviser was La Luzerne.

In an unpublished memoir, drawn up by him on the 20th of April and sent to Rochambeau on May 19 with an explanatory letter in which he asked that his statement be placed under the eyes of Washington, he insisted on the necessity of immediate action, and action in the Chesapeake: “It is in the Chesapeake Bay that it seems urgent to convey all the naval forces of the King, with such land forces as the generals will consider appropriate. This change cannot fail to have the most advantageous consequences for the continuation of the campaign,” which consequences he points out with singular clear-sightedness, adding: “If the English follow us and can reach the bay only after us, their situation will prove very different from ours; all the coasts and the inland parts of the country are full of their enemies. They have neither the means nor the time to raise, as at New York, the necessary works to protect themselves against the inroads of the American troops and to save themselves from the danger to which the arrival of superior forces would expose them.” If the plan submitted by him offers difficulties, others should be formed, but he maintains that “all those which have for their object the relief of the Southern States must be preferred, and that no time should be lost to put them in execution.”

To Rochambeau he wrote on the 1st of June: “The situation of the Southern States becomes every moment more critical; it has even become very dangerous, and every measure that could be taken for their relief would be of infinite advantage.… The situation of the Marquis de Lafayette and that of General Greene is most embarrassing, since Lord Cornwallis has joined the English division of the Chesapeake. If Virginia is not helped in time, the English will have reached the goal which they have assigned to themselves in the bold movements attempted by them in the South: they will soon have really conquered the Southern States.… I am going to write to M. de Grasse as you want me to do; on your side, seize every occasion to write to him, and multiply the copies of the letters you send him,” that is, in duplicate and triplicate, for fear of loss or capture. “His coming to the rescue of the oppressed States is not simply desirable; the thing seems to be now of the most pressing necessity.” He must not only come, but bring with him all he can find of French troops in our isles: thus would be compensated, to a certain extent, the absence of the second division.

Rochambeau soon agreed, and, with his usual wisdom, Washington was not long in doing the same. On the 28th of May the French general had already written to de Grasse-

On the 31st of May Washington wrote to Lafayette telling him to stay in Virginia and provided hints that convinced Lafayette that the main offensive would be in the Chesapeake area (see NL43). Ambassador Jusserand and historians prior to the post 1960’s revisionists would be as appalled as most of us today, with the revisionist contention that Washington was forced to accept the southern objective. Ambassador Jusserand describes the first contact of the French troops with Washington’s tattered Continental army regulars. Closen described just how bad the situation had become. Having no knowledge of the plan and being truthful, Closen chose not to show his ignorance of the plan by opening his mouth, boasting, and becoming a fool as some other officers did. “Those brave people,” wrote Closen, “it really pained us to see, almost naked, with mere linen vests and trousers, most of them without stockings; but, would you believe it? looking very healthy and in the best of spirits.” And further on: “I am full of admiration for the American troops. It is unbelievable that troops composed of men of all ages, even of children of fifteen, of blacks and whites, all nearly naked, without money, poorly fed, should walk so well and stand the enemy’s fire with such firmness. The calmness of mind and the clever combinations of General Washington, in whom I discover every day new eminent qualities, are already enough known, and the whole universe respects and admires him. Certain it is that he is admirable at the head of his army, every member of which considers him as his friend and father.”

Ambassador Jusserand described the entire NY objective as training, joint maneuvers, and diversion of the British with skirmishes that were meant to look like preliminaries for a serious campaign of war. Washington and Rochambeau kept the Southern plan a secret as the British gleefully collected copies of the earlier announced NY object.

The colonial secretary was, in the meantime, kept in a state of jubilation by so much treasure-trove and the news forwarded by Clinton, to whom he wrote: “The copies of the very important correspondence which so fortunately fell into your hands, inclosed in your despatch, show the rebel affairs to be almost desperate, and that nothing but the success of some extraordinary enterprise can give vigor and activity to their cause, and I confess I am well pleased that they have fixed upon New York as the object to be attempted.”

The combined armies had, in the meantime, done their best to confirm the English commander in such happy dispositions. They had built in the vicinity of New York brick ovens for baking bread for an army, as in view of a long siege. There had been reconnaissances, marches, and countermarches, a sending of ships toward Long Island without entering, however, “dans la baie d’Oyster,” skirmishes which looked like preliminaries to more important operations, and in one of which, together with the two Berthiers and Count de Vauban, Closen nearly lost his life in order to save his hat.

Unlike the post 1960’s revisionists, Ambassador Jusserand, did not demean Rochambeau by saying his recounting of the Chastellux letter was a consequence of old age, or faulty memory, nor does he claim Rochambeau launched a myth as the NPS’s revisionists have.

More treasures had now fallen into the hands of Clinton: a letter of Chastellux to La Luzerne, speaking very superciliously of his unmanageable chief, Rochambeau, and of his “bourrasques.” In it he congratulated himself, as Rochambeau narrates, on having “cleverly managed to cause me to agree with General Washington,” the result being that “a siege of the island of New York had at last been determined upon.… He added complaints about the small chance a man of parts had to influence the imperiousness of a general always wanting to command.” Clinton caused that letter to be sent to Rochambeau, “obviously with no view,” writes the latter, “to the preservation of peace in my military family.” Rochambeau showed it to Chastellux, who blushingly acknowledged its authorship; the general thereupon threw it into the fire and left the unfortunate Academician “a prey to his remorse,” -and to his ignorance, for he was careful not to undeceive him as to the real plans of the combined army. 4

The revisionists have created a new myth that implies that Washington and Rochambeau had no means to communicate their plans except through Chastellux and a few others. Ambassador Jusserand shows that Rochambeau and Washington had no difficulty finding interpreters. Ezra Stiles even used Latin to communicate with Rochambeau. There were many people who could be used. Ambassador Jusserand addresses the profound secrecy of their plans. After launching a blizzard of letters within a week of the Wethersfield Conference proclaiming a New York City objective, he says Washington and Rochambeau quickly settled on the Chesapeake and kept the true plan a secret.

People in those times had to take their chance and act in accordance with probabilities. This Washington and Rochambeau did. By the beginning of June all was astir in the northern camp. Soldiers (French) did not know what was contemplated, but obviously it was something great. Young officers exulted. What joy to have at last the prospect of an “active campaign” wrote Closen in his journal, “and to have an occasion to visit other provinces and see the differences in manners, customs, products, and trade of our good Americans!” The armies of Washington and Rochambeau, encumbered with their carts, wagons, and artillery, had to pass rivers, to cross hilly regions, to follow muddy tracks; any serious attempt against them might have proved fatal, but nothing was tried. It was of the greatest importance that Clinton should, as long as possible, have no intimation of the real plans of the Franco-Americans; everything helped to mislead him: his natural dispositions as well as circumstances.

Newsletter 43 has Washington’s letter of 31 May 1781 where he clearly notes that Lafayette has no cipher to permit communication in secret code.

“As you have no cipher by which I can write to you in safety, and my letters have been frequently intercepted of late I restrain myself from mentioning many matters I wish to communicate to you.”

Lafayette, who was the one of the highest-ranking officers, had to deduce from Washington’s hints and from European sources that the true plan was to attack the British southern armies. Today, the Army Intelligence Agency traces its origin to General Washington’s wartime intelligence system (see NL 44).

NPS Revisionist’s Nonsense

Prior to the 1960’s surge of revisionism and politically correct thinking I can find no evidence of such an inept theory as the NPS’s revisionists now propose. Within a week of my informing many readers and the NPS of the New York report’s revisionist nonsense that demeaned the patriots, the author of the report was hired as the National Park Service (NPS) W3R consultant. The NPS apparently approved of the paragraphs that demean American patriots, always cleverly using French quotes. The net effect is to demean the French as well as introduce old-world ethnic hates and stereotypes that have no place in American history. Revisionists present the bitter words of American enemies and uniformed allies as if it were the truth about our American patriots. Never has a foreigner so skillfully demeaned and slandered Americans patriots through French lips.

“It was therefore necessary to fool him (Washington) and to seem to adopt his plans but to form others. So we pretended to be moving toward him to attack New York by land.”

The revisionists scraped the bottom of the barrel to find the fools in the ranks of the French officers. Braggarts were found who were so arrogant, so mean spirited, so contemptible, and so ignorant that they didn’t know the extreme depth of their ignorance. One was a gossip, another was the youngest and most unstable of the officers, and a third later became infamous for his genocide in Haiti.

“When de Grasse’ letter arrived in camp on August 14, “the moment had now come to enlighten General Washington and to persuade him to operate in the South.”

“seeing the latter’s (Washington) indecision and the obstacles, which he created, he guessed that pride had much to do with his refusal. General Rochambeau proposed the American… command the expedition himself. From then on the obstacles were removed, the march south was resolved upon, and definitely planned.”

If the revisionist’s politically correct version of what happened were true it would leave us with no reason whatsoever for commemorating the Washington-Rochambeau Trail. Using the slander of a few ignorant French officers as their pathetic evidence, the revisionists rewrite our history of this most important march of the American Revolution, as follows:

“The decision to abandon the siege of New York and to march south was forced upon Washington on August 14, 1781, when de Grasse’s letter of March 28 reached Rochambeau, informing him that he was sailing for the Chesapeake. When Rochambeau told the American general that he would march to Virginia, Washington had no choice but to go along.” “Brushing aside Washington’s objections, Rochambeau pointed out that de Grasse had come to Virginia at his request and told Washington that “for this reason he could not excuse himself from marching immediately with the French troops.” Washington was free to follow his own counsel, but Rochambeau did invite Washington, “to place himself at our head and to make that part of his army follow him which he thought he could draw away from New York.”

That revisionism would have us believe there is nothing honorable about either the alliance or the patriots. That is why anyone truly believing that revisionist theory while simultaneously supporting the W3R would probably have to be brain-dead. It implies that those proposing this nonsense have no desire to present the truth that honors the patriots and the Franco-American alliance. It would infuriate most Americans if their argument were not so inept and unsupported by the facts. But what should infuriate Americans more is that the NPS has apparently swallowed it hook line and sinker and may be prepared to dishonor the patriots. In the last newsletter I suggested you check the revisionist’s web site. There the revisionists theorized that Rochambeau suffered some memory lapse and launched a Wethersfield Plan myth. Here is the revisionist irrational argument for why they don’t believe a secret plan was possible at Wethersfield.

“Of most significance is that in the all of the writings by both Rochambeau and Washington for many years after the war, neither ever refer to having a secret code or scheme that was not shared by their close, senior staffs.”

Just what do the revisionists think that proves? Immediately after the war it was obvious to even the most uniformed that there had been a secret plan- all the newspapers talked of it. So why would Washington and Rochambeau have to state the obvious methods used to keep the secret? You have read Washington’s letter of 31 May 1781 where he clearly notes that Lafayette has no cipher to understand any secret code. You have read Washington’s letter of August 2, 1781, to Morris requesting an inventory of the ships that could be commandeered at Philadelphia and Baltimore for the flotilla to surround the British. Here is Morris’ response in secret code! (Coming Soon)

When I say that Washington and Rochambeau would both wish the trail to be forgotten rather than be remembered in the NPS revisionist’s way, I don’t mean we should abandon the effort. I mean if the stakeholders are unable to get the NPS’s attention so they change their revisionist leaning, then we need to go quickly to President Bush and our federal representatives for help with our version of the “Enola Gay” problem. The Enola Gay stakeholders refused to accept the contemptible things the Smithsonian’s revisionists had theorized about WWII.

What is the time line for the W3R Study?
By Representative John B. Larson

The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Heritage Act (P.L. 106-473) required the Secretary of Interior to complete a study of the route used by Washington and Rochambeau during the Revolutionary War. Based on original estimates, the legislation stipulated that the study be completed within two years of the expenditure of funds for the project. Unfortunately, the original time frame given for the completion of the study will be longer than expected. The vast size of the route and public disclosure standards extend the time line.

I am disappointed that the deadline set in the legislation will lapse without the completed study; however, my concern is that the integrity of the route be preserved. As a former history teacher, I want to ensure that we preserve the route, which serves as a reminder of how Americans won their freedom, with the utmost accuracy. With the many stakeholders involved in the route’s development, I understand that the process will take some time. By the same token, I am very conscious of the 225th Anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2006. At the very least, Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route should be designated a national historic trail in 2006, if not before. It is my hope that by 2006, the National Park Service will be in the process of development of the trail. In the meantime, I would encourage state and local authorities to recognize the historical significance of the route for the purposes of preservation.

After conferring with the National Park Service (NPS), the first phase of the study should be completed in November of 2002, when their advisory board meets to make the determination of suitability. Because the advisory board only meets twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall – and must have materials submitted to it a few months before the meetings, the November meeting is the earliest for the Washington-Rochambeau Route to be reviewed. The board meeting is critical point in the decision to continue the study. In all likelihood, the board will find that there are sufficient resources to proceed in the study.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prescribes certain procedural requirements for federal agency actions other government agencies. The National Park Service is no exception to NEPA. The NPS must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and must allow for a public comment period for each of its actions. The EIS will give recommendations for the study and consider alternatives, and once submitted will be subject to public comment. The NPS anticipates that the comment period will conclude at the end of 2004 or beginning of 2005. I will press for the 2004 estimate, if not sooner.

Connecticut is a state rich in history, and it is through preservation and commemoration that we can ensure future generations will not forget the legacy of General Washington and General Rochambeau. Although, the study of their trail will not be completed as early as originally anticipated, I encourage the National Park Service and all stakeholders to work together to complete the study as soon as possible to ensure that the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is recognized and preserved in time to celebrate its 225th Anniversary in 2006.