George Washington and Rochambeau, May 1781

  Imacon Color ScannerOn May 21 and 22, 1781, George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau met to in Wethersfield, Connecticut to discuss strategy.

Washington wanted to attack and recapture New York City.

General Rochambeau preferred to confront the British army somewhere along the Chesapeake Bay.

How did these men resolve their differences?

How did the War for American Independence end?

My latest article for the Journal of the American Revolution has the whole story plus details about how you can visit a bonafide George Washington Bedroom.

Here's a taste:

After the Americans’ stunning victory at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, King Louis XVI ordered his ministers to negotiate a formal alliance between France and the United States. Conrad Alexander Gérard of France and Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee of the United States negotiated the terms of the Franco-American alliance in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which they signed on February 6, 1778.

446px-Rochambeau_VersaillesThe Treaty of Amity and Commerce served as formal notice that France recognized the independence of the United States. King Louis XVI and his ministers saw the United States’ fight for independence as an opportunity to avenge the losses France suffered during the Seven Years’ War. They also saw it as an opportunity for France to supplant Great Britain as the Americans’ chief trade partner.  On March 17, 1778, France declared war on Great Britain.[1]

In July 1780, French General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau landed in Newport, Rhode Island. He came with seven ships-of-the-line, four frigates, and thirty troop transports, which carried nearly 5,500 French soldiers. Rochambeau arrived with orders to assist the American Commander-in-Chief in a subordinate capacity. To this end, Rochambeau and George Washington met in mid-September 1780. They conferred in Hartford, Connecticut, halfway between Rochambeau’s headquarters in Newport and Washington’s headquarters in New Windsor, New York. The threat of attack from the British fleet kept their initial meeting short.

The two generals conferred again in May, 1781. On May 8, Rochambeau received dispatches with the news that the French government had ordered Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse and his fleet to the West Indies and that de Grasse would be available to support Rochambeau and the Americans during the 1781 campaign season. Rochambeau, Washington, and their retinues gathered at Wethersfield, Connecticut to discuss strategy.

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*George Washington at Princeton by Charles Wilson Peale courtesy of the United States Senate.