Who was Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau?

Guess who has returned to the classroom?
I did!!! And I did not go empty-handed!!
Under my arm I brought my old friend, Rochambeau!

He’s dressed up and I’m dressed down ~

Portrait of General Rochambeau by Rachel LePine

Portrait of General Rochambeau by Rachel LePine

I carried him under my arm into the classroom of a middle school in CT. I revealed him bit by bit over five days to a classroom of hungry students, students eager to learn about the man who helped George Washington win our independence from Britain in 1781.

What I carried under my arm was my biography/military history of this hidden hero of America and France. Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau.  His story is ever on my mind, ever ready to be proclaimed to eager student of history.

My students in this pilot course came through with flying colors! They asked intelligent questions; they learned of the sacrifice made by 18th century women to the war effort in America; they wrote letters back home to France through the eyes and ears of a French soldier who marched  across CT with Rochambeau; they wrote editorials to the Hartford Courant of 1781 after witnessing the Battle of Yorktown!  I rejoiced!


Who knew that ….

1. …. toRochambeau March 15ward the end of the American Revolution George Washington welcomed under his command, a French General (General Rochambeau) who was 7 years his senior and who had 35 years of military experience already under his belt?

2. ….. there were thousands more French soldiers and marines than Americans fighting at the Battle of Yorktown, final turning point of the American Revolution?

3. ……  the pivotal sea battle “Off the Virginia Capes”  which sealed the fate of British commander Cornwallis, successfully blocking his escape by sea, was fought between the British Fleet commanded by Admirals Hood and Graves and the  French Fleet under Admiral de Grasse?

There were no Americans in the battle, yet the Americans profited most from  the outcome. And, this incredibly important sea battle was fought out of sight of land with only a few on shore cognizant that such a significant battle was even taking place.

Rochambeau 1 March 15

Follow-up on the “gabion” question I posed to you last time

To answer my own questions – no, I cannot begin to lift it! And no, it will not control roaming cats! They will readily climb out. So, I hope you have found the answer by now.

The word gabion is a derivative of a 16th century French (Italian, too) military term. I will describe it in light of Rochambeau and Washington’s preparation for the battle of Yorktown in the of fall 1781.

A gabion, when completed, resembles a tall cage made of strong, wooden sticks enveloped by interwoven vines much like a huge basket. This one beside me in the picture stood about 4 plus feet high.  It is filled with stones and dirt, all compacted to make a tidy package that could be transported to the scene of an upcoming battleground. By the way, it takes one man a day to make one.

N.B. The sappers and miners who performed most of this pre-siege drudge job at Yorktown worked all day and all night for several days in all kinds of weather under enemy fire. The army required countless gabions to perform the job they were created to do.

You say, what good would this funny, super heavy, unwieldy thing do to aid in an attack or a defense of in a siege?  Well, when the gab ion is put to work, it helps to form a part of the defensive redoubts that will protect the troops as they fire on the enemy.  But this does not tell the whole story yet because, as it is, bullets and grapeshot will pierce it easily.

So, after the gabions are handmade, and there will be many, many prepared in advance of the opening volley, they will be neatly buried in the long lines of earthworks. These gabions help to create and build up earthworks faster than using shovels full of dirt.

When incorporated into the breastworks they will be invisible reinforcements of the same. Soldiers will then be able to fire their muskets from behind the raised mound of earth and be protected by them at the same time.

I welcome any additions, comments and corrections that might add to our knowledge of gabions!

With regard to General Rochambeau: Who Knew that….


Who knew that ~

Who knew that ~

… Rochambeau was originally in training to be a priest?

… Rochambeau was wounded in the leg and near his eye in 1747 as a young soldier at the Battle of Laufeldt, War of Austrian Succession.

… Rochambeau took  another bullet in his thigh in 1760 at the Battle of Clostercamp, Seven Years’ War.

… Rochambeau suffered most of his life from those wounds, even at the Battle of  Yorktown, VA.

… Rochambeau rode countless miles on horseback in spite of his leg wounds.

… Rochambeau nearly died of small pox?

… Rochambeau expected his soldiers to attend church services whenever possible, and he marched with a priest in his company.