An Afternoon of High Drama in Newport, R.I. June 6, 2019

Part One: Outside the Vernon House
Part Two: The interior of the Vernon House
Part Three: The Re-Dedication of the Rochambeau Statue, Plinth, and Pyramid


My husband, John and I arrive in Newport about noon on June 6th where we meet our Connecticut friends, Nancy, and Patrick at the Yankee Pedlar Inn. Here is the first part of our visit. The other two parts will be posted soon. In this way the suspense builds!

Nancy Callahan, President of the Alliance Francaise of NW CT and Jini Jones Vail by the corner of the Vernon House


Part One: Outside Vernon House

It took me a few days to line up our first event on June 6, 2019. I have wanted to visit the William Vernon House, 46 Clark Street, since the early years of research and writing: Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant. Every time I came to Newport, I found that the house was inaccessible as it was privately owned. Vernon House was General Rochambeau’s headquarters from July 1780 for at least a year before he marched to the Hudson with his 4,000 troops to coalesce armies with his commander, George Washington.

Vernon House is the ‘crème de la crème’ of dwellings to visit in Newport in my estimation. Even now, it is not a simple task finding the key to the house of my dreams. It takes a circuitous route to find an ‘entrée’. First I write to my friend, Mary-Gail Smith, President of the Alliance Francaise of Newport. I know that if anyone could help, it would be she. Certainly, Mary-Gail knows the one person who would come to my aid with the golden key.

It is she who will be feted today at 5:30 at King Park where the newly re-furbished Rochambeau statue, plinth, and pyramid stand in all their glory to be enjoyed in their perfection for another 100 years. Mary-Gail is the woman of the hour today. Her four years of fund-raising and travail are to be celebrated in a few hours.

I wait for her response, knowing how busy she is today. She sends me an email with a name and a phone number. This is how I find Mark Thompson, Executive Director of the Newport Restoration Foundation. He left me a note at the most helpful Laura of the Yankee Pedlar Inn who assisted greatly in the plan.

So, here we are, Nancy Callahan, President of the Alliance Francaise of NW CT and myself by the corner of the Vernon House. Do you recognize my Rochambeau necklace from an earlier post?

Nancy and I are standing below the copper relief bust of General Rochambeau in profile. We arrive a little early to take a couple of photos before we tour the house. The suspense is building as we will meet Mr. Thompson at 1:30 around the corner at the front door.


Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant now available as an audiobook !



Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Associates,

I am pleased to announce that my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant is now available as an audiobook directly online through and (see links below). It will soon be available on iTunes. Please use the links below to access the book and listen to a sample. I hope you will purchase the book for your audio library. I think you will enjoy it very much. If you are new to Audible, please sign up for a free trial membership and make my book your first purchase! I would love to hear what you think of it.

Tell your friends and family, especially those with an interest in Rochambeau, the Revolutionary War, George Washington, and The National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association Inc. (W3R) and it’s National Historic Trail (see:

Best wishes and happy listening!


Jini Jones Vail


AUDIBLE                 AMAZON


Click here if you’re not familiar with Audible  



Step back in time and travel with Rochambeau as he rides through the night to the Palace of Versailles, answering a summons from King Louis XVI.

Sail with Rochambeau as he and his 42-ship convoy cross the Atlantic on an exhausting 70-day voyage to America.
Sit by his side as his carriage travels to meet with George Washington for their first face-to-face conference in Hartford, Connecticut. Enjoy the tension between the two generals as their strategy emerges.

Stand beside Rochambeau as he proudly watches his handsome French troops depart from Newport, Rhode Island, to begin their 200-mile march to join forces with Washington’s army above the Hudson.

Stand near him in Chester, Pennsylvania, as he watches an overjoyed Washington twirl his hat in the air on hearing that the long-awaited French navy under Admiral De Grasse had arrived in the Chesapeake. Ride at his side in the sweltering sun during the grueling trek from New York to Williamsburg, Virginia.

Listen in as he rallies his troops at the Battle of Yorktown. And observe how Cornwallis grudgingly surrenders his sword at the final battle of the American Revolution.


©2011 Jini Jones Vail (P)2018 Jini Jones Vail

What readers say


for Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant,

A  French General’s Role in the American Revolution


A French General’s Role in the American Revolution

5.0 out of 5 stars

A very interesting book

By AR, retired school administrator on December 23, 2011

Jini Jones Vail’s Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant is a well researched book whose central figure is the top commander, appointed by Louis XVI, the king of France, as leader of the military force (expédition particulière), who is sent to help the American Continentals win independence from British rule.

It is a fascinating documentation of the important and crucial role that the French played, both monetarily and militarily in the defeat of the British at Yorktown. The author does an excellent job of describing the prevailing conditions, and the life experiences of the participants at that time.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in American history to learn more about Rochambeau’s important contribution to the American cause.


5.0 out of 5 stars

A Great Read for All Ages

By Endler-Kirby on December 1, 2011

Jini Jones Vail has written a most appealing historical account of France’s General de Rochambeau’s role in the American Revolution. In the Preface (p.XXI) she says, “the research and writing of distant history is not an exact science” yet her scholarly research, evidenced by notes, glossary and bibliography, gives the reader a wonderfully readable historical account of the relationship between Rochambeau and Washington as the American War for Independence moves down the eastern seaboard to Yorktown, Virginia.

Though Jini Jones Vail’s audience must not be limited to “east-coasters” those who do reside along the eastern seaboard will find charming references to towns, homes and perhaps ancestors with whom Rochambeau visited. The past comes alive as do the personalities of Rochambeau and Washington through anecdotes and the personal correspondence between them. They have become men whom you might have or wish to have known.

Even knowing the final outcome of the war, it is its unfolding in this most enjoyable book that pushes one to turn pages to accompany Rochambeau on our country’s journey toward independence.


A Great Read for All Ages.

Voila Another Frenchman who helped America behind the scenes during the Revolutionary War!

Do you know him?

Julien-Alexandre Achard de Bonvouloir

Once again, in the early days of the American Revolution, in the year 1775, Bonvouloir (even his name signifies a man of good will), served the American cause!

Let us remember!

Only a few months after the untimely death of Colonel Lee in Massachusetts in August 1775, Vergennes, “acting on the advice of his ambassador in London, approved the sending of a secret messenger to the American Continental Congress. Julien-Alexandre Achard de Bonvouloir was the man chosen for the job. His “mission was a major turning point in both American and French diplomacy.

When he reached Philadelphia in December 1775 he found as a ready audience the newly appointed Committee of Secret Correspondence. Between December 18 and December 27, Bonvouloir met three times with the committee  December 27, Bonvouloir met three times with the committee, including Benjamin Franklin, at Carpenters’ Hall.

The meetings went extremely well. The committee posed several leading questions to Bonvouloir, asking “if France were disposed favorably toward the Americans, if she would send them two good army engineers, and if she would sell them arms and war supplies in her ports. They also expressed their need of naval support. Bonvouloir gave positive responses to all their requests. In his December 28 report to Versailles he enthusiastically wrote, “Independency is a certainty for 1776.” When Vergennes received news of the success of the meeting, he “proposed a major shift in French policy toward the American Revolution.

There was growing excitement in France for the sake of American liberty. In response to the request of the Continental Congress to Bonvouloir, volunteers were encouraged to serve in America, and many answered the call.

This excerpt is from my book: pp. 35 and 37 Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant, A French General’s Role in the American Revolution

Unknown heroes of the American Revolution

Here, as promised, is the expose of the first of the  earliest, least-known, if not totally UNKNOWN, UNSUNG HEROES of the American Revolution.

Col. Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead, MA

Col. Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead, MA

Lee smuggled funds and war materiel funneled from Holland through France and Spain to Massachusetts at great peril to himself and to his family!

The following are pages 33-35 from my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant:

Since virtually all American records were either lost or intentionally destroyed at the time of the revolt against their  British overlords, little is known of the methods chosen by colonists to import the supplies and armaments needed to aid the organizing insurgents.

France and Spain were willing to help, but covertly. Some insight can be gained from the role of Colonel Jeremiah Lee, successful shipping magnate and devoted revolutionary patriot, who is largely neglected in history books. He served for twenty-five years as a colonel in the British militia at Marblehead, Massachusetts. In 1774, in collusion with French and Spanish shippers, at great danger to himself, Colonel Lee initiated covert importation of armaments.

It is unclear whether the arms originated in Holland, France, or Spain, but they were routed to Massachusetts through Lee’s shipping agent, Joseph Gardoqui et Fils, in Bilbao, Spain. At the same time, Lee served as liaison between the citizens of Marblehead and the British king’s agent in Boston, giving voice to the colonists’ grievances.

Colonel Lee was, according to the 1771 Massachusetts tax records, the wealthiest merchant in that colony during the pre-revolutionary period. He was very likely America’s largest colonial ship owner, holding full share in twenty-one vessels, mostly fishing and trading schooners from seventy to one hundred twenty tons each, and at least one transoceanic brig. A letter addressed to Colonel Lee dated February 15, 1775, Bilbao, Spain, and signed, Joseph Gardoqui et Fils, refers to an order being filled at Lee’s request. Although the letter never reached Lee, it stands as a record of the clandestine dealings between Lee, the Dutch, and the Spanish.

The Gardoqui agent writes, “We were determined at all events to assist you accordingly, we found out means to procure as many Muskets & pistols as were ready made on the parts for the Kings Army, the quantity was but small having only 300 Muskets & Bayonets, and about double the number of Pair of Pistols ready… besides which they must be got with a good deal of Caution & Ship… as to secrecy you may depend it is as much our Interest as any ones as the English…will look sharp in every port…however by having timely advise we can bring them [arms and powder] from Holland on Reasonable Terms & ship them as you desire. [You know we] long to see it settled with all our hearts, but should it be otherwise (which God forbid) command freely and you will find us at your service.”

Faithful to the American cause of independence, Colonel Lee met regularly with John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other members of the secret committee in charge of supplies to plan the procurement of provisions and weapons. Each time that Lee arranged to ship supplies from Spain, Holland, and France to America he risked his business and his life, as the British had him under surveillance.

Colonel Lee’s last meeting was on April 18, 1775 (the day preceding the now famous Battles of Lexington and Concord), at Newell’s Tavern in Menotomy (now Arlington), Massachusetts, with another scheduled for the following morning at the Black Horse Tavern where Lee and two other patriot colleagues from Marblehead were lodging overnight. The meeting scheduled for April 19 did not happen.

During the British army’s pre-dawn march to Lexington to engage in the battle that officially began the war, the British raided the tavern Lee and the others, Azro Orne and Elbridge Gerry, fled and hid in a cornfield. In the early morning hours the men suffered from exposure, and Lee contracted a fever that led to his death on May 10, 1775. Following Lee’s untimely demise, Gerry continued working seamlessly with Gardoqui. Lee died an unsung hero of the revolution. Fortunately the incriminating letter did not fall into British hands. It remains, however, proof that aid received from the French, Spanish, and Dutch had begun much earlier than the British suspected.

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Merci beaucoup! Excelsior!

Imagine the illustrious double military career…

… of  Louis-Alexandre Berthier.

His career began with Rochambeau  and ended with Napoleon!


Louis-Alexandre Berthier

Louis-Alexandre Berthier


Louis-Alexandre Berthier marched with Rochambeau in America. Years later he also marched with Napoleon as his trusted adviser in many of his campaigns ini Europe, Africa and even into Russia. As a skilled cartographer Berthier and his brother, Charles-Louis, drew beautifully detailed maps of the Route of Rochambeau in his American campaign.

Read in my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant, to learn about the brothers and their misadventure, the crazy  way  they missed the Rochambeau convoy of ships that left from Brest, France without them!

On This Date in History:

On this day in history, December 15, 1780, Charles-Louis d’Arsac, Chevalier de Ternay passed away in Newport, Rhode Island. He commanded the fleet of French ships that carried General Rochambeau ;and his army of 5,500 soldiers to America. Admiral de Ternay had been ill on the crossing, but managed to muster to the occasion even so far as to accompany Rochambeau and his aids to the first meeting with George Washington.  This meeting was held in Hartford, CT in September, 1780.

This is the burial place of Admiral de Ternay at Trinity Church, Newport, R.I.

This is the burial place of Admiral de Ternay at Trinity Church, Newport, R.I.

Below is an excerpt account  of Admiral de Ternay death as found in my book: Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant, A French General’s Role in the American Revolution.

“Admiral de Ternay remained ill after returning from the Hartford Conference, but Rochambeau did not notice that he was any worse and was not alarmed when, in December, Ternay was confined by a fever. Washington received “the afflicting intelligence of the death of the Chevalier de Ternay. The French corps will do him the justice to say that it was impossible to conduct a convoy to its destination with greater skill and vigilance than he did the one confided to his charge.”56

French Commissary Claude Blanchard commented, “On the 14th [of December 1780], [t]he cold was very severe. M. the Chevalier de Ternay…had been sick for several days and had just been taken on shore. M. Corte, our chief physician, had been sent for, who told us that he found him very ill.”57 He fell victim to his disease; they said it was a putrid fever. He died December 15, 1780, at the Hunter House, 54 Washington Street in Newport, and was buried the next day in the Trinity churchyard “on the 16th in fine weather with great pomp. All the land forces were under arms.”

A view of Trinity Church and Trinity Churchyard, where Ternay is buried.

A view of Trinity Church and Trinity Churchyard, where Ternay is buried.

To learn more about the bizarre circumstances of the funeral and burial of the French Admiral, read the detailed description of how the Newporters accommodated his religious preferences in my book mentioned above.