French Encampment in Andover, 4 – 5 November 1782

Historical Significance:

French forces under the comte de Rochambeau, camped here in early November 1782 on their way to Boston. The artillery had left East Hartford left for Bolton on 3 November 1782, one day ahead of the first French Brigade, which followed on 4 November 1782. The comte de Lauberdière wrote in his Journal de guerre that “The first division of troops camped 2 miles beyond Boston at the bottom of a very long hill.”

Nevertheless, there is still some debate over the location of this campsite. Historian Philip D. Brass in The History of Andover, Connecticut (Andover, 1991), pp. 56-58, argues that this campsite was used both in June 1781 as well as in November 1782. (See Camp 5) His claim is supported by Baron Closen, who recorded that “[w]e reached Bolton with the greatest difficulty, since all the roads were terrible. … Part of [Bolton] is half-way up a hill, at the foot of which (my emphasis) we camped.” In 1781, Closen was marching the first few days with his regiment rather than as an aide to Rochambeau, which explains why he is at Bolton with the Royal Deux-Ponts, a day’s march behind the Bourbonnois. This line seems to indicate that only the Bourbonnois and the campaign artillery assigned to the regiment camped on Rev. Colton’s, while all other regiments, both on the way to Yorktown as well as on the way back, camped at the foot of the hill close to where the Andover Bicentennial Commission unveiled this plaque on 4 July 1976 with a possibly incorrect inscription. Florence S. Marcy Crofut in her Guide to the History and Historic Sites of Connecticut 2 vols., (New Haven, 1937), vol. 2, p. 786, also locates the fifth camp of 1781, i.e. the camp in Bolton, “about two miles beyond the meeting house.” That would follow Closen, since the Meeting House stood right next to the campsite. But then she places the camp for the return march “two miles east of the former camp in the northwest corner of the present Andover County (then Coventry), and just before reaching the Skunkamaug River” along present U.S. Route 6. Rice and Brown in American Campaigns, vol. 2, pp. 133/190, assume that all troops camped on the Rose Farm property in June 1781, but at a different site along the Hop River in November 1782. Andover was incorporated from parts of Coventry and Hebron in 1848.

Concerning the camp, Dr. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, recorded in his diary on 4 November 1782: “Lodged at Bolton, where we saw the first Division of the French Army march for Providence. There were counted 170 Waggons of Artillery, filling the Rode fr. The Meeting house to & which is one Mile, besides those we passed yesterday: there were as supposed above 100, so that the Baggage Waggons & Artillery judged 300. Gen. Rochambeau visited us in Eveng at Rev. Mr. Coltons.” The next day, November 5, Stiles drove to East Hartford and “Met & passed the 2d Div. of French Army, probably 1500 men. The whole sd. to be 4000, I judge 3000. We stopt our chaise near half an hour in passing the Troops, & afterwards above half an hour in passing 2 Divisions of Wagons, I judge 200. Some of them sd. they had 500 Waggons for whole Army.”

Rochambeau was crossing Connecticut in brigades of two regiments of 1,000 men each plus their staffs, servants, wagons and artillery supplements. If we apply a formula of 125 wagons per mile and allow for delays and gaps in the column it is not unreasonable to assume that this column stretched three miles or more along the roads.

Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien De Vimeur, Comte De. Amérique Campagne. 1782. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed March 02, 2018.)

Detail of a map of the November 1782 Andover encampment included in the diary of an unidentified officer in the Soissonnois regiment of infantry, call number HM 621 U8 B3, Huntington Library, Huntington, CA. It shows the encampment at the foot of the hill along the Hop River.
Reproduced with permission of the Huntington Library.

Suggestions for further readings:

Kennett, Lee. The French Forces in America, 1780-1783 (Westport, 1977)

Rice, Howard C. Jr., and Anne S.K. Brown, eds., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s

         Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 2 vols., (Princeton and Providence, 1972)

Scott, Samuel F. From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an

         Age of Revolution (Niwot, CO, 1998)

Selig, Robert A. Rochambeau in Connecticut: Tracing his Journey. Historic and

         Architectural Survey Connecticut Historical Commission (Hartford: Connecticut

Historical Commission, 1999) available at

Selig, Robert A., Mary M. Donohue, Bruce Clouette and Mary Harper, ‘En Avant’ With Our French Allies:  

         Sites, Markers, and Monuments in Connecticut Commemorating the Contributions of French Troops

         under the comte de Rochambeau to the Achievement of American Independence, 1780 to 1782

          (Hartford: Connecticut Historical Commission, 2004)

For an extensive bibliography of English-, French- and German-language titles about France and the American War of Independence click here: Bibliography