French Encampment in Plainfield (19-23 June 1781)
All journals by participants agree that Plainfield, their first stop in Connecticut, was but “a collection of about thirty houses around its meeting-house” which was reached “on very bad roads. The artillery and supply wagons arrived very late,” though the late arrival was partly due to the troops not being used to marching after almost a year in Newport. The campsite was located beyond Plainfield, “on the right bordered by a forest and on the left by the road to Cantorbery (sic).” Rochambeau and some of his officers stayed with Captain Eleazar Cady; others were put up in the Eaton Tavern.
By the time the fourth division reached Plainfield on 23 June, word had spread about the French music and “[a]ll the people in the neighborhood came to visit our camps. We furnished the music and they danced. Each day there was a new party,” wrote Private Georg Daniel Flohr of the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment. “It should be remarked,” so artillery lieutenant the comte de Clermont-Crèvecœur, ” that on our arrival in each camp crowds of natives from the vicinity came running up to watch us pass but especially to listen to the music of our regimental bands. Enchanted to find charming young ladies in our midst, our generals and colonels had the musicians play each evening and invited the girls to dance. Thus we relaxed from the fatigues of the day.” But the natives did not just come to party: they came to sell their produce as well. “We lived very well during our passage through this province. The poultry here is excellent and quite cheap. The Americans crowded round, not only to hear the bands, but also loaded with every sort of produce, so that the camp was a continual market, offering the most delicious wares.”
A bronze plaque erected by the Deborah Avery Putnam Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution in March 1929 on the right-hand (east) side of State Route 12 going north approx. 0.4 miles north of the First Congregational Church in Plainfield commemorates the Dorrance Homestead and the Captain Eleazar Cady House.
A commemorative plaque on the north-east corner of Gallup Street and Norwich Street (State Route 12) going south, approx. 0.1 miles from the First Congregational Church in Plainfield commemorates the site of the Eaton Tavern
From the encampment at Waterman’s Tavern follow Plainfield Pike in generally south-western direction into Connecticut where it becomes CT-SR 14A. Stay on Plainfield Pike until you cross I-395 where it becomes Academy Hill Road and then Cemetery Road. The campsite was to the right/north just across Horse Brook.
The sign has the identical text on both sides: || ROCHAMBEAU ROUTE 1781-1782 || IN THIS VICINITY || FRENCH TROOPS UNDER || ROCHAMBEAU || ENROUTE TO YORKTOWN || ENCAMPED DURING JUNE 1781 || ERECTED BY THE STATE || AND || Deborah Avery Putnam || Chap., D.A.R. || cooperating ||
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. The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the State of Rhode
Island, 1780-1783. An Architectural and Historical Site Survey and Resource Inventory
(2006/2015) available at http://www.w3r-us.org/