French Encampment in Southington, 26-29 June 1781

Historical significance:

The march to Barnes’ Tavern and Camp 8 “was not fatiguing; the roads were very fine,” wrote Baron Closen. Most of the troops put up tents in that part of Southington called Marion at the foot of what is still known as French Hill and where Barnes’s Tavern is located. Some of the officers stayed at Barnes’, others “at an inn on Queen Street,” i.e., Deming’s Tavern, six miles away on the other side of town, and at Daniel Allen’s Tavern half-way in-between.

The troops arrived at the site early, Berthier’ fourth division started setting up camp at 8:00 a.m. Private Flohr of the Royal Deux-Ponts entered into his diary: “On the 28th (i.e., 27 June 1781) we marched 13 miles to Barnes’ Tavern, an inn along the road. We set up our camp very close to it. We again had very numerous visits from the American maidens who circled the camp on horseback and who appeared just like English horsemen. This afternoon our MM generals gave a ball on the open field in front of our camp and invited the American maidens to it. This lasted into the dark night. All joy could be seen there what with dancing and singing as well with the soldiers as with the officers who had fun with the English girls. After that we went to sleep in our tents, but the girls went home all sad.”

The officers themselves danced in Asa Barnes’ Tavern at 1089 Marion Avenue, site of some of the grandest entertainments provided by French officers. When Berthier arrived at Barnes’ Tavern on 29 June 1781, “we found many Americans and some pretty women in our camp. The comte de Charlus gave a big dinner for the prettiest ones, followed by a ball that lasted all night.” Local lore has it that Mr. Barnes retired soon thereafter with the profits he made in the four nights French forces camped there, but Barnes continued to live in his tavern/house until his death in 1819. The building burned in 1836 and the current structure at 1089 Marion Avenue was built there by Levi B. Frost.

The claim on the monument at 1038 Marion Avenue that a component of the Rochambeau army was an Irish Brigade is incorrect. The Irish Brigade in the French army of the ancièn regime – the regiments Dillon, Berwick, and Walsh – was nowhere near Connecticut in the summer of 1781. The Regiment Dillon was stationed in Martinique in the Caribbean from March 1779 to September 1783, Walsh was there from April 1778 to March 1784, and Berwick arrived in Martinique in September 1782. A month after Yorktown the grenadiers and chasseurs of Walsh and Dillon participated in the conquest of St. Eustatius under General de Bouillé. The story may have its origins in the fact that the three brothers François, Guillaume, and Robert Dillon served as officers in Lauzun’s Legion, Robert as colonel-en-second until he took over command of the legion after the siege of Yorktown. But these were French-born officers of Irish descent. Among the officers of the legion was a single Irish-born officer, and among the enlisted men of the Legion were but two Irishmen; the Royal Deux-Ponts had but two Irishmen in its ranks, and there were a handful more in Rochambeau’s remaining units.

Driving Information:

From the camp in Farmington on Farmington Avenue continue south to Plainville. Farmington Avenue becomes East Street and then Queen Street/North Main Street into Southington. Turn right onto West Main Street, cross the Quinnipiac River and turn left/south onto Marion Avenue. Cross the Eightmile River, continue underneath I-84 onto Marion Avenue. The monument at 1038 Marion Avenue is to your left just before Burritt Street, Barnes’ Tavern about 500 feet further on your left.

34. Camp à Barn’s Tavern, le 26 Juin, 13 miles de Farmington; undated; Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection, Portfolio IX, Packet 21-8; Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
Reproduced with permission of Princeton University Library

The position shown within dotted lines denotes the second of two regiments that camped here together on 26-27 October 1782, when the army was marching by brigades.

French Encampment in Southington,

27-28 November 1782

Officer serving as an aide-de-camp. Reproduced courtesy of Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, Providence, RI.

Historical Significance:

“On the 27th,” wrote Baron Closen, one of Rochambeau’s aides-de-camp, “we re-crossed the same Stratford River on a wooden bridge, like Carleton’s, 7 miles from Breakneck. You next enter the village of Waterbury, which is very long and contains several pretty houses.” Closen brief comment is typical for the surviving accounts of the return march in 1782. Having seen the communities and described them the previous year, they saw little reason to describe them again barely a year later.

The yellow regimental symbol in dotted lines indicates the 1782 camp; there is no separate map for this campsite.

 

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 http://w3r-us.org/history-by-state/

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

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