French Encampment in Sterling Hill, 8 – 9 November 1782

Historical Significance:

Sterling Hill, called Voluntown in the eighteenth century, was the 49th campsite of French forces on their return march from Virginia and the last camp in Connecticut before they crossed over into Rhode Island. The camp was laid out in the fields east of Dorrance Tavern on the north side of the road to Rhode Island. Over the next two days, the infantry brigades followed the artillery into Rhode Island where they reached Providence on 10 and 11 November. Many officers took a moment to reflect about the people of Connecticut and their land. Baron Closen, who had always spoken highly of Connecticut, summed up his experiences thus: “We have, on the whole, been treated wonderfully well wherever the army has marched.”

Numerous French officers stayed at the Dorrance Inn, built c. 1722, including the marquis de Chastellux and the comte de Rochambeau. According to Baron Closen, Rochambeau and his military family on 7 November 1782 went to “to dine at Voluntown, where we found the artillery already parked. We did not go any further that day. … The state of Rhode Island begins 3 miles from Voluntown.”

Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien De Vimeur, Comte De. Amérique Campagne. 1782. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/00552208/. (Accessed March 02, 2018.)

Campsite Marker for Camp 49 at 751 Plainfield Pike in Sterling Hill, CT, at the west (Rhode Island) end of Sterling on the north side of CT-SR 14A going east.

The sign has identical text on both sides:

ROCHAMBEAU ROUTE 1781-1782 || IN THIS VICINITY || FRENCH TROOPS UNDER || ROCHAMBEAU || ENROUTE FROM YORKTOWN || ENCAMPED DURING NOVEMBER 1782 || ERECTED BY THE STATE || AND || Deborah Avery Putnam || Chap., D.A.R. || cooperating ||

The marker is one of 27 erected along Rochambeau’s route throughout the state in 1957 by the State Highway Commissioner in cooperation with an “Interstate Rochambeau Commission” and “local historical societies or fraternal community groups.”

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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