French Encampment in Dedham, 2-5 December 1782

Historical Significance:

Between 2 and 5 December 1782, Rochambeau’s infantry entered its last camp on the American mainland prior to embarkation in Boston. The expédition particulière was coming to an end. By now winter was upon New England and Private Flohr entered recorded “On the 5th again 16 miles to Dedham, a little town. We set up our camp there in a cold so bitter that it was almost unbearable.”

Providing for the thousands of troops marching to Boston strained the resources of these small communities. In 1765, the combined population of Wrentham, Norfolk, Franklin and Plainville stood at 2,030 inhabitants in 347 families and 293 houses. In Dedham, Dover, Norwood and Westwood lived a combined population of 1,909 incl. 36 blacks and 6 Indians. There were 239 houses for 309 families. By 1790, the combined population had decreased to 1,659 people.

The only diary known to mention the march through Dedham is the diary of Dr. Nathaniel Ames (1741-1822) of Dedham, who wrote for

November 1782.

17   450 French & Artillery here

25   Received Ld of wood from Halsey from what the French burnt


2   French Army 1st division encamped here.

3   Do 2d. 4 Do 3d. 5 Do 4th.

26 French Army and Fleet sailed from Boston 24th.

The “Halsey” mentioned in the diary is Thomas Lloyd Halsey of Boston, who became the primary supplier of Rochambeau’s men as they approached Boston. An invoice of 5 December 1782 shows that Halsey charged Jeremiah Wadsworth, Rochambeau’s general contractor,

To Forage supplied at Wrentham p(er) E. Albers rec’d          £ 213 15 4 ½

To Ditto supplied at Dedham p/ Timo Gay rec’d                     £ 312 7 9

To Transportation of Corn and sundry small Charges p bill £ 4 15 –

To Hire of Express to Providence for Mons. Gau                    £ 4 16 –

To 29 Cords Wood (….illeg) Mr Carter               36/                 £ 52 4 –

To 50 ½ Quintals Hay p ditto                                6/                  £ 15 3 –

To 200 Bushels Oats rec’d dto Mr. Carter         4/6                 £ 45 –

To 10 Cord Wood                                                    36/                £ 18 –


£ 666 5 3 ½

Added on bottom of the bill: 1 load hay £ 6 4 8
For more information on 16th century coins and currency, click here: 18th Century Coins and Currency

158. Camp à Dedam, Le 2 décembre, 16 miles de Wrentham; undated; Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection, Portfolio XII, Packet 39-54/55; Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. (detail)

Commemorative marker for the French encampment, 2 to 5 December 1782 placed by the Dedham Historical Society in June 1925.

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 Commonwealth of

           Massachusetts, 1781 – 1783. An Historical and Architectural Survey. (Boston:

Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association of Massachusetts,


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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