French Encampment in Wrentham, 1-4 December 1782
“Because of the large amount of matériel to be embarked,” the artillery departed from Providence on 16 November 1782, barely a week after its arrival there, and reached Boston three later. “The roads are charming. The cities and towns [Wrentham, Dedham], as well as the country we passed through, intimated what Boston would be like.” These few sentences by artillery lieutenant Clermont-Crèvecœur are all we know about the march of the artillery to Boston. Upon arrival in Boston the artillery spent the next few days loading its equipment, the gun crews boarded on 1 December, Clermont-Crèvecœur embarked on the frigate l’Amazone, and “faithfully stayed aboard ship as long as we remained in Boston harbor”, mostly because “the ships were anchored 6 miles from the city”. That same day the French infantry left Providence for Boston.
For the march from Providence to Boston, Rochambeau organized his forces by regiment and anciennité, beginning with the Bourbonnois, followed by the Soissonnois, Saintonge, and the Royal Deux-Ponts as the youngest regiment marching last. On 1 December, two weeks after the artillery had departed for Boston, the Bourbonnois left its encampment in North Providence and marched 16 miles to its next camp in Wrentham. The other regiments followed in daily intervals. From Wrentham, the Bourbonnois on 2 December marched 16 miles to Dedham, and on 3 December marched the final 11 miles to Boston. By 6 December the French army was once again united in Boston.
Departing from their campsite, the Bourbonnois marched on North Main Street (US-1), veered off US-1 where Main Street briefly becomes Route 122, and continued on Main Street to its intersection with Broad Street, where they turned south-west, crossed the Pawtucket, and entered Walcott Street to North Bend Street and Kenyon Avenue to Route 1A, where they crossed into Massachusetts. Following Route 1A to Newport Avenue (Route 123) and again Route 1A (South Street), they reached their camp in Wrentham on the site of King Philip High School.
53rd Camp in Wrentham, 1-4 December 1782
Neither American nor French sources say much about the encampments both in Wrentham as well as in Dedham. The longest description of the march is found in the journal of Georg Daniel Flohr of the Royal Deux-Ponts: “On the 4th of December we departed from there (Providence), 19 miles to Readham, a little town adorned with a very beautiful Town Hall. We set up our camp very close to it in very bad weather.”
The Wadsworth Papers for the last month of French forces on American soil survive only in fragments, but the few surviving receipts round out the picture, viz. on 5 December 1782, Ebenezer Albu of Wrentham charged Jeremiah Wadsworth for 14 tons hay, 20 tons straw, 150 bushels of corn, 103 ½ bushels oats and 30 ½ cords wood.
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,
2017) Available at https://w3r-us.org/history-by-state/
For an extensive bibliography of English-, French- and German-language titles about France and the American War of Independence click here: Bibliography