Frequently Asked Questions
What Does “W3R” mean?
“W3R” represents the letters WRRR — the acronym for “Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route”.
Where is the official route?
To move thousands of people, animals, wagons, artillery pieces and supplies, over roads laid out for individual wagons and a weekly post-chaise, meant that in most cases the troops could not march on a single road. Instead, they spread out, took many roads, camped in different towns, travelled by water routes when feasible, and only converged at critical bottlenecks such as river crossings. The Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail is not a single trail, but a network of land and water trails. It is easier to think of it as a corridor with troops spreading out to minimize their impact on the small towns of colonial America.
The designation of an “official route” will come once the criteria for such a designation have been formulated in the NPS Management Plan for WARO that is currently being developed. This will include answers to questions such as: Does a road Washington or Rochambeau traveled on automatically become part of WARO? How many troops have to have marched on a particular road for it to be included in WARO? Do routes taken by Lauzun’s Legion to winter quarters in Lebanon, CT (1780/81), Charlotte Courthouse, VA (1781/82) and/or Wilmington, DE (1782/83) qualify for inclusion in WARO? When does WARO begin chronologically? With the landing of French forces in Rhode Island in July 1780 or their departure from Rhode Island in June 1781? When does it end? With the departure of Rochambeau’s infantry from Boston in December 1782 or the departure of the last French troops from Philadelphia in May 1783?
WARO has the potential of becoming the single largest trail network administered by the NPS in the United States. The current website traces the route of French forces to and from Yorktown, and is intended as a start from which the corridors of movements will be developed and expanded. Until its completion there is the National Park Service map dated July 2006.( See the NPS brochure here: link to pdf) The route continues to be studied, and marked, throughout the ten states, and the District of Columbia. Several states have already placed way-finding markers to guide tourists, and the State of Connecticut published a guide book under the title ‘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). But much is left to do!
What is the trail?
The Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail (WARO) identifies the land and water routes that General Washington and the Continental Army, and General Rochambeau and French forces, followed in 1781 to the Siege of Yorktown. This victory led Great Britain to cease major military operations within the United States, although fighting between Great Britain and France and her ally Spain continued in Europe, the West Indies and Africa until the end of the war in 1783. The trail consists of a roughly 680-mile main land route as well as several major parallel routes, and water routes.
Why do different sources give different counts for the strength of the allied armies?
There are many reasons for this, for example whether civilian support personnel such as guides, wagoners, women, children and observers are included in the count. Secondly, not all allied forces always followed the same routes. Both the French and Continental Army spread out along roads on their way south, hoping to minimize the impact on local communities. As the roads change, so frequently do the unit, or units, and the number of troops on them. Sometimes units would travel on rivers. Sick or injured troops were left behind to recuperate, other units could be detached to duties elsewhere: the strength of the allied armies traveling to Yorktown varied almost daily.