The Washington–Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is a 680 mile series of roads used by the Continental Army under the command of George Washington and the Expédition Particulière under the command of Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau during their 1781 march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia.

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Portrait of Louis XCI of France in Coronation Robes (Wikimedia)France Joins the Cause

In 1776, Great Britain possessed the greatest navy and one of the best armies in the world. Well-trained and better equipped British forces overpowered General Washington's Continental Army from the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Facing a strong enemy with so few resources forced the Americans to search for allies to aid them in their cause. Beginning in 1775, contacts were underway between the Court of Louis XCI and the patriots.

France had deep ties to North America, establishing settlements there long before the French and Indian War of the 1750s. There were, however, other motives for Louis XCI's support of a colonial rebellion on a distant continent-- bolstering his nation's economic and political power worldwide, as well as avenging France's loss to Great Britain in the Seven Years War.

Count de Rochambeau (Art Resource)Louis XCI agreed to provide muskets, mortars, gunpowder, and cash to the new nation. In 1778, France signed a "Treaty of Alliance" with the new United States of America. Their recognition of the young country as a sovereign power earned the fledgling nation respect throughout the world. 

French aid did help the Americans, but by March 1780 the war in the colonies was at a stalemate. France send thousands of its best soldiers across the Atlantic to help General Washington's patriots hold off the British. Their commander was a man of great experience and respect, General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeu, comte de Rochambeau.

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The Long March to Independence

Map of the W3R Route (National Park Service)The 450 officers and 5,300 men of Rochambeu's Expeditionary Forces landed on the coast of Rhode Island in July 1780. Generals Washington and Rochambeau agreed to wait until the spring of 1781 to launch a joint military offensive, so the French army spent the bitter winter camped in Newport, Rhode Island and Lebanon, Connecticut. During that time, French officers prepared for the march that would unite them with Continental troops at the Hudson River. From there, the allied forces planned to attack British General Clinton's stronghold in New York City, a few days' march to the south.

There was, however, a change in plans. On learning that French Admiral de Grasse was steering his warships to the Chesapeake Bay, Washington and Rochambeau decided to abandon the offensive on Clinton and head further south. Allied troops departed from Phillipsburg, New York on August 18, 1781 and arrived outside Yorktown, Virginia, on September 28, 1781.

Their efforts were worthwhile. The allied victory at Yorktown proved to be a turning point in the war.

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American colonists, who initially greeted the French with suspicion on the 600-mile trip south from Rhode Island to Virginia, hailed them as heroes on their return trip north. The trail both armies marched is now pre-served as the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route and celebrates the allies' joint labors to achieve American independence.

Historic Locations Along the Route:

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island

In March 1781, George Washington met with the Comte de Rochambeau, the acting French admiral Destouches, and all the senior French officers prior to the departure of the French fleet for the Chesapeake, Virginia.

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Morristown, New Jersey

Morristown, New Jersey

Between December 1779 and June 1780, General Washington installed an encampment in a 1500-acre section of forestland known as Jockey Hollow. The winter was bitter and exceedingly harsh, "intensely cold and freezing," in Washington's words.

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Trenton, New Jersey

Trenton, New Jersey

The French Army encamped in Trenton, New Jersey during their march to and from Yorktown. Sick and wounded soldiers from the siege of Yorktown were most likely the last soldiers to use the Barracks.

West Point, New York

West Point, New York

West Point is located on a plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately sixty miles north of New York City. The American and French armies passed through the Hudson River Valley during the Yorktown campaign in 1781 and 1782.

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Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland

In 1781, the French expeditionary force rested in Baltimore for three days before some of them boarded transports to sail for Williamsburg, Virginia. The following year, the French Army encamped in Baltimore for a month before continuing their march to Boston, Massachusetts.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

As the French and American armies moved towards Yorktown in September 1781, General Washington rode ahead to visit his Virginia home for the first time since the outbreak of the war in 1775. Rochambeau and his staff enjoyed the Washingtons' hospitality for a few days at Mount Vernon before continuing on to Yorktown.

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Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown, Virginia

Supported by the French army and navy, Washington's forces defeated Lord Charles Cornwallis' veteran army in October 1781. Victory at Yorktown led directly to the peace negotiations that ended the war in 1783 and gave America its independence.

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About the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route


Today, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is maintained by the National Park Service. The trail includes many historic sites and scene by-ways open to the public including Washington's historic home, Mount Vernon.

The National Park Service maintains a partner ship with the National W3R Association (www.w3r-us.org). W3R is a nine-state partnership that supports the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route as a National Historic Trail and educates the public about the three-year presence of the French Expeditionary Force in the United States.

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Washington's World Interactive Map

George Washington traveled far and wide during his remarkable life. See all the places that he visited in our new interactive map.

Explore Washington's World
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