Washington and Rochambeau’s route to Yorktown

[Francois Soules], [untitled map showing the route of the Continental Army from Boston to Yorktown], [Paris, 1787].
Engraved map on two sheets joined, 10.5"h x 36.5"w plus margins, spot color

This untitled map covers the East Coast of America from Boston Harbor to the Pamptico River in North Carolina. Its primary purpose is to depict the route of the American and French forces under Generals Washington and Rochambeau from New England to Yorktown and back again. Befitting a route map the emphasis is on features relevant to travel: important towns, waterways and roads are highlighted, and the route of the army is marked in color with each camp numbered.

Franco-American collaboration during the Revolution got off to a slow start. Following an unsuccessful attack on Newport in 1778 by an American army and French fleet, a French Army under Rochambeau arrived in Rhode Island in 1780. There it cooled its heels for a year until opportunity arose:

“In June and July, 1781… Rochambeau marched through Rhode Island and Connecticut to join Washington’s Army just north of New York City. Then in August, word came from Admiral de Grasse that a French fleet, which had been active in the West Indies, was on its way north-but not to New York. He proposed a rendezvous with the allied forces on the Chesapeake where they might intercept Cornwallis, commander of Britain’s Southern campaign.

“Abandoning the idea of attacking the British force in New York City… Washington and Rochambeau embraced the southern campaign strategy…. In August and September, Washington and Rochambeau’s armies marched south through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, reaching Williamsburg in late September.

“Time was short, the distance great, and surprise essential. To maximize its advantage, Rochambeau`s army set out from Suffern, New York, on August 25th, on a carefully planned route down the Ramapo Valley via Pompton Plains, Whippany, to Liberty Comer; and then via the Millstone Valley to Princeton, Trenton, and across the Delaware to arrive in Philadelphia
September 3rd. Washington, meanwhile, deployed the American forces along a variety of eastern routes, feinting the possibility of an attack on Staten Island, before turning inland to Trenton and Philadelphia.

“The ruse worked. Cornwallis was cut off from escape or reinforcement, either by land or sea, at Yorktown…. On October 19, 1781, three week after the siege began, General Cornwallis surrendered to the allies.

“Shortly after the surrender, Washington and the Continentals returned to defend the northern colonies. Rochambeau and his army wintered in Williamsburg and then marched back north in the summer of 1782. Small contingents of French troops remained in southern ports and returned to France the following year. The main body of Rochambeau’s army sailed from Boston on Christmas Eve, 1782.” (From a “Brief History of the French Campaign,” at http://www.w3r-nj.com/History.html)

This map is based on a 1782 manuscript now held in the Rochambeau Collection at the Library of Congress. It appeared in the second edition of Francois Soules’ Histoire des troubles de l’Amerique anglaise (1787). According to Howes this was “the best French history of this war; Rochambeau aided in its preparation.” (Howes, U.S.-Iana, #S-547)

A note on interpreting the map
The routes depicted on the map require some deciphering. They should be read as follows:

From New England to Yorktown (June-September, 1781)

  • Rochambeau’s Army marched from Providence, RI to meet the American army at Phillipsburgh, NY (route in yellow, camps numbered 1-14).
  • The map shows a route in red from Labanon, CT to Phillipsburgh with eight camps, but it is unclear which army or detachment made use of this.
  • The joint army marched from Phillipsburgh to Annapolis, MD (route in yellow, camps #15-36). Along the way, some French troops embarked at the head of the Chesapeake Bay and travel by boat to Annapolis (route shown as uncolored dashed line).
  • The map shows an uncolored, dashed-line route (with seven camps colored red) from Kingstown to Kakiat, New Jersey. This may be Washington’s feint at Staten Island.
  • The joint army embarked and sailed from Annapolis to Williamsburg (route shown as dashed line), then marched to Yorktown (camps #38-40).

From Yorktown to Boston (July-December, 1782)

  • The American army returned North immediately after the battle (not shown).
  • Rochambeau’s army marched from Williamsburgh to the Baltimore area (route shown as green line, camps #1-19).
  • The army continued from thence to Boston (route shown as yellow line, camps #20-54, with the stretch from Baltimore to Providence the same as the southward march)

Library of Congress, American Memory (on-line catalogue), call #G3701.S3 1787 .S6 Vault : Roch 64; McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, #787.9.


Cleaned and flattened to moderate the original folds. Now excellent, particularly for a large folding map.