Background
on the
Washington-Rochambeau
Revolutionary Route
in Virginia

This particular page contains background information
for viewers who may be interested.
For status information on most current developments
related to the W3R in Virginia, go to

http://www.w3r-us.org/w3r-va/default.htm#2008

The Commonwealth of Virginia eventually joined with others to participate in the W3R studies. This page is not an official summary of the status. It is posted in the absence of such, so as to have some permanant reference available for those who may be interested in supporting the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R) program in Virginia. Content on this page describes developments as to mid 2007.


PAGE DIRECTORY
Background on W3R ProjectOverview Statement Pertinent to Virginia
Initatives to support a W3R-VA programSummary of W3R-VA related historic events


Background Information on the
Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route [W3R] Project:


The route being addressed by the W3R is essentially defined by the march taken by the Continental Army of George Washington, and by the French Army of comte de Rochambeau, on their way to ultimate victory in the American Revolution at the siege of Yorktown in 1781. The route also includes the march of the French army in 1782, as it returned back north to Boston.

The goal of the W3R is to encourage the creation of a National Historic Trail, with the registration of the entire approximately 600-mile route, that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The further objective is to develop a heritage corridor all along the route. The project envisions linking the allied encampments, historical house museums, local, county , state and federally owned parks and museums, with a self-guided auto route, ancillary hiking trails and appropriate historical signs.
A W3R working committee was formed as early as December 1999. Their efforts led to the US Congress passing the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Heritage Act of 2000. Background on this act and related initiatives are explained at http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/hr4794.htm. The W3R committee has evolved into a more formal, national non-profit association -- National Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association (W3R-USA) -- that continues to serve as a focal point for promoting the objectives of the National Heritage Act of 2000. In 2002, the W3R-USA established a website dedicated to its mission, and to encourage the formation of, and to support individual state W3R groups, .

For the latest status and plans, visit the website of:
National Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association.

Also covering the National scope of the program is the National Park Service website: www.nps.boso/w-r.

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Overview Statement Pertinent to Virginia:

As stated above, Virginia remains one of the few states along the W3R path that does not have a formal state W3R organization to support the overall program. However, this is being rectified by initiatives taken by Mr. Kevin Vincent, Chairman of Arlington's Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. See the next main section on "Initiatives being taken in Virginia".

The following remarks in this section are the personal views of this webpage author, who has had a long time interest in the French military and naval support of the American War for Independence and commemoration of such in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Many Virginians may mistakenly believe that the state may have fully addressed the issue in 1980, when the Commonwealth designated a 'Washington - Rochambeau Highway' between Historic Mount Vernon and the State's Bicentennial Victory Center in Yorktown. Some road markings and two important displays were erected. However, the work is not complete. Some work remains to be done, and the following list is certainly not complete:
  1. Virginians should not think that the existing route designation and signs evidence a completed examination of the route in VA. First, the marked 'Washington - Rochambeau Highway' route is mainly just that path taken by Rochambeau and Washington. Only a few scattered historic road markers indicate the paths taken by the wagon train or French hussars. It has only been recently discovered that the hussars did not go to Williamsburg with the wagon train, but traveled directly from Fredericksburg to Gloucester. Also not all the 1781-82 winter camps of the French in VA have been clearly researched – or marked. The research and marking of the French army camp in Alexandria was done only a few years back.
  2. Lafayette's 1781 campaign has not been fully examined or marked, as it covered a much larger area in Virginia than did the 'Yorktown Campaign', itself.
  3. Some signs and other markings that were erected during the Bicentennial need refurbishing.
  4. An example of what still can be revealed with more research is the recent discovery that the bicentennial display that once stood outside the Virginia State Victory Center has been long gone. Mount Vernon has recently replaced theirs. There might be an option that the Victory Center folks to 'piggy back' on the Mount Vernon project and get a sign at some reduced cost. The original Bicentennial displays were alike.
  5. In 1958, the southern most of the three primary motor-vehicle spans that make up the `14th Street Bridge' across the Potomac River between the District of Columbia and Arlington, Va., was named the 'Rochambeau Bridge'. This span was later renamed for a man, Arland D. Williams, Jr., who died while saving fellow passengers from the icy Potomac water after Air Florida Flight B-737 crashed into that particular span in 1982. The name `Rochambeau' was transferred to the center highway bridge. The span to its north remains named after George Mason.
  6. There are problems with the Commonwealth's State 'Scenic Road Map' which addresses the state's Colonial and Civil War history, but identifies Yorktown only as a ‘National Cemetery'. Lafayette's VA campaign and the associated Yorktown Campaign and Siege of 1781are ignored.

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Initatives being taken in Virginia
to support a coordinated W3R program:

Kevin Vincent, Chairman Arlington County (Virginia) Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, has convened meetings of interested individuals to plan the formation of a formal, state W3R-VA to be implemented under the umbrella of the National W3R-US.

He proposed that interested individuals be aware of the brief summary of the W3R program as prepared in October 2004 for the Pentagon and NEH by Kim Burdick, the National project coordinator for the W3R program. This can be obtained at the following web links, in various formats:
Webpage (html format): W3R-Report to Pentagon and NEH Oct 2004
Adobe Acrobat format: (W3R-Report to Pentagon and NEH Oct 2004.pdf file)

Mr.Vincent notes that the American Revolution major land battles in North America essentially culminated in the victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781; and the 225th anniversary of that victory in October 2006 is the natural focal point for the W3R initiative. However, 2006 will not be the end of the W3R program. Mr. Vincent emphasizes that the W3R will be an excellent program for preserving and interpreting the campaign that led to the victory at Yorktown for future generations of Virginians and visitors to Virginia. He encourages individuals and organizations to participate in the W3R Program to help Virginia celebrate that victory, and to commemorate the sacrifices of the French and American patriots who made the victory possible.

Mr. Kevin Vincent can be reached:
With Email: kevin.vincent@bakerbotts.com

By Postal Mail:

Kevin Vincent
Baker Botts L.L.P.
The Warner
1299 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Mr.Vincent chaired a preliminary planning meeting, held in Richmond on 1 April 2005. Attending were:
Kevin Vincent, Chairman Arlington County (Virginia) Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.
Nicole Yancey, French Consul in Va. who works closely with National Park Service (NPS) and Yorktown Day association on French activities for 0ctober 19. [Yorktown Day].
Karen Rehm, Chief Historian for the NPS at Yorktown.
Bob Carter from the Virginia Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR).
Scott Arnold also with DHR.
Mike Steen, Project Coordinator for the Richmond Region 2007 Colonial Trail Project.
Mr. Vincent provided the following report on the 1 April meeting: To summarize --
We are all in agreement that the W3R in Virginia needs to be built "from the bottom up" rather than directed "from the top down." We will attempt to coordinate and encourage the various events that other organizations and local groups are planning in Virginia, rather than planning W3R activities to be carried out at potential W3R sites.
The scope we see for W3R is not limited to areas visited by the French army under General Rochambeau and the main Continental army that General Washington led from New York. We will invite organizations interested in the campaign routes followed by other American forces in Virginia in 1781 to participate in W3R.
Although 225th anniversary events next year will be the focus of much of our efforts, we want to make sure that W3R makes a long-term contribution to historic preservation and interpretation of sites related to the Campaign of the French and American forces in Virginia in 1781.
A unified W3R "brand" applied to sites and events in Virginia can tie together various sites related to the Campaign. Maps showing the W3R routes and sites in relation to modern roadways will be very useful. Signage and interpretive markers will be key to this effort. They cost money.
We talked about different sources of funding for signage and other W3R efforts. We did not come up with any definitive answers but we will continue to explore ways to apply for grant funding for W3R activities.

Since mid May and through July 2005, a series of subcommittee meetings have been held to address W3R-VA issues from regional perspectives in the Commonwealth. Mr. Vincent has combined these is a general report which can be viewed at "Report on Virginia W3R-Related Actions from 12 May through 1 August 2005".

In September 2005, Don and Ellen Stanton conducted the ‘Route to Victory Drive' portion of the W3R in Virginia. Their detailed report is posted at "RIDING THE WASHINGTON-ROCHAMBEAU ROUTE OF 1781".
Ellen stated that it took them 7 hours, but as they did get confused at times, others (hopefully) might take less time. She can't imagine anyone but the most dedicated taking this route, so cutting out all of the short twists and turns as an alternate would be recommended for some. Just proceeding straight on route 2 would help significantly. It was quite an undertaking, but the Stantons enjoyed the experience.

W3R-USA / Southern Regional Meeting held 18 October 2004 at Richmond, VA:

The W3R-USA Regional Meeting held in Richmond, Virginia was a solid success. The event was hosted by the Virginia SHPO's office. Virginians and DC colleagues representing historical, tourism and hereditary societies and agencies gathered to discuss planning ahead for the 225th anniversary. National Park Service representatives gave an update on NPS plans for 2006. Initiatives taken by the other states along the trail were reviewed and examples of their works, such as story boards, were shown. A Power Point presentation was presented on the role the SAR and DAR have played in planning for the 225th anniversary of Revolution. W3R-USA sponsors of the meeting found the event thoughtful and productive, and that they look forward to the establishment of a W3R-Virginia Statewide by the end of this year. More information is available from Kim Burdick, Vice Chairman and National Project Director for W3R-USA, at KimRBurdick@aol.com.Virginians interested in assisting and participating should contact either of the following at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources: Bob Carter [bob.carter@dhr.virginia.gov] or Scott Arnold [scott.arnold@dhr.virginia.gov].

Historic Mount Vernon:

Supporting an initiative approved by the Executive Director of Mount Vernon, the Virginia Daughters of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) have contributed funds to replace the Washngton-Rochambeau Route of Victory Display that stood outside George Washington's Mount Vernon estate since the Bicentennial. The dedication ceremony was conducted 13 May 2005. See 13 May Dedication at Mount Vernon of the Washington-Rochambeau Route to Victory Display.

Contribution from The Society of the Cincinnati:

The Director of History & Education at The Society of the Cincinnati Headquarters, Anderson House, Washington, DC announced in May 2004, that he was ordering copies of the Connecticut and New York W3R reports to be sent to a representative of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). It is hoped that this material can assist an initiative to have the state support endorsing a similar Virginia study conducted by a qualified historian. As State funding is severely restricted, such an initiative is expected to require additional assistance with some combination of public-private funding.

Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution (VA DAR) :

The VA DAR (NSDAR) has established a Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Committee. Committee Chairman is Carol P. Howerton , (Mrs. Elton C. Howerton , Jr.) who monitors developments in the National W3R association and advises the State VA DAR Regent on actions to support the overall project. A significant act already taken by the VA DAR is discussed above under a Mount Vernon initiative.

Contribution from staff member of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources:

Information submitted August 2004: The Virginia Bicentennial Commission files and report are located at the Library of Virginia. A search on their catalogs found a number of citations relating to the commission dating as far back as the 1960s, including a map, and a few books written during the time. The following three citations may be of interest for W3R research:
  • Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission, 1966-1982, the Governor and the General Assembly of Virginia. (Richmond: Commonwealth of Virginia, 1986)
  • Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission, Correspondence and Photocopies, 1972-1983 --- It can be reviewed in the Archives and Manuscripts Room there and the accession number is 31887
  • Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission, Agency History --- It can be reviewed in the Archives and Manuscripts Room there.
  • The number for the Library of Virginia Archives Telephone Reference is 804-692-3888. There web site is http://www.lva.lib.va.us/ Also, the Virginia Historical Society has a report listed on their web site for Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission. Report of the Virginia independence bicentennial commission to the governor and the General assembly of Virginia... Richmond, Va. : Dept. of purchases and supply, 1972.
  • The Fairfax County Regional Library, Virginia room may have some of the reports.
    Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library
    Fairfax City Regional Library -- 'Virginia Room'
    3915 Chain Bridge Road
    Fairfax, VA 22030
    703.246.2123
Some websites that may assist further research are:
DHR Marker Web Page: http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/hiway_markers/hwmarker_info.htm
or
DHR Website: http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/home.htm

A link to local historical societies in Virginia: http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whoweare/directories/vhs/vhsdir.htm
This could be helpful in locating individuals who may be interested in the W-R route locally.

Some webpages pertaining to the French Army's presence in Virginia in 1781-1782:

The Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society website attempts to address the broad scope of the French participation in the American War for Independence. Information on the W3R initiative is integrated into the site along with other pages that relate to the French involvement. However, there are some specific pages that pertain to the French Army's presence in Virginia in 1781-1782. Several of these are referenced [with links] elsewhere on this page. The following are some others:

A page attempting to post the existing W3R-related route markings. The page requests submissions of photos of the existing markers, as there does not appear to be any such record that is readily available. If the photo does not show a legible text, then the text on the sign is also requested.

French Army 1781-82 Winter Camps in Virginia, as best we know them.

Directions for retracing the Washington-Rochambeau Route to Victory between Mount Vernon and Yorktown in 1781. Essentially this is the path declared by the state of Virginia for the Bicentennial. The Franco-American Bicentennial Committee provided some historical road markers as well as two magnificent displays at either end of the route. This is only the specific route the two allied commanders took together. It does not trace the path in Virginia from the crossing the Potomac, around Georgetown, taken by the many participants. Nor is it specifically the wagon train or hussars' route. Nor is it the exact route the army took back north in 1782. [NOTE: the reference and link earlier in this page to a more current drive along most of this route].

Page explaining how Expédition Particulière researched the location of the French Army's camp site in Alexandria, VA , that led to the historic marker placement in 1998.

Page on the recently discovered (by Dr. Selig) 1781 Route of the Hussars of Lauzun's Legion in Virginia.

List of Potential Speakers:

[To be completed later -- list of speakers who may be availalbe to address the W3R topic at group meetings, and , and how they may be contacted.]

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Summary of W3R related historic events in Virginia:

  • George Washington returned briefly to his home at Mt. Vernon in September 1781for the first time after six years of war. Washington was accompanied by General comte de Rochambeau, as the two allied commanders and their close, immediate staffs, were proceeding quickly to initiate the siege at Yorktown.
  • The allied armies and French navy had isolated Cornwallis and his British force at Yorktown by late September 1781. The British surrendered the following month. The remarkable victory was made possible by the French naval fleet, under Admiral comte de Grasse, winning control of the Chesapeake Bay in early September. The allies armies quickly executed a professional eighteenth-century military siege that precluded the British high command in American from deploying a timely relief force. See Yorktown Campaign (1781).
  • The French Expeditionary Force remained in Virginia for eight months, in various communities, to guard captured prisoners and supplies; while the U.S. Continental units left immediatelyback north after Cornwallis' surrender to guard the area around New York City.
  • There was one ‘great strategic march' going south in 1781, with at least three separate paths taken in Virginia for different elements of the forces traveling overland. These would be the wagon train, the French hussars, and the allied commanders, themselves. Separately, the main infantry and field artillery forces came by ships. There was just one route for the forces returning overland, to the north, in 1782.
  • The French baggage train and hussars used two other camps in VA for overnight stops as they went south in 1781. The whole French Expeditionary Force used another 16 camps overnight only going north in 1782. This suggests a total of nineteen, plus – as yet – an unknown number of winter-over (1781-82) sites.
  • The Siege of Yorktown. See The Siege of Yorktown (1781).
  • The Second Battle of the Virginia Capes. See Second Battle of the Virginia Capes (1781).
  • Lafayette's Virginia Campaign. See Lafayette's Virginia Campaign of 1781.

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Comments and suggestions for this page are welcome. Send e-mail to: VA-W3R-Status Web Page Scribe.


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Page initiated 14 September 2004; last revised 4 June 2009.