Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau
Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale, 1782
Born(1725-07-01)1 July 1725
Vendôme, Orléanais, France
Died30 May 1807(1807-05-30) (aged 81)
Thoré, Loir-et-Cher, France
Service/branchFrench Army
Years of service1742–1792
RankMarshal of France
Awards Order of the Holy Spirit
Order of Saint Louis
Society of the Cincinnati

Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1 July 1725 – 10 May 1807) was a French nobleman and general whose army played a critical role in helping the United States defeat the British Army at Yorktown in 1781 during the American Revolutionary War. He was commander-in-chief of the French expeditionary force sent by France to help the American Continental Army fight against British forces.

Military life

Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur was born in Vendôme, in the province of Orléanais, and he was educated at the Jesuit college in Blois. After the death of his elder brother, he entered a cavalry regiment and served in Bohemia, Bavaria, and on the Rhine during the War of the Austrian Succession. By 1747, he had attained the rank of colonel. He took part in the siege of Maastricht and became governor of Vendôme in 1749. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Minorca on the Seven Years' War outbreak and was promoted to Brigadier General of infantry. In 1758, he fought in Germany, notably in the Battle of Krefeld and the Battle of Clostercamp, receiving several wounds at Clostercamp.[1]

American Revolution

Main article: Franco-American alliance

Landing of a French auxiliary army in Newport, Rhode Island on 11 July 1780 under the command of the comte de Rochambeau. This image is one of 12 scenes from the American Revolution printed in Allgemeines historisches Taschenbuch by Daniel Nickolaus Chodowiecki, a well-known Polish engraver.
NPS map of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route

In 1780, Rochambeau was appointed commander of land forces as part of the project code-named Expédition Particulière.[2] He was given the rank of Lieutenant General in command of 7,000 French troops and sent to join the Continental Army under George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Axel von Fersen the Younger served as his aide-de-camp and interpreter. The small size of the force at his disposal made him initially reluctant to lead the expedition.[3]

Bataille de Yorktown by Auguste Couder
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull, depicting Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown; the French troops of General Rochambeau are on the left and the American troops of Washington are on the right; oil on canvas, 1820

He landed at Newport, Rhode Island on 10 July but was held there inactive for a year due to his reluctance to abandon the French fleet blockaded by the British in Narragansett Bay.[1] The College in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (now Brown University) served as an encampment site for some of Rochambeau's troops. The College Edifice was converted into a military hospital, now known as University Hall.[4] In July 1781, the force left Rhode Island and marched across Connecticut to join Washington on the Hudson River in Mount Kisco, New York. The Odell farm served as Rochambeau's headquarters from 6 July to 18 August 1781.[5]

Washington and Rochambeau then marched their combined forces to the siege of Yorktown and the Battle of the Chesapeake. On 22 September, they combined with the Marquis de Lafayette's troops and forced Cornwallis to surrender on 19 October. The Congress of the Confederation presented Rochambeau with two cannons taken from the British in recognition of his service. He returned them to Vendôme, and they were requisitioned in 1792.

Return to France

Upon his return to France, Rochambeau was honored by King Louis XVI and was made governor of the province of Picardy.[1] He supported the French Revolution of 1789, and on 28 December 1791 he and Nicolas Luckner became the last two generals created Marshal of France by Louis XVI.

When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, he commanded the Armée du Nord for a time in 1792 but resigned after several reversals to the Austrians. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror in 1793–94 and imprisoned in the Conciergerie. He narrowly avoided the guillotine, with his execution being scheduled mere days away when the Thermidorian Reaction occurred, ending the Reign of Terror.[1][6]

Later life and death

After his imprisonment and subsequent release, Rochambeau was pensioned after meeting Napoleon in 1801 and later received the Legion d'honneur in 1804 after Napoleon's ascension to emperor. Rochambeau died in 1807 at Thoré-la-Rochette during the First French Empire.[1][6]



US Postage Stamp, 1931 issue, honoring Rochambeau, George Washington, and François Joseph Paul de Grasse, commemorating 150th anniversary of the victory at Yorktown, 1781

President Theodore Roosevelt unveiled a statue of Rochambeau by Ferdinand Hamar as a gift from France to the United States on 24 May 1902, standing in Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. The ceremony was made the occasion of a great demonstration of friendship between the two nations. France was represented by ambassador Jules Cambon, Admiral Fournier, General Henri Brugère, and a detachment of sailors and marines from the battleship Gaulois. Representatives of the Lafayette and Rochambeau families also attended. A Rochambeau fête was held simultaneously in Paris.[1] In 1934, A. Kingsley Macomber donated a statue of General Rochambeau to Newport, Rhode Island. The sculpture is a replica of a statue in Paris.[7]

The French Navy gave his name to the ironclad frigate Rochambeau. USS Rochambeau was a transport ship that saw service in the United States Navy during World War II. President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act on 30 March 2009 with a provision to designate the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route as a National Historic Trail. A bridge was named for Rochambeau in the complex of bridges known as the 14th Street Bridge (Potomac River) connecting Washington, D.C., with Virginia. A mansion on the campus of Brown University is named Rochambeau House and houses the French Department.


Jeanne Therese Tilles D'Acosta, Madame la Marquise de Rochambeau

Rochambeau's Mémoires militaires, historiques et politiques, de Rochambeau was published by Jean-Charles-Julien Luce de Lancival in 1809. Part of the first volume was translated into English and published in 1838 under the title Memoirs of the Marshal Count de R. relative to the War of Independence in the United States. His correspondence during the American campaign was published in 1892 in H. Doniol's History of French Participation in the Establishment of the United States.[8][1]


Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.

Motto and coat of arms

Coat of arms Motto

(To live and die valiantly)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Rochambeau, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 425–426.
  2. ^ Kennett, Lee (1977). The French Forces in America, 1780–1783. Greenwood Press, Inc. Page 10
  3. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Count de Rochambeau" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ "05-137 (March to Yorktown)".
  5. ^ Lenore M. Rennenkampf (February 1973). "National Register of Historic Places Registration:Odell House". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b "General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau". National Park Service. National Park Service. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  7. ^ "Rochambeau, (sculpture)". Smithsonian.
  8. ^ Doniol, H. Histoire de la participation de la France en l'établissement des Etats Unis d'Amérique, Vol. V. [publisher unknown] Paris: 1892
  9. ^ Johannes Baptist Rietstap, Armorial général : contenant la description des armoiries des familles nobles et patriciennes de l'Europe : précédé d'un dictionnaire des termes du blason, G.B. van Goor, 1861, 1171 p