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Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau papers relating to the French West Indies

Call Number: GEN MSS 1576

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of 56 dossiers containing over 3600 documents relating to government of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other French colonies in the West Indies, most dating from Rochambeau’s term as gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, 1792-1794. Also present are small amounts of papers created by earlier colonial administrators, 1762-1791, or relating to Rochambeau’s surrender to the British, parole, and return to Saint-Domingue, 1794-1802. Twenty-one maps, most in ink and watercolor, document topographical features, colonial settlements, and fortification in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Sainte-Lucie, Tabago, and other islands, 1758-1802. A small amount of letterheads, forms, and other printed items may include materials printed in the French West Indies.

Dossiers are organized by subject and annotated with titles and numbering in several unidentified 18th-20th century hands, possibly representing arrangement and use by Rochambeau or subsequent owners. Most dossiers contain letters received by Rochambeau from military officers and colonial administrators; letters from other correspondents include petitions from enslaved people, prisoners, widows, and emigrés. Dossiers also contain copies of proceedings of the Assemblée représentative, Martinique; letters from local comités de surveillance and political clubs; military plans and reports on fortification; and lists of landowners, military officers, and free and enslaved soldiers.

The papers document Rochambeau’s efforts to establish republican government in Martinique, Guadeloupe, and other island colonies; defend French strategic and commercial interests in the West Indies against Great Britain during the War of the first Coalition; and resolve conflict among inhabitants of the French colonies, encompassing royalists and republicans, enslaved black people seeking freedom, white sugar producers advocating continuation of slavery, other whites (petits blancs) and free people of color (gens du couleur) claiming rights asserted by republican ideals, and emigrés fleeing or returning to the colonies in response to political events, civil disorder, and war.

While most papers relate to Martinique, also present are papers documenting conflict between the Commission générale et extraordinaire, Guadeloupe, and Georges-Henri-Victor Collot, governor of Guadeloupe; colonial administration of Sainte-Lucie and Tabago; and revolution in Saint-Domingue. Materials dating from Rochambeau’s predecessors include papers of gouverneurs généraux des Isles du Vent Claude-Charles de Damas; Antoine Charles du Houx, baron de Vioménil; and Jean-Pierre Antoine, comte de Béhague de Villeneuve.

Papers relating to war between France and Great Britain in the West Indies document construction and maintenance of island fortification; deployment of the French navy and army, including the 31e, 32e, 37e, 51e, 53e, and 88e régiments d'infanterie; administration of Garde nationale units; formation of the Chasseurs de la Martinique, recruitment of free men of color as officers, and enlistment of enslaved soldiers; and accounts of the British sieges of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and surrender by Rochambeau and Collot.

Dossier notes contain brief personal and corporate names, based on the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) when possible, and contemporary French geographic, military, and administrative terms, as found in the papers or in reference sources. See collection-level biographical and historical notes for a list of full personal and corporate names and a list of current geographic terms in English, with historical variants.

While names and subject terms in dossier titles and notes identify concentrations of materials, many of these same people, organizations, and events are represented throughout the papers. Unless otherwise indicated in dossier notes, materials are in manuscript, and letters are to Rochambeau. Maps are manuscript on paper, in ink and watercolor, unless otherwise noted. For some dossiers, additional group- or item-level descriptions may be found in a typescript listing created by the donor, filed in box 32. The donor’s listing is arranged by topics and sequential numbers assigned by the donor, with corresponding cahier numbers appended to each description. The donor’s descriptions use nonstandard personal, corporate, and geographic names, and contain outdated and biased language, particularly regarding race, slavery, and colonization.


  • 1758 - 1802
  • Majority of material found within 1792 - 1794


Language of Materials

Chiefly in French; some materials in English or Latin.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research

Existence and Location of Copies

Portions available on microfilm from Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Conditions Governing Use

The Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau Papers Relating to the French West Indies are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of H. P. (Hans Peter) Kraus, 1968.


Arranged sequentially by numbered cahiers number, each containing one or more dossiers.

Related Materials

Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive (GEN MSS 146), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Fonds Rochambeau (1746-1803) (Code de référence: 135AP/1-135AP/6), Archives nationales (France).

Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur Rochambeau Papers (MS Group 16), University of Florida.


48.42 Linear Feet (32 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau (1750-1813)

Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau (1750-1813) was a French army officer active in the West Indies during the French Revolution and in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Rochambeau was a son of Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807), commander of the French army in the United States during the American Revolution. The vicomte de Rochambeau was an aide de camp to his father in the United States, 1780-1782, returning to France in 1783. As gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, Rochambeau was based at Saint-Domingue in 1792, and then at Martinique in 1793-1794, where he was besieged by the British and surrendered in 1794. As a prisoner of the British, he was paroled in the United States, returning to France in 1795. Rochambeau returned to Saint-Domingue as military commander briefly in 1796, and again in 1801-1803, in an attempt to suppress the revolution that led to Haitian independence. Following defeat of the French in Saint-Domingue, Rochambeau was paroled in England during 1803-1811. In 1813 he returned to France and military service. Rochambeau was wounded in the Battle of Leipzig and died in 1813.


1750 August 5
Rochambeau born in Paris
Rochambeau commissioned as an artillery officer in the French army
Rochambeau in the United States as aide de camp to his father during the American Revolution
Rochambeau returns to France
1789 July
French Revolution begins
1789 August
Enslaved people revolt in Martinique
Civil war in French West Indies between royalists and republicans
Rochambeau appointed gouverneur général des Isles du Vent.
Enslaved people revolt in Saint-Domingue
War of the First Coalition, between republican France and other European countries
1792 September
Royalists revolt in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Rochambeau based at Saint-Domingue
1792 December
Lacrosse, commander of the frégate Félicité, arrives at Guadeloupe
1793 January
Royalists in Guadeloupe suppressed by Lacrosse
Formation of Commission générale et extraordinaire, Guadeloupe, which appoints Lacrosse as gouverneur
Rochambeau arrives at Guadeloupe
Rochambeau appoints Lacrosse military commander of Guadeloupe
1793 February
Rochambeau arrives at Fort-Royale, Martinique
Collot arrives at Guadeloupe
France declares war on Great Britain
1793 March - 1794
Collot acknowledged as gouverneur of Guadeloupe
Conflict between Collot and the Commission générale et extraordinaire, Guadeloupe
1793 April
Enslaved people revolt at Trois-Rivières, Guadeloupe
1793 May
Revolt by Béhague and royalists in Martinique defeated by Rochambeau
Rochambeau creates the Chasseurs de la Martinique, appointing free men of color as officers and enlisting enslaved soldiers
1793 June
Rochambeau defends Martinique from attack by the British
1793 August
France abolishes slavery in Saint-Domingue
1793 September
Assemblée représentative convenes in Saint-Pierre, Martinique
Martinique becomes a département of France
Revolutionary tribunal established in Martinique
1793 October
Assemblée représentative, Martinique, orders reimbursement to slave holders for enslaved soldiers serving in the Chasseurs de la Martinique
1794 February
Slavery abolished throughout the French empire
Martinique besieged by British General Charles Grey and Vice Admiral John Jervis
Chasseurs de la Martinique surrender to the British
1794 March
Rochambeau surrenders Martinique to the British
Rochambeau paroled in the United States
1794 April
Collot surrenders Guadeloupe to the British
Collot paroled in the United States
1795 December
Rochambeau returns to France
Rochambeau returns to Saint-Domingue as military commander.
Rochambeau returns again to Saint-Domingue as military commander, succeeding Charles Leclerc in an attempt to overthrow the revolution led by Toussaint Louverture
Napoleon reestablishes slavery in the French West Indies
French defeated in Saint-Domingue
Rochambeau paroled in England
Saint-Domingue declares independence and changes name to Haiti
Rochambeau returns to France and military service
1813 October 16
Rochambeau mortally wounded in the Battle of Leipzig
1813 October 20
Rochambeau dies

Names of people and organizations

The following alphabetical list expands brief names of people and organizations found in dossier titles and notes. Names conform to the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) when possible. Biographical notes are based on LCNAF, information in the papers, or other sources listed below. Biographical notes are incomplete and generally relate to events of the 1790s.

Agé, Pierre (1756-1813). Général de brigade; chef d’état-major, Saint-Domingue.

Aigremont, Charles Antoine d'. Ordonnateur, Martinique.

Assemblée nationale législative. French national legislature, 1791-1792.

Bachelet, Mathieu. Military commander, Sainte-Lucie.

Baulmont, François David de. Gouverneur par intérim, St. Vincent.

Béhague de Villeneuve, Jean-Pierre Antoine, comte de (1727-1813). Gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, 1791-1792.

“Bellegarde.” Commander of the Chasseurs de la Martinique, 1er bataillon.

Belzunce, Armand, vicomte de (1720-1763). Gouverneur, Saint-Domingue, 1763 March-August.

Bexon, François Henri Charles de. Capitaine du génie, Martinique.

Bois de La Motte, Emmanuel-Auguste de Cahideuc, comte du (1683-1764). Gouverneur, Saint-Domingue, 1751-1753.

Bouchage, François Joseph de Gratet, vicomte du (1749-1821). Ministre de la Marine et des Colonies, 1792 July-August.

Bouillé, François-Claude-Amour, marquis de (1739-1800). Gouverneur, Martinque, 1777-1783.

Bourgon, Jacques Martin de (1742-1820). Gouverneur, Cayenne (Guyane), 1789-1791.

Canclaux, Jean-Baptiste-Camille de (1740-1817). French general; directed embarkation of French soldiers at Brest for the French West Indies, 1792.

Castries, Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix, marquis de (1727-1801). Secrétaire d'État de la Marine, 1780-1787.

Choiseul, Etienne-François de Choiseul-Stainville, duc de (1719-1785). Premier ministre de France, 1758-1770.

Clugny, Marc Antoine Nicolas Gabriel, baron de (1741-1792). Gouverneur, Guadeloupe, 1784-1792.

Collot, Georges-Henri-Victor (1750-1805). Gouverneur, Guadeloupe, 1793 March-1794 April.

Conseil des cinq-cents. French national legislature, 1795 August 22-1799 December 26.

Convention nationale. French national legislature, 1792 September 21-1796 October 26.

Damas, Claude-Charles de (1731-1800). Gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, 1783 December-1789 July.

Damoiseau, Louis Armand Désiré, comte de. Directeur général des fortifications, Isles du Vent.

Daucourt, Joseph-Nicolas-Xavier (1763-1840). Commandant and president of the Commission militaire, Fort-de la-République, Martinique.

Decorio, Arnaud. Deputé from Martinique to the Assemblée nationale législative.

Directoire exécutif. French national political regime, 1795 October 26-1799 November 9.

Fourniols, Michel (1754-1801). Deputé from Martinique to the Conseil des cinq-cents.

Gaubert, Joseph Hilaire (1758-). Officier de santé, Hôpital militaire Saint Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Pierre, Martinique.

Gimat de Soubadère, Jean-Joseph de (1747-1793). Gouverneur, Sainte-Lucie, 1789-1792.

Guillot, Frédéric Joseph. Commissaire civil délégué par l’Assemblée nationale législative, Guyane, 1792.

Home, Ninian. Governor, British Grenada, 1792-1795.

Jeannet-Oudin, Nicolas-Georges. Commissaire civil délégué de la Convention nationale, Guyane, 1793.

Josephine, Empress, consort of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French (1763-1814).

Kersaint, Louis Guy Pierre de Coëtnempren, comte de (1747-1822). French naval officer.

Lacoste, Jean Antoine (1730-1820). Ministre de la Marine et des Colonies, 1792 March-July.

Lacrosse, Jean-Baptiste Raymond de (1760-1829). French naval officer; commander of the frégate Félicité; gouverneur of Guadeloupe, 1793 January-March.

Laveaux, Etienne Magneaud Bizefranc de (1751-1828). Gouverneur, Saint-Domingue, 1793 October-1796 May.

Le Borgne, Pierre Joseph. Commissaire ordonnateur, Martinique.

Louis XVI, King of France (1754-1793).

Mestre, André de (1756-1794). Commander of artillery, Fort-de la-République, Martinique.

Mirdondel, Antoine René de (1747-1797). Général de brigade; chef d’état-major, Saint-Domingue, 1796. Also known as Mirdonday.

Mollerat, Pierre Auguste (1740-1826). Commandant, Saint-Pierre, Martinique.

Monge, Gaspard (1746-1818). Ministre de la Marine, 1792 August-1793 April.

Munier, Edouard. Commander of the Chasseurs de la Martinique, 2e bataillon.

Petit de Viévigne, Jacques (1738-). Ordonnateur, Martinique.

Poigny, Antoine de Jobal de (1747-1817). Gouverneur, Tabago, 1789-1792.

Polverel, Etienne (1738-1794). Member of the Commission civile in Saint-Domingue, 1792.

Ricard, Nicolas Xavier de (1726-1812). Gouverneur, Sainte-Lucie, 1793 February-April.

Rochambeau, Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de (1750-1813). Son of the comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807); Gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, 1792 December-1794 March.

Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de, (1725-1807). Father of the vicomte de Rochambeau (1750-1813); commander of French army in the United States during the American Revolution.

Saint-Cyran, Paul-Edme Crublier de (1738-1793). French army engineer.

St. Vincent, John Jervis, Viscount, (1735-1823). British admiral; commander of Leeward Islands Station, 1793-1794.

Skipwith, Fulwar (1765-1839). United States consul in Martinique, 1790-1793.

Sonthonax, Léger Félicité (1763-1813). Gouverneur, Saint-Domingue, 1793 January-June and 1796 May-1797 August.

Tascher de La Pagerie, Robert-Marguerite (1740-1806). Commandant des ports et rades, Martinique; uncle of Josephine, Empress, consort of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French.

Terrasson, Claude Marie (1756-1811). French army engineer. Tilly, Edouard Hilaire Louis, comte de (1738-1785). Gouverneur, Guadeloup, 1773-1775; commandant in second, Guadeloupe, 1785.

Truguet, Jean François (1752-1839). Ministre de la Marine, 1795-1797.

Verdun de la Crenne, Jean René-Antoine, marquis de (1741-1805). French naval officer.

Vioménil, Antoine Charles du Houx, baron de (1728-1792). Gouverneur général des Isles du Vent, 1789 July-1790 April.

Geographic terms

The following alphabetical list correlates current geographic terms in English with variants found in dossier titles and notes. Countries are located in the West Indies, unless otherwise noted. Terms conform to Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) when possible. Variants and notes are based on LCSH, information in the papers, or other sources listed below. Variants may be incomplete.

Antilles, Greater
Group of large Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola
French name: Grandes Antilles

Antilles, Lesser
Group of small Caribbean islands, including the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands
French name: Petites Antilles

Cap-Haïtien (Haiti)
Former name: Cap-français (Saint-Domingue)

Castries (Saint Lucia)
Capital of Saint Lucia
Former name: Carénage (Sainte-Lucie)

Dominican Republic
Former name: Santo Domingo

Ducos (Martinique)
Town and commune
Former name: Trou-au-chat (Martinique)

Fort Charlotte (Saint Lucia)
Former names:
Morne Fortune (Sainte-Lucie)
Fort La Luzerne (Sainte-Lucie)

Fort-de-France (Martinique)
Capital of Martinique
Former names:
1672-1793: Fort Saint-Louis or Fort Royal
1793-1794: Fort de la République or République-Ville
1794-1802: Fort Edward (British occupation)
1802-1807: Fort-Royal

Fort Delgrès (Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe)
Former name: Fort Saint-Charles

Fort Desaix (Martinique)
Former names:
1772-1793: Fort Bourbon.
1793: Fort de la Convention
1794-1802: Fort George (British occupation)

Fort King George (Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago)
Former names (French occupation):
1784-1789: Fort Castries (Tabago)
1789-1790: Fort Republique (Tabago)
1790-1793 and 1801-1803: Fort Liberté (Tabago)

French Guiana
Collectivité territoriale unique (France), in South America
French name: Guyane

French West Indies
Islands in the West Indies colonized by France. During 1790s: Saint-Domingue, Saint-Martin, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Sainte-Lucie
French names: Antilles françaises or Indes occidentales françaises

Gros-Morne (Martinique)
Former name: Le Rochambeau (Martinique)

Collectivité territoriale unique (France)
Dependent islands: Saintes and Marie-Galante

Country in South America
Former name: British Guiana

Former name, 1626-1804: Saint-Domingue

Island in the Greater Antilles, divided into Haiti and Dominican Republic

Le Lorrain (Martinique)
Former name, before 1840: Grande-Anse (Martinique)

Leeward Islands
Group of islands in the northern West Indies, extending south to Guadeloupe
French name: Ȋles Sous-le-Vent

Collectivité territoriale unique (France)

Saint Kitts and Nevis
Former name of Saint Kitts: Saint Christophe

Saint Lucia
Former name: Sainte-Lucie

Saint Martin
Island in the Leeward Islands, divided into Collectivité de Saint-Martin (France) and Sint Maarten (Netherlands)

Schoelcher (Martinique)
Former name, before 1889: Case-Navire (Martinique)

Country in South America
Former names, before 1954: Surinam or Dutch Guiana

Trinidad and Tobago
Former name of Trinidad: Trinité
Former name of Tobago: Tabago

Country in South America
Former names:
1717-1777: part of Virreinato de Nueva Granada
1777-1823: Capitanía General de Venezuela

West Indies
Group of islands in the Caribbean including the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Bahamas
French names: Antilles or Indes occidentales

Windward Islands
Group of islands in the southern West Indies, extending south from Martinique
French names: Isles du Vent or Ȋles du Vent


Archives nationales d'outre-mer(ANOM)(France)
Online Access
Online database gives access to descriptions and scanned images, including personnel files, correspondence, and other records of the Secrétariat d’état à la marine and Ministère des colonies
Online Search

Cormack, William S. Patriots, Royalists, and Terrorists in the West Indies: the French Revolution in Martinique and Guadeloupe, 1789-1802 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, [2019])
Catalog Record
Online book; Yale access only (De Gruyter)

Histoire-Généalogie magazine-web (website)
“Les poids et mesures sous l’ancien régime”

MapTools: Tools for Navigation (website)
“Map scale calculator” (conversion tool)

Napoléon & Empire (website)
“The French Republican calendar” (conversion tool)

Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive. General Collection,
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Call number: GEN MSS 146
Finding aid

Sotheby & Co. (London, England). Unpublished papers of Generals Leclerc and Rochambeau During the War of Independence in Haiti, 1802-3 (London: Sotheby & Co., 1958)
Auction catalog for Sotheby’s sale, London, 1958 February 17
Materials were purchased by the Archives nationales (France) and the University of Florida
Catalog Record

Wheelen, Jean Edmond. Rochambeau: Father and Son (New York: H. Holt and Company, [c1936])
Catalog Record

Wikipédia (français) (website)
Biographical and historical articles, including:
Liste d'administrateurs coloniaux français
Liste de forts, fortifications, citadelles et places fortes en Amérique

Other Finding Aids

Accompanied by a donor list (in box 32).

Processing Information

The Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau Papers Relating to the French West Indies are comprised of materials formerly classed as Ms Vault 223. Acquired as a gift from rare book vendor H. P. (Hans Peter) Kraus in 1968, the collection as received was housed in 20th-century portfolios containing dossiers in paper wrappers. Dossier wrappers are annotated with dossier titles and intermittent nonsequential numbers, written in multiple unidentified 18th-19th century hands. Additional annotations in an unidentified 20th century hand associate dossiers with “cahier” numbers from an unidentified source, most comprising a single span (I/1-I/54), with a few outlying numbers (II/3 and II/10), and one item with no cahier number.

The collection was processed and this finding aid was created in 2020 April. During processing, portfolios were discarded and the collection was rehoused, maintaining existing organization by dossier and arrangement by cahier number. Dossier wrappers and contents were rehoused in multiple folders as needed. Contents of dossiers have not been verified at the item level, and enclosures referenced in correspondence may be separated or may not be present.

This finding aid employs the following descriptive conventions:

Transcribed file titles:
Cahier numbers were recorded in standardized form.
Dossier titles were transcribed as found, in quotes, retaining variant spellings.
Diacritics, capitalization, and punctuation were standardized or supplied, without brackets.
Some abbreviations were expanded for clarity, without brackets.
Some dossier wrappers were apparently repurposed from unrelated 18th-20th century manuscript or printed material; superseded information was not transcribed.

Supplied file titles and notes:
For untitled dossier subgroups, a title was devised, without brackets.
Subdivided cahier numbers were supplied as needed, in brackets.
For most dossiers, brief file-level scope and content notes were supplied, based on donor descriptions and examination during processing.

Height and width are recorded in centimeters, based on neat line.
The following are noted when present:
Scale, expressed in units of measurement as found, converted to approximate centimeters and meters, and converted to an approximate fraction. Centimeters and meters were calculated based on the following conversions from measurement units of the ancien régime:
Ligne = 0.226 cm
Pouce = 2.706 cm
Toise = 1.949 m
Pas = 0.624 m
IK [arabic number]. Similar numbers appear on maps in the Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive (GEN MSS 146), where they are identified as a classification assigned in the 19th century by Mis de Rochambeau (Eugène Achille Lacroix de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau), an historian and grandson of the vicomte de Rochambeau.

The order of contents in each dossier was maintained as received, including nested documents. Most dossiers are not in chronological order. Date spans are approximate and may not account for undated items, copies, or enclosures.
French Republican calendar dates were converted to Gregorian calendar dates when required for recording single dates or date spans.

Guide to the Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau papers relating to the French West Indies
In Progress
Karen Spicher
2020 April
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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