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Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive

Call Number: GEN MSS 146

Scope and Contents

The Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive is divided into two parts, the Rochambeau Papers, and the Cartographic Archive. The Rochambeau Papers consist of the correspondence and other documents of the comte de Rochambeau that document his role as commander of the French expeditionary force in the American Revolution. The papers also include the manuscript draft of his memoir, Mémoires Militaires, Historiques et Politiques. The Cartographic Archive consists of atlases and maps collected by three generations of the Rochambeau family, from the reign of Louis XIV through the wars of the French Revolution and the Empire. It includes maps acquired by the comte de Rochambeau before he departed for America, and which he used in the field during the American campaign. The archive remained with the family at the chateau de Rochambeau until 1952, when it was purchased by the New York bookdealer H.P. Kraus. Paul Mellon, Yale 1929, acquired the collection from Kraus in 1958 and gave it to Yale in 1992.

Little is known about the original arrangement of the papers. All the maps, however, were systematically numbered with an "IK" classification scheme late in the 19th century by the marquis Eugène Achille Lacroix de Rochambeau. (Similar IK numbering appears on maps in the papers of Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, pertaining to his service in the French West Indies, which were given to Yale by H.P. Kraus in 1968.) In all likelihood there was an original catalog to the IK series that explained the order of the IK numbers, but it's whereabouts, if it survives, are unknown and the nature of the original classification scheme has yet to be determined. The maps, when received by the library, were organized by provenance, and therein arranged more or less chronologically. This arrangement has been retained.

The first section, Correspondence and Other Documents, consists of three series: Correspondence to Rochambeau, Conference Papers and Other Documents, and Mémoires. These papers richly document Rochambeau's role as commander of the French troops in the American Revolution, from his arrival in Rhode Island to his departure for France after the battle of Yorktown, and the close working relationship which developed between Washington and his French counterpart.

Series I, Correspondence to Rochambeau (1780-1794), is organized into six subseries: George Washington and Other Americans; Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette; French Diplomats in America; French Navy in America; French Army under Rochambeau; and The French Court. Generally, letters from the Americans to Rochambeau are in English with translations into French supplied by Rochambeau. While not all of the correspondence is addressed to Rochambeau, all of it relates to military affairs of concern to him and its presence in the archive suggests that he received it at some point. Each subseries has been arranged chronologically, except for The French Court, where it was decided that the run of letters from the marquis de Ségur be kept together and not be interfiled with other letters in the subseries.

Because Rochambeau exchanged communiqués with so many people on military matters of mutual concern, his correspondence files provide extensive coverage of the sequence of events in the American campaign, and of the roles played by various individuals. It also provides commentary on events from varying perspectives. For example, in the case of the interception by the British of George Washington's letter to Lund Washington criticizing the French, one finds Washington's letter of apology (folder 68), the letter of La Luzerne, the French Minister Plenipotentiary, transcribing Washington's letter for Rochambeau, and dismissing it as harmless (folder 154), and the letter of Ségur, the French Minister of War, expressing his satisfaction that the letter had caused no bad feelings (folder 244).

Of the 77 Washington letters in the collection, eleven of them are autograph letters signed, while the rest were written by secretaries (including Alexander Hamilton) and signed by Washington. The majority of Washington's letters cover the period from Rochambeau's arrival in Rhode Island in July 1780 to August 1781, when their armies converged on the march to Yorktown. Washington writes of troop movements and plans, the treason of Benedict Arnold and capture of Major André, the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line of the Army, apologizes for his letter to Lund Washington, and discusses the logistics of the arrival of de Grasse. In a final letter, written upon his return to Mount Vernon after the war, Washington reflected on his collaboration with Rochambeau: "I shall recollect with pleasure that we have been Contemporaries & fellow labourers in the cause of liberty, and that we have lived together as Brothers do - in harmony & friendship."

Early drafts of all of the Washington letters present in the archive are represented in John C. Fitzpatrick's Writings of Washington. Documentation received with the collection indicates that some of the letters found in this collection differ from those in Fitzpatrick. Notations to this effect, present in the list from which this finding aid was derived, have been retained though not verified. Other American correspondents in this series include Thomas McKean, Nathaniel Greene, Jonathan Trumbull, John Tyler, Benjamin Tallmadge, and Henry Knox.

The correspondence of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, consists of 14 letters written between May and September, 1780, before Washington's first letter to Rochambeau, while Lafayette was serving as Washington and Rochambeau's liaison. It includes a letter of apology from Lafayette to Rochambeau (folder 111), for overstepping his authority as liaison, which led to direct communication between Washington and Rochambeau.

The third section, French Diplomats in America, includes 62 letters from La Luzerne, the French minister plenipotentiary, and the comte de Menonville, who was in charge of gathering supplies for the French. This correspondence, covering the period from June 1780 to December 1781, encompasses discussions of the much delayed second fleet, and the financing of the French campaign. Four additional letters, from the comte de Menonville, also concern supplies.

The next subseries, French Navy in America, consists chiefly of 23 letters from Admiral de Grasse, written from March to October 1781 and during the Yorktown campaign. There are also letters from key officers who accompanied Rochambeau from France: Admiral Barras (11 letters), Destouches (3 letters), and a letter written by Washington to Admiral Ternay, first commander of the French fleet (folder 184). This section contains the letter from Admiral de Grasse written July 28 which states that he will sail to Virginia with his fleet, estimates when he will arrive, and warns that he cannot stay past October (folder 187), a letter which marks the beginning of the military campaign that resulted in the battle of Yorktown. Many of the letters are partly in code, often with an interlinear decipher.

The section entitled French Army under Rochambeau contains five letters from the marquis de Choisy, who was left in charge of the small force at Newport after Rochambeau and most of the army had departed for Yorktown. Correspondence from members of the French Court includes 39 letters from Ségur, the French Minister of War, written from January-December 1781 with two letters in April and May, 1784. Ségur sends orders, bestows praise for Rochambeau's conduct, and in 1784 commissions him commander-in-chief of Picardy. There are also six letters from the marquis de Castries, Minister of the Navy.

Series II, Conference Papers and Other Documents , contains material that pertains to several war strategy conferences held between Rochambeau and Washington. These include the Wethersfield Conference (May 13-23, 1781), the Newport Conferences (May 31 and June 8, 1781), the Dobbs Ferry Conference (July 1781), and the Philadelphia Conference (July 1782). Except for the Newport Conference, the files contain drafts of propositions and resolutions on double columned pages with one side written by Rochambeau and the other by Washington. The Newport papers are summaries of the Conferences signed by Grandchain de Semonville, Captain of the Newport fleet.

The section of Other Documents contains orders, field notes, and narratives by Rochambeau of French army activity in 1781-1783. There are five manuscripts detailing the ciphers and codes used by the Americans and the French, with various other documents which include intercepted letters from Lord George Germain to Sir Henry Clinton in February-March 1781.

Series III contains the manuscript of Rochambeau's Mémoires Militaires, Historiques et Politiques , published posthumously in Paris in 1809. The Mémoires detail Rochambeau's entire career, and includes some elaboration of events mentioned in the correspondence. The original division of the manuscript into notebooks ("cahiers") has been maintained. The manuscript is written on 307 leaves in Rochambeau's hand and that of several others, with glosses and editorial work, also by Rochambeau. The manuscript contains a large amount of material cancelled by the author and either omitted entirely or abridged in the final published form. Some of the cancelled passages include criticisms of French officers, a description of Rochambeau's life at the time of his arrest and imprisonment in 1794, and a description of a dinner given by him for Washington at Newport.

The Cartographic Archive is organized into four series: Map Collection of the Marquis de Rochambeau, the Map Collection of the Comte de Rochambeau, the Map Collection of the Vicomte de Rochambeau, and Other Rochambeau Maps. The subseries within each series are organized roughly in chronological order. The maps within the subseries themselves, however, are arranged in no particular order, as they were received.

Virtually every map in the collection carries an affixed map tab bearing the IK number and a short title word or phrase indicating the place depicted on the map. Each map entry in the register consists of this short (assigned) title prefaced by the original IK number, with place, mapmaker and/or publisher, and date noted, if known. The full title and other information from the source list received from Paul Mellon also have been included, with title and dimensions verified for this finding aid. The full map titles have been transcribed exactly as found on the maps; no attempt has been made to standardize forms of names and spellings.

Most of the maps in this collection are in sections and backed on linen. Some of these were grouped in cardboard sleeves. These groups of maps have been removed from the sleeves, foldered individually and filed in sequence, and are gathered together in the finding aid under one unifying assigned title. The sleeves themselves have been retained and are housed and listed at the end of the collection. Not all maps are complete, and some are duplicates. These have been noted in the listing. A majority of the maps are hand-colored.

Series IV, the Map Collection of the Marquis de Rochambeau (1669-1743), is organized into two subseries: the War of the Austrian Succession and Miscellaneous Maps. This series, consisting of 19 maps, includes regional maps, city maps, and battle plans, and contains the earliest dated maps in the collection. Information received with the collection attributes acquisition of certain maritime maps in this series to the Chevalier de Rochambeau, chef d'escadre, uncle of the marquis, although it does not identify them.

Series V, the Map Collection of the Comte de Rochambeau (1695-1792), is organized into ten subseries: War of the Austrian Succession (Bohemian and Bavarian Campaigns, and Low Countries Campaign), Cantons of Franche-Comté and Campaign Against Mandrin, Seven Years' War (Minorca Campaign, and German Campaign), Inspector-General of Infantry, Plan to Invade England, American Revolution, Command of Picardy and Artois, Command of Alsace, Journey to Switzerland, and Army of the North: Brabant Campaign.

The 360 maps in this series span the comte de Rochambeau's entire military career. There are maps of varying types: regional maps, city maps, and maps commemorating battles (many were certainly used by Rochambeau in the field). Mapmakers represented prominently include Le Rouge; Johann Baptist Homann, and his heirs, known as Homann Erben; Eugene Henry Friex; Georges Friex; Alexis Hubert Jaillot; Pierre Gosse, Jr. and Daniel Pinet; Matthaeus Seutter; and Carlet de la Rozière. There are several larger maps printed in sections, particularly in the American Revolution subseries. In these cases, the maps share one title, followed by a description of each part.

A number of maps bear annotations in Rochambeau's hand. In particular, there is a map of Lawfeld (folder 678) on which he marked the place where he was seriously wounded. Rochambeau also annotated: Partie du Piemont (folder 828), Plan des Attaques de Maestricht (folder 682), Carte des Environs de Liège, Mastrick (folder 838), and Le Cours du Rhein (folder 689).

The German Campaign section of the Seven Years' War subseries contains four maps with tipped on overlays showing troop movements. These are: Plan de la Bataille de Creveld (folder 715), Plan des Affaires de Sangershausen et de Lutternberg (folder 855), Plan de la Bataille de Tonhausen (folder 856), Plan de la Bataille de Vellinghausen (folder 857), and Plan de l'Affaire de Soest (folder 897). In addition, there are 4 watercolor manuscript maps: Cherbourg (folder 876), Plan de Luxembourg (folder 781), Plan de Strasbourg (folder 901), Neuf Brisack (folder 782), and Huningue (folder 783).

The American Revolution subseries includes 103 maps of the Atlantic coast and major harbors, general maps of North America, maps of various colonies, cities, and Canada. A portfolio of large linen-backed maps (folders 631-644) duplicates many of the maps elsewhere in the series. Scattered other duplicates and even triplicates can also be found.

A highlight of the series is a manuscript atlas of 34 plans in ink and watercolor of the camps of Rochambeau's army as he marched south to Yorktown (folder 455). The plans are very detailed, and are attributed to Louis-Alexandre and Charles-Louis Berthier. There are two additional atlases: one is a second volume of an atlas with no title page, but a table of contents that states it is the second part of the Nouvel Atlas (folder 630). The other atlas is of the Antilles (folder 645). All these atlases, while retained in the archive, have also been cataloged separately. Another unusual item is a proof of a presumably unfinished plate of the Coast of North America by Sartine, probably acquired by Rochambeau before leaving Europe for Rhode Island (folder 392).

Series VI, the Map Collection of the Vicomte de Rochambeau (1702-1823), is organized into eight subseries: American Islands, Italian Campaign and Command of Liguria, Prisoner in England, Central European Campaigns, French and European Campaigns, Spanish and Portuguese Campaigns, Russian Campaign, and German Campaign.

The 184 maps in this series are regional maps mainly of Europe and the West Indies, city maps, road maps, maps of battlefields and military campaigns. It should be noted that there are a small number of duplicates in this series as well. There is a large map of the United States (folders 468-471), and a relatively large number of Italian maps. Mapmakers represented in this series include Le Rouge, Cassini, Santini, and Dezauche. There are three atlases in this series, a little volume entitled Guide to the Post-Roads of Italy (folder 646), also Cary's New Map of England and Wales (folder 647), and an unbound atlas of Livonia in parts (folders 597-605). There is also a map of Spain with stick pins that indicate Napoleon's march on Madrid (folder 595).

Series VII, Other Rochambeau Maps (1755), contains two maps whose precise provenance is unknown. Series VIII, Index (n.d.), contains an inventory of the map collection.


  • 1669 - 1823


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive is 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 Paul Mellon, 1992.


49.8 Linear Feet ((53 boxes) + broadside folders, rolled maps)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive is divided into two parts, the Rochambeau Papers, and the Cartographic Archive.


The comte de Rochambeau was born at Vendôme in 1725 and began his long military career at age sixteen. He distinguished himself early on, serving in both the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War. He was promoted to the rank of maréchal de camp and inspector of cavalry in 1761, and in 1776 he was appointed governor of Villefranche-en-Roussillon. In 1780, Rochambeau assumed the direction of the French expeditionary force sent by Louis XVI to assist the American colonists in their war of independence. He landed at Newport, Rhode Island, and a year later joined Washington's Army at the Hudson River. From there the combined French and Continental forces marched to Virginia to besiege Yorktown. With Washington, he planned the colonial victory at Yorktown, leading to the British surrender that ended the American Revolution.

After the British defeat, Rochambeau returned to France and continued his military service through the early years of the French Revolution. After a short imprisonment during the Terror, Rochambeau returned to his family's château near Vendôme where he remained in retirement for most of the rest of his life. During these later years, he wrote his Mémoires Militaires, Historiques et Politiques, which were published posthumously in 1809.

For a more extensive biographical essay and description of the comte de Rochambeau's life as it relates specifically to the content of this archive, consult "The Road to Yorktown" (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1992), an exhibit catalog prepared by Vincent Giroud, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, for a special exhibition of material from the Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive at the Beinecke Library.


Joseph-Charles de Vimeur, marquis de Rochambeau, was the father of the comte de Rochambeau. Due to ill health he was unable to pursue an active military career. Nevertheless, in 1723 he was appointed grand bailli d'épée of the duchy of Vendômois and governor of the château, and in 1728 was named governor of the town of Vendôme. As Knight of the Order of Saint-Lazare and of Saint-Sépulcre de Jérusalem, he was chosen to represent the tribunal of the marshals of France in his province. He died at Vendôme on December 19, 1779.


Donatien Marie Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, served in the American Revolution as an aide-de-camp to his father. In the 1790s he participated in an unsuccessful campaign to establish French authority in Martinique and Santo Domingo. He was later assigned to the Italian army, and was appointed to the military command of the Ligurian Republic. In 1802, he was chosen to help lead an (unsuccessful) expeditionary force against Santo Domingo. He was captured by the English and returned to England as a prisoner on parole, where he remained interned for almost nine years. He was exchanged in 1811, and returned to the family château, where he resumed the work of classifying the family's growing collection of maps, which his father had begun. He also enriched the collections with new acquisitions, in particular ones pertaining to the military campaigns of his son, Auguste-Philippe Donatien de Vimeur, who served as the aide-de-camp for Joachim Murat, maréchal de France (and brother-in-law of Napoleon) and was with Murat's cavalry in the Russian campaign.

In 1812 the vicomte de Rochambeau was recalled to active service. On October 16, 1813, he was mortally wounded in the "Battle of Nations," and died three days later at Leipzig, at the age of 59.

Processing Information

This finding aid was derived from a much more lengthy document received with the collection, which presumably was prepared at the donor's request. That list was converted into an ASCII data file by means of scanning and Optical Character Recognition software, and then a number of format and editorial changes were made to achieve a finding aid which is more in accordance with current Beinecke Library practice. Specifically, lengthy narratives and notes containing biographical data, excerpts from the letters or the Mémoires, and historical commentary were removed or abbreviated. Punctuation in bibliographical descriptions, however, was retained. Names of correspondents have been standardized. The source document from which the present list was derived has been retained, however, and may be viewed both in print form and online, upon consultation with the appropriate curator.

Boxes 35, 39, and 40 no longer exist within the collection. The contents of the former Box 35 were moved to Box 9, folders 344a-b. The contents of the former Box 39 were moved to Box 19a, folder 471a. The contents of the former Box 40 were moved to Box 26a, folder 550a.

Guide to the Rochambeau Papers and Rochambeau Family Cartographic Archive
Under Revision
by Diana M. Smith
October 1995
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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