March to Victory: Washington, Rochambeau, and the Yorktown Campaign of 1781
In June 1781, two markedly dissimilar military organizations pre- pared to converge on British-occupied New York City. One was the Con-tinental Main Army, consisting of twenty-three under-strength infantry regiments, along with their supporting artillery, cavalry, and logistical units—a total of just over 6,650 men—under the command of 49-year-old Gen. George Washington. The troops left their winter quarters in New Jersey and New York State and concentrated at Newburgh, New York, awaiting orders for the year’s campaign. The other contingent was the French expeditionary army quartered in Newport, Rhode Island, which consisted of four regiments of infantry (Bourbonnois, Soissonnois, Saintonge, and Royal Deux-Ponts) and one
battalion of artillery (the Auxonne)—nearly 5,300 men in all. A fth
detachment, the Volontaires étrangers de Lauzun, had spent the winter in Lebanon, Connecticut. Better known as “Lauzun’s Legion,” this unit was a combined-arms force of 300 light cavalry hussars and 100 men each of grenadiers, light infantry chasseurs, and light artillery. The French expe-ditionary force, under the command of 55-year-old Gen. Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, had arrived in Newport in
July 1780. After spending the winter in camp, it was ready to ght. Its
presence would prove vital in the upcoming campaign.
Neither the ofcers nor the men nor even the commanders in chief
of the French and American coalition forces could imagine that over the next four months the campaign would take them on a march through nine states and over more than 600 miles on the largest and longest operational movement of the Revolutionary War. None among the frequently unpaid and poorly fed, clothed, and equipped Continentals could have foreseen that they were about to embark on a journey that would end in a decisive victory over the British at a small Virginia port named Yorktown.
The Arrival of Allies
Because Congress was nding it increasingly difcult to raise money
without the power of taxation, the army, like the Revolution, seemed to be running on faith, hope, and promises that spring. Patience was wearing thin
with the lack of civilian support, even for dedicated ofcers like Lt. Col.
Ebenezer Huntington of Norwich, Connecticut, whose brother Samuel had signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. “The Rascally Stupidity