Jean Baptiste Rochambeau
Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de
1725 - 1807
Jean Baptiste Rochambeau, French soldier, was born at Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher) on July 1, 1725. He was brought up at the Jesuit college at Blois, but entered a cavalry regiment. He served in Bohemia and Bavaria and on the Rhine, and in 1747 had attained the rank of colonel. He became governor of Vendôme in 1749, and after distinguishing himself in 1756 in the Minorca expedition was promoted to brigadier of infantry. In 1757 and 1758 he fought in Germany, (see Seven Years' War) notably at Crefeld, received several wounds in the battle of Clostercamp (1760) and was appointed meréchal de camp in 1761 and inspector of cavalry.
In 1780 he was sent, with the rank of lieutenant general, in command of 6,000 French troops to help the American colonist under Washington against the English. He landed at Newport, Rhode Island, on July 10, but was held there inactive for a year, because of his reluctance to abandon the French fleet, blockaded by the British in Narragansett bay. At last, in July 1781, Rochambeau's force was able to leave Rhode Island and joined Washington on the Hudson. Then followed the celebrated march of the combined forces to Yorktown, where on September 22 they joined the troops of Lafayette; Cornwallis was forced to surrender on October 19.
Congress voted Rochambeau and his troops the thanks of the nation and presented him with two cannon taken from the British. These guns, which Rochambeau took back to Vendôme, were requisitioned in 1792 during the French Revolution. On his return to France he was loaded with favors by Louis XVI and was made governor of Picardy.
During the Revolution he commanded the army of the north in 1790, but resigned in 1792. He was arrested during the Terror, and narrowly escaped the guillotine. He was subsequently pensioned by Bonaparte, and died at Thoré (Loir-et-Cher) on May 10, 1807.
A statue of Rochambeau by Ferdinand Hamar, the gift of France to the United States, was unveiled in Lafayette square, Washington, by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 26, 1902.
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