Rochambeau's Engineers at
Butts Hill Fort
July 1780 - June 1781

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By Dr. Robert Selig
Research prepared for
The Battle of Rhode Island Association
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati
& W3R-US

Table of Contents

Click the titles below to zoom to the corresponding section.

Goals and Purposes

Scope of Work

Primary Sources

The Engineers

Historical Background

The Arrival of the comte de Rochambeau in Newport

Butts Hill Fort, July 1780 to June 1781

The French Text

The English Translation

Conclusion and Suggestions for Future Research

Select Bibliography

Using the comte de Rochambeau’s Livre d’Ordre of 1780 – 1781 as its starting point, this report investigates the presence and the work carried out by French soldiers under the supervision of their engineers at Butts Hill Fort between December 1780 and June 1781. A description of the evolution of the fort until December 1780 and after the departure of French forces in June 1781 is not part of this study.

  1. The scope of work outlined in the request required the consultant to list, review, and translate from the original French into English all entries relating to Butts Hill Fort in the Orderly Book of Rochambeau’s army from the arrival of French forces in Newport in July 1780 through their departure in June 1781.  
  2. Review the journal of Lieutenant Colonel Henri-Dominique de Palys, chevalier de Montrepos, of the Corps of Engineers and the engineer in charge of the work at Butts Hill Fort, and the papers of Captain of Engineers François-Ignace Ervoil d’Oyré, for any information relating to Fort Butts Hill. Consultant was also tasked to investigate the mss papers or published accounts of other French officers or other personnel whose names might emerge during research for any information that might provide a researchable trail to other primary source materials relating to Butts Hill Fort. That includes reporting on relevant information available in mss held by the library of the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, DC or other libraries and archives. 
  3. Prepare a report on whatever is found in these primary sources and suggest further avenues of research, recognizing that although the original entries in the Orderly Book do seem to provide trails that could/should be followed, these entries may or may not yield additional results.

Unless otherwise noted all translations are mine.

~Robert A. Selig, Ph.D

The most important primary source for this report is the Livre d’ordre contenant les ordres donnés depuis le débarquement des troupes à Newport en Amérique septentrionale 1780 or Book of Order(s) containing those given since the debarkation of the troops in Newport in North America in 1780. It is held in the Archives départementales of Metz under call number E 235.

The Orderly Book begins with undated orders for the debarkation in Newport.

Order before disembarkation

The corps of troops that His Majesty sends to America is auxiliary to the United States, its allies and under the orders of General Washington. He will be honored as Marshal of France and the President of the Congress. The governors and presidents of the provinces shall be accorded the honors of Marshal of France and the other generals of the allies the honors of their ranks, which shall be assimilated to the others in the following order …

The first order following debarkation is entered as “Au camp de Newport le 14 juillet 1780.” The last entry in the Orderly Book is the Ordre du 17 aout. The next day, 18 August, French forces set out on their march to Virginia:

Les grenadiers de Bourbonnois fourniront demain la garde du qG.

Chaque brigade relèvera ses postes, celle de Soissonnois fournira la garde des boeufs de l’armée et un caporal et 4 hommes chez le grand prévôt de l’armée.

The grenadiers of Bourbonnois will provide the headquarter’s guard tomorrow.

Each brigade will relieve its posts, that of the Soissonnois will provide the for the oxen of the army and a corporal and four men at the headquarter’s provost.

The first entry in the Orderly Book that mentions Butts Hill Fort is dated 9 December 1780, the last entry is dated 7 June 1781.The most important primary source for this report is the Livre d’ordre contenant les ordres donnés depuis le débarquement des troupes à Newport en Amérique septentrionale 1780 or Book of Order(s) containing those given since the debarkation of the troops in Newport in North America in 1780. It is held in the Archives départementales of Metz under call number E 235.

The Orderly Book begins with undated orders for the debarkation in Newport.

Order before disembarkation

The corps of troops that His Majesty sends to America is auxiliary to the United States, its allies and under the orders of General Washington. He will be honored as Marshal of France and the President of the Congress. The governors and presidents of the provinces shall be accorded the honors of Marshal of France and the other generals of the allies the honors of their ranks, which shall be assimilated to the others in the following order …

The first order following debarkation is entered as “Au camp de Newport le 14 juillet 1780.” The last entry in the Orderly Book is the Ordre du 17 aout. The next day, 18 August, French forces set out on their march to Virginia:

Les grenadiers de Bourbonnois fourniront demain la garde du qG.

Chaque brigade relèvera ses postes, celle de Soissonnois fournira la garde des boeufs de l’armée et un caporal et 4 hommes chez le grand prévôt de l’armée.

The grenadiers of Bourbonnois will provide the headquarter’s guard tomorrow.

Each brigade will relieve its posts, that of the Soissonnois will provide the for the oxen of the army and a corporal and four men at the headquarter’s provost.

The first entry in the Orderly Book that mentions Butts Hill Fort is dated 9 December 1780, the last entry is dated 7 June 1781.1

The Corps of Engineers in Rochambeau’s little army consisted of nine engineers, all of them graduates of the Ecole Royale du Génie in Mézières, which was founded in 1748 to meet the need of the French army for specialist engineers. The spark for the creation of the school was the victorious Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 during the War of the Austrian succession, which showed the importance of artillery in battle, of properly sited and prepared defensive works, and the need for a professional evaluation of the battlefield.

Recruitment to the Ecole was through a difficult mathematical exam; only between a third and a quarter of the candidates were admitted. The elitism of the school was apparent not only in the highly competitive entry selection process but also – for better or for worse – in the restriction of entry to members of the nobility, or at least of that part of the bright and ambitious lower French nobility that did not belong to the noblesse de court and could not even dream of ever commanding a regiment. Bright young members of the provincial nobility often derogatorily called hobereaux (‘old birds’) who often lived very modestly on small estates in rural areas, could, however, make a name for themselves in the emerging technical branches. The curriculum was covered over six years and focused on math, physics, and chemistry – basically a precursor of our STEM concept: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Learning English was part of the curriculum as well, which came in most handy once Rochambeau’s engineers arrived in America. The first year at Mézières was dedicated to the learning of theory, the second year to military exercises. There were always more teachers and officers at the school in Mézières than students. Out of the elitist écoles founded in 18th-century France grew the Grandes Ecoles, the elitist schools of France of modern France; out of Mézières grew the Ecole Polytechnique.

After two years at Mézières, the students graduated with the most prestigious diploma of royalist France. The newly promoted lieutenants next spent two years in a regiment and another two years gaining hands-on experience alongside an older engineer officer in the corps of engineers. Rochambeau’s top three officer-engineers had decades of experience.

Its commanding officer was Jean Nicholas Desandroüins. Born on 7 January 1729, he became a lieutenant in the Régiment de Beauce on 23 December 1746. In January 1751 he entered the military engineering school at Mézières and graduated with distinction in February 1752.2

The title page of one of the textbooks used at the school in Mezieres.
Promoted to captain in February 1756 he served in Canada from 1756 to 1760. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1774 and colonel in 1779, he was sick during the siege of Yorktown. Promoted to brigadier on 5 December 1781, and maréchal de camp in March 1788, he retired on 1 April 1791 and died on 11 December 1792.3

He kept a journal during the Yorktown Campaign, which he lost, however, in the shipwreck of La Bourgogne on 4 February 1783, off Curaçao. The few surviving pages were published in Charles Nicolas Gabriel, Le maréchal de camp Desandrouins (1729-1792) (Verdun: Imprimerie Renvé-Lallemant, 1887), as inserts into a general history of Rochambeau’s American Campaign on pp. 341- 395. They contain no information on Butts Hill Fort. His papers, housed in the Château d’Hannoncelles about 35 miles west of Metz, were destroyed during the First World War.

In their “Checklist of Journals” Rice and Brown report that “Several letters of Desandroüins are preserved in the Archives du Génie, 15-1-7, No. 34: Newport, 10 November 1780; Providence, 17 June 1781; Williamsburg, 24 January 1782; Crompond, 20 October 1782; Providence, 28 November 1782; Porto Cabello, 14 February 1783. … Examples of maps signed by Desandroüins are also extant in the Archives du Génie, including one of Newport.”4

Additional papers of Desandroüins are held in the Service historique de la Défense in Vincennes, Call No. GR 4 YD 3251.5
The title page of "The Ordinance for the Engineers," an 80 page guide, exceptionally lengthy for the time period.
Desandroüins’ second-in-command was Lieutenant Colonel Guillaume Querenet de La Combe. Born on 14 July 1731, he entered the engineering school in Mézières in 1751 and graduated the following year. Promoted to captain in 1763, he became a major in January 1777 and lieutenant colonel in April 1779. He directed the French engineers at Yorktown in place of Desandroüins, who was sick. Promoted to colonel on 5 December 1781, he died on 5 July 1788 from complications from a broken leg. No papers are known to exist.6
Henry Dominique Marius de Palys, chevalier de Montrepos, was born on 13 December 1733. A cornet in the Regiment de Piémont-Cavalerie, he became an engineer in 1755, captain in 1763 and major on 1 January 1777. Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 12 November 1780, he became a colonel on 1 April 1791. Suspended on 24 August 1793, he was retired in October 1794 and died on 15 April 1803.7
His Journal de Campagne (1780-1783) consists of four parts: 2 May to 12 July 1780, 9 February to 4 August 1781, 1 July to 3 December 1782 and 21 December 1782 to 8 July 1783.8 It does not mention Butts Hill Fort by name but an undated entry at the end of the first section mentions the redoubts at Howlands Ferry and Butts Hill Fort.
Rice and Brown write that “Other correspondence and maps by Querenet de La Combe are also preserved in the Archives du Génie,” presumably also under No. 15-1-7, No. 34, though the entry in Rice and Brown does not say so.9
François Ignace Ervoil d’Oyré was born in Sedan on 27 May 1739 and entered the engineering school in Mézières on 1 January 1756. He graduated as a lieutenant on 1 January 1759 and became a captain in November 1765. Following his return from the United States he was promoted to major on 31 July 1783, lieutenant colonel on 1 April 1791, colonel in February 1792, and maréchal de camp in December of the same year. He retired on 19 March 1795 and died in Warq in the Ardennes on 5 July 1799.10
His papers consist of four journals entitled Notes relatives aux mouvemens de l’armee françoise en Amerique that span the period 1780-1782 and are owned by the Society of the Cincinnati in Washington, DC.11  In February 2009, the library acquired one additional journal in this series along with a collection of 37 letters written by Oyré to a family member in France, which cover his experiences in America including the siege of Yorktown.12 These papers contain little useful information since they represent private correspondence and notes. Blondet, however, quotes a letter of early September 1780 by d’Oyré to the comte de Chastellux, a brother of the chevalier de Chastellux who was serving under Rochambeau in America, discussing fortifications in Rhode Island.13 The diary of Ervoil d’Oyré itself contains but two references to earthwork to the north of Newport, and only one of them refers directly to Butts Hill Fort. Describing the defensive works, he found upon arrival in Newport in July 1780, he writes:

Enfin on redressa et l’on releva les ouvrages faits par les américaines au Nord de l’isle pour assurer la communication avec le continent. 

“Finally, the works built by the Americans on the north of the island were re-established and repaired to assure communication with the continent.” 

“Depuis le départ de l’armée, on a continué les travaux de Butts-Hill, au nord de L’isle.“  “Since the departure of the army work on Butts Hill north of the island, has continued.”14
Similarly, volume 7 of the papers of de Palys contains an 18-page fragment of a history of the War of Independence covering the years 1777-1779, but that was a private exercise as de Palys tried to understand the reasons and course of the war he fought in.15 Any material relating to his official duties (as well as that for his fellow engineers) would be deposited in the French engineering archives.
Henry Crublier d’Opterre was born on 26 October 1739 and joined the artillery as a sous-lieutenant in 1757. From there he entered the school in Mézières on 1 January 1763 and graduated two years later. From 1768 until 1775 he was stationed in Martinique. In 1780 he was part of Rochambeau’s forces that sailed to the United States. Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 December 1791, he became director of fortifications in December 1793 and general de brigade in April 1795. He retired a few weeks later and died in his hometown of Châteauroux about 100 miles south of Orléans in central France on 31 March 1799.16
Rice and Brown note that “Letters of Crublier d’Opterre written from Newport, Rhode Island (13 August, 8 September 1780) are preserved with other Engineers’ letters in the Archives du Génie, 15-1-7, No. 34.”17
Joseph François Garavaque was born on 6 July 1728 and joined the navy as a student, i.e., elève ingénieur, in 1746. From there he went on to the school in Mézières as a lieutenant in 1763 and graduated on 1 January 1764. A captain in 1772, he sailed with Rochambeau’s army to the United States. Following his return he became a lieutenant colonel on 1 August 1791, chef de brigade on 16 December 1793, and retired in February 1800. He died in his hometown of Marseilles on 20 May 1801.18 No papers are known to exist.
Charles Joseph Antoine Soualhat de Fontalard, baron de Turpin, was born on 19 February 1743. Following a varied military career, he entered the engineering school at Mézières as a lieutenant on 1 January 1766 and graduated two years later. Promoted to captain on 1 January 1777, he became a lieutenant colonel on 15 July 1791 but retired in May 1792 to join the Army of the Princes fighting against the revolutionaries. From there he passed into the service of Prussia and then Austria and died in Niżatyce about 40 miles from today’s Polish-Ukrainian border due west from Lviv in 1810.19 No papers are known to exist.
Louis Anne Pattern, chevalier de Bouan, was born on 25 February 1753 and entered the engineering school at Mézières as a student (elève) lieutenant en second on 1 January 1774 and graduated two years later. He joined Rochambeau’s army in May 1781 only. Following the siege of Yorktown, he returned to France for reasons of health on 27 January 1782. Promoted to captain on 28 March 1788, he retired on 1 April 1791 and died in 1826. In an endnote to the entry on Bouan his Dictionnaire, Bodinier mentions a “doss. ind. 1791-1847” held by the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes.20
Joseph Marie Florian Plancher de Courreneuve was born on 18 March 1755 and entered the engineering school at Mézières as a lieutenant on 31 January 1774. He was wounded at Yorktown. Promoted to captain on 19 October 1788, he retired on 1 April 1791. The date of his death is unknown.21 No papers are known to exist.
There were other officers with a background in engineering in Rochambeau’s army, most importantly perhaps François Louis Thibault de Menonville. Born on 2 July 1740, he entered the engineering school in Mézières on 1 January 1759, he graduated a year later and became a captain in December 1769. Aide-major général of Rochambeau’ army, he was promoted to brigadier on 1 January 1784 and maréchal de camp four years later. He served as a member of the Second Estate (the nobility) during the meeting of the Estates Generales in 1789. He died on 5 December 1816.22

This brief overview of the education and careers of Rochambeau’s engineers shows the vast experience these men brought to Butts Hill. Desandrouins and de la Combe had graduated from the engineering school in Mézières in February 1752 and in 1780 had almost 30 years of experience. Palys had graduated in 1755 and 25 years of experience in 1780, Oyré graduated in 1759, and had 21 years of experience. In the second group d’Opterre had joined the artillery as a sous-lieutenant in 1757. From there he entered the school in Mézières on 1 January 1763 and graduated in January 1765. Garavaque joined the navy as a student, i.e., elève ingénieur, in 1746. From there he went on to the school in Mézières as a lieutenant in 1763 and graduated on 1 January 1764. Only two engineers had less than 15 years of experience: Turpin graduated in 1768, Courreneuve in 1776. During the improvements at Butts Hill Fort in 1780-1781, American forces provided the labor, but French engineers provided the expertise that the Americans lacked. 

On 6 February 1778, His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI, by the Grace of God, King of France and Navarre, entered into an alliance with a self-proclaimed government that was in a state of rebellion against his fellow monarch George III, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland. The government of France’s new ally claimed to “derive its just powers from the consent of the governed” and proclaimed the seditious idea that “all men are created equal,” were nobody’s subjects but citizens of the United States of America and were endowed with “unalienable rights” such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”23
In late January 1776, French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, agreed to Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s argument for supporting the American rebels as “not so much to terminate the war between America and England, as to sustain and keep it alive to the detriment of the English, our natural and pronounced enemies.”24 Though Louis XVI “disliked the precedent of one monarchy giving support to a republican insurrection against a legitimate monarchy,” he agreed with Vergennes and decided on 22 April  to provide funding to the Americans.25 Concurrently he authorized Beaumarchais to act as France’s secret agent tasked with funneling military supplies to the Americans via the fictional trading company of Roderigue Hortalez & Co.26 In June 1776, France granted Beaumarchais a loan of 1 million livres; Spain added another million in August.27 Between January and September 1777, his company dispatched nine vessels carrying 194 cannons, more than 20,000 muskets and other military supplies to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Continental Army put these funds and supplies to good use.28  The capture of General John Burgoyne and his army on 17 October 1777 at Saratoga, New York , was a major turning point in the American War of Independence. By then Vergennes knew that Great Britain would not tolerate French interference much longer. On 24 August, Louis XVI ordered French fishing vessels off Newfoundland to return home; their crews were needed to man French navy vessels once war broke out. British newspapers correctly interpreted the order as a sign that France was preparing for the commencement of hostilities in the spring of 1778.29
On 6 February 1778, France signed Treaties of Amity and Friendship and of Military Alliance with the United States. Both Britain and France understood the treaties to be a declaration of war. In early June, British ships chased the frigate Belle Poule off the coast of Normandy; on 10 July, Louis XVI ordered his navy to give chase to Royal Navy vessels. Franco-American cooperation in 1778 and 1779 did not provide the hoped-for success. The siege of Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1778 ended in failure, and Savannah in Georgia fell in December 1778. Following failed attempts by French forces to retake Savannah in October 1779, British forces embarked on the invasion of South Carolina. Charleston fell on 12 May 1780. As the winter of 1780/81 turned into spring, the Continental Army barely maintained its strength while General Charles Earl Cornwallis marched his army almost at will across the southern states. On New Year’s Day 1781, the starving and unpaid soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line mutinied in Morristown, New Jersey.  A settlement was reached on the 9th and the troops were furloughed until March. On the 20th about 200 men of the New Jersey Line quartered just up the road in Pompton followed the Pennsylvanians’ example but this time the rebellion was put down by force. Two mutineers were executed on the 27th. From his headquarters in New Windsor, General George Washington wrote almost despairingly to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, who was about to depart for France to plead with the French king for additional assistance, on 9 April 1781: “We are at the end of our tether, and … now or never our deliverance must come.”30 If the grueling struggle for independence was to end in victory, the campaign of 1781 had to produce results, and would end, as far as Washington was concerned, in the conquest of New York City.

America’s French ally became increasingly nervous about developments on the American theatre of war. As the American political elite was forced to acknowledge that the time had come for French forces to actively engage in the war on the American mainland, France in turn acknowledged that need as well. The decisive shift in favor of sending troops across the Atlantic came in late January 1780. On 2 February 1780, the French king approved the plan, code-named expédition particulière. The spring of 1780 would see the transportation across the ocean to the New World of a force large enough to decide the outcome of the rebellion in America. Naval forces in the Caribbean would be strengthened and put in a position to support the expeditionary force. In Europe, military action would be confined to diversionary actions such as the siege of Gibraltar aimed at binding British land and naval forces to Europe. A few days later the king appointed Charles Louis d’Arsac chevalier de Ternay, a chef d’escadre with 40 years of experience, to command the naval forces.  For the land forces the choice fell on 55-year-old Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, a professional soldier with 37 years of experience.  On 1 March, Louis XVI promoted Rochambeau to lieutenant general and put him in command of the expedition. 

On 2 May 1780, a convoy of 32 transports and cargo ships protected by seven ships of the line, four frigates, four flutes, a cutter and a schooner left Brest for the United States. Besides their crews of about 7,000 sailors, his ships carried the Bourbonnois, Soissonnois, Saintonge, and Royal Deux-Ponts regiments of Infantry of about 1,000 men each, a re-enforced battalion of the Auxonne Regiment of Artillery with a strength of about 450, the 600-man strong Lauzun’s Legion, and a pioneer detachment, altogether about 450 officers and 5,300 men.31 Around 10:30 a.m. on the morning of 11 July, the French fleet sailed into Newport Harbor. On 22 September, Rochambeau met Washington in Hartford, Connecticut, where they decided to wait until the spring of 1781 before finalizing campaign plans. On 1 November, Rochambeau’s forces entered winter quarters.32 In late May 1781, the two generals met in Wethersfield, Connecticut, to discuss their plans. On 22 May, Washington summarized the decision in his diary: “That the French Land force (except 200 Men) should March as soon as the Squadron could Sail [from Newport] for Boston — to the North [i.e. Hudson] River — and there, in conjunction with the American, to commence an operation against New York (which in the present reduced State of the Garrison it was thought would fall, unless relieved […] or to extend our views to the Southward as circumstances and a Naval superiority might render more necessary and eligible.”33
The “Naval superiority” was to be provided by Admiral François Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse, who had departed from France for the West Indies with his fleet on 22 March 1781. On 29 March 1781, he informed Rochambeau of his departure and indicated his arrival off New York City, around 15 July. On 28 May, Rochambeau informed de Grasse from Newport that Washington had “asked for the march of the French forces to the North River to threaten, and maybe attack New York in cooperation with his army in order to create a diversion for the southern states.” Rochambeau doubted the feasibility of laying siege to New York and continued: “there are two points at which an offensive can be made against the enemy: Chesapeak and New York. The south-westerly winds and the state of defense in Virginia will probably make you prefer the Chesapeak Bay, and it will be there where we think you may be able to render the greatest service, whereas you will need only two days to come from there to New York. In any case it is essential that you send, well in advance, a frigate to inform de Barras where you are to come and also General Washington.”34
Rochambeau read de Grasse’s letter in Providence on 11 June. Assuming that the French fleet would appear off the American coast sometime in late July, French forces left winter quarters in Newport. On 9 June, the Bourbonnois and Deux-Ponts regiments received orders to prepare to embark; the next morning, 10 June, at 5:00 a.m. the boats started for Providence, which they reached at 9:00 p.m. On 11 June. the two regiments moved to a camp west of the river where the Soissonnois and Saintonge regiments joined them. On 18 June, the Bourbonnois Regiment of Infantry, Rochambeau’s oldest regiment, set out from Providence for Greenburgh in Westchester County, New York. His remaining three regiments followed one day apart while Lauzun’s Legion followed a route closer to the coast. A few days later, on 21 June, the Continental Army ended its winter quarters at Newburgh as well and marched along the Hudson to the joint Franco-American encampment in Greenburgh in today’s Westchester County, New York.35 From there the allied forces continued their route to Yorktown and to victory in October 1781.35
Prior to the arrival of Rochambeau’s forces in Rhode Island in mid-July 1780, Butts Hill Fort “was the only fort active on the north end of the island.”36 As Rochambeau set up defenses against the anticipated and feared British attack, he sought to strengthen Butts Hill Fort to block any access from the north. Earthworks had been set up earlier in the war and repairs and additions were made by Massachusetts State troops, but French engineers almost immediately provided the expertise that the Americans lacked.37 The first entry in the French Orderly Book is dated 14 July 1780, but it was not until 15 July that all French forces had disembarked. Baron Ludwig von Closen, one of Rochambeau’s aides-de-camp, wrote that “we learned, in the evening of the 19th, of 21 sails” of the enemy approaching Newport Harbor.38 The next morning Rochambeau accelerated the construction of defensive works, not only around Newport but at Butts Hill Fort as well. An undated entry at the end of the first section of Major Marius de Palys’s Journal de Campagne, which runs to late July 1780, mentions the redoubts at Howlands Ferry and Butts Hill Fort.
“Huit jours s’étaient écoules depuis le commencement des travaux qu’on n’avait pas encore pense à fortifier le point de l’Isle au quel il fallait premièrement penser. C’est le point de Hollands ferry, Monsieur de La Fayette décida de l’occuper mieux qu’il ne l’était. II y avait deux mauvaises redoutes on les relia et on en forma un fort respectable qui n’a pas été fini, le fort et un autre en étoile qui protégeait le ferry conjointement avec une batterie sur le continent assuraient la communication avec le continent, chose essentielle pour les secours ou la retraite en cas de malheur.” “Eight days had elapsed since the commencement of the work, and no thought had yet been given to fortifying the point of the island which should have first thought of. This is the point of Howlands Ferry, and Monsieur de La Fayette decided to occupy it better than it was at the time. There were two bad redoubts, which were connected and formed into a respectable fort, which had not been finished, the fort and another in the shape of a star, which protected the ferry together with a battery on the mainland assured communication with the mainland, which was essential for relief or retreat in case of misfortune.” Palys wrote that “Monsieur de La Fayette decided to occupy it better than it was at the time” and that “Eight days had elapsed since the commencement of the work.” That would place the date of the beginning of the work to around 28 or 29 July 1780. La Fayette spent ten days in Newport from the evening of 24 July to late afternoon 3 August 1780. In a letter to General George Washington, dated “Newport july the 26th at seven o’clock P.M.,” he informed Washington that he “could not help advising him [i.e., Rochambeau] very Strongly and very often to erect works and keep a communication oppenn’d with the Continent By Howland’s Ferry or Bristol Point. That matter will I hope be attended to in the Course of the next day.”39
On 29 July, La Fayette informed Washington that he “went yesterday to the North of the island, and had the works Repaird in Such a way (at least they will be Soon so) as to keep up a Communication By Howland’s Ferry for 8 or ten days after the ennemy will possess the island.”40 On 31 July, he told Washington that Rochambeau wanted the American militia to work on, and protect, communication with the mainland at Howland’s Ferry.41 Two days later, La Fayette informed Washington that “Rochambeau was going to Butt’s Hill, and you can easily guess that I did not like the plan. Our works are so disordered, and his dependance upon them so great.” Lafayette had hoped he would have “Some time to put it in a Better train” and had pleaded with Rochambeau to delay his visit. He was successful in that Rochambeau would now inspect Butt’s Hill Fort on 3 August.  La Fayette hoped that “the thousand men with thousand tools will be tomorrow morning at work, and think they ought to Begin very early. […] What time the Count will Come I don’t know But shall take Care of giving you notice to morrow morning very early.” In the meantime, he thought, “we ought to learn our men how to present properly theyr arms to Count de Rochambeau.”42
Contrary to the itinerary he laid out to General William Heath on 2 August, La Fayette did not accompany Rochambeau on his inspection of Butts Hill Fort, if it did indeed occur. In the morning of 3 August 1780, La Fayette received a letter from Washington asking him to return to headquarters and La Fayette set out for New York later that day.43 Nevertheless, General Orders for Colonel Ebenezer Thayer’s regiment issued at Howland’s Ferry, 2 August 1780, ordered three hundred men to Butts Hill the next day to be employed there.44
On 30 July 1780, Rochambeau informed Washington that he wanted to keep the Three-Months men “jusques a ce que un fort que notre Major d’Ingenieurs a tracé sous Les yeux de Mr De La Fayette et qui assure notre communication avec Le Continent vis a vis de Howlands Ferry soit achevé – until a fort which our Major of Engineers has traced under the eyes of Mr. De Lafayette, and which secures our communication with the Continent opposite Howlands Ferry, is completed.”45 Paly’s entry in his Journal and Rochambeau’s letter of 30 July 1780 show that French engineers were involved in, and directing, the rebuilding of Butts Hill Fort and the defenses at Howlands Ferry as early as late July, long before the first French soldiers started work there in December 1780.
On 5 August, Rochambeau informed Washington that “a considerable number of the rhode-island and Massachusets states militia is arrived here. I have agreed with Major General Heath to keep 3500 of them for the intrenched camp and for the fort at howlands ferry, to assure and perfect the communication with the Continent.” On 8 August he told Washington that “I have kept all the Levies of Colonel Green’s regiment that were listed for three months, and those of the States of Massachusett’s bay to finish and compleat the fort that is at Howland’s ferry.”46

Construction was active from August to October, when the time of service for the Massachusetts State troops expired; payrolls for the Massachusetts ad-hoc regiments all show service up to the 31 October 1780. Throughout September and October, Rochambeau occasionally sent French forces to assist their American allies working at Howland’s Ferry.

The Orderly Book reads for 12 September 1780: 

L’artillerie enverra demain matin Deux mineurs d’augmentation aux travaux, de holland’s Ferye, et après demain un chariot chargé de 100 pelles 100 pioches, un Baril de poudre et La Subsistance des Mineurs pour le plus de tems possibles on en previendra demain M L’Intendant.

The artillery will send tomorrow morning two additional sappers to the construction site at Howland’s Ferry and the day after tomorrow a wagon with 100 shovels and pickaxes, a barrel of powder and subsistence for the sappers for the longest time possible.

The notation “two additional sappers” suggests that there were already sappers working at Howland’s Ferry but the Orderly Book provides no information when those men had been sent there or how long they were to remain there.

On 20 October 1780 the Orderly Book contains this entry:

On enverra demain a hollands fery ses mineurs qu’on pourvoira de vivres pour 4 jours ou 5 jours ainsi que ceux qui Sont deja aux travaux mais on leur donnera une tente, une marmitte, deux couvertes et 4 Bottes de pailles et chargera des effets Sur une voiture que le parc fournira.

Ces mineurs n’ont pas Besoin d’outils.

Tomorrow sappers will be sent to Howland’s Ferry who will be provided with foodstuffs for four or five days just as those who are already at the construction site, but they will be given a tent, a cooking pot, two blankets and four sacks of straw and will load these supplies onto a vehicle which the parc will provide.

Those sappers do not need tools.47

Neither the works at Howland’s Ferry nor at Butts Hill Fort were  completed by November 1780 and on 4 December 1780, Rochambeau wrote to William Greene (1731-1809), Governor of Rhode Island from May 1778 to May 1786, that he would send 24 men to guard Butt’s Hill, sparing Gov. Greene the necessity of Rhode Island Militia manning that post.48 Five days later Rochambeau sent a considerably enlarged detachment to Butt Hill Fort. In the order for 9 December 1780 the total strength of the detachment, i.e., four regiments at two squads each equals = eight squads x 12 men amounted to 96 men plus four sergeants and two officers. Work seems to have progressed smoothly. On 29 December 1780, the garrison at Butts Hill Fort was reduced to two squads or 24 men plus one sergeant, possibly because the most urgent repair works had been carried out.
Four months later the order of 1 April 1781 reduced the detachment sent to Butt Hill Fort by another 50% to one sergeant and one squad of 24 men. Again, the reason for this reduction is unknown. It may be an indication that American troops, whose pending arrival had been announced in the order of 5 March 1781, had arrived. It is unknown who those troops were and/or when they arrived at Butts Hill Fort. Following the departure of French forces to Westchester County “an ad-hoc Regiment of 500 Massachusetts Militia under Col. William Turner garrisoned the fort from mid-summer 1781 until November 1781.”49

Colonel Jean Nicholas Desandroüins left a description of the fort of December 1780, just as Rochambeau’s engineers began their work. Desandroüins wrote:

“Il fallait aussi pourvoir aux moyens d’être secouru en s’assurant de la communication avec le continent. On a construit dans cette vue a l’extrémité […]50 un fort appelé Bootshill sur la hauteur qui domine l’intervalle entre les deux passages ou Ferry de Bristol et de Howlands. Les secours peuvent s’assembler sous sa protection. Ce bon ouvrage est d’un relief élevé, bien flanqué, précédé d’un fossé aussi large et profond, creusé en partie dans le roc. Il est suffisamment garni d’artillerie et peut contenir 500 hommes. Pour sa construction on a profité de deux anciennes redoutes fort imparfaites dont on a rasé les faces qui se battaient mutuellement et qu’on a jointes l’une à l’autre par deux branches avec des brisures et des redans, pour n’en faire qu’une seule pièce d’une bonne défense et d’une capacité convenable.”

“It was also necessary to provide the means of being rescued by ensuring communication with the mainland. With this in mind at the far end (northern-most point) […] a fort called Bootshill was built on the height which dominates (overlooking) the space between the two passes or ferry crossings of Bristol and of Howlands. Assistance can assemble under its protection. This good work is of a high elevation, well flanked, preceded by a ditch as wide and deep, dug partly in the rock. It was sufficiently stocked with artillery and could hold 500 men. For its construction, we took advantage of two older, very imperfect, redoubts, whose mutually supporting fronts were shaved off, and which were joined together by two branches with breaks and redans, to make a single piece of good defence and capacity.”51

Detail of Plan de Rhodes-Island, et position de l'armée françoise a Newport. It shows Butts Hill Fort in mid-July 1780 about a week after the arrival of French forces.

A note on manuscript label originally mounted on verso reads:  
A joindrê à lettre de M. de Rochambeau au Prince de Montbarey datée 19 juillet 1780.

Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. 
https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3774n.ar101700/

The explicatory note accompanying the number 13 in the fort reads:

“Fort of Buths-hill containing 200 men and more with 20 large-caliber cannon assuring communication with the continent and protecting the ferries of Bristol and Holland’s.” 

As customary in the eighteenth century, the writer of the livre d’ordres used numerous abbreviations such as regt for regiment, Cne for Capitaine, Lt for Lieutenant cte for comte, cmdt for commandant, Royal 2 ponts for Royal Deux Ponts, St. Onge for Saintonge &c. The French text was transcribed as truthfully as possible, but since this report is not intended as a critical edition of the text, annotations were kept to a minimum in the transcription and appended in the English translation only. 

Original ms of the first order dated 9 December 1780 mentioning Butts Hill Fort.

Ordre du 9xbre 1780

Chaque r[e]g[imen]t fournira deux Escouades et un Sergt, la b[riga]de de Soissonnois, un Lieu[tenan]t et celle de Bourbonnois un C[apitai]ne en second qui commandera le tout, ils S’assembleront à 7 heures du matin près du Corps de Garde à la place d’armes. Ce déttachement marchera avec armes et Bagages au fort Bootshill près de Holand Ferry pour y travailler à ce qu’il lui sera indiqué par l’ingénieur qui s’y trouvera, il emportera marmites, gamelles, Bidons et des Subsistances pour Cinq jours que chaque Re[gimen]t aura soin de se procurer aujourd’hui. Le C[apitai]ne qui commandera le détachement destiné à travailler au fort de Bootshill à un mille d’Holand ferry maintiendra ses soldats en Bonne police et discipline, il ne commandera chaque jour qu’un caporal et 4 hommes de Garde et ne Suffira point qu’il sert employé plus d’un Cuisinier par r[e]g[imen]t ; afin de ne distraire du travail que le moins d’hommes possibles.

L’ingénieur chargé de diriger le travail indiquera les heures ou l’on devra Commencer à se reposer, reprendre et quitter L’ouvrage il est de L’interest du détachement de mettre toute la célérité possible dans ce travail parce qu’il ne sera point relevé que le fort ne soit dans l’état que le géneral a present.

Le Cape commandant ce détachement surveillera les distributions de Bois qu’il fera faire à ses Soldats à raison d’une corde et 3 dixiemes de corde par Cent hommes pour dix jours et d’un douzieme de corde par jour pour son Corps de Garde, il est prévenu que le Surplus de cette consommation retombera à sa charge, il en brulera pour lui et pour l’officier à ses ordres et qu’il sera exactement necessaire, et la retenue lui en sera faite comme à l’armée.

Ordre du 18xbre

Chaque rgt fera prendre des Subsistances cet après midi pour 5 jours pour les hommes détaches au fort de Bootts hill, ils les enverront Chercher demain matin sur 2 vagons que l’on trouvera prête à la Corderie et qui doivent partir à 7 heures du matin.

Un sergent de la brigade de Soissonnois accompagnera ces vagons à Boottshil et y fera la distribution.

M le Comte de Rochambeau à ordonné qu’il Serait donné à ce détachement un 1/4 de ration de pain par jour de supplement pendant qu’il travaillera pour le quel il lui sera fait la retenue dans la meme proportion que pour la ration.

… 

Ordre du 23xbre 1780 
… 
Chaque Regt fera prendre des Subsistances cét après midy pour 5 jours pour les hommes détachés aux travaux du fort de Bootshill et les enveront Charger demain matin sur ces 2 vagons qui se trouveront prêt à la Corderie et qui doivent être à 7 h[eures] du matin, un Sergt de La Bde de Bourbonnois accompagnera les vagons à Boottshill et y fera la distribution de ces Subsistances. 
… 

Du 27 du dit mois 1780

 

Le détachement des regts de Soissonnois, St. Onge et Royal 2 ponts au fort de Bootshill  rentreront demain. 

LE regt de Bourbonnois enverra des Subsistances à son détachement qui reste à Bootshill. 

 

Du 28 xbre 1780 du dit jour

Le Cape qui Commande le détachement de travailleurs au fort de Bootshill, reviendra demain à Newport avec son détachement, à l’exeption d’un sergt et des deux Escouades du Regt de Bourbonnois qu’il Laissera Comme garde dans le fort auquel il fera laisser les fournitures dont elle aura exactement besoin, le surplus sera mis a part et Consigné au Sergt qui le fera charger sur le Vagon qui portera des vivres à cette Garde.

Le capitaine donnera au Sergt restant de Garde les Consignes qu’il jugera nécessaires pour la Sureté du poste la police de la Garde et la Conservation des ouvrages du Fort. 

Le détachement prendra au Surplus les ordres de Monsieur de Palise, Major du Corps Royal du Genie et de monsieur Blanchard pour le travail qu’il sera possible de faire.

… 

Ordre du 31 xbre 1780

 

Le regt de Soissonnois fournira demain un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront à 7 h du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de Bourbonnois au fort de Bootshill près de Holland ferry on donnera le pret et des subsistances pour 5 jours au détachement et il emportera tout ses ustensiles et fournitures.

 

Ordre du 4 janvier 1781

 

Le rgt de St. Onge fournira demain un Sergt et 2 escouades qui partiront demain à 7 heures du matin pour relever un pareil détachement de Soissonnois au fort de Bootshill près de Holland ferry. On leur donnera Les Subsistances pour 5 Jours, le détachement emportera ses ustensiles et fournitures. 

 

Ordre du 9 janvier 1781 
… 
Le Regt de Royal Deux ponts fournira demain un Sergt et 2 escouades qui partiront demain à 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement de St. onge au fort de Bootshill. On donnera le prèt des subsistances pour cinq jours à ce détachement et il emportera tous ses ustensiles (rayé : des effets de Campement) et fournitures tous les Soldats travailleurs employés à la réparation des effets de Campement seront exempts d’appels et auront la permission de travailler jusques à 8 h du Soir. 
… 

Ordre du 14 Jer  1781 Le regiment de Bourbonnois fournira demain un Sergt et deux Escouades qui partiront à 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de royal deux ponts au fort de Bootshill. On donnera le prèt et des Subsistances pour 5 jours au détachement et il emportera ses ustensiles et fournitures.

Ordre du 16 Jer 1781

Conformément à La décision de Mr Le Cte de Rochambeau du 18 obre qui accordait un Quart de supplément au Ration de pain par jour aux travailleurs du fort de Bootshill Le détachement d’un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui gardent et y travaillent jouiront de Cet Avantage jusqu’à nouvel ordre.

Quart de ration et Sera faitte la retenue dans la même proportion que pour. [sic]

Ordre du 19 Jer 1781

 

Le Regt de Soissonnois fournira demain un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront à 7 heures du Matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement de Bourbonnois Au fort de Bootshill. on donnera le prèt et des subsistances pour 5 jours à ce détachement et il emportera ses ustensiles et fournitures. Il continuera de fournir le plus grand nombre de travailleurs qu’il sera Possible. 

 

Ordre d 24 Jer. 1781

Le Regt de St. Onge fournira demain un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront à 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de Soissonnois au fort de Bootshill ils prendront le pret et des Subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs ustensiles et fournitures. Il sera fourni pour ce détachement le plus D’hommes Qu’ils sera possible aux travaux du fort.

Ordre d 29 Jer. 1781

Le regt de Royal 2 ponts fournira demain un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront a 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de St onge au fort du Bootshill ils prendront le pret et des subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs ustensiles et fournitures. Il sera fourni par Ce détachement le plus d’hommes qu’ils Sera possible aux travaux du fort. 

Ordre du 2 Fer. 1781

Le regt de Bourbonnois fournira demain un sergent et 2 escouades qui partiront à 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement de Deux ponts au fort de Bootshill. Ils prendront le prêt et des subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs outils et fournitures, il sera fourni par ce détachement le plus d’hommes qu’il sera possible aux travaux du fort.  

Ordre du 7 Fer. 1781

Le regt de Soissonnois fournira un sergent et 2 escouades qui partiront demain à 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de Bourbonnois au fort de Boots hill. Ils prendront (rayé : Le Regt de Bourbonnois) le pret et des subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs ustensiles et fournitures. Il sera fourni par ce détachement le plus d’hommes qu’il sera possible aux travaux du fort. 

Ordre du 13 Fer. 1781

Le regt de St Onge fournira demain un Sergt et 2 escouades qui partiront a 7 heures du matin pour aller relever un pareil détachement du regt de Soissonnois au fort de Bootshill, ils prendront le pret et des subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs ustensilles et fournitures. Il sera fourni par ce détachement le plus d’hommes qu’il sera possible aux travaux du fort.

Ordre du 18 Fer. 1781

Le Regt de Royal Deux ponts furnira demain un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront a 7 heurs du matin pour aller relever un pareil déttachement du regt de St Onge au fort de Bootshill ils prendront des Subsitances pour 5 jours ; Ils emporteronts leurs ustensiles et fournitures. 

Ordre du 23 Fevrier 1781

Le Regt de Bourb four dem un Sergent et 2 escouades qui partiront à 7 h du Mat pour aller relever un pareil détachement au fort de Bots hill ils prendront des Subsistances pour 5 jours ils emporteront leurs ustensiles et fournitures. 

On 23 February 1781 a new scribe took over the duty of recording the daily orders in Rochambeau’s Orderly Book. His handwriting is atrocious and only gets worse. 

Ordre du 28 Fevrier 1781

Le Brgd de Soissonois fournira un Sergt et 2 Escouades qui partiront demain à 7. H. du Mat. pour aller relever un pareil détachement au fort de Bots hill ils prendront le prèt et des  subsistances pour 5 jours et emporteront leurs ustensiles et fournitures. 

Ordre du 5 Mars 1781

Le Régd de St. onge four un Sergt et 2 escouades qui partiront a 7 h du M pour aller relever un pareil détachement à Boots hill, ils prendront le pret et des subsistances pr 5 jours. Ils emporteront leurs ustenbsiles et fournitures. Ce Détachement se laissera relever par la première trouppe américaine qui viendra s’établir Dans ce fort et le Sergent qui les Command les rammenera aussitôt a Newport. 

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort until 18 March.

Ordre du 18 Mars

Le Regd de Soisonnois enverra dem mat Les nommés Armand Cap[ora]l et Foucaut Soldats de la Compie de La Boyere fleur D’amour de celle d’Anselme et Bourd et de celle de Scinety au fort de Bots hill ou ils prendront Les ordres de Mr de Turpin, Capt du genie. On leur donnera des vivres pr 4 jours. 

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort until 1 April.

Ordre du premier avril 1781 

Royal deux Ponts fournira dem un Sergt et une Escouade qui partiront à 6. H. du Mat: pour aller au fort de Boots hill, Le Sergt Com. cette Garde prendra La Cosigne qui luy Sera Donnée par Mr de Turpin, Capit Ingénieur, Sera à Ses ordres. Cette garde emportera Ses ustensiles, Ses fournitures et des Subsistances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 11 avril 1781 

Le Regd de Soissonois fourn dem 1 Sergt 1 Capl et 6 homs qui partiront à 6 heures du Mat : pour aller au fort de Bots hill où ils resteront 5 jours comme par le passé, on leur fournira le prèt et des vivres pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 16 avril 1781 

Le Régd de St onge fourn 1 Sergt 1 Capl : et 8 homs au fort de Bots hill ils emporteront le pret et des subsistances pr 5 jours. 

Ordre du 21 avril 1781 

Le Regd de Royal deux ponts fourn : dem : 1. Sergt 1. Capl et 10 hos au fort de Bots hill. ils emporteront le prèt et des Subsistances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 25 avril 1781 

Le Regd de Bourbonois four: dem: 1 Sergt 1 Capl et 10 hommes au fort de Bots hill, ils emporteront le pret et des Subsistances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 29 avril 1781 

Le Regd : de Sois : four : dem. 1 Sergt, 1 Capl et 10 hos au fort de Bots hill ils emporteront Le pret et des Subsistances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 3 may 1781 

Le Regd de St onge four : dem : 1 Sergt : 1 Capl et 10 hos pour le fort de Boots hill ils emporteront Le pret et des Subsistances pour 5 jours.

Ordre du 8 may 1781 

Le Regd de Deux ponts four : dem : 1 Sergt 3 Capx et 20 hos au fort de Bots hill ils emporteront le prêt et les Subsistances pr 5 jours.

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort in the orders for 13 May.

Ordre du 18 may 1781 

La Regd De Sois four dem 1 Sergt 3 Capx et 10 hos pr Le fort de Bots hill. Ils emporteront Le prèt et Des subsitances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 23 may 1781

Le Regd de St onge fournira dem 1 Sergt : 3 Capx et 10 hos pr le Fort de Bootshill. Ils emporteront le pret et de subsistances pr 5 jours.

Ordre du 28 may 1781 

 

Le Regd de Deux pont four dem 1 Sergt 3 Capx et 10 hos au fort de Buts hill, ils emporteront le pret et des Subsistances pr 5 jours. 

 

Ordre du 2 Juin 1781

La Bd de Bourb. four dem : 1 Sergt 3 Capx et 10 hos pour le fort de Bootshill. Ils emporteront le prét et Des Subsistances pour 5 jours.

Ordre du 7 juin 1781

Le rgt de Sois: four: dem: 3 Capx et 10 hos pour le fort de But hill. Ils emporteront Le pret et des subsistances pr: 5 jour.

Last entry in the Orderly Book concerning “But Hill”. It is written in the margin of the entry for 7 June 1781. 

On 9 June the Bourbonnois and Royal Deux-Ponts regiments received orders to prepare to embark; the next morning at 5:00 a.m. the boats sailed for Providence. The Orderly Book contains no further order concerning the detachment at Butts Hill Fort, i.e., when or how, the men were to rejoin their companies. 

In the translation all references to “fort of Bootshill”, “But hill fort” &c in the French original were changed to “Butts Hill Fort”; similarly, the various references to “Holland ferry” and similar spellings in the original were changed to “Howland’s Ferry.” Regimental names such as “St. Onge” and “Royal 2 ponts” are given as “Saintonge” and “Royal Deux-Ponts.” Dates such as “9xbre“ are given as “9 December,” “2 Jvier“ as “2 January” &c.
The term prêt has been left untranslated. A 1758 military dictionary defines prêt as “le payement de solde que le Roi fait faire par avance de cinq jours en cinq jours à ses troupes – the distribution of pay which the king makes in advance every five days to his troops.”52

The sergeants of infantry regiments paid out the prêt to their companies after having confirmed that the soldier had not lost or damaged any piece of his equipment, otherwise he was allowed to withhold 1.5 sols of the soldier’s pay. This deduction was made in addition to prior deductions such as the masse de linge et chaussure, i.e., the regimental fund to pay for a soldier’s uniform and for his shoes. Ordinaires were organized by rank, i.e., the staff NCOs formed one ordinaire, the sergeants of a company formed one or more ordinaires, as did the musicians. Corporals were grouped into an ordinaire with enlisted men in their 12-man chambrée. Chambrée, ordinaire, and éscouade denote the smallest organizational, administrative, and tactical unit in the army of the ancien régime.

The Ordonnance du Roi du 25 mars 1776, portant règlement sur l’administration de tous les corps : Tant d’Infanterie Que Cavalerie, Dragons Et Hussards &c53  tasked the capitaines commandants the establishment of “ordinaires réglés“, of soldiers’ messes, and to ensure that all “argent du prêt”, all funds for the prêt, “soit bien et économiquement employé pour la nourriture – will be well and economically spent on food.”54

Jonquière also provides a breakdown of the income and expenses for an ordinaire of 12 soldiers, adding that any remaining funds « sert pour l’achat des balais, et des chandelles et le loyer des marmites, des gamelles et des cruches ainsi que des poêles pendant l’hiver; enfin, elle supporte la subsistance des trente-un, pour lesquels la troupe ne perçoit pas de solde – is used for the purchase of brooms, and candles and the leasing of cooking pots, mess tins and pitchers just like for the stoves during the winter, it provides subsistence for the thirty-first, for which the troops do not receive pay.”55

French troops were paid for 30 days service per month, independent of how many days a month has. A regular year has seven months with 31 days; since the troops were paid for 29 and 30 February, they usually served for five days without pay, six days in a leap year.

The ordonnance du roi, Pour régler le traitement des Troupes destinées à une expedition particulière of 20 March 1780 setting the financial framework for the troops to be sent to the New World increased the pay of the troops by almost 50% from 5 sous 8 deniers to 9 sous 6 deniers.56

Sometimes soldiers were paid extra for work, viz. on 26 July 1780, Rochambeau ordered that every enlisted man on work detail erecting defenses around Newport was to be paid an extra 20 sols, one whole livre, per day without any deductions. That was more than twice their regular daily pay and the troops eagerly sought the additional income. It is unknown if the soldiers working at Butts Hill Fort partook in the extra income.  

Order of 9 December 1780

Each regiment will furnish two squads [at 12 men each] and a sergeant, the brigade of Soissonnois a lieutenant, and that of Bourbonnois a Capitaine en second who will command the whole, they will assemble at 7 o’clock in the morning near the guardhouse on the Parade Ground. This detachment will march with arms and baggage to Butts Hill Fort near Howland’s Ferry to work there,57 as directed to them by the engineer who will be there, they will take with them cooking pots, mess tins, flasks, and provisions for five days, which each regiment will take care to procure to-day. The captain who will command the detachment ordered to work at Butts Hill Fort, a mile from Howland’s Ferry, will keep his soldiers in good order and discipline, he will order each day only one corporal and four men as guards, and will not allow more than one cook be employed per regiment in order to keep as few men as possible from the work.

The engineer in charge of supervising the work will indicate the times when one should begin to rest, resume, and end work; it is in the interest of the detachment to put all possible speed into this work, because it will not be relieved before the fort is no longer in the general condition it is at present.

The Capitaine Commandant of this detachment will supervise the distribution of wood that he will make to his soldiers at the rate of one cord and 3 tenths of a cord per 100 men for 10 days and one twelfth of a cord per day for his guardhouse,58 he is warned that any additional consumption will be at his expense. He will burn of it [the wood] for himself and for the officer, at his command, and exactly what will be necessary, and the deduction will be made to him as in the army.59

Order of 18 December Each regiment will send provisions this afternoon for five days for the men detached to Butts Hill Fort, they will send for them tomorrow morning on two wagons which will be found ready at the rope factory, and which are to leave at 7 o’clock in the morning. A sergeant from the Soissonnois brigade will accompany these wagons to Butts Hill Fort and distribute them [i.e., the provisions] there.60 M. le Comte de Rochambeau has ordered that this detachment be given 1/4 of a ration of bread per day extra while it is working, for which it will be charged in the same proportion as for the ration.61

Order of 23 December 1780

Each regiment will take provisions this afternoon for four days for the men detached to the works at Butts Hill Fort and will send them to load tomorrow morning onto these two wagons, which will be ready at the rope factory, and which must be at 7 o’clock in the morning, a sergeant of the brigade of Bourbonnois will accompany these wagons to Butts Hill Fort and distribute these provisions there. 

of the 27th of the said month 1780

The detachments of the Soissonnois, Saintonge and Royal Deux Ponts regiments at Butts Hill Fort will return tomorrow. The Bourbonnois Regiment will send provisions to its detachment which remains at Butts Hill Fort.

of 28 December 1780 of the said day

The captain who commands the detachment of workers at Butts Hill Fort will return to Newport tomorrow with his detachment, with the exception of a sergeant and the two squadrons of the regiment of Bourbonnois, whom he will leave as a guard in the fort, to whom he will leave the supplies that he [i.e. the sergeant] will exactly need, the surplus will be set apart and consigned to the sergeant, who will have it loaded onto the wagon that will carry provisions to this guard. The officer shall give the sergeant remaining on duty such instructions as he deems necessary for the security of the post, the police of the guard, and the preservation of the fort’s works. The detachment will also take orders from Monsieur de Palisse, Major of the Royal Corps of Engineers, and from Monsieur Planchard for the work that can be done.62

Order of 31 December 1780 

The Soissonnois regiment will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of the regiment of Bourbonnois at the Butts Hill Fort near Howland’s Ferry, the prêt and provisions for five days will be given to the detachment, and it will take away all its tools and supplies.

Order of 4 January 1781 

The Regiment of Saintonge will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave tomorrow at 7 a.m. to relieve a similar detachment of the Soissonnois at Butts Hill Fort near Howland’s Ferry. They will be given food for five days, the detachment will take their tools and supplies.

Order of 9 January 1781 

Deux Ponts will furnish a sergeant and two squads tomorrow at 7 a.m. to relieve a similar detachment from the Saintonge at Butts Hill Fort. The prêt for five days will be given to this detachment, and it will take with it all its tools (struck out: the camp effects) and supplies; all the working soldiers employed in repairing the camp effects will be exempt from roll call and will be allowed to work until 8 o’clock in the evening. 

Order of 14 January 1781

The regiment of Bourbonnois will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads, who will set out at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment from the Regiment of Royal Deux Ponts at Butts Hill Fort. The prêt and provisions will be given to the detachment for five days and they will take their tools and supplies with them. 

Order of 16 January 1781

In accordance with the decision of M. le Comte de Rochambeau of the 18th of October, which granted a quarter supplement to the ration of bread per day to the workers at the fort of Butts Hill Fort, the detachment of a sergeant and two squads who guard and work there, will enjoy this advantage until further orders.

Quarter of a ration and will be made in the same proportion as for63

Order of 19 January 1781

The Regiment of Soissonnois will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of the Bourbonnois at Butts Hill Fort. This detachment will be given the prêt and provisions for five days and they will take their tools and supplies with them. It will continue to provide as many workers as possible.

Order of 24 January 1781

The Regiment of Saintonge will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of the Soissonnois Regiment at Butts Hill Fort, they will take the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies. There will be provided for this detachment as many men as possible for the work of the fort.

Order of 29 January 1781

The Royal Deux Ponts Regiment will furnish a sergeant and two squads tomorrow who will leave at 7 a.m. to relieve a similar detachment of the Saintonge Regiment at Butts Hill Fort, they will take the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies with them. This detachment will furnish as many men as possible for the work of the fort. 

Order of 2 February 1781

The Regiment of Bourbonnois will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of Deux Ponts at Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies, it will be provided by this detachment as many men as possible for the work at the fort.

Order of 7 February 1781

The Soissonnois Regiment will furnish a sergeant and two squads who will leave tomorrow at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of the Bourbonnois Regiment at Butts Hill Fort. They will take (crossed out: Le Regt de Bourbonnois) the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies. This detachment will furnish as many men as possible for the work at the fort. 

Order of 13 February 1781

The Regiment of Saintonge will provide tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment of the Regiment of Soissonnois at Butts Hill Fort, they will take the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies with them. This detachment will furnish as many men as possible for the work at the fort. 

Order of 18 February 1781

The regiment of Royal Deux Ponts will furnish tomorrow a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 o’clock in the morning to relieve a similar detachment from the regiment of Saintonge to Butts Hill Fort. They will take provisions for five days, they will take their tools and supplies with them. 

Order of 23 February 1781

The Regiment of Bourbonnois will have a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 a.m. to relieve a similar detachment at Butts Hill Fort, they will take provisions for five days, they will take their tools and supplies.

Order of 28 February 1781

The Brigade of Soissonnois will provide a sergeant and two squads who will leave tomorrow at 7 in the morning to relieve a similar detachment at Butts Hill Fort, they will take the prêt and provisions for five days and will take their tools and supplies with them. 

Order of 5 March 1781

The Regiment of Saintonge has a sergeant and two squads who will leave at 7 a.m. to relieve such a similar detachment at Butts Hill Fort, they will take the prêt and provisions for five days. They will take their tools and supplies with them. This detachment will be relieved by the first American troop that will establish itself in this fort, and the sergeant who commands them will immediately take them back to Newport.

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort until 18 March.

Order of 18 March 1781

The Regiment of Soissonnois will send tomorrow morning to Butts Hill Fort the soldiers named Armand, Corporal, and Foucaut, soldiers of the Company de La Boyere,64 fleur D’amour,65 of that [i.e., the company] of Anselme66 and Bourdet of that [i.e., the company] of Scinety,67 where they will take the order of M. de Turpin, Captain of the Engineers. They will be given food for four days.

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort until 1 April.

Order of 1st of April 1781

Royal Deux Ponts will furnish tomorrow one sergeant and a squad that will depart at 6 in the morning to go to Butts Hill Fort, the sergeant in command of this Guard will take the Countersign, which will be given to him by Mr. de Turpin, Captain Engineer, and will be under his orders. This guard will take its tools, supplies, and provisions with it for five days.

Order of 11 April 1781

The regiment of Soissonnois furnishes tomorrow one sergeant one corporal and six men who will leave at 6 in the morning to go to Butts Hill Fort where they will remain for five days as in the past, they will be provided with the prêt and provisions for five days.

Order of 16 April 1781

The regiment of Saintonge will furnish one sergeant one corporal and eight men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

Order of 21 April 1781

The regiment of Deux Ponts will furnish tomorrow one Sergeant one corporal and 10 men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days. 

Order of 25 April 1781

The regiment of Bourbonnois will furnish tomorrow one sergeant, one corporal and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

Order of 29 April 1781

The regiment of Soissonnois will furnish tomorrow one sergeant one corporal and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

Order of 3 May 1781

The regiment of Saintonge will furnish tomorrow one sergeant one corporal and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.  

Order of 8 May 1781

The regiment of Deux Ponts will furnish tomorrow one sergeant three corporals and 20 men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

There is no mention of relieving the detachment at Butts Hill Fort in the order of 13 May.  

Order of 18 May 1781

The regiment of Soissonnois will furnish tomorrow one sergeant three corporals and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days. 

Order of 23 May 1781

The regiment of Saintonge will furnish tomorrow one sergeant three corporals and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

Order of 28 May 1781

The regiment of Deux Ponts will furnish tomorrow one sergeant three corporals and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days. 

Order of 2 June 1781

The brigade of Bourbonnois will furnish tomorrow one sergeant, three corporals and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days. 

Order of 7 June 1781

The regiment of Soissonnois will furnish tomorrow three corporals and ten men to Butts Hill Fort. They will take the prêt and provisions with them for five days.

Last entry in the Orderly Book concerning “But Hill”. It is written in the margin of the entry of 7 June 1781. 

Rochambeau’s Orderly Book is an important and under-used primary source that allows the reconstruction of the daily lives of the French army in the United States between July 1780 and August 1781. While a detailed study of wages and deductions, discipline, and food supplies, goes well beyond the scope of this study, a follow-up study looking to offer a glimpse into the “Daily Life of a French soldier working at Butts Hill Fort” based primarily on the Orderly Book might be of interest.

The presence of, and the work carried out by, French soldiers at Butts Hill Fort from July 1780 and June 1781 is beyond doubt. The Orderly Book clearly established that within a week of their arrival in Newport, French engineers, most notably Major de Palys, were supervising repairs at the fort. At this point the work was carried out by American militia. It was only in December 1780, that French soldiers began working at Butts Hill Fort, which they did until June 1781, when Rochambeau’s forces deployed to New York.

The Orderly Book, however, has its limitations as well. What exactly were they doing at Butts Hill Fort? Which alterations and improvements did they make to the fort? The Orderly Book provides no answer to these questions, but that is not the purpose of an Orderly Book. The Orderly Book contains the orders, the mechanics, of how many NCOs and enlisted men will work at the fort for how long using which tools under the direction of which engineer.
The fort needed to be repaired and improved, and Rochambeau’s Line Infantry provided the manpower. Neither the Auxonne Artillery nor Lauzun’s Legion are ever mentioned as providing troops to work at Butts Hill Fort.

In his private Journal de Campagne, de Palys mentions his early involvement at Butts Hill Fort but only once. Captain Ervoil d’Oyré in his Notes relatives also mentions Butts Hill Fort only once, and while he wrote 37 letters to a relative in France, his military duties are mentioned but rarely. He, probably correctly, assumed that his family and friends in France would not be interested in learning about his duties supervising the repair of a relatively small earthworks in Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, therefore, consultant’s search in the inventories of private archives in France that are available on-line looking for the private papers of engineering officers known to have served with Rochambeau have been unsuccessful.

Rochambeau was aware of the importance of the fort and may have even inspected the fort as early as 3 August 1780, but he would never have presumed to tell his engineers how to lay out the most effective defense of the northern approach route to Newport. Rochambeau did not micromanage his engineers. Between them they had 100 years of experience. The Orderly Book provides no information on the actual work carried out at the fort. Whatever plans or sketches the engineers may have drawn of the alterations carried out at the fort are NOT found in the Orderly Book. Such information, beyond the maps published by Rice and Brown in their 1976 two-volume study of Rochambeau’s campaign, if it exists, would be found in the official papers of the engineers. Rice and Brown apparently did not conduct research in the Archives du Génie: they list call numbers and identify mss in the archives but none of the maps in Rice and Brown are identified as reproductions of originals found in the Archives du Génie. The maps published in vol. 2 of their American Campaigns were drawn by Crublier d’Opterre, owned (in the 1970s) by the Mellon Library, but now at Yale. Map 6 (p. 126, Newport), Map 43 (p. 136, Reconnaissance New York) and Map 45 (p. 138, Reconnaissance New York) are all in the Library of Congress.

The remaining place to search for information on Butts Hill Fort such as work descriptions, maps, or requests for tools and equipment, are primarily the military engineering archives in Vincennes. Their holdings are huge and span the years from 1415 to 1945. They consist of 611 inventories, a total of 4,334 boxes, and some 3,500 maps. An inventory to the French engineering archives was published by Nicole Salat and Emmanuel Pénicaut, Le dépôt des fortifications et ses archives, 1660-1940 : Archives du génie, répertoire numérique détaillé de la sous-série 1V du Service historique de la Défense (Service historique de la Défense, Vincennes : Archives et culture, 2011). This finding aid has been used in the preparation of this report but the mss listed there have not been researched.

This research, as well as research into the correspondence of Ervoil d’Oyré with the comte de Chastellux, conducted on site in Paris, should be the next step in the investigation of the role of French engineers at Butts Hill Fort in 1780/81.  

The most important secondary sources used in the preparation of this report were: 

Abbas, Donna K. Rhode Island in the Revolution: Big Happenings in the Smallest Colony 4 vols., 2nd ed. (USDI National Park Service, ABPP, 2006). 

Abbass, Donna K. “Butts Hill Fort, Portsmouth” Rhode Tour. It is available at on-line at https://rhodetour.org/items/show/50. Accessed on 12 December 2023. 

Ambassade de France. French Engineers and the American War of Independence (New York, 1975). 

Bodinier, Gilbert. Dictionnaire des officiers de l’armée royale qui ont combattu aux États-Unis pendant la guerre d’Indépendance 1776-1783 3rd ed., (Chailland, 2001) 

“Butts Hill, Chastellux, and Conanicut Island Forts.” In: Allan Forbes and Paul F. Cadman, France and New England, 3 vols. (Boston: State Street Trust Company, 1925-1929), vol. 2, (1927), pp. 61-65. 

Cullum, George W. Historical Sketch of the Fortification Defenses of Narragansett Bay since the Founding, in 1638, of the Colony of Rhode Island (Washington, D.C.: priv. printed, 1884).  

Field, Edward. Revolutionary Defenses in Rhode Island (Providence: Preston & Rounds, 1896). 

Payette, Peter and Phil. “North American Forts, 1526–1956” www.northamericanforts.com

Rice, Howard C. Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown. The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1782.  2 vols. (Princeton and Providence, 1972) 

Robertson, John K. Revolutionary War Defenses in Rhode Island (Providence: Rhode Island Publications Society, 2022) 

Selig, Robert. The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the Commonwealth of Rhode Island, 1781 – 1783. An Historical and Architectural Survey. (Providence, R.I.: W3R Association of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 2015) 

Walker, Paul K. Engineers of Independence, A Documentary History of the Army Engineers in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 (Washington, DC, 1981) 

Resources:

(1) A partial transcription and edition of the livre d’ordre was published by Arnaud Blondet, Jeux de Guerre, l’Histoire de l’Armée de Rochambeau au Secours des Etat-Unis 1780-1781. Tome I (Éditions Jean-Jacques Wuillaume: Monfaucon, 2024). It ends with the entry for 13 April 1781.

(2) On the engineering school see Roger Chartier, « Un recrutement scolaire au xviiie siècle : l’École royale du Génie de Mézières » Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, vol. 20 (1973), pp. 375-368 ; Sébastien Pautet, « Produire une élite savante et technicienne à l’École du génie de Mézières : dispositions techniques et scientifiques des élèves ingénieurs » ARTEFACT. Techniques, histoire et sciences humaines vol. 4 (2016) : L’Europe technicienne, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, pp. 119-133; André Robinet, « L’Ecole royale du Génie de Mézières » Revue d’histoire des sciences vol. 2 no. 3 (1949), pp. 267-270, and René Taton, « L’École royale du génie de Mézières » in : René Taton, ed., Enseignement et diffusion des sciences en France au xviiie siècle (Paris : Hermann, 1964), pp. 559-615.

(3) Gilbert Bodinier, Dictionnaire des officiers de l’armée royale qui ont combattu aux États-Unis pendant la guerre d’Indépendance 1776-1783 3rd edition (Chailland, 2001), p. 148.

A maréchal de camp is the equivalent of major general.

(4) Howard C. Rice Jr. and Anne S. K. Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1782. 2 vols. (Princeton and Providence: Princeton University Press and Brown University Press, 1972), vol. 1, pp. 285-348, p. 299.

(5) Blondet, Jeux de Guerre, p. 239, fn 593.

(6) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 454. The entry provides no information why de La Combe graduated after one year already, but like Desandroüins de La Combe had entered Mezieres already as a lieutenant.

(7) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 431.

(8) Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, DC, MSS L2014S1 M [Bound]. The library also owns an undated typed and annotated transcription by comte de Parscau du Plessix, M 75.63 A 6855.

(9) Rice and Brown, American Campaigns, vol. 1, p. 319.

(10) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p.207.

(11) His Notes relatives have the call number MSS L2008F163.1-5 M.

(12)  His 37 letters are catalogued under the call number MSS L2009F30.

(13) Blondet, Jeux de Guerre, p. 130. The letter is held in the Archives Nationales de France, Paris, call number M 1021: correspondance adressée au comte du Chastellux pendant la guerre d’Indépendance. Butts Hill is not mentioned in the quotation printed in Blondet, Jeux de Guerre.

(14) Oyré, “Notes relatives aux mouvemens de l’armee françoise en Amerique”. MSS L2008F1163.1, pages 5 and 7. Oyré refers to the British fleet that had appeared off the coast of Rhode Island.

(15) The ms has the call number DE/2018/PA/120 and is held in the Service historique de la Défense, Château de Vincennes, Vincennes, France.

(16) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 133.

(17) Rice and Brown, American Campaigns, vol. 1, p. 298, write that some papers originating with Crublier d’Opterre, including an annotated version of the official journal of the siege of Yorktown and a map of Newport, RI, are held by the Library of Paul Mellon in Upperville, Virginia. These mss are now (since 2000) held in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at Yale University. The descriptions do not suggest that d’Opterre’s papers contain any information on Fort Butts Hill.
 

(18) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 239. A chef de brigade was the equivalent of a colonel.

(19) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, pp. 510/511.

(20) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, pp. 71/72.

(21) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, pp. 441/442.

(22) Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 527.

(23) For an excellent background on the reasons for French involvement in the War of Independence see John Hardman, The Life of Louis XVI (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 101-135.

(24) Beaumarchais’s proposal of 22 January 1776 and submitted by Vergennes to Louis XVI, is in Naval Documents of the American Revolution William Bell Clark, ed. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office 1968), vol. 3, p. 525, quoted from the on-line edition at https://www.history.navy.mil/research/publications/publications-by-subject/naval-documents-of-the-american-revolution.html

(25) Quoted in General Fonteneau, “La période française de la guerre d’Indépendance (1776-1780)” Revue historique des armées vol. 3 no. 4 (1976), pp. 47-77, p. 48. Unless otherwise indicated all translations are mine.

(26) Beaumarchais to Louis XVI, 22 January 1776, Naval Documents of the American Revolution, p. 525.

(27) On French expenditure see Robert D. Harris, “French Finances and the American War, 1777-1783,” Journal of Modern History vol. 48 (June 1976), pp. 233-258, and Claude C. Sturgill, “Observations of the French War Budget 1781-1790,” Military Affairs, vol. 48 (October 1984), pp. 180-187.  Hardman, Louis XVI, p.112 points out, however, that within the French budget the “sum was trivial – less than Marie-Antoinette had spent on balls the previous year” (i.e., in 1775). 

(28) See my “The Politics of Arming America or Why are there still dozens of Vallière 4-lb Cannon à la suédoise in the United States but only four in all of Europe?” in: New Perspectives on the “Last Argument of Kings” (Ticonderoga, New York: Fort Ticonderoga Press, 2018), pp. 30-51. 

(29) The decree was published in Newfoundland on 4 October 1777; an English translation was published in the UNIVERSAL MAGAZINE, vol. 61 (November 1777), p. 275.

(30) Quoted from the on-line edition of the George Washington Papers available at https://founders.archives.gov/?q=tether&s=1111311111&sa=&r=9&sr= 

(31) Trentinian provides slightly different numbers, i.e., 5,062 non-commissioned officers and men, 183 civilian employees, 232 domestic servants, 23 women and two children plus a total of 467 male civilian employees performing unspecified tasks “à la table des capitaines”. Jacques de Trentinian, La France au Secours de l’Amérique (Paris: Editions SPM, 2016), p. 170.

(32) For more details see my The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in the Commonwealth of Rhode Island, 1781 – 1783. An Historical and Architectural Survey. (Providence, Rhode Island: W3R Association of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 2015), available on-line at https://w3r-us.org/history-by-state/ . On the winter quarters of Lauzun’s Legion see my Hussars in Lebanon! A Connecticut Town and Lauzun’s Legion during the American Revolution, 1780-1781 (Lebanon: Lebanon Historical Society, 2004).

(33) The Diaries of George Washington, 1748-1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., 3 vols., (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925), vol. 2, pp. 217/18; also available on-line at the website of the George Washington Papers and at https://founders.archives.gov

(34) J. Henry Doniol, Histoire de la participation de la France a l’Établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique 5 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1886-1892), vol. 5 (1892), p. 475.

(35) On the land and water deployment of the Continental Army see my “upwards of 20 Batteaus all in a Body made a fine Appearance coming down the River, and must be very mortifying to those Motionless at a little Distance”. Water Trails of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail in the Hudson River Valley in 1781 and 1782. A Historical Overview and Resource Inventory (Albany, NY: Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, 2020). Available on-line at https://www.hudsonrivervalley.com/trails 

(36) John K. Robertson, Revolutionary War Defenses in Rhode Island (Providence: Rhode Island Publications Society, 2022), p. 71. This chapters draws heavily on Robertson history of Butts Hill Fort in his Defenses, pp. 71-76.

(37) Ibid.,p. 75.

(38) Lookouts spied four British frigates off Point Judith on 19 July; the SOLs came in view on 21 July only. Evelyn M. Acomb, tr., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen 1778–1783 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1958), p. 32. The comte de Lauberdière, another of Rochambeau’s aides-de-camp, similarly wrote the Arbuthnot “appeared in sight of Newport on the 19th”. The French Campaigns in the American Revolution, 1780–1783: The Diary of Count of Lauberdière, General Rochambeau’s Nephew and Aide-de-camp. Translated and edited by Norman Desmarais. (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beattie, 2020), p. 22.

(39) Stanley J. Idzerda and Linda J. Pike, eds., Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution, Selected Letters and Papers, 1776-1790: Volume III, April 27, 1780 – March 29, 1781 (Ithaka: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 109. 

(40) At the end of the paragraph La Fayette added that he had made the arrangements ”with the approbation and By the orders of Gal. Heath.” Ibid. p. 115.

(41) Ibid., p. 118.

(42) Ibid.,p. 124.

(43) Neither the Rochambeau Papers nor the journals and diaries of Rochambeau’s aides de camp such as Closen, Lauberdière or Axel von Fersen contain information on Rochambeau’s visit to Butts Hill Fort, if it did indeed occur.

(44) Orderly Books of Ebenezer Thayer, Jr. 1776–1791. Book 2, 20 August to 27 October 1780. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA, mss HM 594, quoted in Robertson, Defenses, p. 75. See also Major General William Heath to General Washington, 5 August 1780, ibid.

(45) https://founders.archives.gov/?q=howland%27s%20ferry&s=1111311111&sa=&r=10&sr= The ”Major of Engineers” mentioned by Rochambeau is Henry de Palys.

(46) Details of the deployment of militia can be found in Founders Online and in Robertson, Defenses

(47) These two are the only entries mentioning soldiers sent to Howland’s Ferry to work there. The last time Howland’s Ferry appears in the Orderly Book is on 8 May 1781. The entry reads:
Au lieu d’envoyer un soldat pour garder les bateaux d’holland ferry, on y enverra un caporal et un fusilier, lesquelles seront relevés de 12 heures en 12 heures.
Instead of sending a soldier to guard the boats at Howland’s Ferry a corporal and a fusilier will be sent there who will be relieved every twelve hours.

(48) Rochambeau to Governor Greene, 4 December 1780, quoted in Robertson, Defenses, p. 75.

(49) Robertson, Defenses, p. 76.

(50) The […] are in the original quote.

(51) Quoted in Blondet, Jeux de Guerre, p. 239. Blondet dates the letter to 9 December 1780.

(52) M.D.L.C.D.B., Dictionnaire Militaire, Portatif, Contenant tous les Termes propres a la Guerre 3 vols., 4th edition (Paris : chez Gissey [et al.], 1758), vol. 3 p. 199. The cavalry followed different rules.

(53)  A Paris, chez l’Imprimerie Royale, 1776

(54) Clément de la Jonquière, ed., Le Livre d’ordres d’un Régiment d’Infanterie en 1781 d’après un manuscrit original (Paris: Henri Charles-Lavauzelle, 1898), p. 58.

(55)  Jonquière, Livre, page 59, footnote 1.

(56) Food rations and their cost as well as other deductions are listed on page 8 of the ordonnance. See also Jonquière, Livre, p. 58. Like the British monetary system, the pre-revolutionary French monetary system followed the Carolingian monetary standard of 1 livre = 20 sols, 1 sols = 12 deniers.

(57) Howland’s Ferry/Holland Ferry appears only three times in the Orderly Book, the first time on 9 December, then 31 December and 4 January 1781.

(58) One cord wood = 128 cubic feet of wood 8 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. 

(59) Soldiers were charged for expenses, including the firewood they burned and the rent for stoves.

(60) Soissonnois Brigade = for administrative purposes, and occasionally for tactical purposes during the march to Virginia, Rochambeau brigaded his forces. The Bourbonnois and Royal Deux-Ponts regiments formed the First Brigade, the Soissonnois and Saintonge regiments the Second Brigade. 

(61) As explained above under prêt, the soldiers were charged for expenses, that included the firewood they burned and the rent for stoves.

(62) Born on 16 May 1742, Claude Blanchard entered the Department of War in October 1761 and became a commissaire de guerre on 1 January 1768. On 1 March 1780, Rochambeau appointed him his chief supply officer. A member of the Legislative Assembly during the French Revolution, he was dismissed from service on 1 July 1793 but re-integrated in June 1795. He died in the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris on 11 May 1803. (Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 60). His journal does not mention work on Butts Hill Fort. See Thomas Balch, ed., The Journal of Claude Blanchard, Commissary of the French Auxiliary Army sent to the United States during the American Revolution (Albany: J. Munsell, 1876).

(63) The entry ends in mid-sentence.

(64) Jean Pierre Berage de La Boyère was born on 26 February 1736, became a lieutenant in the Soissonnois in August 1756 and a captain in June 1776. He deserted his regiment and joined the enemies of the revolution in February 1792, serving in the army of the Prince de Condé. Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 45. No other biographical information is available.

(65) « fleur D’amour » is almost certainly a nom de guerre. See Luc Lépine, The Military Roots of the ‘dit’ Names https://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/lepine/220/ 

(66) Mathieu Joseph d’Anselme de La Gardette was born 14 August 1748, lieutenant at the age of 8 on 28 August 1756, he was promoted to captain on 11 May 1769. Lieutenant Colonel in 1791, he left the revolutionary colors and served in the army of the Prince de Condé from 1792 to 1801. He died in Paris in 1820. His father and his brother also served in the regiment. Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 12.

(67) Etienne Jean dit François Bernard Sinéty was born either in 1736 or 1743, became a lieutenant in the Soissonnnois in September 1760 and a captain in July 1777. He retired on 1 March 1784. He had joined the revolutionary cause by May 1790 and most likely died from a wound he received in the Battle of Anghiari south-east of Florence in January 1797. Bodinier, Dictionnaire, p. 510.

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