From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an Age of Revolution

By Samuel F. Scott | Go to book overview

3

MOUNTING FRUSTRATIONS AND TENSIONS

EVEN BEFORE ROCHAMBEAU'S CORPS had settled at Newport, the allies were anxiously awaiting the second division that had been left behind at Brest. The French commander, whose already small army had been further weakened by casualties sustained during the voyage, was preoccupied with the speedy and safe arrival of these reinforcements. Lafayette, Washington, and other American leaders were equally concerned as rumors circulated that this force was in the Bermudas, that it had arrived at Charleston, or that it was not coming. Despite plans to embark the twenty-five hundred men in autumn 1780 and despite expectations of their coming as late as the following April, the continuing English blockade of the harbor of Brest prevented their departure. 1

The failure to dispatch additional troops adversely affected Franco- American relations. Rochambeau, together with the commander of the French naval forces at Newport, Admiral Ternay, and officers of their staffs, met with Washington and his staff at Hartford, Connecticut, on September 20, 1780, to discuss plans for allied military operations. Both commanding generals were disappointed with the strength of their ally's forces and were dubious about the amount of cooperation they could expect from the other. Washington was impatient for some military action before the end of the year to bolster flagging U.S. morale; Rochambeau feared the consequences of precipitous action.

The conference did, however, result in general agreement on major objectives. It was recognized that New York was the key to the British position in North America, but its capture would require at least twenty-four

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