Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau was born on July 1, 1725, in Vendôme, France. He came from a nobleman’s family. Comte de Rochambeau grew up to become a French military general. He fought on the European continent for over forty years. His king, Louis XVI sent him to the American colonies to fight on the side of the new American Continental Army. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary forces by the king and landed at Newport, Rhode Island in July of 1780. Right away, he was made a lieutenant general within the American Continental Army. For a year his forces trained and then his army joined ranks with Major General Gilbért du Montier, Marquis de Lafayette forces. Both Frenchmen consolidated their armies with General George Washington’s forces and then moved toward Yorktown, Virginia chasing the British army.
Once there, his seasoned military strategy helped defeat Lord Cornwallis’ British army on October 19, 1781. General Lord Cornwallis wasn’t present at the surrender (possibly faking illness) and instead sent British General Charles O’Hara with Lord Cornwallis’ surrender sword. The sword was first presented to Comte de Rochambeau who deferred it to General George Washington. Shortly after the surrender, the surrender sword disappeared. Where did it go? Some rumors say it was later hidden in the White House.
Upon General Comte de Rochambeau’s return to France, he was honored by King Louis XVI and made governor of the French province of Picardy, He also was awarded the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis by the king. The award was given for exceptional bravery to military officers of the French crown. Additionally, he received the religious chivalric Order of the Holy Spirit. Comte de Rochambeau was one the last French generals appointed Marshal of France by the king. This honor was bestowed only to exceptional general officers of France. A few years later, he barely escaped the revolutionary Reign of Terror and the guillotine. Comte de Rochambeau retired from military service with a pension from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and died comfortably on May 10, 1807. His forty years of military experience aided General Washington to defeat the British at Yorktown, Virginia and ended the American Revolution. Once again, another long-forgotten person of history’s mysteries.
Lieutenant General Comte de Rochambeau
Head of French Expeditionary Forces to the American Colonies 1781