Comte de Rochambeau was born in Vendome, Loir-et-Cher, France on July 1, 1725. Comte de Rochambeau, also known as Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, was the third son of a family with a long military military tradition. In fact, this long family tradition was the reason why he joined the army. His father, Joseph-Charles de Vimeur, was a governor of Chateau de Vendome, and his mother, Marie-Claire-Therese Begon, was a governess. Later in his life, he married a woman named Jeanne Therese Tellez d’Acosta on December 29, 1749. The couple never had children.
As a child, Comte de Rochambeau grew up learning clergy. That changed when his elder brother died. His father expected Comte to live up to the family motto “To live and die as a gallant knight” which caused him to join the army. Comte de Rochambeau is one of the most important foreign leaders in the Revolutionary War. After the death of his elder brother, Comte de Rochambeau went to Paris to attend an officer’s academy at age fifteen. Soon after, he started as a junior cavalry officer in the Saint-Simons regiment. When the French were in retreat, Comte proved to be dependable and aggressive.
Comte de Rochambeau was involved in operations in Bohemia, Bavaria, and along the Rhine. Later, he was sent to battle in the War of the Austrian Succession. It was a war between Prussia and Austria that started in 1740. He was later promoted to captain in 1743. After, he was joined with Marshal Sax near the end of 1746 Flander’s Campaign. He helped fight at the successful siege of Namur. He impressed his leader, Comte de Clermont, that his leader asked the the king’s mistress if Rochambeau could buy a regiment. In 1447, Comte de Rochambeau became colonel of the infantry regiment de la March.
He was wounded by a scatter shot. He aided at the siege of Maestricht in 1748. To honor his performance, the king allowed him to ride by him during military ceremonies and gave him a royal pension. After the Aix-la-Chapelle was signed, Rochambeau felt his military career was over, so he married Jeanne Therese Tellez d’Acosta who was the daughter of a rich merchant and retired in Vendome. With the start of the Seven Years War in 1756, Comte de Rochambeau was brought back into military service. He was to work under duc de Richelieu Rochambeau was part of the joint operation against Minorca, Spain.
His role was important to the capture of Fort St. Philip at port Mahon, which was in Minorca. He banned the consumption of alcohol before battles. After this successful mission, Comte was promoted to Brigadier General and was given the Chevalier de St. Louis, a military decoration, in 1756. After, he was assigned on the Rhine in 1757. At this time, he became aware of jealousy among the higher ranks which weakened the army’s efficiency. Instead of being involved in these rivalries, Rochambeau decided to gain the trust and respect of the higher ranks which contributed to his promotion to Major General.
As the war preceded, Comte captured the Fortress of Regenstein in Hanover. In 1759, he controlled the Auvergne infantry regiment. With this regiment, he wanted to emphasize their quickness and agility which was different than the heavier grenadier units. Sadly, the quarrel among the senior officers didn’t allow this idea to pass. Despite this unfortunate event, Comte de Rochambeau and his troops showed their potential at the Battle of Clostercamp in 1760. They were victorious, but Comte was wounded in the battle. In 1761, Rochambeau was promoted to Marechal de Camp and inspector general of infantry for his efforts.
After the treaty was signed, the new Minister of War introduced many reforms that Comte strongly supported. As the Marechal de Camp, or Major General, Comte was to improve training and maximize efficiency of troops. He also had to organize their camps. Later, he was offered the Minister of War, but declined the offer so he could focus on implementing needed reforms. Soon after, he was the governor of Villefranche-en-Roussillon. At the start of the Revolutionary War, Comte de Rochambeau was preparing to invade England under the guidance of comte de Vaux in 1776.
The invasion was planned for 1779. Rochambeau trained his troops as the date was approaching. Unfortunately, the French military had a bad year in 1779. An outbreak of smallpox and poor naval planning caused the invasion to never happen. Before the scheduled invasion, the French Treaty of Commerce was signed with the colonists in February 1778. The French now decided to fight along the Americans. Now with leftover forces, France decided to send troops to the Americas. Soon after, Rochambeau was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1780. He was to command 5,400 to fight by the rebels.
Unexpectedly, Comte’s superiors ordered him to serve under General George Washington and his troops were only there to aid the general. This operation was called Expedition Particuliere. He sailed on March 1, 1780. He and his army arrived at Newport, Rhode Island on July 11, 1780. When he landed, Rochambeau was uncomfortable because he was in a territory full of dangers. He refused to fight the British until French navy reinforcements came. Rochambeau decided to wait for nearly a year. The naval support never came. Finally in 1781, Rochambeau met with George Washington to join forces. He put himself under Washington’s command.
Rochambeau became one of George’s most trusted advisories. Washington was impressed with Comte’s experience in battle. Comte soon discovered that the American army was less prepared than he expected. Washington and Rochambeau both argued on how they should approach the British. Washington wanted to battle the British headquarters in New York while Comte thought they should battle in Virginia. He thought it would make a bigger impact if they fought Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis in Virginia. Most of Washington’s men agreed with Rochambeau.
On June 18, 1781, Comte de Rochambeau marched his army ver to the Hudson River. After some small interruptions, Rochambeau crossed the river. After he crossed the river, he went north to meet with Washington who was at Dobb’s Ferry, New York. Again, they argued on what the next move should be. The arguments came to a stop when Washington got word from Admiral Comte de Grasse that he and his army were going to Virginia with 29 ships and 3,200 men and that he would stay there only until October 14. He encouraged Washington to join him to attack Cornwallis who was at Yorktown. He agreed to the assault which started on September 28, 1781.
Rochambeau’s army was important to the victory at the Battle of Yorktown. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered. It was the last major battle in the war. Comte de Rochambeau stayed in Virginia for a year before he embarked for France in January of 1783. Upon his arrival, Comte de Rochambeau received Cordon Bleu of the Order of the Saint Esprit. Furthermore, Rochambeau was made commander of the Northern Military District and still stayed active in the Society of Cincinnati. He started witnessing the disruption the French Revolution was causing and army discipline falling apart.
Soon after in 1790, Comte took command of the Army of the North. He was discouraged to see soldiers being convinced to join political clubs. In 1791, the French were preparing to attack Austria. The new Minister of War, Narbonne, made Rochambeau Marshal of France. Also, Comte was given control of the Northern armies. Soon after, Narbonne was replaced by Dumouriez as the Minister of War. After having trouble with planning and health, Comte de Rochambeau resigned and return to Vendome. There he was met with ravaged homes, dead friends, and the local village, Thore, hostile.
Despite the mayhem, Comte was still loyal to his country. In 1794, Rochambeau was arrested and taken to Conciergerie, which was located in Paris. Since he was very ill, Comte’s hospitalization delayed his time with the guillotine. Just days before his execution, the Reign of Terror ended which lead to the releasing of Rochambeau. He returned to his home soon after. Rochambeau met Napoleon in 1801 and received the Legion d’honneur in 1804. Comte de Rochambeau died on May 10, 1807 as a major hero in American history and a great asset to the French.