Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bowie in the American Revolutionary War

Most people know that George Washington crossed the Delaware River, but who marched down Route 450 (or what would eventually become Route 450 in Bowie) during the American Revolutionary War?  It was Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Compte de Rochambeau, along with more than 5,700 French soldiers under his command on their way to meet up with George Washington for what would become a decisive battle against the British in Yorktown, Virginia.

The annual commemoration of Rochambeau’s March will take place this Saturday from noon to 4pm at the Belair Mansion.  Read more in this article by Pam Williams, the Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie

Bowie in the American Revolution!
by Pam Williams
Historic Properties Manager for the City of Bowie

In July of 1780, French troops sent by King Louis XVI landed in Naragansett Bay off Newport, Rhode Island.  Commanded by Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Compte de Rochambeau, the army numbered 450 officers and 5, 300 men.  Those troops made their way to Yorktown, Virginia, along a combination of strategic roads and waterways, reaching Williamsburg in September of 1781.  Their invaluable contribution to the three week siege of Yorktown resulted in the surrender of British General Cornwallis to George Washington on October 19, 1781.

As has long been acknowledged, an army travels on its stomach!   This army was no exception – and it needed to be fed.   As the army travelled south, the General’s wagon train did as well – via what we know today to be Route 450!   In September, 1781, approximately 200 wagons, artillery, and approximately 3,600 oxen (for future dining!) and horses – after camping at “Easton’s Plantation” (Sacred Heart/Whitemarsh) made their way past Belair Mansion on their way to Georgetown to cross the Potomac and head south.  The journal of Louis Alexandre Berthier, 1781, describes the route:  “You leave John Easton’s house by a road that reenters the Georgetown Highway 200 paces (1/4 mile) farther on.  You pass quite a fine house on the left…” That fine house was Belair.

Join the City of Bowie Museums in our annual commemoration of this important part of our nation’s past.  On Saturday, August 24, from Noon-4:00 p.m., join both British and American forces as they drill, skirmish and discuss camp life with visitors.  Several “purveyors” of colonial groceries, jewelry, prints and clothing will have items for sale inside the Mansion…and the local 18th century ladies will be gathered in the Hall for sewing and 18th century gossip.  Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the past!

Belair Mansion, which is handicapped accessible, is located at 12207 Tulip Grove Drive in Bowie, Maryland. (Exit 11 N from US 50 E/W).  Rochambeau’s March is free, no reservations are required.  For further information, please call 301-809-3089 or email:

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