225th Anniversary of the Washington - Rochambeau Revolutionary War Route.
Friday, June 30 through Sunday July 2, 2006
March to Victory Weekend- Ridgefield

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Ridgefield Press - Mar 5, 2006
HISTORY: Many events this summer will mark Rochambeau visit
    By Austin Moran

Ridgefielders may have spent the last three months traipsing through 20-degree temperatures, biting winds and a persistent threat of snow, but organizers for the March to Victory Weekend scheduled for late June and early July are chomping at the bit for another type of trek.
General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau.

That voyage is a re-enactment of the one made in 1781 by the army of General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Bill Lucas, publicity coordinator for the event.
Rochambeau’s march 225 years ago led directly to the defeat of British forces in Virginia, he said.

After landing in Newport, R.I., in the summer of 1780, Rochambeau and his troops moved to Providence in 1781 and began their campaign across Connecticut in late June of that year to join George Washington’s army near White Plains, N.Y.
Ridgefield — specifically the parish of Ridgebury — was the 11th stop for the French army after leaving Rhode Island, and the French force’s last encampment in Connecticut before crossing into New York state, Mr. Lucas said. After meeting Washington in White Plains, Rochambeau and the American general guided their compound army through parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland before arriving by boat at Yorktown, Va. — the village at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay where American independence truly staked its claim.

While Yorktown may have provided the setting for America’s Revolutionary triumph, planners of the March to Victory Weekend hope to bring home to Ridgefielders the key part their own town played in the young nation’s fight for independence.
In late March or early April, Mr. Lucas said, a three-by-two-foot marker commemorating Rochambeau’s encampment will be placed at the intersection of Old Stagecoach and Ridgebury roads. That site is “very close to where they camped,” Mr. Lucas said.

The French troops passed the Ridgebury Congregational Church on their way to their temporary billets.
“The church was there when Rochambeau passed it,” Mr. Lucas said. While today’s building is not the one seen by Rochambeau’s men in 1781, he added, “parts of the foundation are the same.”
On Sunday, July 2, the final day of the March to Victory Weekend, the Ridgebury Congregational Church will hold a “Divine Service” in its chapel, complete with 18th Century hymns and costumes.

It is believed that because the French were Catholics and their encampment was on a Sunday, Mass was probably said for the troops by a priest accompanying them. This was probably the first Catholic Mass ever celebrated in Ridgefield, and to commemorate that fact, a Latin mass will be said  “in the field” at Ridgebury Meadow, an actual encampment site.

In honor of the comte de Rochambeau’s 56th birthday party — which took place in Ridgebury on July 1, 1781 — an all-out costume ball will be held in the Lounsbury House on Main Street, with General Rochambeau himself being played by John Beresford Welsh, a Revolutionary War expert famous for portraying the French count.

While there will be many other activities, including an exhibit at the Ridgefield Historical Society and mock skirmishes between French enlisted men and free-ranging British troops, the costume ball “kind of caps the event,” Mr. Lucas said.
“It’s a big event,” Mr. Lucas said. “The whole town will be involved.”

For more information about that event and how to get tickets, visit www.ridgefieldvictorymarch.org

© Copyright 2006 by Hersam Acorn newspapers

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