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- Berthier, Louis-Alexandre, 1753-1815
- Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
- Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection
- Manuscripts Division
- Permanent URL:
- 1 box and 2 portfolios
- Storage Note:
This collection is stored onsite at Firestone Library.
The collection consists primarily of a set of handcolored, topographical, manuscript maps (111 of them), created by Louis-Alexandre Berthier, an officer on General Rochambeau's staff, depicting the historic overland march of the French and American forces from Philipsburg, New York, to Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781 and their return march to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1782. Accompanying these maps is Berthier's journal (in French), providing a detailed description and explanation of the routes covered by the maps. In addition, there are documents and memoranda concerning French military events in America, Berthier's departure from France in 1780, and his return to France via the West Indies in 1782-1783.
Collection Description & Creator Information
Berthier's maps, numbering 111, are the most notable feature of the collection. They do not comprise an atlas or a series of separate items, but, rather, they are the consecutive record of that important and historic Revolutionary War military event, the overland march of the French Army under Rochambeau (joined by American forces at Philipsburg) from Newport to Yorktown during the summer and early autumn of 1781, and the return march of the French Army from Virginia to Boston the following year, July - December 1782. These were executed, presumably soon after the event, from information and sketches made on the spot while Berthier was accompanying Rochambeau's Army in America. The maps fall into two interrelated series: the first showing the French Army's camp sites on the southward march from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, and on the return march northward in the summer and autumn of 1782; the second showing the "itineraries" or daily marches of the Army (from Newport as far as Elkton, Maryland, in 1781; the daily marches for the 1782 northward journey are lacking among the Princeton papers.) Another set of Berthier's maps is preserved among the Rochambeau Papers in the Library of Congress; this set, although duplicating in part the Princeton set, is apparently less complete
Although Berthier's maps are the most spectacular part of these papers at Princeton, they cannot be fully appreciated without the accompanying textual material of his journal (1780-1783), which provides a detailed description and explanation of the routes covered by the maps. In addition, there are related manuscripts and documents, including a letter (1785) from Rochambeau, notes on the history of Virginia, and Berthier's journal of his later visit to Prussia (1783).
- Collection Creator Biography:
Louis-Alexandre Berthier (1753-1815), one of the four sons of Jean-Baptiste Berthier, was born in Versailles, where his father was in charge of the Royal Map Service. He entered the army as a young man; in 1777, at the age of twenty-four, he attained the rank of captain. In 1780 he asked to be assigned to Rochambeau's army which was preparing to leave for America, and was offered a place on the staff of Count de Saint-Maisme who commanded the Soissonais regiment. Through a series of mishaps and misunderstandings (related in the journal in the Princeton Library), Berthier did not leave with Rochambeau's army when it sailed from Brest in May 1780, but proceeded to America via the West Indies and finally joined up with the army at Newport, Rhode Island, on September 30, 1780.
In January 1781, Captain Berthier was assigned to the staff of General Rochambeau, as "aide maréchal général des logis surnuméraire." In this capacity he accompanied the army in 1781 on its march to Yorktown, and in 1782 on its return march to Boston, and thence to the West Indies, before returning to France. In all, Berthier was in the United States from September 30, 1780, until December 24, 1782.
After his return to France, Berthier was sent on a military mission to Prussia in 1783. (The Journal of this mission is among the manuscripts at Princeton.) He continued to be employed in staff posts, and to earn regular promotions. When the French Revolution came he again saw active service in the field. In 1796 he accompanied General Bonaparte in the Italian campaign, as chief of staff of the army. Henceforth, his fortunes were linked to those of Bonaparte. Berthier participated in the coup d'état of the 18th Brumaire (1799) which established the Consulate, and received the post of Minister of War. Soon after Bonaparte became Emperor Napolean I, in 1804, he chose Berthier as one of the eighteen army officers to be named Marshal of the Empire. Subsequently, Berthier acquired other titles: Duke of Valangin, Price of Neufchâtel, Prince of Wagram. Marshal Berthier was with Napolean in the campaigns of Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland; he was in the Peninsular Campaign (1808), the Austrian Campaign (1809), in Russia (1812), Germany (1813), and France (1814). In 1814 he abandoned Napoleon, and died the following year, on June 1, 1815, at Bamberg.
These papers are housed in the original red portfolio cases (and order) in which they were presented to the Library in 1939.
These manuscripts of Louis-Alexandre Berthier were presented to Princeton in 1939 by Harry C. Black, Class of 1909. They were purchased from Maggs Brothers, Ltd., of London, which had previously acquired them from family archives preserved by Berthier's descendents at the Chateau de Grosbois in France.
More about the collection coming to Princeton can be found in Gilbert Chinard's article "The Berthier Manuscripts: New Records of the French Army in the American Revolution" in The Princeton University Library Chronicle, Volume I, No. 1 (November 1939), pp. 3-8.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No appraisal information is available.
- Processing Information:
This collection was word-processed by Anna Bialek in July and August of 2005. Finding aid written by Howard Rice in 1957.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The originals are restricted. Users are asked to use the online surrogates.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Permanent URL:
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA(609) 258-3184
- Alternative Form Available:
This collection is also available in microfilm.
- Publication Note:
Berthier's journal and maps were translated and edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr., and Anne S. K. Brown in their two-volume work The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972).
Rice and Brown cite several sources in their descriptions used in this finding aid: Berthier's journal: "Journal of Louis-Alexandre Berthier," which is translated and edited by Rice/Brown in Volume 1 (pp. 189-282) of their 1972 work cited above Chastellux: Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782 by the Marquis de Chastellux (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963), a revised translation with introduction by Howard C. Rice, Jr. Clermont-Crèvecœur's journal: "Journal of Jean-François-Louis, Comte de Clermont-Crèvecœur," which is also translated and edited by Rice/Brown, Volume 1 (pp. 1-100) of their 1972 work cited above Verger's journal: "Journal of Jan-Baptiste-Antoine de Verger," which is also translated and edited by Rice/Brown, Volume 1 (pp. 101-188) Von Closen's journal: The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig Von Closen, 1780-1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1958), translated and edited with an introduction by Evelyn M. Acomb
- Subject Terms:
- Military topography--United States--18th century
- Genre Terms:
- Journals (accounts)--18th century
Military maps--18th century
Topographic maps--18th century
- France. Armée
Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de, 1725-1807
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, French
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Personal narratives, French
United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Sources
United States--History, Military--18th century--Sources
Yorktown (Va.)--History--Siege, 1781--Sources