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107. Établissement des hussards en Correspondance a New-Kent Courte House, New-Castle, et Linch Taverne, 1781, undated


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Scope and Contents

Chain of Expresses between New Kent Courthouse, New Castle, and Lynch's Tavern, 1781. Early in November, a few weeks after the capitulation of Yorktown, Washington's Continentals left Virginia and returned northward to winter quarters on the Hudson. The French army thus remained in an "intermediary position," as Rochambeau described it, between the Northern army and the Southern army in the Carolinas under the command of General Greene. In instructions to Colonel Timothy Pickering, dated Williamsburg, 4 November 1781, Washington had noted: "For the purpose of Communicating Intelligence, I have agreed with Count Rochambeau who remains here to establish a Chain of Expresses from hence to Philadelphia. You will take Measures to furnish your part of the Chain, which is to extend from the Bowling Green to Philadelphia; from the Bowling Green to this place [Williamsburg], extending towards Genl Greene, will be continued by Count Rochambeau." Writings of GW, XXIII, 331.

The diagram and related memoranda prepared by L.-A. Berthier (a good example of the kind of assignments he received as an assistant quarter-master-general) show the "part of the chain" maintained by the French. Instructions for the two hussars stationed at New Kent Courthouse, dated 9 November, specify that they will remain there night and day ready to relay dispatches between Williamsburg and Richmond or to the next post as New Castle; the tavernkeeper at New Kent [James Warren] will feed the men and supply forage for their horses ("2 gallons of oats and 17 bunches of cornstalks per day"). Agreements also recorded here by Berthier mention that the tavernkeeper at New Kent is to be paid 50 dollars a month, those at New Castle and at Lynch's Tavern 40 dollars.

Berthier was already familiar with this country, having traversed it when marching southward with the wagon train only a few weeks earlier; see Itinerary 6. New Castle, on the Pamunkey River, once a flourishing town, is now extinct. Lynch's Tavern (also known as "Head Lynch's Ordinary," from the name of the tavernkeeper, James Head Lynch) was near Reedy Creek about halfway between the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers along the road corresponding to present U.S. Route 301.

It evidently took the Americans some time to establish satisfactory service beyond Bowling Green to Philadelphia. Rochambeau, for example, complained to Governor Benjamin Harrison of Virginia that a month after Washington's departure from Virginia he had not received a single letter from him. In a letter addressed to Beville, French quartermast-general, 5 December 1781, Richard Young reported from Fredericksburg: "If money cannot be obtain'd for the purpose of paying the Express Riders at the different posts [between Lynch's Tavern and Fredericksburg] it will be impossible to keep up a line of Communication. . .." Manuscript Collections of Colonial Williamsburg, Miscellaneous Manuscripts. Writing from Philadelphia, 8 January 1782, Washington avowed to Rochambeau: "I am fearful that the Expresses between this place and Williamsburg are badly regulated, and I shall upon the reutrn of the Quarter Master General from the North River endeavour to have things put in better train." Writings of GW, XXIII, 435.


Arranged sequentially by packet/item number.


These papers are housed in the original red portfolio cases (and order) in which they were presented to the Library in 1939.

Collection History


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.

During 2022, restrictions for this collection were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

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Credit this material:

107. Établissement des hussards en Correspondance a New-Kent Courte House, New-Castle, et Linch Taverne, 1781; Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection, C0022, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Separated Materials

Relation de l'Escadre Française, aux ordres du Cher. Destouches, & de l'affaire qui a eue lieu le 16 Mars 1781, entre cette Escadre & celle des Anglais, commandée par l'Amiral Arbuthnot was transferred to rare books (1081.755 EX).


MS, 3 pages (4th blank), No. 30. Several other memoranda relating to the expresses are in Berthier papers, Nos. 32-37. [Rice/Brown, pp. 171-172] Cf. letters from Harrison to Rochambeau, 17 December, 21 December, and Harrison to Governor Thomas Sim Lee of Maryland, 21 December 1781, in H. R. McIlvaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, III (Richmond, 1929), 113, 116-117, regarding Rochambeau's complaints.

France. Armée
Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur,‏ comte de,‏ 1725-1807‏