Friday, May 19, 2017

General George Washington Visits Lebanon, Connecticut, in March of 1781.

General George Washington visits Lebanon, Connecticut, 
in March of 1781.

General George Washington. Engraving after a portrait by John Trumbull [1]

General George Washington visited Lebanon, Connecticut twice in March of 1781. First on March 4-5, 1781, on route to a meeting with the Count de Rochambeau and French officers at Newport, Rhode Island. And second, on his return from Newport, Rhode Island on March 16, 1781. 

"Washington spent the night of March 4-5 in Lebanon at the home of Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. and his wife, Eunice Backus Trumbull. While here, Washington visited Governor Trumbull's War Office, which stands on Lebanon Hill."[2]


At Hartford, Connecticut:  "March fourth -- D.[ies] Dom.[inicus]. General Washington came with his aids Col. ______, Col. Tilgham [Tilghman]. The Genl left an order for a General Court Martial for the trial of Alexander McDowell for desertion -- set out for Newport -- M. Gen. Howe with him. Col. Trumbull accompanied them to Lebanon." -- Diary of Jonathan Trumbull."[3]


At Lebanon, Connecticut: Reviews the Legion of the Duke de Lauzun, in quarters at Lebanon."[4]

In the correspondence of George Washington, March 5, 1781, there are three letters to George Washington, Lebanon, Connecticut.[5]


George Washington visited Lebanon, Connecticut again on March 16, 1781, on his return from a meeting with the Count de Rochambeau and French officers at Newport, Rhode Island. We know this from a letter addressed to the "Comte de Rochambeau,"[6] dated, "Lebanon, March 16, 1781."[7] 

The War Office

The War Office was moved twice, first in 1824, and again in 1844 to its present location.

War Office Model

This is a model (in progress) of what I believe Lebanon looked like circa 1781 during the American Revolution. Specifically, the corner of Town Street (West Town Street, running North/South, and vertical in the photo) and the Colchester Road (Route 207, running East/West, and horizontal in the photo), where the Governor Jonathan Trumbull House and the Trumbull family store, the "War Office," originally stood. There are no historical illustrations or photos depicting how it originally looked. The earliest illustrations are by Barber in his 1836 publication,[8] which shows both buildings after they were moved in 1824. Tradition states that Gov. Trumbull's father, Capt. Joseph Trumble, Sr., Patriarch of the Trumble/Trumbull family of Lebanon, Connecticut, built the Store/War Office in 1727. Later he built the House (Gov. Jonathan Trumbull House) in 1735/40, and his son, Gov. Jonathan Trumbull inherited it in 1755. Both buildings are said to have faced the Colchester Road.

The roof of the house in the foreground is David Trumbull's Redwood, which was used by the Duke de Lauzun as his headquarters during the French winter encampment 1780/1781. This house sits on the site of the original Trumbull family homestead, which Capt. Joseph Trumble, Sr. bought from Rev. Joseph Parsons, first Minister of Lebanon.

From my historical research on the War Office, this is how I think it would have looked when George Washington visited in March 1781. As always, research is ongoing, but to date, I have seen nothing to contradict this.

Lebanon Green 

The Lebanon Green, "Gen. Washington himself reviewed Lauzun's legion here on the 5th of March of that year, and highly complimented them and their commander on their appearance and discipline."[9]

"Washington was in Lebanon on March 5, 1781, and at that time he reviewed the hussars of Lauzun's Legion on the village green."[10]

"Once during the winter the dull routine of the camp was broken by the news that General Washington was close at hand. He was then on his way to Newport to meet Rochambeau, and came to Lebanon as a guest of the Governor. Lauzun ordered a grand review of the legion in his honor, on which occasion the Hussars displayed the perfection of military discipline. They charged, wheeled and deployed, broke ranks and reformed, waved their colors, bared their sabers, and fired their carbines amid torrents of applause from the multitudes that gathered to witness the grand affair."[11]

He goes on to describe the scene, "The reviewing party made a pretty bit of color. There were Washington and his escort in full uniform -- blue, buff-lined coats, buff vests, buff breeches buckled at the knees, and long spurred boots; Lauzun and his staff in blue and gold, epauleted, their breasts glittering with jeweled insignia; and Governor Trumbull and his suite in the crimson, broad-flapped coats, embroidered vests, and velvet small-clothes that formed the dress of the civilian of that period. It was a grand affair, and its memory will never fade from the village."[12]

1. General George Washington, engraving by A. Daggett after a portrait by Col. Trumbull, Steel-engraved frontpiece, History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America, Charles Botta, translated from the Italian by George Alexander Otis, Vol. 2, T. Brainard, New Haven, 1840.
2. Washington's Travels in New England, A Chronological Itinerary, Charles Eugene Claghorn III, 1996-2003 by Florida Society, Sons of the American Revolution, Inc.
"Preface: This is the first and only comprehensive analysis of Washington's travels in New England abstracted from six volumes of his diaries and 39 volumes of his writings, plus his expense accounts in the Library of Congress and information obtained by the author in writing to over sixty local libraries and historical societies, published in one small booklet. It is hoped this will be a valuable research paper and of interest to tourists who wish to visit those places  where "Washington slept here." - Gene Claghorn, Cocoa Beach, Florida"
3. Itinerary of General Washington from June 15, 1775 to December 23, 1783, William S. Baker, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company, 1892, page 208.
4. Ibid.
5. Library of Congress, Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, with the Officers, in Four Volumes, Vol. III, December 9, 1780 - January 4, 1784, Prepared from the Original Manuscripts in the Library of Congress by John C. Fitzpatrick, Division of Manuscripts, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1915, page 1745.
6. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, Volume 21, December 22, 1780-April 26, 1781, John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor, Prepared under the direction of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission and published by authority of Congress, Best Books, 1939, pages 338-339.
7. Ibid.
8. Connecticut Historical Collections containing a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c. relating to the History and Antiquities of every town in Connecticut, with geographical descriptions, John Warner Barber, 1836, page 323.
9. History of New London County, Connecticut, with Biographical Sketches of many if its Pioneers and Prominent Men, compiled under the supervision of D. Hamilton Hurd, Philadelphia, J.W. Lewis & Co., 1882, page 489.
10. Washington at Lebanon in 1781, Bernard Follert, Article: Connecticut Circle, The Magazine of the Constitution State, Vol. XIII, No. 2, February, 1950, pages 4-5.
11. In Olde Connecticut; being a record of quaint, curious and romantic happenings there in colonial times and later, Charles Burr Todd, The Grafton Press, New York, 1906, page 139.
12. Ibid. pages 139-140.

The War Office is owned and maintained by the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

The Governor Jonathan Trumbull House is owned and maintained by the Connecticut Daughters of the American Revolution.


  1. Another great blog. Do you have any info about when the French camped at my Great Uncles place in Bolton (Rev. G. Colton). I know Rochambeau stayed at his home for 2-3 days either on the way too or from Newport. Thanks Mike