Berthier’s Manuscript Maps of America, 1781–82

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce that it has digitized and put online Louis-Alexandre Berthier’s manuscript maps of the United States in the final years of the American Revolution. The 111 numbered maps and related journals are Berthier’s record of the 680-mile overland march of the French army of some 5,750 men under Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia, during the summer and early autumn of 1781, and the return march of the French Army from Virginia to Boston, July–December 1782. The French army joined forces in July 1781 with the Continental Army under Gen. George Washington at Philipsburg, New York, and then with the French fleet under Admiral de Grasse, resulting in the defeat and surrender of British forces under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, on October 19, 1781. The maps were executed, presumably soon after the momentous events of the American Revolution, from sketches and other information made on by Berthier during the march. The maps fall into two interrelated series: (1) 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; and (2) “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 Berthier Collection at Princeton. 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. Harry C. Black, Class of 1909, acquired the Berthier Collection, formerly in the Berthier family archives at Château de Grosbois, France, and donated them to the Library in 1939.

Berthier’s road maps are the most spectacular part of the collection, documenting the march of French and Continental forces and providing an early cartographic record of a few major cities, such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as many small towns and villages. There are two maps of Princeton (nos. 54, 55), one of which shows the location of Nassau Hall. Other places in New Jersey include Pompton (Pompton Plains), Whippany, Bullion’s Tavern (Liberty Corner), Somerset Courthouse (Millstone), and Trenton). The maps 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).In later years, Berthier continued to be employed in staff posts, and to earn regular promotions. He saw active military service during the French Revolution. In 1796 he accompanied General Bonaparte in the Italian campaign, as chief of staff of the army. 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.

To view the finding aid for the Louis-Alexandre Berthier Collection (C0022), go to http://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/C0022. At the main screen, one can either browse under “Contents and Arrangement” (on the left side) or download the finding aid by clicking on “View Entire Finding Aid” (upper right). To search for maps of particular cities and towns, enter the place name and the word map in the search window (“Search this Collection”). Then review the search results, select the particular map of interest, and click on “View Image.” Please note, images are not to be published or broadcast without permission of the Princeton University Library. For conservation reasons, access to the original manuscripts is restricted. Researchers should use the digital images provided online. The best study of Berthier’s journals and maps is Howard C. Rice, Jr., and Anne S. K. Brown, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972), 2 volumes. For more information about the Berthier Collection or permission to publish and/or broadcast images, contact the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at rbsc@princeton.edu

Berthier map of Philadelphia 1781

Map of Philadelphia, 1781

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