Rochefontaine letter to Governor Fenner

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Rochefontaine letter to Governor Fenner


Image of the letter from Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Rochefontaine to Rhode Island Governor Arthur Fenner requesting additional funds for the completion of fortifications for the defense of Rhode Island, August 16, 1796.

Born near Reims, France, in 1755, Stephen Rochefontaine came to America in 1778 after failing to gain a position in the French Royal Corps of Engineers. He volunteered in General Washington's Army on May 15, 1778, and was appointed captain in the Corps of Engineers on September 18, 1778. For his distinguished services at the siege of Yorktown, Rochefontaine was given the brevet rank of major by Congress, November 16, 1781. He returned to France in 1783 and served as an infantry officer, reaching the rank of colonel in the French Army. He came back to the United States in 1792. President Washington appointed him a civilian engineer to fortify the New England coast in 1794. After the new Corps of Artillerists and Engineers was organized, Washington made Rochefontaine a lieutenant colonel and commandant of the new Corps on February 26, 1795. Rochefontaine started a military school at West Point in 1795, but the building and all his equipment were burned the following year. He left the Army on May 7, 1798, and lived in New York City, where he died January 30, 1814. He is buried in old St. Paul's Cemetery in New York.
Source: "Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Rochefontaine". Portraits and Profiles of Chief Engineers.

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Rhode Island State Archives


1796 August 16


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Document Item Type Metadata


Boston August 16th 1796
I have the honor to send to your Excellency, copies of the
Plans, buildings, etc., now erecting or to be erected afterwards
For the Defense of Rhode Island, or the Harbour of Newport.

Your Excellency will easily perceive, that the sums granted
Were so small, that I could not complete the plan of fortification
calculated to put that Island beyond any danger of being
conquered by a foreign Enemy but what your Excellency has
been pleased to approve will sufficiently remove all fear of
being insulted, or put under contribution by a small force such
as 2 or 3 ships of the line, and 10 or 12 hundred men of Land forces;
and perhaps is it more advisable to restrain our fortifications
to the number of defenders easily to be collected together in case
of an attack, than to be at a very great expense of erecting
fortifications, which we are uncertain to man properly in case
of necessity, and which probably are at last to become a conquest
to an Enemy, when they intend to make a capital expedition
against them
I am with great Respect
Your Excellency’s Most obedient humble Ser.
His Excellency Arthur Fenner Rochefontaine
Engr. Pro tempore

Original Format



Rochefontaine, Stephen, "Rochefontaine letter to Governor Fenner," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #76, (accessed September 20, 2019).