Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Long Range Interpretive Plan August 2019
Long range interpretive plans (LRIP) provide guidance for National Park Service parks' planning and management decisions. Core components of this LRIP include a brief description of Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail and its purpose, significance, fundamental resources, values, and interpretive themes. An interdisciplinary team of National Park Service staff and partners met in March 2018 to review the trail's purpose, significance, and interpretive themes. Desired outcomes were identified that would help impart the trail's national significance through appropriate interpretive media. Issues were prioritized to be addressed throughout the expected five-to-seven-year life of this plan. Recommendations will be implemented and facilitated as staffing, planning, funding, technology, and resource conditions advance. In addition, this LRIP satisfies the requirement for an interpretive plan as established by National Park Service Director’s Order #6. Interpretation and Education.
Prepared by Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Northeast Regional Office, National Park Service Harpers Ferry Center Interpretive Planning.
Background image of a map with a series of trail routes beginning in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York running south along the coast and coastal waterways ending in Yorktown, Virginia. There are numerous towns and historic sites with small descriptive text along the route, a legend for the map, and Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail logo. For a detailed description of the map, see alternative text of the infographic in Part 1 Desired Interpretive Outcomes section.
Main text: Discovering a Revolutionary War Trail. "The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route comprises a network of roads and waterways used by allied forces in the Yorktown campaign. Although population growth and urban development have erased almost all traces of the rural campsites and small taverns that once sheltered Revolutionary War soldiers, the public can still visit historic sites that tell the Washington-Rochambeau story. Strolling the green in Lebanon, Connecticut, taking a sail on the Chesapeake Bay, seeing a Revolutionary War reenactment at Colonial Williamsburg, or exploring the battlefield at Yorktown, are just a few of many opportunities to interact with history.
Travelers driving I-95 from Massachusetts to Virginia now make the trip in less than a day, and GPS systems guide them to lodging, fuel, and restaurants. It is worth remembering, however, that in colonial times, most of this land was wilderness. If not for the detailed surveys by engineers and cartographers during the allied campaign, French and American troops might not have reached Yorktown. That they did so, defeated the British, and returned north—the French to go home, the Americans to win the war—remains an impressive feat."
Image of a sundail with a caption reading "Time of day and geographic location were of basic concern to soldiers on the march. To determine both, they may have relied on an instrument like this pocket compass and sundial. COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE MUSEUM MANAGEMENT PROGRAM AND MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK".
Image of a historic map of Connecticut with a caption reading "This map of Connecticut from Rochambeau’s personal collection is titled “Connecticut, from the best authorities.” In 1780-81 his special cavalry—Lauzun’s Legion—spent eight months camped just west of Lebanon Green. ROCHAMBEAU MAP COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS".
Text near Lebanon reads: "Lebanon provided winter quarters for some 220 of the 300 hussars of Lauzun’s Legion from November 20, 1780, until June 20, 1781."
Image of a book page with a historic illustration of a map of a town next to a river with a caption reading "This atlas page records a camp occupied by Rochambeau’s troops in Philadelphia, 1782. ROCHAMBEAU MAP COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS".
The larger image is overlain with paragraphs of text and images with captions pinpointing areas of interest along the trails. Pinpoints on the map following the trail from north to south are: Minute Man National Historical Park, Boston National Historical Park, Longfellow National Historic Site, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Roger Williams National Memorial, Governors Island National Monument, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Quinebaug & Shetucket Rivers, Valley National Heritage Corridor, Morristown National Historical Park, Independence, National Historical Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, Colonial National Historical Park, Prince William Forest Park.
Images and additional captions on the map following the trail from north to south are:
Caption over Boston, Massachusetts reading "Having marched all the way from Williamsburg to Boston, Rochambeau’s infantry sailed out of Boston Harbor for the Caribbean on Christmas Day 1782."
Caption over Newport reading "French forces under the comte de Rochambeau quartered in Newport from their arrival on July 18, 1780, until their departure for New York on June 11, 1781."
Image of a trail leading through a grass field with historic buildings. The caption and text read "Lebanon Green, Lebanon, Connecticut PHOTO BY SUSAN LAVIGNE". An arrow connects this image to Lebanon, Connecticut, on the map.
Text near Newburgh reads: "Having spent the winter of 1780-81 in and around Newburgh, Washington and the Continental Army broke camp on June 28, and joined Rochambeau’s forces near White Plains on July 4, 1781."
Image of a two-story white colonial home with a caption and text reading "Thomas Clark House Museum, Princeton Battlefield, Princeton, New Jersey ROBERT ROSETTA; ABOUTNEWJERSEY.COM." An arrow connects this image to Princeton, New Jersey, on the map.
Text under Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reads "Generals Washington and Rochambeau arrived in Philadelphia on August 30, 1781. Their forces paraded before Congress from September 2 to 4."
Image of a creek lined with marsh and trees with a caption reading "White Clay Creek near Hale-Byrnes House, Stanton, Delaware LOWELL SILVERMAN". An arrow connects this image with Wilmington, Delaware, on the map.
Text near Elkton, Maryland, reads "On September 9-10,1781, about 1,450 officers and men of the Continental Army, as well as about 1,200 of Rochambeau’s forces, embarked at Elkton for the journey to Virginia."
Text near Annapolis, Maryland, reads "Late in the afternoon of September 21, 1781, the rest of the allied forces, some 3,800 French and 200 American soldiers, sailed from Annapolis."
Text near Yorktown, Virginia, reads "Reinforced by French forces under the marquis de St. Simon, as well as Continental Army troops under the marquis de Lafayette, the combined allied armies, 9,000 Americans and 9,000 French strong, set out for Yorktown on September 28, 1781. On October 19, 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered his forces to the victorious allies."
Text near Cape Charles, Maryland, and Cape Henry, Virginia, reads "The Battle off the Capes occurred near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781. After the siege of Yorktown, Rochambeau’s forces wintered in Virginia. The troops headed north in summer 1782, continuing all the way to Boston, and departed the United States on Christmas Day 1782."
About Interpretive Planning
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (WARO) Foundation Document (2018) provides basic guidance for planning and management decisions including the content of this Long-Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP). It includes a brief description of the park as well as the park’s purpose, significance, fundamental resources and values, and interpretive themes.
The LRIP advances planning by describing desired interpretive outcomes and by making recommendation for a variety of personal and non-personal interpretive services and partnerships that will communicate the trail’s purpose, significance, and primary stories.
This LRIP satisfies the requirement for an interpretive plan as established in Director’s Order #6.
An interdisciplinary team of National Park Service (NPS) staff and partners met in March 2018 to review portions of the Foundation Document, specifically the trail’s purpose, significance, and interpretive themes. During that two-day workshop, participants discussed targeted audiences based on personal opinion and anecdote that they felt would benefit most from enhanced interpretive outreach and media.
The group reviewed existing interpretation and identified desired outcomes that would help impart the trail’s national significance. They prioritized issues that appropriate interpretive media should address throughout the five-to-seven-year life of this LRIP.
Recommendations included in this LRIP will be updated regularly or as staffing, funding, technology, or resource conditions change. As noted in the document, further planning, funding, and staffing will be needed to implement some of the plan’s recommendations.
The infographic is a map of the eastern coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Direction is depicted with a key eight pointed star inside a circle, outside the circle to the top is a fleur de leis.
There is a troop movement key to the bottom right of the map with a scale in 25-100 mile increments. The routes and troop strength displayed on the map include:
American and French troops moving by land are depicted by a series of solid blue arrows beginning in Providence, Rhode Island, with a note "Rochambeau 4,800" , then proceeding through Hartford, Connecticut, splitting into two routes through New York one labeled "Washington & Rochambeau 6,800", reconnecting in Princeton, New Jersey, proceeding through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, through Head of Elk, Baltimore, and Annalpolis, Maryland, picking up "Lafayette 900" before proceeding through Fredericksburg, Virginia, and to Richmond, Virginia. The route then proceeds north for a short distance and circles around south near Chalottesville, Virginia, and proceeds to Yorktown, Virginia, along the James River.
American and French troops transported by water are depicted by a series of dashed blue arrow beginning at Head of Elk, Maryland, and proceeding south through the Chesapeake Bay waterways to Yorktown, Virginia.
British troops moving by land and raids are depicted by a series of solid red arrow beginning in North Caolina with a note "Cornwallis (marching from Wilmington, N.C.) 1,500". The route continues north to Petersburg, Virginia acorss the James River circling around to Richmond, Virginia, with two breakoff raids in Charlottesville and Point of Fork in Virginia. The route crosses the James River at Green Spring, Virginia, proceeds through Portsmouth, and ends in Yorktown, Virginia.
French naval movements depicted by a dashed blue arrow. One route with a note "de Barras 12 ships of the line" begins in Rhode Island and follows the coast south to a clash at the Capes of Maryland and Virginia on the Cheseapeake Bay. Another route labeled "de Grasse 38 ships of the line 3,000 troops" heads north along the North Carolina coast and to a clash at the Capes of Maryland and Virginia.
British naval movements are depicted by a series of dashed red arrow beginning at New York City, New York, with a Note "Clinton 17,000". The route proceeds south along the coast with a note by Delaware reading "Graves 19 ships of the line". The route ends at a clash at the Capes of Maryland and Virginia.
A legend of Campaign Timeline reads: Apr. 25 – Indecisive battle at Blandford VA May 8 – Phillips at Petersburg, VA with 4,200 British troops May 10 – Virginia government flees Richmond for Charlottesville; supplies sent to Point of Fork May 20 – Cornwallis arrives at Petersburg with 1,500 troops, takes command May 21 – 1,500 British reinforcements raises Cornwallis’s total to 7,200 men May 23 – Lafayette decides to avoid combat June 4 – Tarleton captures Charlottesville, Simcoe captures Point of Fork, VA government flees west. June 7-13 – Cornwallis at Elk Hill Plantation June 14 – Cornwallis moves east reinforced, Lafayette pursues June 19 – Rochambeau departs Providence, RI with 4,800 French troops July 6 – Indecisive battle at Green Spring, VA July 7 – Washington & Rochambeau join forces at Dobbs Ferry, NY August 1 – Cornwallis arrives at Yorktown, VA August 21 – de Barras sails from Newport, RI with 12 French ships of the line August 30 – de Grasse enters Chesapeake Bay with 28 French ships of the line and 3,000 French troops August 31 – Graves sails from New York City with 19 British ships of the line September 5 – French navy wins the Battle of the Capes, Graves withdraws September 19-26 – Allied army transported by water to Yorktown vicinity September 29 – Washington & Rochambeau arrive at Yorktown; allied army totals 16,650 September 29-October 19 – Siege of Yorktown October 19 – Cornwallis surrenders 7,171 troops and 840 seamen
Cartographer’s mark on the map reads "Rick Britton"
A decorative label at the bottom of the infographic reads “George Washington’s Mount Vernon”.
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (WARO NHT) is defined in the 2009 authorizing legislation (Omnibus Public Land Management Act, PL 111-11) as “The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, a corridor of approximately 600 miles following the route taken by the armies of General George Washington and Count Rochambeau between Newport, Rhode Island, and Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781 and 1782, as generally depicted on the map titled Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, numbered T01/80,001, and dated June, 2007.”
The following description of the trail appears in WARO’s draft Foundation Document:
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (referred to herein as the Trail) includes more than 700 miles of land and water corridors that follow the routes taken by the French and American armies, under General Washington and General Rochambeau, to and from the siege of Yorktown, Virginia—a pivotal event in America’s War for Independence or the Revolutionary War. The national historic trail traverses nine states—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia—plus the District of Columbia. The main trail and its multiple side routes pass through the major metropolitan areas in the Boston-New York-Washington megalopolis. The national historic trail corridors connect parks, historic sites, natural preserves, and other public open spaces crossing a number of historic trails, scenic trails, and tour routes.
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail recognizes those places that still mark the passage of French and American troops. The route offers a variety of experiences as it follows the steps taken by American and French soldiers. In a number of cities along the route—such as Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Alexandria, Virginia—historic buildings, roads, and open spaces still remain, despite tremendous growth since1781. In addition, more rural areas along the route, such as New York’s Hudson River Valley and Virginia’s rural farmland, the route of the historic road, broad landscape patterns, and portions of the older communities still remain from this Colonial period. The national historic trail moves through a transportation corridor used from Colonial times to the present. Some of the roads maintain their 18th-century character and continue to connect large and small towns along the way. In other segments, the original Revolutionary-era road has since been replaced by modern two-lane roads and interstates and the campsites and associated military resources have been covered over by modern development.
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail has an intangible quality, as well as a physical location. The national historic trail provides the framework to support preservation activities, interpretation efforts, and celebrations of this remarkable achievement. It is a living collaboration between the French and American governments, participants and supporters, and hundreds of communities, 50 counties, and nine states along the route.
Trail Operation & Partners
While the NPS administers the trail, the NPS owns no property and does not staff for operational support. Currently, there is no overarching management plan to guide implementation of the trail.
The National Park Service will assist in the protection of historic resources and the commemoration and interpretation of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail in collaboration with a broad range of private organizations and local, state, and federal agencies. The existing lead partner is the non-profit National Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, Inc. (W3R-US), which represents the trail at the national level and carries out trail activities related to conservation, preservation, education, and interpretation.
The W3R-US mission is to partner with the National Park Service, W3R-US state, international and other organizations, historic sites, preservationists and conservationists along the 700 mile Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (WARO), to initiate, coordinate, and promote programs that engage, inspire and educate the public in the history of the American Revolution with a particular emphasis on how France and the French people provided crucial aid to the United States.
The NPS presence associated with the trail is in the 19 national parks, national monuments, national battlefields and national historic sites. Also, a national recreation area, nine national heritage areas, two national scenic trails, two national historic trails, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network are along the trail.
In addition, there are hundreds of historic sites, museums, and state and local parks that include or physically access sections of the trail and/or relate to it thematically. These sites currently work with or could collaborate with the National Park Service and its primary non-profit partner W3R-US, to tell the WARO story.
WARO was established with legislation adopted by Congress (Public Law 111-11) on March 30, 2009.
A purpose statement lays the foundation for understanding what is most important about the trail. It identifies the specific reason(s) for establishing this particular unit of the NPS.
The 2018 Foundation Document for WARO contains this purpose statement:
The purpose of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail is to preserve and interpret the routes taken by American and French troops from 1780–1783 and to commemorate the role of the critical French-American alliance in the victory over British forces at the siege of Yorktown, Virginia.
The National Park Service will assist in the protection of historic resources and the commemoration and interpretation of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail in collaboration with a broad range of private organizations and local, state, and federal agencies.
Significance statements explain why the trail’s resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the National Park System. They describe the distinctiveness of the trail and why it is important within a global, national, or NPS system-wide context.
The 2018 Foundation Document for WARO contains the significance statements below. The sequence of the statements does not reflect the level of significance.
This joint action, taken by Washington’s and Rochambeau’s allied armies, is the longest and most complex march / military maneuver of the Revolutionary War. The national historic trail corridor connects publicly accessible sites associated with the routes of the French and American troops on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, and their victorious return north.
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail provides an outstanding opportunity to place the Revolutionary War within the context of the broader global struggle and to highlight the essential role of the French-American alliance in the success of the American Revolution.
Located within the most densely populated region in the United States, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail provides trail users with recreational and educational opportunities and connects communities through a network of organizations and public agencies to other parks, sites, and trails related to the American Revolution.
Main text reads "Below you, between Stony Point and Verplanck on the opposite shore, the Hudson River narrows to a short ¾ mile wide width. During the Revolutionary War, this location was a crucial crossing point called King’s Ferry. Because the British occupied New York City, all Continental and French Army troops, supplies, and military and civilian communications passing between New England and colonies to the south crossed the Hudson here.
In September 1780, British Major John Andre crossed at King’s Ferry in an attempt to return to British lines after conspiring with American General Benedict Arnold. Arnold was attempting to hand over West Point to the British in return for money, command in the British Army, and a title of nobility. Andre was captured with Arnold’s demands. The Continental Army convicted Andre of espionage, and he was hanged as a spy on October 2, 1780."
Quote in upper right of infographic reads “His Majesty’s troops have taken possession of it, and are also fortifying the strong post of Stoney-point, by which we are masters of King’s ferry, and oblige the rebels to make a detour of ninety miles across the mountains to communicate the country east of Hudson’s river.” It is followed by text "Sir George Collier, Commodore of the British Royal Navy, after the British captured King’s Ferry in July 1779. (The Americans retook the location four months later.)"
Five images on the infographic from left to right across the infographic: An image of a historic map of a river labeled "Hudson's River" with ships sailing along the coast that includes two prominent land forms. The caption reads "King's Ferry has been highlighted on this 18th-century map of Stony Point Battlefield by British Lt. William Marshall, 63rd regiment of Foot. Hstirocal Society of Pennsylvania."
An image of a historic map of two land forms one labeled "King's Ferry" seperated by a river labeled "Hudson's River". The caption reads "Detail from Plan of Attacks on the Forts Clinton and Montgomery upon Hudsons River showing King's Ferry, published by Wiliam Faden, Long 1784. New York State Library."
A map in the shape of a octagonal star with each point indicating a cardinal direction. The map is entitled "Path Map" and depicts visitor facilities and opportunities on a pennisula surrounded by the Hudson River and Haverstraw Bay. Upon crossing a Bridge in the northwest corner of the map, the road into the park immediately crosses over a railroad line. The road proceeds southeast into the park with an option to turn right to reach a parking lot. A walking path provides the option to proceed left or northeast towards a museum and the King's Ferry Overlook, or to proceed right or southeast to a comfort station and walking loop that includes a lighthouse and picnic pavilion. The King's Ferry Overlook has a marker reading "You Are Here". Numbers along the trail likely indicate points of interest that are not listed on this infographic.
A portait of British Major John Andre captioned the same.
A portrait of American General Benedict Arnold captioned the same.
The bottom left of the infographic prominently reads "Stony Point".
The infographic has a black banner on the top with text reading "Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail" and "National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior" along with the trail's logo and National Park Service's logo.
Information below the interpretive panel reads "36 x 24 inches, 40% of actual size, October 2013, Stony Point Kings Ferry, Wayside Exhibit, 020A".
Interpretive themes are the key stories or concepts that audiences should understand after visiting the trail. The themes define the most important ideas or concepts communicated to visitors about the trail and its stories.
Themes are derived from, and should reflect, trail purpose and significance. A set of interpretive themes is complete when it provides the structure necessary for NPS staff and partners to develop opportunities for audiences to explore and relate to all trail significance statements.
Interpretive themes are an organizational tool that can reveal and clarify meaning, concepts, contexts, and values represented by trail resources. Sound themes are accurate and reflect current scholarship and science. They encourage exploration of the context in which events or cultural and natural processes occurred and the effects of those events and processes. Interpretive themes go beyond a mere factual description of an event or process. They help explain why a trail story is relevant to people who may otherwise be unaware of connections they have to an event, time, or place associated with the trail. The following interpretive themes have been identified for WARO:
The French Alliance and Its Global Context: The alliance between the United States and France during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) helped achieve American independence and was part of a larger geopolitical strategy for influence (in Europe, Africa, India, the West Indies), international trade, and for control of North America.
The Yorktown Campaign: The Yorktown Campaign (June to October 1781), culminating in the American and French victory over the British Army at Yorktown, Virginia, marked “the beginning of the end” of the Revolutionary War that guaranteed independence for the United States.
Main text reads "In the Revolutionary War, the French Army established three field hospitals in New York. One of these makeshift facilities was here at Old St. Peter’s Church.
In the 1700’s, medical care and equipment were primitive and crude. Hospitals could be as much a source of illness as a place of healing. Revolutionary War records show that soldiers were more likely to die from diseases caught in camp or in hospitals than from wounds inflicted in battle.
Look for seven memorial crosses to your left at the end of this building. These honor seven French soldiers who died from illness at Old St. Peter’s while aiding the colonies in winning independence."
Main picture: Four young adult males colonial clothing, with red stains. First lying, appears sick with red stains covering parts of his face, his skin appears pale, his mouth is half open and his eyes though wide open appear fixed on male toward his lower body. This second person, wearing eyeglasses, is standing with his back in view, and it appears the man is holding a tool and a cloth dripping red behind his back. Third person to the patient’s left is wiping the right side of the lying man’s head and holding the lying man’s clenched left fist. Fourth man wearing a blue and buff regimental soldier’s coat to the lying man’s right shows some fright in his facial expression, while holding the lying man’s right arm also with clenched fist.
Image caption reads “A soldier receives treatment for injuries. In the Revolutionary War, amputation was a common treatment for battle wounds.”
The infographic also includes and image of sheets of paper with indecernable handwriting and a caption reading "French army enlistment records distinguished between death from illness and death from battle wounds.”
Next to it is an image of an open wooden chest with medical supplies and a caption reading "Revolutionary War era medicine chest”; credit for chest is given to CHESTER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY, West Chester, PA.
The infographic has a black banner on the top with text reading "Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail" and "National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior" along with the trail's logo and National Park Service's logo.
Below the interpretive panel is text reading "36 x 24 inches, 40% of actual size, October 2013, Old St. Peters, Wayside Exhibit 014A".
Workshop participants identified a variety of successful interpretive initiatives.
Partnerships are among the trail’s most obvious success stories including community engagement. The formal partnership between the NPS and W3R-US has allowed the latter to build its capacity to assist other organizations.
Protected sections of the original trail (Prince William Forest Park, for example) exist in some places as actual and possible interpretive nodes.
A limited number of wayside exhibits already produced and installed (Morristown National Historical Park for example) have connected site specific stories to the trail’s significance.
New York State has developed a plan for wayside exhibits and the latter have been installed at a dozen sites along the national historic trail (NHT) in New York.
Temporary exhibits (in the visitor center in Independence National Historical Park for example), and temporary fabric banners installed on poles along the route, at Colonial National Historical Park, along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, and at Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia help build trail identity and brand.
Full-color brochures with maps and contextual information are available.
Eastern National’s passport stamp program attracts visitors to individual NPS sites along the trail route.
Paintings (such as David Wagner’s) and other historical art have been very effective at capturing the historical events and making them immediate to trail visitors.
Special events have called attention to the trail and heightened visibility of historic sites along the route.
Online audiences visit existing websites (NPS for WARO, W3R-US, and March to Yorktown.org for re-enactors) and data about what pages they view could provide insight into what kinds of information attracts attention. The W3R-US website is updated regularly and is easier to navigate than the previous version.
The NHT logo is valuable. It helps trail visitors appreciate and understand the brand identity and is closely monitored and administered by the National Park Service.
Communities see value in being connected to the NHT (Lebanon, CT is an example of a model trail community).
Workshop participants identified what they perceived as audience needs. Audience understanding is largely anecdotal. Partner sites do not have data about their visitors and what they know about the trail Participants believe that a variety of groups travel the trail or visit individual sites. These visitors do not necessarily know they are visiting the trail. Generally, existing trail audiences seem primarily interested in history; however, family-oriented events and programming with a variety of activities seem to have broad appeal.
Even with little data, there appear to be multiple, currently untapped opportunities that would meet audience needs:
Increasingly, audiences access information online. The trail’s web presence, however, is fragmented. Multiple websites (nps.gov/waro, W3R-US, and W3R state websites) would benefit from increased coordination. Individual websites need more robust and easy-to-access content that is updated regularly. This needs to be made a priority.
Use of digital technologies depends on expertise at partner sites. Coordination of effort is uneven.
Audiences do not have access to (and may not seek) basic contextual and background interpretation related to the trail’s significance and primary themes. In many cases, it’s unclear how individual sites and stories fit into a larger historical framework.
The original WARO Unigrid brochure reflects the trail identity and connects it to the NPS brand. Reprinting costs, storage, and distribution of brochures create ongoing sustainability issues. Current brochures require at least a high school education to read and understand. Rather than enhance brand and identity, the state brochures have the potential to “balkanize” the trail and create confusion about trail identity
Beyond brochures, the trail does not have interpretive material that effectively connects individual sites because planning tends to be by state and locality rather than trail-wide.
Although the trail is making progress toward an identity and effective branding, work remains. Few people know the trail exists or when they are on it.
There are few interpretive materials for families and youth, and few ways to engage the latter in a meaningful way. There is the additional challenge of how best to engage thousands of school districts along the 700-mile trail.
There is little coordination with potential partners focused on recreation, trails, and tourism and much more needs to be done to connect, promote, and share information about the NHT.
There are few intact sections of the historic route that visitors can access physically. There is no consensus on the historical alignment of the trail on the ground because much of the fabric and character of the colonial landscape at the time has been erased by modern development. Existing GIS mapping of the trail does not distinguish between historic, intact sections of trail and those modern roads that were identified as being as close as possible to the original route of the trail. This raises questions about how interpretation will address sections of the trail that are intact versus those “close to” the original land and water route(s).
Visitors would benefit from an understanding of the primary march route/corridor on the ground that is part of the Yorktown Campaign, and an understanding of the ancillary routes followed by specific troops or individuals for related purposes.
While all people are welcome and invited to participate, some audiences are targeted for focused attention because they may be inadequately served by existing interpretation, need different strategies for engagement, or require specific methods to open communications or to establish or sustain relationships.
After discussing both existing and potential audiences, workshop participants felt that during the expected five-to-seven-year life of this LRIP, interpretive media should be used to reach the following groups.
Greatest Impact During the Life of the LRIP
Facilities and museums such as the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, etc.
Local residents, towns, cities, organizations, schools adjacent to the trail route (consider targeting specific age groups).
Convention and Visitors Bureaus; tourism professionals; state agencies; city, county, and state planners; AAA; Amtrak, etc. Professional planners are a relatively small group, but they can get the trail into state regional and local master plans and they have great networks. Railroads and departments of transportation are important because they own or lease rights-of-way for sections of trail and serve the many riders and drivers along the route. Tourism organizations have a huge opportunity to use the NHT to market and promote visitation and interest among residents and visitors.
Virtual audiences, online audiences, etc. especially through the www.nps.gov/waro website.
Recreational groups, hiking and biking groups (for instance, East Coast Greenway Alliance) and boaters will help connect natural and cultural resource interests.
Other Audiences to Consider in the Future
Historical societies (Can distribute maps and guides, and promote and sponsor trail related activities).
Environmental and horticultural groups, land conservancies and open space preservation interests, other parks along the trail.
Opinion leaders = local/state/federal politicians, news organizations, civic and community groups, clergy, etc.
Living history groups and organizations, including round tables and speakers’ bureaus.
Map showing a series of routes that were taken by Generals Washington and Rochambeau's armies in 1780-1781 from Massachusetts to Virginia.
North Arrow pointing toward the top of the map.
Scale of map showing increments of 20 kilometers and 20 miles
Legend: National Historic Trail Route
Solid blue line for the French Army route
Dotted purple line for the French Army-water route
Solid red line for the Continental Army route
Dotted yellow line for the Continental Army-water route
Green squares for related NPS units
Solid pink line for Interstate 95
French Army route indicated by a solid blue line: Route starts in Newport Rhode Island, then heads North to Providence Rhode Island, then west towards Lebanon, Connecticut, branches into three westward routes that overlap paths through southeastern New York converging north of New York City and continuing south along Interstate 95 past Baltimore Maryland, detours from Route 95 temporary to Annapolis, Maryland, continues to follow Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg, Virginia, then southeast ending at Yorktown, Virginia. This route passes Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island; near Quinebaug & Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Rhode Island; near Governors Island National Monument in New York City, New York; Morristown National Historical Park in northern New Jersey; Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; near Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Valley Forge National Historical Park in eastern Pennsylvania; Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland; Prince William Forest Park in eastern Virginia; and Colonial Naitonal Historical Park in Williamsburg, Virginia.
French Army-water route indicated by a dotted purple line: Route starts in Philadelphia and heads along the river through Wilmington, Delaware, and Elkton, Maryland, to the Chesapeake Bay, continuing to Baltimore, Maryland, then Annapolis, Maryland, and south ending at Yorktown, Virginia. This route passes Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland; the Chesapeake Bay Geteways Network, and Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia.
Continental Army route indicated by a solid red line: This route starts in New York City, New York, then has branches that head north to Newburgh, New York, and southwest into New Jersey converging in Trenton, New Jersey, then continues south along Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg, Virginia, then heads southeast ending at Yorktown, Virginia. This route passes Governors Island National Monument in New York City, New York; near Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area north of Newburgh, New York; Morristown National Historical Park in eastern New Jersey; Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; near Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Valley Forge National Historical Park in eastern Pennsylvania; Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland; Prince William Forest Park in eastern Virginia; and Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia.
Continental Army-water route indicated by a dotted yellow line: Route starts in Trenton, New Jersey, then heads south to Elkton, Maryland, through the Chesapeake Bay, continuing to Baltimore, Maryland, then Annapolis, Maryland, and south ending at Yorktown, Virginia. This route passes Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland; the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network; and Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia.
Interstate 95 indicated by a solid pink line: Route starts in Boston, Massachusetts, then heads south to Virginia passing through Providence, Rhode Island, New York City, New York, Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wilmington and Stanton, Delaware, Elkton and Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC. Fredericksburg, Virginia, and continues south. This route passes Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park, Longfellow National Historic Site, in Boston, Massachusetts; Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island; near Quinebaug & Shetaucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Connecticut, Governors Island National Monument in New York City, New York; Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; near Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Valley Forge National Historical Park in eastern Pennsylvania; Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, Maryland; and Prince William Forest Park in eastern Virginia.
Desired Interpretive Outcomes
Experiences the Trail Should Provide
In addition to the interpretive content (themes) offered to trail audiences, workshop participants discussed experiential opportunities that could reinforce the trail’s national significance. The group felt that during the five-to-seven-year lifespan of this LRIP, interpretive planners should develop media and programs that challenge audiences to:
Explore the variety of motives behind support for the War for Independence. In particular, why did families choose independence and what led men to join the military? Why were the French involved? How were the responses of soldiers related to their cultural backgrounds and to reasons they left their home countries? Workshop participants felt it is important to personalize the story of the trail with biographies. Diaries and artwork are available to humanize the story.
Explore the local history and local connections that help tell the trail story. People are interested in personal connections such as through genealogy. Emphasize that the War of Independence came to their backyards and how it affected local populations.
Discover the demographic diversity that existed in the combined armies: German, French, Haitian, American, including African American and Native American.
Struggle with the logistical demands of successfully marching a large 18th-century army long distances—finding passable roads, feeding the army, clothing the army on the march, setting up camps, method of communicating across languages, coordinating supply lines, dealing with sickness, injury, and death, etc.
Think about the impacts of the march on regional, national, and global levels as well as the changes that it bought to individual participants, be they soldiers or citizens. What changed as a result of the march? What happened to march participants?
Other media should allow audiences to:
Quickly and efficiently discover options for learning about the trail and the trail’s significance, scale and scope.
Place the trail’s chronology into historical context. What came before and what happened in the aftermath?
What Will Interpretive Success Look Like?
It is important to think about factors that define interpretive success. At the end of the five-to-seven-year lifespan of this LRIP, NPS and its partners expect that:
The trail will have a stable organizational structure with clearly defined roles for W3R-US and the NPS and a partnership plan. A framework describing how partnerships work will be created, identifying roles and relationships among NPS and the trail partners, and agreements that spell out the functions and responsibilities of each partner. The partners will be focused on core missions and avoid diversions that dilute interpretive efforts tied to national significance.
The trail will focus on creating a strong, dynamic, and visually interesting (not overwhelming) online presence with linked and well-coordinated web content and, potentially, with social media. Individual partners will focus on posting what they do best. Information will be accurate, up to date, and complementary rather than duplicative. Decisions regarding audiences will be deliberate.
The trail will have a unified identity and brand that are widely recognized along the trail and among heritage tourism professionals and synonymous with authenticity, high quality interpretation, and scholarly integrity.
Partners will reach a consensus on the trail’s route(s) and how to address authenticity.
Trail partners will share information about interpretive programs, scholarship, and technical expertise. A curated list of resources will identify what interpretive materials and programs are available. A contact list maintained by the W3R-US Executive Director will identify W3R-US and its state affiliates as well as participating historic sites and other partners.
Trail partners will agree on a way to identify and map intact, historical sections of trail and distinguish them from more modern alignments.
Trail partners will consult existing data sources to reach consensus on a primary visiting strategy. For example, they will reach agreement on whether trail venues and interpretive programming will be organized to encourage multi-day trips or will visitors be able to understand the trail’s significance at any one of several geographically positioned interpretive nodes? Will there be interpretive hubs with basic visiting and historical information at locations already in operation and capable of handling additional info distribution efficiently and effectively, such as national parks? Consider hubs in terms of theme, location and readiness. (Note: Four potential anchor communities/interpretive hubs were identified: Providence, Elkton, Annapolis, and Yorktown.)
There will be a similar strategy for addressing future types of audiences. Before moving forward, the NPS and trail partners will consult with educators and youth group leaders to discuss sustainable interpretive materials and programming that may be useful to them.
There will be a method and criteria for identifying interpretive venues that are the most important to telling the trail story and ready to serve audiences according to professional standards. Trail partners will reach out to historic sites to participate indecisions and events as part of this process.
Last updated: September 2, 2020
Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail
1400 North Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia,
Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail