Thursday, October 27, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Rochambeau Street

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

Comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807) Commander of French Army Forces,  Revolutionary War
Rochambeau Street on Naval Station Newport is named for Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. Rochambeau was a French nobleman who commanded the land forces sent to America to assist the Continental Army in the War of Independence. After the British evacuated Newport in October of 1779, King Louis XVI of France authorized an expedition in North America. Newport was selected as the base of operations for Franco-American operations in New York and the Atlantic Coast because of its deep water port.

Rochambeau from painting by Charles Wilson Peale
Rochambeau and his forces landed in Newport on 11 July and he established headquarters at the Vernon House on Clarke Street.  The following March, General George Washington arrived to strategize with the French general.  Rochambeau left Newport for Providence in June of 1781. From there he marched his army south to link up with Washington's force near White Plains, NY. After reaching the Continentals, Rochambeau (along with Admiral de Grasse) helped convince Washington to attack Virgina instead of New York. In what became known as the "Celebrated March," the two armies marched to Yorktown, Virgina to lay siege to British forces under General Lord Cornwallis. Trapped between Washington's armies and a French naval blockade, Cornwallis was forced to surrender on 19 October 1781. This last major battle convinced the British to agree to a peace treaty that recognized American independence. The street name honors the fact that Rochambeau and the city of Newport  played a substantial role in the final battle of the Revolution.
A statue of Rochambeau unveiled on Broadway in 1934, now resides in Kings Park overlooking Newport Harbor.
 Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson
Rochambeau Image, Library of Congress

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Naval Aviator's Uniform, 1918

---Patricia McNamee, Curatorial Volunteer

As we are nearing the end of the centennial of naval aviation, it is an ideal time to focus on an artifact in the museum collection connected to the early years of aviation in the U.S. Navy. During the First World War (1914-1918), naval aviation was still in its infancy. On April 6, 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany, only 48 aviators and 54 aircraft were available. By war’s end, the Navy expanded with 2,000 planes flying out of 27 bases in Europe. The first official uniform for aviation, closely related to the U.S. Marine Corps summer uniform, was authorized on June 22, 1917.
The following year, the aviator's summer service uniform changed from khaki to the forest green color seen here. The upper pockets of the tunic-style coat were pleated and two lower pockets were added.  This particular coat bears the bullion aviator's wings and a victory medal ribbon bar on the left breast. Though by the end of 1918 aviators were authorized to wear leather puttees over the lower legs, this uniform has the earlier olive-drab wool wrap leggings of 1917. The breeches were adopted early on for greater comfort.

 Haywood is sitting in a Curtiss F-Boat,
 at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The uniform was stored in a service trunk that belonged to Albert Haywood, Jr. (Aviator No. 2185). The trunk, donated by Haywood's son-in-law, contained several uniforms, personal items, and a piece of airplane canvas signed by other aviators. Born in Flushing, NY, Haywood was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy during the war and was relocated to Pensacola, Florida for flight training. Most of the uniform is believed to be Haywood’s except the tunic which belonged to another member of his squadron, Ensign Roy E. Davis.

The uniform will be on exhibit in November.

Gift of Dean Jacoby                                                                           2010.03

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum