Commodore Lewis/Louis Warrington, France’s Revolutionary Gift to America


September 20, 2017
by Patrick H. Hannum Also by this Author


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While France and the United States have always exchanged gifts representative of their support of democratic ideals, not all the gifts were between statesman or quite as intentional. The romantic and intimate relations between a French Army officer and a young American woman during the winter of 1782 provided the young U.S. with an excellent naval officer who contributed significantly to the advancement of the U.S. Navy during its formative years. Commodore Lewis/Louis Warrington (November 3, 1782 – October 12, 1851) was an unintentional gift resulting from the occupation of Virginia by Rochambeau’s expeditionary army upon conclusion of what proved to be the final major campaign of the American Revolution, the Yorktown Campaign of 1781. As the French Army of Rochambeau settled into winter quarters in November, after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis on October 19, many of the officers in General Rochambeau’s headquarters found lodging near their commander in Williamsburg, Virginia, along with elements of the Bourbonnais Regiment and several artillery companies.[1] These men included two of General Rochambeau’s six aides decamp: his son, Col. Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau; and Capt. Louis Francois Bertrand Dupont d’Aubevoye, Comte de Lauberdière, General Rochambeau’s nephew and the youngest of his aides decamp.[2]

These two men, Colonel Rochambeau, age twenty-six, and Captain Lauberdière, age twenty-one, were cousins and friends; they roomed together in Williamsburg during the winter of 1781-82 in the home of a widow, Susanna Riddle, also referred to as Madame Ridte. Their host had two young nieces, Rachel and Camilla Warrington, who had come under her custody when their father, a minister, passed away in 1770. These two young women became quite friendly with Colonel Rochambeau and Captain Lauberdière. One of these two men, most evidence points to Captain Lauberdière, fathered a child with Rachel Warrington. Captain Lauberdière himself wrote, “… as the chanson says ‘let us make love, let us make war’ – these two occupations are filled with attraction.” Apparently, Captain Lauberdière viewed the affair as wholly acceptable and he pursued a similar relationship with Jenny Stevens who resided outside Williamsburg. In November 1782, Lucy Randolph wrote to her lover, Count Christian Deux-Ponts, another French officer who wintered in Virginia after the Yorktown Campaign, that Rachel Warrington delivered “a son, whom she named Louis after his father Monsieur Lobidier.”[3]

Rachel Warrington and Captain Lauberdière’s son, who he never acknowledged,[4] rose to the rank of commodore in the U.S. Navy, with an accomplished record in both peace and war. Lewis Warrington was born on November 3, 1782,[5] just four months after the French forces departed Williamsburg on July 1.[6] Lewis attended the College of William and Mary before appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy on January 6, 1800. Warrington’s naval career spanned fifty-two years and for a brief period in 1844, Commodore Lewis Warrington served as the Secretary of the Navy.[7] He was a true U.S. Naval hero at a time when service aboard ships was one of the more dangerous occupations a man could pursue. Born out of wedlock to a young mother, at a turbulent time in history, with a questionable paternal lineage, Lewis Warrington overcame his unconventional beginnings to become a contributor to the fledgling nation. He was truly a gift from his American mother and French father to the new nation, the United States of America, and the U.S. Navy.


[1] Howard C. Rice, Jr. and Anne S.K. Brown, eds. & trans., The American Campaigns of Rochambeau’s Army 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783, Vol I, Verger Journal (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972), 152.

[2] Robert A. Selig, “Lauberdiere’s Journal,” The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Autumn (1995): 33 & 36.

[3] Robert A. Selig, “America the Ungratful,” American Heritage, 48 no. 1 (1997,, accessed 26 June 2017; and Selig, “Lauberdiere’s Journal,” 36. Lauberdière had a distinguished forty-two year military and political career in the service of his nation, achieving the rank of lieutenant-general, and passed at the age of seventy-seven in 1837. While less is known about Rachel Warrington, she may have married Richard Brown on November 10, 1786, in York, Virginia. Ancestry, Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850 (Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2012,, accessed July 4, 2017.

[4] Selig, “Lauberdiere’s Journal,” 36.

[5] Ibid. Ancestry, Lewis Warrington, Family Tree,, accessed, June 24 2017.

[6] Rice and Brown, Verger Journal, 159.

[7] U.S. Navy, Warrington III (DD-843), Naval History and Heritage Command, October 26, 2015, accessed June 24, 2017; and Ancestry, Lewis Warrington, Family Tree.

[8] Benson John Lossing, The Story of the United States Navy: For Boys (New York: Harper Brothers, 1881), 240.

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