Are you ready for another unsung hero?

or should I say, Heroine of the American Revolution? My friend, Elaine reminded me of this one on July 4th.

Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)

A young American patriot, Sybil Ludington is the female counterpart to the more famous Paul Revere. Born in 1761 in Connecticut, Ludington was the eldest of twelve children. Soon after her birth, her family settled in Dutchess County, New York. In addition to being a farmer, Ludington’s father held various positions within the small town and served in the military for over sixty years.

He was loyal to the British crown until 1773, when he joined the rebel cause. He was quickly promoted to Colonel and led his local regiment. Colonel Ludington’s area of command was along a vulnerable route that the British could take between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.

When British troops and British loyalists attacked a nearby town, Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777, a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them and ask for the local regiment’s help. At the time, the Colonel’s regiment was disbanded for planting season, and all of the men were miles apart at their respective farms.

The rider was too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, so he asked his barely sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back.

Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles (a significantly longer distance than Revere rode), and because of her bravery, almost the whole regiment was gathered by daybreak to fight the British.

After the battle at Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help. After the war, Ludington married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden; they had one son. She died in 1839.

Although Ludington never gained the widespread fame that Paul Revere did in America’s history, she was honored with a stamp by the Postal Service in 1975.

 

 

There is a statue of her by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York, and there are historical markers tracing the route of her ride through Putnam County.

 

 

A Battle Worth Remembering!

The Battle of Valcour Island
Lake Champlain
          
October 11-12,  1776

See below a map of Valcour Island with diagram of the sea battle

January 22nd 2016

HISTORY IS FUN!  REALLY!

Believe it or not ~  How many of you history buffs knows about this battle and where Valor Island is? Well, just ask me!  My history lessons started early back in the 1950’s when I was a camper and horseback riding instructor at Brow Ledge Camp near Mallet’s Bay north of Burlington, Vermont. Since I have a mind like a trap, I remember a canoe trip across Lake Champlain where we spent the night, camping out, cooking over a campfire and enjoying the stories about the famous Rev War battle that was once fought there.I never  dreamed that I would be recalling this memory to tell you about it!

Who knew that this battle was fought by the motley crews of America’s first Navy, small as it was. It was assembled by General Benedict Arnold in the fall of 1776. I have written of the importance of the North-South Corridor which must be defended at all costs.  That is the water corridor running from the St. Lawrence River on the north through Lake Champlain, past Fort Ticonderoga and into Lake George and the Hudson, New York City.

Whomever owns this passageway controls the east coast and the land to the west as well. The British knew this and wanted desperately to control this waterway as a result. George Washington knew it as well. He sent Arnold north to thwart the British in October of 1776. The war had just barely begun. Washington was n the run, being chased out of New York by the British.

Brigadier General Benedict Arnold was ordered to put a halt to  British General Sir Guy Carleton southward advance. The result was the inland sea battle of Valcour, a tiny island near the west shore of Lake Champlain. Arnold was given a makeshift small army of castoffs to build, outfit and sail the small fleet that mid October.  A short, fierce battle ensued. The American rebels lost 11 ships, 80 killed/wounded while the British lost 3 vessels with 40 casualties. Yet, the it touted as an American win since Arnold outwitted the Brits putting a sudden end to the battle and sending the redcoats north before their ships were halted by the ice.


book cover front
To learn more about Benedict Arnold, enjoy reading pp 83-85 in my book:
      
Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant
A French General’s Role in the American Revolution

Ready for the laying of the wreath at the Statue of Rochambeau. Photo: John Beglan

Hermione in Newport, RI: part 4 of 4 – July 9, 2015

My 2 final surprises!

My last day with Hermione in Newport, RI was memorable to be sure! Congratulations to the planning committee for Newport’s hosting of Lafayette’s replica Freedom Frigate. I commend the committee for book ending the event, that is to say, by opening and closing, with two Rochambeau celebrations. Huzzah!

In case you have not had time to read my Parts 1, 2 and 3 recounting of the fabulous two day welcome, allow me to fill you in briefly. First on the program was the memorial to Rochambeau’s valiant Admiral deTernay who died in Newport in December 1780, barely six months after his arrival. On July 8, 2015 re-enactment soldiers of the 1st Regiment of Rhode Island  and Rochambeau’s Bourbonnais Regiment assembled at Trinity Church to honor Admiral de Ternay with the laying of a wreath on his tomb.

Rochambeau Remembered!

Statue of General Rochambeau, King Park, Newport, RI beside the Rhode Island Regiment, in white, who stand facing the sea and France. Photo: John Beglan

Statue of General Rochambeau, King Park, Newport, RI beside the Rhode Island Regiment, in white, who stand facing the sea and France. Photo: John Beglan

Today I want to highlight the second Rochambeau event: the laying of a wreath at the statue of Rochambeau by the sea in King Park, Newport, RI. This commemorative statue is described in detail in my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant, along with three other similar statues by the same French sculptor, Jean-Jacques-Fernand Hamar. The 3 other hand-sculpted Rochambeau statues stand in Paris, in Vendome (France), and in Washington, DC. If you have the opportunity to visit the White House in DC, take some time to cross the street to Lafayette Square where you will see one of these famous statues of Rochambeau paired with Lafayette.

These two friends of American liberty gave much to help birth our amazing country more than 240 years ago. But, I digress, so, back to Newport and my last day in town. I was in for 2 fine surprises that early morning of July 9th as our group headed for the Rochambeau statue by the sea. It was to be another super sizzling hot day in more ways than one for me! Neither the sun nor it blazing heat is a friend of mine. I was wearing my extra broad-brimmed Sun Precautions white hat as I approached the chairs set up in front of the statue facing the podium and the line of chairs for the dignitaries.

This time I knew we would see many of the same military officers and public patrons of the Hermione, and Lafayette as the day before. But this day, I would expect to see, in addition, those like myself, with special interest in Rochambeau, the elder statesman and experienced French military career officer who, with George Washington, strategized the final battle of the American Revolution. This was to be heavy stuff!

With my limited low vision, I moved toward the chairs, looking for a vacant seat. Then to my surprise, I found myself face to face with an elegant young mother carrying her infant daughter at the end of the third row. When our eyes met, we both recognized each other as having met at the first Rochambeau event at Trinity Church.

We had both been huddling in the narrow spot of shade of an upright monument in the graveyard there, trying to avoid the hot sun’s rays. In an instant, she sprang up with her baby in her arms and pointed to her seat, graciously offering it to me. I demurred, saying that no, she and the baby needed the seat more than I! She would hear none of it and moved aside motioning with her hand for me to sit. Finally I gave in, thanking her profusely for her kindness. That was my first surprise, a very welcome one at that!

Me voici! End of 3rd row, white hat, lady and baby behind! Photo: French Press

Me voici! End of 3rd row, white hat, lady and baby behind! Photo: French Press

Two things came of that mother’s kindness: one was that a few days later, when I received photos of the French press coverage of the Rochambeau wreath – laying from my friends, Claude and Lily Ressouches who live near Albi, France, I spotted myself in the large hat at the end of the row! So silly, you say, but no coincidence in my view!

Ready for the laying of the wreath at the Statue of Rochambeau. Photo: John Beglan

 

Then secondly, as I was fortunate enough to sit near the front so I could both see and hear the speeches made by the French and American dignitaries who lauded Rochambeau’s role in our revolution that ended so well!

Address given at the statue of General Rochambeau, in Newport, RI July 9, 2015. Photo: John Beglan

Address given at the statue of General Rochambeau, in Newport, RI July 9, 2015. Photo: John Beglan

 

 

 

Follow-up on the arrival of Hermione, Newport July 2015

Hermione Highlights in Newport: Lafayette’s Freedom Frigate Part 1 of 4:

An Unrelenting Francophile Also Arrives in Newport!

The arrival of Lafayette’s Freedom Frigate has been awaited breathlessly by me for 20 years. I am a nut about anything and everything French, so this is an event­ not-to-be- missed! For ages I had been getting letters, construction up-dates on the building of the 1780 Hermione replica, brochures and postcards of the finally-finished frigate from my friend, Lily, in France. All these publicity materials built up on my desk to a dizzying height.

An Hermione look-see was rising to the top of my to-do list for this July. I simply had to convince my husband to drive to Newport and spend 3 days taking in all the Lafayette military events and VIP luncheons we could cram into our short stint by the sea. After all, Newport was a key component in the history I had written on Rochambeau and his American campaign. I could, as they say, kill two birds with one visit. I knew Lafayette way before I knew Rochambeau. Lafayette was my first love as a hero on two continents way before Rochambeau eclipsed him.

I cajoled my daughter and my granddaughter from Cape Cod into joining us along with 4 others from as far away as New Jersey. Nearly everyone in our group professed at least a passing interest in history.

My daughter, on the other hand, after working with me to edit my military history on Rochambeau, shyly confessed to me when finished, that she really did not even vaguely like history!! This admission came after we had spent multi hours each week over 3 ½ years, editing my book on the phone between Connecticut and Massachusetts! One of us had to be crazy about something to hand on that long!

Anyway, here we were in Newport with her precise list of the events and iPhone in hand. We got up at the screech and broke out of the Jailhouse Inn in the center of old Newport to make our way to the first stop. Trinity Church.

We ambled up to the front door only to find that it was guarded by the legendary Rhode Island Regiment in their unmistakable white uniforms. I spoke with their commander whom I met at an earlier re0enactment, posed for a few photos with the soldiers and entered the church.

July 18th 2015

There was to be a dedication inside followed by a memorial ceremony outside by the grave of French Admiral de Ternay.

I remember him well. He played an important part in the early section of my book.

De Ternay commanded the 40 ship convoy to a safe harbor at Newport after a 70 day crossing. Rochambeau sailed with him on the flagship. The Admiral did his part in bringing about the last turning point of the American Revolution. He deserves to be remembered.

When we four entered the church, my daughter said we should look for Washington’s pew at the front, which we did. We mogged along behind her and seated ourselves at the front of the church beside the raised lectern. The pews were reminiscent of those at Paul Revere’s Old North Church in Boston, with tall sides and a door opening into each pew. We settled in to wait for the action.

In a few minutes there was a tap on my shoulder. Someone said, “Would you mind moving back just one pew please? This one is reserved for General Rochambeau.” I assented, and we happily removed ourselves to the next pew.

Presently a man in fine French military regalia slipped quietly into Washington’s pew.

This was truly an unexpected opportunity for me, always ready to step back in time to make conversation with one of the characters in my book.

Wasn’t this the reason I came to Newport after all? Here was a real live Rochambeau up close and personal.

I asked my daughter to take a few close-up pics of the General and myself as I   deftly stepped forward to greet him. Not knowing if he spoke French or English, I began in French and found him most agreeable. I believe he welcomed my company as sitting alone in the midst of a large crowd can make one uneasy. I asked him if he was American. He said, “presque” (“almost”) I did not inquire further, thinking that perhaps he had moved here, but was not fully acclimated.

He intimated that he was new at re-enacting the part of Rochambeau. One would not have guessed that since his uniform was perfect in every way. I was puzzled that he did not remove his tricorne hat in church.

I felt that it was more than opportune that I should be seated next to the object of my biography and told him of my having written his bio. He was shocked into silence. We exchanged business cards and, I returned to my pew after we posed together for the required photos for my second burgeoning scrapbook on the subject of the general himself .

After the short dedication to de Ternay ( and Rochambeau ( the former alive here and the latter buried outside) by the female Canon of Trinity Church, we marched out first-row-first, with the four of us just behind the General.

As we reached the door it popped into my head that as the General had risen to his feet to lead the procession to the graveyard, I could not help but notice that he was super tall and narrow of build, more like a George Washington than that of the shorter, stocky, Rochambeau. One cannot expect true-to-life at the last minute.

Outside our front pew General in his handsome black leather knee-high boots stood at the head of the oversize wide, long, flat stone that more than covered the grave of Admiral de Ternay. Rochambeau removed his hat for the playing of taps and the singing of the French and American national anthems. The Canon spoke a eulogy, the Admiral of the Navy War College of Newport extolled de Ternay’s valiant effort, and the Commander of the Rhode Island Regiment placed a wreath of delicate white flowers on the gravestone below the Latin inscription.

We stood with hands over our hearts during the anthems, sorry for the fact that the French admiral who did a yeoman’s job of avoiding capture by the British on the high seas to land his 5,500 Special Expeditionary French forces on friendly soil in Newport almost 235 years ago to the day, would die after only 5 months into his land mission in America.

Next episode: Viewing the Hermione sail into Newport

“Brrr! Baby, it’s cold outside!”

…. sang George to Martha.

George goes on to invite his dear wife to spend a return winter in the north.

“Dearest Martha, would you prefer to spend this coming winter in the log hut where we spent our first winter at Valley Forge (PA)?” (see hut below)

Log Hut at Valley Forge

“Or,” continued George, “in Morristown, New Jersey, where we spent the super cold winter of 1779-80 in the Ford Mansion?” (see below)

Ford Mansion at Morristown, New Jersey

“No contest,” retorted Martha, with glee!  “I much prefer our accommodations in Morristown despite the 28 consecutive snow storms. Shall I make a reservation for us, dear?”

True story of how Martha spent her winters with George in the cold, cold, north during the Revolutionary War. Images are taken from my favorite PowerPoint that I name:

Four Women in the Time of Rochambeau – A Queen, A Countess, A Future First Lady, and A Camp Follower.

Who was Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau?

Guess who has returned to the classroom?
I did!!! And I did not go empty-handed!!
Under my arm I brought my old friend, Rochambeau!

He’s dressed up and I’m dressed down ~

Portrait of General Rochambeau by Rachel LePine

Portrait of General Rochambeau by Rachel LePine

I carried him under my arm into the classroom of a middle school in CT. I revealed him bit by bit over five days to a classroom of hungry students, students eager to learn about the man who helped George Washington win our independence from Britain in 1781.

What I carried under my arm was my biography/military history of this hidden hero of America and France. Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur de Rochambeau.  His story is ever on my mind, ever ready to be proclaimed to eager student of history.

My students in this pilot course came through with flying colors! They asked intelligent questions; they learned of the sacrifice made by 18th century women to the war effort in America; they wrote letters back home to France through the eyes and ears of a French soldier who marched  across CT with Rochambeau; they wrote editorials to the Hartford Courant of 1781 after witnessing the Battle of Yorktown!  I rejoiced!