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





Hermione at Newport: Part 3 of 4:

Day one afternoon at Fort Adams under the tent as “Guests” (see photos below)

At Fort Adams we were able to get a close up look at the frigate with our Guest stickers on our lapels We gained entrance to the huge tent for special guests.  It was set up at the dock beside the frigate.

Let us not forget that the arrival of the Hermione was a salute to our two countries, France and America, who had been covert friends before the 1776 Declaration of Independence. In fact the French covertly shipped arms and cash via the wealthy Marblehead, Massachusetts, shipping merchant Jeremiah Lee.  His ships picked up war materiel in Spain contributed by the Dutch, the French and the Spanish, right up to the eve of the battle of Lexington and Concord.

This day in Newport, we celebrate the alliance of France and America that has extended over a period of some 240 years at least.  The dignitaries under the tent were many, some in French naval uniform, some in American Naval uniform, along with re-enactors sporting their colors representative of Revolutionary times and the rest of us in our best red, white and blue street clothes. With those three colors, one cannot go wrong as the tricolor is celebrated by both nations.

Represented under the tent were those who gave brief addresses to welcome the Hermione and her wonderful crew. The Naval War College of Newport band played patriotic songs and anthems.

Following the requisite speeches and thanks to the sponsors of this momentous event of huge proportion, we left the tent, hoping for some air to cool our brows. There was not much of that unfortunately. The late afternoon sun was unrelenting. We knew we would be welcomed aboard the frigate, but would have to stand in line even as “guests” that we were, so we opted out due to the incredible heat.

Instead we posed for some photos by the masthead of the ship, a romping lion in coat of gold! This lion had led the way across the Atlantic in peace to make its way up the Atlantic seaboard from Yorktown, where the final battle was fought under the leadership of the stalwart General Rochambeau from France and his commander while in America, General George Washington.

Moi in patriotic dress with Golden Rampant Lion Prow over my Shoulder. Photo: John L. Vail 7/8/2015

Moi in patriotic dress with Golden Rampant Lion Prow over my Shoulder.
Photo: John L. Vail 7/8/2015


Photo below with Hermione!

From left to right:  David Beglan and his wife, Mary Conseur; my husband, John Lester Vail and moi.


Hermione with David Beglan and wife, Mary Conseur, John and Jini 7-9-2015 August 19th

Don’t we look cool??? Well, we are far from it.  We are in fact, melting before your eyes, while trying to show a stiff upper lip.  The Frigate, Hermione, is really cool however, proudly showing her colors held out by a tiny breeze that seems to have missed the four of us!

We finally left the dock at Fort Adams for the cool of our B&B, the Jailhouse Inn, where we showered and readied for a fine French repast in an air-conditioned restaurant. The four of us dined with David’s brother, Brigadier General (Ret) John L. Beglan an, Jr. his wife, Paquita; my daughter, Heather Woodring and my granddaughter, Jessie Woodring. We even had 2 Society of the Cincinnati families in our number.

That night we chose the four star French restaurant, Bouchard’s. We were seated comfortably at a round table and enjoyed each other’s company for at least 3 hours! The Dover Sole is beyond belief!

Stay tuned for the last segment of our inspiring Newport trip.


Part Two: Day one Hermione VIP luncheon: ‘Dejeuner sous la pluie’, Viewing the Arrival of the Hermione at Newport

Tracking the arrival of the Hermione was not all that easy! For days, even weeks in advance we followed up on the exhaustive list of Hermione events in Newport alone! What must it have been like in Philadelphia, New York or Boston?

Hermione Captain Yann Cariou and his Executive officer at Newport July 8, 2015 Photo: courtesy John Vail

Hermione Captain Yann Cariou and his Executive officer at Newport July 8, 2015 Photo: courtesy John Vail

The plan for day 1 afternoon was to enjoy a fine lunch overlooking the entrance to the harbor at Newport. Ocean Cliff luncheon was a fundraiser for the Alliance Francaise of Newport and the Newport DAR.  Since I was a member of both groups in CT I suggested to our group of 8 that we purchase VIP luncheon tickets well in advance, which we did.

The day was forecast to have scattered rain off and on throughout the midday hours.  We arrived at Ocean Cliff to find it was indeed on a cliff high over the water affording a perfect view of the ship when she sailed into view.  We were thrilled until we found that there were so many people signed up that there were not enough tables inside. There were nearly 230 of us for lunch!

Having signed up early we thought that seating would not be a problem, but when we reached the sign in table we found that we were seated outside!  Scattered showers were forecast, and the sky was getting darker and darker.

We alternated our sun hats and our umbrella until it was time to go inside to line up for the generous buffet lunch.

Little by little we realized that the rain was subsiding as we exited onto the high plateau to find our large round table.  We had ringside seats! We had an unobstructed view of the harbor. Moi of little faith!

Soon everyone inside began to cluster around the huge windows while we simply sat in comfort to watch the unfolding of the scene before us on the water far below. There she was at last, our first sighting of the Hermione, Freedom Frigate of the Marquis of Lafayette!

My husband, John, must have been bitten by the get-the-best-photo bug, for I saw him disappear over the crest of the steep green lawn, not unlike that of Washington’s Mount Vernon, in pursuit of the closest shot of the frigate.

The French frigate was preceded by an accompanying sloop, then the firing of cannon to announce the arrival of this famous frigate that had come from so far away to spark our memories of America’s friend, Lafayette who came to help us fight for our freedoms. Then emerging from the trees that ringed the shore, into full view, was the Hermione!  I had been waiting to feast my eyes on her for nearly 23 years.

You could feel the thrill pass through us, the onlookers, as we cheered and then hushed to let the enormity of this event sink into our brains. We were witnessing history repeating it self before our eyes.  It was a re-enactment par excellence!

After about 2- minutes she passed out of sight as she headed for Fort Adams and her waiting dock. We turned to our food and to our personal reactions to this finely –planned arrival.  No, Lafayette was not there in person, but there was a band playing French music and a general sense of good feeling between our two countries., France and America!

Although France was our first friend in 1778, the liaison has been tenuous over the 2 plus centuries since.  Even recently, relations have been strained.

But today we put all that behind us and we sang the Star Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise together as one.

Inside Ocean Cliff everyone gathered to thank all the local and French groups who supported this coming together of two old friends with speeches and much applause. We stood by the door with misted hair and teary eyes to add our applause to the whole. We salute Rhode Island locals, the supporters of Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R), Lafayette Society, The Society of the Cincinnati, Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and the many other groups who made this luncheon such a success! Huzzah!

Hermione arrival

The Freedom Frigate Hermione sails into Newport Harbor July 8, 2015 photo: John L. Vail


More accolades given by French dignitaries:

Bernard Grasset, Mayor of Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, where the frigate was built, describes the voyage of the Freedom Frigate “as an exciting new chapter inn US-French relations.”

Mme. Segoleme Royal, President of the Poitou-Charentes Regional Council and Minister of France, refers to the 16 year building of the frigate: “Lafayette’s Frigate of Freedom as being brought back to life”. A beautiful arrival was celebrated by us all!



Y’all Come now!! Chance of a Lifetime!

Lafayette’s Frigate will make these ports of call on the East Coast:




June 5, 6, 7 – Yorktown, VA
June 9 – Mount Vernon, VA (ship at anchor)
June 10, 11, 12 – Alexandria, VA (city dock)
June 16, 17 – Annapolis, MD (city dock)
June 19, 20, 21 – Baltimore, MD (adjacent to USS Constellation & Pride of Baltimore)
June 25, 26, 27, 28 – Philadelphia, PA (with Tall Ships America/Independence Seaport)

July 1, 2, 3, 4 – New York, NY (with educational ships from U.S. east coast)
July 6, 7 – Greenport, NY (with Tall Ships America )
July 8, 9 – Newport, RI (with Oliver Hazard Perry – Fort Adams)
July 11, 12 – Boston, MA – (Rowe’s Wharf)
July 14, 15 – Castine, ME
July 18 – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia