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

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Happy New Year 2015!

A Most Happy New Year to everyone who has helped me to remember Rochambeau!

Let’s drink a toast to Rochambeau!              Buvons un coup; buvons en quatre!

Vive l’Amerique!                                               Vive la France!

Rochambeau

Dear readers of my blog:  Please remember to sign up with your email address to receive notice of my posts!

Hugs and Best Wishes in the New Year from Jini and John!

Do you recognize this beautiful property and peaceful setting?

It is The Moore House with out buildings as seen today, very close to the battlefield at Yorktown, Virginia. It is important because it was here in October 1781 that the Articles of Capitulation were negotiated and drafted, finally bringing the British to their knees!

Rochambeau was instrumental in planning the winning battle of Yorktown.

The Moore House at Yorktown, Virginia

The Moore House at Yorktown, Virginia

Plans for the formal negotiations were made at the nearby Moore House overlooking the York River. According to the National Park Service, which now owns the house, the modest frame edifice had once been a part of York Plantation on a site first claimed by Governor John Harvey in the 1630s and later known as the five hundred – acre Temple Farm. Robert Smith was the owner until 1760  when he sold  the acreage to his brother-in-law, Augustine Moore.

The home is on the edge of the battlefield not far from the center of action. However, in 1781, when General Cornwallis settled into town with his army, many locals moved out of town in anticipation of the battle. It is believed that the Moores moved to Richmond for the time being to escape the coming siege.

Unlike that of the Nelson House, which was Cornwallis’s headquarters, the beautiful lines of the well-kept Moore house emerged in perfect condition from the battle at Yorktown, but it was marred during the Civil War. The National Park Service later bought and restored the building.
(Text from my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant; A French General’s Role in the American Revolution.)

King George III of England is cow-towed! And hog-tied!!

November 1st

Here are a few things you may not know that happened after the Surrender of Yorktown, VA, October 19th 1781

 

October 19, 1781
Later that afternoon the Duc de Lauzun, French cavalry officer, faced his opposite on the battlefield of Gloucester Peninsula, Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton, British cavalry, as the latter surrendered to him.

 

October 19, 1781
That night Rochambeau invited the vanquished Cornwallis for supper, but was turned down.  He had pled ill and skipped the Surrender Ceremonies as well.

 

October 21, 1781
French Commissary-in-Chief, Claude Blanchard finally took time away from the busy hospital in Williamsburg. “I went to see the City of York.”

 

October 24, 1781
The Duc de Lauzun was dispatched to Paris to tell King Louis XVI  the good news!

 

October 26, 1781
Comte Guillaume de Deux Ponts was dispatched to Paris to tell the King the Good News too! (on a separate ship)

Not long after – no date given: British King George III penned a letter saying, “America is lost. Must we fall beneath the blow?”

And so it went that glorious month of October 1781!!!

Imagine the illustrious double military career…

… of  Louis-Alexandre Berthier.

His career began with Rochambeau  and ended with Napoleon!

 

Louis-Alexandre Berthier

Louis-Alexandre Berthier

 

Louis-Alexandre Berthier marched with Rochambeau in America. Years later he also marched with Napoleon as his trusted adviser in many of his campaigns ini Europe, Africa and even into Russia. As a skilled cartographer Berthier and his brother, Charles-Louis, drew beautifully detailed maps of the Route of Rochambeau in his American campaign.

Read in my book, Rochambeau, Washington’s Ideal Lieutenant, to learn about the brothers and their misadventure, the crazy  way  they missed the Rochambeau convoy of ships that left from Brest, France without them!

West Point and Fort Washington in the spotlight!

Rochambeau researcher on the trail again for DAR history at West Point!

The revolutionary woman I am researching today helped pave the way for Rochambeau’s coming to America. How I love the thrill of the chase! I should be dressed in Sherlock Holmes hat and carrying my lighted magnifier!

I could hardly wait to step onto the grounds of the illustrious West Point Military Academy.  When this destination finally rose to the top of my bucket list last fall, I got out my pad and pen, snatched up my camera and herded my Sherpa into the car of staunch friends to make our way across the mighty Hudson to the Point!

My objective was two-fold. First to view for myself the bends in the river that slowed down the British ships and all ships for that matter, early in the Rev. War. (see my photo above) The hope was to bring the ships into range of rebel artillery fire. As I wrote in my book, Washington and his men decided to impede this passage of enemy ships by installing an enormous, most heavy, chain from shore to shore near West Point to stop the Brits from controlling the all important passageway north to Canada and south to the great port of New York.

The view is breathtaking. Objective number one is accomplished. I will write more about this scene and the chain in a later blog .  Stay tuned for it ~

2 April 1st 2014C

Now for the piece de resistance. The second of my objectives was to find the grave of American patriot, Margaret Corbin, at West Point (see my photo above),  camp follower early in the Rev War. I was hot on her trail, having been steered here by research for my talk titled:  Four Women in the Time of Rochambeau: A Queen, A Countess. A Future First Lady, and A Camp Follower.  Margaret falls into the last category. Most camp followers remain anonymous, but not Margaret, thanks to the DAR.

In my study of Margaret, I found she rendered a great service to her fledgling country of the United States of America. In fact she devoted her life to the cause of our freedom! Yours and mine!!  Yes!!  She followed her husband, John, First Company Pennsylvania Artillery, into battle at Fort Washington, New York City, November 16, 1776.

It was a losing battle for General Washington, much to his chagrin and even more so for Margaret who lost her beloved husband as he worked at his cannon that fateful day. Fatally injured, he expired at her feet.  Brave, devoted Margaret did not miss a beat but stepped up to the cannon to continue firing on the overwhelming enemy, only to  be grievously wounded in her arm, chest and jaw, then sent to a British prison in Philadelphia.

Later she was released. Three years later Margaret was compensated by Congress as the first woman to receive a military pension. Her payment was half of the monthly pay of a Continental soldier plus the cash equivalent of a new “set of clothes”.  All this was in compensation for her exemplary service and bravery. After a difficult life and constant pain from her injuries, she died in 1800 and was buried in Highland Falls, NY, just south of West Point.

Margaret’s story does not end here. In 1928 that the Daughters of the American Revolution, in recognition of Margaret’s role in the American Revolution, had her remains exhumed and re-buried at West Point.  They erected this beautiful monument in her honor.

My small group of four followed the tour guide on foot through the West Point cemetery amidst fallen leaves looking for her marker. Then, we rounded a corner on the footpath, walked under a large tree and finally saw it. Unlike the small white marble grave markers of the many soldiers buried at West point, her monument was a surprise to me. I had to look up to see the top of her monument!

At the pinnacle of the impressive, nearly-white, granite slab is the DAR symbol  in bronze. Under it is the large bronze bas-relief tablet embossed with nearly life-size portrait of Margaret at her station by her husband’s cannon. Now, I am humbly equipped to tell her story, proud of my DAR sisters’ high regard of Margaret’s contribution to the birthing of our nation.

Let us remember Margaret Corbin today.