Friday, June 26, 2015

French Frigate Lands at Yorktown with Cannons Blazing!!

Lafayette, Are You Here??



A French frigate recently arrived at Yorktown, Virginia with cannons blazing. It was L’Hermione, an exact reconstruction of the ship that carried General Lafayette to America in 1780. He was bearing the important news for George Washington that France was sending 6000 troops and a large fleet of ships to support us in our war against Britain. On Friday, June 5, 2015,  the cannons of the 21st century L’Hermione fired a 21 gun salute as she approached the Yorktown wharf. This was the first landfall in America of the vessel since she sailed from France on April 18.


Because I have written a novel (coming out in April 2016) for young readers about Lafayette’s 1825 visit to New Hampshire, called A Buss from Lafayette, I have learned a lot about this young French nobleman and what he did for us in the American Revolution.  

Therefore I was in Yorktown to witness the arrival of L’Hermione with an organization called American Friends of Lafayette, dedicated to the memory of the young French nobleman who was instrumental in the winning of our independence.






Celebrating the arrival of L’Hermione       


The bus getting us to the historic district was delayed, so we all sprinted through the national park to the harbor, worried that we might miss the actual docking. Suddenly, however, the ship came into view out in the James River, moving the same direction we were headed.

When L’Hermione finally tied up at the wharf, we all cheered as loudly as the crowds in Boston must have cheered on April 28, 1780, when the original vessel arrived there with the famous Major General Lafayette aboard. And that was before they knew what important message he carried from the French king.

Once the vessel docked, we waited for Lafayette to disembark. This took quite a while, as first military officers, Virginia dignitaries and the French ambassador to the U.S. climbed up the gangplank to greet the captain and crew. Meanwhile, we all periodically shouted out “Lafayette, where are you?” and “Lafayette, do you have news for us?” or, paraphrasing General Pershing’s famous 1917 quote, “Lafayette, are you here?” Mostly, however, we just cheered and waved at the crew, who cheered and waved back.


Part of the young French crew of L’Hermione


 Wearing authentic 18th century costumes, the 78 or so young French crew members then enthusiastically serenaded those of us watching from the shore with French sea shanties.





George Washington welcomes Lafayette in Yorktown



Finally, Lafayette climbed down the gangplank and greeted George Washington.
(It was a stirring moment, even if the re-enactors weren't quite as tall as the originals.)


The project to rebuild this historic vessel began in 1992.  Once it was completed, over 1000 young people applied to work as volunteers on the crew. Except for two days when the vessel was becalmed, L’Hermione sailed over 3800 miles across the Atlantic from France under power of its sails.

L’Hermione will be going up the East Coast before returning to France, making a number of stops. More information is available at www.hermione2015.com.