The Alliance Française de Newport celebrated the arrival of French troops in style on Saturday, July 15, 2023 at the Rochambeau Monument in King Park. The event commemorated the landing of nearly 6,000 French troops, plus an additional 7,000 sailors in Newport in 1780 under the command of Comte de Rochambeau.
Barry Bailey, President of the Alliance Française de Newport, welcomed the large crowd gathered on the lawn facing the memorial Pyramid. He spoke of the special 243-year bond between the people of France and the United States.
Johnny Carawan, National Park Service Trail Administrator, reminded the audience that the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail originated in Newport., RI. Colonial and French troops traveled over more than 680 miles of land and water trails in order to achieve victory over the British troops in Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.
George Antone, Ph.D., spoke about Rochambeau and his role in history commenting, “When Rochambeau and his French regiments arrived in Newport, the American War for Independence was on the verge of collapse. Under the direction of Washington and Rochambeau, the French regiments turned the tide and ensured the emergence of a free and independent United States.”
Loric Leclerc and Juliette Ferville, students from France participating in the program, Digging Into History: On the Road With Rochambeau, detailed their current work at the site of Rochambeau’s Camp Number 5 in Bolton, CT. This hands-on immersion into history is spearheaded by Christine Pittsley, Special Projects Director of the Museum of Connecticut History. One-half of the students are from France; one-half are from Connecticut.
Rhode Island Lt. Governor, Sabina Matos, provided Citations for the 30 students in the program congratulating them on a successful program and thanking them for their hard work.
The Alliance Française de Newport presented the students with lapel pins having the flags of both France and the United States.
Smidgie Reid, representing the Alliance Française de Newport, led off the Wreath Laying Ceremony. She was joined by Thierry Chaunu, President , American Society of Le Souvenir Français, Chuck Schwam, C00, American Friends of Lafayette, and Tahina Renaud and Cléa Wiesner from Digging Into History: On the Road With Rochambeau.
French reenactors included Rochambeau’s Aide de Camp, Norman Desmarais (Le Régiment Bourbonnais), and French Naval Captain, Adam Hodges-LeClaire. The Newport Artillery was represented by Colonel Commanding Will Farrell, Colonel Robert Edenbach and SGM John Duchesneau.
A spirited rendition of the National Anthems ensued. A Final Salute was provided by the Newport Artillery.
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