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Published: April 24th 2022
During summer 2015, a replica of the 18th century French frigate L'Hermione
sailed into several ports along the Eastern seaboard. In 1780, the original L'Hermione
brought the Marquis de Lafayette to Boston to give the Continentals news that France would provide military support to the Revolution. Construction of the replica began in 1997."La frégate de la liberté" sailed from La Rochelle, France, on April 18, 2015. After crossing the the Atlantic under sail and calling at Las Palmas, the tall ship arrived at Yorktown, Virginia on June 5, its first North American port of call. Hermione
next called at Alexandria, Virginia, where the ship was on display on June 10-12. I went to see the ship on Friday. The ship docked at the Alexandria City Marina on the Potomac River. A large throng of people had turned to to see the ship and to try to get on board. Tickets to board were extremely limited and I was not able to get on the ship. But, I did get many photos. There was also a pop-up interpretive display about the ship and the Marquis de Lafayette and the role of both in the American Revolution.
The Marquis de Lafayette
(1757-1834) first came to America in 1777 and offered his services to George Washington. Wounded in 1778, Lafayette returned to France, where he lobbied Louis XVI to lend military support to the Americans. The king eventually agreed, and Lafayette returned to America in March 1780 aboard the original Hermione
. Lafayette rejoined Washington and the Continental Army, culminating in the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown in October 1781. Hermione
joined the French fleet in fighting the Royal Navy and took part in the Battle of Cape Henry, off the Chesapeake Bay, in March 1781. Observed the BBC: "Yorktown was the result of an American-French alliance that - for all the subsequent travails in the relationship - still counts for much in the two nations' historical memory". In the American consciousness, Lafayette retains his place as a hero of the American Revolution and France is considered America's oldest ally. Thus, it was interesting to discover on our tour in France a few months later that the French do not hold Lafayette in a high regard. Our French tour leader said Lafayette is considered an aristocrat of the Ancien Régime.
At the Alexandria Marina is a relic of a more recent war.
The Torpedo Factory Arts Center is housed in a repurposed submarine torpedo factory built in 1918. The munitions factory closed in 1945 and was later adapted as an art gallery, studio and classroom space in 1974. I took a walk through it after viewing Hermione. Next, I had lunch nearby at the Waterfront Cafe and enjoyed their special commemorative sandwich, The Lafayette.
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