GALA Highlights from Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America on the USS INTREPID

What the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette (FOH-LA) in America GALA is all about!

FOH-LA supports the "Why Not" Spirit of Lafayette and the 2015 voyage of the Hermione to America. The French "Freedom Frigate" is pictured above on the dockside in Bordeaux, France in early October.

FRIENDS OF HERMIONE-LAFAYETTE IN AMERICA                                          CELEBRATES 'WHY NOT" SPIRIT AT                                                               INAUGURAL GALA ON USS INTREPID!

GALA WELCOME: Miles Young, left, President of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) and Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and Pascale Richard, Gala Co-Host and Director of the Cultural Center at the Lycée Francais de New York, address more than 600 dignitaries, guests and supporters on board the USS Intrepid. Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

GALA WELCOME: Miles Young, left, President of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) and Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and Pascale Richard, Gala Co-Host and Director of the Cultural Center at the Lycée Francais de New York, address more than 600 dignitaries, guests and supporters on board the USS Intrepid.

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

Under the generous corporate sponsorship of Moët Hennessy, Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) held its first GALA for more than 600 diplomats, dignitaries, guests and Francophile supporters from across the globe on board the USS Intrepid Air & Space Museum in New York City last night, October 14, 2014. Funds raised from the GALA will help support the voyage of the Hermione, "Freedom Frigate", during its triumphal tour of ports from Yorktown to Boston in 2015.

Dr. Hennry Kissinger addresses the Gala following presentation of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America Leadership Award to the former U.S. Secretary of State.

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

The assembled guests received a message from Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States, who wrote: "I wish to express how much the French Embassy and the French Consulates all over the United States are committed to supporting the Hermione project." Present at the Gala was Bertrand Lortholary, Consul General of France in New York, as well The Honorable and Mrs. Craig R. Stapleton, former U.S. Ambassador to France.

To begin the evening's ceremonies, the first-ever Friends of Hermione-Lafayette In America Leadership Award was presented to Dr. Henry A. Kissinger by FOH-LA President Miles Young. Later after several tributes to the Hermione project, including a video direct from France by Hermione Captain Yann Cariou, Gala guests listened intently to a wide-ranging conversation between Emmy-award-winning journalist Charlie Rose and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, who ably addressed all the major political, economic and diplomatic issues of the day. 

During the Gala, a riveting conversation between Charlie Rose and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, covered a wide range of economic, political and diplomatic topics.

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

Main course inspired by Poitevin culinary traditions: Braised "Green Circle Farm" Chicken, roasted potatoes, pearl onions, and button mushrooms in a Pineau des Charentes liqueur sauce

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

Ariane Daguin, CEO, D'Artagnan, left, and guest Eric Espuny; Ms. Daguin helped FOH-LA develop the Gala's Poitou-Charentes-inspired selection of dishes and dessert.

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

It was also a glittering evening of festivities, featuring a menu inspired by the culinary heritage of Poitou-Charentes curated with the help of Ariane Daguin, CEO, D'Artagnan, and Chef Philippe Bertineau, a native of Poitou. The main course featured "Poulet Grand Mere" with roasted fingerling potatoes, autumn squash, button mushrooms and Heirloom carrots in a Pineau des Charentes light liqueur sauce.

 

For Hermione supporters there were delicious libations, wines and Cognac Hennessy courtesy of Moët Hennessy; an auction conducted by Robbie Gordy of Christie's; an inspired speech from French commentator and author Bernard-Henri Lévy on the lasting friendship between France and America; and music from French jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel and his trio, who channeled the gypsy rhythms and songs of Django Reinhardt.

French jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel, above, and his trio, who channeled the gypsy rhythms and songs of Django Reinhardt.

Photo: David Lincoln Ross for Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America

With Gala Co-Hosts Miles Young and Pascale Richard presiding over the evening's ceremonies, the Gala was a great success for all involved!

Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America also wishes to thank the following Gala Chairs: P. Miles Young, Pascale Richard, Irwin Gotlieb, Sir Martin Sorrell, and The Honorable and Mrs. Earle I. Mack. 

In addition, FOH-LA again thanks all its generous supporters and followers to make this Gala a genuine celebration of enduring French-American friendship and Lafayette's "Cur Non", Why Not, "Pourquoi Pas" spirit. FOH-LA also thanks Restaurant Associates for all their wonderful help in making the Gala a truly memorable event.

A big MERCI and THANK YOU to one and all!

FOH-LA's Marc Jensen On Board Hermione in Bordeaux!

Here in New York City on October 14, 2014,, as the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) group prepares to welcome 600 guests on board the U.S.S. Intrepid for its long-planned Gala tonight, we are extremely proud that our expert sailor and FOH-LA Committee Member Marc Jensen is in Bordeaux, France on board the Hermione, participating as a crew member during the frigate's sea trials this autumn.

With the Hermione's visit to Bordeaux assisted by Toby Wolf, U.S. Consul, and facilitated along with many distinguished regional and civic leaders in and around Bordeaux, the Hermione has made a triumphal visit to this famous port city on the Garonne River in southwest France, attracting thousands of visitors, tourists and supporters.

For more information about Hermione and its sea trials, please visit: http://www.hermione2015.com/pics-videos/

Scroll down and follow direction to monitor Hermione in real time!

Joined by the United States State Department's Thomas 'Toby" Wolf, U.S. Consul, Bordeaux, France, left, FOH-LA Committee Member and expert sailor Marc Jensen, right, resplendent in the bright red Hermione Crew t-shirt, is pictured on board Hermione, the famous French "Frigate of Freedom."

Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Charge d'affaires Uzra Zeya, U.S. State Department, Bordeaux, France.

Hermione's Triumphal Arrival In Bordeaux!

The Hermione "Freedon Frigate" passing under the famous Chaban-Delmas Bridge in Bordeaux, France on October 8, 2014

© JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP

Thousands of Bordelais residents were on hand on both sides of the Garonne River in Bordeaux to welcome the triumphal entrance of the Hermione on October 8, 2014.

The famed "Freedom Frigate" plans a 10-day stop along Bordeaux's gorgeous quai (dockside) district, where it will welcome many city residents and visiting tourists; tickets were sold out weeks ago, even though the ship's commander extended the stay three more days.

Funds raised from millions of French supporters will enable the Hermione to make its historic voyage to the U.S. in June 2015.

To view a TFI news broadcast in French, please see: http://videos.tf1.fr/jt-13h/2014/l-hermione-de-retour-a-bordeaux-8499719.html

For more information about Hermione's upcoming series of port stops in 2015 , please visit: www.hermione2015.com/itinerary/

The Siege Will Commence Tomorrow at Yorktown!

"The Siege Will Commence Tomorrow!"

Why September 17, 1781 is an important date

in American history.

A contemporary print depicting the American-French forces on land and sea besieging Yorktown, Virginia; a well-orchestrated joint effort that led to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and a turning point in America's fight for independence.

Editor’s Note: What stirring words that continue to echo to this day and date.

A map depicting de Grasse's fleet intercepting the British line of frigates at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781, a signal achievement that was instrumental to the French-American land campaign that choked off Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. The siege began on September 17 and, without relief from the British Navy, Cornwallis surrendered on  on October 19, 1781. This map was originally prepared by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914), a distinguished American naval historian.

A map depicting de Grasse's fleet intercepting the British line of frigates at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781, a signal achievement that was instrumental to the French-American land campaign that choked off Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. The siege began on September 17 and, without relief from the British Navy, Cornwallis surrendered on  on October 19, 1781.

This map was originally prepared by Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914), a distinguished American naval historian.

September 17, 1781, is important moment in American Revolutionary history. What’s more, did you know that Hermione played an important supporting role in the French naval blockade in 1781 leading up to this date? She sailed as part of Admiral de Grasse’s proud fleet, whose presence at the mouth of the Chesapeake prevented an English fleet led by Admirals Graves and Hood from rescuing British forces, led by Lord Cornwallis, whose troops were completely hemmed in at Yorktown by allied French-American forces in September 1781.

French Admiral de Grasse

Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America wishes to thank Glen Hoptman and Lightbeam Studio for permission to share this fascinating account below – including an excerpt from the Hermione’s actual log book about Hermione’s role in this history-making siege – with the followers of Lafayette, the Hermione and American Revolution history buffs of all ages. 

With Lafayette having assured Washington and French General Rochambeau, in a meeting held in Williamsburg on the 14th of September, 1781, that General Cornwallis was indeed trapped in Yorktown, the French-American allied siege was scheduled to commence on September 17th, 1781.

French General Rochambeau

In large measure, thanks to the victory of the French fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake (aka Battle of the Capes) on September 5th, 1781 – during which the Hermione performed valiantly in a supporting role but not at the actual battle – the Americans and their French allies have the British under Cornwallis with their backs to the Chesapeake with no opportunity of escape.

British Admiral Hood

Imagine if British Admiral Hood had stayed at the Chesapeake on the 25th of August (when his fleet first passed by the opening to the bay), instead of sailing north to New York, he might have been able to inflict serious damage on Admiral de Grasse’s fleet.

Instead, Admiral de Grasse arrived on the 28th of August, ‘with a fleet of 24 ships carrying 1,700 guns and 3,000 soldiers. The land forces were put ashore several days later and joined with the army of the Marquis de Lafayette.’

The rest, as they say, is history!

From the log of the Hermione, Friday, September 28, 1781:

“At noon, I noted two ships. . . . 

A contempary painting of Hermione.

A contempary painting of Hermione.

At 1 o’clock, a cool breeze came from SE.  I navigated toward the West.  At 2 o’clock, I recognized two ships in view as two frigates.  When I approached them within one and a half leagues, I gave signals and they responded.  I displayed my number.  Soon thereafter, they posted theirs.  I knew by this method that these frigates were the Concorde and the Surveillante. At 6 o’clock, I joined them.  I put my dinghy into the sea and I came on board the Concorde.  I learned that the squadron of Mr. Barras had joined the army of the Comte de Grasse on the 7th of this month; the latter had arrived on August 29th; the English frigates, the Iris and the 32-gun Richmond, had been captured as well as several other ships (totaling 10); Lord Cornwallis had taken refuge in Yorktown that we were about to attack; and the Navy was in the bay of the York River.  I entered the bay with these frigates.  At 9 o’clock, they left the coast in order to perform surveillance.  My location was 9 and a half fathoms; the seabed consisting of mud.  I anchored the ship and waited for daylight.  I logged in at the point NW of Cape Henry to SSE at a distance of 2/3rds of a league.”

Translation of this excerpt from the official Hermione Log, courtesy of Lightbeam Studio.

Glen Hoptman, Founder of Lightbeam Studio, who is not only one of our group’s Strategic Partners but whose group now working on “The Tides of Revolution: The Hermione Game.” (Click on link, and scroll down for a brief preview of this educational and interactive game.)

For American history buffs, followers of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, please keep current by visiting www.hermione2015.com

Hermione On Its Way to the Atlantic!

Hermione Departs Rochefort for Sea Trials

Out to the Atlantic! On September 7, 2014, the Hermione, pictured above, was accompanied by an enthusiastic flotilla of sail and motorboats as she made her way to the Atlantic for sea trials.

This past Sunday, 7 September 2014, amid flags, bunting, thousands of interested followers, on land and sea, the Hermione sailed away downstream on the Charente for the open ocean and a series of long-awaited sea trials

For in-depth coverage in both US and French media, please click on our link below, Hermione In The News, for a boatful of dockside and on-the-water reports, and plenty of great photographs at: 

http://www.hermione2015.com/hermione-in-the-press/

Happy Birthday Lafayette!

Celebrate Lafayette's Fête Anniversaire -

September 6, 1757 

Un Grand Gateau: Lafayette Cuts His Birthday Cake in a spirited celebration at Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania.

Photo: Courtesy of Lafayette College

Editor’s Note: In commemoration of General Lafayette’s birth on this day in 1757, we reprint an article that appears on the Lafayette Society, which is based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, one of many wonderful towns across the US that is named after the “Hero of Two Worlds.”  As you will read, Fayetteville has the distinct honor of being the first town in the United States to be named after Lafayette! 

The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America wishes to thank the Lafayette Society for permission to run in full the following account of Lafayette’s visit to Fayetteville in 1825. For more information, please see: www.lafayettesociety.org

 Lafayette in Fayetteville

By Roy Parker Jr.

As the New Year came in 1825, everybody was getting excited about a birthday party celebrating the “Spirit of 1775” and marking the 50th anniversary of the American War of Independence.

The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775. John Trumbull, 1786.

Old political division had largely been put aside in what was known as "the era of Good Feeling." In the previous year, Congress and President James Monroe, who had been a young officer in the Continental Army, heartily endorsed the plan to invite the aging heroes of the revolution to the party.

President James Monroe

And so it was that the Marquis de Lafayette came again to the shores he had first seen in 1777 as a 19-year-old aristocrat of France, determined to fight for the American cause.

 For more than a year, Lafayette traveled throughout the United States, first in New England, and then turning south. In the first days of March 1825, the Lafayette entourage entered North Carolina, traveling first to the little Roanoke River town of Halifax, where the state's Provincial Congress had declared for independence, then to the state capital in Raleigh.

 And then to the destination that was already dear to the heart of the visitor, the village of Fayetteville, the first place in the new United States to bear his name.

The entourage of "the General" (he rode in a coach) was accompanied from Raleigh by a mounted troop of Wake County militia. It was nearing five o'clock when he was welcomed to Fayetteville by the town's three volunteer military companies, the Fayetteville Light infantry, the "Corps of Artillery," and the Fayetteville Light Horse.

A contemporary account describes the scene:

Lafayette Memorial, Fayetteville, North Carolina

 "The weather was excessively bad; the rain fell in torrents, yet the road for several miles before we reached the place was crowded with men and boys on horseback, and militia on foot; the streets of the town were filled with a throng of ladies, in full dress, hastening across the little streams of water, to approach the General's carriage, and so much occupied with the pleasure of seeing him that they appeared almost insensible of the deluge which threatened almost to swallow them up.

 "This enthusiasm may be more readily imagined, when it is recollected that it was expressed by the inhabitants of a town founded, about forty years ago, to perpetuate the remembrance of the services rendered by him whom they honored on that day.

 "Although he stayed in Fayetteville for only about 24 hours, Lafayette was honored by several banquets and receptions, reviewed countless militia and state troops, and had time to inspect the brand new Lafayette Hotel, hurried to completion in time for his visit.

"As he prepared to depart for South Carolina, Lafayette offered a toast to the town:

Commemorative sign in Fayetteville, North Carolina, noting Lafayette's visit on March 4-5, 1825.

"Fayetteville. -- May it receive all the encouragement's and attain all the prosperity which are anticipated by the fond and grateful wishes of its affectionate and respectful namesake."



 In his short stay, Lafayette indeed made the most of his hours. In addition to the Lafayette Hotel, where he stayed for two hours at a ball attended by "2 or 300," he went also to the building of the Masonic Lodge. 


The original Lafayette Hotel in which Lafayette stayed during his visit to Fayetteville, North Carolina.

He listened to welcoming speeches from the Town House, the predecessor of today's Market House, which he was said to have recognized from a drawing made by a French artist and which hung in his home in France.

A 19th century photograph of the Market House, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

A 19th century photograph of the Market House, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

He seems to have spoken with or received the courtesies of scores of townspeople. Especially memorable was his reunion with an old comrade from the War of Independence, Isham Blake, who had been a 25-year-old musician in Lafayette's headquarters when the 24-year-old general commanded Patriot force in Virginia. The two were together when the British surrendered at Yorktown in 1781.

A later description of their meeting was appropriately vivid: "They embraced and tears dimmed their eyes. When they grew calm, they had much to say to each other and fought anew the battles of Brandy and Yorktown."

 A unique meeting was with a young free black woman, Julie Memerell, who was described as "the only person in town who could converse with him in French." She would later that year become the wife of saddle maker Matthew Leary, the town's leading free black artisan, whose father and grandfather had been soldiers in the War of Independence. They would become the parents of Lewis Sheridan Leary, who would be killed in 1859 as a member of abolitionist John Brown's failed raiding party at Harper's Ferry, in what is considered the opening shot of the American Civil War.

Lafayette described a more lighthearted meeting at the ball in his honor, when he "delighted in the presence" of a captivating young visitor from Bertie County, "the Beautiful Miss Capehart of Avoca."

Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America wishes to credit and thank the Lafayette Society for permission to reprint this essay.

For American history buffs, followers of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, please keep current by visiting www.hermione2015.com

The Perils of Peace - Celebrating the 231st Anniversay of the Treaty of Versailles

"The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Independence After Yorktown"


An Interview with Thomas Fleming, American Historian

"On 3 September 1783, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States with a definitive treaty signed in Paris. On the same date, Britain signed a peace settlement with France – the main formal ally to the Americans – and Spain at the Château de Versailles. George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester signed for Britain and Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes signed for France." This unfinished portrait of American signatories - Britain's representatives declined to pose - by contemporary artist Benjamin West, depicts, left to right, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. Photo and caption: Courtesy of http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/1783_Treaties.htm

"On 3 September 1783, Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States with a definitive treaty signed in Paris. On the same date, Britain signed a peace settlement with France – the main formal ally to the Americans – and Spain at the Château de Versailles. George Montagu, 4th Duke of Manchester signed for Britain and Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes signed for France."

This unfinished portrait of American signatories - Britain's representatives declined to pose - by contemporary artist Benjamin West, depicts, left to right, John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin.

Photo and caption: Courtesy of http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/1783_Treaties.htm

Thomas Fleming, a distinguished American historian, is author of more than 40 books and novels. In 2007, Smithsonian Books/Harper Collins published his "The-Perils-Peace: America's Struggle for Independence After Yorktown."

Editor’s Note: On September 3, 2014,  America celebrates a largely forgotten, but an epochal anniversary: The 231st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in which Great Britain formally acknowledged the independence of the United States.

In the two-year period between Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in October 1781 and achieving our independence in September 1783, there were many military, political and diplomatic setbacks in our fight for independence. Contrary to popular sentiments at the time in the wake of the British surrender, the war’s successful conclusion was by no means inevitable. Lack of funds to finance Washington's army, bitter political infighting in our nascent Congress, and the clash of personalities among patriots all combined time and again to almost derail America’s quest for liberty.

Thomas Fleming is an award-winning historian, who frequently appears on PBS-TV in documentaries concerning American history.

Thomas Fleming, a distinguish American historian and best-selling novelist, author of “The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown”, Smithsonian/Harper Collins, 2007, below depicts the hard-fought battles, the unrelenting political intrigues and delicate diplomatic talks that ultimately won our independence from King George III.

Question: Would you describe the set of challenges that the Revolution –and General Washington especially – faced after the great American-French victory at Yorktown? 

Answer: Washington feared that Yorktown would convince many Americans that the war was over. This was anything but the case. The British still had 25,000 well-trained troops in America. The combined American and French regular armies barely totaled 10,000 men. In Philadelphia, the Continental Congress was torn by pro and anti French factions. In London, King George III grimly resolved to continue the fight. In Paris, King Louis XVI and his ministers faced imminent bankruptcy and were talking about a compromise peace that would leave the British in possession of Georgia, South Carolina, and the lower counties of New York, including New York City.

Q: Would you tell us about Washington’s relationship to young Lafayette?

Washington and Lafayette enjoyed a lifelong friendship, a close father-and-son type of relationship.

 A: The forty-nine year old Washington had no children. The nineteen-year-old Marquis’s father had been killed in battle when he was two years old. Washington was charmed by the passion and courage with which the young French nobleman embraced the American cause. When Lafayette was wounded at the battle of Brandywine in 1777, Washington told an army doctor to “take care of him as if he were my own son.” Lafayette was soon calling Washington “my adopted father.” It was an intimacy that transcended politics.

Q: In Washington’s army “family,” there were several aides who also won his affection. Could you tell us about some of them?

A contemporary print of the surrender of Cornwallis. In truth, Cornwallis was not present at the surrender, claiming illness, and sent his second in command, General Charles O'Hara.

A: Perhaps the least known was Tench Tilghman, a thirty-five year old Philadelphia merchant with family roots in Maryland. He served without pay (like Washington) for six long years. Washington gave him the honor of carrying the dispatch informing Congress of the Yorktown victory to Philadelphia. Another important man was 26-year-old Alexander Hamilton, who played many roles, from ghostwriter to political advisor.

At Yorktown he led the climactic assault on a key British redoubt, forcing Cornwallis to surrender. In the 1790s he won fame as President Washington’s brilliant Secretary of the Treasury. Another man Washington liked was Connecticut born David Humphreys. He was given the honor of carrying the flags of the captured British regiments to Philadelphia. Later he accompanied the General to Annapolis where he resigned his commission in 1783. None of these men achieved the father-son intimacy Lafayette won with his “adopted father” but all of them, especially Hamilton, made large contributions in the struggle for independence.

 Q:  Could you sketch Lafayette’s role in the run-up to peace negotiations with the British?

King of France, Louis XVI.

A: Lafayette was a crucial voice at the start of the post-Yorktown years. As he prepared to return to France, Washington wrote him a very serious letter, urging him to tell Louis XVI that the war was far from won and both nations would have to maintain a strong fleet as well as an army in America if they hoped to win. Wearing the uniform of an American major general, Lafayette’s arrival in Paris in 1781 caused a sensation. He joined Ambassador Benjamin Franklin in persuading the French to give the Americans an additional loan of 12,000,000 livres (about four million dollars) to keep the Revolution from collapsing. During the next months, Lafayette was consulted by both sides in the peace negotiations with the British, when their delegation came to Paris.

 Q: Why is Lafayette not better known – and more appreciated—in the United States?

 A: Lafayette was once extremely well known. When he returned in 1824 to help celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Independence, he drew immense crowds in every city he visited. But in France, his fame has been damaged by the turbulent politics of the 1789 French Revolution. Lafayette and his allies lost control of that upheaval and it turned into a bloodbath (known as the Terror), forcing him to flee the country. Some radical Frenchman still view him with dislike. This may have affected his status among some Americans. But anyone who studies the Revolution soon comes to appreciate him.

 Q: How much credit does Lafayette merit for America’s independence?

 A: A great deal.  He – and his wife Adrienne’s influential family – were crucial voices in persuading France to sign a treaty of alliance with the American Revolutionists in 1778. The Marquis’s heroics on the battlefield won him great popularity – which helped change public opinion in France and thus influenced King Louis XVI and his cautious ministers. 

Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, after a portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.

In 1781, the Marquis was received by the King and Queen Marie Antoinette at their Versailles  – a crucial statement of royal support for the struggling Americans. It is not too much to say without Lafayette, there would have been no French alliance and no American independence.

 Q: In both America and France, Lafayette campaigned all his life for liberty and democratic principles – universal suffrage, an end to slavery, even to some extent for women’s rights. Was he a bit –or a lot -- ahead of his times?

 A: He was only a bit ahead on universal suffrage. He was one of many voices pushing this idea. But he was a far ahead in calling for an end to slavery. Washington was shocked at first when Lafayette told him he would never have drawn his sword for America if he knew he was founding “a republic of slavery.” Lafayette’s stand changed Washington’s mind. When he became president, he began urging Americans to do something about slavery -- and, don’t forget, he freed all his slaves in his will. 

In my book, A Disease in the Public Mind, I call Washington our “forgotten emancipator.”  Lafayette deserves the credit for this transformation. As for women’s rights, I’m inclined to think the intense love he felt for his wife Adrienne was a step in this direction, at least in France. It was not fashionable to love one’s wife in aristocratic French circles.

MARC JENSEN - HERMIONE'S "MARITIME AMBASSADOR"

A Talk with Marc Jensen – Hermione ’s "Maritime Ambassador"

Marc Jensen, Director of Maritime Operations, Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, aboard the Hermione in May 2014 in Rochefort, France.

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Jensen

Hermione in its berth in Rochefort, France.

Editor’s Note: A sailor in New England waters all his life, Marc Jensen first saw L'Hermione frigate in 2001 and was hooked. With family roots in Poitou-Charentes region on France’s Atlantic coast, Marc took full advantage of his ancestor’s home, only minutes from Rochefort where the ship is berthed, to follow the Hermione frigate’s historically accurate reconstruction every summer. In early 2011, Marc became a US delegate for the project.  Since then, Marc has served as Director of Maritime Operations for the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, to help realize the ship's visit to the US in 2015.

Marc has a lifelong love of being on the water.

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Jensen

A bilingual alumnus of the Lycée Français de New York, Marc is pleased to bring French and American culture to light through this endeavor and underscore the deep historical ties that connect the two nations. 

An engineer and educator by training, this project both fascinates and excites Marc by its potential to teach, enlighten, and inspire. Marc says, “Hermione’s voyage is not simply a culmination of a dream, but a beginning of new educational bridge between France and the United States.”

Here below is a conversation with Hermione’s “Maritime Ambassador” Marc Jensen, who, earlier this summer, passed tough physical requirements in order to join Hermione’s crew when it sails in May 2015 for the US.

Question:  How did your love for sailing begin?

ANTIBES: One of the Jensen family''s first sailboats.

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Jensen

Answer:  Sailing was a part of my life before I was even aware of it. My father and his brother began boating by building a sailing canoe in their Hollis, Queens basement over a winter and sailing it in the ocean south of Long Beach--a real challenge that captured them. They lived aboard boats as young men after the war to make the most of the GI Bill funding. My family was never far from the coast, marinas and the chance to get back aboard. The summer of my 9th year my father invited me to sail a 35' Crocker Ketch named Pole Star, built in 1933, from New Haven to the Cold Spring Harbor on the north shore of Long Island; it was an evening sail, and half way across Long Island Sound I began to see fireworks along every coastline. It was July 4th seen in a completely different, marvelous way; now I was hooked by the adventure. Sailboats were always an important part of my life from that point on.

On the Antibes: Marc sailing with his father. Photo: Courtesy of Marc Jensen

On the Antibes: Marc sailing with his father.

Photo: Courtesy of Marc Jensen

My brother and I went on to purchase our first sailboat when I was a young teen--a 13' Blue Jay, which we refurbished, sailed for several years and then sold at a profit to buy the next larger boat. That was the pattern until, when I turned 18, my brother and I convinced my father to invest in a 43' Gulfstar, (a yacht named Antibes, because my father's dream was to sail her to France-unfulfilled) that we ran as a charter all through our college years. This is when I learned to live aboard and fine-tune my skills by teaching others. Antibes remained in our family for decades and served as the ship that I taught my own two children, Madeleine (now 25) and Benjamin (21), how to sail.

Q:  Have you ever sailed across the ocean, in what kind of vessel, how long, and highlights?

A:  At 19 I was asked to be part of a delivery crew to bring a Swan 47' yacht to New York from Bermuda. It was to be my only ocean crossing experience to date, though I've sailed the coastal ocean many times since. I have so many memories of those five days on the Atlantic, but two stand out.

In 1762, only five years after Lafayette was born, Benjamin Franklin named the steady northward current along America's eastern seaboard, extending from Florida to the northern Atlantic, the Gulf Stream, which he called "a mighty river."

In the above 18th century map, the Gulf Stream is depicted in dark gray.

On the third day out, we started crossing the Gulfstream and for 24 hours we were tossed around quite a bit. At night, when it was harder to see the waves, we did our best to keep a true course but quickly learned that the sea pattern included an occasional wave that would come up from behind us, slap the stern and then shower us with warm stream water. After the shock of the first hit, we learned to pull the hoods of our foul weather gear over our heads when we heard/felt the slap and let the water shower over us because the phosphorescence that ensued – lighting up all our faces – was a joyous, wonderful break from the work of sailing in such conditions.

The second surprise for me was when we arrived at the docks in Stamford, CT. Maria Mann, the captain for the delivery and quite the teaser, asked me to be the first to step off the boat and grab the lines. As she anticipated, I stepped off and my knees buckled almost immediately when I stood on something that was no longer moving. I can still hear her laugh and say, “See, it's easier being at sea!”

Walter Cronkite, CBS newsman, at the wheel of his beloved Windje yacht.

Side note: Maria is one of the people that came into my life through sailing that enriched in deeply. A few years after the Bermuda trip, I ran into her again in Edgartown, where she was now the Captain aboard Walter Cronkite's Windje. I was invited to dine aboard this beautiful ship and had the pleasure of meeting the man that had formed my understanding of world events and his family. On the sea were are all equals, with respect for what each other has achieved ashore, but an understanding that it takes more than that to be a complete person.

Q:  When did you become aware of L'Hermione?

A:  It was 2001. I was on vacation in France when my cousin, Jean-Pierre Tallieu, who lives 15 minutes from Rochefort took me to see her. I had followed the construction of a 35' sailboat by my Long Island neighbor, Mr. Wethey, when I was a child--I would sit for hours watching him and helping when he asked. When I saw L'Hermione, all those fond memories came back. The sounds, smells, shapes were all there, only on a scale that defied description! I returned every year since to watch her grow into the marvel she is today.

Q:  When did you become involved with the project, and what is your role?

Jensen's family has roots in the Rochefort area on France's Atlantic coast in Poitou-Charentes region, while through his daughter's friendships, he was introduced to members of Hermione's French Association.

Jensen's family has roots in the Rochefort area on France's Atlantic coast in Poitou-Charentes region, while through his daughter's friendships, he was introduced to members of Hermione's French Association.

A:  In the summer 2010, my daughter did an internship in a laboratory in Toulouse. She discovered that one of the lab's head researchers had family in Marennes, which is right next to La Tremblade, where her cousins were, and is only a short drive from Rochefort. A friendship between the families ensued. In March of 2011, I met Pierre Gras, who lives in Marennes, through my daughter. Pierre is retired and has been working with the Hermione Association in France since the beginning. He quickly felt my enthusiasm and understood my desire to contribute in a meaningful way. Thanks to him I became known to Isabelle Georget (Hermione Association, Rochefort, France) and through her, I was introduced to Remi Forgeas (Treasurer of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America) in the US.

My role evolved as the planned Hermione trip to the US in 2015 became progressively a stronger reality. The turning point, for me, was in the fall of 2012 when I toured the east coast with Jean-Francois Fountain, his wife Claire and the ship's commander, Yann Cariou. We were the technical team to scout out sites for the Hermione to visit. I made the initial contact with the maritime people in each potential port who were very helpful. Many of them suggested we stop in to speak with Tall Ships America in Newport, which we did. They have become a strategic partner that has helped us navigate the often-subtle negotiations with the ports.

Q:  What was your experience like to qualify for Hermione’s 2015 transatlantic voyage in Rochefort, France earlier this year? Was it tough to climb to the ship’s highest mast?

Climbing Hermione's heights is not for the faint-hearted, but Jensen passed with flying colors, earning a spot on the historic voyage from Rochefort to America in 2015!

Climbing Hermione's heights is not for the faint-hearted, but Jensen passed with flying colors, earning a spot on the historic voyage from Rochefort to America in 2015!

A:  I have always worked to maintain a certain level of physical fitness, mostly to keep up with my kids as they grew up to be able to do outdoor adventures together and now to remain active as long as possible. When the word came through that the French Association was going to be willing to take volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 for the crossing I immediately submitted my letter of intent and CV. They were received, reviewed and accepted quite quickly as I bring to the adventure, not only my sailing skills but years of experience maintaining and repair boats, often with Rube Goldberg-type approaches to help get out of sticky situations.

The only challenge that was put before me was the need to climb the rigging and do so with convincing ease. I will admit that I trained for this. I was not sure that my grip or arm strength would be sufficient. I changed my weight lifting routine to include more upper body and I went rock climbing in a center in Brooklyn. It turns out that rock wall climbing is the way the team in France stays fit while in port of Rochefort, too.

Hermione's Commander Yann Cariou.

For my “ascension,” as Hermione’s Commander Yann Cariou liked to tease me about it, I arrived early on a weekday morning and was fitted to a harness and signed my waiver. I was frankly excited to get to this...I was confident and also resigned to the idea that it was best to find out now if I did not have what it would take to do this rather than later. I was escorted aloft, by Jens Langert, who is the lead rigger aboard L'Hermione. He has decades of experience and made me feel immediately "at-home" as we climbed. He was also clever; we got about half way up to the point on the first set of ratlins where one turns to climb upside down to the outside edge of the maintop (platform) when he stopped, we had only climbed for 30 seconds and I wondered why we'd stop here. I quickly realized that he was judging my comfort level with the experience while allowing me to get use to handling the harness and the dual set of clips that kept me tethered at all times to a safety line, as well.

He instructed to let my legs do the work – much as in rock climbing! – and to let my arm relax as much as possible. Less than a minute later we were off for the first critical point--the run upside down to the maintop. The training paid off: I had no difficulty hanging from lines and navigating the turn around the edge of the maintop.

Once there we maneuvered around the rigging. Jens showed me how to furl a sail and answered all my questions. I must have been up there for over 90 minutes. A strange thing occurred after about 30 minutes...I realized that to move comfortably around the rigging it was important to only move one appendage at a time--one hand or one foot to the next point of contact but not both. This way one always has 3 points of contact with the ship to feel her move and be anticipate any need to latch on quickly.

I could have stayed up there a long time if I had had a job to do and I was happy to be connected to the ship in such a way.

Sailing is a great deal about feel: the wind in the sails, the water against the rudder and hull, and the weather against your skin. When we used to charter Antibes, my brother and I would take turns playing a trick on the families aboard – especially if there were kids aboard. While sailing and heeling over, when no one was looking, one of us would grab the shrouds of the mizzen and "walk" up the mizzen mast to the spreaders (about 20 feet high) and stand up there. Soon, someone would ask, “Hey, did anyone see Marc?”, and my brother would answer that I was likely hiding and could they find me. It was a great way for everyone to get to know every inch of the ship. I had forgotten what that felt like until I was in L'Hermione's rigging – the pulse of a ship is accentuated aloft, the forces she deals with and exerts are amplified. It's like putting your hand on the heart of a runner after the race; it's an intensely intimate moment.

Q:  What do I anticipate learning from the crossing in 2015?

A:  Everything! I am a learner by nature. I love speaking with people about what they do, why, how, etc. I am certainly a novice in so many areas when it comes to square rigger sailing and I can't wait to start classes!

I also anticipate learning a great deal about myself. Crossing the ocean has been a dream of mine for many decades. Will I like it as much as I expect to? Will I have what it takes to live the rhythm aboard? Will I bring something meaningful to the story? In any event, I know I will see, hear, smell, taste, and feel things that can only be had out there, for that I am very grateful!

Q:  What will my biggest challenge be while aboard?

A:  “The young do not know enough to be prudent and therefore they attempt the impossible -- and achieve it, generation after generation.”

-- Pearl S. Buck,

My biggest challenge will be maintaining this older model of a human body in operating condition. I will need to be mindful from the first moment about addressing the slow wearing of one's physicality from simply being "in the elements" 24/7. Sun, wind, and water all are beautiful and deleterious if not respected. I will let some prudence give way to the youthful exuberance that brought me to this project and to dream of sailing L'Hermione across the Atlantic. 

 

American Revolution history buffs, admirers of Washington, Jefferson and Lafayette, nautical enthusiasts and followers interested in L'Hermione's 2015 voyage from Rochefort, France to the Eastern seaboard are invited to follow this blog for all the latest news and plans in 2014 and 2015.

For more information about Hermione's voyage, including all the upcoming maritime-related activities planned in the U.S in 2015, please see: www.hermione2015.com