Yorktown’s 240th anniversary ceremonies highlight need for French friendship

French military officer talks of unstable world

October 25, 2021

One brief, vivid and unforgettable comment, at least one that should not be forgotten, was boldly stated.

A French military officer told a gathering in Yorktown that in today’s dangerous and unstable world, we must retain our staunch and long-lasting friendships. Without strong alliances, both France and the United States are in peril. His words were heard and privately repeated immediately after his presentation at the French Memorial on October 19.

Alerting those in attendance about today’s dangers, there are many ongoing threats in Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East, was a fitting place to do so among the historical speeches and commemorative events.

The main focus of the two days of ceremonies at the 240th anniversary of Yorktown was the British surrender and America’s independence. The United States desperately needed France as an ally in our fight for freedom. Without the French aid, independence would not have been won at that time. France supplied much needed supplies and soldiers and the French navy neutralized the vaunted British navy, paving the way to the Yorktown victory.

Members of the American Friends of Lafayette and other groups gathered in the morning of October 19 at Surrender Field to remember the 50 unidentified French soldiers who died at Yorktown and were buried there. A procession of vehicles then made its way to the French Memorial where the French officer reminded all that our freedoms are not guaranteed and are constantly at risk.

The main event then took place at the 95-foot tall Yorktown Victory monument. The inscriptions on the four sides of the base of the monument are: One dedicates the monument as a memorial of victory, a second presents a succinct narrative of the siege, a third commemorates the treaty of alliance with France, and the fourth tells of the resulting treaty of peace with England.

On Monday of last week, a statute of French General Marshal Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was unveiled at the Yorktown Riverwalk Landing. The statue joined three others depicting heroes of Yorktown and the American Revolution, the Marquis Lafayette, Washington and French Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse. 

We should all remember the lessons of our independence, if we are to retain our freedom. 

(Chester County author Bruce E. Mowday is a member of the American Friends of Lafayette and took part in the 240th anniversary celebration in Yorktown. This week Barricade Publishing is releasing his book Lafayette at Brandywine: The Making of an American Hero.)

This article was submitted to Chester County media outlets.