Rochambeau Festival Remembers a Revolutionary War Hero

06/20/2024

Second Annual Rochambeau Festival Resounding Success!

Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route – New York’s (W3R-NY) first half signature event, Rochambeau Festival, was a great success! Over Saturday, May 18th and Sunday, May 19th, hundreds of community residents and families gathered at Rochambeau Park, one of the five locations in Yorktown, NY, where French General Rochambeau and the French army encamped on the forward March to Yorktown, VA.

Rochambeau Festival is a two – day immersive experience that educates families and history enthusiasts about pivotal Revolutionary War events in our Nation’s history, the critical Franco American Alliance, and the role that French General Comte de Rochambeau and the French army performed in aiding General Washington and the Continental Army in the fight for freedom from British rule.

At the event kick off, W3R-NY State Chair and event organizer, Lynn Briggs, explained the role and importance that New York played right here in our own backyards, communicating that General Rochambeau commanded eight encampment locations through New York on the forward route and five on the return march from the successful Battle of Yorktown, Yorktown, Virginia.

The Festival featured a variety of educational opportunities.  W3R scholar and historian, Dr. Robert A. Selig, shared the rules and regulations for encampment set ups. The Brigade of the American Revolution engaged parents and children in actual encampment set ups, drills with model muskets and explanations about the differences in the regimental units comprising the brigade. A particular highlight was the Brigades’ tactical weapons demonstrations and narrated skirmishes with the firing of musket and battalion volleys and the review and salute of the troops led by General George Washington.

Guests were introduced to the local role of the French regiment, Lauzun’s Legion, and the 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons, the first of four regiments raised for the Continental Army, who fought the war from Connecticut to Virginia. General George Washington, with local dignitaries, reviewed and addressed the troops about the importance of the French in securing our independence.

 

Festival visitors heard from French dignitaries including Brigadier General Vincent de Kytspotter, Head of the French Defense Mission to the United Nations, who gave an overview of the Yorktown campaign in 1780-1781, reinforcing why General Rochambeau was his hero. Mrs. Helene Chazal de Kytspotter helped guests understand the impact of military wives in the American Revolution. Additional speakers included state and local public officials, Senator Peter Harckham (40th District, New York State Senate), Senator Shelley Mayer (37th District, New York Senate, Chair, State Senate Education Committee), and Ed Lachterman, Supervisor, (Town of Yorktown, New York). Richard Azzaro, Co-Founder, Society of the Honor Guard Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; President, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Foundation, and author of the Never Forget Garden, challenged guests to never forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and participated in a ground breaking ceremony for a new Never Forget Garden at the entrance of the Grange Hall, designed by landscape architect volunteer, Marina Stern.

Living history was also recreated by General Rochambeau’s lively Indispensable Allies presentation; Diplomat Ben Franklin, Robert Erskine, Washington’s map maker, and General Pierre Van Cortlandt, who commanded the Second New York Regiment and was the founding father of New York, addressed numerous Revolutionary War questions raised by visitors throughout the event. Animals of the day, including oxen Oak and Birch, demonstrated heavy hauling while goats, geese, ducks and chickens from Willow Hill Homestead delighted the youngsters with lots of photo opportunities. Annemarie Sasso, Leader, Education Programs and Animal Exhibits, involved kids in hands-on demonstrations of cheese, butter, and milk production at Jerry’s Barn. During the day, a guided bus tour of Yorktown’s encampment sites transported riders back in time while a customized digital application, called the History Hunt, encouraged guest engagement and interactions with the dignitaries, reenactors, the Brigade and exhibitors at all locations at the Festival.

Local experts from the New York State Rochambeau encampment sites (Historical Society volunteers from Camps 13 (North Castle), 15 (Mt. Kisco), 16 & 38 Hunt’s Tavern, now Freyer’s Florist, 18 & 19 (Stony Point/Suffern), 35 & 36 (Suffern/Stony Point), and 39 (Salem), educated the public about what history took place at these individual sites; exhibitors, many dressed in period costume, including the Mohegan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Yorktown John C. Hart Memorial Public Library, Town of Yorktown Museum, Yorktown Historical Society and the Copper Beech Junior High School History Club, contributed to the immersive experience. The event also featured local musician, John Griffiths, who sang the French Republic’s national anthem, La Marseillaise, and our Star Spangled Banner, and led all participants in the Brigade’s salute to the troops with the collective singing of God Bless America.

Rochambeau Park, dedicated in honor of General Rochambeau on September 18, 1954 with military attaché Major John Taissier of the French Embassy attending the ceremony, and the W3R-NY event partner, also known as the Yorktown Grange Fair Grounds, provided a perfect combination for the Rochambeau Festival. With its sprawling 14 acres, main and exhibit halls, barns and horse respite areas and the tireless help of countless volunteers, history was truly brought to life and the Festival was a resounding success. W3R-NY achieved its goal of delivering a fun-filled immersive experience and educating the community about the Revolutionary War history in New York and the crucial role of General Rochambeau and the French army.

Plans are already underway to deliver an even more robust living history Rochambeau Festival in 2025.

 

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