Yorktown Battlefield, located in Colonial National Historical Park, is the location of the last major military action in the Revolutionary War. The British surrendered arms (some of which are pictured above) and soldiers once they found that they were not going to be able to escape across the York River. This is the story that I, and I would assume many others, learned in 5th, 8th, and 11th grade U.S. History. If it was not for the PBS show Liberty’s Kids, I wouldn’t have even learned about the importance of the French Alliance until high school. As it is, the magnitude of sacrifice did not strike me until coming to intern at this park.
The driving tour of the park takes you onto what is called the French Encampment Loop. You pass signs with information, redoubts and battlements, and the beautiful Virginia scenery. You then come to a clearing with a simple white cross.This cross serves as the grave marker for “about 50” Frenchmen who died for our freedom. These men lie in foreign soil, thousands of miles from their families and we do not even have an exact count of how many are buried here.
There is a saying that “an enemy of an enemy is my friend,” and the long standing animosity between the French and British certainly played a role in their willingness to help the American cause. Politics play a role in all decisions but this should not downplay the individual sacrifices of “about 50” Frenchmen who were laid to rest here.
Liz Bauer, Colonial National Historical Park