Replica retraces voyage of French warship sent to help American rebels

Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:36pm EDT
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By Anca Ulea

ROCHEFORT, France (Reuters) - A replica of the warship that carried France's Marquis de Lafayette to help American colonists in their war of independence sets sail for the United States on Saturday, symbolic of a historic moment that binds the two nations.

Lafayette crossed the Atlantic on the original Hermione in 1780 to tell his friend George Washington, commander of the American insurgents against British imperial rule, that France was sending a strong military force to help them.

The replica fired its cannons as it sailed up the French river Charente on Saturday to the military shipyards of Rochefort, where both vessels were built.

French President Francois Hollande paid a brief visit to the warship, which was due to set sail later in the day.

The new Hermione has been under construction since 1997 and cost 25 million euros ($27 million) to build. It will head for Yorktown, Virginia, where Lafayette and his forces played a critical part in a decisive battle against the British.

"I feel it’s important that this boat is remembered as more than just a modern recreation, that it represents the historical boat as well," said Adam Hodges-LeClaire, a U.S. citizen, history student and one of the 80-strong crew aboard the 1.2 ton warship.

Hodges-LeClaire had made his own period costume to wear during the voyage.

The frigate is due to arrive in Yorktown on June 5 for a two-month tour of key locations in the American Revolution, including Annapolis, Boston, Philadelphia and New York City.   Continued...