NEW YORK - Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America announce the distribution in the U.S. of the English translation of the museum quality tabletop book, THE HERMIONE: Lafayette's Warship and the American Revolution. The Hermione was the tall ship that the impassionedMarquis de Lafayettesailed in 1780 to General Washington with news of full French support for America's cause.
Deeply descriptive, with hundreds of archival illustrations, paintings, maps and letters, history aficionados' trace some four hundred years of French empire building, through the story of the 'frigate of freedom', the Hermione. On sale now, on the heels of the Hermione Voyage 2015, the recent tour of the handsome and authentically re-created tall ship to 12 ports of the U.S. eastern seaboard, the timely book release is a memory for the 50,000 visitors who stepped back in time on her deck, and an opportunity for others to learn the whole story.
Eloquently written by authorEmmanuel deFontainieu and published inFranceby de Monza Editions, editorJean-Pierre de Monzaexpounds:
"With this book the spirit of Lafayette returns to America more than two centuries after the U.S. gained independence, a course he so passionately shared. This narrative is part of the voyage. It has the dual mission of reminding us of an epic moment in history, and of recounting the monumental challenge undertaken to celebrate it: the 'rebuilding' of Lafayette's ship, the Hermione." It was a twenty-year project begun in 1993 by a group of visionaries.
These two missions inspired author Emmanuel de Fontainieu deeply. What we have contained in this beautifully written and artfully laid out tabletop book is an expansive history of naval ambition of the French in pursuit of empire building againstEnglandfrom the 1660's,which included building the magnificent city of Rochefort out ofmarshland for astate of the art naval arsenal, to a look at the Americas from settlementto theAmerican Revolution, to the story of the demiseof Rochefort aftertwo world wars. Finally, there is the narrative of the visionaries who, in the 1990's, devised a plan to redevelop Rochefort with the recreation of the Hermione legacy, through a replica of magnificent and meticulous accuracy.
Readers sink deeply into the saga of British and French rivalry as global powers in the 17th& 18thCenturies. France'smaritime destiny was inspired by Louis X1V and put forth into action by his ardent minister,Jean-Baptiste Colbert. From swamp to thriving city, building Rochefort was a monumental task, the passionate inspiration of a king and his minister to create a naval arsenal that would guard the French coast, support trade and the colonies, and protect the French East India Company. Author de Fontainieuwrites:
"The effort poured into resuscitating the navy was unprecedented. Colbert counted on the entire kingdom to contribute to the arsenal's existence. A veritable revolution in scale and methods was under way to bring raw material, talent, and finished products. Plans were made to gouge out mountain ranges, carve into sheer rock face to create the road to bring out mast wood, straighten rivers to make them navigable, and, to open mines, plant forests, and create mills -for shipbuilding consumes enormous amounts of wood, iron, and hemp."
It was in theRochefort arsenalthat "L'Hermione" was built over a century later, one of four of the Concorde class: a 1,260 ton heavily armed frigate, nimble and swift, the envy of the British. Her contribution to America's victory began when she carriedMarquis Lafayetteto America in 1780 with news of support for the revolution, her brilliant skirmishes in the north, and, ultimately, in the battle ofYorktownwhere she participated in the siege that sealed our victory.
The People's Project
At the end of WW II,Rochefort's maritimedockyard was completely destroyed and the region declined. In the 70's, the old Corderie Royale (Ropewalk,1666) was rebuilt as a museum; a formidable task as the building measures 374 meters (1,227 feet!), the length of the longest ropes for a naval sailing ship before drying! Fast forward to 1990; with the region still depressed,an ideais hatched to rekindle industry and tourism through Lafayette and Hermione's legacy. In the spirit of Lafayette's family motto,Cur Non?(Why Not?), a project wasconceived torevive an important time in history: the American Revolution, tying in the symbolicrole Lafayetteand the Hermione played in this pivotal time. Who remembered that it was the 19 year oldMarquis de Lafayettethat sailed to America on the Hermione with news of full French support of the America's cause? Why not reconstruct an authentic replica of the Hermione, in Rochefort, in the original docks, in the original technology of the seventeenth century? Certainly, private donors would contribute to such a heroic pursuit! The work began, but the roadblocks were many. Money was difficult to find. What became clear, over time, was that the public was wildly interested in the project. Over 4.5 million visitors came and donated a euro here and a euro there, for 17 years. Local, and then national aid, came through the persistent efforts of the Association Hermione-La Fayette. After 20 years, the Hermione did what she was built to do: bring employmentand business to the region and teach the legacy of French American relations to a new generation.
Why Not Give Up a Year ofMy Real Lifeto Learn to Sail and Cross the Ocean on the Hermione?
In a final chapter written byYann Cariou, Captain of completed Hermione, he describes the indomitable spirit of his crew, 14 professionals and 160 volunteers (all trained but only 54 are on board during active duty). A 30 - year navy veteran, Cariou knows firsthand the intensity, both technical and physical, of sailing the ocean, and in this case, in the techniques of another era. The team he chose had to work seamlessly together, under tight conditions below deck with many inconveniences, as life and death were at stake. The professional crew was kept to a minimum due to budgetary constraints. There are five officers, one boatswain, one master shipwright, one sailmaker and six seamen of whom three are watch-leaders and two cooks. "This small crew gave unstintingly of their time to reach the objective of readying the ship by 2014; they worked assiduously for months to get to know the Hermione well and gain familiarity with all the details, especially behind the very complex rigging."
Most of thevolunteercrew had never sailed before and it was their sheer earnest determination to be part of the voyage from beginning to end that sealed their appointment.Cariou writes,"I am impressed watching these men and women wander the deck with their class notes in hand, stopping in front of every toggle, feeling the lines to check stiffness and girth, lifting their eyes to follow its path and see where it ends, checking their notes, then concentrating to memorize.
Cariou tells the complex story of training leading up to the 3,819 mile Voyage 2015 that the Hermione made from Rochefort to the Americas this summer, of the learning curves and the exhilaration of sailing a boat that was the best of another era. "This magnificent vessel was demanding, and like all superb performers, was very labor-intensive. This we discovered during the first gale winds the autumn season brought our way. A further aspect of the project quickly dawned on us: the technical prowess of construction was turning into the exceptional human adventure of operating the vessel…and nothing could be done alone."
The Voyage wasa passionate tale,yet again, from the city of Rochefort.
About Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc.
The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc.. (FOHLA) , a non-profit group, supported the Hermione Voyage 2015 while she was inthe United Statesby partnering with local heritage and nautical groups, students and teachers K-through-12, and countless cultural organizations, museums and universities to provide a full program of educational, musical, culinary and special events. Voyage '15 represented the most dramatic public history project ever to visit the U.S. and evoked the spirit of Lafayette's family motto, "why not?" A second mission of FOHLA is to remember the fraternal Franco-American relationship and the deep sacrificeFrancemade to America's freedom and our continued allegiance to the cause of liberty. FOHLA continues to support the Hermione in developing cultural and educational legacy materials for public and classroom use. For more information, please visit:www.Hermione2015.com.
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