The Road to Yorktown

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The fate of the American Revolution had yet to be decided when a remarkable 21-year-old Frenchman arrived in America. Louis-François-Bertrand, the Count of Lauberdière, belonged to an old noble family that traced its heritage back to the Crusades. His father, François-Charles-Mathieu, was musketeer of the guard of King Louis XV. More important, his uncle was General Rochambeau, the commander of all French forces in America. The Count of Lauberdière kept one of--and perhaps THE MOST--remarkable and important diaries of the entire war and it has never been published and but rarely used.

Savas Beatie is publishing  it for the first time as The Road to Yorktown: The French Campaigns in the American Revolution, 1780-1783, by Louis-François-Bertrand, comte de Lauberdière, du Pont d'Aubevoye, translated and edited by Norman Desmarais.

The young and well-educated Lauberdière served as aide-de-camp on General Rochambeau’s staff and enjoyed a unique perspective of the war. He rubbed shoulders with some of the Revolution’s most important personalities (including George Washington, Lafayette, Greene, Hamilton, and many others), and was in the epicenter of many of the war’s momentous events. His journal covers a host of topics in remarkable detail, including descriptions of the French army’s marches and camps, the long journey to Yorktown, the siege and capture that followed, and a fascinating examination of the colonial people and their distinctive early American culture. Bertrand's fascination with naval affairs is obvious, and his descriptions of the various French and English warships, battles, and fates makes for fascinating reading.

The French Count had a keen eye, and his crisp descriptions of the Army’s daily activities and movements provide a wealth of information for inquisitive readers and historians—details found only in this diary. For example, nearly all French diaries mention the army’s arrival and landing at Newport, but only Lauberdière’s identifies exactly where it occurred. Anti-French prejudices were common, and the nephew recorded how General Rochambeau dispelled them and won over the locals. Culture fascinated the young Count. He observed how the colonials attempted to imitate European manners and styles, and marveled at how quickly the citizens of Philadelphia adopted Parisian fashions. He even visited Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and made offers pointed personal comments about his wife, Martha.

Translator and editor Norm Desmarais, professor emeritus at Providence College Rhode Island, adds substantial value with his expertly crafted footnotes which, together with maps and illustrations, makes The Road to Yorktown a fresh and invigorating firsthand account that will satisfy even the most demanding student of the American Revolution.

By Norman Desmarais, published by Savas Beatie, 312 pages, hardcover.

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