In July 1780, thousands of French troops landed in Newport beginning an occupation that lasted for nearly a year. The presence of this new ally represented a turning point in the American Revolution and the start of the Franco-American Alliance. While French troops played a vital role in American victory at Yorktown in 1781, Newport citizens were far from welcoming upon their arrival. On Friday July 14, 2023 and Saturday July 15, 2023, the Newport Historical Society will showcase aspects of this pivotal point in American history during the French in Newport living history weekend, a free two-day event about life in the summer of 1780.
The French in Newport Event will feature living historians portraying recognizable figures such as George and Martha Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Marquis de Chastellux along with the head of the French army, comte de Rochambeau. Dozens of costumed living historians representing both civilians and French soldiers will discuss the challenges of establishing this new alliance. Programming will be rooted at Washington Square and surrounding sites such as the Colony House, the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House and the Brick Market.
The NHS will partner with the Museum of the American Revolution’s First Oval Office Project, a hand-sewn replica of George Washington’s sleeping tent, which will be exhibited at Washington Square. Washington met with Rochambeau and other French leaders under canvas throughout the campaign of 1781. Join costumed staff from the Museum of the American Revolution in immersive explorations of Washington’s tents and campaign equipment and the stories his guard and “military family” in the Revolutionary War.
Justin Cherry from Half Crown Bakehouse, who is the resident baker at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, will offer 18th century baking demonstrations while discussing the bread and food rations that would have been available in 1780 Newport. Additional programming will include:
Ladies fashion presentations highlighting the differences of French and American women’s clothing, makeup and hairstyles.
An interview with Iris de Rode, Ph.D. and a living historian representing the Marquis de Chastellux.
The event concludes with a free concert presented by the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums. A full schedule of activities will be available in late June 2023.
This French in Newport event is generously sponsored by the National Parks Service/Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail and Discover Newport.