YORKTOWN FRENCH MEMORIAL
During the Bicentennial of the Battle of Yorktown in 1981, members of the French veterans' organizations attending the celebration noted that there was an area on the battlefield where approximately 50 French soldiers were buried in an unmarked, common grave. Although this area was indicated by a cross and a plaque, none of the names of any French soldier was inscribed there. It has long been a point of cultural tradition in France that the graves of those who died serving France are marked with their names whenever possible, or that the battlefields have a memorial with their names inscribed.
At the urging of French veterans' groups, the Ambassador of France to the United States, His Excellency M. Emmanuel de Margerie, appointed a committee to correct this oversight. It was the Committee for the Yorktown French Memorial, with Professor Andre Maman of Princeton University serving as its president.
The purpose of the committee, which included both French and American members, was to create a memorial to honor all French soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in the Yorktown campaign in 1781. The memorial was to include the names of the some 600 Frenchmen* who lost their lives in this campaign, including the Yorktown siege and the naval battle of Chesapeake Bay, or the Battle of the Capes, as it is sometimes called.
The committee's tasks included the design, approval, funding and dedication of the memorial. The design was completed with the approval of the Ambassador and the National Park Service. Members of the French Societies of the Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Order of the Cincinnati as well as French veteran and cultural organizations here were engaged in fundraising to reach the goal needed to bring the project to reality. Various American hereditary and cultural societies also participated as a gesture of appreciation for the French forces joining us in those desperate days in 1781 as General Washington and the French commanders adopted the extremely risky plan which led, against all expectations, to the final great victory at Yorktown.
*This list may not be 100% accurate or complete.
** The name at the top of each section is the ship they served on.