Arundel History

April 09, 2006

1791: French soldiers in Annapolis

Rather than the British, the French came to Annapolis in April 1781, encamped with soldiers who fought alongside and aided American troops in winning the Revolutionary War.

A granite monument honoring unknown French soldiers was dedicated on the edge of the St. John's College's playing fields and creek by President William Howard Taft in April 1911.

The French army troops were under the command of Marquis de Lafayette, 24, who cut quite a social swath, even with the Tories. One resident, Mrs. Benjamin Ogle, wrote that Annapolis "would be intolerable were it not for the officers. ... I like the French better every hour. The divine Marquis de Lafayette is in town and is quite the thing."

From the standpoint of spectacle, the well-equipped, well-dressed and well-behaved French greatly impressed the residents of the small Colonial cities they passed through. Their uniforms were mostly white. Their jackets were sky blue. The officers wore scarlet breeches and had tiger skin saddlecloths. More than 1,000 are believed to have died in battle.

[Sources: The Sun, St. John's College Web site and Paul McCardell, Sun library researcher]

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