Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book review - When the French Were Here.

Sorry to be so long in writing. Things have been pretty busy lately and it slowed my reading down. I did recently finish When the French Were Here by Stephen Bonsal. The book is subtitled A Narrative of the Yorktown Campaign and focuses on the role played by the French expeditionary force toward the close of the war for American Independence. Published in 1945 the book runs for 247 pages.

Mr. Bonsal manages to keep the book moving along and provides an interesting look at an often over-looked aspect of the War for Independence. While I was well aware of the role played by the French in the war I did not ever consider the events as seen through the eyes of the French troops and officers. Mr. Bonsal does this very well as he draws from contemporary writings and records. The struggle of the French to understand the Americans and the interest they showed in our people and culture rings true of any soldiers deployed to a foreign land. Several of the officers kept copious notes and inscribed their impressions of not only the American military but the American people as well.

A frequent point in these observations is the idea that the liberty bug was catching. Many of the French seemed to understand that what was happening in America was a new idea for their times. They sensed that it could carry across the oceans and change even their homeland. In private they seemed to approve of the idea. It is ironic that Mr. Bonsal traces several of these men to their deaths at the hands of the maniacs who ruled revolutionary France just a few short years later.

Over all I enjoyed Mr. Bonsal's work. Anyone who is either a student of our War for Independence or of French history would be well served by reading When the French Were Here.

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