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France's 'Freedom Frigate' to Celebrate 4th of July

A replica of the French navy frigate L'Hermione, which played a key role in the American Revolution sets sail on its maiden voyage to the United States from Fouras, southwestern France on April 18, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / XAVIER LEOTY)
Reproduction of 18th-Century Freedom Ship Traveling to US Ports
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A warship from France that came to the United States 235 years ago became a sign of friendship between the two countries. The French ship traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to help defeat the British during the American revolutionary war.

Now a full-scale replica, a reproduction of the ship, has made that same trip. It is traveling along the U.S. east coast through the middle of July.

July 4th is Independence Day in the United States. On July 4, 1776, 13 British colonies in North America announced their independence from Great Britain. At the time, the colonies were at war with Britain. The fighting ended in 1783, when the British recognized America’s independence.

The Americans might have lost the war if it were not for a French warship, called the Hermione. The ship crossed the Atlantic to help the American forces.

The replica of the Hermione is called “The Freedom Frigate.” The replica looks like the warship seen in old paintings. It is 65 meters long and 56 meters high.

About 80 people are working on the ship. Aurore Le Vilain is with the mostly French volunteer crew. She admits she had to deal with her fear of heights. At sea, she says, the waves are likely to carry a sailor from one side of the ship to another.

Alice Bru, another crew member, says she had never sailed before she joined the Freedom Frigate.

“We have more than 200 different ropes and each has a different use. And it’s also physically difficult because everything is heavy.”

The story of the Hermione begins with a friendship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. Washington was the commander of the American armies. He later became the first president of the United States. The Marquis de Lafayette was a young French aristocrat who was an army volunteer. Lafayette returned to France to get ships and troops to help the Americans. He sailed back on the Hermione to help fight the British troops.

Shipbuilders in France spent 17 years building the replica. Kon Gojnycz went to see the ship during its visit to the port of Alexandria, Virginia. He noted how the shipbuilders used many methods from the 18th century to rebuild the Hermione. He added that the guns were made at the same factory that made guns for the Hermione and the French navy in the 1770s.

Bruno Gravellier is the superintendent on the replica. He says the ship is as real, or authentic, as possible. But he says there are a few additions, such as an engine, that make it safer than the old warship.

Adam Hodges-LeClair is a history student and one of the few Americans on the crew. He says that the ship feels crowded, just like it used to be.

“You have some moments when people are very close. Potentially you need some space. At the same time, it’s nice to have that support whenever you’re doing a maneuver.”

Miles Young is president of a group called the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America.

“This is one of the symbolic journeys of freedom in history. It celebrates the birth of the United States as a free and independent nation.”

He adds that the Hermione will also show the importance of freedom around the world.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA’s Deborah Block reported on this story from Virginia. Triwik Kurniasari adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

full-scale adj. having the same size as the original

replica n. an exact copy of something

frigate n. a military ship

aristocrat n. a person from the upper social class

recall v. to remember

authentic adj. real