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The French in 1780 Newport: A Newport Historical Society History Space Event
September 11 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
In July 1780, thousands of French troops arrived in Newport, RI and began an occupation that lasted nearly a year. This alliance played a crucial role in helping Americans win the War for Independence as well as aiding local residents as they recovered from the harsh British occupation. During the weekend of September 11-12, 2021, the Newport Historical Society is pleased to announce a special weekend of programming and events featuring The French in 1780 Newport.
The Society will host dozens of costumed living historians to portray scenarios that illustrate what life was like during this turning point in history. Programming will take place at three of the NHS’s properties: the Colony House, located at the top of Washington Square, which will represent a French army hospital just as it was during the French occupation; the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House, 17 Broadway, will showcase a local family as they prepare to host a French soldier as well as a ladies’ tea and discussions about French fashions; and the Great Friends Meeting House, 21 Farewell Street, where 18th century residents will highlight how this new occupation impacts their lives. Several living historians will interpret specific figures from the 18th century French army who were in Newport including the Marquis de Lafayette, officers from the Sossonais regiment, and a representative from the German regiment Royal-Deux Ponts.
• 11am: Proclamation from Newport Town Council – Learn about the conflicts Newport citizens faced during the first few months of the French occupation. Takes place at the Great Friends Meeting House lawn.
• Noon: The First Cruise of “General Washington”, a Rhode Island Privateer – Hear a sailor’s experience aboard a privateering ship that visited Newport during the first month of the French occupation. Takes place at the Great Friends Meeting House lawn.
• 1pm: French Uniforms – Living historians portraying French soldiers will showcase 18th French military uniforms and discuss the process of recreating these authentic garments. Takes place at the Great Friends Meeting House lawn at the officer’s gaming tent.
• 2pm: Tea Traditions – French soldiers left notable descriptions in their journals outlining the tea etiquette practiced in Newport. Chat with living historians as they discuss these tea traditions and life in 1780. Takes place at the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House yard.
• 3pm: The Loyalist Perspective – Mary Almy, an outspoken loyalist, ran a prominent boarding house in 18th century Newport. Hear about life during the French occupation from this businesswoman and her loyalist patrons. Takes place at the Great Friends Meeting House lawn at the tent portraying Mary Almy’s boarding house.
On the lawn of the Great Friends Meeting House, visitors can step inside the wartime headquarters of George Washington by visiting the Museum of the American Revolution’s First Oval Office Project, a hand-sewn replica of Washington’s sleeping tent. Washington met with Rochambeau and other French leaders under canvas throughout the campaign of 1781. Join costumed staff of 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.
Newport History Tours, the Newport Historical Society’s walking tour program, will offer a special stop on their weekend tours where visitors will meet a costumed living historian portraying a French soldier from the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment. The French in Newport Walking Tour will be presented on Saturday September 11th at 11am and 11:30am while the Road to Independence Walking Tour is offered on Sunday September 12th at 11am and 11:30am. Tickets cost $15 per person and can be purchased at NewportHistoryTours.org.
The living history weekend will run from 11am – 4pm and programming admission is free, donations welcome. This event is supported by generous grant funding from the National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association and generous support from the Kane Wallace Foundation.