Vive la Libert! Vive la France!

by Milton Batiste

The restaurant menus in the three House office buildings will change the name of "French fries" to "freedom fries." And "French toast" will be known as "freedom toast."

This culinary rebuke stems from anger over the French refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.

"This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Freedom fries? To me it seems a bit strange that the word freedom is used in an effort to taunt the French. After all, the American war for independence would most certainly not have been won without a helping hand from France. French soldiers and sailors, not to mention French supplies and money, were of crucial importance for the American cause.

Remember Yorktown. After an unsuccessful Carolina campaign General Cornwallis moved into Virginia. His lieutenant, the feared Banastre Tarleton, engaged American forces under the marquis de LaFayette as the British retreated down the York peninsula. Cornwallis fortified Yorktown. A French fleet under Admiral de Grasse arrived from the West Indies, blockaded Chesapeake Bay, and defeated the British naval forces. The reinforcement of LaFayette by 3,000 French troops under St. Simon dissuaded Cornwallis from attempting a breakout.

General Washington and General Rochambeau headed south. On September 14 they reached Williamsburg and joined LaFayette. They learned of De Grasse's success, and that the British naval force had withdrawn, leaving Cornwallis without immediate support. An overwhelming French-American force had gathered and Cornwallis tried to escape, but failed. On October 17, 1781, he asked for surrender terms, which he accepted two days later. The war did not end there, but the allies had won a decisive victory in the struggle for American independence,

The contribution of the Expédition Particulière – the French expeditionary force sent to support the American Revolution – was essential for the American-French victory at Yorktown. The Expédition Particulière included approximately 5,500 regular soldiers.

Some 600 Frenchmen lost their lives in the campaign of 1781, including the Yorktown siege and the naval battle known as the Second Battle of the Virginia Capes. Their names are listed on a bronze plaque at the base of the Yorktown Monument.

Those 600 Frenchmen died in the fight for America's freedom. They are now, it seems, forgotten.