WASHINGTON-ROCHAMBEAU REVOLUTIONARY ROUTE NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL DESIGNATION ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 10, 2008)
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, as a longtime cosponsor, I rise in support of H.R. 1286, the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Designation Act. Students of American history are intimately familiar with the Battle of Yorktown, in which French and American soldiers forced the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis, effectively handing victory of the Revolutionary War to the American Colonies.
However many Americans are less familiar with what preceded it--a harrowing nine state, six hundred mile journey of more than 6,000 allied soldiers from Newport, Rhode Island, through my home state of New Jersey to Yorktown, Virginia. Many historians identify this march led by George Washington, General of the Continental Army and French General Count Rochambeau along a network of roads, trails, and waterways as critical to the American victory at Yorktown and the eventual creation of the United States.
In Philipsburg, New York on August 14, 1781, having learned that a large fleet of French naval vessels was heading from the Caribbean Sea to the Chesapeake Bay, Washington and Rochambeau discarded plans to siege New York City and march to Southeastern Virginia, where another celebrated Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette and his 5,000 troops were outmaneuvering Cornwallis, forcing his British troops to bunker down in Yorktown. With little time to prepare, Washington and Rochambeau led more than 6,300 American and French troops on a southward march to Virginia.
H.R. 1286 is an important piece of legislation that comes at a critical time. Despite strong grassroots support from organizations like the National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, and efforts at the state and local level, many historical sites associated with the American Revolution will be lost to development and suburban sprawl. This bill would designate the route as a National Historic Trail, allowing the National Park Service to preserve and link together sites along the trail. Moreover, this designation would preserve this important piece of America's heritage using existing roads and rights of way--without the federal acquisition of private lands.
Preservation of the Washington-Rochambeau route will allow American citizens and visitors alike to gain a greater appreciation of the magnitude and improbability of the American victory as well as the important and often forgotten role our French allies played in securing American independence. Americans need a sense of history and an understanding of history now more than ever. This trail tells an important story in American history, and I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.
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