STILLWATER — Saratoga NHP’s Fall Lecture Series in partnership with the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. will host “Retracing Our Steps: The French-American Joint Reconnaissance Tour in the Winter of 1780-1781” on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. The event will take place at the Saratoga National Historical Park Visitor Center Theater.
Studying the terrain to analyze how the action unfolded on Revolutionary War battlefields isn’t just a modern pursuit. It was the first order of business when the French Army arrived on American soil, seeking to understand the war they had just joined. Contrary to popular belief, French and American officers did not sit idle over the winter of 1780–81. Rather, the French organized a joint reconnaissance mission to previous battlefields of the American Revolution under the initiative of François-Jean de Chastellux, an overlooked figure who played a crucial role as a liaison officer between the French and Americans, and in the logistical and strategic planning of the allied army. Dr. de Rode’s discovery of his unpublished private papers, in the ancestral château of the Chastellux family in Burgundy, reveals numerous details about his role, especially on this forgotten reconnaissance mission, including an in depth study of the battlefield of Saratoga.
Dr. de Rode, who is originally from the Netherlands, received her doctorate from the Université de Paris in November 2019. Her dissertation was based on her discovery of the private papers of François-Jean de Chastellux, one of the French generals who served at Yorktown. She published a biography on Chastellux in 2022 for which she won the 2023 Prix Guizot of the Académie Française for “best history book of the year.”
The Saratoga National Historical Park Visitor Center is located at 648 NY-32, Stillwater.