Retracing Our Steps: the French-American Joint Reconnaissance Tour in the Winter of 1780-1781

Thursday, December 7, 6:30 pm
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 Dr de Rode’s discovery of his unpublished private papers, in the ancestral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”.
Iris is currently working on a new English book titled En route for Revolution that will be
published by the University of Virginia Press next year. She has received 20 fellowships
for her work, including from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s
Monticello, the Society of the Cincinnati and the American Philosophical Society.

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