July 2, 1779, a 22 year old Frenchman by the name of Johannes (Jean) Claudius Schledorn enrolls in the legion of Lauzun and engages as a light horse soldier in Lauzun's 1st squad of Hussars.

The adventure and duty that follows brings the calvary soldier to North America to fight with George Washington and the American rebel forces against the British in the American Revolutionary War. On July 11, 1780 he lands as part of a 5,500 man, 5 frigate strong French Naval Fleet in Newport, Rhode Island called the Expédition Particulière.

What follows for this young man as part of Rochambeau's forces takes him through several battles in support of the revolution, and eventually to the siege of Yorktown in Virginia where he witnesses the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781. Later, under the Americanized name of John Slator, he is one of the few people who is present at the signing and framing of the United States Constitution, and is honorably discharged as an American Patriot on May 9, 1783.

John Slator, originally of Alsace, France, settles as an American citizen pioneer in Donegal, Pennsylvania, is my 6th Great-grandfather, and the earliest member of my family in the United States.

Several months before John Slator's arrival in Rhode Island in 1780, a French frigate called Hermione arrives in Boston on April 28, 1780. On board is the Marquis de Lafayette, who brings secret news of the Expédition Particulière and coming 5,500 soldiers to support Washington. It marks a significant partnership in the Revolutionary War and one of the significant tide turning moments of the major conflict.

Just 235 years after Hermione's arrival in Boston, an exact replica of Lafayette's tall ship sailed up the Potomac and docked in Old Town Alexandria at the base of Cameron Street for all to see. Her name, L'Hermione.

The ship is the culmination of a 20 year effort to recreate the famous ship that was shipwrecked in 1793. The entire ship is a hand built and completely custom reproduction using materials and methods traditional to the French shipbuilding trade of the late 18th century.

With significant help from donors and sponsors from around the world, and the expert craftsman responsible for creating this ship from a group of enthusiasts' vision, L'Hermione was completed and embarked on an historic voyage that has taken her from France to America to celebrate and honor the original ship's historic voyage and the historic and important relationship that exists between France and the United States.

L'Hermione is in the midst of several stops up the east coast, having recently docked at Mt. Vernon and soon to head to Annapolis, departing Alexandria at midnight Friday evening and into Saturday morning.

She'll ultimately continue up the east coast with several more stops including Newport, Rhode Island and Boston between July 8-9 and 11-12, the 235th anniversary of my 6th Great-grandfather's arrival in America.

Wendy, Lulu, and I ventured down to check out this majestic ship and all I have to say is "Wow!"

We've had other tall ships dock in Old Town from time to time, but this is easily the most impressive in so many ways. 

The size of the ship alone is amazing. Three masts and taking up the entire dock on lower Cameron, it's a sight to behold.

On the dock around the ship a related "village" has been setup to provide information about L'Hermione and her unique construction, journey, and significance.

Additionally, there's a tent showcasing the Alexandria Seaport Foundation and the boat building work they're doing in their floating dockside wood shop. I love walking by their doors and looking in on what they're working on.

From a personal standpoint the sight of this ship docked in Old Town, this amazing place where we've chosen to live, makes me beyond happy. And the fact she's docked in front of the Torpedo factory, one of the places that helped supply the weaponry responsible for helping France during WWII, only reinforces the role each country has played in support of one another.

But beyond the overall significance of the ship and location, the personal link is something I don't often experience. It's rare to feel this sort of a link to a relative who lived over 200 years ago and travelled such an amazing journey. And it's a unique and special experience to see something sail into a seaport harbor that's changed so much over the years, while so many aspects of it have fortunately remained the same.

Even some of our Old Town neighbors have begun flying the French flag while L'Hermione is docked, letting her crew know how welcome and appreciated they are as they walk our historic streets.

If you're around Old Town today and have an opportunity to head down to the Torpedo Factory, make sure you do, as it's not to be missed. 

L'Hermione will be docked throughout the rest of the day and will be setting sail at midnight Friday into Saturday morning, June 12 into the 13th, so your time is limited. But Alexandria will be celebrating the city's connection to France throughout the weekend, so there will be plenty to see and do.


As she leaves she'll be ushered out by reenactors and much pomp and circumstance, including the opening of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (which is a big deal for traffic).

I do hope you have the opportunity to visit L'Hermione, if not in Old Town, perhaps at one of her other stops on the voyage. Be sure to check out the whole schedule to see if there will be a time and place that can work for you.

And perhaps she'll make a return trip to our area, but this time in fewer than 235 years. But until then, I'm happy we were fortunate to have the opportunity to witness this voyage.

Comments 16


Evelyn Kurhajetz
6/12/2015 at 12:55 PM
What an enjoyable read
6/12/2015 at 2:43 PM

Loved this - so cool!! Thanks for sharing.


Glad you enjoyed. Alt smile

6/13/2015 at 9:01 AM

What a beauty! Lovely blog post as well. Thank you for sharing it with us!


Absolutely. Thanks for reading.

Francesca Craig
6/13/2015 at 9:31 AM

Love the blog about Hermione, that painting of Lafayette is in the Residence of the French Ambassador (where I work).


That's very cool. Is it giant in person, or normal size? You never can tell from the photos online.

Helene S
6/13/2015 at 9:52 AM

Hello there, i'm one of your readers from France and a few weeks ago i went to visit the Hermione before it set sail for america. Funny coincidence!
Thanks for this post, (and for the others..)
It's always good to remember we are not so different after all!
have a great week end.


So glad to have you. We love hearing when people are visiting from outside of the U.S.

That's great that you got to see it off on the voyage. As much as I would be completely sea sick the whole time, a little piece of me was jealous of the crew and the adventure they were able to enjoy. A once in a lifetime experience for sure.

6/14/2015 at 1:25 PM

Love, love, love this post! My husband and I were Rev War reinactors from about 1973 until the surrender at Yorktown, VA in 1981. We still do living history for school and other groups on occasion. This is truly a special ship and the family tie you have is incredible.


I didn't realize there was a 1973 to 1981 reenactment, what a great experience to be part of. I've never seen official Revolutionary War battles, but have attended several Civil War events in Gettysburg and other nearby battlefields. We do get our fair share of people in colonial dress here in Alexandria, but it's never particularly large. But there sure is something about the period dress and uniforms we absolutely love.

6/15/2015 at 1:43 PM

That is so cool. Who is the genealogy buff in your family that did all the research?


A few people have worked to put things together, myself included. My Great-aunt Virginia, who just recently passed, was the person who introduced me to much of our family history. She had several folders with detailed lineage and stories about various branches. While growing up I was told "you're Irish and Italian," but since beginning my research I've been able to determine that I'm actually a pretty crazy mix of Italian, Irish, Scottish, French, German, and possibly English. I've always been interested to learn how I ended up where I am today and the Internet is a pretty amazing resource when it comes to research like this.

Meike B.
6/25/2015 at 8:00 AM

I'm from Germany, reading your blog for several years. I don't know if I commented something yet.
Of the name Johannes (Jean) Claudius Schledorn I presumed he must have been of German origin. I dont't believe Alsatien but Lorraine or Saarland (Ormesheim/ Blieskastel lies nowadays in the federal State of Saarland/Germany). Did you know that Schledorn means "blackthorn"? According to actual grammar written: Schlehdorn or Schlehe.
Maybe your ancester in the 15 to 17 century when family names appeared lived near a remarkable blackthorn! Or maybe your origin is noble (from the knights of the name "von Schledorn")?


Thank you so much for this note! Yes, you are correct! The Schledorn part of my family is from Alsace-Lorraine, which happened to be French at the time, but they likely had German roots (perhaps that explains why we felt so comfortable in Germany when we visited Alt smile). I know in the early 17th century they lived in Quierscheid and later Illingen, but that's as far back as we can trace. I did not know the meaning of Schlehdorn, thank you for letting me know, and how very interesting. I really appreciate it!

Jeff Thompson
2/11/2016 at 6:45 PM

Alex, I just found this post. I am a direct decendant of Johanne Schledorn. My mother was Jean Slator born in Lodi, Ohio. My brother and I went to the cemetery where he is buried western Pennsylvania last summer.
Jeff Thompson

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