- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Three Revolutionary War buffs are literally walking in the footsteps of history, trekking more than 600 miles on foot along the path taken by French and American soldiers to Yorktown to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the historic battle.

Since June, the men have been retracing the path of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route from Rhode Island to Virginia. They plan to reach Yorktown by October to celebrate the anniversary with about 4,000 other war re-enactors.

“Our main goal is to bring light to the trail,” said David Holloway, one of the three men. “We felt it was important to honor the French. They helped win the battle that won the war that won our independence.”

Mr. Holloway, 56, a carpenter from Wallingford, Conn.; Michael Fitzgerald, 55, a film producer from Sewickley, Pa.; and David Fagerberg, 55, an insurance salesman from Prairie Village, Kan.; are members of America’s March to Yorktown, a small group of Revolutionary War re-enactors. They had been kicking around the idea of walking the route since Mr. Holloway suggested it about four years ago, but the plan didn’t begin to take shape until last year.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has walked the entire route,” Mr. Holloway said. “Others have attempted to do it but have walked some of the way and driven the rest.”

The men have finished about two-thirds of the journey, which has reached Annapolis. They are camping out there before heading into the District, which they expect to reach Wednesday.

Like French Lt. Gen. Jean-Baptiste, Count of Rochambeau, and his soldiers more than two centuries ago, the three men will march through Georgetown before crossing the Potomac into Virginia.

“Walking that distance couldn’t have been easy [back then], considering that they were in full uniform, carrying their equipment and weapons, had no trucks to take them around,” said Betty Jane Johnson Gerber, chairwoman of the D.C. branch of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, a nine-state partnership advocating the 600-mile route’s designation as a national historic trail.

“And they had to battle once they got there, which makes them pretty tough,” she said.

Yet the three men, along with march organizer and vehicle driver Rose Morin, 55, of Branford, Conn., have stayed the course.

Aside from a cell phone, a laptop computer and a couple of support vehicles, the men have remained as historically accurate as possible. They wear heavy wool uniforms and have slept outside most nights, no matter the weather. Even their tents are made of canvas.

Strictly adhering to the route and chronological order, the men have covered about 16 miles daily, depending upon how many miles the two armies originally traveled that day.

An assortment of people have joined them in their march at various points, with one group of students camping with them for two weeks. The mission and walk is as educational as it is celebratory, Mr. Holloway said.

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget the past and only focus on the present,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much the French contributed.”

From June 18 to July 6, 1781, Gen. Rochambeau and the French Army joined American soldiers near Newport, R.I., and marched to Philipsburg, N.Y.

The two armies stayed at Philipsburg, which is present-day Dobbs Ferry, for about six weeks before heading to Yorktown, reaching the town in October.

After about 17,000 French and American soldiers surrounded Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis and the British army, the general officially surrendered on Oct. 19, 1781. The war ended two years later.

An official ceremony is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, as the men cross the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Miss Gerber said. Congress will also likely designate the route as a historic trail by early October, she said.

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