Gosselin Story Part II

By Juliana L’Heureux

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Writing a family story is an important contribution to the Franco-American culture, but one writer found the task quite difficult when some family members were hesitant to reveal bewildering information. This is the second column explaining some details about the Gosselin family story, recently turned into a self-published book.

Retired newspaper editor and writer Henri Gosselin, of Harpswell, began to write his family’s story when he found an entertaining legend that had not been fully told. In his self published book titled "George Washington’s French-Canadian Spy", Gosselin decided to write about his family while, at the same time, vindicating the hundreds of French Canadians who help the American colonials to win the Revolutionary War with England. Up until now, these largely unknown heroes were overlooked by history.

It took Gosselin over a year to research the untold story about Clement Gosselin, a distant relative and a French Canadian who played an interesting part in the American Revolution. "Clement had a relationship with some very important people in history, like George Washington and Thomas Mifflin, President of the Continental Congress. He knew Benedict Arnold, who was the notorious traitor of the American Revolution," says Gosselin about his ancestor. Thanks to help from a distant Gosselin relative in Texas, old letters were found in the National Archives in Washington, DC, proving the relationships between Clement and famous American colonial existed.

Writing about ancestor Gosselin was a challenge because the research was extensive. Documenting numerous details associated with the legend was an expensive project, especially when most of the information was located in Quebec. Finding the information was a complex process because the Gosselin family was reluctant to divulge information about their memorable ancestor. In fact, the Canadian side of the Gosselin family, who knew about Clement’s legend, considered him a renegade because he fought with the Americans against the British. Clement suffered a great deal as a result of his zeal for the American colonists. In fact, due to his role in the Revolution, the Roman Catholic Bishop in Quebec actually excommunicated (outcaste) Clement as well as the other French-Canadians who followed his lead, even though the French were adversaries of the British, just like the Americans!

It took two centuries for some members of the Gosselin family to understand the error of the Bishop who excommunicated their ancestor. "The vindication of Clement and all French Canadians who helped the Americans to win independence, is long overdue," says Gosselin about his book. "We have every right to be proud of our ancestor," he says.

"Few people realize how much the French and the French Canadians, in particular, helped out when the battle of Yorktown was won," insists Gosselin. "Of the 88 men killed at Yorktown, 60 were French or French Canadians. Of the 300 wounded, 193 were French or French Canadians", he says. The victory at Yorktown determined the outcome of the war for General George Washington.

A report from the Yorktown battle quotes Major Clement Gosselin, George Washington’s French-Canadian spy, with proclaiming, "We gave more than our share!" while he lay wounded on the battlefield.

George Washington's French-Canadian Spy was written by Henry Gosselin and published in both english and french by 1st Books Library, 2001. To find out more about this and other books by Henry Gosselin, link to http://www.henrigosselin.com/

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Published on July 15, 1999
Copyright 1999-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland Maine and Juliana L'Heureux