The Civil War Connections Blog

Then & Now: French Perspective on the American Soldier

On November 22, 1862 Scientific American printed a letter written by an officer in the French army who was serving with the Union Army during the Civil War.  In that letter Gen. Cluseret says many complementary things of the Union soldiers he was working with.  To summarize his letter he says “I have but a word to express my opinion of the American soldier:  he is an admirable soldier.” This might seem surprising that a French officer was supporting and working with the Union Army since there was a fear of the French allying with the Confederates.  What some might find even more surprising is that in 150 years the French view of the American soldier has anything but faltered, if anything it has been bolstered.


Less than a month ago the translation of a letter written by French infantryman Jean-Marc Liotier, who has served with American soldiers in Afghanistan, was posted online and his views are strikingly similar to that of his 150 year old predecessor Gen. Cluseret. Lioter goes into a lengthy description of how years of consuming Gatorade and McDonald’s have made these modern American soldiers so much bigger and stronger than the French.  Ultimately Lioter comes to the same conclusion as Gen. Cluseret saying flatly “they are impressive warriors.”


In a world where many Americans have less than stellar views of the French, especially in regards to their military, it is refreshing to hear about the United States and French militaries working together in harmony.  French and Americans have a long history of disagreements dating back to the Quasi-War in the 1790s and as late as 2003, and what I like to call the freedom fry fiasco . Despite that history both these example are of French soldiers being very complementary of their American counterparts.  I think it shows that when it comes down to the actual soldiers fighting in these respective wars they both have a great deal of respect for one another.


Read Jean-Marc Liotier’s letter in its entirety here: