The Revolutionary War could not have been won without the help of the French. With the attack at Yorktown by the Americans and French, Cornwallis was bottled up. Although the war dragged on until 1783, it was, in effect, over with the 1781 American victory at Yorktown.
Henry Marion, a professor at the Naval Academy, suggested the monument to mark the graves of the unknown French dead. He had been in Cherbourg when the body of John Paul Jones was removed from French soil and sent to the Naval Academy. Marion was touched by the care the French gave to the cemetery for America seamen who had been killed June 27, 1864, in a sea fight off Cherbourg between the U.S. sloop of war Kearsarge and the Confederate cruiser Alabama. It was time, Professor Marion felt, for a reciprocal act which would honor those French who had given their lives to the American cause. On March 26, 1906, the monument's cornerstone was laid.
The monument was dedicated April 18, 1911. It was designed by Baltimore sculptor J. Maxwell Miller.