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In this work we combine elements of chirped pulse amplification techniques, now familiar in solid-state lasers, with an amplifier based upon a seeded free-electron laser (FEL). The resulting device would produce amplified pulses of unprecedented brevity at wavelengths shorter than can be currently obtained by any tunable laser system. We use a subharmonically seeded FEL to illustrate the concept. Radiation from a Ti:sapphire laser is frequency tripled and stretched optically to provide a coherent seed pulse for the FEL. When coupled to an electron beam inside a magnetic wiggler, the seed radiation introduces an additional energy modulation on the electron bunch, which has been prepared with an energy chirp to match the chirp in the optical pulse. The energy modulated electrons are then spatially bunched in a dispersion magnet and introduced to a wiggler configured to be resonant to a harmonic of the seed laser, providing additional frequency multiplication. The coherent radiation produced by these electrons is amplified as it traverses the wiggler and is recompressed optically. The preservation of phase coherence provided by this scheme results in a device which can yield 4-fs pulses with 0.3 mJ at a central wavelength of ca. 8 nm, easily the shortest duration of amplified pulses produced by any laser. In this paper we discuss various aspects of the concept, including the generation of short pulses, temporal stretching and compression, and potential applications of the device. The phase distortion during the wide bandwidth FEL amplification is discussed in detail, and is shown to be within the bounds required to produce a 4-fs pulse upon compression.