The Marquis de Lafayette


The Marquis de Lafayette was born in 1757 in France. His full name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette . He was an active boy with red hair and freckles.

Lafayette’s father was killed when Lafayette was only two. His mother and grandfather died when he was eleven, at about the same time, which left him with quite a bit of money. He was then left in the care of his great-grand- father. He went to military school in Versailles. His great-grandfather, when Lafayette was not but sixteen, married him off to Adrienne Noailles in April of 1774. She was only fourteen. Because the Noailles were a noble family, Lafayette was required to spend most of his time at court, which he distinctly did not enjoy.

In 1776 Lafayette wanted to fight for America in the Revolutionary War. He also wanted revenge because his father had been killed by the British. A Frenchman had to be twenty-five to fight in a foreign war and Lafayette was only nineteen. He had to ask his father-in-law,and the king for permission, and he knew they would say “No.” So he had to go in secret without even his wife knowing. Only the Americans Silas Dean, who promised to make him a Major General, and Benjamin Franklin knew. Unfortunately, somehow his father-in-law got wind of his plans and was outraged. He commanded Lafayette to join his family on a vacation to Italy. Lafayette ignored him and on April 20, 1777, Lafayette’s ship, the Victoire, set sail.

On June 13, 1777, the Victoire sighted South Carolina, and dropped anchor. The Marquis and his small band of French soldiers set out for Philadelphia on June 25, and arrived on July 27. Lafayette knocked on the door of Congress and said they were new French soldiers for the Continental army. He spoke in French and the man who answered the door understood, but said they didn’t need any French soldiers. So, The Marquis wrote a letter to John Hancock asking if he could be a volunteer and serve without pay. He was accepted, and met General Washington the next day.

For the next two years, Lafayette served in the army as a Major General. He was wounded in the foot at Brandywine, won a victory over a small party of Hessians at Gloucester, and served at Valley Forge. He also led other battles and campaigns.

A group of men who wanted to replace Lafayette and Washington tried to get Lafayette to go home. When that didn’t succeed, he was given command of an invasion against Canada to try to break up him and General Washington. This also failed. Later, the British tried to capture Lafayette, but did not succeed.

In 1779 Lafayette went back to France on furlough. He was there for about a year, and worked at trying to get the government to help the American cause.

Lafayette returned to America to serve once again. He is famous for holding back Cornwallis at Yorktown until Washington and Rochambeau arrived. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. This was the last major victory in the American Revolution.

Lafayette spent most of the rest of his life in France, but visited America two more times. He worked for liberty in America and also in his own country. The ideas of the American Revolution were ideas he followed for the rest of his life.




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