Marquis de Lafayette: Extraordinary French Hero of the American Revolutionary War

NYH154555  Credit: Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), c.1781-85 (oil on canvas) by Francesco Giuseppe Casanova (c.1732-1803) © Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA/ The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: Italian / out of copyright PLEASE NOTE: The Bridgeman Art Library works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.

Credit: Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), c.1781-85 (oil on canvas) by Francesco Giuseppe Casanova (c.1732-1803)
© Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Nationality / copyright status: Italian / out of copyright

SOTN Editor’s Note:
It’s true, were it not for the extraordinary generosity and selfless service of Marquis de Lafayette, the colonies might not have won the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. His crucial role as one of Washington’s most trusted generals is acknowledged to this very day by many historians.

In various ways, Lieutenant General Lafayette played an integral role in the improbable American victory over the mighty British army. Not only did he provide desperately needed funds at critical moments, he served General George Washington in some of the most important capacities. Because he was independently wealthy, Washington could trust Lafayette, implicitly, to carry out the most sensitive and vital missions.

Washington also came to deeply respect Lafayette for his remarkable self-sacrifice.  Some historians say that he loved Lafayette like a son, and that the bond between them served to keep Washington strong during some of the most trying periods of the war.

After the Marquis left the French legislature in 1824, President James Monroe invited him to tour the United States, partly to instill the “spirit of 1776” in the next generation of Americans and partly to celebrate the nation’s 50th anniversary.
(Source: Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States)

Marquis de Lafayette rendered such unparalleled selfless service to the cause of American independence that he was honored perhaps as no other war hero of the era.  In fact he had the quite fortuitous occasion to make a special visit back to the United States in 1824-25 at the invitation of President Monroe, when he was the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War.  What transpired from July of 1824 to September of 1825 throughout the 24 states that he visited has been described by some as the greatest hero’s welcome in American history.

At every stop Lafayette was greeted by many aging war veterans some of whom served under his command.  They exchanged gifts and memories which revived the very special relationship that he had enjoyed with America 50 years earlier.  Parties and balls were held in his honor, ground was broken for new memorials, and the spirit of 1776 was quite amazingly rekindled wherever he traveled.

Something truly extraordinary occurred during Lafayette’s 14 month tour of the nation. His very presence galvanized a nationwide movement to create monuments and statues, plaques and medallions, as well as other memorials as tributes to those who served the cause of liberty.  War memorials of every shape and size were painstakingly constructed in town squares and city parks, on village greens and state properties.

It was as though the American Revolution was recognized for the first time as the truly great accomplishment that it was for all of mankind.  Not only did the colonies fight on the side of freedom from tyranny and oppression, they were victorious over the mightiest empire in the world.  The dictatorial British monarchy was laid low by ragtag bands of humble minutemen.

Marquis de Lafayette will certainly go down in U.S. history as one of the greatest ‘American’ heroes even though he was French.  His return to the states in 1824 will long be remembered as the greatest hero’s welcome, of a true foreign friend, ever!

Rekindling the Spark of Liberty:
Lafayette’s Visit to the United States, 1824-1825


This July 4th Remember Lafayette


Remembering General Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution. Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy lays flowers at the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette on July 4, 2015, Picpus Cemetery, Paris.

It is doubtful the American Republic would have been born were it not for the courage and generosity of our greatest French friend, Marquis de Lafayette, who joined the Continental Army at the age of 19 with the rank of lieutenant general.

He helped provision George Washington’s army, led troops in several battles ,and played a key role at Yorktown.

He persuaded France to join the war on our side.

He was Washington’s surrogate son and a beloved American.

When he died in 1830 he was eulogized by former President John Quincy Adams for three hours, and Congress and the nation mourned his death for 30 days.

All Americans today still owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Gen. Lafayette!

French bagpipers honor General Lafayette at the courtyard of Picpus Cemetary, Paris on July 4, 2015.

Visitors enter Picpus Cemetery in Paris. A plaque on the right side of the door honors the 1,306 murdered nearby during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. These martyrs were buried in a mass grave here in 1794. Only descendants and relatives of these martyrs are allowed to be buried in this private cemetery.

Closeup of plaque.

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