The Marquis de Lafayette was a French nobleman and military officer born on September 6th 1757 in the province of Auvergne in France. At the age of 13, he followed in his family’s military tradition and he was commissioned an officer.
As he grew older, Lafayette became moved by stories he heard of the American colonists’ struggle against British oppression. At the age of 19, he decided to journey to the recently declared United States of America to join the revolution. However, upon arrival at the colonies, he was initially rejected by Congress due to a number of reasons. Lafayette appealed his case and managed to impress the leaders with his enthusiasm, dedication, and eagerness to serve in the revolutionary army for no pay. Eventually Congress accepted his offer and named him an honorary major general in the revolution army. The decision to name him a major general was greatly influenced by his proximity to the French monarchy and his social status as a member of the highest rank of French nobility.
While in the US, Lafayette developed close friendship with a number of key US leaders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton.
Lafayette’s first major revolutionary duty was in the September 1777 Battle of Brandywine. Here he was shot in the leg while attempting to organize an American retreat. Despite his gunshot wound, Lafayette managed to successfully rally the troops and pave way for a more orderly pullback. He only accepted treatment after the troops were safely out of harm’s way.
Lafayette made his way back to the field in November after about two months of recovery in the Moravian settlement at Bethlehem. On the 24th of November 1777, Lafayette managed to defeat a numerically superior Hessian force with only 300 soldiers in his command.
After a long winter in Valley Forge with George Washington, Lafayette affirmed his status as an intelligent and competent leader when he helped convince the French monarchy to send more desperately needed resources to the rebels’ side.
In May 1778, Lafayette managed to outwit more than 5,000 British soldiers sent to capture and detain him at Bunker Hill. In addition, he put together an unsteady Continental Army attack at Monmouth Courthouse in order force a stalemate.
When Lafayette returned to the United States from a mission to France where he had gone to press King Louis XVI for additional military support, he was assigned more leadership responsibility in the revolution army. In 1781 as the commander of the Virginia Continental forces, he helped pin down the British army of Lieutenant General Cornwall’s at Yorktown in Virginia, while the revolutionary’s divisions led by George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau of France encircled the British and forced them to surrender. This was the last major battle witnessed in the American Revolutionary War.
After playing his part in the success of the revolution, Lafayette left the United States for France on the 18th of December 1781. On the 22nd of January 1782, he arrived in Versailles where he was welcomed as a war hero. He later took part in the negotiations of the 1783 Treaty of Paris between The United States and Great Britain and finally ended his military endeavors in the US.
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