Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser, January 27, 1998

Marquis de La Fayette Was Revolutionary War Hero

by Jim Bradshaw

Lafayette, city and parish, are named for Gen. Marie Joseph Gilbert Motier, Marquis de La Fayette. The parish has always been named for him. The city could not be named for him in the beginning because there was already a Lafayette in Louisiana.

That first town was a suburb of New Orleans. It was eventually absorbed into the Crescent City, giving up its name. So, in 1884, Vermilionville renamed itself in honor of the Revolutionary War hero.

The Marquis de La Fayette was born in 1757. His career in the French military took him through three revolutions: one in America, two in France.

It was with La Fayette's aid, particularly at the Battle of Yorktown, that the American Revolution was won. Indeed, at that battle, which most historians say was the conclusive encounter in the Revolutionary War, Frenchmen under La Fayette's command outnumbered Americans almost three-to-one. Gen. George Washington had 11,000 men engaged in the battle, while the French had at least 29,000 soldiers and sailors.

La Fayette was born at Chavaniac, in Haute-Loire, on Sept. 6, 1757. He came from a long line of soldiers. His father died in battle when the boy was 2 years old. When his mother and grandfather died 11 years later, he inherited a great fortune. At the age of 16, he married Adrienne de Noailles, a daughter of one of the most influential families in France, studied at the Military Academy at Versailles, and became a captain in the cavalry while he was still in his teens.

La Fayette welcomed the American Revolution as an opportunity to win glory by fighting against France's traditional rival, England. He-was only 20 years old when he bought a ship and landed in America in 1777 with a party of adventurers, went before the Continental Congress, and volunteered his services. He impressed the delegates, was made a major general without pay, and placed on Gen. Washington's staff.

La Fayette was wounded at the battle of Brandywine. He served at Valley Forge during part of the terrible winter of 1777-1778. Early in 1778, he was given command of a proposed invasion of Canada, but the plan was eventually abandoned.

In 1779, after France declared war on England, La Fayette returned home a hero. He hoped to join an invasion of England, but it never took place. Instead, he persuaded his government to send aid to the American colonies.

In April 1780, La Fayette returned to his post as major general in the American army. In 1781, he led a small American force in Virginia that evaded and then stopped the British under Gen. Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown. La Fayette revisited America in 1784 and stayed at Mount Vernon with Washington. He returned to America in 1824. When he died in 1834, his grave in Picpus Cemetery in suburban Paris was covered with earth from Bunker Hill.

Copyright ©1998 by the Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser. Reprinted with permission.
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