My Favorite Revolutionary War Hero

My favorite revolutionary war hero is not even an American. The Marquis de Lafayette came to American in 1777 to serve as a Major General in Washington’s army. To understand why Lafayette intrigues me so much, and why I couldn't resist making him a strong background character in Le Chevalier, you have to have a little bit of the background.

The Marquis de Lafayette
This is my understanding. I always welcome comments and corrections from readers who know more…

Like many Frenchman, Lafayette received a commission from Silas Deane, who was eagerly (if not always effectively) trying to garner support for the Revolution from the French. The problem with these commissions was three fold.

First, Congress was rather vague in its instructions to Deane. Supposedly, he had the power to grant commissions as he saw fit, but when the recruited “Generals” landed in America, their commissions might or might not be honored.

It was also a matter of politics vs military strategy. Congress issued the commissions, but I gather the military, and General Washington in particular, had little say as to who received a commission. Congress often seemed to pay little heed to what was required, preferring to focus more on the politically expedient and granting commission to titled families with large fortunes who could pay well. 

That leads to the third problem with these commissions. The men who received them were often little more than fortune hunters. They arrived in America, expecting to be put in charge of regiments and paid a general’s salary. At this time, the army could barely pay its enlisted men. I don’t know this for a fact, but I assume, like the English nobles that went to war, these men were often second born and beyond who weren’t set to inherit the family wealth.

This brings me back to the Marquis de Lafayette. He was a different breed of recruit.  Already one of the richest men in France, he married into a notable family, and his wife was pregnant when he left for America. His writings make it clear he did not leave her lightly.

Not only did he have no need to go to America, he had been expressly forbidden to go by King Louis. When the Continental Congress did not have the funds to bring him across, he bought his own ship, La Victoire, and sailed from Spain to avoid capture and imprisonment.

Le Chevalier
As a side note, King Louis XVI was said to be a rather timid monarch. As much as he wanted to gain an advantage over the English, and an American victory in the revolution would give him that, he didn’t want to start a war in Europe. My guess is the French crown was deeply in debt. If it wasn’t already, France’s eventual support of the American cause would drain the accounts and eventually lead to the French Revolution and his own death. It’s ironic that the French revolt, leading to the King’s execution, was inspired by the American Revolution – a cause he had helped support.

In Le Chevalier, I tried to be true to the character of Lafayette and the events in his life to the best of my abilities. His appearance is largely an interpretation of portraits of him. These vary widely, as portraits often do, so much of it was a guess. However, his involvement in the various battles, and his wounding at Brandywine, were easier to nail down.

While many Americans know of Lafayette, many would be hard pressed to tell you exactly who he was. But his legacy lives on in the many places named after him like Fayetteville, Arkansas  and West Lafayette , Indiana.

There is one small aspect in which I may have knowingly deviated from history. Supposedly, the Marquis escaped from France dressed as a woman. In Le Chevalier, I had Le Chevalier de Mont Trignon accompany Lafayette dressed as a woman. I hate to accuse a real man of dressing as a woman, so it seemed safer to have only Mont Trignon  If the stories of Lafayette’s journey are true, I hope the purists will forgive this little change.
follow that path.

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