MEMOIRS OF GENERAL LAFAYETTE
WITH AN ACCOUNT
VISIT TO AMERICA,
AND OF HIS RECEPTION BY THE
PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES;
FROM HIS ARRIVAL, AUGUST 15TH,
CELEBRATION AT YORKTOWN,
OCTOBER 19TH, 1824
by Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier,
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS—To wit:
District Clerk's Office.
Be it remembered, that on the 2d day of November, A.D. 1824, in the forty-ninth year of the independence of the United States of America, E.G. House, of the said district, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit—Memoirs of General Lafayette, with an account of his visit to America; and of his reception by the people, of the United States, from his arrival, Aug. 15. to the celebration at Yorktown, Oct 19, 1824.
In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States entitled, "an act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned:" and also to an act entitled "an act supplementary to an act, entitled an act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical, and other prints."
JNO. W. DAVIS, Clerk of the Dist. of Mass.
BY THE EDITOR.
* * * * *
It is a poor apology to offer for any defect or omission in a work intended for the information of the public, that it was prepared in haste. Yet in the present case it can be offered with truth. The Editor of this volume knew nothing of the plan, until it had been some time proposed, and many subscribers obtained. The gentleman by whom it was first intended to have been prepared, was suddenly taken away, without writing, or even collecting any thing for the volume. It was undertaken with reluctance, as it was known the public would he impatient for the work, and as the publisher was also desirous it should be prepared in a few weeks. It is only fifty days since the task was begun. It is believed, however, that several documents, not yet published, will be found in this volume; and that many events and incidents are preserved, which would otherwise have been lost to the public.
Everything relating to the life and character of this extraordinary man, is certainly worthy of remembrance by the benevolent and intelligent through the civilized world, and especially by Americans, to whom he has rendered the most essential services. The endeavour has been to avoid panegyric; though in this case, a plain statement of facts may be construed, by those ignorant of the life of Lafayette, into a disposition to bestow extravagant praise.
It has been a source of much satisfaction to the Editor, to find so many proofs of consistency and of principle, as well as of zeal in the cause of rational liberty, which the life of this heroic and disinterested personage affords. And if he shall appear in this hasty memoir, as the ardent, undeviating, and sincere friend of civil freedom and of the rights of man, it will be because he justly merits such a high character.
In the account of his reception by the people of this country, in various places, during his present visit, it may be thought that we have been too particular. It was promised, however, in the proposals for the volume, that such relation would be given. It is believed that it will be found to be interesting, and that it will be a satisfaction hereafter, to recur to it. This account embraces the time which elapsed after he landed at New-York, August 15, 1824, to the celebration of the capture of the Brittish [sic] army at Yorktown, October 19. These statements were, copied principally from the public newspapers; and it was thought to be unnecessary to give credit for them, or to insert the usual marks of quotation.
Boston, Nov. 1, 1824.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Birth and education of Lafayette
His purpose to visit America in 1777
His arrival and early service in America
Battle of Brandywine
Washington's attachment to him
Commands in northern department
Escape from British near Philadelphia
Battle of Monmouth
Brave conduct of Lafayette
A volunteer to R. Island
Journey to Boston
Proposal to visit France
Resentment of the conduct of British Commissioner
Visit to Boston
Embarks there for France
Resolve of Congress honorable to Lafayette
Letter of Franklin
Return to America in 1780
Services in France in behalf of America
Letter of Gen. Washington
Commands in Virginia in 1781
His services and bravery in that department
Escapes from Cornwallis
His troops deserting
His conduct approved by Washington
He applauds Gen. Wayne
Proposes to visit France again
Resolves of Congress approving his conduct
Letter to Congress
His letter to S. Adams
Mr. Adam's reply
Doings of Massachusetts
Details of service at Yorktown
Events on his return to France
Letter to Sir H. Clinton
Visit to America in 1784
Arrives in Boston
Honorable notice of his services, by Congress
His public conduct in 1786
Meeting of States' General, 1787
In favor of reform
New Constitution in 1789
Supported by Lafayette
Parties in France and civil commotions
Commands the Militia of Paris
The Parisian mob
Struggle for power between monarchists and reformers
Louis attempts to leave France
Letter to Bouille
His enemies cabal
Commands part of the French army
Letter to the national assembly, June 1792
Letter to the King
Letter to the assembly
Opposed and denounced by the Jacobins
His firmness and patriotism
His address to the soldiers
Arrested and confined
Removed to prison at Olmutz
Washington seeks for his release
Fox and others intercede for his release
Bollman and Huger attempt his deliverance
Failure, and subsequent confinement
Madame de Lafayette
Reply to Emperor of Austria
Proceeds to Holland
Return to France 1800
Offered a seat in the Senate by Bonaparte
His income and estates
His letter to the First Consul
Not a supporter of Bonaparte
Neglected by Napoleon
G. W. Lafayette
Death of Madame de Lafayette
Retirement of Lafayette
Louis XVIII restored
Lafayette desirous of constitutional liberty
His conduct after the battle of Waterloo and abdication of Napoleon
Retirement to private life
Correspondence with A. Hamilton
Madame de Stael's opinion of him
Elected a member of assembly 1819
His efforts for constitutional liberty
His mode of life, and employment
Gen. Washington's kindness to his son
Visit of Mr. Fox to Lafayette
Manners of Madame Lafayette
Religion of Lafayette
Charity among Christians
His character and opinions
His decision and consistency
Invitation of Congress do. from Boston, &c.
His arrival at New-York
His reception in New-York
Journey to Boston
His arrival in Boston
Address of the Mayor
Address of Governer of Massachusetts
Address of Cincinnati
Answer to do.
Visited by Bostonians
Phi Beta Kappa
Visit to Charlestown and Bunker Hill
Bunker Hill Monument
Visit to Gov. Brooks
Brattle Street Church
Visit to President Adams
Apology for great rejoicings
Visit to Salem
Address of Judge Story
Visit to Ipswich, and Newburyport
Return to Boston
Visit to Lexington and Concord
Visit to Worcester
Judge Lincoln's address
Journey to Connecticut
Reception at Hartford
Return to New-York
Visit to the schools
Grand ball at Castle Garden
Visit to West-Point
Visit to Newburgh
His visit to Hudson
Arrival at Albany
Kindness to soldiers, in 1777
Returns to New-York
Journey through New-Jersey
Reply to the same
Address of Mayor
Vindication of Quakers
Reply to Frenchmen
Capt. Barron's address
Answer to same
Journey through Delaware
Visit to Baltimore
Address of Cincinnati
Address of Gov. Maryland
Visit to Washington
Reception by the President
Address of Mayor of Washington
Visit to Alexandria
To the tomb of Washington
Arrival in Yorktown
Address of Committee of Virginia
Answer of Lafayette
Address of Governor of Virginia
Reply of Lafayette
His reception at Yorktown
Address of Col. Lewis
Answer to same
Parade and ceremonies, on 19th Oct.
Departure for Norfolk
* * * * *
Among the many great men who have distinguished themselves in the present age, for their attachment and devotion to the cause of civil liberty, general LAFAYETTE is one of the most eminent. During the last fifty years, great changes have been made or attempted in human governments, highly favourable to political freedom and the rights of mankind. In some cases, indeed, revolutions have not been conducted upon just principles nor by prudent councils; and the immediate results have been disastrous rather than beneficial. Changes have taken place without direct and visible improvement; and efforts to meliorate the condition of man have produced a reaction in the adherents to patient arbitrary systems, which have given occasion to much suffering and great excesses.
The struggle for freedom by the patriotic citizens of America, towards the close of the last century, was successful; and has proved most auspicious to human happiness. We have reason to hope, that its blessings will not be confined to this western continent. A spirit of enquiry, indeed, has gone abroad in the world. It is spreading in Europe: and though we devoutly wish it may not prove the occasion of bloody contests, we shall rejoice to trace its fruits in the gradual destruction of old despotic systems, and in the general diffusion of knowledge among the people, and the enjoyment of those equal and just rights, which mild governments are calculated to secure.
In our own beloved country, we can boast of many sincere patriots and heroes besides our 'paternal chief,' the revered WASHINGTON, "who was first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen;" others will be recollected, who devoted themselves to the cause of liberty and their country, with a sincerity and zeal almost without a parallel in the annals of history. Their memories will not cease to be revered while Americans are distinguished for a love of civil freedom.
It must be acknowledged, however, that there was a peculiar disinterestedness in the services and sacrifices of the Marquis LAFAYETTE in defence of American independence. It was from a noble and enthusiastic love of liberty, that he was induced to cherish and advocate our cause. It was for strangers and in a foreign land, that he went forth to defend the rights of man, assailed by the hand of arbitrary power. He was not a desperate adventurer, without fortune, or friends, or honors. He was surrounded with all these in his own country. He belonged to very ancient and noble family, and inherited a large estate. The original family name was Motier; but for several generations back had assumed the addition of Lafayette. Some of his male ancestors were distinguished for military, and some of the females for literary talents. His income was 200,000 francs. His property and influence were increased by a matrimonial connexion with a lady of the truly illustrious house of NOAILES. He was married at the age of eighteen.
MARIE-PAUL-JOSEPH-ROCH-YVES-GILBERT-MOTIER DE LAFAYETTE was born at the chateau de Chavagnac in the province of Auvergne, September 6th 1757. The rank and affluence of his family secured for him the best education: and this, according to the fashion of the times in France, was not only in classical and polite literature, but united also a knowledge of military tactics. At the age of sixteen, he was offered an honorable place at Court, which he declined.
His mind was early imbued with an ardent love of freedom. It is not known whether his study of English writers who were friendly to civil liberty, or an eager curiosity to learn the merits of the dispute between Great Britain and the American colonies, lead him first thus to take a deep interest in favour of our independence. That controversy excited the attention of statesmen on the continent of Europe as well as in England. It has been said that he was acquainted with some distinguished English characters in 1776, from whom he learnt the situation of America, and the object of our revolution. In the latter part of this year, he applied to SILAS DEANE, our agent then at Paris, for information, and encouragement in his plan, already adopted, of rendering his personal service to the cause of America. While he was at Paris, (Dec. 1776) with these views, Dr. FRANKLIN arrived. The intelligence, received from him respecting our situation and prospects at that period, was of a nature to discourage any one, who had not cherished the most enthusiastic and resolute purpose to engage in our behalf. Our almost desperate condition seems only to have increased his zeal and devotion to the interests of America. "Hitherto, said he, I have only cherished your cause; I now go to serve it personally." He believed our cause to be just. He considered it the cause of civil liberty; and gloomy as was the prospect, hazardous as was the enterprize, he was determined to support it at the risk of life itself. In his situation, the privations and sacrifices to be made and endured were incalculably great. It is indeed a singular instance of an heroic enterprize for the good of mankind.
We cannot more justly describe his sentiments and views, than by quoting his own language used at a subsequent period, in a letter to the President of the Continental Congress—"The moment I heard of America, I loved her; the moment I knew she was fighting for liberty, I burnt with a desire to bleed for her." The sacrifices he made cannot be so well otherwise estimated as by reflecting that he left an affectionate wife, in whom he was most happy; and who, he was obliged to assure, that he would speedily return, before she would consent to the enterprize.
When LAFAYETTE made known his purpose to embark for America, under all the appalling circumstances of our country, our Envoys were still unable to furnish a passage for him. They had no vessels at command; and they were not then in a situation to purchase one. Loans were the object of their mission; but as yet they had not succeeded in obtaining them. And as the French court had not acknowledged our independence, or openly espoused our cause, it would have been improper for them to furnish a vessel for such purpose. What was then done for America must be effected in secret; and at most, only connived at by the French government. But the ardour of young LAFAYETTE was not to be checked by any such considerations. He took council rather of his feelings, than of that prudence by which ordinary minds are governed. He therefore immediately engaged a vessel at his own charges, and sailed for the United States, where he arrived in the month of January. He landed at Charleston, S.C. and soon entered, as a volunteer, in the American army. Soon after his arrival, he purchased clothing and arms for the troops under General MOULTRIE in that quarter. He also early made an advance to General WASHINGTON of 60,000 francs, for the public service.
For several months, he continued to serve in this capacity. His zeal and services were early appreciated by Congress; and in July, 1777, he was created a Major-General. But he did not, at once, act under that commission. In the battle of Brandywine, in September of the same year, although he distinguished himself by his activity and undaunted bravery, it does not appear that he acted as Major-General. He received a wound in his leg, in this engagement, and his services were highly applauded. He remained in the field till the close of the battle, inspiring the men by his presence and active courage. The wound was severe and required attention; but before it was entirely healed, he joined the army again under WASHINGTON. In November, at the head of some Jersey militia, he attacked a body of 300 Hessians and defeated them. General GREENE was engaged in the same affair, a part of the time; and said of young LAFAYETTE, "that he seemed to search for danger." Soon after this period, he had command of a division in the Continental army; and frequently was appointed the chief officer in separate departments of great importance and responsibility.
General WASHINGTON became greatly attached to him. He was an intelligent judge of character; and was never known to bestow his confidence upon those who were not worthy of it. He was so distinguished by the regard of the Commander in Chief, that it became usual to call him "his adopted son." WASHINGTON loved him for his goodness, and honored him for his bravery and military talents. In the early part of 1778, when it was proposed to make an attack upon Canada, and to endeavor to connect it with the thirteen United States, Gen. LAFAYETTE was appointed to command the troops collecting for that purpose at Albany. This plan originated in Congress, and was said to be much favored by the French Ambassador; but WASHINGTON ever doubted the propriety, or the feasibility of the scheme, and eventually gave his opinion decidedly against it; and it was not prosecuted. It was at this time, probably, that Brigadier General STARK took the oath of fidelity to the American Congress and of renunciation to the king and government of Great Britain, which had then been recently required, before General LAFAYETTE; and which was administered by the commanding officer in each separate Department. The original certificate of this oath is said now to be in existence. It is a singular fact, that a native American took this oath before a foreigner: or perhaps even then, General LAFAYETTE had been declared by Congress to be entitled to all the rights of a citizen of the United States.
In May 1778, while the British main army was in Philadelphia, and the American troops at Valley Forge, he was detached with about two thousand five hundred men under his command, to a position in advance of the continental camp and near the city, for the purpose of watching the motions of the enemy. The British endeavored to surround and surprise him: but he had timely notice of their plan, and retired in safety to the vicinity of WASHINGTON'S head-quarters. Had he been surprised in this situation, the result would probably proved fatal to our cause. For the continental troops under WASHINGTON were few in number and poorly clothed and armed. But the Commander in Chief, doubtless, was fully aware of the important and critical nature of the service, and entrusted it to one, in whose judgment as well as bravery he had perfect confidence.
Soon after this, in the month of June, the British army left Philadelphia, to return to New-York. It consisted of as large a number of well disciplined troops, as they had in America at any one time; and though they chose not to make a direct attack upon WASHINGTON, they seem to have had no apprehensions of an attack from him. But he was resolved to avail of the occasion of their march through the State of New Jersey, to attack and annoy them. This he did on the memorable 28th of June, near Monmouth court-house; and had his judicious plan been faithfully executed, or his own personal activity and bravely been seconded by General LEE, who had the command of the troops more immediately engaged on that day, a great and decisive victory would in all probability have attended the daring enterprize. General LAFAYETTE had a distinguished command on that critical day. Lee, indeed, at first declined the command of the advanced corps, detached by WASHINGTON to harass the rear of the enemy while on their march; and it was given to the former: though; afterwards, when it was found, that the enemy was preparing for a general engagement, a reinforcement was ordered, and the whole placed under the command of General Lee. In this whole affair, General LAFAYETTE conducted with remarkable intelligence and bravery; and received the entire approbation of the Commander in Chief.
In August of the same year (1778) when the enemy had a large force on Rhode Island, and were supposed to be meditating an attack on some place in the vicinity, Lafayette (with General Greene) offered his services as a volunteer. The expedition was not attended with success: the British troops then were more numerous than we could collect against them; and what were mustered were principally militia. The continental regiments were then all needed near New-York. But General Lafayette assisted in conducting the retreat of our men, with much skill and effect; and his behaviour on the occasion received the particular notice and approbation of Congress.
About this time, with the knowledge and consent of Congress, Lafayette made a visit to Boston. The particular object of this journey is not known. It is evident, however, from the resolve of Congress on the occasion, that it was not from merely personal or private views. It was, no doubt, for some purpose of a public nature, and for the welfare of the nation. The following is the resolve alluded to; and is proof, that his visit at the time, was designed for the promotion of some plan calculated for the prosperity of the country.
"In Congress, Sept. 9th, 1778. Resolved, That the President be requested to inform the Marquis de Lafayette, that Congress have a due sense of the sacrifice he made of his personal feelings, in undertaking a journey to Boston with a view of promoting the interests of these States, at a time when an occasion was daily expected of his acquiring glory in the field; and that his gallantry in going a volunteer on Rhode Island, when the greatest part of the army had retreated, and his good conduct in bringing off the pickets and out sentries, deserves particular approbation." This resolve was communicated to Lafayette by the President of Congress, with a polite note; to which the Marquis replied as follows:
"I have received your favour of the 13th instant, acquainting me of the honor Congress has been pleased to confer on me by their most gracious resolve. Whatever pride such approbation may justly give me, I am not less affected by the feeling of gratitude, and that satisfaction of thinking my endeavours were ever looked upon as useful to a cause in which my heart is so deeply interested. Be so good, Sir, as to present to Congress my plain and hearty thanks, with a frank assurance of a candid attachment, the only one worth being offered to the representatives of a free people. The moment I heard of America, I loved her: The moment I knew she was fighting for liberty, I burnt with the desire of bleeding for her: and the moment I shall be able of serving her, in any time, or in any part of the world, will be the happiest of my life. I never so much wished for occasions of deserving those obliging sentiments I am honored with by these States and their representatives, and that so flattering confidence they have been pleased to put in me; which have filled my heart with the warmest acknowledgments and most eternal affection.
"I pray you to accept my thanks for the polite manner in which you have communicated the resolve of Congress; and I have the honor to be, &c.
During the year 1778, some propositions were made to Congress from the British ministry, through three commissioners, who were sent over to America. The object was to bring about a cessation of hostilities, and peace, without acknowledging our Independence. They were, therefore, immediately rejected. In the address of the commissioners to Congress, the French King and ministers were mentioned with great disrespect, and represented as secret enemies to America; and therefore, not to be believed in their engagements and promises in our favour. The Marquis de Lafayette highly resented this heavy charge against his king and government; and wrote a very spirited letter on the subject, to Lord Carlisle, the principal commissioner. He seemed ready to appear as the champion of his abused Prince and country, in the chivalrous manner such attacks were met in former ages, when disputes were settled between nations by single combat. The indignation he expressed was honorable to his patriotic feelings; but, probably, his maturer years and judgment would have chastened and moderated it.
Early in the year 1779, after an absence from his beloved family and country of more than two years, Lafayette visited France: not however, without the consent of Congress and also of General Washington, and a determination to return to America at a future day. He embarked at Boston. In waiting for a passage to France, the Marquis was several weeks in Boston; and here became acquainted with John Hancock, Dr. Cooper, S. Breck, Esq. and others, to whose families he became particularly attached. The hospitable attention of the Bostonians, was not lost upon him. With warm feelings and elegant manners, he was well qualified to appreciate their patriotism and politeness; and impressions were made upon his generous mind, favourable to their characters, which he has not forgotten to the present day. In no place in America, perhaps, did he find the citizens more congenial to his ardour of affection and devoted love for civil liberty.— It cannot be doubted, that to a man of his amiable and tender feelings, the consideration of meeting with his family and friends influenced him to this visit. But it appears also, from his letters at that time, that he considered his duty to his King and country required him to go to France. War was now declared between France and England; and he believed himself bound to give his personal services for the defence of his own nation. With all his zeal in favour of liberty and of America, which he considered engaged in its sacred cause against an arbitrary power, he acknowledged his obligations to asset in protecting his native country. If his King should consent, he engaged to return to America, and devote himself again in support of her rights. The following letters will justify this statement of his views, at the time of which we are speaking. The first is from General Washington to the President of Congress.
"Head Quarters, Oct. 13th, 1778.
"This will be delivered to you by Major General, the Marquis de Lafayette. The generous motives which first induced him to cross the Atlantic, and enter the army of the united States, are well known to Congress. Reasons equally laudable now engage him to return to France, who, in her present circumstances, claims his services.
"His eagerness to offer his duty to his Prince and country, however great, could not influence him to quit the continent in any stage of an unfinished campaign; he resolved to remain at least till the close of the present; and embraces this moment of suspense, to communicate his wishes to Congress, with a view of having the necessary arrangements made in time; and of being still within reach, should any occasion offer of distinguishing himself in the field.
"The Marquis, at the same time, from a desire of preserving a relation with us, and a hope of having it yet in his power to be useful as an American officer, solicits only a furlough, sufficient for the purposes above mentioned. A reluctance to part with an officer, who unites to all the military fire of youth, an uncommon maturity of judgment, world lead me to prefer his being absent on this footing, if it depended solely on me. I shall always be happy to give such a testimony of his services, as his bravery and good conduct on all occasions entitle him to; and I have no doubt that Congress will add suitable expressions of their sense of his merits, and their regret on account of his departure. I here the honor to be, &c.
From the Marquis to Congress.
"Philadelphia. Oct. 8th, 1778.
"Whatever care I should take not to employ the precious instants of Congress in private considerations, I beg leave to lay before them my present circumstances, with that confidence which naturally springs from affection and gratitude. The sentiments which bind me to my country, can never be more properly spoken of, than in presence of men who have done so much for their own. As long as I thought I could dispose of myself, I made it my pride and pleasure to fight under American colours, in defence of a cause which I dare more particularly call ours, because I had the good fortune of bleeding for her. Now that France is involved in a war, I am led by a sense of duty as well as by patriotic love to present myself before my king, and know in what manner he judges proper to employ my services. The most agreeable of all will always be such as to serve the common cause among those, whose friendship I had the happiness to obtain, and whose fortune I had the honor to follow in less smiling times. That reason, and others, which I leave to the feelings of Congress, engage me to beg from them, the liberty of going home for the next winter.
"As long as there were any hopes of an active campaign, I did not think of leaving the field. Now that I see a very peaceable and undisturbed moment, I take this opportunity of waiting on Congress. In case my request is granted, I shall so manage my departure, as to be certain before going, the campaign is really over. Enclosed you will receive a letter from his Excellency, General Washington, wherein he expresses his assent to my obtaining leave of absence. I dare flatter myself, that I shall be considered as a soldier on furlough, who most heartily wants to join again his colours, and his most esteemed and beloved fellow soldiers. Should it be thought I can be any way useful to America, when I shall find myself among my countrymen, I hope I shall always be considered as one most interested in the welfare of these United States, and one who has the most perfect affection, regard and confidence for their representatives. With the highest regard, &c.
"In Congress, Oct. 21. 1778.
"Resolved, That the Marquis Lafayette, Major General in the services of the United States, have leave to go to France; and that he return at such time as shall be most convenient to him,—Resolved, That the President write a letter to the Marquis Lafayette, returning him the thanks of Congress for that disinterested zeal which led him to America, and for the services he hath rendered to the United States, by the exertion of his courage and abilities on many signal occasions.
"Resolved, That the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, at the Court of Versailles, be directed to cause an elegant sword, with proper devices to be made and presented in the name of the United States, to the Marquis Lafayette."
The foregoing resolves were communicated to the Marquis in the following letter:
"Philadelphia, Oct. 24, 1778.
"I had the honor of presenting to Congress, your letter, soliciting leave of absence: I am directed by them, to express their thanks for your zeal in promoting that just cause in which they are engaged, and for the disinterested services you have rendered to the United States of America.
"In testimony of the high esteem and affection in which you are held by the good people of these States, as well as an acknowledgment of your gallantry and military talents displayed on many signal occasions, their Representatives; in Congress assembled, have ordered an elegant sword to be presented to you, by the American Minister, at the Court of Versailles. Enclosed within the present cover, will he found an act of Congress of the 2lst instant, authorizing these declarations, and granting a furlough for your return to France, to be extended at your own pleasure. I pray God to bless and protect you; to conduct you in safety to the presence of your Prince, and to the re-enjoyment of your noble family and friends. I have the honor to be, &c.
To this note the Marquis made the following reply:
"Philadelphia, Oct. 26, 1778.
"I have received your excellency's obliging letter, enclosing the several resolutions Congress have honored me with, and the leave of absence they have been pleased to grant. Nothing can make me happier, than the reflection, that my services have met with their approbation. The glorious testimonial of confidence and satisfaction respectfully bestowed on me, by the representatives of America, though much superior to my merit, cannot exceed the grateful sentiments they have excited. I consider the noble present offered me in the name of the United States, as the most flattering honor. It is my most fervent desire, soon to employ that sword in their service, against the common enemy of my country and their faithful and beloved allies. That liberty, safety, wealth and concord may ever extend and bless these United States, is the earnest wish of a heart glowing with a devoted zeal and unbounded love for them, and the highest regard, and most sincere affection for their representatives.
"Be pleased, Sir, to present my thanks to them, and to accept yourself the assurance of my respectful attachment.
Letter of Dr. Franklin, to the Marquis Lafayette.
"Passy, Aug. 24, 1779.
"The Congress, sensible of your merit towards the United States, but unable adequately to reward it, determined to present you with a sword, as a small mark of their grateful acknowledgments. They directed it to be ornamented with suitable devices. Some of the principal actions of the battles, in which you distinguished yourself by your bravery and good conduct, are therefore represented upon it. These, with a few emblematical figures, all admirably well executed, make its principal value. By the help of the exquisite artists France affords, I find it easy to execute every thing, but the sense we have of your worth, and our obligations to you. For this, figures and even words are found insufficient.
"I therefore, only add, that, with the most perfect esteem, I have the honor to be, &c.
The Marquis de Lafayette came again to the United States in April 1780, and landed at Boston, though the vessel first touched at Marblehead on its way to the former place. In his passage both to and from France, he was in danger of capture from the British. The frigate, in which he returned to this country, was chased by an English man of war; and when it was supposed, they must come to action, LAFAYETTE was found at one of the guns, preparing to act his part should they be attacked. In this visit to France, he exerted himself with effect, to induce the Court of Versailles to afford the United States more effectual aid; and especially, to send over a large fleet, which rendered essential service to the American cause. His great devotion to our interests would certainly lead him to advocate any measures with his King, favourable to our wishes: and his influence, considering his high rank and family, was undoubtedly attended with beneficial results. His services in our behalf were particularly noticed by Congress.
"When the Marquis de Lafayette obtained permission to revisit his native country and offer his services to his sovereign, he retained, with his rank in the American army, that ardent zeal for her interests, which the affectionate attentions he had received, the enthusiasm of a soldier in the cause of those for whom he had made his first campaigns and by whom he had been highly distinguished, combined with a consciousness that he was substantially promoting the permanent interests of France; were all so well calculated to inspire in a young and generous mind, in favour of an infant people struggling for liberty and self government, with the hereditary rival of his nation.
"He was received at the Court of Versailles with every mark of favour and distinction; and all the influence he had acquired was employed in impressing on the cabinet the importance and policy of granting sucors to the United States.
"Having succeeded in this favourite object, in which he was aided by the representations of the former and present minister of France at Philadelphia; and finding no probability of active employment on the continent of Europe, he obtained permission to return to America, with the grateful intelligence of the service he had rendered while in France, to the country in whose cause his service had been first drawn. He arrived at Boston in the month of April 1780, and hastened to Head Quarters. He then proceeded to Congress with the information that the King of France had consented to employ a large land and naval armament in the United States, for the ensuing campaign. He was received by WASHINGTON with joy and affection; and by Congress with those marks of distinction and regard to which his constant and indefatigable zeal in support of the American cause, as well as his signal service, gave him such just pretnesions. The intelligence which he brought gave new impulse both to Congress and to the State Legislatures. The lethargic slumbers into which they seemed to be sinking yielded to resolutions of the most vigorous character."—Marshall.
The letters below, with the resolve of Congress, will show the sense WASHINGTON had of the services of his "adopted son," the Marquis Lafayette, and the personal attachment which he cherished for him, as well as the high estimation; in which the disinterested zeal of that devoted friend of liberty was held by the grand Legislature of America.
"Head Quarters, Morristown, May 13, 1780.
"The Marquis Lafayette does me the honor to take charge of this note. I am persuaded Congress will participate in the joy I feel at the return of a gentleman who has so signally distinguished himself in the service of this country; who has given so many and so decided proofs of his attachment to its interests; and who ought to be dear to it by every motive. The warm friendship I have for him conspires with considerations of public utility to afford me a double satisfaction in his return. During the time he has been in France he has uniformly manifested the same zeal in our affairs, which animated his conduct while he was among us; and has been, upon all occasions, an essential friend to America. He merits, and I doubt not Congress will give him every mark of consideration and regard in their power.
"I have the honour to be, &c.
To His Excellency the President of Congress."
"Philadelphia, May 16, 1780.
"After so many favors, which, on every occasion and particularly at my obtaining leave of absence, Congress were pleased most graciously to bestow on me, I dare presume myself entitled to impart to them the private feelings, which I now so happily experience.
"In an early epoch in our noble contest, I gloried in the name of an American soldier; and heartily enjoyed the honor I have of serving the United States; my satisfaction is at this long wished-for moment entirely complete, when putting an end to my furlough, I have been able again to join my colours, under which I hope for opportunities of indulging the ardent zeal, the unbounded gratitude, the warm, and I might say, the patriotic love, by which I am forever bound to America.
"I beg you, sir, to present Congress with a new assurance of my profound respect and my grateful and affectionate sentiments.
"I have the honour to be, &c.
In Congress, May 16, 1780. "Resolved, That Congress consider the return of the Marquis LAFAYETTE to America, to resume his command in the army, as a fresh proof of the distinguished zeal and deserving attachment which have justly recommended him to the public confidence and applause; and that they receive with pleasure, a tender of further services of so gallant and meritorious an officer."
"Soon after his return to America the Marquis was entrusted with the command of a select corps of the Light Infantry of the continental army. This afforded him a new opportunity for the display of his munificence. He presented each officer of the corps with an elegant sword; and the soldiers were clothed in uniform, principally at his expense. He infused into this corps a spirit of pride and emulation; viewing it as one formed according to his own wishes and worthy of his entire confidence. They were the pride of his heart, and he was the idol of their regard; constantly panting for an opportunity of performing some signal achievement worthy of his and their own character. The corps was probably equal for discipline and bravery, to any in the world."
Early in the year 1781, LAFAYETTE was detached with about twelve hundred troops to Virginia; with a view to co-operate with the French fleet in checking the plundering expedition of General Arnold, who had then recently landed there with a body of British troops from New-York. The Marquis performed this long and difficult march with great dispatch. Many of the soldiers under his command were deficient in clothing: and it was by the personal responsibility of General LAFAYETTE that funds were raised in Baltimore and vicinity to remedy this evil. The credit of the continent was very low; and its means of immediate payment of the public expenses known to be entirely inadequate. The generosity of this distinguished friend of liberty was as remarkable as his personal bravery. He was indeed, both as to life and estate, wholly devoted to the cause of America; and difficulties and dangers served only to manifest the sincerity and intenseness of his zeal in behalf of a people struggling for freedom.
Soon after this, in the month of May, 1781, Lord Cornwallis, in his progress from North Carolina into Virginia, formed a junction with the British forces under Arnold and Phillips. His object was immediately to crush the Americans under LAFAYETTE, then encamped near Richmond. The experienced British Commander thought it would be an easy matter with his superior numbers to secure the "Young Frenchman." But the youthful soldier was not wanting in prudence and foresight, though ardour and courage were his predominant qualities. In these traits of character, as well as others, he was not unlike the "paternal chief" of the American army. LAFAYETTE made good a retreat; and escaped the net Cornwallis had prepared for him, with such confident hopes of success. He directed his course northward; and soon effected a junction with General Wayne, who had been ordered to reinforce him with eight hundred men of the Pennsylvania line.
The Light Infantry under Lafayette were chiefly eastern troops, who had great objections to a southern climate, and many deserted. In this critical situation, the Marquis adopted the following expedient. He gave out that an expedition of great difficulty and danger was to be soon undertaken; and appealing to the generous feelings of his soldiers, he expressed a hope that they would not forsake him. If, however, any were desirous of returning to their regiments, he said, they should have permission. The effect was as he had hoped. The troops had too much honor and pride to desert their brave commander in such an exigency.
About this time, the main army of the British under Cornwallis, had taken the precaution to cut off the direct communication between the American troops and their stores, lately removed from Richmond to Albemarle. The Marquis Lafayette, however, recrossing the Rappahannock, by forced marches, arrived within a few miles of the British, when they were yet two days march from Albemarle Courthouse; and opening in the night a nearer road, which had been long disused, appeared the following, lay, greatly to the surprise of Cornwallis, between the British army and the continental stores. Thus disappointed in his plan of possessing the American stores, the British commander retired to Williamsburg. The Marquis followed the enemy at a prudent distance; and was soon so fortunate as to form a junction with the Baron Steuben, who had been detached into that quarter, to protect the public stores and assist in the general defence of the country. The British forces, many of which consisted of cavalry, were than very formidable in Virginia.
This was a very critical period in the affairs of America. Washington was satisfied that some decisive blow must be struck; for our finances were low: and many began to despond as to the result of the contest. The British were very powerful and resolute. The plan of Washington finally was to make it appear to the enemy that an attack was intended against New-York; and at the same time prepare for a general expedition to Virginia, and destroy the British army in that quarter. This plan succeeded by the aid of the French fleet, though its Admiral came with reluctance to the measure. Cornwallis and his army were captured in October following; and the British ministry soon after consented to listen to honourable terms of peace.
Major General Lafayette acted a gallant and distinguished part in this whole campaign. We have already witnessed his activity, promptitude and bravery in the early part of the season. His efforts continued, and were conspicuous on various trying occasions. In the affair near Jamestown, he was in great personal danger, and one of his horses was shot under him. It was owing to the to his uncommon vigilance and activity, that the American troops under his command were able to keep a large British army in check; and when a detachment under the brave General Wayne were in danger of being taken, they were rescued by the prompt and skillful maneuvers of the Marquis. His spirit and firmness were attended with the best effects upon the men under his command; and seemed to inspire them with courage and confidence, at this period of great embarrassment and gloom. He was distinguished for humanity as well as courage. The sick and wounded were always sure to receive his generous attentions. In the several engagements which took place, previously to the capture of Lord Cornwallis, many of the American soldiers were wounded, and he made immediate provision for their relief and comfort.
The military skill and bravery manifested by General Lafayette, and the officers and men under his command in Virginia, at this period, will be evident from his letters and orders here given. They speak particularly of the courage and conduct of General Wayne, and his detachment; but they also afford new proofs of the intelligence and activity of the commanding officer.
Letter from General Lafayette, to General Greene.
"Near James River, July 8, 1781.
"On the 4th, the enemy evacuated Williamsburgh, where some stores fell into our hands, and retired to this place, under the cannon of their shipping. The next morning we advanced, and a part of our troops took post about nine miles from the British camp. The 6th, I detached an advanced corps under General Wayne, to reconnoitre the enemy's situation. Their light parties being drawn in, the pickets which lay near their encampment, were gallantly attacked by some riflemen, whose skill was employed to great effect.
"Having learnt that Lord Cornwallis had sent off his heavy baggage under an escort, and posted his army in an open field, fortified by the shipping, I returned to the detachment, which I found generally engaged. A piece of cannon had been attempted by the vanguard, and the whole British army advanced to the wood, occupied by General Wayne. His whole corps did not exceed 800, part of which were militia, with three field pieces.—But at sight of the British, the troops ran to the rencontre, notwithstanding the very superior number of the enemy, and a short skirmish ensued, with a warm, close and well directed fire. But, as both the right and left of the enemy greatly out-flanked ours, I sent orders to General Wayne, to retire to about half a mile, where Col. Vose and Barber's light infantry battalions had arrived, by a most rapid movement, and where I directed them to form. In this position, they remained till some hours in the night. The militia under General Lawson also advanced; but during the night, the enemy retired to the south of the river.
"From all accounts, the enemy's loss is great. We had none killed, but many wounded. Wayne's detachment suffered most. Many horses were killed, which rendered it impossible to move the field pieces. But it is enough for the glory of General Wayne, and the officers and men under his command, to have attacked the whole British army, with only a reconnoitering party, and to have obliged them to retreat over the river. I have the honor to be, &c.
Under date of July 11th, an officer of rank gives some further account of this affair. "The enemy had 300 men killed and wounded; and among the latter were several officers. Their precipitate retreat the same evening, to Jamestown Island, and thence to the other side of the river, is a tacit acknowledgment, that a general action was not their wish. We hear that the British officers are much mortified at the issue, and confess they were out-generalled. Their numbers were far superior to ours; and they had the advantage of a large corps of cavalry. We could not have extricated ourselves from the difficulties we were in, but by the maneuver we adopted; which, though it may have the appearance of temerity, to those unacquainted with the circumstances, was founded upon the truest military principles; and was a necessary, though a very bold and daring measure."
Extract from the general orders of the Marquis Lafayette, July 8th, 1781, near James River.
"The General is happy to acknowledge the spirit of the detachment under General Wayne, in their engagement with the whole of the British army, of which he was an eye witness. He requests General Wayne and the officers and men under his command, to accept his best thanks. The bravery and destructive fire of the riflemen, rendered essential service. The fire of the light infantry checked the enemy's progress round our right flank. The General was much pleased with the conduct of Captain Savage, of the artillery, and is satisfied, that nothing but the loss of horses occasioned that of the two field pieces. The zeal of Colonel Mercer's corps, is fully expressed in the number of horses he had killed."
His conduct at the siege and capture of Cornwallis, at Yorktown, received the particular approbation of the commander in chief. Perhaps no officer in the American line, contributed more than he did to the success which attended our arms on that memorable occasion. When the British General was confident of seizing him and his little party by stratagem, or of overpowering them by numbers, he was on his guard, and had the good fortune to elude every effort to destroy him. And, during the immediate siege of Yorktown, he occupied one of the most dangerous posts, and was among the foremost in the many vigorous assaults made upon the British army, before it was compelled to surrender. He had the honor to be ranked with Lincoln, Greene, Knox, Wayne and others, in the glorious exploits, which convinced the enemy of our persevering bravery, and induced them at last to sue for peace.
In November following, the Marquis returned to France, having first obtained the consent of Congress, and of the commander in chief. The contest between Great Britain and the United States, was drawing to a close. The former became satisfied of the impossibility of subduing America: and the latter was anxious to terminate a war, which had exhausted her finances, and occasioned an oppressive debt. The resolves of Congress, with reference to the departure of General Lafayette at this period, exhibits, in a very favorable light, the important services he had rendered the country, in the critical situation in which it had been placed.
In Congress, Nov. 1781. "Resolved, That Major General Lafayette have permission to go to France, and to return at such time as may be most agreeable to himself—that he be informed, that, on a view of his conduct throughout the past campaign, and particularly during the period, in which he had the chief command in Virginia, the many new proofs which present themselves of his zealous attachment to the cause he has espoused, and of his judgment, vigilance, gallantry and address in its defence, have greatly added to the high opinion entertained by Congress of his merits and military talents—that he make known to the officers and troops whom he commanded during that period, that the brave and enterprizing services, with which they seconded his zeal and efforts, and which enabled him to defeat the attempts of an enemy, far superior in numbers, have been beheld by Congress, with particular satisfaction and approbation.—That the Secretary of foreign affairs acquaint the Ministers Plenipotentiaries of the United States, that it is the desire of Congress, that they confer with the Marquis Lafayette, and avail of his information, relative to the situation of public affairs in the United States—That the Secretary for foreign affairs, further acquaint the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Versailles, that he will conform to the intention of Congress, by consulting with, and employing the assistance of the Marquis Lafayette, in accelerating the supplies which may be afforded by his most Christian Majesty for the United Stakes—That the superintendent of finance, the Secretary for foreign affairs and the board of war, make such communications to the Marquis, touching the affairs of their respective departments, as will best enable him to fulfill the purpose of the preceding resolutions—That the superintendent of finance, take order for discharging the engagements entered into by the Marquis Lafayette, with the merchants of Baltimore, when he borrowed money of them on his own credit, to supply our troops with necessaries."
At the same time, Congress ordered that a conveyance be provided for General Lafayette, in a public vessel, whenever he should choose to embark; and voted to send a letter by him, to the King of France.
The following is the reply of the Marquis, to the president of Congress, who forwarded him the resolves.
"I have been honored with the resolutions which Congress have been pleased to pass in my favor. Testimonies of their esteem and their confidence that are so very flattering to me, could not but excite those exalted sentiments of gratitude, which I am unable sufficiently to express.—My attachment to America, the sense of my obligations, and the new favors conferred upon me, are so many everlasting ties that devote me to her. At all times, and in every part of the world, my heart will be panting for opportunities to be employed in her service. With unspeakable pleasure, I shall transmit the resolve of Congress to the brave and virtuous troops, whom it has been my happiness to command.
"I have the honor to be, &c.
When he transmitted the foregoing resolve of Congress, to the troops he had lately commanded, he observed to them, "In the moment the Major General leaves this place, he wishes once more to express his gratitude to the brave corps of light infantry, who, for nine months past, have been the companions of his fortunes. He can never forget, that, with them alone, of regular troops, he had the good fortune to maneuver before an army, which, after all its reductions, was still six times more numerous than the regular force he had under command."
The interest taken in favour of our country by General Lafayette, and the anxiety he felt upon all occasions for the success of our contest with England, are so strongly evinced by his letter to the Hon. Samuel Adams, that we feel bound in justice to the character of this zealous apostle of liberty, to present it to our readers, with the reply of Mr. Adams. It shows, indeed, not only the disposition of Lafayette, in every possible way, to rapport the cause of America; but his great knowledge of human nature, and his regard for the honorable feelings of soldiers.
The letter was written at Morristown, May 30, 1780, soon after the Marquis returned from his visit to France, where he exerted himself with the French Ministers to grant aid and supplies to the United States.
"Dear Sir,—Had I known that I would have the pleasure of meeting you at Boston, and holding confidential conversations with you on public and private matters, I should have anticipated the uneasiness I was put under by the obligation of secrecy, or previously obtained the leave of breaking that so strict law in your favor. Now, my dear sir, that Congress have set my tongue at liberty, at least for such men as Mr. Samuel Adams, I will, in referring you to a public letter from the committee of Congress, indulge my private feelings in imparting to you some confidential ideas of mine on our present situation.
"As momentary visits did not entirely fulfill the purpose of freeing America, France thought they would render themselves more useful, if a naval and land force were sent for co-operating with our troops, and by a longer stay on the coast of the Continent, would give to the states, a fair opportunity of employing all their resources. The expectations are very sanguine at Versailles, and ought to be more so, when that letter shall be received, by which you know Congress engaged to furnish on their part, five and twenty thousand Continental troops, that are to take the field by the beginning of the spring.
"On the other hand, my dear sir, all Europe have their eyes upon us: They know nothing of us, but by our own reports, and our first exertions which have heightened their esteem, and by the accounts of the enemy, or those of some dissatisfied persons, which were calculated to give them a quite different opinion: so that, to fix their own minds, all the nations are now looking at us; and the consequence of America, in the eyes of the world, as well as its liberty and happiness, must depend upon the ensuing campaign.
"The succour sent by France, I thought to be very important when at Versailles: now that I am on the spot, I know it was necessary; and if proper measures are taken, I shall more heartily than ever, enjoy the happiness I had of being somewhat concerned in the operation. But if things stood as they now do, I confess that whether as an American soldier, whether as a private man that said a great deal, and knows Congress have ordered much more to be said on the future exertions of America,—who took a particular delight in praising the patriotic spirit of the United States, I would feel most unhappy and distressed, were I to tell the people that are coming over full of ardour and sanguine hopes, that we have no army to co-operate with them, no provisions to feed the few soldiers that are left, &c. But I hope, my dear sir, it will not be the case; and more particularly depending upon the exertions of your state, I know Mr. Samuel Adams' influence and popularity will be as heretofore employed, in the salvation and glory of America.
"If proper measures are taken for provisions, if the states do immediately fill up the continental battalions by good drafts, which is by far the best way; if all the propositions of the committee are speedily complied with, I have no doubt, but that the present campaign will be a glorious, decisive one, and that we may hope for every thing that is good: if on the contrary, time be lost, consider what unhappy and dishonorable consequences would ensue from our inability to a co-operation.
"Your state began the noble contest, it may be gloriously ended by your state's exertions, and the example they will once more set to the whole continent. The reception I met with at Boston, binds me to it by the strongest ties of a grateful affection. The joy of my heart will be to find myself concerned in an expedition that may afford peculiar advantages to them; and I earnestly hope it will be the case, in the course of this (if proper measures are taken) glorious campaign.
"I flatter myself you will be yet in Boston, and upon this expectation, I very much depend for the success of the combined expeditions. Such a crisis is worth your being wholly engaged in it, as it will be glorious, important; and I may say it now, because necessary for the support of the great cause in which you acted so early and decisive a part. What you mentioned confidentially to me at Boston, I have duly noticed, and shall ever remember with the attention of a friend. For fulfilling the same purpose, I wish we may be under particular obligations to you on this occasion.
"Give me leave, my dear sir, to suggest to you an idea which I have lately thought of: all the continental officers labor under the most shameful want of clothing. When I say shameful, it is not to them, who have no money to buy—no cloth to be bought. You can conceive what may be theirs and our feelings, when they will be with the French general and other officers; and from a general idea of mankind and human honor it is easily seen how much we should exert ourselves to put the officers of the army in a more decent situation.
"I beg, my dear sir, you will present my respects to your family, and believe me most affectionately,
"Boston, June, 1780:
"My Dear Marquis,
"Yesterday your very obliging letter of the 30th May was brought to me by Mons. Guinard.
"The succour coming from France will be so seasonable and important, that if America is not wanting to herself, she will have it in her power by the blessing of heaven, to gratify the utmost of her wishes. His most Christian Majesty's expectations from us must needs be great; and gratitude to so generous an ally as well as a due attention to our own safety, interest and honor, lay us under the strongest obligations to be in readiness to co-operate with the greatest advantage. I have long been fully sensible of your most cordial and zealous attachment to our great cause; and to your personal representation to his Majesty, in addition to the benevolence of his royal heart, I will take the liberty to attribute his design to afford us such aid and for so long a time as may put it in our power to employ all our resources against the enemy.
"It fortunately happened that the General Assembly of this state was sitting when the letter and inclosures from the committee of Congress came to the President of the Council.—They were immediately laid before the Assembly and I have the pleasure to assure you that the filling our battalions by an immediate draft, furnishing the army with provisions, and every other measure for the fulfilling of the just expectations of your sovereign and of Congress, on this most important occasion, are the objects of their closest attention. I had for several months past been flattering myself with the prospect of aid. It strongly impressed my mind from one circumstance which took place when you was at Philadelphia the last year. But far from certainty, I could only express to some confidential friends here, a distant hope, though as I conceived, not without some good effect: at least it seemed to enliven our spirits and animate us for so great a crisis.
"If it were possible for one to be forgetful of our all important cause for a moment, my particular friendship for you would be a prevailing inducement with me, to make my utmost feeble exertions to prevent your disappointment after the great pains you have taken to serve us. I have endeavored, and shall continue those endeavors while I stay here, to brighten the dark side of the picture which your imagination has painted in one part of your letter before me—God forbid that we should be obliged to tell our friends when they arrive, that we have not a sufficient army to co-operate with them, nor provisions to feed the few soldiers that are left. I think I may venture to predict that this state will comply with the requisition upon her to give the utmost respectability to our army on so promising an occasion. I was in the Council Chamber when I received your letter, and took the liberty to read some parts of it to the members present. I will communicate other parts of it to some leading members of the House of Representatives as prudence may dictate, particularly what you mention of the officers' want of clothing.
"I thank you my dear sir for the friendly remembrance you had of the hint I gave you when you was here. Be pleased to pay my most respectful compliments to the Commander in Chief, his family, &c. and be assured of the warm affection of your obliged friend and very humble servant,
Marquis De Lafayette.
The Legislature of Massachusetts did immediately, viz, on June 5, 1780, pass a resolve for raising four thousand men as a reinforcement of the continental army. The preamble to the resolve was as follows;—"Whereas a requisition has been made to this court for a reinforcement to the continental army, in order that it may be able to act vigorously the ensuing campaign, and the present situation of affairs requiring the utmost exertions at this period, and affords the most flattering prospect of putting an end to this distressing war, if the army is reinforced at this juncture, and enabled to improve the great advantages offered." To carry this resolve into effect, the Brigadier Generals through the State were directed immediately on receipt of the resolve, to issue orders for calling the companies together, and raising the men required from each town, by voluntary enlistments, or by drafting them, on failure of a full number being otherwise raised. Those thus drafted were to be fined if they refused to march; but, a very generous bounty was granted, to induce men to enlist voluntarily. The Selectmen were required to furnish the men with clothes and traveling expenses; and both the Selectmen and Brigadier Generals were liable to a heavy fine, if they neglected their duty. The patriotic efforts of the Legislature, thus drawn into action, in consequence of the pressing letter of Lafayette, and their own sense of the necessity of the case, were every where met by a corresponding zeal on the part of the people of Massachusetts; and the men were soon raised, and sent on to the headquarters of the continental army, to fill the regular regiments of this State, then in the service.
At the siege of York-Town, where Lord Cornwallis with a large British army was attacked and taken by the Americans, Lafayette was particularly distinguished for activity and courage. And a more minute account of this affair is necessary, in recording the useful and brilliant services of this youthful hero in the cause of America, which her sons wish most gratefully to recollect.—General Washington in person commanded the American army on this occasion, in pursuance of a plan he had adopted, as already mentioned. He proceeded to the camp in the vicinity of York-Town, where Cornwallis was posted, the last of September. He was assisted by Major Generals Lincoln, Steuben, Lafayette. Knox, &c. The French troops, who composed a part of the army engaged in the capture of Cornwallis were under command of Count Rochambeau, who had the character of an intelligent and brave officer. The whole number of troops, both American and French, was estimated at twelve thousand. To them, however, were occasionally added small detachments of the militia from the vicinity. The British troops were computed to be about seven thousand, and their commander had been strengthened in his situation by fortifications, hoping to defend himself till he might receive succors from New-York. The allied army was supported in this expedition by a large French fleet which was in the Chesapeake. This afforded great confidence to the Americans, for they had just then defeated the British fleet in those waters, and thus effectually cut off all communication between Lord Cornwallis and the British army in New-York.
The French admiral had been determined to proceed at this time, to a station in the West Indies, agreeably to orders which he had received from the King his master, some weeks before. He was requested to remain, and co-operate in this expedition, by Count Rochambeau, and by Washington himself; but they could not prevail with him to relinquish his proposed departure for the West Indies; and it was only through the most zealous and repeated solicitations of Lafayette, with a solemn promise that he would justify the measure to the Court of France, that the admiral, Count de Grasse, was induced to continue on the station, by which the capture of the British army was greatly facilitated.
Under all these favourable circumstances, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that the allied army cherished a strong confidence of success in their enterprize. Washington had planned this expedition with great intelligence and foresight; for he had been resolved to attempt some decisive and effectual blow against the enemy. He had, however, to engage a body of well disciplined and regular troops under an officer of great experience and bravery; and all his own resources, together with the courage and activity of the officers under his command were necessary to ensure success. The American chief lost no time in preparing for a vigorous attack upon the British. They were soon obliged to abandon their redoubts and advanced posts, and to retire within the town. The light infantry, under General Lafayette, and a party of the French troops, were ordered to advance, and to take possession of the places they had abandoned, that they might cover those of the besieging army who were engaged in throwing up breast works. These advanced parties were much annoyed by a heavy cannonade from the besieged; and Colonel Scammel, the officer of the day, while viewing the ground recently left by the British, was surprised by a party of their cavalry; and, after he surrendered, received a mortal wound, which terminated his life in a few days. Scammel was a brave and accomplished officer, and eminent as a disciplinarian. He was a native of Massachusetts, a gentleman of public education, of elegant manners, and most honorable character. He was greatly lamented by Washington, and by all the officers of the American army.—Those who had been particularly associated with him, long cherished the highest respect for his memory.
Redoubts were thrown up by our advanced parties, for several successive nights; and on the evening of the 7th of October, a large detachment under General Lincoln were ordered out, to open entrenchments near the lines of the British. Lafayette had an important command also in the enterprise. The great interest felt for him by the Americans was shown by a request of the Surgeon General, "that if the Marquis should be wounded, he might receive immediate attention."
The duties of our troops, at this time, were very arduous; but they were most vigilant and active; and by the 9th several batteries were prepared to open upon the town, in which the British General was besieged. General Washington himself put the match to the first gun, and a furious cannonade immediately followed, which was a serious salutation to Cornwallis.
From the 10th to the 15th the siege was prosecuted with great vigor; an incessant fire was kept up by the allied armies; and the enemy were not backward in returning it. The Americans made further approaches to the town and threw up other batteries in a second parallel. Many of our men were killed and wounded in these operations. The enemy had two redoubts, several hundred yards in front of their principal works, which greatly impeded the approaches of the Americans. It became important to obtain possession of them by assault. The one on the left of the enemy's garrison was given to General Lafayette, with a brigade of light infantry of American troops. The other redoubt was attacked by a detachment of French troops under commanded of Baron de Viominel. The assailants, both on the right and left, exhibited the greatest ardor and bravery. Powerful resistance was made by the enemy; but was soon overcome by our gallant troops, inspirited by their still more gallant officers; though with the loss of many of our men. Two field officers were wounded in this affair; one of whom was Major Gibbs from Massachusetts, who then belonged to the guard of the commander in chief. The advanced corps of the detachment on the left, under General Lafayette, was led on to the assault by the intrepid Colonel Hamilton, who during this campaign had command of a regiment of light infantry. Our troops entered the redoubt with charged bayonets, but without firing a gun. The Marquis was indefatigable in pushing forward his men, and was constantly in situations of great peril. Some of the American soldiers were ready to take the lives of the captured after they had possession of the fort, in revenge for the barbarous conduct of the British towards many of our men, and especially for the mortal wound inflicted upon the brave and amiable Scammel, after he had surrendered. General Washington with Lincoln, Knox, and their aids were in the vicinity of this action, in very exposed situations. The Americans under Lafayette, carried the redoubt which they attacked, before the French made their assault upon the other. The latter also, suffered a greater loss of men than the former. When the fort was taken by the troops under the Marquis, he sent his aid, through the fire of the whole British line, to give notice to Baron Viominel, "that he was in his redoubt, and to enquire where the Baron was." The Baron returned for answer, "that he was not yet in his, but should be in five minutes."
General Washington expressed his sense of this brilliant affair in his orders of the 15th, Head Quarters, before York-Town. "The Marquis Lafayette's division will mount the trenches tomorrow. The commander in chief congratulates the allied army on the success of the enterprise, last evening, against the two important redoubts on the left of the enemy's works. He requests the Baron Viominel who commanded the French grenadiers, and the Marquis Lafayette, who commanded the American Light Infantry, to accept his warmest acknowledgments for the excellence of their dispositions, and for their own gallant conduct on the occasion. And he begs them to present his thanks to every individual officer and to the men of their respective commands, for the spirit and rapidity with which they advanced to the points of attack assigned them, and for the admirable firmness with which they supported them, under the fire of the enemy, without returning a shot. The General reflects with the highest pleasure on the confidence which the troops of the two nations must hereafter have in each other: assured of mutual support, he is convinced there is no danger which they will not cheerfully encounter; no difficulty which they will not bravely overcome."
If the Marquis de Lafayette was animated by an ardent love of civil liberty, when he first came to America, his attachment to its principles must have become more firm and settled, if not more intense, after an acquaintance of five years, with the patriots and heroes of our revolution. He had become acquainted with our institutions, and with the principles of our government; and was probably led to believe that systems equally free might be maintained in other countries. He was so enamoured, not only with the theory, but with the practical effects, of republicanism, that he felt it a duty to recommend systems of government more consonant to the rights of mankind. We know not, if he justly appreciated the importance of the general diffusion of knowledge among all classes of people, to ensure such a happy state of society. It was probably owing to this consideration, however, that he did not immediately attempt the reformation of the political system under which his own nation had long been oppressed. That Louis XVI. was mild, humane, and anxious for the good of his subjects, we are not disposed to doubt. But the ancient regime was unquestionably despotic; and in the hands of ambitious or selfish ministers, liable to be an instrument of injustice and oppression. And those who have long been accustomed to govern, without being accountable for their conduct, will not easily be induced to relinquish power, from any considerations of abstract right, or a belief that others will be more just.
We will here present a letter of Lafayette, directed to Sir H. Clinton; to show his regard to truth, and to his own reputation suffering in some measure by a statement which had been publicly made by that military officer.
"Paris, April 29, 1783.—Sir, Upon a perusal of your printed correspondence, I must beg leave to trouble you with an observation; not that I have claims to set forth, or relations to criticise. A sentence in your letter of —— is the only one I intend to mention. "Having said to Lord Cornwallis, that he may be opposed by about 2000 continentals; and, as Lafayette observes, a body of ill-armed militia," you are pleased to add, "as spiritless as the militia of the southern provinces, and without any service;" which reads as if it was a part of my letter. How far your description is undeserving, I think experience has proved; and that it came from me, no American will believe. But your correspondence is so public that with full reliance on your candour and politeness I have taken the liberty to transcribe the passage, and to return it to you, Sir, as its true author. At the same time permit me to assure you, &c.
The reply of Sir H. Clinton.
"London, May 29, 1783.
"Sir, In consequence of the letter you have done me the honor to write me, I have read over the publication in question; and I confess the remark alluded to, from the manner in which it is introduced, appears to make a part of your letter. You have, certainly, Sir, a right to this acknowledgment, and permit me, at the same time, to add the assurances, &c.
In the summer of 1784, the Marquis de Lafayette once more visited America. He came to witness the prosperity and improvements of the country; and to enjoy the society of those brave and honorable men, with whom he had been associated in fighting the battles of liberty. Associates in danger form an attachment for each other, which time does not usually destroy. And when they have long struggled together for just and generous purposes, the attachment must be strong and permanent indeed. The heroic actors in our glorious revolution were linked together by the most disinterested ties. They will never forget each other's services and virtues: And we trust, their children will never cease to venerate their characters, or to acknowledge their exalted merit.
When General Lafayette visited the United States in 1784, he was received with an affectionate welcome, little less enthusiastic and splendid, than that with which he has been lately greeted on landing again on our shores, after a lapse of forty years. He then also arrived at the port of New-York; and in October following made a visit to Boston, where he had so many particular friends ready to receive him with the most cordial greetings. He was met at Watertown by the officers of the (then) late continental army, and addressed by his ardent friend, General Knox, in behalf of the whole body, and a public dinner was provided for him on the occasion. The feelings excited by the visit of their beloved fellow officer, will be best described by giving the address; which was as follows:
"We, the late officers of the Massachusetts line of the continental army, embrace the first moment of your arrival, to welcome you with all the sincerity and ardour of fraternal affection: an affection commenced in the dark hour of our conflict, elevated and perfected through the successive vicissitudes of the war.
"We beg leave to observe, that we have had repeated occasions to witness the display of your military talents, and of joining in the approbation and applause which our beloved Commander in Chief so often expressed of your conduct. We are deeply impressed, with a sense of the various and important services you have rendered our country; and it will be the pride of some patriotic and enlightened historian to enumerate your actions in the field, and to illustrate your incessant efforts to promote the happiness of the United States.
"We shall ever retain a lively gratitude for the interposition of your august sovereign and nation, at a time when America was oppressed by a formidable enemy. By his influence and the powerful assistance afforded by his land and naval forces, the war has been happily terminated, and the independence of the United States firmly established, at a period much earlier than the most sanguine patriot could have expected.
"A mind like yours ennobled by a generous attachment to the rights of mankind, must enjoy the highest pleasure in viewing the people, to whose cause you so zealously devoted yourself; in full possession of that peace, liberty and safety, which were the great objects of their pursuit.
"Animated by virtue and the auspices of your own fame, may you go on to add to the splendor of your character, and heighten the glory of your country, by placing the name of Lafayette on the same list with Conde, Turenne and her other immortal heroes.
"In behalf of the officers of the Massachusetts line.
Reply of the Marquis.
"From the instant of our parting, Gentlemen, I have been eagerly looking forward to this period. How far my pleasure is completed by your kind welcome, I leave, my beloved friends, to your own hearts to determine.