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Lafayette eludes captors and reaches America

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Lafayette: I am going to America! part three

Five days after Lafayette’s 20th birthday he was in military combat. For months his daily passion had been: How can I get to the United States and fight with the Americans for their liberty?

He was convinced that the beliefs of the American Revolution were his. He declared, “My heart was dedicated.”

When he heard that French officers were being recruited to go to the United States, he demanded to be one of them. Despite how young he was, he was accepted. Then Britain threatened war with France, if officers were sent. The plan to send officers was halted. Lafayette went into hiding, still determined to go to America.

The French king issued a decree forbidding French officers to go to America. Lafayette was specifically mentioned in the king’s decree. After evading arrest he left France on a sailing ship he purchased. He bought the ship’s cargo rather than have the ship stop to deliver it and he be arrested. Two months later he arrived in America.

When Lafayette left France, he could not speak English. He began learning it with lightning rapidity. Within a year he was fluent in English.

He volunteered to serve without pay. The Continental Congress commissioned him to be a major-general in the American Army. Lafayette was confident that he could command a division, the largest size of military troop grouping. He had started receiving military training when he was eleven and was entered into a program to become a musketeer.

Congress did not have Lafayette’s expectations. They knew he was an aristocrat from a wealthy influential French family. They considered him young and his position honorary. Benjamin Franklin, who had just returned from France, urged Congress to use him.

George Washington accepted him to his staff, but said, “You cannot command a division, because you are of foreign birth. I am happy to hold you in my confidence as your friend and father.” It was a remarkable statement of Washington’s bond with Lafayette.

Three months after Lafayette arrived in America, he was fighting in the Battle of Brandywine. That battle became the longest single-day battle of the entire Revolutionary War. There was continuous fighting for eleven hours. The Americans were out-numbered and their forces began to retreat.

Lafayette was shot in the leg. He refused medical treatment so he could help organize the troops into a more orderly retreat. Then he accepted medical treatment.

Washington praised what he called Lafayette’s “bravery and military ardour.” He wrote a letter to Congress recommending that Lafayette be allowed to command a division.

After two months recuperation Lafayette was in the field and in charge of a division. He led 300 soldiers in defeating a larger Hessian force.

His next assignment was Valley Forge – General Washington’s winter camp. Here six days before Christmas approximately 12,000 battered discouraged soldiers came with 400 women and children. What happened there reshaped the life of every soldier quartered there for the winter of 1777 until June 1778.

This is Barbara Steiner returning soon with Lafayette and strength from Valley Forge.

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