NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
The Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who rushed to the aid of the United States in its darkest hours, and an audacious hero of two revolutions, was born on this day in history, Sept. 6, 1757.
Gen. George Washington “was taken by the young man’s ebullience and profound dedication to the American cause,” writes the Washington Library of Mount Vernon.
The elder American, then 45, and the 19-year-old French officer quickly bonded upon Lafayette’s arrival in Washington’s camp in the summer of 1777.
Major General Lafayette most notably helped lead the Continental Army’s victory at Yorktown, Virginia, that ended the American Revolution in October 1781.
He returned to France where he helped inspire revolution in 1789 by writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man, with an assist from this American friend Thomas Jefferson.
He’s also credited with creating the French tri-color red, white and blue flag.
Lafayette was born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier to a wealthy family in Chavaniac, in the Loire Valley of France.
“By 1770, he had amassed a large inheritance after the deaths of his mother, father, and grandfather,” reports the American Battlefield Trust.
“His wealth and prestige afforded him many opportunities in life.”
He used those opportunities to pay his own way to the United States — in defiance of his superiors, including King Louis XVI.
Lafayette quickly proved his commitment to the cause.
He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, just days after his 20th birthday, when a musket ball struck him in the leg during the American defeat.
He then suffered through his first winter in America beside Washington at Valley Forge, amid disease and starvation.
He committed to American liberty with his personal treasure, too.
Lafayette fought for the new nation without pay while spending the equivalent of $200,000 to cover salaries, uniforms and other expenses for his staff, reports Mount Vernon.
“Lafayette returned to France in December 1781 and went on to serve in the French army,” writes the National Park Service.
“A moderate in the French Revolution, Lafayette sought reforms in French society but was distrusted by French radicals. Captured and imprisoned by the Austrians for a year, he was freed by Napoleon in 1797.”
The Marquis was feted as a national hero in the U.S. upon returning for a grand tour in 1824-25 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution.
He was met by “demonstrations of frenzied enthusiasm without precedent or parallel in American history,” writes the NPS.
Among many other honors, he was hosted by American dignitaries and laid the cornerstone of Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, honoring the battlefield of 1775.
The Lafayette Trail website chronicles scores of major stops on his dramatic victory tour of the United States.
Lafayette was named an honorary U.S. citizen, one of only six foreigners in history, by Congress in 2002.
Lafayette’s stirring contributions to the cause of human liberty were deeply cherished by earlier generations of Americans.
He is the namesake of hundreds of cities, towns, counties, schools, roads, squares and monuments across the United States.
Among the most notable: the city of Lafayette, Louisiana; Lafayette Square across from the White House in Washington, D.C.; and Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
Lafayette was named an honorary U.S. citizen, one of only six foreigners in history, by Congress in 2002, according to HIstory.com.
His hometown of Chavaniac was renamed Chavaniac-Lafayette in his honor in 1884.
The Lafayette Escadrille, a unit of volunteer American pilots, fought on behalf of France in World War I before the U.S. officially joined the war in 1917.
The American Expeditionary Force, under General John Pershing, began to arrive in France in June and July 1917 and paid Lafayette the ultimate honor. The U.S. troops were welcomed in an official ceremony to Lafayette’s grave at Picpus Cemetery in Paris on July 4, with German invaders just 50 miles outside the city.
“Here and now in the presence of the illustrious dead we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue,” Colonel Charles Stanton said on behalf of General Pershing, according to Lafayette College’s overview of the July 4th speech.
“Lafayette, we are here!”