Liberty’s in every blow!

“When Freedom from her mountain height
Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night
And set the stars of glory there.”—DRAKE.

ON the 14th of June, 1777, La Fayette landed at Winyau Bay, about sixty
miles northeast from Charleston. Nature had clothed herself in her
loveliest garb to welcome the knight of liberty who had sacrificed
wealth and luxury and the gay life of courts, to unsheathe his sword in
this new land in defence of freedom.

It was midnight under the soft June skies. The stars glowed in
benediction, and the moon shed a calm radiance over the scene. As the
canoe conveyed the travellers up the picturesque bay, the wooded land
beyond seemed to stretch out its leafy hands of welcome, and the air was
perfumed with the delicious fragrance of innumerable flowers. Such was
America’s greeting to her brave defender.

Of this, let La Fayette’s own letters speak. Back to the love of his
heart, the wife whose constant devotion was his guiding star, fly
quickly his thoughts, on the swift wings of affection, and he hastens to
pen these lines:—

“JUNE 19.

“I landed at Charleston, after having sailed for several days along a
coast swarming with hostile vessels. On my arrival here every one told
me that my ship would undoubtedly be taken, because two English frigates
had blockaded the harbor. I even sent, both by land and by sea, orders
to the captain to put the men on shore, and burn the vessels, if he had
still the power of doing so. _Eh bien!_ by a most extraordinary piece of
good fortune, a sudden gale of wind having blown away the frigates for a
short time, my vessel arrived at noonday, without having encountered
friend or foe. At Charleston I have met General Howe, a general officer
now engaged in service. The governor of the state is expected this
evening from the country. All the persons with whom I wished to be
acquainted have shown me the greatest attention and politeness—not
European politeness merely. I can only feel gratitude for the reception
tendered me, although I have not yet thought proper to enter into any
details respecting my future prospects and arrangements. I wish to see
the Congress first. I hope to set out in two days for Philadelphia,
which is a land journey of more than two hundred and fifty leagues. We
shall divide into small parties. I have already purchased horses and
light carriages for this purpose.

“I shall now speak to you, my love, about the country and its
inhabitants, who are as agreeable as my enthusiasm led me to imagine.
Simplicity of manner, kindness of heart, love of country and of liberty,
and a delightful state of equality are universal. The richest and the
poorest men are completely on a level; and, although there are some
immense fortunes in this country, I may challenge any one to point out
the slightest difference in their respective manner toward each other. I
first saw and judged of a country life at Major Huger’s house. I am at
present in this city, where I notice a resemblance to English customs,
except that I find more simplicity here than in England.

“Charleston is one of the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable
cities that I have ever seen. The American women are very pretty, and
have great simplicity of character. The extreme neatness of their
appearance is truly delightful. Cleanliness is everywhere even more
studiously regarded here than in England. What gave me most pleasure is
to see how completely the citizens are all brethren of one family. In
America there appear to be none poor, and none even who can be called
peasants. Each citizen has some property, and all citizens have the same
rights as the richest individual or landed proprietor in the country.
The inns are very different from those in Europe; the host and hostess
sit at table with you, and do the honors of a comfortable meal, and when
you depart you pay your bill without being obliged to fee attendants. If
you dislike going to inns, you always find country houses, in which you
will be received as a good American, with the same attention that you
expect to find at a friend’s house in Europe.

“My own reception has been peculiarly agreeable. To have been merely my
travelling companion suffices to secure the kindest welcome. I have just
passed five hours at a large dinner, given in compliment to me by an
individual of this town. Generals Howe and Moultrie, and several
officers of my suite, were present. We drank each other’s health, and
endeavored to talk English, which I am beginning to speak a little. I
shall pay a visit to-morrow, with these gentlemen, to the governor of
the state, and make the last arrangements for my departure. The next day
the commanding officer here will take me to see the town and its
environs, and I shall then set out to join the army.

“From the agreeable life I lead in this country, from the sympathy which
makes me feel as much at ease with the inhabitants as if I had known
them twenty years, the similarity between their manner of thinking and
my own, my love of glory and liberty, you might imagine that I am very
happy; but you are not with me, my dearest love; my friends are not with
me; and there is no happiness for me when far away from you and them. I
often ask you if you still love, but I put that question still more
often to myself, and my heart ever answers yes. I trust that my heart
does not deceive me. I am inexpressibly anxious to hear from you, and
hope to find some letters at Philadelphia. My only fear is lest the
privateer which was to bring them to me may have been captured on her
way. Although I can easily imagine that I have excited the special
displeasure of the English, by taking the liberty of coming hither in
spite of them and landing before their very face, yet I must confess
that we shall be even more than on a par if they succeed in catching
that vessel, the object of my fondest hopes, by which I am expecting to
receive your letters.

“I entreat you to send me both long and frequent letters. You are not
sufficiently conscious of the joy with which I shall receive them.
Embrace, most tenderly, my Henriette; may I add, embrace our children!
The father of those poor children is a wanderer, but he is,
nevertheless, a good, honest man, a good father, warmly attached to his
family, and a good husband also, for he loves his wife most tenderly.
The night is far advanced, the heat intense, and I am devoured by
mosquitoes; but the best countries, as you perceive, have their
inconveniences. Adieu, my love, adieu.”

Again La Fayette writes to his wife from Petersburg, Va., July 17,
1777:—

“I am now eight days’ journey from Philadelphia, in the beautiful state
of Virginia. All fatigue is over, and I fear that my martial labors will
be very light if it be true that General Howe has left New York, to go I
know not whither. But all the accounts I receive are so uncertain that I
cannot form any fixed opinion until I reach my destination.

“You must have learned the particulars of the beginning of my journey.
You know that I set out in a brilliant manner, in a carriage, and I must
now tell you that we are all on horseback,—having broken the carriage
according to my usual praiseworthy custom,—and I expect soon to write to
you that we have arrived on foot. The journey is somewhat fatiguing;
but, although several of my comrades have suffered a great deal, I have
scarcely, myself, been conscious of fatigue. The captain, who takes
charge of this letter, will perhaps pay you a visit. I beg you, in that
case, to receive him with great kindness.

“The farther I advance to the north, the better pleased I am with the
country and its inhabitants. There is no attention or kindness that I do
not receive, although many scarcely know who I am. But I will write all
this to you more in detail from Philadelphia.”

As soon as La Fayette arrived in Philadelphia, he presented himself
before Congress, then in session. The moment was inauspicious. Mr. Deane
had given so many foreigners the same promises, that Congress found
itself in a very embarrassing situation. Many of these foreigners were
brave men, and true, who had come to America with philanthropic motives,
but others were mere adventurers, and Congress therefore received the
young Marquis de La Fayette with coldness and indifference, which he
illy deserved, and which in the light of after events proved a
mortifying mistake. La Fayette laid his stipulations with Mr. Deane
before Congress, but, with surprise and chagrin, he was informed by the
chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs that there was little hope
that his request would be granted.

Imagine the feelings of the noble young marquis of nineteen. He had
sacrificed home, family, friends, and fortune, to give his aid to this
struggling nation, and his immense personal sacrifices were thus
insultingly thrown into his face. What blindness in Congress! What
heroic magnanimity in La Fayette! Pride and patriotism battled in his
sensitive soul. But unselfish patriotism conquered, and never does he
appear more truly great than at this moment. Seizing a pen, he writes to
Congress this brief but immortal note:—

“After the sacrifices I have made, I have a right to exact two favors:
one is, to serve at my _own expense_; the other is, to serve as a
_volunteer_.”

Astonished at such unprecedented generosity, and conscious of their
mistake in classing the young marquis with other foreigners, who were
actuated by selfish avarice and love of adventure, Congress accordingly
passed the following preamble and resolution on the 31st of July, 1777:—

“_Whereas_, the Marquis de La Fayette, out of his great zeal in the
cause of liberty in which the United States are engaged, has left his
family and connections, and, at his own expense, come over to offer his
service to the United States, without pension or particular allowance,
and is anxious to risk his life in our cause;

“_Resolved_, That his services be accepted, and that in consideration of
his zeal, illustrious family and connections, he have the rank and
commission of a Major-General in the army of the United States.”

La Fayette’s first meeting with Washington was at a dinner party in
Philadelphia, on the 1st of August. The commander-in-chief looked with
sympathy upon the noble young hero, and their hearts were quickly united
in a bond of friendship which ignored diversity of age, country, and
experience, for they mutually recognized a self-sacrificing devotion to
the sacred and sublime cause of human liberty.

[Illustration: G o. Washington]

“When the company were about to separate, Washington took La Fayette
aside, spoke to him very kindly, complimented him on the noble spirit he
had shown, and the sacrifices he had made in favor of the American
cause, and then told him that he should be pleased if he would make the
headquarters of the commander-in-chief his home, establish himself there
whenever he thought proper, and consider himself at all times as one of
his family; adding in a tone of pleasantry, that he could not promise
him the luxuries of a court, or even the conveniences which his former
habits might have rendered essential to comfort; but since he had become
an American soldier he would doubtless contrive to accommodate himself
to the character he had assumed, and submit with a good grace to the
customs, manners, and privations of the republican army.”

Little was the bold spirit of La Fayette dismayed at the prospect of
difficulties and privations. His soul could not be confined by
hardships, dangers, or even defeats. He eagerly accepted the invitation
of Washington, and well repaid his kindly courtesy. It was about this
time that the following letter was written from Paris by Franklin to
Washington:—

“SIR: The Marquis de La Fayette, a young nobleman of great expectations
and exceedingly beloved here, is by this time probably with you. By some
misapprehension in his contract with the merchants of Bordeaux he was
prevented from using the produce of the cargo he carried over, and so
was left without a supply of money. His friends here have sent him over
about £500 sterling, and have proposed sending him more; but on
reflection, knowing the extreme generosity of his disposition, and
fearing that some of his necessitous and artful countrymen may impose on
his goodness, they wish to put his money into the hands of some discreet
friend, who may supply him from time to time, and by that means knowing
his expenses, may take occasion to advise him if necessary, from too
much imposition.

“They accordingly have desired us to name such a person to them. We have
not been able to think of one so capable and so suitable from the
influence of situation to perform that kind office as General
Washington, under whose eye the gentleman will probably be.

“We beg, therefore, in his behalf, what his friends out of respect would
not take the liberty of asking, that Your Excellency would be pleased to
furnish him with what money he may want in moderation, and take his
drafts payable to us for sums paid him, which we shall receive here, and
apply to the public service.

“We also join with his family in their earnest request that you would
favor him with your counsels, which you may be assured will be an act of
benevolence gratefully remembered and acknowledged by a number of very
worthy persons here who have interested themselves extremely in the
welfare of that amiable young nobleman.

“With the greatest respect we have the honor to be, Sir, Your
Excellency’s.”

The commission which La Fayette had received from Congress was, as yet,
only an honorary one, conferring upon him no real command. La Fayette
was now with Washington at his headquarters. He was yearning for active
duties, and impatient to prove by personal exploits his zeal in the
cause of liberty. Washington wrote to Congress regarding La Fayette’s
position, but received the unsatisfactory reply, “that the commission
given to the Marquis de La Fayette was only honorary, and that he could
not yet receive an appointment.” Again did the generous spirit of the
young hero meet only a cold rebuff in answer to his warm offers of
personal service. He determined now to win his position by his own
actions, and the opportunity was not long in arriving.

[Illustration: Benj. Franklin]

On the 11th of September, 1777, was fought the battle of Brandywine.
“The British fleet under Sir William Howe, whose movements along the
American coast at one time seeming to threaten Philadelphia, and at
another appearing to meditate an attack upon Charleston, had caused much
apprehension and doubt, had, at last, entered the Chesapeake; and,
having proceeded up the Elk River as far as it was safely navigable,
landed the forces at the ferry on the 25th of August. The determination
of an assault upon Philadelphia was no longer questionable. The day
before Sir William Howe landed, General Washington, to inspire the
citizens with confidence, paraded his troops through the streets of
Philadelphia, and then proceeded boldly to the Brandywine. The popular
clamor, favored by the voice of Congress, demanded a battle, and
Washington determined to risk one, though he greatly apprehended that he
could not successfully compete with the strength of the battalions
marching against him. But a battle, though disastrous, would be less
injurious than to suffer the enemy to advance to Philadelphia without
opposition.

“Washington, having halted for a few days on the banks of the Brandywine
to refresh his troops, and get a better knowledge of the face of the
country and the plans of the enemy, sent forward two divisions under
Green and Stephens, who proceeded nearer to the head of the Elk, and
encamped behind White Clay Creek. Three miles farther on, at Iron Hill,
was stationed General Maxwell, at the head of an effective corps of
light infantry, formed from a regiment of Morgan’s riflemen, which had
been detached to the northern army.

“Posting the cavalry along the lines, Washington, with the main body,
crossed the Brandywine, and took up his position behind Red Clay Creek,
on the road which Sir William Howe would have to traverse on his march
to Philadelphia. La Fayette was with him, and watched with the liveliest
interest the preparations for the approaching contest. These were made
with consummate adroitness and prudence; but Sir William Howe was no
common foe; and the direction which he seemed contemplating for his
vastly superior force decided Washington that a change of his own
position was necessary. A council of war was held on the night of the
9th of September, when it was determined to retire behind the
Brandywine, and meet the enemy near Chadd’s Ford, from the heights which
ranged along upon the opposite side of the river.

“On the morning of the 11th of September, soon after daybreak, La
Fayette sprang to his feet at the intelligence that the whole British
army was in motion, and advancing towards them on the direct road
leading over Chadd’s Ford. General Maxwell had been advantageously
stationed, so that he could command this road from the hills, on the
south side of the river; and the first action accordingly began with
him.

“The foe advanced in two magnificent columns, the right commanded by
General Knyphausen, and the left by Lord Cornwallis. The plan of Howe
was, that Knyphausen’s division should occupy the attention of the
Americans, by making repeated feints of attempting the passage of the
ford, while Cornwallis should make a long sweep up the river, and cross
it at Birmingham. Knyphausen accordingly advanced with his column, and
speedily dislodging General Maxwell from his post, forced him to cross
over, though with but little loss. A furious cannonading was instantly
begun, and other demonstrations made, which indicated the intention of
the British immediately to attempt the passage of the ford. The day was
occupied in preventing this, till eleven o’clock in the morning, when
the movement of Cornwallis was first announced to Washington. A smile of
delight played upon his countenance, and he immediately determined upon
one of those bold but judicious plans for which he was remarkable.

“Placing himself at the head of the centre and left wing of the army, he
resolved to cross the river in person, and overwhelm Knyphausen before
Cornwallis could be summoned back to his aid. His ranks were already
formed for the passage, and his troops had answered to the proposition
with deafening shouts, when a messenger arrived with the intelligence
that Cornwallis had only made a feint of crossing the fords above, and
was now actually bringing his division down the southern side of the
river, to re-unite with Knyphausen. The tidings were agony to
Washington; though, false, they came in a form which constrained him to
believe them true, and his bold project was accordingly abandoned. His
troops were impatient for the encounter, but for two hours he could only
give them quiet directions, while he endeavored, in distressing
suspense, to gain some clew to the movements of the enemy on the
opposite side.

“At about two o’clock in the afternoon his uncertainty was removed, when
certain intelligence reached him, that Lord Cornwallis, after having
made a circuit of nearly seventeen miles, had forded the river above its
forks, and, accompanied by Sir William Howe, was advancing upon him.
Close action was immediately prepared for, and all along the American
lines ran the accents of welcome for the conflict. The three divisions
which formed the right wing, under Generals Sullivan, Stirling, and
Stephens, were detached, and, moving up the Brandywine, fronted the
British column marching down the river. Selecting an advantageous piece
of ground near Birmingham, with the river on their left, and, having
both flanks covered by a thick wood, they hastily formed and awaited the
attack.

“La Fayette, who had kept by the side of Washington during these scenes,
and marked them with absorbing interest, soon saw that the divisions
designed to meet Cornwallis were to receive most of the heavy blows of
that day’s battle, and petitioned and obtained permission to join them.
A burst of enthusiasm greeted his arrival, as he threw himself into the
midst of the troops, eagerly awaiting the approach of the foe. The
opportunity which he sought was not wanting long. The host was visible,
sweeping in grand and imposing array over the plain before them. When he
saw the enemy, Lord Cornwallis formed in the finest order, and hastening
forward, his first line opened a brisk fire of musketry and artillery
upon them. It was about half-past four when the battle began. The
Americans returned the fire with great injury, but the impetuosity with
which the English and Hessian troops threw themselves upon their ranks
was more than they could withstand.

“For a time both parties fought with unparalleled bravery, and the
carnage was terrible. For some time it was a doubtful struggle, but the
fiery emulation which stimulated the English and the Hessians at last
compelled the Americans to give way before them.

“The right wing first yielded, then the left, while the central
division, where La Fayette was bravely fighting, was the last to breast
the storm, which now, concentrating its strength, spent its fury upon
those devoted ranks. Firm as a rock, they bore themselves proudly
against the tide of victory, which rolled in fearfully upon them. By a
skilful manœuvre, Cornwallis had managed to separate them from the
two wings, when defeat became inevitable. The whole fire of the enemy
was united against them, and the confusion became extreme. The troops at
first wavered, then rallied, then wavered again, and at last fell into a
disorderly retreat. It was in vain that La Fayette endeavored to check
them; defying danger, he stood almost single-handed against the
on-coming host, and endeavored to reanimate his flying comrades by his
own example. It was all fruitless. A ball struck him, and as he fell,
those remaining on the field gave way.

“Gimat, aide-de-camp to the Marquis, assisted his master in getting upon
a horse, and, though the blood was flowing profusely from his wound, La
Fayette reluctantly turned and joined the fugitives. General Washington
at this moment arrived with fresh troops upon the field. Greene’s
divisions had marched four miles _in forty-two minutes_, but were too
late to avert the disasters of the day. La Fayette, as soon as he saw
Washington, started to join him, but loss of blood obliged him to stop
and have his wound bandaged. While submitting to this a band of soldiers
came upon him so suddenly that he had barely time to remount for flight,
escaping, as by a miracle, the shower of bullets which whistled around
his form.

“A general rout was the order of the day. The road to Chester was
crowded with the retreating. Knyphausen had forced the passage of
Chadd’s Ford, notwithstanding the obstinate resistance of Generals Wayne
and Maxwell, who had been left to defend it. Washington found that all
that could be done was to stay the pursuit. So successful were his
efforts, and those of General Greene, that, as night approached, Sir
William Howe called in his troops and gave over the chase. La Fayette
was unwearied in his endeavors to save the army. Forgetting himself, his
wound, and everything but this one object, he exerted himself to the
utmost amid the darkness and dreadful confusion of that night, to
restore order among the fleeing and despairing soldiery. At Chester
Bridge, twelve miles from the scene of battle, he was in part
successful.”

The generals and the commander-in-chief arrived, and La Fayette, at last
fainting from loss of blood and fatigue, was borne away to receive the
attention which his situation demanded. The next day he wrote to his
wife as follows:—

“PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 12th.

“I must begin by telling you that I am perfectly well, because I must
end by telling you that we fought seriously last night, and that we were
not the stronger party on the field of battle. Our Americans, after
having stood their ground for some time, ended at length by being
routed. While endeavoring to rally them, the English honored me with a
musket ball, which slightly wounded me in the leg; but it is a trifle,
my dearest love: the ball touched neither bone nor nerve, and I have
escaped with the obligation of lying upon my back for some time, which
puts me much out of humor. I hope you will feel no anxiety. This event
ought, on the contrary, rather to reassure you, since I am incapacitated
from appearing on the field for some time. I have resolved to take great
care of myself; be convinced of this, my love. This affair will, I fear,
be attended with bad consequences for America, but we will endeavor, if
possible, to repair the evil. You must have received many letters from
me, unless the English be as ill-disposed towards my epistles as towards
my legs. I have not yet received one letter, and I am most impatient to
hear from you. It is dreadful to be reduced to hold no communication
except by letter with a person whom one loves as I love you, and as I
shall ever love you, until I draw my latest breath. I have not missed a
single opportunity, not even the most indirect one, of writing to you.
Do the same on your part, my dearest life, if you love me. Adieu; I am
forbidden to write longer.”

After the battle of Brandywine Congress adjourned to Bristol, as
Philadelphia was thought to be in danger; and La Fayette was carried to
Bethlehem and placed in the care of the Moravian Society until his wound
should be healed. In October he thus wrote to his wife:—

“I wrote to you, my dearest love, the 12th of September; the twelfth was
the day after the eleventh, and I have a little tale to relate to you
concerning that eleventh day. To render my action more meritorious, I
might tell you that prudent reflections induced me to remain for some
weeks in bed, safe sheltered from all danger; but I must acknowledge
that I was encouraged to take this measure by a slight wound which I met
with, I know not how, for I did not, in truth, expose myself to peril.
It was the first conflict at which I had been present; so you see how
very rare engagements are. It will be the last of this campaign, or, in
all probability, at least, the last great battle; and if anything should
occur, you see that I could not myself be present.

“My first occupation was to write you the day after that affair; I told
you that it was a mere trifle, and I was right; all I fear is, that you
may not have received my letter.

“As General Howe is giving, meanwhile, rather pompous details of his
American exploits to the king his master, if he should write that I am
wounded, he may also write that I am killed, which would not cost him
anything; but I hope that my friends, and you especially, will not give
faith to the reports of those persons who last year dared to publish
that General Washington and all the general officers of his army, being
in a boat together, had been upset, and every individual drowned. But
let us speak about the wound: it is only a flesh wound, and has touched
neither bone nor nerve. The surgeons are astonished at the rapidity with
which it heals; they are in an ecstasy of joy each time they dress it,
and pretend it is the finest thing in the world. For my part, I think it
most disagreeable, painful, and wearisome; but tastes often differ. If a
man, however, wished to be wounded for his amusement only, he should
come and examine how I have been struck, that he might be struck
precisely in the same manner. This, my dearest love, is what I pompously
style my wound, to give myself airs and render myself interesting.

“I must now give you your lesson as wife of an American general officer.
They will say to you, ‘They have been beaten’; you must answer, ‘That is
true; but when two armies of _equal number_ meet in the field, old
soldiers have naturally the advantage over new ones; they have, besides,
had the pleasure of killing a great many of the enemy, many more than
they have lost!’ They will afterwards add, ‘All this is very well; but
Philadelphia is taken, the capital of America, the rampart of liberty!’
You must politely answer: ‘You are all great fools! Philadelphia is a
poor, forlorn town, exposed on every side, the harbor of which was
already closed; though the residence of Congress lent it—I know not
why—some degree of celebrity.’ This is the famous city which, be it
added, we shall, sooner or later, make them yield back to us. If they
continue to persecute you with questions, you may send them about their
business in terms which the Vicomte de Noailles will teach you, for I
cannot lose time by talking to you of politics.

“Be perfectly at ease about my wound; all the faculty in America are
engaged in my service. I have a friend who has spoken to them in such a
manner that I am certain of being well attended to. That friend is
General Washington. This excellent man, whose talents and virtues I
admired, and whom I have learned to revere as I know him better, has now
become my intimate friend. His affectionate interest in me instantly won
my heart. I am established in his house, and we live together like two
attached brothers, with mutual confidence and cordiality. This
friendship renders me as happy as I can possibly be in this country.
When he sent his best surgeon to me, he told him to take charge of me as
if I were his son, because he loved me with the same affection. Having
heard that I wished to rejoin the army too soon, he wrote me a letter
full of tenderness, in which he requested me to attend to the perfect
restoration of my health. I give you these details, my dearest love,
that you may feel quite certain of the care which is taken of me. Among
the French officers who have all expressed the warmest interest in me,
M. de Gimat, my aide-de-camp, has followed me about like my shadow, both
before and since the battle, and has given me every possible proof of
attachment. You may thus feel quite secure on this account, both for the
present and the future.

“I am at present in the solitude of Bethlehem, which the Abbé Raynal has
described so minutely. This establishment is a very interesting one; the
fraternity lead an agreeable and very tranquil life—but we will talk
over all this on my return. I intend to weary those I love, yourself, of
course, in the first place, by the relation of my adventures, for you
know that I was always a great chatterbox.

“You must become a prattler also, my love, and say many things for me to
Henriette—my poor little Henriette! embrace her a thousand times; talk
of me to her, but do not tell her all I deserve to suffer: my punishment
will be, not to be recognized by her on my arrival; that is the penance
Henriette will impose upon me.”

In the life of Madame de La Fayette, written by her daughter, Madame de
Lasteyrie, this touching account is given of La Fayette’s wife at this
time.

“In the month of April, 1777, my father carried out his plan of going to
America. It is easy to judge of my mother’s grief on receiving tidings
so new, so unexpected, and so terrible. In addition to all she was
herself suffering; she had the pain of witnessing my grandfather’s
anger. ‘The French ladies,’ Lord Stomont, the English ambassador, wrote
to his government, ‘blame M. de La Fayette’s family, for having tried to
stop him in so noble an enterprise. If the Duc d’Ayen,’ one of them
said, ‘crosses such a son-in-law in such an attempt, he must not hope to
find husbands for his other daughters.’

“My mother felt that the more she excited pity, the more my father would
be censured. All her endeavors were then to conceal the tortures of her
heart, preferring to be thought childish or indifferent to bringing down
greater blame on his behavior. My mother found much comfort in the
kindness shown to her by my grandmother, whose noble mind made her
appreciate each detail of her son-in-law’s conduct.

“It was with truly maternal tenderness that she broke to her daughter
the different accounts of my father’s departure, of his arrest, of his
return to Bordeaux, and of his ultimate embarkation at the Port du
Passage in Spain.

“The first accounts of my father’s arrival in America reached my mother
a month after the birth of my sister Anastasie. His charming letters,
the accounts of his deeds, the success he had already achieved, caused
her a delight mingled with apprehensions for the dangers of war. The
news of my father having been wounded at the battle of Brandywine
reached my mother’s ears, but still more alarming reports were hidden
from her.”

After being wounded at Brandywine, La Fayette heard of the birth of his
second daughter, Anastasie. He thus tenderly wrote to his adored wife:—

“How happy your safety has made me. Dearest heart, I must speak of it
all through my letter, for I can think of nothing else. What rapture to
embrace you all,—the mother and the two little girls,—to make them
intercede with you for their truant father.”

Concerning this first visit of La Fayette to America Madame de La
Fayette herself thus writes:—

“M. de La Fayette executed in April the scheme he had been forming for
six months past, of going to serve the cause of independence in America.
I loved him tenderly. On hearing the news of his departure, my father
and all the family fell into a state of violent anger. My mother,
dreading these emotions for me, on account of the state of health I was
in, alarmed at the dangers her dearly beloved son had gone to seek so
far, having herself, less than anybody in the world, the thirst of
ambition and of worldly glory or a taste for enterprise, appreciated,
nevertheless, M. de La Fayette’s conduct as it was appreciated two years
later by the rest of the world. Totally casting aside all care with
regard to the immense expense of such an enterprise, she found, from the
first moment, in the manner in which it had been prepared, a motive for
distinguishing it from what is termed _une folie de jeune homme_. His
sorrow on leaving his wife and those who were dear to him convinced her
that she need not fear for the happiness of my life save in proportion
to her fears for his. It was she who gave me the cruel news of his
departure, and, with that generous tenderness which was peculiar to her,
she tried to comfort me by finding the means of serving M. de La
Fayette.

“At that time my mother’s youngest sister married M. de Ségur, one of M.
de La Fayette’s friends. My mother devoted to her all the moments she
could dispose of, but I was still the continual object of her
solicitude. She saw how much good she did me by showing her affection
for M. de La Fayette. Whenever M. de La Fayette’s touching letters
reached us, I could see how thoroughly she believed in his tenderness
for me. At the end of two months my dear Anastasie was born. It seemed
as if I already foresaw what a gift God was bestowing on me; from the
first moment of her birth I felt that in the midst of the greatest
trials I was still capable of joy. My child received her grandmother’s
blessing, and was carried by her to the baptismal font.

“The first news from M. de La Fayette arrived on the first of August,
one month after Anastasie’s birth. The comfort it gave me was fully
shared. My mother was indefatigable in her efforts to obtain some
accounts of him, to send him news from us, and to make herself useful to
him though separated by so great a distance. The few details which
reached us respecting his arrival, and the favorable impression he had
made on the public mind in America, did not surprise my mother, but
renewed her courage and made her still more thankful to Providence who
was so visibly protecting and guiding him. But shortly afterwards we
heard that M. de La Fayette had been wounded at the battle of
Brandywine. I need not say what were my mother’s feelings on hearing
such intelligence. She succeeded in keeping from me the report of his
death, which was spread about at that time, and to prevent false news
from reaching my ear; she first took me to her father’s place in
Burgundy, and then sent my sister and me on a visit to the Comtesse
Auguste de La Marck, at Raismes. The Comte de La Marck was Mirabeau’s
friend.

“During the winter of 1778 my mother turned all her efforts towards
obtaining intelligence from America. We heard occasionally from M. de La
Fayette. The alliance between France and the United States caused my
mother great satisfaction; I had never seen her take such interest in
any political event.”

Thus tenderly this young wife of eighteen was shielded by her mother’s
care during this trying absence of the young husband whom she so adored.
Regarding the unusual and ideal love existing between La Fayette and his
devoted wife in their early married life, their daughter Virginie,
afterwards the Marquise de Lasteyrie, thus writes:—

“I do not think it is possible to have an idea of my mother’s way of
loving. It was peculiar to herself. Her affection for my father
predominated over every other feeling without diminishing any. It might
be said she felt for him the most passionate attachment, if that
expression was in harmony with the exquisite delicacy which kept her
from any sort of jealousy, or, at least, from any of those evil impulses
generally attendant upon that feeling. Neither had she ever a moment of
_exigence_. Not only was it impossible for my father ever to perceive a
wish that could be unwelcome to him, but, even in the depth of her
heart, never did there lurk a bitter feeling. She was fourteen and a
half when she married. At that time her mind was violently agitated by
religious doubts. Notwithstanding the very tender feeling which drew her
towards my father, she was much troubled by the thought of the solemn
engagement she was taking at so early an age. All she felt appeared to
her beyond her strength, and she placed herself under the protection of
God, to whom in the midst of her disquietudes she never ceased to look
for support.

“My mother’s grief at my father’s departure to join his regiment made
her feel how deeply she was attached to him. She did not leave her
paternal home. In consequence of the extreme youth of both my parents,
for my father was but sixteen years of age, it had been agreed that they
should pass several years at the Hôtel de Noailles, the town residence
of my mother’s family.

“The following winter was very gay. My mother as well as her sister
frequently went both to the play and to balls. She enjoyed all these
pleasures with the liveliness of her age and disposition. Nevertheless,
I do not think she ever allowed herself to join in any before it had
been proved to her that she was conscientiously obliged to partake in
them. Never, even in her earliest youth, did she allow herself to taste
a single worldly amusement without being actuated by motives of duty
superior to those which forbade them. She did not join in them without
reflection, but, once decided, she would enjoy herself thoroughly and
without scruple. It is worthy of remark that the religious doubts which
tortured her should not have made her less timorous on this point. On
the contrary, she was incessantly applying for the grace of God in order
to learn the fulness of truth. He granted her prayers; her mind ceased
to be troubled. She made her first communion that same year, on the
first Sunday after Easter, and gave herself up to God, in whom she
continued to trust so faithfully amidst all the vicissitudes of life.
Shortly afterwards, her first child, little Henriette, was born.”

Before La Fayette’s wound, received at Brandywine, was sufficiently
healed to permit him to wear a boot, he was so impatient to enter into
active service, that he offered himself again as a volunteer, and joined
an expedition which was then fitting out under General Greene, to
operate in New Jersey. Preparations were made to give battle to Lord
Cornwallis; but that officer having received large re-enforcements,
General Greene, though greatly disappointed, deemed it inexpedient to
dare an attack. But young La Fayette could not consent to retire without
attempting to strike a blow. He was accordingly placed at the head of a
small company, for reconnoitring, and authorized to make an attack if he
thought it advisable. While he was examining the enemy’s position, his
little band came suddenly upon a picket of four hundred Hessians. La
Fayette’s company numbered only three hundred men; but he led them
gallantly to the attack, and the Hessians were soon flying before them.
La Fayette followed, and the Hessians meeting re-enforcements, turned to
meet their brave pursuers. Great as the odds were against him, La
Fayette and his valiant band boldly met the enemy, and again put them to
flight, pursuing them until dark; they returned to camp with only five
men wounded and one dead. Such was the battle of Gloucester.

This heroic action so impressed Congress with the bravery of La Fayette,
that they promptly responded to Washington’s renewed request in behalf
of the young marquis; and on the 1st of December, 1777, the following
resolution was passed:—

“_Resolved_, That General Washington be informed it is highly agreeable
to Congress that the Marquis de La Fayette be appointed to the command
of a division in the continental army.”

Three days after, La Fayette was publicly invested with his rank, and
placed over the division of Virginia troops, lately lead by General
Stephens.

The campaign of 1777 was now drawing to its close. Sir William Howe,
having recalled Lord Cornwallis, endeavored to force Washington from his
position; but though there were several skirmishes, in which La Fayette
distinguished himself, Washington would not be decoyed by his crafty
foe, and Howe marched back to Philadelphia without having effected a
battle.

The Revolutionary army now went into winter quarters at Valley Forge. La
Fayette thus describes the condition of their troops at this time:—

“The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything; they had neither
coats, hats, shirts, nor shoes; their feet and legs froze until they
became black, and it was often necessary to amputate them. From want of
money they could not obtain either provisions or any means of transport.
The colonels were often reduced to two rations, and sometimes to one.
The army frequently remained whole days without provisions, and the
patient endurance of both soldiers and officers was a miracle, which
each moment served to renew. But the sight of their misery prevented new
engagements; it was almost impossible to levy recruits; it was easy to
desert into the interior of the country. The sacred fires of liberty
were not extinguished, it is true, and the majority of the citizens
detested British tyranny, but the triumph of the North (Gates’ defeat of
Burgoyne) and the tranquillity of the South had lulled to sleep
two-thirds of the continent.”

La Fayette endured with uncomplaining patience the greatest privations.
He adopted the American dress, habits, and food. He allowed himself to
fare no better than his comrades in war; and though his entire life
heretofore had been spent in ease and luxury, he repined not at cold and
scanty provisions, but rather gloried in his personal sacrifices. He
thus writes from Valley Forge to his father-in-law, the Duke d’Ayen, in
France:—

“The loss of Philadelphia is far from being so important as it is
conceived to be in Europe. If the difference of circumstances, of
countries, and of proportions between the two armies were not duly
considered, the success of General Gates would appear surprising when
compared with the events which have occurred with us, taking into
account the superiority of General Washington over General Gates. Our
general is a man formed, in truth, for this revolution, which could not
have been accomplished without him. I see him more intimately than any
other man, and I see that he is worthy of the adoration of his country.
His tender friendship for me and his complete confidence in me relating
to all political and military subjects, great as well as small, enable
me to judge of all the interests he has to conciliate, and all the
difficulties he has to conquer.

“I admire each day more fully the excellence of his character and the
kindness of his heart. Some foreigners are displeased at not having been
employed, although it did not depend on him to employ them; others,
whose ambitious projects he would not serve, and some intriguing jealous
men, have endeavored to injure his reputation; but his name will be
revered in every age by all true lovers of liberty and humanity.
Although I may appear to be eulogizing my friend, I believe that the
part he makes me act gives me the right of avowing publicly how much I
admire and respect him.

“America is most impatiently expecting us to declare for her, and France
will one day, I trust, determine to humble the pride of England. This
thought, and the measures which America appears determined to pursue,
give me great hopes for the glorious establishment of her independence.
We are not, I confess, as strong as I expected; but we are strong enough
to fight, and we shall do so, I think, with some degree of success. With
the assistance of France we shall gain the cause that I cherish, because
it is the cause of justice; because it honors humanity; because it is
important to my country; and because my American friends and myself are
deeply engaged in it. The approaching campaign will be an interesting
one. It is said that the English are sending against us some
Hanoverians; some time ago they threatened us with what was far
worse,—the arrival of some Russians. A slight menace from France would
lessen the number of these re-enforcements. The more I see of the
English, the more thoroughly convinced I am that it is necessary to
speak to them in a loud tone.

“After having wearied you with public affairs, you must not expect to
escape without being wearied also with my private affairs. It is
impossible to be more agreeably situated in a foreign country than I am.
I have only feelings of pleasure to express, and I have each day more
reason to be satisfied with the conduct of Congress towards me, although
my military occupations have allowed me to become personally acquainted
with but few of its members. Those I do know have especially loaded me
with marks of kindness and attention. The new president, Mr. Laurens,
one of the most respectable men of America, is my particular friend. As
to the army, I have had the happiness of obtaining the friendship of
every individual; not one opportunity is lost of giving me proofs of it.

“I passed the whole summer without receiving a division, which you know
had been my previous intention; I passed all that time at General
Washington’s house, where I felt as if I were with a friend of twenty
years’ standing. Since my return from Jersey, he has desired me to
choose among several brigades the division which may please me best. I
have chosen one entirely composed of Virginians. It is weak in point of
numbers at present, just in proportion, however, to the weakness of the
whole army, and almost in a state of nakedness; but I am promised cloth,
of which I shall make clothes, and recruits, of which soldiers must be
made, about the same period; but unfortunately the latter is the more
difficult task, even for more skilful men than I.

“The task I am performing here, if I have acquired sufficient experience
to perform it well, will improve exceedingly my future knowledge. The
major-general replaces the lieutenant-general and the field-marshal in
their most important functions, and I should have the power of employing
to advantage both my talents and experience, if Providence and my
extreme youth allowed me to boast of possessing either. I read, I study,
I examine, I listen, I reflect; and the result of all is the endeavor to
form an opinion into which I infuse as much common sense as possible. I
will not talk much for fear of saying foolish things; I will still less
risk acting much, for fear of doing foolish things; for I am not
disposed to abuse the confidence which the Americans have so kindly
placed in me. Such is the plan of conduct which I have followed until
now, and which I shall continue to follow; but when some plans occur to
me which I believe may become useful when properly rectified, I hasten
to impart them to a great judge, who is good enough to say he is pleased
with them.

“On the other hand, when my heart tells me that a favorable opportunity
offers, I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of participating in the
peril; but I do not think that the vanity of success ought to make us
risk the safety of an army, or of any portion of it, which may not be
formed or calculated for the offensive. If I could make an axiom with
the certainty of not saying a foolish thing, I should venture to add
that whatever may be our force, we must content ourselves with a
completely defensive plan, with the exception, however, of the moment
when we may be forced to action, because I think I have perceived that
the English troops are more astonished by a brisk attack than by a firm
resistance.

“This letter will be given you by the celebrated Adams, whose name must
undoubtedly be known to you. As I have never allowed myself to quit the
army, I have never seen him. He wished that I should give him letters of
introduction to France, especially to yourself. May I hope that you will
have the goodness to receive him kindly, and even to give him some
information respecting the present state of affairs? I fancied that you
would not be sorry to converse with a man whose merit is so universally
acknowledged. He desires ardently to succeed in obtaining the esteem of
our nation. One of his friends himself told me this.”

About this time a base and treacherous intrigue was formed against
Washington. General Gates’ victory over Burgoyne covered his name with a
blaze of glory, and censurers of Washington’s prudent policies were not
slow in suggesting that Horatio Gates was entitled to the honor of
receiving the post of commander-in-chief; and there were not wanting
ambitious partisans and disloyal spirits to swell the ranks of the
plotting discontents. Treachery and falsehood now joined their crafty
hands in fellowship, and together working their machinations, they
strove by base insinuations to break down the influence of Washington,
and even endeavored to enlist the true-hearted La Fayette in favor of
their vile schemes. But the friendship of the young marquis could not be
weakened by any artful plot, nor could his firm alliance be shaken by
any promises of rank or power.

It was at this time that he sent to Washington this manly and
appreciative letter:—

“MY DEAR GENERAL: I went yesterday morning to headquarters, with an
intention of speaking to your excellency, but you were too busy, and I
shall inform you in this letter what I wished to say.

“I don’t need to tell you that I am sorry for all that has happened for
some time past. My sorrow is a necessary consequence of my most tender
and respectful friendship for you, which affection is as true and candid
as the other sentiments of my heart, and much stronger than so new an
acquaintance seems to admit; but another reason to be concerned in the
present circumstances is the result of my ardent and perhaps
enthusiastic wishes for the happiness and liberty of this country. I see
plainly that America can defend herself if proper measures are taken,
and now I begin to fear lest she should be lost by herself and her own
sons.

“When I was in Europe, I thought that here almost every man was a lover
of liberty, and would rather die free than live a slave. You can
conceive of my astonishment when I saw that Toryism was as openly
professed as Whiggism itself; however, at that time I believed that all
good Americans were united together; that the confidence of Congress in
you was unbounded. Then I entertained the belief that America would be
independent in case she should not lose you. Take away for an instant
that modest diffidence of yourself (which, pardon my freedom, my dear
General, is sometimes too great, and I wish you could know as well as
myself what difference there is between you and every other man), you
would see very plainly that, if you were lost for America, there is
nobody who could hold the army and the revolution six months. There are
open discussions in Congress; parties who hate one another as much as
the common enemy; stupid men, who, without knowing a single word about
war, undertake to judge you, to make ridiculous comparisons. They are
infatuated with Gates, without thinking of the different circumstances,
and believe that attacking is the only thing necessary to conquer. These
ideas are entertained by some jealous men, and perhaps secret friends to
the British government, who want to push you, in a moment of ill-humor,
to some rash enterprise upon the lines, and against a much stronger
army. I should not take the liberty of mentioning these particulars if I
had not received a letter about this matter from a young, good-natured
gentleman at York, whom Conway has ruined by his cunning, but who
entertains the greatest respect for you.”

La Fayette then recounts the efforts which the enemies of Washington had
made to win his allegiance from the commander-in-chief, and closes by
reiterating his tender and profound respect.

Washington, in replying to this letter, thanks La Fayette for the “fresh
proof of friendship and attachment which it gave him,” and in conclusion
writes: “But we must not, in so great a contest, expect to meet nothing
but sunshine. I have no doubt that everything happens for the best, that
we shall triumph over all our misfortunes, and, in the end, be
happy,—when, my dear Marquis, if you will give me your company in
Virginia, we will laugh at our past difficulties and the folly of
others, and I will endeavor, by every civility in my power, to show you
how much, and how sincerely, I am your affectionate and obedient
servant.”

A new board of war had been instituted by Congress, designed to have a
general control of military affairs. Of this board Gates was made
president, and his influence was given in favor of measures contrary to
the views of Washington. As La Fayette could neither be persuaded nor
bribed to be false to Washington, the conspirators conceived a new plan.
An expedition into Canada was proposed, and Congress went so far as to
make a resolution regarding said expedition, and give all control of the
same into the hands of the Board of War. This was the opportunity wished
for by Washington’s enemies. Without consulting Washington, La Fayette
was informed that he was appointed to the command of this expedition,
and ordered to report at Albany, where the troops were to rendezvous.
The instructions given him were of the vaguest kind, and, as
after-events proved, intended to mislead him. Washington having advised
La Fayette to accept the commission, the marquis departed, taking with
him his countryman, the Baron de Kalb, as second in command. As
authority for these statements, we would refer to the “Mémoires et
Manuscrits” of La Fayette, published by his family in Paris, in 1837, in
which La Fayette himself declares these facts, and where the following
letter appears. A note is also added by his son, which says: “He wrote
to Congress that he could not accept the command only upon the condition
that he should remain subordinate to General Washington, and should be
considered as an officer despatched by him, to whom he should address
his letters, of which those received at the bureau of war should be but
duplicates. These demands, and all others which he had made, were
granted.” The result of this expedition may be learned by the
accompanying letter from La Fayette to Washington.

In previous letters, which we will not quote, the marquis entered into
minute details regarding the entire expedition, from the time of his
departure until his arrival at Albany, enumerating the many strange and
suspicious circumstances which came to his knowledge. He then sums up
the situation in the following letter:—




“MY DEAR GENERAL: I have an opportunity of writing to your Excellency,
which I will not miss by any means, even should I be afraid of becoming
tedious and troublesome; but if they have sent me far from you, I don’t
know for what purpose, at least I must make some little use of my pen,
to prevent all communication from being cut off between your Excellency
and myself. I have written lately to you my distressing, ridiculous,
foolish, and indeed nameless situation. I am sent with great noise, at
the head of an army, for doing great things; the whole continent, France
and Europe herself, and what is the worst, the British army, are in
great expectations. How far they will be deceived, how far we shall be
ridiculed, you may judge by the candid account you have got of the state
of affairs.

“There are things, I dare say, in which I am deceived; a certain colonel
is not here for nothing; one other gentleman became very popular before
I came to this place: Arnold himself is very fond of him. Every side on
which I turn to look I am sure a cloud is drawn before my eyes; but
there are points I cannot be deceived upon. The want of money, the
dissatisfaction among the soldiers, the disinclination of every one
(except the Canadians, who thereby would stay at home) for this
expedition, are as conspicuous as possible. I am sure I shall become
very ridiculous and be laughed at. _My expedition_ will be as famous as
the _secret expedition_ against Rhode Island. I confess, my dear
General, that I find myself of very sensitive feelings whenever my
reputation and glory are concerned in anything. It is very hard indeed
that such a part of my happiness, without which I cannot live, should
depend upon schemes which I never knew of but when there was no time to
put them into execution. I assure you, my most dear and respected
friend, that I am more unhappy than I ever was.

“My desire for doing something was such that I have thought of doing
it by surprise, with a detachment, but this seems to me rash and quite
impossible. I should be very happy if you were here to give me some
advice, but I have nobody to consult with. They have sent to me more
than twenty French officers, but I do not know what to do with them. I
beg you will acquaint me with the line of conduct you advise me to
follow on every point. I am at a loss how to act, and indeed I do not
know what I am here for myself. However, as being the highest officer
(after General Arnold) who has desired me to take the command, I think
it is my duty to guard the affairs of this part of America as well as
I can. Though General Gates holds the title and power of
commander-in-chief of the Northern Department, as two hundred thousand
dollars have arrived, I have taken upon myself to pay the most
important of the debts we are involved in. I am about sending
provisions to Fort Schuyler; and will go and see the fort. I will try
to get some clothes for the troops, and buy some articles for the next
campaign. I have directed some money to be borrowed upon my credit to
satisfy the soldiers, who are much discontented. In all I endeavor to
do for the best, though I have no particular authority or
instructions. I will come as near as I can to General Gates’
intentions, but I anxiously desire to get an answer to my letters.

“I fancy (between us) that the actual scheme is to have me out of this
part of the continent, and General Conway in chief command under the
immediate direction of General Gates. How they will bring it about I do
not know, but you may be sure something of that kind will appear. You
are nearer than myself, and every honest man in Congress is your friend;
therefore you can foresee and prevent, if possible, the evil, a hundred
times better than I can. I would only give the idea to your Excellency.

“Will you be so good as to present my respects to your lady? With the
most tender affection and highest respect I have the honor to be, etc.”

Deeply sympathizing with the trying position of the high-spirited young
marquis, Washington used his influence to have him recalled; but in such
manner as should honor his fidelity and exonerate his name from any
blame. His kind efforts in behalf of La Fayette were successful, and on
the second of March the Board of War was directed “to instruct the
Marquis de La Fayette to suspend for the present the intended invasion,
and at the same time inform him that Congress entertained a high sense
of his prudence, activity, and zeal; and that they were fully persuaded
nothing has or would have been wanting on his part, or on the part of
the officers who accompanied him, to give the expedition the utmost
possible effect.”

La Fayette accordingly returned to Valley Forge, and rejoined
Washington. How inexpressibly comforting to the harassed heart of
Washington must have been the faithfulness of this young knight, who
laid his sword and fortune at the feet of his adopted father, before
whose character and virtue he bowed with devotion and stanch loyalty.

On the 19th of May, 1778, Sir William Howe, then commanding the British
troops occupying Philadelphia, planned to give the fair Tory ladies a
delightful surprise. Valley Forge was about twenty miles from
Philadelphia, and already Washington had begun several manœuvres in
the opening campaign. La Fayette had been detached with a picked company
of two thousand men, and ordered to cross the Schuylkill, and take up
his post as an advance guard of the army. In accordance with these
instructions, the marquis had stationed himself at Barren Hill, about
midway between Valley Forge and Philadelphia. This interesting piece of
news soon reached Sir William Howe, and he thereupon determined to
entrap the marquis, and exhibit him at a banquet which he had ordered to
be prepared, and to which he had invited his lady friends, promising
that they should upon that occasion behold the captured marquis, whose
fame, fortune, youth, and chivalry had long engaged their attention and
excited their deepest curiosity, and caused them eagerly to desire a
sight of this young nobleman.

But Sir William Howe and his fair Tory friends reckoned without their
host. Though the marquis was scarcely twenty-one, he was not so easily
outwitted by even such a military tactician as the renowned British
commander. He also heard of this fine plan to entrap him, and determined
by a hazardous and brilliant manœuvre to elude his foe. There was but
one method practicable, but it required great daring and cunning. La
Fayette was convinced that he must recross the river. To attempt this
seemed destruction; but his inventive wit and quick planning came to his
rescue. He would feign an attack, himself lead a portion of his band
boldly against the British general, who had been stationed by Howe to
guard the ford. This he did, meanwhile ordering the remainder of his men
to cross the river under cover of this stratagem. The plan was entirely
successful. The British, imagining that La Fayette’s whole division was
coming against them, halted and prepared for battle. This delay was La
Fayette’s opportunity; perceiving that part of his troops had crossed
the river, according to directions, he slowly withdrew his own forces,
and ere his enemies were aware, his entire band had arrived on the other
side of the river; and when the British reached Barren Hill, La
Fayette’s late camp, their intended prey had escaped and were marching
towards Valley Forge.

“Finding the bird flown, the English returned to Philadelphia, spent
with fatigue and ashamed of having done nothing. The ladies did not see
M. de La Fayette, and General Howe himself arrived too late for supper.”

General Washington had watched through a glass the imminent peril which
threatened the marquis; and when he clasped him in his arms, his heart
was stirred, and his eyes glistened with deep feeling. Loud acclamations
saluted the gallant band of soldiers, and their young leader became only
second in their hearts to Washington. From that moment the influence of
La Fayette was unlimited. His youth made his exploit all the more
remarkable, and his courage won their profoundest admiration.

M. Chastellux, in his work entitled “Journey from Newport to
Philadelphia,” thus wrote of La Fayette’s influence in the army: “We
availed ourselves of the cessation of the rain to accompany his
Excellency [General Washington] to the camp of the marquis [General La
Fayette]. We found all his troops ranged in line of battle on the
heights to the left, and himself at their head, expressing both by his
deportment and physiognomy that he preferred seeing me there to
receiving me at his estate in Auvergne. The confidence and attachment of
his troops are most precious in his eyes; for he looks upon that species
of wealth as one of which he cannot be deprived. But what I find still
more flattering to a young man of his age, is the influence which he has
acquired in political as well as in military circles. I have no fear of
being contradicted when I assert that mere letters from him have often
had more influence in some of the states of the Union than the strongest
invitations on the part of the Congress. On seeing him it is difficult
to determine which is the more surprising circumstance, that a young man
should have already given so many proofs of talent, or that a man so
proved should still leave so much room for hope. Happy will his country
be if she knows how to avail herself of his aid; and happier still,
should that aid become superfluous to her!”

But just as the welcome words of commendation from his beloved chief
fell upon the ear of La Fayette, sad tidings were wafted to him from
over the sea. The darling little Henriette, who had not yet learned to
lisp her father’s name when he parted with her, but since then had tried
with baby prattle to tell her love for her _cher papa_, had been
stricken down; the infant tongue had been silenced, the wondering eyes
closed, and the devoted father must wait until he too passed beyond
life’s river, to be recognized by his much-loved Henriette.

With sorrowful heart he pens these touching lines to his idolized wife:—

“What a dreadful thing is absence! I never experienced before all the
horrors of separation. My own deep sorrow is aggravated by the feeling
that I am not able to share and sympathize in your anguish. The length
of time that elapsed before I heard of this event also increased my
misery. Consider, my love, what a dreadful thing it must be to weep for
what I have lost, and tremble for what remains. The distance between
Europe and America appears to me more enormous than ever. The loss of
our poor child is almost constantly in my thoughts. This sad news
followed almost immediately that of the treaty; and while my heart was
torn by grief, I was obliged to receive and take part in expressions of
public joy.

“If the unfortunate news had reached me sooner, I should have set out
immediately to rejoin you; but the account of the treaty, which we
received the first of May, prevented me from leaving this country. The
opening campaign does not allow me to retire. I have always been
perfectly convinced that by serving the cause of humanity and that of
America I serve also the interests of France.

“Embrace a million times our little Anastasie; alas! she is all that we
have left. I feel that my divided tenderness is now concentrated upon
her. Take the best care of her. Adieu!”

“Liberty’s in every blow!
Let us do or die.”—BURNS.

ON Sunday, the 28th of June, 1778, the battle of Monmouth was fought.
General Lee, who commanded the troops first in action, with seeming
treachery ordered a retreat; and though La Fayette endeavored to stem
the tide of defeat, a total rout seemed certain, when Washington rode
upon the field, and seeing his orders had been disobeyed, he accosted
Lee with cutting severity, and gave instant commands to turn about.
“_Long live Washington!_” rang the shout along the ranks, and the white
charger, bearing the chieftain, was looked upon as a herald of victory.
The irresistible genius of that quiet man turned back the tide of war,
and forced the British to retreat, and night alone prevented the
Americans from pushing on to a further attack. Everywhere had La Fayette
been seen encouraging his men. Where the greatest danger was, there was
always his place. With the utmost coolness he gave orders or obeyed the
directions of his chief. Colonel Willet, who had volunteered as an aide
to General Scott, who commanded the infantry, says that in the hottest
of the fight he saw La Fayette ride up, and in a voice cool, steady, and
slow, and with as much deliberation as if nothing exciting prevailed,
said: “General, the enemy is making an attempt to cut off our right
wing—march to its assistance with all your force.” So saying, he
galloped off, being exceedingly well mounted, though plainly dressed.

An officer under the immediate command of La Fayette said of him at this
battle: “I have been charmed with the blooming gallantry and sagacity of
the Marquis de La Fayette, who appears to be possessed of every
requisite to constitute a great general.”

In the “Historical Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis XVI.,” an incident of
this battle is related as follows:—

“During the American war a general officer in the service of the United
States advanced with a score of men, under the English batteries, to
reconnoitre their position.

“His aide-de-camp, struck by a ball, fell at his side, while the
officers and orderly dragoons fled precipitately. The general, though
under the fire of the cannon, approached the wounded man to see whether
he had any signs of life remaining, or whether any assistance could be
afforded him. Finding the wound had been mortal, he turned his eyes away
with emotion, and slowly rejoined the group which had gotten out of the
reach of the pieces. This instance of courage and humanity took place at
the battle of Monmouth. General Clinton, who commanded the English
troops, knew that the Marquis de La Fayette usually rode a white horse;
and it was upon a white horse that the general officer who retired so
slowly was mounted. Sir Henry Clinton, therefore, commanded the gunners
not to fire. This noble forbearance probably saved General La Fayette’s
life. At that time he was but twenty-two years of age.”

During the summer of 1778 an expedition against Newport, then held by
the British, was planned. A French fleet under Count d’Estaing had
arrived. The plan was to move against Newport by land and sea. When all
was arranged, the Count d’Estaing for some reason changed his purpose,
and the expedition was necessarily abandoned. In the negotiations La
Fayette displayed much zeal, and hearing that the American army was
flying before the enemy, he immediately started for the scene, and by
his intrepid courage turned the tide of pursuit, and brought back the
troops without the loss of a man. This brave conduct of La Fayette met
with universal commendation, and in his honor Congress passed the
following resolution:—

“_Resolved_, That Mr. President be requested to inform the Marquis de La
Fayette 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 on to Rhode Island, when the greatest part of the
army had retreated, and his good conduct in bringing off the pickets and
out-sentinels, deserve their particular approbation.”

Mr. Laurens, who was then President of Congress, accompanied this
resolution with the following letter:—

“PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 13, 1778.

“SIR: I experience a high degree of satisfaction in fulfilling the
instructions embraced in the enclosed act of Congress of the ninth
instant, which expresses the sentiments of the representatives of the
United States of America, relative to your excellent conduct during the
expedition recently undertaken against Rhode Island. Receive, Sir, this
testimonial on the part of Congress as a tribute of the respect and
gratitude offered to you by a free people.

“I have the honor to be with very great respect and esteem, Sir, your
obedient and most humble servant,

“HENRY LAURENS, President.”

To these communications La Fayette replied:—

“CAMP, Sept. 23, 1778.

“Sir: I have just received the letter of the 13th instant with which you
have favored me, and in which you communicate the honor which Congress
has been pleased to confer by the adoption of its flattering resolution.
Whatever sentiments of pride may be reasonably excited by such marks of
approbation, I am not the less sensible of the feelings of gratitude,
nor of the satisfaction of believing that my efforts have, in some
measure, been considered as useful to a cause in which my heart is so
deeply interested. Have the goodness, Sir, to present to Congress my
unfeigned and humble thanks, springing from the bottom of my heart, and
accompanied with the assurances of my sincere and perfect attachment, as
the only homage worthy of being offered to the representatives of a free
people.

“From the moment that I first heard the name of America, I loved her;
from the moment that I learned her struggles for liberty, I was inflamed
with the desire of shedding my blood in her cause; and the moments that
may be expended in her service, whenever they may occur, or in whatever
part of the world I may be, shall be considered as the happiest of my
existence. I feel more ardently than ever the desire of deserving the
obliging sentiments with which I am honored by the United States and by
their representatives, and the flattering confidence which they have
been pleased to repose in me has filled my heart with the liveliest
gratitude and most lasting affection.”

La Fayette’s youthful enthusiasm and his love of his country were both
so intense that his first impulse was to resent any national slight as a
personal affront.

La Fayette wanted to send a challenge, in 1778, to Lord Carlisle, an
English commissioner, who, in a letter to the American Congress, had in
his opinion used a phrase insulting to France. Washington at once wrote
to him disapproving the challenge.

“The generous spirit of chivalry,” he said, “when banished from the rest
of the world has taken refuge, my dear friend, in the highly wrought
feelings of your nation. But you cannot do anything if the other party
will not second you; and though these feelings may have been suitable to
the times to which they belonged, it is to be feared that in our day
your adversary, taking shelter behind modern opinions and his public
character, may even slightly ridicule so old-fashioned a virtue.
Besides, even supposing his lordship should accept your challenge,
experience has proved that chance, far more than bravery or justice,
decides in such affairs. I therefore should be very unwilling to risk,
on this occasion, a life which ought to be reserved for greater things.
I trust that his Excellency, Admiral the Count d’Estaing, will agree
with me in this opinion, and that so soon as he can part with you, he
will send you to headquarters, where I shall be truly glad to welcome
you.”

The English commissioner, as Washington had anticipated, declined the
challenge upon public grounds, adding: “In my opinion such national
disputes may be best settled by the fleets under Admiral Byron and the
Count d’Estaing.”

About this time La Fayette wrote from his camp to Washington, as
follows:—

“Give me joy, my dear General: I intend to have your picture. Mr.
Hancock has promised me a copy of the one he has in Boston. He gave one
to Count d’Estaing, and I never saw a man so glad at possessing his
sweetheart’s picture as the admiral was to receive yours.”

To these fond words Washington thus replied:—

“The sentiments of affection and attachment which breathe so
conspicuously in all your letters to me are at once pleasing and
honorable, and afford me abundant cause to rejoice at the happiness of
my acquaintance with you. Your love of liberty, the just sense you
entertain of this valuable blessing, and your noble and disinterested
exertions in the cause of it, added to the innate goodness of your
heart, conspire to render you dear to me; and I think myself happy in
being linked with you in bonds of the strictest friendship.

“The ardent zeal which you have displayed during the whole course of the
campaign to the eastward, and your endeavors to cherish harmony among
the officers of the allied powers, and to dispel those unfavorable
impressions which had begun to take place in the minds of the
unthinking, from misfortunes which the utmost stretch of human foresight
could not avert, deserved, and now receive, my particular and warmest
thanks.

“Could I have conceived that my picture had been an object of your
wishes, or in the smallest degree worthy of your attention, I should,
while Mr. Peale was in camp at Valley Forge, have got him to take the
best portrait of me he could, and presented it to you; but I really had
not so good an opinion of my own worth as to suppose that such a
compliment would not have been considered as a greater instance of my
vanity, than means of your gratification; and therefore, when you
requested me to sit to Monsieur Lanfang, I thought it was only to obtain
the outlines and a few shades of my features, to have some prints struck
from.”

Reports now reached La Fayette that the French ministry were planning an
attack upon England; whereupon he wrote to the Duke d’Ayen:—

“I should consider myself as almost dishonored if I were not present at
such a moment. I should feel so much regret and shame, that I should be
tempted to drown or hang myself, according to the English mode. My
greatest happiness would be to drive them from this country, and then to
repair to England, serving under your command.”

Feeling that his presence was now required in France, and that he could
there best serve America, La Fayette solicited from Congress a leave of
absence, that he might return to his own country. General Washington
sent the following letter to the President of Congress by La Fayette:—

“HEADQUARTERS, Oct. 6, 1778.

“SIR: This letter will be presented to you by Major-General La Fayette.
The generous motives which formerly induced him to cross the ocean, and
serve in the armies of the United States are known to Congress. The same
praiseworthy reasons now urge him to return to his native country, which
under the existing circumstances has a claim to his services.

“However anxious he was to fulfil the duty which he owes to his king and
country, that powerful consideration could not induce him to leave this
continent while the fate of the campaign remains undecided. He is,
therefore, determined to remain until the termination of the present
campaign, and takes advantage of the present cessation from hostilities
to communicate his designs to Congress, so that the necessary
arrangements may be made at a convenient season, while he is at hand, if
occasion should offer, to distinguish himself in the army.

“At the same time, the marquis, being desirous of preserving his
connection with this country, and hoping that he may enjoy opportunities
of being useful to it as an American officer, only solicits leave of
absence, for the purpose of embracing the views which have been already
suggested. The pain which it costs me to separate from an officer who
possesses all the military fire of youth, with a rare maturity of
judgment, would lead me, if the choice depended on my wishes, to place
his absence on the footing which he proposes. I shall always esteem it a
pleasure to be able to give those testimonials of his service to which
they are entitled, from the bravery and conduct which have distinguished
him on every occasion; and I do not doubt that Congress will, in a
proper manner, express how sensibly they appreciate his merits and how
much they regret his departure. I have the honor to be, etc.,

“GEORGE WASHINGTON.”

La Fayette proceeded to Philadelphia, bearing this letter from
Washington. Having arrived there, he at once addressed the following
letter to the President of Congress:—

“PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 13, 1778.

“SIR: However attentive I ought to be not to employ the precious moments
of Congress in the consideration of private affairs, I beg leave, with
that confidence which naturally springs from affection and gratitude, to
unfold to them the circumstances in which I am at present situated. It
is impossible to speak more appropriately of the sentiments which attach
me to my own country than in the presence of citizens who have done so
much for their own. So long as I have had the power of regulating my own
actions, it has been my pride and pleasure to fight beneath the banners
of America in the defence of a cause which I may dare more particularly
to call _ours_, as I have shed my blood in its support.

“Now, Sir, that France is engaged in war, I am urged, both by duty and
patriotism, to present myself before my sovereign, to know in what
manner he may be pleased to employ my services. The most pleasing
service that I can render will be that which enables me to serve the
common cause among those whose friendships I have had the happiness to
obtain, and in whose fortunes I participated when your prospects were
less bright than they now are. This motive, together with others which
Congress will appreciate, induce me to request permission to return to
my own country in the ensuing winter. So long as a hope remained of an
active campaign, I never indulged the idea of leaving the army, but the
present state of peace and inaction leads me to prefer to Congress this
petition. If it should be pleased to grant my request, the arrangements
for my departure shall be taken in such a manner that the result of the
campaign shall be known before they are put into execution. I enclose a
letter from his Excellency, General Washington, consenting to the leave
of absence which I wish to obtain. I flatter myself that you will
consider me as a soldier on leave of absence, ardently wishing to rejoin
his colors as well as his beloved comrades. If, when I return to the
midst of my fellow-citizens, it is believed that I can, in any manner,
promote the prosperity of America, if my most strenuous exertions can
promise any useful results, I trust, Sir, that I shall always be
considered as the man who has the prosperity of the United States most
at heart, and who entertains for their representatives the most perfect
love and esteem. I have the honor to be, etc.,

“LA FAYETTE.”

Congress readily granted this request, and after directing that a letter
should be written to La Fayette thanking him for his disinterested zeal
and the services which he had rendered to the United States, Congress
passed the resolution 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 de La Fayette.”

While La Fayette was making his preparations to return to France, he was
stricken down by a violent fever which for a time threatened to be
fatal. The entire army displayed the most intense interest regarding his
state, and great was the joy when the physicians at length announced
that the marquis would recover. General Washington visited him daily at
Fishkill, where he was taken sick, and paid him every kind and tender
attention in his power. During La Fayette’s convalescence a gentleman
visited him, who thus describes his appearance at that time:—

“By the request of Colonel Gibson I waited on the Marquis de La Fayette.
The Colonel furnished me with a letter of introduction, and his
compliments, with inquiries respecting the Marquis’ health. I was
received by this nobleman in a polite and affable manner. He is just
recovering from a fever, and is in his chair of convalescence. He is
nearly six feet high, large, but not corpulent, being not more than
twenty-two years of age. He is not very elegant in his form, his
shoulders being broad and high, nor is there a perfect symmetry in his
features; his forehead is remarkably high, his nose large and long,
eyebrows prominent and projecting over a fine animated hazel eye. His
countenance is interesting and impressive. He converses in broken
English, and displays the manners and address of an accomplished
gentleman.”

A vessel called the _Alliance_ had been furnished La Fayette for his
voyage to France. On January 11, 1779, he penned these farewell lines to
Washington, written on board the _Alliance_:—

“Farewell, my dear General. I hope your French friend will ever be dear
to you. I hope I shall soon see you again, and tell you myself with what
emotion I now leave the coast you inhabit, and with what affection and
respect I am forever, my dear General, your respectful and sincere
friend,

LA FAYETTE.”

But notwithstanding the face of the young marquis was thus set homeward,
it was not all smooth sailing. Terrible storms tossed the little vessel
to and fro, and for a time it seemed as though the huge waves would
engulf the frigate. The main top-mast was blown away, the vessel rolled
upon the heavy swells, apparently at the mercy of the tempest, while the
dashing billows broke over the dismantled craft, which was soon half
filled with water, and seemed doomed to destruction.

But the darkness of the stormy night was followed by the radiance of a
calm and lovely morning. The golden sunshine flooded the surface of the
ocean, and the _Alliance_ sailed safely on her homeward way. But storms
were not the only dangers which beset the path of La Fayette. A mutinous
plot was formed among the sailors, and only the promptness and energy of
the marquis, in ordering the arrest of thirty-one of the mutineers, and
placing them in irons, so awed the others that tranquillity was secured.

With what inexpressible eagerness La Fayette must have turned to watch
the first glimpse of his beloved land—that land where dwelt his idolized
wife and little babe whose eyes had never yet rested on its father’s
face.

His fame had gone before him, and his name was known and spoken with
pride and honor in every city and hamlet of his native country. La
Fayette landed at Brest in February.

His daughter thus describes her mother’s ecstasy at this longed-for
meeting:—

“The intensity of my mother’s joy was beyond all expression.

“This happiness was soon disturbed by fresh alarms which prevented her
enjoying in peace my father’s return. A projected invasion of England
detained him a long time on the coast. During his stay in France he was
continually employed in preparing fresh enterprises. My mother’s health
was shaken at once by past anxieties and by the dread of future dangers.
On the 24th of December, 1779, my brother was born.”

This brother of Virginie La Fayette was named George Washington La
Fayette, in honor of his father’s revered friend. The expedition against
England was, however, abandoned; and La Fayette turned his attention to
forwarding the interests of America, by soliciting for her army
assistance in men, money, and clothing. So earnest was his zeal that he
offered to pledge his entire fortune in the cause of the Republic. He
wrote as follows to President Laurens:—

“The affairs of America I shall ever look upon as my first business
while I am in Europe. Any confidence from the king and ministers, any
popularity I may have among my own countrymen, any means in my power,
shall be, to the best of my skill, and to the end of my life, exerted in
behalf of an interest I have so much at heart. If Congress believe that
my influence may serve them in any way, I beg they will direct such
orders to me, that I may the more certainly and properly employ the
knowledge which I have of this court and country for obtaining a success
in which my heart is so much interested.

“The flattering affection with which Congress and the American nation
are pleased to honor me, makes me very desirous of letting them know—if
I dare speak so frankly—how I enjoyed my private position. Happy in the
sight of my friends and family, after I was by your attentive kindness
safely brought again to my native shore, I met with such an honorable
reception, and such kind sentiments as far exceeded any wishes I could
have conceived. I am indebted for that inexpressible satisfaction which
the good will of my countrymen towards me affords to my heart, to their
ardent love for America, to the cause of freedom and its defenders,
their new allies, and to the idea which they entertain, that I have had
the happiness to serve the United States. To these motives, Sir, and to
the letter Congress was pleased to write on my account, I owe the many
favors the king has conferred upon me. Without delay I was appointed to
the command of his own regiment of dragoons, and everything he could
have done, everything I could have wished, I have received on account of
your kind recommendations.”

The sword which Congress had voted should be presented to him was
finished in August. It was of very elegant workmanship. Among other
elaborate designs with which it was ornamented were representations of
the battle of Gloucester, the retreat of Barren Hill, the battle of
Monmouth, and the retreat of Rhode Island. The sword was presented to
the Marquis de La Fayette by a grandson of Dr. Franklin, accompanied by
a letter written by Benjamin Franklin, in which he said, “By the help of
the exquisite artists France affords, I find it easy to express
everything but the _sense we have of your worth and our obligations to
you_.”

So enthusiastic were La Fayette’s efforts in behalf of America, and such
was his perseverance, that the prime minister of France exclaimed in
astonishment, “He would unfurnish the palace of Versailles to clothe the
American army!” to which La Fayette, eagerly responded, “_I would!_”

At length La Fayette received the welcome tidings that the king and
ministry had at last acceded to his repeated requests; and he was
instructed “to proceed immediately to join General Washington, and to
communicate to him the secret that the king, willing to give the United
States a new proof of his affection and of his interest in their
security, is resolved to send to their aid, at the opening of the
spring, six vessels of the line and six thousand regular troops of
infantry.”

On the 19th of March, 1780, La Fayette sailed from France to bear to
America this joyful news; and at the entrance of Boston harbor he wrote
these words of greeting to Washington, and despatched them by a
messenger to announce his arrival:—

“Here I am, my dear General, and in the midst of the joy I feel in
finding myself again one of your loving soldiers, I take but the time to
tell you that I came from France on board a frigate which the king gave
me for my passage. I have affairs of the utmost importance, which I
should at first communicate to you alone. In case my letter finds you
anywhere this side of Philadelphia, I beg you will wait for me, and do
assure you a great public good may be derived from it. To-morrow we go
up to the town, and the day after I shall set off in my usual way to
join my beloved and respected friend and general.”

When La Fayette landed in Boston he was received with marked attention.
The day was given up to public rejoicing; bells were rung, cannon
boomed, and the shouts of the cheering multitude, mingled with the
strains of martial music, as America paid homage to her adopted son. But
these public honors, gratifying as they were, could not detain the
faithful young hero, whose first desire was to clasp to his heart the
form of his adopted father and to look into the face of his beloved
general. Perhaps nowhere else in history is another instance of such
peculiar love and lasting friendship as was displayed by La Fayette and
Washington. The young knight bowed at the feet of his chief, regarding
him as something almost more than mortal in the perfection of his
character and the attraction of his nature; while the general, upon
whose shoulders rested the responsibility of a nation, felt his heart
lightened and his soul comforted by the sympathy and appreciation of
this self-sacrificing young marquis.

Congress was not tardy now in rendering appropriate thanks to the young
marquis, and passed a resolution in his honor. But Congress was not so
ready to come to the help of the suffering American army. Washington
again made an appeal in their behalf. “For the troops to be without
clothing at any time,” he wrote, “is highly injurious to the service and
distressing to our feelings; but the want will be more peculiarly
mortifying when they come to act with those of our allies.”

La Fayette, as usual, started a relief fund from his private purse,
offering the ladies of Philadelphia, who were making donations in aid of
the suffering troops, one hundred guineas in the name of Madame La
Fayette.

Amid innumerable discouragements Washington prepared for the coming
campaign. It was not until July that the long-expected French fleet
arrived, and then only part of the promised assistance. Five thousand
five hundred men were sent, leaving two thousand, with all the arms,
munitions of war, and clothing promised to La Fayette, to follow later.
The intention of the American army had been to unite with the French
allies in an attack upon New York. But the second part of the French
fleet was blockaded in the port of Brest by a British squadron, thus
disconcerting all the plans of the allies. The immediate attack upon New
York was accordingly abandoned.

It was in September of this year, 1780, that the treachery of Benedict
Arnold was consummated. Washington had, at the earnest solicitation of
La Fayette, left the camp to meet with Count de Rochambeau, the leader
of the French forces, and the Chevalier de Ternay, the admiral of the
French fleet. This important interview had been arranged to take place
at Hartford, Conn. It was during the absence of Washington that the
traitor Arnold carried into execution his infamous plot. La Fayette thus
describes his discovery of the nefarious deed, in a letter to the
Chevalier de la Luzerne:—

“When I parted from you yesterday, Sir, to come and breakfast here with
General Arnold, we were far from foreseeing the event which I am now
going to relate to you. You will shudder at the danger to which we were
exposed; you will admire the miraculous chain of unexpected events and
singular chances which have saved us; but you will be still more
astonished when you learn by what instrument this conspiracy has been
formed. West Point was sold,—_and sold by Arnold_,—the same man who
formerly acquired glory by rendering such immense services to his
country. He had lately entered in a horrible compact with the enemy and
but for the accident which brought us here at a certain hour, but for
the combination of chances that threw the adjutant-general of the
British army into the hands of some peasants, beyond the limits of our
stations, at West Point and on the North River, they would both at
present, in all probability, be in the possession of the enemy.

[Illustration: ROCHAMBEAU]

“When we set out yesterday for Fishkill, we were preceded by one of my
aides-de-camp and one of General Washington’s [Colonels Hamilton and
McHenry], who found General Arnold and his wife at breakfast, and sat
down at the table with them. While they were together, two letters were
given to Arnold, which apprised him of the arrest of the spy. He ordered
a horse to be saddled, went into his wife’s room to tell her he was
ruined, and desired his aide-de-camp to inform General Washington that
he was going to West Point, and would return in the course of an hour.

“On our arrival here we crossed the river and went to examine the works.
You may conceive our astonishment when we learned, on our return, that
the arrested spy was Major André, adjutant-general of the English army;
and when among his papers were discovered the copy of an important
council of war, the state of the garrison and works, and observations
upon various means of attack and defence, the whole in Arnold’s own
handwriting.

“The adjutant-general wrote also to the general avowing his name and
situation. Orders were sent to arrest Arnold; but he escaped in a boat,
got on board the English frigate, the _Vulture_, and as no person
suspected his flight, he was not stopped at any post. Colonel Hamilton,
who had gone in pursuit of him, received soon after, by a flag of truce,
a letter from Arnold to the general, in which he entered into details to
justify his treachery, and a letter from the English commander,
Robertson, who, in a very insolent manner, demanded that the
adjutant-general should be delivered up to them, as he had only acted
with the permission of General Arnold.”

La Fayette was one of the fourteen generals who tried Major André, and
who were forced to the painful decision that the interests of America
demanded that he should suffer the extreme penalty of the law, as a spy,
which was death by hanging. Washington would have been glad to exchange
André for the traitor Arnold, that to him might be meted out his just
deserts; but Sir Henry Clinton would not give up Arnold, though he made
efforts to save André. Arnold’s villany was afterwards rewarded by the
commission of brigadier-general in the British army, and he was placed
at the head of some English troops then ravaging the southern part of
Virginia. His malignant spirit gloated in acts of atrocious cruelty, and
he allowed his men to pillage and destroy, sparing neither old nor
young, neither women nor children.

La Fayette now entered upon a series of marches, manœuvres,
skirmishes, and strategic expeditions, which ended at last in the
capture of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown: this was largely due to La
Fayette’s successive masterly stratagems and skilful plans. It has been
said of La Fayette, that his name was never tarnished by a single
military blunder. Others have displayed equal courage in the face of
dangers, and calmness on the field of battle, but his military genius
consisted in a tact and skill in extricating an army from apparently
insurmountable perils that would have baffled veteran generals well
versed in the stratagems of war.

But the untiring soldier was none the less a tender father and devoted
husband; in the midst of preparations for the coming campaign he
snatches a moment to write thus fondly to his “dearest heart”:—

“The Americans continue to testify for me the greatest kindness. There
is no proof of affection which I do not receive each day from the army
and nation. I experience for the American officers and soldiers that
friendship which arises from having shared with them for a length of
time dangers, sufferings, and both good and evil fortune. We began by
struggling together, for our affairs have often been at the lowest
possible ebb. It is gratifying to me to crown this work with them by
giving the European troops a high idea of the soldiers who have been
allied with us. To all these motives of interest for the cause and the
army are joined my sentiments of regard for General Washington.

“Embrace our children a thousand and a thousand times for me. Their
father, although a wanderer, is not less tender, nor less constantly
occupied with them, and not less happy at receiving news from them. My
heart dwells with peculiar delight on the moment when those dear
children will be presented to me by you, and when we can embrace and
caress them together.”

Having sent this loving message across the sea, the young knight-errant
entered upon another campaign in defence of liberty. Sir Henry Clinton
had sent out two thousand men under General Phillips to re-enforce
Arnold in Virginia. Learning this, Washington despatched La Fayette to
Virginia, to take command of the troops there collecting, and to
prevent, if possible, any junction of Phillips with Cornwallis. The
marquis was only too eager for active duty, and took up his line of
march with the troops previously under his charge, for Baltimore. But
these northern soldiers soon began to express their dissatisfaction with
such an expedition. They were without tents, shoes, hats, and, as the
marquis said, “in a state of shocking nakedness”; and they refused to
continue this unlooked-for march. To render his condition still more
distressing, La Fayette was informed by the Board of War that they were
utterly unable to render his troops any aid.

La Fayette’s nature seemed rather to be nerved by obstacles to greater
strength and superior judgment than weakened and discouraged. A
perplexing dilemma was often his greatest opportunity. Washington could
not aid him, the Board of War announced themselves powerless; and La
Fayette was left to face his overwhelming perplexities alone.

He boldly issued an order to his troops, in which he sympathized with
their hardships, and frankly told them that he was about to enter upon
an enterprise, of great difficulty and danger, and expressed his
confidence that his soldiers would join him in the hazardous expedition.
But if any should be unwilling to accompany him, he assured them that a
free permit would be given them to join their corps in the North, and
that by applying to him, they could be saved from the crime and disgrace
of desertion. Not a man after that left the heroic band, and a lame
sergeant hired a place in a cart that he might keep up with the army.

Arriving at Baltimore, La Fayette borrowed upon his personal credit ten
thousand dollars, which he immediately appropriated to supplying the
needs of his soldiers. He wrote to General Greene thus:—

“As our brave and excellent men are shockingly destitute of linen, I
have borrowed, from the merchants of Baltimore a sum on my credit which
will amount to to about two thousand pounds, and will procure hats,
shoes, blankets, and a pair of linen overalls to each man. I hope to set
the Baltimore ladies at work upon the shirts, which will be sent after
me, and the overalls will be made by our tailors. I will use my
influence to have the money added to the loan which the French court
have made to the United States, and in case I cannot succeed, bind
myself to the merchants for payment, with interest, in two years.”

Most willingly did the ladies of Baltimore give their aid in preparing
garments for the troops, and La Fayette proceeded with his division
towards Virginia. Phillips and Arnold had separated their forces for a
time, that they might better carry on their work of pillaging; but in
April they reunited their divisions, and planned an attack upon
Richmond.

But the vigilant marquis was before them; marching with great celerity,
he entered and took possession of the city, and was there joined by
Baron Steuben, with his corps of regular troops, and by General Nelson,
with a band of Virginia militia. The chagrin of the British was intense
when they discovered that they had been outwitted by La Fayette and that
he had gained this important post.

La Fayette thus describes to Washington his position at this time:—

“When General Phillips retreated from Richmond, his project was to stop
at Williamsburg, there to collect contributions which he had imposed.
This induced me to take a position between Pamunkey and Chickahominy
rivers, which equally covered Richmond and some other interesting parts
of the state, and from where I detached General Nelson with some militia
towards Williamsburg. Having got as low down as that place, General
Phillips seemed to discover an intention to make a landing, but upon
advices received by a vessel from Portsmouth, the enemy weighed anchor,
and, with all the sail they could crowd, hastened up the river.

“This intelligence made me apprehensive that the enemy intended to
manœuvre me out of Richmond, where I returned immediately, and again
collected our small force. Intelligence was the same day received that
Lord Cornwallis—who, I had been assured, had embarked at Wilmington—was
marching through North Carolina. This was confirmed by the landing of
General Phillips at Brandon, south side of James River.

“Apprehending that both armies would meet at a central point, I marched
towards Petersburg, and intended to have established a communication
over Appomattox and James rivers; but on the 9th General Phillips took
possession of Petersburg, a place where, his right flank being covered
by James River, his front by Appomattox, on which the brigades had been
destroyed in the first part of the invasion, and his left not being open
to assault except by a long circuit through fords that at this season
are very uncertain, I could not—even with an equal force—have got any
chance of fighting him unless I had given up this side of James River
and the country from which re-enforcements are expected. It being the
enemy’s choice to force us to an action, while their own position
insured them against our enterprises, I thought it proper to shift this
situation, and marched the greater part of our troops to this place
[Welton], about ten miles below Richmond. Letters from General Nash,
General Jones, and General Sumner are positive as to the arrival of
Colonel Tarleton, and announce that of Lord Cornwallis at Halifax.

“Having received a request from North Carolina for ammunition, I made a
detachment of five hundred men, under General Muhlenburg, to escort
twenty thousand cartridges over Appomattox, and, to divert the enemy’s
attention, Colonel Gimat, with his battalion and four field-pieces,
commanded their position from this side of the river. I hope our
ammunition will arrive safely, as before General Muhlenburg returned he
put it in a safe road with proper directions. On the 13th General
Phillips died, and the command devolved upon General Arnold. General
Wayne’s detachment has not yet been heard from. Before he arrives it
becomes very dangerous to risk an engagement where—as the British armies
are vastly superior to us—we shall certainly be beaten, and by the loss
of arms, the dispersion of militia, and the difficulty of a junction
with General Wayne, we may lose a less dangerous chance of resistance.”

La Fayette, meanwhile, endeavored to strengthen his forces, and so
disciplined his troops that they became prepared to act with the
greatest efficiency and celerity at a moment’s notice. It was at this
time that La Fayette received a letter from Arnold, in continuance of a
correspondence which the marquis had opened with Phillips previous to
his death, regarding an exchange of prisoners. When the letter from the
infamous traitor was brought to him by a messenger, La Fayette refused
to touch the document, while he assured the bearer that he would hold no
communication whatever with its author, adding, “In case any other
English officer should honor him with a letter, he would always be happy
to give the officers every testimony of esteem.”

General Washington warmly commended this action, and wrote to La
Fayette: “Your conduct upon every occasion meets my approbation, but in
none more than in your refusing to hold correspondence with Arnold.”

Lord Cornwallis now assumed chief command of the English army. On the
24th of May Cornwallis crossed the James River, at the head of all his
troops, and made his first direct advance upon La Fayette. The marquis
had retreated to Richmond, and thus writes to Washington: “Were I
anyways equal to the enemy, I should be extremely happy; but I am not
strong enough even to get beaten. The government in this state has no
energy, and the laws have no force; but I hope the present Assembly will
put matters on a better footing. I had a great deal of trouble to put
things in a tolerable train; our expenses were enormous, and yet we can
get nothing. Arrangements for the present would seem to put on a better
face but for this superiority of the enemy, who will chase us wherever
they please. They can overrun the country, and, until the Pennsylvanians
arrive, we are next to nothing in point of opposition to so large a
force. This country begins to be as familiar to me as Tappan and Bergen.
Our soldiers are hitherto very healthy. I have turned doctor, and
regulate their diet.”

The English looked with exultation and disdain upon their apparently
weak foe, and Lord Cornwallis wrote with confidence, “_The boy cannot
escape me!_” But the despised “boy” was of a more heroic and
irresistible nature than the proud general imagined, and would yet give
him a most perplexing chase, and at length catch his boastful foe in so
cunning a trap that all the English hosts could not deliver him; and
this same “boy” should stand by and witness his surrender.

[Illustration: Cornwallis]

For some time a sort of military game of “hide-and-seek” was kept up by
Lord Cornwallis and La Fayette. It was Cornwallis’ plan to entrap him;
it was La Fayette’s plan to elude him. The marquis moved his division
with such unexpected celerity, that when the English general thought
that he had him securely hedged in at any particular point, he would
straightway find, to his chagrin, that his antagonist was miles away,
sometimes before him, sometimes behind him, now on this side, then on
that, and on one occasion, in order to guard some valuable stores at
Albemarle Old Court House, La Fayette passed his foe in the night; and
while Cornwallis supposed that he had so disposed of his force that the
enemy must be entrapped, and smiled to himself at the easy manner in
which the prey would fall into his hands in the morning, as all the
roads to Albemarle Court House had been carefully guarded, the marquis
played his own little strategic game, and when the day dawned, the proud
English lord, with deep mortification, received tidings that his
adversary was already before him, on the direct road to Albemarle, and
his English lordship had been baffled in securing either the coveted
stores or the more coveted American army.

On the 6th of July occurred a brisk skirmish between the opposing
forces. The British army were crossing the James River, on the march
from Williamsburg to Portsmouth. La Fayette, thinking that the larger
part of the troops had already crossed, ordered an attack to be made
upon what he supposed to be the rear-guard. This time he had indeed
fallen into one of Lord Cornwallis’ traps. In order to deceive the
Americans, only a small detachment had been sent forward, and when it
was attacked by the force under General Wayne, known as “Mad Antony,”
the little band of Americans found themselves facing the entire English
force. La Fayette, who was stationed at a short distance with the main
army, rightly conjectured, from the very heavy firing, that more than a
rear-guard were engaged, and sent assistance to Wayne, with orders to
fall back. So swift had been the attack and so sudden the retreat, that
Cornwallis suspected a snare, and did not follow up his triumph.

General Wayne thus described the attack: “This was a severe conflict.
Our field officers were generally dismounted by having their horses
killed or wounded under them. I will not condole with the marquis for
the loss of two of his as he was frequently requested to keep at a
greater distance. His natural bravery rendered him deaf to admonition.”

General Wayne’s conduct was thus praised by La Fayette: “It is enough
for the glory of General Wayne and the officers and men he commanded to
have attacked the whole British army with a reconnoitring party only,
close to their encampment, and by this severe skirmish hastened their
retreat over the river.”

Active warfare was now for a time suspended. Cornwallis was intrenched
at Portsmouth, and La Fayette occupied himself in watching his enemy
with untiring vigilance. The marquis succeeded in having his own servant
hired by Cornwallis as a spy, and by this means, as the man was always
true to his first master, La Fayette was enabled to keep well posted
concerning all the movements in the opposing encampment.

To General Washington La Fayette thus writes:—

“I am an entire stranger to everything that passes out of Virginia, and
Virginia operations being for the present in a state of languor, I have
more time to think of my solitude. In a word, my dear General, I am
homesick, and if I cannot go to headquarters, wish, at least, to hear
from thence. I am anxious to know your opinion concerning the Virginia
campaign. That the subjugation of this state was the great object of the
ministry is an indisputable fact. I think your diversion has been of
more use to the state than my manœuvres, but the latter have been
much directed by political views. So long as my lord wished for an
action, not one gun has been fired; but the moment he declined it, we
began skirmishing, though I took care never to commit the army. His
naval superiority, his superiority of horse, of regulars, his thousand
advantages over us, are such that I am lucky to have come off safe. I
had an eye upon European negotiations, and made it a point to give his
lordship the disgrace of a retreat.

“From every account, it appears that a part of the army will embark. The
light infantry, the guards, the 80th Regiment, and Queen’s Rangers are,
it is said, destined for New York. Lord Cornwallis, I am told, is much
disappointed in his hopes of command. Should he go to England, we are, I
think, to rejoice for it. He is a cold and active man,—two dangerous
qualities in this southern war.

“The clothing you long ago sent to the light infantry has not yet
arrived. I have been obliged to send for it, and expect it in a few
days. These three battalions are the best troops that ever took the
field. My confidence in them is unbounded. They are far superior to any
British troops, and none will ever venture to meet them in equal
numbers. What a pity these men are not employed along with the French
grenadiers; they would do eternal honor to our arms! But their presence
here, I must confess, has saved this state, and, indeed, the southern
part of the continent.”

Hearing that the expected French fleet was to arrive in Chesapeake Bay,
instead of New York harbor, the contemplated attack upon New York was
abandoned by Washington, and Virginia was chosen as the scene of action.
Washington accordingly prepared for a southern movement with great
prudence and secrecy. Count de Rochambeau was in favor of the
expedition, and readily assented to join Washington’s forces with the
French under his command. For a time Washington did not dare to make
known his plans to La Fayette, lest his despatches should fall into the
hands of the enemy; but he requested La Fayette to remain in Virginia,
adding, “You will not regret this, especially when I tell you that, from
the change of circumstances with which the removal of part of the
enemy’s forces from Virginia to New York will be attended, it is more
than probable we shall also entirely change our plan of operations.”

This hint was sufficient for the keen-witted marquis, who answered: “I
am of the opinion, with you, that I had better remain in Virginia. I
have pretty well understood you, my dear General, but should be happy to
have more minute details, which, I am aware, cannot be intrusted to
letters.”

La Fayette also wrote to his wife: “It was not prudent in the general to
confide to me such a command. If I had been unfortunate, the public
would have called that partiality an error of judgment.”

But Washington well knew the character and capacity of the young
marquis, and trusted him probably more than his older and more
experienced generals. La Fayette had already proved that his courage
would never lead him to make rash ventures, but when hazardous
enterprises were necessary, no danger could unnerve him, and no
unexpected dilemma could confuse him.

On the 30th of August the French fleet under Count de Grasse arrived.
The Marquis de Saint-Simon landed with three thousand men, and La
Fayette joined his force to them and took up a strong position at
Williamsburg. Washington having completely outwitted General Clinton, by
feigning an intended attack on New York, had started on the 19th of
August, with the entire American army, and, crossing the Hudson, they
began their march to Virginia.

In announcing their departure to La Fayette, Washington wrote to the
marquis, enjoining upon him the closest watchfulness, lest the enemy
should escape his vigilance, adding: “As it will be of great importance
towards the success of our present enterprise that the enemy, on the
arrival of the fleet, should not have it in their power to effect
retreat, I cannot omit to repeat to you my most earnest wish that the
land and naval forces which you will have with you may so combine their
operations that the British army may not be able to escape. The
particular mode of doing this I shall not, at this distance, attempt to
dictate. Your own knowledge of the country, from your long continuance
in it, and the various and extensive movements which you have made, have
given you great opportunities for observation, of which I am persuaded
your military genius and judgment will lead you to make the best
improvement. You will, my dear Marquis, keep me constantly advised of
every important event respecting the enemy or yourself.”

Cornwallis, who had taken his position at York and Gloucester, where he
had been actively engaged in erecting heavy fortifications, now suddenly
found himself completely surrounded by his foes, being blockaded by sea
and land, with hardly a possibility of escape. He sent an urgent request
to Sir Henry Clinton for succor, and finding, after having carefully
reconnoitred La Fayette’s position at Williamsburg, that any attempt to
pass it and retreat to the South would be useless, he awaited with
impatience his expected re-enforcements.

La Layette’s loyalty to Washington and his faithful obedience was at
this time severely tried. As the Count de Grasse had permission to serve
on the American coast only until the middle of October, and as he and
the Marquis St. Simon were anxious to distinguish themselves, they urged
La Fayette to make an immediate attack upon the enemy, without awaiting
the arrival of Washington and the Count de Rochambeau. “It is right,”
they argued, “that you who have had all the difficulties of this
campaign should now be rewarded with the glory of its successful
termination.” They represented that the incomplete state of the
fortifications of Cornwallis made his defeat sure, as he could not
resist a sudden attack. These were powerful reasons to the young and
impulsive marquis; but his loyalty and better judgment prevailed, and he
resisted all appeals to commence the attack, and waited in patience the
arrival of Washington and Rochambeau.

On the 14th of September Washington and Rochambeau arrived at
Williamsburg, and La Fayette was rejoiced to behold the consummation of
one of his fondest wishes, which was to see Washington at the head of
the united French and American armies. Plans were immediately completed
for the siege of Yorktown. Washington highly approved of all the
measures adopted by La Fayette, and a brilliant success seemed certain.

But a new difficulty unexpectedly arose, which was only removed by the
persuasive influence of La Fayette. Information reached the French
admiral that the British fleet in New York had received important
additions, and he thereupon determined to sail directly against the
English fleet. Washington perceived that if they were deserted by the
French fleet, their victory over Cornwallis might be very uncertain. He
accordingly wrote a letter to Count de Grasse, and sent it by La
Fayette, urging the marquis to use his personal influence to prevent
this calamity. La Fayette realized the crisis of affairs, and
successfully appealed to the count; and the French fleet therefore
remained to aid the American army.

The troops from the North having arrived on the 28th, the entire army,
moving forward in four columns, halted about twelve miles in front of
the enemy, and the famous siege of Yorktown was begun.

The investment was complete. Cornwallis looked out in vain for any
chance to escape. The Americans gradually surrounded the town with
earthworks, redoubts, and trenches, and on the night of the 6th of
October a trench seven hundred feet was commenced within six hundred
yards of the British lines. So silently was this work done by the French
and Americans that the garrison was entirely unaware of it until
daylight, by which time the embankments were so high as to shield the
men from the enemy’s fire. Batteries and redoubts were speedily erected,
and such an unrelenting cannonading was kept up against the garrison
that they were forced to withdraw their cannon from the embrasures; and
most of their batteries were torn in pieces. On the night of the 11th,
Washington opened his second parallel within three hundred yards of the
lines. This, like the former, was begun noiselessly and was not
discovered by Cornwallis until the next morning. There were two redoubts
of the English that seriously interfered with the work of the besiegers,
by a constant fire. Washington determined to attack them. La Fayette was
appointed to lead the Americans, who should attack one of the redoubts,
and the Baron de Viomesnil led a band of Frenchmen against the other.

The baron had once remarked to La Fayette that he thought the French
method of attack superior to that of the Americans. La Fayette answered,
“We are but young soldiers, and we have but one sort of tactics on such
occasions, which is to discharge our muskets and push on straight with
our bayonets.”

Both leaders were now to carry out their preconceived military tactics.
La Fayette made an impetuous attack and captured the redoubt, and still
hearing firing from the other, he sent his aide-de-camp to the baron,
inquiring if he should send him assistance. Viomesnil answered, “Tell
the marquis that I am not yet master of my redoubt, but that I shall be
in less than five minutes.” He kept his word, and before that time had
passed, he entered his captured redoubt in perfect military order. Both
had been equally successful; but La Fayette was ahead as to time, and
the baron, in following strict military rule, was forced to expose his
men to a terrible fire from the enemy. The bravery with which this
difficult onset was made was highly gratifying to Washington; and he
complimented both officers in the orders for the succeeding day. The
captured redoubts were included in the second parallel, and soon some
howitzers were mounted upon them, and their destructive fire was turned
upon the besieged.

Cornwallis now determined to make a bold effort, and he sent out
Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie at the head of eight hundred chosen men
to make a desperate sortie against two batteries of the besieging enemy.
So valiant was their charge that they gained possession and spiked four
guns, but they were repelled by the Chevalier de Chastellux, and forced
to retire. The condition of Cornwallis was now desperate. His ordnance
had been dismounted by the terrible firing of the Americans, his walls
were crumbling, and nearly all his defences were razed. He resolved to
try one more daring design. This was to cross over in the night to
Gloucester Point, with such of his troops as were not disabled, and
endeavor by forced marches to join the army in New York. The attempt was
made, and one division passed over unperceived by the Americans, but a
violent storm suddenly arose and drifted the boats down the river, and
the plan was abandoned.

On the morning of the 17th Lord Cornwallis opened negotiations and
offered to capitulate. On the 19th formal articles of surrender were
signed, and Cornwallis and his army were made prisoners of war. “The
Americans and French took possession at noon of two bastions, and the
garrison defiled between the armies at two o’clock P.M., with drums
beating, carrying their arms, which they afterwards piled, with twenty
pair of colors. Lord Cornwallis feigned sickness, to avoid surrendering
before his soldiers, and General O’Hara accordingly appeared at the head
of the garrison. ‘When he came up,’ says Rochambeau, ‘he presented his
sword to me. I pointed to General Washington, who was opposite me, at
the head of the American army, and told him that the French army being
auxiliaries on the continent, it was the American general who was to
signify his orders to him.’ As the result of this capitulation 8000
prisoners, of whom 7000 were regular troops and 1000 sailors; 214 pieces
of cannon, of which 75 were brass; and 22 pair of colors, passed into
the hands of the allies. The men, artillery, arms, military chest, and
public stores of every denomination were surrendered to Washington, the
ships and seamen to the Count de Grasse.”[2]

—–

Footnote 2:

“Mémoires et Manuscrits.”

—–

Lord Cornwallis sent a messenger to La Fayette, “to tell the marquis
that, after having made this long campaign against him, he wished to
give him a private account of the reasons which had led him to
surrender.” The next day La Fayette went to see him. “I know,” said the
English general, “your humanity to prisoners, and I recommend my poor
army to you.”

“You know, my lord,” replied La Fayette, “the Americans have always been
humane towards imprisoned armies.”

Thus did La Fayette refuse even to accept a compliment which seemed to
separate him from his American comrades in arms.

The bells in every town and hamlet throughout the country rang out the
joyful news of this great victory. Bonfires blazed on every hill-top.
Congress repaired in solemn procession to the Dutch Lutheran church, to
return thanks to God for this providential deliverance. The names of
Washington and La Fayette, Rochambeau and De Grasse, resounded
throughout the world. The commander-in-chief ordered that suitable
religious services should be held in camp in honor of that Divine
Providence who had vouchsafed to them this great blessing.

[Illustration: Lt G {en} de Grasse]

On the 20th of October, 1781, La Fayette thus wrote to M. de Maurepas:—

“CAMP, near York.

“The tragedy is over; the piece is played, Monsieur le Comte, and the
fifth act comes to an end.

“I had a little torture during the first, but at last my heart
experiences a lively joy, and it gives me not a little pleasure to
congratulate you upon the happy success of our campaign.

“I cannot give you the details, Monsieur le Comte, which I intrust to
Lauzun, to whom I wish much happiness in crossing the ocean, which he
will traverse with the corps of the legion of Tarleton.

“M. de Rochambeau brings to you the account relative to the army which
he commands; but if the honor of having commanded for so long a time the
division of M. de Saint-Simon gives me the right to speak of my
obligations to that general and to his troops, this duty will give me
infinite delight.

“Will you kindly, Monsieur le Comte, present my homage to Madame la
Comtesse de Maurepas and to Madame de Flamarens, and accept the
assurance of my affection, of my remembrances, and of my respect.”

From the same place La Fayette wrote also to M. de Vergennes, as
follows:—

“Receive my congratulations, Monsieur le Comte, upon the fortunate turn
which has at last come to politics. M. de Lauzun will give you all the
details. I am happy that our campaign of Virginia has been so well
finished; and my respect for the ability of Lord Cornwallis renders his
capture all the more precious to me. After this attempt what English
general will come to place himself at the head to conquer America?

“Their Southern manœuvres have not ended more happily than those in
the North, and the affair of General Burgoyne has been repeated.

“Adieu, Monsieur le Comte; the time which I have for writing is so brief
that I will only add the assurance of respect and of tender attachment.”

From on board the _Ville de Paris_, in the Chesapeake Bay, La Fayette
thus writes to his wife:—

OCT. 22, 1781.

“Behold the last instant, my dear heart, in which it is possible for me
to write you. M. de Lauzun is about to join the frigate and depart for
Europe. Some business with the admiral affords me the pleasure of giving
to you the latest news of the past two days.

“That which has occurred regarding public events will be detailed by M.
de Lauzun. The end of this campaign is truly brilliant for the allied
armies. There has been in our movements a rare harmony, and I should
have been much disappointed had I not the satisfaction of this happy
ending of my campaign in Virginia.

“You are aware of all the difficulties that the superiority and the
talents of Lord Cornwallis have occasioned us; the advantage which we
had following the recovery of the territory lost, and which ended in the
position which we forced Lord Cornwallis to take; it was at that moment
that everybody rushed in upon him.

“I count amongst my many pleasant experiences the time when the division
of M. de Saint-Simon was reunited to my army; and, also, when I
alternately commanded the three adjutant-generals with the troops under
their order. I pity Lord Cornwallis, of whom I have the most exalted
opinion. He wished to test such estimation, and after the capitulation
gave me the pleasure of returning the incivility of Charleston. I do not
purpose to carry vengeance any further.

“My health is excellent. I have not received any injury during my
operations. Present my most tender homage to Madame d’Ayen, to M. le
Maréchal de Noailles; a thousand compliments to all my sisters, to
l’Abbé Fayon, to M. de Margelay.

“I embrace a thousand and a thousand times our dear children. Adieu!
adieu!”

Washington desired to follow up the advantages which the Americans had
gained, by an expedition against Charleston; but as De Grasse had prior
orders from his sovereign, preventing his remaining longer in America,
the project was abandoned, and the American army retired into winter
quarters.

Again La Fayette sought permission from Congress to visit his native
land, and after receiving the highest testimonials from Washington and
Congress, and also from the king and ministry of France, he sailed from
Boston in the frigate _Alliance_, on the 22d of December, 1781.

The greatest enthusiasm was excited by La Fayette’s arrival in France.
Royal _salons_ courted his presence, and high-born dames and gallant
cavaliers vied to do him homage. Even sovereigns deigned to note with
especial honor his return. Madame de La Fayette was present at a grand
fête at the Hôtel de Ville, in celebration of the Dauphin’s birth, when
the news was proclaimed that La Fayette, the conqueror of Cornwallis,
had just arrived; and, sympathizing with the impatient joy of the fond
wife, the queen herself ordered her carriage and accompanied Madame de
La Fayette to the Hôtel de Noailles, where La Fayette had just alighted.

The joy of the reunion between La Fayette and his family is more
fittingly told in the words of his daughter Virginie than by another.

Speaking of her father’s second visit to America, she says:—

“My father left France once more for America, where the war still
continued. The grief which my mother felt was still greater than at his
first departure. Her attachment had been increased both by her anxieties
on his account and by the enchanting moments she had spent with him. She
was then nineteen. Her impressions had become stronger and deeper; a
more intimate and serious confidence had associated her riper intellect
with my father’s opinions and designs: her mind was with him as well as
her heart.

“Nevertheless, what she suffered during the campaign of Virginia
surpassed all she had yet endured. As the English papers, which alone
brought any news, always depicted the situation as desperate, the most
disastrous reports came to her knowledge; but she had the courage to
hide them from her mother, and endeavored to bear all her sufferings
alone.

“The brilliant conclusion of that campaign which had been conducted by
my father, and had ended by the capture of Lord Cornwallis, caused her a
happiness which had been purchased by prolonged sufferings. My father
arrived unexpectedly in Paris on the 21st of January, 1782. The joy of
seeing him again, returned with so much glory out of so many dangers,
and the fascination of his presence, were intensely felt by my mother.
So overpowering were her feelings that for several months she felt ready
to faint every time he left the room. She was alarmed at the vehemence
of her passion, fearing that she could not always conceal it from my
father, and that it might become annoying to him, and she therefore
endeavored to restrain it for his sake only.”

This touching little scene of an ideal love-life is a charming picture
in La Fayette’s history. Scarcely anywhere in history can be found the
record of two souls in such perfect harmony of thought and feeling as
the Marquis and Marquise de La Fayette. To the end their life was
unmarred by the least discord or misunderstanding. The world crowned him
with honor; and he laid at her feet his diadem of glory, and felt
himself rewarded by her tender smile of approving love.

It is fitting that we should here quote a few lines from a letter
written to Washington by La Fayette, in October, 1782, announcing the
birth of this same Virginie, who afterwards became such a faithful
narrator of the beautiful life of the Marquis and Marquise de La
Fayette. The marquis says:—

“MY DEAR GENERAL: Since the arrival of Colonel Gimat not one line from
you has come to me; this afflicts me intensely, because when I have not
the pleasure of being with you it is absolutely necessary for me that I
should receive letters from you.

“This will be handed to you by General Dupontail and Colonel Gouvion,
who return to America. I wish I could do the same; but you know that I
am detained here by the American plenipotentiaries, in the hope of
serving our cause, which is always to me the principal object.

“General Dupontail will give you the public news; I have communicated
those of a more secret nature to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and I
have requested him to transmit my letter to your Excellency. You will be
able to form your opinion upon the situation of affairs; but although
their progress does not permit me (on account of the reasons which I
have already explained) to leave this country at the present time, my
personal opinion is, that a victory is necessary before a general peace
can be brought to a conclusion.

“I have charged Colonel Gouvion to say to you those things which had
better not be written, relative to my projects.

“Madame La Fayette desires me to present to you, also to Madame
Washington, her respects and affectionate regards. She has a little
daughter, just arrived; and though the infant is somewhat delicate, I
hope that she will grow up strong. I have taken the liberty of giving to
her the name of _Virginie_.

“I beseech you, my dear General, to present my respects to Madame
Washington, and my affectionate compliments to the family. I hope that
my conduct, guided by the motives of seeking the greatest public good,
and for American interests, will receive from you that approbation which
I prefer to that from all the rest of the world. Adieu, my dear
General!”