by The Rev. Robert Girard Carroon, M.Div, D.Litt Past Chaplain General
The Marquis de La Fayette was born on September 6, 1757 in the Chateau de Chavaniac in Auvernge, France. He was baptized “the very high and very mighty lord Monseigneur Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, legitimate son of the very high and very mighty lord Monseigneur Michel-Louis-Christophe –Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, baron de Vissc, lord of Saint-Romain and other places and of the very high and very mighty lady, Madame Marie-Louise-Julie de La Riviere. “ Lafayette’s father was killed in battle against the British in 1759 and Gilbert, age two, succeeded to the title of Marquis.
Following his education under private tutors he was commissioned a second lieutenant of the Black Musketeers at Versailles. He was enrolled at the Academie de Versailles by the Duc d’Ayen, his future father-in-law. He was married to Marie-Adrienne-Francoise de Noailles on March 14, 1774. He was promoted captain of the Noailles Dragoons.
Enamored of the writings of Voltaire and moved by the Declaration of Independence, Lafayette determined to offer his sword in the support of the American Revolution. After meeting with Silas Deane of Wethersfield, in Paris, and after several false starts, Lafayette sailed for America, arriving in South Carolina on June 13, 1777. As he had volunteered, he served throughout the Revolution without pay and at his own expense. Congress commissioned him as a Major General and he presented himself to General George Washington in such a humble manner that the Commander-in-Chief was instantly taken with him. Lafayette became a member of Washington’s official “family” and fought at his side throughout the remainder of the Revolution. He was seriously wounded at the battle of Brandywine but recovered and continued to command his troops, including the famous light infantry division at the battle of Yorktown.
He was a major figure in the French Revolution and remained a close friend of Washington until the latter’s death in 1799. Lafayette made a final tour of the United States in 1825 and was made a citizen of Hartford on the occasion of his visit to this city which he remembered from the several visits he had made here while serving on Washington’s staff. Lafayette died at his home, La Grange, in France on May 20, 1834, the last surviving Major General of the Revolutionary War. His son, George-Washington Lafayette, survived him as did other children and today his descendants are members of the Society of the Cincinnati and the Sons of the American Revolution. The current president of the French Society of the Sons of the American Revolution is the Duc d’Ayen, a nephew several times removed of the Marquis de Lafayette.
Bulletin – Fall 2007