Skip to content
July 31, 2015

July 31, 1777: U.S. commissions Lafayette

On this day in 1777, the Continental Congress commissioned the Marquis de Lafayette as a major general in the American army.

Born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, the Marquis enlisted in the French military at age 13, as was customary. He was married by 17; his wedding gift was to become a captain of the Dragoons on his 18th birthday, in 1775.

Seeking glory, he enlisted in proposed group of French to go to America; however, King Louis XVI backed away from that plan once England threatened trans-Channel war. Lafayette instead spent 3 weeks in London high society, including a visit to King George III. Upon his return, he snuck off to America anyway.

When the Continental Congress commissioned him as a major general, Lafayette was a month shy of his 20th birthday. He was injured at the Battle of Brandywine, served with distinction at the Battle of Rhode Island, and, finally, delayed Cornwallis en route to the Redcoats’ decisive defeat at Yorktown in 1783.

Back in France, he was named head of the National Guard, but when the Reign of Terror began, he fled; he was arrested by the Prussians, and served 5 years in prison. Notably, he was offered the dictatorship in 1830 after the July Revolution, but supported Louis-Philippe and a return to the monarchy.

Image: Joseph-Désiré Court (1797–1865), Portrait of Gilbert Motier the Marquis De La Fayette as a Lieutenant General, 1791 (1834), Palais de Versailles

Leave a Comment

What do you think?