I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lafayette in the Somwhat United States by Sarah Vowell

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Sarah Vowell has written many books nearly all about historical topics with her own odd-ball, funny spin.  She went to art school, so her knowledge of history is from a genuine love and her approach is different than an historian's. This book is like your best friend telling you the greatest story and gossip (that happens to be true) she has ever gotten hold of. Vowell takes you behind the scenes and lets you really know these people who have been long dead and brings them back alive and makes them human.

She got the idea to write a book about Lafayette's time in America back in 2003 when Representative Genny Brown-Waite of Florida sponsored a bill called the America Heroes Repatriation Act of 2003 which would involve digging up all the soldiers who had died in battle and been buried in France, to be dug up and reburied in the "patriotic soil" of America since it seemed as though the French had forgotten "what those thousands of white crosses at Normandy represent." This was all because France declined to support the U.S. in it's war against Iraq with the flimsy (and faulty) intelligence it had. It seemed as though people had forgotten one of the few things Americans had ever agreed on: their love of the Marquis de Lafayette and how without the help of the French, we would not have a country. She does not mention this in her book, but not only was Lafayette given citizenship to the United States, but so were all of his future descendants, which is still going on today. In 1824, Lafayette came back to America to tour the country for eighteen months in celebration of its 50th anniversary (where he caught John Adams and Thomas Jefferson before they died, both on July 4, 1825 within hours of each other). When he docked in New York Harbor, eighty thousand fans turned up (the population of New York City was only 123,000). The Beatles only manged four thousand when they landed in 1964 (NYC's population then was seven million).   This was how so many streets, towns, and counties became named after him (As well as people, such as Lafayette Ron Hubbard). Which is what people nowadays only seem to remember.

Lafayette, who was born in 1757 as "Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, future Marquis de Lafayette. 'I was baptized like a Spaniard,' he joked in his memoirs, 'with the name of every conceivable saint who might offer me more protection in battle.'" As far back as Joan of Arc and the Crusades, the men in his family had been fighting, and dying at early ages, in combat. The family was rather known for it. Gilbert, as the redheaded Lafayette was called, was from the little populated province of Auvergne in the Chateau de Chavaniac, the paternal manor house. His mother's family was nobility from Brittany who had descended from King Louis IX and were well connected to the court of King Louis XV. By the age of twelve, though, he was an orphan. He, was, however, the richest orphan in France. Lafayette headed off to Versailles to follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps and join the Black Musketeers, the king's household troops made up aristocrats. He also attended riding school with three future kings of France. With his connections, nobility, and wealth, he was off the market at the age of fifteen. The duc d'Ayen, Jean de Noailles, the brigadier general of the king's armies set him up with his daughter Adrienne, who was twelve. His wife was not happy about the idea of making her daughter a child bride and insisted the marriage be put off until she was older. Even after the two were married in 1774, her mother made them wait another two years to consummate the marriage and put them in two separate bedrooms. Not that that stopped the teenage Lafayette (or would stop any teenager) and Adrienne was soon pregnant with their first child, Henriette.  Right after their wedding, the king died and his nineteen-year-old grandson, Louis XVI became king.

His father-in-law got him a job as a flunky to the king's brother, but part of the marriage arrangement was that Lafayette would have a commission as an officer in the family cavalry unit, the Noailles Regiment. So, Lafayette insulted his boss at court in order to get fired and went to soldiering, which is what he wanted to do in the first place, which is when the shot heard round the world was heard in France. Also, the Comte de Brogie, commander of the Army of the East, who was the general Lafayette was training under, invited him to join the military Masonic lodge, where he met the Duke of Gloucester, who made a big impression on him as he ranted on and on about his brother's horrid treatment of his American subjects. His brother was King George III.  "After that, Lafayette swooned in his memoirs, 'I gave my heart to the Americans.'"

"In 1777, the nineteen-year-old Lafayette lit out for the New World for a few reasons, including a juvenile lust for glory, the appeal escaping his nagging in-laws, boredom  with the court shenanigans of Versailles, and a head full of Enlightenment chitchat about liberty and equality. But the boy's most obvious motivation in crossing the Atlantic to join the American colonists' war against the British crown was probably the simple glaring fact that before his second birthday, a British cannonball killed his soldier father in the Seven Years' War [or as we call it the French and Indian War]."

France could not afford to openly go against Britain at that time, since they were still digging themselves out the debt from the Seven Years War (By the way, this is why the colonists were taxed in the first place. The Brits were broke after the war and felt America should pay for their own defense.).  This did not stop the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, from hinting at helping the Americans. The coffers may be empty, but the French's hatred of the British would always be spilling over. Vergennes had the secret help of, believe it or not, France's greatest living dramatist, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, author of The Barber of Seville [The story of how the two came to meet and form a working relationship is, and I do not use this word lightly, unbelievable. It is sad that no one has thought to make a movie about the whole affair. It would make money hand over fist].  Beaumarchais snooped around and came to this conclusion, which he wrote to Vergennes: "The Americans will triumph but they must be assisted in their struggle, for if they lose, they will turn against us for not having helped them. We are not yet ready for war ourselves, but we must prepare and, while doing so, we must send secret aid to the Americans in the most prudent way." He knew that this would undermine the British military and economy and be good for France--and the gunrunner, who he planned to be. This was a wise move on France's part, as the War had just begun and no one knew just how this would turn out.

Vergennes would write a quite lovely paper recommending to the king that he support the Americans. In opposition to this would be Anne-Robert-Jaques Turgot, the comptroller general of finance who was having some success in reducing the massive debt by slashing government spending. He was also trying to tax the aristocracy, introduce a free market, and make other changes that were making him one of the most hated men in France. His letter was rather blunt and not so nice. He prophesied that not only would the Americans succeed and achieve a stable government, but that other colonies would someday rise up and do the same. Basically, he was telling Louis that for every dime the French spent on the Americans they were not spending on the starving peasants who would one day storm Versailles. France would end up spending one billion livres on the Americans. Turgot, lost his job over this.

In July of 1776, Silas Deane arrived in France from America to ask for France's help and was quietly sent to Beaumarchais, lest the British catch wind of what the French were up to. "...the king would pay Beaumarchais to set up a fake company under a fake identity and use half the money to buy the government's surplus weapons and other equipment gathering dust from the Seven Years' War (in other words, use the king's money to pay the king for his own stuff). Then Beaumarchais proposed to lend the other half of the money  to the Americans, who would use it to buy more surplus French equipment from the dummied-up business and hopefully repay the loan with tobacco and other American exports." Louis loved the plan so much he convinced his cousin, the king of Spain to contribute an equal sum. While Beaumarchais was tracking down cannons and such, Washington was busy getting slaughtered by Admiral Lord Richard "Black Dick" Howe and his little brother General Sir William Howe at Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. He would spend the rest of the war obsessing over trying to win New York back, but never would. Three thousand American prisoners of war were sent to those wretched, hell-hole prison ships, where skeletal men ate the lice off their bodies after they ran out of rats to eat. "Nearly twelve thousand of them perished of disease and malnutrition--more than died in combat at all the actual battles of the war combined."

By December, when in America Payne was saying "These are the times that try men's souls", Beaumarchais had muskets, tents, shovels, and three hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. He went undercover to Le Havre to oversee the loading of the supplies onto the ships, when, for a writer, disaster struck. A local thespian group was putting on a production of The Barber of Seville and they were botching it. So, Beaumarchais came out of disguise and went back and forth between the docks and the theater barking at people on both ends. The British already knew what the French were up to because Deane's secretary worked for them.  However, they could not do anything about it, without showing their hand. Until Beaumarchais blew his cover making it easy  for the British. He had to cancel the mission, but not before his largest ship sailed.  Meanwhile, this was the Christmas that Washington crossed the Delaware and captured about a thousand Hessians in Trenton, which wasn't really much of a big deal, militarily, but it let the world know that they were to be taken seriously and more cargo would be sent off in March of 1777. Included in that shipment were a colonel and twenty-four officers from Europe that Beaumarchais had recruited on Deane's request. Among them were the Polish count and "father of American cavalry" Casimir Pulaski, the Prussian officer Fredrich Wilhelm von Steuben (who taught the army how to be an army), and the architect and engineer Pierre L'Enfant, who would design Washington D.C.  Those, however were the exception. Deane had promised them high paychecks and high ranks and most of these men who came from noble families, had never been on a battlefield or even spoke English. The Americans were quickly ready to get rid of them.

Lafayette and his friends Segur and Noailles decided to sign up with Deane to go to America to fight. When the king of France got wind of this, he not only forbade them from going, he forbade any French soldier from fighting in order to appease to British. This did not stop Lafayette, who went out and bought a twenty-two ton ship to carry himself and others over, and in a sneaky, very teenagery-way got out of France. His father-in-law was furious, as well as his brother, the French ambassador to Britain. Lafayette was genuinely sad to leave his wife behind pregnant with their second child, but she understood, probably more than anyone, that what he was about to do was important and would bring him great glory. On the voyage over he would share something with his wife: being sick to his stomach. Throughout all this, he wrote to her very often, quite lovely letters that only a teenage Frenchman could write. So, try not to think to badly of him for this.

"It's appropriate to ding Lafayette for the casual cruelty with which he abandoned his family, roll the eyes a bit at his retro quest for fame, or envy his outlandish optimism. But none of that negates the fact that he turned out to be the best friend America ever had. And I am not only referring to his youthful derring-do on battlegrounds up and down the Eastern Seaboard. I am also referring to any number of his dull grown-up kindnesses later on, such as assisting Thomas Jefferson, the United States minister to France in the 1780s, in opening up French markets to American goods. Lafayette's lobbying procured Nantucket whalers the contract to supply the whale oil that lit the streetlights of Paris. Because of Lafayette, the City of Lights glowed by New England's boiled blubber....Thomas Jefferson toasted him "When I was stationed in his country for the purpose of cementing its friendship with ours, and of advancing our mutual interests, this friend of both, was my most powerful auxiliary and advocate. He made our cause his own...His influence and connections there were great. All doors of all departments were open to him at all times. In truth, I only held the nail, he drove it."

Lafayette landed outside Charleston on June 13, 1777.  He immediately fell in love with every person and thing he saw--except for the mosquitoes. Even an enamored Frenchman can't love those evil things.  Lafayette bought four carriages and some horses to ferry him, Kalb [French officer and veteran of the Seven Years War who introduced him to Deane], and the others north. After four days the carriages were in splinters and the horses were worn out or lame. This, of course would not stop Lafayette, though some of the others grumbled a great deal as they mostly walked, slept in the woods, suffered from hunger, were exhausted by heat, suffered from fever and dysentery all on their trek through North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and finally Pennsylvania.  When they got to Independence Hall they really did expect to be welcomed with open arms, as they were recruited by Deane. At this point, though, Washington had had it with the idiots from Europe, especially France, who knew nothing about fighting, only giving orders.

The bigger problem right then was Deane's greatest mistake that would show how big an idiot he was.  He promised Phillipe du Coudray, a "French veteran" of the war who supposed to be a nobleman and France's greatest living artillery hotshot, but was actually a wine merchant's son who, well, had seen a cannonball, the rank of major general and command of the army's artillery corps and engineers. This was a problem because Henry Knox held this position and Knox WAS the Revolution. He was a bookseller who had married Lucy Flucker (a very cool woman herself), the highbrow daughter of the Loyalist Governor of Massachusetts. He read all the books he could get his hand on about everything military to prepare himself, he studied the movements of the redcoats around Boston, and when they came into his shop he quizzed them. He even joined the local militia, the Boston Grenadiers. After Lexington and Concord, he and Lucy (She sewed his sword into the lining of her coat. She pretty much went with him and helped him out throughout.) headed to Cambridge to fight.  Later when General William Howe had the Boston peninsula and things looked hopeless, they got word that the Greene Mountain boys and Benedict Arnold had captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York where there were lots of weapons. So Knox and his brother, in the winter, set off and brought back forty-three cannons, fourteen mortars, and two howitzers that they dragged across frozen rivers and the snowy Berkshire Mountains by oxen on sleds over three hundred miles.  When Howe woke up the next morning and saw all the military hardware that had just magically appeared overnight he said "these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months." With that, the Brits and all the Loyalists fled. This is the man Deane wanted them to replace. It didn't happen. There's a reason a very famous Fort in Kentucky is named after him. [Him and Lucy would survive the war and settle in Maine on a very large piece of land, where they would raise a slew of kids and live out a long a very happy life.]

Lafayette, who was at first turned away, did have Franklin on his side, who had sent a letter basically saying you would be insulting Paris and Versailles if you don't take him. However, his note to them, was probably what really convinced them: "After the sacrifices I have made I have the right to exact the right to exact two favours: one is, to serve at my own expense,--the other is, to serve at first as a volunteer." They really couldn't turn away anyone who would not only fight for free, but start out as a volunteer.  Lafayette hired Louis de la Colombe and Jean-Joseph de Gimat as his aides and Kalb stayed (he would be given a commission in September) , but the rest would eventually give up and go home.

In 1777, British command made a big plan for ending the war by having General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne come down from Canada and General Sir William Howe come north from New York City, where they would converge on the Hudson River at Albany and sew up New England. Howe, however, refused to play along. He was still upset over Trenton and didn't want Burgoyne, a part-time playwright to get all the glory. So he decided to take Philadelphia instead, leaving Burgoyne to fend for himself. Not only did the British not know what Howe was up to, Washington, who saw his ships sail south, could not seem to believe it himself (of course it didn't help that the ships disappeared for a few weeks after missing the likely port of entry). Washington was practicing the "Fabian strategy, named for the Roman general Fabius Maximus, the Cunctuator ("the delayer"), who spent years wearing down the deadly Carthaginians by retreating every time his opponents seemed poised to prevail, thus holding the Roman army together: basically, Fabius annoyed his enemies to death." Howe landed with thirteen thousand forces in the Chesapeake in August and Washington and his eleven thousand men headed toward Brandywine Creek and Chadds Ford to wait for the confrontation on September 11.

This battle is famous for the number of tactical blunders and drumming Washington took from Howe. The patriots had faulty intel about the area, they had not scouted in advance, and Washington didn't trust the reports coming in to him during the battle and was second guessing everything. That afternoon, General Sullivan sent word that the British had crossed the Brandywine' northern fords and were performing a maneuver that would remind the two of the Battle of Long Island. Desperate, Washington sent Lafayette in to help Sullivan. He was thrilled, of course. Everything was total chaos and gore and the army rapidly trying to flee. Lafayette blocked them, even going so far as to grab them and hold them in place. As he was rallying them, the British shot him in the leg, not that he noticed. His two aides, though, did and made go get care.  It was getting dark, two hundred had been killed, five hundred wounded, and four hundred captured, so Washington called in General Greene, who he had been keeping in reserve, to cover their retreat.  The French were quite proud of Lafayette and his father-in-law forgave him of everything.

Feeling the sting of his pride and the need to keep Howe from taking Philadelphia, Washington goes on the offensive and divides his eight thousand regulars and three thousand militiaman into fourths. His idea was to sneak up on Howe before dawn on October 4 at Germantown, with the four columns converging. "Is it appropriate to call a battle plan romantic? Of course this scheme was way too fussy for those crumpled misfits to pull off. Of course Nathanial Greene's forces would get lost in the fog and show up late. Of course the redcoat pros, no slouches they, would spot the early birds and sound the alarm before the rest of  the stragglers could hit their marks. Yet there is something hopeful and endearing about Washington's belief in these men. That he actually trusted them to break off in quarters, march in the dark, and come together at some precisely timed rendezvous was an act of intrepid, starry-eyed faith and fealty. That got dozens of them killed, but still." To make matters worse, Continentals under General "Mad" Anthony Wayne and General Stephen, lost in the fog (Stephen being drunk didn't help), were fighting each other. Cornwallis ended up coming down from Philadelphia with reinforcements and Washington beat a hasty retreat. Meanwhile, up in Saratoga, General Gates had defeated the poorly supported General Burgoyne. Howe, had captured Philadelphia, which, while an emotional win, was not a military one. Of course it meant the Continental Congress had to flee to the backward town of York, which did not endear them to Washington, who they had already been talking about replacing and with Gates' great success, Washington's position was unsteady. Congress was insisting he pull off another Christmas victory at Philadelphia, which was ludicrous. His men were half naked, most of them lacking shoes, Howe had over ten thousand men (hard to surprise that many people) whom he had already been beaten badly by twice, and right now, the opinion of the world (France) was that America was stronger than they appeared to be. If they attacked Philadelphia and failed spectacularly, which they would, they could lose support. What Congress did not know yet (mail was very slow) was that while everyone seemed to think that Saratoga was the turning point in the war, the French were much more impressed with Washington at Germantown. He showed that his army was more experienced and able to go on the offensive and attack and by encamping outside Philadelphia they had the Brits blocked in and made it hard for them to forage for food when they ran out in the city.

At this time, Lafayette asks Washington for his own command and he is given one. Greene and Lafayette are sent to go see what Cornwallis is up to in Southern New Jersey. Greene reported back to Washington of his success and then echoed Washington's own words about Lafayette upon meeting him: "The Marquis is determined to be in the way of danger." This might be how all his ancestors died young in battle. Three days later Lafayette was put in charge of General Stephen's division of Virginians (after his disaster at Germantown he court-martialed and relieved of command).  

It is at this time that the little known "Conway cabal" happened. Most people at this time had lost faith in Washington--even John Adams who had nominated him for the position of leader of the army in the first place. There were thee others being considered: General Gates,  General Lee (a retired British officer who had served in the French and Indian War and thought he should

Congress eventually saw sense and gave up on the idea of attacking Philadelphia then and Washington took his men to settle down for the winter at Valley Forge. When Congress sent someone out on a fact-finding mission at the camp and they saw the half-naked men, some with no shoes, and few supplies he was sent a note censoring him for allowing low morale. There were many problems with Valley Forge starting with the fact that Quartermaster General Thomas Mifflin, head of the supply corp, quit in October, two months before they arrived, and while Washington had been bugging Congress to replace him, they wouldn't until March 1778, which proved nearly fatal to the army.  Washington couldn't get Congress to agree to send supplies, but even if they would, the system was so disorganized who knows where they would have ended up. Greene grumbled about having to be Quartermaster, but he was really good at it, and his men were able to forage for food.  To undermine him even more, they sent Lafayette on a pointless mission to Canada, where he made some friends with the Oneida Tribe who would return with him later to join the cause.

Something good did come out of Valley Forge: The arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian army from the Seven Years War. After a rumor of a homosexual incident at the end of the Seven Years War, he found difficulty finding a job.  He was desperate for the Americans to take him on. Thankfully we did. We really needed him. The men had been fighting for nearly three years, but had no training at all. They never used the bayonet except as a tool to eat with.  Steuben whipped them into shape in no time, drilling them constantly. Washington was so impressed that he made Steuben inspector general, the position currently held by Conway. Soon, Congress made it official and Conway went back to France. At this time France officially recognized the United States a country and entered into a treaty with them. Lafayette, was of course, over the moon.  More importantly, with this treaty, it meant France would send soldiers and ships as well as supplies.

In May of 1778, William Howe went home, leaving Henry Clinton in charge, who was ordered to evacuate Philadelphia and head for New York City with more than fifteen thousand British and Hessian troops, three thousand Loyalists citizens, and fifteen hundred wagons. They were just begging to be attacked. General Lee had just gotten  back after spending a year as a very pampered POW in Manhattan (while his men wasted away on those hellish ships). Washington suspected he had gotten a bit too cozy with his former coworkers and eight decades later someone would stumble across papers in Howe's desk that would prove it. While Lee was not given the command of the army he thought he deserved, Washington had one of the Hudson River forts named after him: Fort Lee, New Jersey. It was decided to attack at Monmouth, but Lee turned down the offer of leading the charge (he had been against doing this in the first place), so Washington gave it to Lafayette. This, of course made Lee want it back. Then he changed his mind. This went back and forth for a bit, until Washington just told Lafayette to proceed, which made Lee say that being usurped by a junior officer would "disgrace" him. Lafayette stepped in and told General Lee that he would be happy to serve under him, so they both went. On the morning of the attack, Lee returned, having called off the attack. Washington was not interested in hearing any of his excuses and sent him to the rear and let rip a long list of curse words, which was rather amazing according to those present, and completely out of character.

Lee, by the way, would be court-martialed and found guilty of disobeying orders, disrespecting the commander in chief, and "misbehavior before the enemy...by making an unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat." He was only suspended for a year, but when he sent Congress a highly offensive note, they got rid of him for good. The odd thing is, no one ever changed the name of the Fort. At that time they changed the name of the Hudson River forts all the time and wouldn't you want to change the name of one named after a man we kicked out of the military who was later proved to be a traitor? The New York citadel named after Benedict Arnold became Fort Clinton and then West Point. I guess it's just a mystery of history. Or New Jersey.

Washington rallied the troops and headed for the Clinton and Cornwallis (who it turned out had been lying in wait for Lee and attacked him, which is why he ran).  General Wayne took over for Lee's troops and the Continentals showed that all that drilling was worth it. Molly Pitcher was supposedly there, if she existed at all. A third of those who fought would die, not from musket balls, but from heat stroke.  They fought quite well and "forced the enemy from the field and encamped on the Ground." In the morning they would find that Clinton had sneaked away in the night to ships waiting to take them to Manhattan. Washington headed to White Plains, New York to keep an eye on Clinton, and make plans on taking back New York now that he had French soldiers to help. This would be the last time he would personally command a battle for three years.

At first the Americans would have problems with the Frenchmen, which the British were counting on, due to old prejudices and other issues, such as the arrival of the first ship who General D'Estaing was in charge of (notice I said General and not Admiral) who had trouble landing the ship due to sand bars and was trying desperately to avoid the master of the seas Admiral Howe who was lurking about. D'Esaing gave the patriots a great deal of trouble.  In Boston a riot broke out the result being two injured French officers, one of which died. Worse, he died in Boston, where Catholicism was illegal (they referred to the Pope as the "Anti-Christ"). He needed a proper burial to appease the French, so a hush-hush  funeral was prepared in the middle of the night in the crypt of King's Chapel on Tremont Street where the Puritan fore-bearers, such as Governor John Winthrop ("city upon a hill" fame) and his minister John Cotton who were both likely rolling in their graves to be so near a papist, are buried. They promised to build a monument in the man's honor, which they did--after World War I. Vowell insists that if you are ever in the neighborhood, you really must see the cemetery as all the headstones are quite amazing and many famous patriots are buried there.  A great deal of good came out of this death, though. The French and Americans became closer.

On July 10, 1780 part of the French fleet arrived with six thousand troops commanded by Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau in Newport. The rest of the fleet were blockaded back in France by the British. At this time the south had been lost to the British, including five thousand POWs at Charleston. Washington was eager to get talking about taking back New York and sent Lafayette to talk to Rochambeau who was busy trying to set a base of operations and didn't have time for that. Later, Washington would gather with his top men and the top French men and present his eight page plan to retake New York, which the French told him it was not possible right now. Winter was coming [hey, it happens in more places than Westros], the French were busy, the Brits had New York and the south and Washington could really use some money so he contacted Franklin to see what he could do. He got the French to cough up six million livres.

Washington would give up on his dream of New York and face that the situation in Virgina could very well end the war, if done right. Of course he had to get thousands of troops across 450 miles in six weeks, so he appealed to Congress for one months pay for each soldier--in coin. The last time they had been paid was 1776. In the end, Rochambeau steped forward and gave Washington half his Spanish coins. Now the American soldiers were deeply in love with the French. Of course, this would be the last dime they would see. Cornwallis was in Yorktown, which likely made Washington laugh, as he knew that was the dumbest place to set up a camp "by being upon a narrow neck of land would be in danger of being cut off. The enemy might very easily throw up a few ships into York and James's river...and land a body of men there, who by throwing up a few redoubts would intercept their retreat and oblige them to surrender." Which was pretty much what happened, though not without a lot of drama behind the scenes (like trying to get the Virginians to help out with supplies or pick up arms and fight). Britain always knew that if another country's navy got involved, the American could very well win the war fighting on the ground. Now, a powerful country with a navy had just arrived and the French had just ordered more ships from the Caribbean to Virginia to help out. What few people know is that what decided the war was a naval battle between the French and British.  Whoever won would be the ones on the coast of Virginia.  At Yorktown there were more Frenchmen there than Americans and eventually Cornwallis, who couldn't get help from Clinton in New York, was forced to surrender, the details of which, are quite delicious to read about.

By the end of the war it was practically a world war, with Spain, France, and The Netherlands involved. A lot of people had something against the Brits at that time and were quite happy to pitch in and that is why it took two years to negotiate the complex peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris of 1783.  Lafayette led an interesting, but long, life afterwards. He tried to help reform the French government, but ended up having to flee the country during the Terror and wound up in an Austrian prison. His wife, Adrienne was put in a Paris jail herself.

Maybe one of Lafayette's most important gifts, one that he didn't give us, but that he would have backed whole-hardheartedly, was Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. It has been known as THE place to protest since the World War I era when the National Women's Party were picketing President Woodrow Wilson to give women the right to vote. These women were beaten right in front of cops who did nothing, arrested, jailed in horrid prison workhouses, and forced raw eggs from a tube shoved down their throats because they would not eat the vermin-infested food. You can find people protesting pretty much anything there every day now and that's a good thing.  It was what he was fighting for.  It is sad that we have forgotten all about the French who helped us become a nation in the first place and Lafayette, who was our best friend, at a time when that was a rare thing. He truly believed in America and what it stood for. I guess it was a good thing his parents gave him all those special saints' names to protect him in battle, because we would never have won the war without him.

Note: In this book she visits Colonial Williamsburg, a place that is on my list of places to go to someday. I have been to Old Salem a few times and it is nice and interesting and quiet. I was expecting Williamsburg to be the same, which is why it has always been rather low on my list. Vowell was also expecting the same thing. What she got was the exact opposite. They have actors who reenact historical times and, frankly, they are once ticked off mob. There is nothing remotely sedate about the place. It is quite exciting. When she goes on these field trips to historical sites, she often takes her sister and her nephew along, who is now twelve, and he had a blast. If a near teenager can enjoy something educational, then it really must be good!

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lafayette-Somewhat-United-States-Vowell/dp/1594631743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459885535&sr=1-1&keywords=lafayette+in+the+somewhat+united+states

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