But why does Lafayette matter?

Published 11:17 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

On Thursday, members of the Lafayette Alliance celebrated the announcement that Sept. 6 will now be known as Marquis de Lafayette Day in Georgia.

However, that celebration quickly turned to questions of how the group could spread the knowledge of this historic figure who fought for the freedom of a country that was not his own more than a century before his statue came to sit on LaGrange’s square. 

How many people know who this man was?

Many of us know of Lafayette only in passing. He is the statue on the square. The Frenchman that local storyteller Carol Cain sometimes dresses as at events. He is a character in “Hamilton.” (Not that any of us can get tickets.) He may have been mentioned in a high school history book, but it is hard to remember all these years later.

But who was he?

Lafayette was born in Chavaniac, France, but he is best known in the United States for his contribution to the American Revolution. He sailed to the United States in 1777 to aide the colonists in the newly formed United States in their fight against the British. 

He fought in the Battle of Brandywine, where he met George Washington. He would also spent the winter with Washington in Valley Forge and participated in numerous other battles.

After the war, he returned to France. 

He was invited back to the U.S. by President James Monroe in 1825 so that he could be recognized for his service. That was on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Lafayette was the last surviving Revolutionary War major general at the time.

That year, Georgia Gov. George Troup arranged for Lafayette to travel across Georgia, and on that trip, Lafayette visited Savannah, Augusta, Warrenton, Sparta and Milledgeville.

Several cities in Georgia were named in his honor including LaGrange, which was named after Lafayette’s estate near Paris. He is said to have remarked that the area reminded him of the estate while traveling through the area.

Now on Sept. 6 he will be celebrated once more throughout Georgia.