Today is the birthday of one of the genuine heroes of the American Revolution, who was also one of history's most unique and remarkable individuals, the Marquis de Lafayette. Born September 6, 1757, his father died before he was two years old, his mother died when he was 12, and he inherited a fortune. He joined the French military at age 14, became a Captain at age 16. At age 19, despite the contrary advice of everyone he knew, he bought a ship and sailed across the Atlantic to fight in the American Revolution. Lafayette reported straight to General George Washington and the two men became good friends. Lafayette endured the freezing winter at Valley Force, distinguished himself in several battles, and was wounded.
In the middle of the Revolution, Lafayette returned to France and petitioned the French government to send ships, arms, troops and supplies to the Americans. While home, he named his son George Washington Lafayette and his daughter Virginia after the new state of Virginia. He even gave a large share of his own fortune to help the Americans. Lafayette then sailed back to America to give Washington the good news about the essential aid coming from France.
In 1824, many years after the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to the United States as the guest of a grateful nation, and traveled to every one of the then 24 states. He received a hero's welcome everywhere. In New York City, 50,000 people turned out to stand along the roads and cheer him. In a ceremony at Bunker Hill, Massachusetts, Secretary of State Daniel Webster was the speaker and he said: "God … has allowed to us in the name of the present generation … in the name of liberty to thank you!" Many U.S. cities are named after him, from Maine to Wisconsin to Fayetteville, Arkansas.