American Friends of Lafayette Visit West Point June 9-12

so lifelike! BFF

While I have an interest in the Civil War, Matt is a Revolutionary War buff. He is particularly fond of the Marquis de Lafayette. Without Lafayette’s money, talents, or influence with the King of France we would be Canada. Briefly, Lafayette convinced France to join the War against the British and we needed their help badly. They sent a fleet and helped us win the Battle of Yorktown, which led to the British surrender. Lafayette commanded troops at Yorktown as well. 

Lafayette was also the son George Washington never had. Only 19 when he met Washington, he served as an aide to Washington and later as one of his generals. They were so close, Lafayette named his son after Washington. When Lafayette returned to France after the War and France fell into revolution, Lafayette’s life became endangered and he sent his son to America to stay under Washington’s protection. Lafayette had an enthralling life and it is hard to summarize its entirety here. This is a guy worthy of a mini-series. 

America was so in love with this hero of the Revolution that he was invited to take a farewell tour of America in 1824-1825, on the 50th anniversary of the British surrender. This tour brought out throngs. He even passed through Fayette County, my home county in Pennsylvania, which is named after him.

As a Lafayette fan, Matt joined the American Friends of Lafayette, a group dedicated to honoring Lafayette. Every year they put together a Lafayette tour to visit places significant to Lafayette and the Revolutionary War. This year it was West Point. 

This seems to be the year of engaging West Point. The Grant birthday dinner included a busload of cadets and now here we are at West Point. 

West Point is in the Hudson River Valley. Here is a vantage point. It really is beautiful there. 

Pretty!

And guess who merits a statue? My man. U.S. Grant.

Grant statue at West Point

Grant was a West Point grad who certainly did not excel except in math and being a great equestrian. Many of his friends would become Confederate generals and they did not think there was too much to worry about when he became a general. I mean after all, Robert E. Lee graduated at the top of his class. Who could beat that? Well, a guy named Grant. Persistence. Moving forward. Always moving forward. After a particularly bad defeat he said, “Well, we will whip ’em tomorrow.” I hope they teach that at West Point.

Another guy we know and love has a statue there. The General–George Washington that is:

Here comes the General.

I am not from a military family so I am not really familiar with the military way of life. My mom was a WAAC for a year during WW II, but that was it. She loved being in the military and she really wanted me to join up. She thought I would make a great general. God knows I’m good at ordering people around and I am really good at things like logistics. But it was not for me. I am not really a joiner of groups. I don’t like uniforms. (The closest I ever came to a uniform was wearing a business suit, which is in effect a type of uniform. Even that I pushed back on.) I don’t take well to being told what to do. I am not the kind of person who can just sit there and take being yelled at. Plus, the hours are lousy. So I have a hard time imagining military life from a full perspective. But the school was nice, the grounds and setting lovely. 

The Lafayette connection to West Point is a Revolutionary War connection having to do with the discovery that Benedict Arnold, who very nearly handed West Point over to the British, was a traitor. As described in one magazine article, as Washington, Lafayette and Hamilton were getting ready to have dinner with Arnold, they learned of his betrayal.

“In another room on the same floor Lafayette was washing up when Hamilton suddenly burst open the door. He begged the Marquis to attend instantly on his Excellency. Lafayette sprinted down the hall to find Washington trembling with emotion. “Arnold has betrayed us!” Washington cried out. “Whom can we trust now?”

Flexner, Benedict Arnold: How The Traitor Was Unmasked 1967

So we toured places that were related to the traitor Arnold, how they hunted him down, and the trial of those who abetted the treason. Everyone on the trip knew the entire story. On the other hand, I am not schooled in Lafayette lore or Revolutionary War lore. I’m really not good at remembering history. So much of the facts were a jumble for me. But it was a part of New York I had never visited with people who seemed very nice. 

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