On this day in history:
Lafayette Became a Major-General in the Continental Army – Without Pay
On July 31, 1777, a 19-year-old French aristocrat, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, received a commission as a major-general in the Continental Army, without pay.
On December 7, 1776, the Continental Congress’ secret envoy to France, Silas Deane, had struck an agreement with French military specialist, Baron Johann DeKalb, and his protege, the Marquis de Lafayette, to provide their expert military knowledge as well as experience to the American cause. The British ambassador to the French court at Versailles, however, did not like this idea. He demanded the seizure of Lafayette’s ship. Lafayette was arrested, but managed to escape and flee to America.
Following his arrival in South Carolina, Lafayette traveled to Philadelphia. He hoped General George Washington would make him second-in-command. Congress was reluctant to promote Lafayette over more experienced colonial officers. But the young Lafayette was so eager to fight, he offered his services without pay. This won the respect of the Congressmen and they commissioned Lafayette as a major-general.
Lafayette served a couple years, then asked to return to France, to serve there in its battle against the British. Lafayette was in France for six months and then returned to help the American war effort. He was instrumental in the successful siege of Yorktown in 1781. He thereafter returned to his own country, and had a key role in the French Revolution.