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Lafayette spent most of the time trying to learn to speak English.
His good ship Victory cast anchor near Charleston, South Carolina, and the party landed about midnight.
They found shelter at a farmhouse, and, on the following day, proceeded to Charleston. There Lafayette purchased carriages and horses to ride nine hundred miles to Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was in session. When the carriages broke down because of the bad roads, the officers mounted the horses and continued their journey.
“I am more determined than ever," he said to De Kalb, “to help these people preserve the liberties they have enjoyed.”
He reached Philadelphia on July 27, 1777.
III. LAFAYETTE AND WASHINGTON
When Lafayette first met Washington he knew him at once by his noble face. Washington invited the young Frenchman to cross the Delaware to see his army. When Lafayette arrived at the camp in New Jersey the troops were on the drill ground. Many of them were ragged and barefooted. Even the officers lacked suitable uniforms, and the guns were of all shapes and sizes.
“We should be embarrassed at thus showing ourselves to a French officer,” said Washington.
"Ah!” replied Lafayette, with tears in his eyes; “men who fight for liberty against such odds will be sure to win.”
Washington was so pleased with the modest zeal of the young marquis that he made him one of his aides.
General Howe sailed up Chesapeake Bay, and landing, marched to attack Philadelphia. Washington, with his army, went to meet him, and there was a terrible battle near Brandywine Creek.
Lafayette was in the thickest of the fight until he was forced to fall back, on account of having received a musket ball in the calf of his leg.
“ Take care of the marquis as though he were my own son,” said Washington to the surgeon.
The wound confined Lafayette to his bed for six weeks. When he was again able to mount a horse, he led an expedition against a post of the Hessians with such skill that he was given command of the Virginia militia.
After some battles around Philadelphia, Washington made his winter quarters at Valley Forge, about twenty miles away.
This was in the winter of 1777. The weather was very severe.
Some of the soldiers were without shoes, and their feet bled as they walked over the frozen ground; yet, all through the stormy days, the little army drilled and worked at the fortifications, while at night, those without blankets sat around the camp fires to keep from freezing to death. Lafayette, who had been used to luxuries all his life, willingly shared these hardships, and went limping about from tent to tent with a pleasant word for everybody.
Now, all this time, Benjamin Franklin was at Paris, working for the colonies. But he almost despaired of securing aid from France. One day, as he sat alone wondering what plan he must next pursue, an American courier arrived from Boston. Franklin met him at the door.
Sir," he asked, without waiting for the man to speak, “is Philadelphia captured ?”
“ It is, sir,” answered the courier. Franklin turned sadly away. All seemed lost.
“But, sir, I have better news !” exclaimed the courier, and he showed dispatches from Congress which told of the battle of Saratoga and of Burgoyne's surrender.
Franklin was overjoyed, and hastened to court with the news.
Really,” said the king to himself, “ this is the time to give John Bull a fine dose of bitters; these rebels may yet become a great nation.” And so he acknowledged the independence of the United States.
Time passed, and at length all Europe was awaiting events on two rivers in America. The Hudson, in the north, lay between Clinton and Washington; in the south, the James held on its banks the opposing armies of Cornwallis and Lafayette.
Cornwallis threw up fortifications at Yorktown and moved his camp there.
Soon the French fleet moved up Chesapeake Bay and anchored before Yorktown. Lafayette marched nearer and nearer, until Cornwallis was surrounded by land and sea.
Lafayette was urged to make the attack at once. It was a temptation for the young major-general. But when he thought of the patient commander in the north, who had borne the burdens of the long war, he said: “No; I shall await the arrival of Washington. To him alone should belong the honor of giving Cornwallis this final blow.”
Meanwhile, Washington left the Hudson, and when the united armies, under his command, stood in front of Yorktown, Lafayette's division was the first to storm the redoubts.
Cornwallis surrendered October 19, 1781. This ended the war, and America was free.
Lafayette returned to France. Honors were showered upon the hero, but he modestly declared that the credit of the victory belonged to Washington.
- ALMA HOLMAN BURTON.
From “ Lafayette, the Friend of American Liberty."
THE AMERICAN FLAG
When Freedom, from her mountain height,
Unfurled her standard to the air,
And set the stars of glory there;
into his mighty hand