The Marquis de Lafayette in Delaware

The War Years (1775-1783)

March 26, 2024
by Kim Burdick Also by this Author


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The last surviving major general of the American Revolution was French aristocrat Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette. Invited by President James Monroe to help usher in America’s fiftieth anniversary, Lafayette came, accompanied by his son, Georges Washington de Lafayette, and Secretary Auguste Levasseur. In 1824 and 1825, these men visited each of the then twenty-four American states. Two hundred years later, between August 2024 and September 2025, a Lafayette reenactor will visit these places in the exact order in which the Marquis had then been celebrated.[1]

Life Study of the Marquis de Lafayette by Thomas Sully, 1824–25. (Wikimedia Commons)

The marquis de Lafayette was born to an ancient noble family in the Auvergne region of central France in 1757. Before he was two years old, his father, then serving as a French army colonel of grenadiers, was killed in Germany in one of the biggest battles of the Seven Years War.[2] On April 3 and 24, 1770, his mother and grandfather died, soon followed by the death of an uncle. Twelve-year-old Gilbert de Lafayette was now the richest orphan in France.[3]

Despite these happenings, young Gilbert followed family tradition and received military training. On April 9, 1771, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Musketeers of the Guard. While a student at l’Académie de Versailles he married Adrienne de Noailles. Her father ensured Lafayette was promoted to the position of captain in the Noailles Dragoons Regiment.

While training at Metz, Lafayette met the Comte de Broglie, commander of the Army of the East. De Broglie invited Lafayette to join the Freemasons. By participating in the Freemasons and other “thinking groups,” Lafayette became an advocate for the rights of man and the abolition of slavery.[4] Soon afterwards, he attended an official dinner where the younger brother of England’s King George III was expounding upon the American Revolution. Amazed by what he heard, Lafayette later wrote, “My heart was enlisted, and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries.”[5]

In Paris shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution, German-born Baron de Kalb approached diplomats Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin. In need of experienced and professional officers, Deane promised de Kalb a major general’s commission. de Kalb then took the young Lafayette to meet with Deane. On December 7, 1776, Lafayette was presented with a commission specifically highlighting “his high birth, his alliances, the great dignities which his family hold at court, his considerable estates in this realm,” as reasons for this extraordinary appointment of an untested teenager to the rank of major general.

Although Louis XVI forbade Lafayette to go to America, the young Marquis deliberately disobeyed, leaving France with Baron DeKalb and a dozen friends and colleagues. On April 20, 1777, they set sail from Spain in Lafayette’s ship la Victoire, reportedly heading for Santa Domingo. Landing in South Carolina, they made their way north, passing through the crossroads of Christiana, Delaware.[6]

Congress was annoyed by Silas Deane’s numerous recruits who asked to be compensated for their services, but Lafayette insisted that he would serve without pay. On July 31, 1777, at the urging of U.S. Ambassador to France Benjamin Franklin, Congress assigned Lafayette to serve as George Washington’s aide, commissioning him as “Major General without pay.”[7] As the young Frenchman demonstrated his profound commitment to the cause of American Independence, he would soon become one of Washington’s most trusted subordinates.

On August 25, 1777, Washington set up his headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.[8] His residence on Quaker Hill is said to have been located at 303 West Street with Lafayette next door at 301 West Street. Two divisions of the Continental army settled nearby. The next day, Lafayette went with Generals Greene and Washington to look for the British army that had just landed at Head of Elk, Maryland. They rode approximately eighteen miles from Wilmington, through Newport, Stanton, and Christiana, then westward to Iron Hill and nearby Gray’s Hill on the Delaware-Maryland border. A torrential thunderstorm then broke out.

Lafayette wrote that “General Washington imprudently exposed himself to danger. After a long reconnaissance, he was overtaken by a storm on a very dark night. When Washington departed at dawn, he admitted that a single traitor could have betrayed him.”[9] A tale that has been passed down is as follows:

One of the most popular stories relates that the weary, rain-drenched generals, their uniforms hidden under long cloaks, knocked on the door of an inn when the storm was at its heaviest. The owner, an elderly woman, asked whether they were Whigs or Tories. Suspicious that she might be a Tory who would inform the enemy of their presence, they replied simply, “Friends.” The proprietress, thinking they were Tories, replied that there was not a vacant bed in the house, hoping they would leave. Nevertheless, the generals insisted upon entering and slept on the floor beside the fire. The next morning as they prepared to leave, the old lady followed them to their horses. Her curiosity still unsated, she bluntly asked the tall gentleman who was mounting his horse, “And what might your name be, Sir?” “George Washington, madam,” he replied as he went galloping across the Christiana followed by his aides. The old lady, a true patriot, wrung her hands in despair, crying, “To think I have let George Washington sleep on the floor and I had plenty of good beds in the house!”[10]

The only known primary source describing this August 26 adventure is a letter written the following day by George Washington to John Hancock:

This morning returned from the Head of Elk, which I left last night. In respect to the Enemy, I have nothing new to communicate. they remain where they debarked first. I could not find out from inquiry what number is landed—nor form an estimate of It, from the distant view I had of their Encampment, but few Tents were to be seen from Iron Hill and Greys Hill, which are the only eminences about Elk. I am happy to inform you that all the public stores are removed from thence, except about seven thousand Bushels of Corn. This I urged the Commissary there to get off as soon as possible and hope it will be effected in the course of the few days.[11]

A few days later Anthony Wayne, with most of the Pennsylvania Line and some militiamen, dug entrenchments around the city of Wilmington. Pvt. William Hutchinson of the 2nd Battalion of Chester County Militia recalled, “Our company were then ordered to work on a hill in the rear of the town in the construction of a fascine battery.” Lafayette, without a command of his own but attached to Washington’s staff, moved among the troops, “and by him we had the honor of being reviewed on Quaker Hill at Wilmington, Delaware, while we were at work erecting the battery.” Hutchinson noted with awe, “We were there addressed by him. He was with us both on horseback and on foot.”[12]

Seven miles east of Quaker Hill is Brandywine Village. This national historic district, located along the Brandywine Creek, was composed of flour mills, and the homes of prosperous millers as well as those of mill workers, shop keepers and artisans. Joseph Tatnall (1740–1813) was a prominent Quaker merchant, miller, and banker who soon hosted Washington and Lafayette at his home at 1803 Market Street, a house which remains standing in an attractive block of buildings made of Brandywine granite. General Anthony Wayne used the parlor as headquarters.

Tatnall kept his flour mills “going day and night” to provide food for the Continental Army.[13] He is said to have told George Washington, “I cannot fight for thee, but I can and will feed thee.”[14]

Washington, recognizing the military significance of Delaware’s mills, ordered the “runners” or upper millstones throughout the area to be removed and carted to hiding places so they could not be used by the British.[15] Some can be seen today embedded into walls, terraces and used as patriotic symbols from Claymont to Newark, Delaware. Particular examples include a mill wheel installed in front of Newport’s town hall, one embedded in a stone wall surrounding the village green at Brandywine Village, and half of one used as a hearthstone at the Robinson House.

The Battle of Cooch’s Bridge was fought on September 3, 1777, between the Continental Army and its militia, and German, British, and Loyalist soldiers. Although there were naval engagements off the state’s coastline, the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge was the only significant military action on Delaware land.[16] “After advancing as far as Wilmington,” Lafayette commented, “the General had detached a thousand men under Maxwell, the senior, but also the most inept brigadier general in the army. At the first advance of the English, he was beaten by the advance guard near Christiana Bridge.”[17]

Three days after the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the general officers of American army were directed to “meet at the brick house by White Clay Creek and fix proper picquets for the security of the camp.” This was recorded by Capt. Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the continental line who had grown up nearby.[18] This brick house and the White Clay mill belonged to a prominent Quaker miller. Daniel Byrnes and his brother Caleb Byrnes had moved with their families from Brandywine Village to the Stanton area only a few years before, planning to enlarge the region’s flour business. The junction of the Christiana River and the Red Clay and the White Clay Creeks merged behind Daniel’s property, forming an amazing transportation corridor.

Generals Washington, Lafayette, Maxwell, Wayne, Sullivan, and Greene met at Daniel Byrnes’s house to plan the defense of Wilmington. It is likely that Byrnes’s wife Dinah and their children spent that day with Uncle Caleb at his Red Clay mill. Washington’s general orders, written at the house on September 6, read, in part:

The General has no doubt, but that every man who has a due sense of the importance of the cause he has undertaken to defend, and who has any regard to his own honor and the reputation of a soldier will, if called to action, behave like one contending for everything valuable; But, if contrary to his expectation, there shall be found any officers, or soldiers, so far lost to all shame as basely to quit their post without orders, or shall skulk from danger, or offer to retreat before order is given for so doing, from proper authority, of a superior officer; they are to be instantly shot down, as a just punishment to themselves, and for examples to others—This order, those in the rear, and the Corps of reserve, are to see duly executed, to prevent the cowardly from making a sacrifice of the brave, and by their ill example and groundless tales (calculated to cover their own shameful conduct) spreading terror as they go.
That this order may be well known, and strongly impressed upon the army, the General positively orders the Commanding officer of every regiment to assemble his men and have it read to them to prevent the plea of ignorance.
The General begs the favor of the officers to be attentive to all strange faces and suspicious characters which may be discovered in camp: and if upon examination of them no good account can be given why they are there, to carry them to the Major General of the day for further examination; this, as it is only a necessary precaution, is to be done in a manner least offensive.
The General officers are to meet at 5 O’clock this afternoon at the brick house by White-Clay creek, and fix upon proper picquets for the security of the camp.
After Orders. Information has been given that many of the waggon horses are suffered to go loose in the fields: The Commander in Chief strictly orders, that every night, all the waggon-horses be put to the waggons, and there kept, and if it be necessary at any time for them to go to grass, that, it be only in the day time and then the waggoners must stay by them constantly; that they may be ready to tackle at the shortest notice—The waggon masters are required to see this order carefully executed—The enemy have disincumbered themselves of all their baggage, that their movements may be quick and easy—It behooves us to be alike ready for marching at a moment’s warning: And for the same reason it is absolutely necessary, and the Commander in Chief positively orders, that both officers & men remain constantly at their quarters—Tattoo is no longer to be beat in camp.[19]

Curiously enough, that day was Lafayette’s twentieth birthday.

The officers left the Byrnes House late that evening, heading north into Pennsylvania. On September 10, the Americans positioned themselves along the Brandywine River near Chadds Ford, where it was assumed British forces would appear. The following day, Clement Biddle took forty wagonloads of grain and flour from Daniel Byrnes’s mills, as well as eight wheels of cheese that had been in storage for the family’s winter needs, to feed the American soldiers.[20]

The Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, marked the beginning of Lafayette’s active service in the American Revolution. Lafayette had rushed in to join the forward fighters as the colonists’ right flank began to fail. He was shot in the leg and his boot filled with blood. Declining medical assistance, he gave his full effort to inspiring his fellow soldiers. When the battle was obviously lost, he managed to mount a horse and ride to safety. He spent most of the following winter in nearby Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, at Valley Forge, Barren Hill, and other places.

Following the battle, the British brought their sick and wounded down Concord Pike to Wilmington. The 71st Regiment of Foot, raised in the highlands of Scotland, was also dispatched to create a point of rendezvous for the British fleet.

After the decisive American victory at Saratoga on October 17, 1777, King Louis XVI of France decided it was time to side with the Americans. He openly entered the Revolutionary War by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce on February 6, 1778.

In 1779 Lafayette went back to France to visit his wife and children and to the king to offer more assistance. Assuming that he would be appointed to be the French military commander in America, Lafayette was disappointed when the comte de Rochambeau, an older gentleman with many years of military experience, was given that position. Lafayette sailed back to America in April 1780 with the news that infantry under the command of Rochambeau, as well as six ships of the line, would soon arrive from France. When General Rochambeau’s expeditionary force of 4,500 troops landed at Newport, Rhode Island that summer, Lafayette helped American and French officers develop coordinated plans.

In January 1781, a British Army under the command of the American traitor Benedict Arnold, invaded Virginia and burned Richmond. Washington now ordered Lafayette to go to Virginia with a force of three light infantry regiments to help repel Arnold’s invasion.[21] By March, Lafayette and his advanced forces had headed south. Passing through the now familiar Delaware village of Christiana with cannons, stores and ammunition, Lafayette was assisted by the Council of Maryland which provided him with a warrant to impress carriages, teams and drivers for use there, and vessels, hands, etc., at nearby Head of Elk.[22]

It was not until September 6, 1781, that Rochambeau’s first brigade marched through Delaware on its way to Virginia. Rochambeau’s son, the vicomte de Rochambeau, wrote that Delaware:

Is much longer than it is wide. The inhabitants are numerous and very industrious. The land is well cultivated, and it produces the same things that Pennsylvania does . . . It is inhabited largely by Quakers. It is given over to commerce and uses the creek which flows by its southeast portions to send out its ships. It has about 200 houses.[23]

On October 19, when British forces in Virginia surrendered to the joint French and American troops at Yorktown, Lafayette was hailed as the “Hero of Two Worlds.” On his return to France in 1782, he was promoted to maréchal de camp (brigadier general). He soon became actively involved in French politics and was deeply involved in the French Revolution, which began in 1789.

Victor Marie duPont (1767–1827) served as aide-de-camp to Lafayette (1789–91, as second secretary of the French legation (1791–92), and as first secretary (1795–96). Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord became duPont’s friends and colleagues.

After members of the duPont family had defended Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from an angry mob, Pierre duPont was sentenced to be guillotined. Due to the Thermidorian Reaction they escaped punishment, but in 1800, Pierre, his sons Victor and Eleuthère Irénée, and their wives and children, immigrated to the United States on the American Eagle.[24]

Using French gunpowder machinery and capital raised in France, Victor’s brother, Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, was authorized to construct gun powder mills along the Brandywine River. [25] Their family soon became, and remains today, important in Delaware’s economic, political, and cultural arenas.

Having survived the American Revolution, the French Revolution, imprisonment at Olmutz, the Terror, and re-engagement in French politics, Lafayette was the last surviving general of the American Revolution. When he wistfully wrote to President James Monroe that he had day-dreamed about coming back to America, Monroe quickly wrote back inviting him to help kick off the fiftieth anniversary of the United States. Lafayette happily accepted and arrived with his son, George Washington Lafayette, and their Secretary, Levasseur. Over the course of a year, they visited each of the twenty-four states.

Lafayette was welcomed in cities and towns by committees of prominent citizens and crowds of ordinary people. In Virginia he spent a week with Thomas Jefferson, and he visited the tomb of his friend and comrade George Washington at Mount Vernon. In Massachusetts, he renewed his friendship with John Adams. In Delaware he resumed his friendship with the duPonts and with veterans of the Revolutionary War.

Local oral tradition tells us that in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine, a Delaware camp follower named Belle McCloskey removed the bullet from Lafayette’s leg. When he returned to America in 1824, she presented him with this bullet which she had worn in a pouch around her neck for all those years. Historian Henry C. Conrad tells us Lafayette deliberately sought her out to thank her.[26]

For the United States government, Lafayette’s tour was a public relations campaign showcasing the impressive progress the young nation had made. Lafayette toured cities, canals, mills, factories, and farms. Stories about his tour circulated back to Europe and portrayed America as a thriving and growing nation.[27]

Among the many places Lafayette’s party visited on that trip were Philadelphia and Chester, Pennsylvania. On October 6, they were escorted twenty miles south of Philadelphia to the State of Delaware by the Grand Lodge of Delaware Masons. Lafayette was formally welcomed at Claymont’s Robinson House on the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line.[28]

The Robinson House (Author)

In the 1740s, the Robinson House, conveniently located near the area’s major east-west, and north-south transportation corridors, had been purchased by Philadelphia merchant Thomas Robinson. Following the senior Robinson’s death, the house had passed on to his son and namesake who, at the outset of the Revolution, had been commissioned as a Pennsylvania Continental Army officer, soon rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. The fact that the colonel’s wife was Gen. Anthony Wayne’s sister had made this site a convenient location for wartime discussions and meetings. Now it was an appropriate place to welcome Lafayette to Delaware, the First State.[29]

Brandywine Village. (Author)

Following Philadelphia Pike south from Claymont to Brandywine Village, a place Lafayette remembered well from the war, he was greeted with a triumphant parade, cheering crowds and waving flags. The Academy’s bell was rung, and the general visited the Tatnalls and other former colleagues. As he proceeded towards the bridge into Wilmington, people crowded around his barouche, welcoming him with enthusiastic cheers.

His next stop, today known as Old Town Hall, is located downtown at 504 North Market Street, Wilmington. Built in 1798, this was the first structure in Wilmington built for government use.[30] On the afternoon of October 6, 1824, Lafayette was celebrated there. Victor duPont gave a moving toast to celebrate Lafayette’s Farewell Return. He addressed the crowd, saying Lafayette was “the friend of mankind by nature, and an American by choice.”[31]

Leaving Wilmington in the late afternoon, the entourage moved a few miles southeast to New Castle, where Lafayette attended the wedding of Charles Irenee duPont to Dorcas Montgomery van Dyke. Lafayette officially gave the bride in marriage.[32] It was noted that Lafayette wore a Society of the Cincinnati Eagle Medal. It is said that this medal had once been owned by George Washington, and in 2007 sold for $5.3 million at auction.[33]

In recapping that day’s adventures, the newspaper The American Watchman included this piece of news:

At the request of a number of the Ladies of this Borough, the Rev. Mr. Williston last Wednesday presented General La Fayette with the following card, handsomely printed on parchment.
The Friend of Washington and America
The Ladies of Wilmington, desirous of honoring your arrival, and to perpetuate the memory of your visit, have this day formed an Association, to which your approbation will give respectability and success: They would, therefore, Sir, humbly entreat your sanction to the “La Fayette Asylum, for poor Widows and Orphan Children.”
WILMINGTON, October 8, 1824.
The General was highly pleased with the benevolent plan of commemorating his visit, and returned the Card with the following answer written upon it—
“With most affectionate and respectful gratitude, I accept the honor intended me by the Ladies of Wilmington.”[34]

On September 6, 1825, Lafayette’s sixty-eighth birthday, a banquet was held at the White House. The following day, Lafayette departed for France aboard a newly built frigate of the U.S. Navy, USS Brandywine, named in honor of Lafayette’s battlefield valor during the Revolutionary War.

When Lafayette died in Paris in 1834 American President Andrew Jackson ordered that Lafayette be accorded the same funeral honors as John Adams and George Washington. Therefore, twenty-four-gun salutes were fired from military posts and ships, each shot representing a U.S. state. Flags flew at half-mast for thirty-five days, and military officers wore crepe for six months. The Congress hung black in chambers and asked the entire country to dress in black for the next thirty days.[35]

Lafayette’s tour left lasting effects around the United States in the form of towns, counties, colleges, and streets bearing his name, projects to create monuments, and a new regard for the material relics of the American Revolution. It will be fascinating to see what impact the 2024-2025 celebration of his long-ago Farewell Tour will have on America’s upcoming Sestercentennial.


[1] See

[2] David Clary, Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution (New York: Bantam Books. 2007), 9.

[3] When his mother and grandfather died (probably in an epidemic), in 1770, they left Lafayette an income of 25,000 livres. Followed by the death of an uncle, twelve-year-old Lafayette inherited a yearly income of 120,000 livres.

[4] Kennedy Hickman, “American Revolution: the Marquis de Lafayette,” See also:

[5] Kim Burdick, “Lafayette’s Second Voyage to America,” Journal of the American Revolution, April 20, 2015,

[6] Andreas Latzko, Lafayette: A Life (New York: New York Literary Guild, 1936), 52.

[7] “George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette,”

[8] “Quaker Hill Historic District,”

[9] Thomas J. McGuire, The Philadelphia Campaign (Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole, 2006), 1:42.

[10] Clinton Weslager, Delaware’s Forgotten River (Wilmington, DE: Hambleton Co., 1947), 95-96.

[11] George Washington to John Hancock, August 27, 1777,

[12] McGuire, The Philadelphia Campaign, 150.

[13] “Joseph Tatnall,”

[14] Carol E Hoffecker, Brandywine Village (Wilmington, DE: Old Brandywine Village Inc., 1974).

[15] Ibid.

[16] “American Revolution: Battle of Cooch’s Bridge,”

[17] McGuire, The Philadelphia Campaign, 156.

[18] Robert Kirkwood, and Joseph Brown Turner, The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of The Continental Line (Wilmington, DE: The Historical society of Delaware, 1910).

[19] General orders, September 6, 1777,

[20] Kim Burdick, “A Quaker Struggles with The War,” Journal of the American Revolution, May 26, 2015,

[21] “Marquis de Lafayette,” Historical Marker Database,

[22] Burdick, “A Quaker Struggles with The War.”

[23] Ibid.

[24] The French parliamentary revolt initiated on 9 Thermidor, year II (July 27, 1794) resulted in the fall of Maximilien Robespierre and the collapse of revolutionary fervor and the Reign of Terror in France.

[25] “The duPont Company on the Brandywine,”

[26] Elizabeth Montgomery, Reminiscences of Wilmington: Familiar Village Tales, Ancient and New ( Philadelphia: T.K. Collins, Jr., 1851), 91-92. The General is said to have recognized her and thanked her. She gave him the musket ball saying it had never been out of her pocket. Historian Henry C. Conrad recounts the same legend but spells her name Belle McCluskey. He also says that she wore the ball around her neck and that it was Lafayette who sought her out in 1824 to thank her. Henry C. Conrad, History of the State of Delaware (Wilmington: by the author, 1908), 3:1063-64

[27] “The Marquis de Lafayette’s Triumphant Tour of America,”

[28] “Freemasons in Delaware,”

[29] Now marked with Historic Marker Number NCC-160,

[30] “Old Town Hall,”

[31] “Old Town Hall,”

[32] Now marked with Historic Marker NCC-A5,

[33] “This Old, Old House,”

[34] The Historical Society of Delaware has only this information, which is, that the charter was granted in 1825 to a group of women headed by Elizabeth Montgomery. The asylum unquestionably has gone out of existence, but there is no record of the date.

[35] Clary, Adopted Son.


  • Kim, I enjoyed your contribution and learned much from the history you detailed about Lafayette in Delaware during and after the war. Lafayette’s version of the August 1777 Head of Elk reconnaissance is not technically inaccurate, it does mislead us into believing that only he, Washington, and Greene took part in it. An update to that reconnaissance was published in JAR, highlighting a breakfast receipt created during the trek that indicates 23 people (including Hamilton) participated. It also features a letter written on the last day of it by an aide to General Adam Stephen which identified both of them within that party of 23 as well as “his Excellency and most of his general officers . . .” Washington also revealed in a letter written two months later that he was supported by a “strong party of horse.” So, Lafayette’s mission of 3 may have been even higher than 103.

  • Kim Thanks for keeping Delaware’s role as the crossroads of the Revolution on record. My 6th gggf served in Pa continental’s that Lafayette joined at Brandywine. A small local park near that area sets the scene. Also same gggf owned the land on Barren Hill from which Lafayette luckily made his escape. History passed through here.

  • Thanks, Bill! My first job out of grad school was at William Jeanes Library in Lafayette Hilll, and the older librarians loved to tell me the stories related to Barren Hill!

  • Kim, thoroughly enjoyed this piece, and learned much. A side note: During Lafayette’s grand farewell tour of the American states, he met up with Captain Benjamin Bonneville, who at the time was on leave from his service on the western frontier for the U.S. Army. Benjamin Louis Eulalia Bonneville was the son of Nicholas and Marguerite Brazier Bonneville, born in France two years after Robespierre was arrested, tried and guillotined. His father was a Revolutionary publisher and printer. Young Lafayette had immigrated to America in the early 1800s at the invitation of Thomas Paine, a close family friend of the Bonneville’s while Paine was involved in French Revolutionary activities. Both Nicholas and Paine had managed to escape the French Terror with their heads intact. Benjamin and his brother, Thomas, became wards of Paine while they grew up in America.

    Anyway, Lafayette, also an old friend of Paine’s, invited Bonneville to accompany him back to France after his U.S. visit, which he accepted after managing to have his leave from the army extended for a year. Upon his return, Bonneville, during a subsequent leave, went on to lead the first wagon train to cross the Rocky Mountains, in Wyoming, on what soon became well known as the Oregon Trail, a feat that helped pave the way for western expansion. Small world in those revolutionary times.

  • Just a couple of corrections to my post on Bonneville. His middle name was Eulalie, not Eulalia. And I mentioned that “young Lafayette” had immigrated to America… Should, of course, be young Bonneville. My typos.

  • Thanks for the kind suggestion, Kim. I wrote a book about Bonneville a few years ago. Captain Benjamin Bonneville’s Wyoming Expedition, The Lost 1883 Report (History Press). Covers Bonneville’s western explorations and accomplishments, based on his report to his commanding officer which was lost for almost 100 years before being discovered in misplaced Army files in the 1920s. Big name in the West: Bonneville Salt Flats, a dam on the Columbia River, a peak in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, etc. Bonneville inherited Thomas Paine’s papers from his mother when she died in America in the 1830s. She had acquired them from Paine upon his death, because she took care of him in his last few years. Benjamin stored the papers in a barn in Missouri while stationed on the frontier. At some point, the barn burned down. Paine had promised Benjamin Franklin that he would write a history of the American Revolution. It’s possible a draft of that work was among the papers forever lost.

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