Experience Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

Visit the French frigate Hermione at Annapolis, Baltimore or Philadelphia

Image of the French frigate Hermione in combat by Auguste Louis de Rossel de Cercy (Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Image of the French frigate Hermione in combat by Auguste Louis de Rossel de Cercy (Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

This painting depicts the 216-foot French three-masted frigate Hermione in combat during the European Naval battle of Louisbourg. However the Hermione is more famous for avoiding warfare years earlier, in its most celebrated mission. In 1780, the Hermione was assigned to transport the Marquis de Lafayette upon his second voyage to America. It was imperative that Lafayette arrived safe; therefore the captain was instructed to avoid military action.

A meticulously detailed replica of the Hermione was completed in France last year and earlier this month, the maiden transatlantic voyage was completed; arriving at Yorktown, Virginia, on June 5th. Besides Yorktown, the Hermione has already made stops at Mount Vernon and Alexandria, Virginia.

On June 16th and 17th, the Hermione is scheduled to be at the city dock in Annapolis, Maryland. On June 19th, 20th & 21st, the Hermione is scheduled to be at Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. On June 25th, 26th, 27th & 28th, the Hermione is scheduled to be at the Independence Seaport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Besides tours of the Hermione, there is a full range of other activities accompanying each stop; click on the respective city for the link to these details.

The Marquis de Lafayette made his first voyage to America in 1777, arriving in Charlestown, South Carolina, on June 13th, 1777. He was inspired by Americas fight for independence and wanted to volunteer in the cause. Lafayette made his way to Philadelphia and successfully made his case before Congress. On July 31st, 1777, Congress adopted a resolution granting his commission:

Whereas the Marquis de Lafayette, out of his great zeal to the cause of liberty, in which the United States are engaged, has left his family and connexions, and at his own expense come over to offer his services to the United States without pension or particular allowance, and is anxious to risqué his life in our cause—

Resolved, that his service be accepted, and that in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions he have rank and commission of major-general in the Army of the United States.

The next day Lafayette met the Commander-in-Chief George Washington, who was in Philadelphia at the time. Lafayette was not yet 20-years-old and Washington was 49-years-old, however a lifelong friendship grew from that first meeting.

In the Battle of Brandywine, Lafayette was wounded. After recovering he assumed command of a new division while the army was wintering at Valley Forge. While in Valley Forge, during late January 1778, Lafayette received a dispatch, appointing him to command the Northern army in an expedition into Canada. Lafayette immediately obtained a leave from Washington and traveled to York, Pennsylvania to meet with Congress and settle issues about this command.

While in York, Lafayette had the opportunity to toast George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief. This occurred while there was some talk about replacing Washington. This toast probably solidified the command of Washington, since Congress valued Lafayette’s influence with the French. A few days later, on February 3rd, Lafayette departed York to assume his new command.

Lafayette returned to join Washington’s command on March 25th, following what Lafayette called “the ridiculous expedition into Canada.” Lafayette remained under Washington’s direct command for the remainder of 1778.

On January 11th, 1779, Lafayette boarded the Alliance and sailed home. Early in 1778, France had recognized the independence of the United States, while Congress was meeting in York, Pennsylvania. However Lafayette felt that France should do more and returned home to lobby Louis XVI for substantial military aid to assist the American cause.

While home, the third child of Lafayette was born on Christmas Eve, 1779. In admiration for his commander and friend, his son was christened George Washington.

The persuasive powers of Lafayette won out. Louis XVI granted the military aid and had the recently built frigate Hermione assigned to return Lafayette to the United States. On March 19th, 1780, the Hermione set sail with Lafayette and 300 soldiers. After a 38-day Atlantic crossing, they safely arrived at Boston.

Lafayette met up with Washington in Morristown, New Jersey; informing him that a French expeditionary fleet and force of 6,000 soldiers was being formed. These French forces proved critical in the winning of the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19th, 1781. The frigate Hermione saw action with the French Fleet and was part of the blockade that prevented the British Fleet from reinforcing the army of General Lord Cornwallis during the siege of Yorktown; ultimately leading to the British surrender.

In addition to the upcoming nearby stops for the Hermione in Annapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia; stops at six locations during July are also scheduled.  These include: New York NY, Greenport NY, Newport RI, Boston MA, Castine ME and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Links to related posts:

* The primary reference source for this post is Brand Whitlock’s 1929 Biography of Lafayette.

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About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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