They were unlikely comrades-in-arms. One was a self-taught, middle-aged Virginia planter in charge of a ragtag army of revolutionaries, the other a rich, glory-seeking teenage French aristocrat. But the childless Washington and the orphaned Lafayette forged a bond between them as strong as any between father and son. It was an unbreakable trust that saw them through betrayals, shifting political alliances, and the trials of war.
Lafayette came to America a rebellious youth whose defiance of his king made him a celebrity in France. His money and connections attracted the favor of the Continental Congress, which advised Washington to keep the exuberant Marquis from getting himself killed. But when the boy-general was wounded in his first battle, he became a hero of two countries. As the war ground on, Washington found in his young charge the makings of a courageous and talented commander whose loyalty, generosity, and eagerness to please his Commander in Chief made him one of the war’s most effective and inspired generals. Lafayette’s hounding of Cornwallis’s army was the perfect demonstration of Washington’s unconventional “bush-fighting” tactics, and led to the British surrender at Yorktown.
Their friendship continued throughout their lives. Lafayette inspired widespread French support for a struggling young America and personally influenced Washington’s antislavery views. Washington’s enduring example as general and statesman guided Lafayette during France’s own revolution years later.
Using personal letters and other key historical documents, Adopted Son offers a rare glimpse of the American Revolution through the friendship between Washington and Lafayette. It offers dramatic accounts of battles and intimate portraits of such major figures as Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, and Benjamin Franklin. The result is a remarkable, little-known epic of friendship, revolution, and the birth of a nation.
Personal friends and political allies, George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette had one of the most important friendships of the 18th century. In this enjoyable study, Clary (The Place Where Hell Bubbled Up: A History of the First National Park) argues that although each man was a hero of the American Revolution, it was their partnership that secured American victory. Both men were orphans, and their devotion to each other was motivated by a deep psychological bond. As the title suggests, Washington was something of a father figure to the younger Frenchman, and Lafayette gave the general "unwavering loyalty, truly filial devotion." But the mentoring was not wholly one-sided: Lafayette was committed to the abolition of slavery, and Clary suggests that it was because of Lafayette's influence that Washington chose to free his slaves on his wife's death. The chapters on Lafayette's role in the French Revolution and Washington's anguish over Lafayette's imprisonment make this book far broader than the usual 1776 account. Occasionally, Clary gives over to cutesy Frenchisms (about Lafayette being wounded at the Battle of Brandywine, he writes, "If this was martial glory, tr s bien"). Still, on the whole, Clary has satisfyingly woven together grand military history with an intimate portrait of deep affection. Illus.