Revolutionary War Hero of Hartford County: The Marquis de Lafayette

The American Revolution took place between 1775 and 1783. Connecticut was one of the original Thirteen Colonies to win their independence from Britain. Connecticut was one of the states that passed anti-Tory laws before the war. In April 1775, Connecticut sent state troops, militia, and any man old enough to fight in the war. During the Revolution over 40,000 Connecticut men served in the military. Hartford was an important meeting place for the French and American military commanders. In fact, George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau held meetings there to supply the Continental Army with men and various supplies.  

While there are several Connecticut patriots that have earned acclaim, The Marquis de Lafayette has an interesting life story. Even the tale about how his statue came to be in Hartford County is intriguing.  

Who is The Marquis de Lafayette?

Information about the Marquis de la Fayette
Source: CT Monuments

The Marquis de Lafayette was a French nobleman and military officer who fought valiantly in the American Revolutionary War. He commanded several battles, but he is most well-known for the siege of Yorktown. Lafayette was only 19 years old when he evaded British authorities and made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to help the rebels in America in 1777. He was made a major general in the Continental Army on July 31, 1777 despite the fact that he did not have any battle experience and spoke very little English.  

It is said that George Washington had a great amount of respect for the young Frenchman. During the infamous harsh winter at Valley Forge in 1777 and the conclusive battle at Yorktown, Lafayette stayed by Washington’s side. Lafayette even named his only son after George Washington. 

Lafayette is an Honorary American Citizen 

Portrait of Lafayette
Source: History Channel

Lafayette co-authored the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen with Thomas Jefferson. It is no wonder why Lafayette was made an honorary American citizen in 1784. The US State Department revoked his citizenship in 1935 due to the ratification of the US Constitution. In 2002, Congress granted Lafayette the honorary American citizenship he deserves.  

The 24-State Victory Tour

Old photograph with Lafayette
Source: Britannica

During the French Revolution, Lafayette was captured and imprisoned. After he was released in 1824, he came back to the US for a 24-state victory tour. He stopped in New Haven, Tolland, and Middletown, CT. The cornerstone for the Bunker Hill monument in Massachusetts was laid by Lafayette during this time.  

According to the Connecticut Historical Society, while on his way to Hartford during his 24-state victory tour, Lafayette stopped at Smith’s Tavern on the Tolland Green, which is near the Old Tolland County Court House. The American Friends of Lafayette donated a marker in Tolland to honor the town’s part in Lafayette’s historic journey.  

The Lafayette Plaza section of Vernon also has a marker, as records show that he stopped at the intersection of state routes 30 and 31. Records also show that in 1724, he stopped at the King’s Tavern near where the monument currently stands. 

Lafayette’s Dying Wish

Lafayette Plaque
Source: Atlas Obscura

At the age of 72, he led the National Guard and helped French revolutionaries who built barricades in the streets of Paris. In fact, he turned down the dictatorship he was offered and backed Louis-Philippe as the constitutional monarch of France. On May 20, 1834, the 76-year-old Lafayette was laid to rest in France.  Lafayette came to be known as “The Hero of the Two Worlds” and his dying request was that he be buried in both American and French soil. His son carried out his wish by covering his coffin with dirt taken from Bunker Hill.   

The Lafayette Statue

The Statue of Lafayette
Source: Equestrian Statue

The statue, which was sculpted by Paul Wayland Bartlett, is a replica of the 1907 statue in Paris. American schoolchildren raised $50,000 to create the sculpture and have it stand in the Louvre in Paris. The plaster cast of the piece was donated to the State of Connecticut and an additional $25,000 was contributed by the sculptor. In 1930, November 11th, Mrs. Frances B Storrs donated $20,000 to build a bronze copy of the Lafayette equestrian sculpture in Hartford.  

Originally the statue stood across Capitol Avenue. In 1979, the statue was moved to improve traffic patterns in the area.  Today, the Marquis de Lafayette memorial stands at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Lafayette Street on a traffic island directly across from the State Capitol Building and Bushnell Hall.  It portrays Lafayette on horseback with an uplifted sword gallantly ushering soldiers into battle.  

In 1957 a plaque was added to the monuments base. Lafayette’s birthday and his death date are inscribed. It also says, “A true friend of liberty, who served as a major general in the Continental Army with all possible zeal, without any special pay or allowances until the American colonists secured their freedom and whose frequent visits to this state as aide to Washington as liaison officer with supporting French troops, and in the pursuit of freedom, are gratefully remembered.” 

Hartford County is not only a place for history buffs, but there are also fun activities for everyone, especially in the winter, which is quickly approaching. If you are interested in moving to Hartford County, we can help your research. You can read about the attractions, fun activities, and our apartment communities in Hartford County

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