Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lafayette lands!

I have a visitor from Paris, but only for a second, so I want to encourage them to come back. I revisited my research on Lafayette and discovered his papers found in 1956 in France by his relatives were microfilmed at the suggestion of the Library of Congress in 1996, made available on the web and also housed at Cleveland State University.

In a letter to his wife, Adrienne upon his arrival at South Carolina, Lafayette says...

June 15, at Major Huger’s, translated...

I have arrived my Dear Heart, and in very good health, at the house of an American officer and, by sheer good luck, a French vessel is setting sails. Imagine my joy! I am going tonight to Charles town. I will write you from there. There is yet no interesting news to report. The countryside is open and there is no fighting, at least not much. Manners in this world (SC) are simple, honest and, in all things, worthy of the country where the beautiful word liberty resonates. I meant to write to Mr. d’Ayen, but it is not possible. Farewell, farewell, my Dear Heart. From Charles town I will go to Philadelphia by land and then join the army.

Isn’t it so my Heart that you still love me.


That's nice to hear. SC manners, especially at the beaches of the Atlantic, are worthy of the country where liberty resonates, but you knew that.

And what about the American officer...

In June, 1777, Major Benjamin Huger, an officer in the South Carolina regiment, was entertaining two visitors to America in his home. The Marquis de Lafayette and Baron Johann de Kalb had just arrived off the coast of South Carolina, about 50 miles south of Charleston, which was under British blockade. Upon setting foot in America, Lafayette took an oath, aloud, to live or die by the ideals of the rebellion. Major Huger was of French Huguenot descent and spoke French. At the table the Major noticed that Lafayette used a beautiful wood handled folding knife to cut some fruit. He admired it and thought of a similar knife that had accompanied his (grand?) father when he crossed the Atlantic to settle this new land. When Major Huger's (grand?) father passed on, the Nontron folding knife became a treasured part of his inheritance. It was a connection to his family's past. These two men, Lafayette and Kalb, left several days later to meet John Hancock in Philadelphia. Both men would bravely distinguish themselves in the American Revolution

Lafayette was lost, according to some accounts, with his ship blown off course away from Charlestown, away from a British blockade, to be finally landed near Georgetown, SC coincidentally (?) into the immediate sight of slaves who escorted him to their master's home, that of an American officer, the Congressman's son and French descended, French speaking patriot, Ben Huger II. Oh la la. What could be more perfect than that?

Not all of Lafayette's paper are translated. The papers are owned by the Fondation Jos‚e et Ren‚ de Chambrun established by the Count and Countess de Chambrun to administer the Chateau La Grange and other material documenting their family's distinguished heritage.

It is apparent the task was left unfinished. There are notes throughout, that certain folders are "Not Filmed." Anyone needing access to material beyond what is contained in the microfilm, must apply to the Josée and René de Chambrun Foundation, which owns the papers at Chateau La Grange.

Was lost and now was found. Some graduate student needs a year in France to translate the letters to Adrienne.

Would he have written anything before he arrived in Philadelphia? Maybe not, but maybe immediately when he arrived there at the port. Did he say anything else about his journey over land and though presumably North Carolina?

If not, then at least somebody can just a imagine what could have been, and write a movie, n'est pas?

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