It was a legendary bromance that would echo through the ages. George Washington and the Marquis. It started like all great stories, at a pub. George was introduced to the Marquis and to say Lafayette was star struck would be underselling it. The Marquis was already completely taken with the American cause and Washington was the epitome of it. George liked him well enough, but he also knew he needed to be kind to the Marquis because of his patriotic zeal. Just kidding, he knew he was rich and well connected.
A funny thing happened shortly after. The Marquis won over Washington quickly with something he would use effectively throughout his life: his humility. Washington invited the Marquis to review his troops and found them sorely lacking. Each soldier was wearing different clothes if they were barely clothed at all. Washington was horribly embarrassed and admitted it to Lafayette. The Marquis replied with a comment that is often cited as the very moment George Washington took on Lafayette as adopted son. Lafayette replied to Washington’s admission by saying, “I am here to learn, not to teach.” Washington realized this extremely privileged, rich, and well-connected aristocrat was not cut from the same cloth as the others. Moreover, Washington never had children of his own (Martha Washington had children from a previous marriage) and Washington would treat Lafayette as a surrogate son from that point on.
The Marquis would find very soon that being a favorite of Washington had its advantages. Even though the Marquis was supposed to be a glorified staff officer (i.e. never leading men in battle), he quickly found himself in the thick of it at the Battle of Brandywine. Lafayette would be wounded in the battle and Washington would send his personal surgeon to care for him.
Washington would eventually throw his weight behind getting the Marquis the command position he sought after. He would prove to be a very capable officer and an extremely loyal friend to Washington. In fact, he was instrumental in one of the most famous battles in American history.
But first, he needed to take a trip home.
(Part 4 next week)