Section II:
The Marquis de Lafayette, Fighting for American Independence

"I have just received your favor of the 13th instant, acquainting me with the honor Congress have been pleased to confer on me by their most gracious resolve. Whatever pride such an approbation may justly give me, I am not less affected by the feelings of gratefulness, and the satisfaction of thinking my endeavors were looked on as useful to a cause, in which my heart is so deeply interested."

Lafayette to President Laurens, Congress, September 23, 1778

"Serving America is to my heart an inexpressible happiness."

Lafayette to General Washington, June 12, 1779

In Metz, France on August 8,1775 Lafayette heard about the colonies' grievances against King George III of England from the Kings' brother the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke was praising the courage and determination of the Americans for whom he foresaw independence from Great Britain.

Word about the grievances and fight for Independence was delivered throughout the colonies by means of couriers, members of each colony's Committee of Correspondence, in newspapers and on broadsides and handbills.  Broadsides were often used as recruitment posters.  Click here to view text of broadside shown at right.

Design a broadside that would entice an individual to come to American to assist in the fight for freedom. Use text and pictures or drawings to create a broadside that would attract attention.

In 1775 there were 44 newspapers in the colonies. Newspapers provided accounts of meetings held in the colonies as well as proceedings in the First Continental Congress protesting the Intolerable Acts. Review these acts and write a newspaper column about them and the reactions of the colonists to the acts. In addition design a broadside or a handbill denouncing the Intolerance Acts.

Public Domain

Symbols and phrases of the America fight for freedom included Benjamin Franklin's and Paul Revere's disjointed snake  and the Don't Tread On Me snake.  Design a symbol to reflect your thoughts on Independence.

All images Public Domain

Label the 1776 map with the following information: (click on map image below to view larger version).

  • The Thirteen colonies by name

  • Atlantic Ocean

  • England

  • France

  • Spain

  • Great Lakes

  • Africa

  • Metz

  • West Indies

Adapted from the American Girls Collection, Welcome to Felicity's World 1774 Life in Colonial America

Draw in a compass rose to indicate directions.

Use colored pens to designate these 1776 areas on this map:

Red Spanish claims
Brown French claims
Orange British colonies
Yellow Disputed between Britain and France
Green Disputed between Britain and Spain

On April 20, 1777 Lafayette left France to come to America on board the vessel La Victoire. He arrived June 13, 1777 in Charleston and then proceeded to Philadelphia, arriving there June 25 where he presented himself to the Continental Congress to serve as a volunteer in the army. On one of the maps you have labeled indicate his route as well as days of travel. 

Ocean travel was long and arduous.  How many days was Lafayette's first voyage?  What provisions would a ship need to stock for the crossing?  What type of vessel would have crossed the ocean in 1777?  Lafayette traveled back to France in 1779 on the frigate  Alliance and in 1780 he will return to America on the vessel, Hermione. On that voyage to Boston the Hermione crossed the Atlantic in 38 days. The Hermione is being replicated in Rochefort, France with a completion date in 2007.  Examine these episodes from the life of the Hermione to learn more about her construction and initial missions.

Visit this website with information about the reconstruction of the Hermione ( and to discover the traditional way a ship was constructed in the 1780s.  Do you see any similarities with the reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson's octagonal home Poplar Forest built in the early 1800s? (

Use the chart of the vessels of the Continental Navy at to answer the following questions:

  • List the vessels that were lent to America by France.
  • How many vessels were built in American shipyards and launched?
  • List the American built vessels that were captured by the enemy.
  • Create a timeline showing the vessels that were destroyed during the war.
  • What conclusions can you draw from your timeline about the war?
  • How many vessels did America purchase?

There are many types of vessels.  Using the list of vessels in the Continental Navy, make a chart of the types.  Also record in the chart the number of each type in the Continental Navy. Example:

Vessel Type Number





Research and report on the differences between the types of vessels.  See if you can locate an illustration to help show the different types.  

Plot the yearly (1775-1783) number of vessels acquired by the Continental Navy.   Your chart should resemble the image at left. (Click image for larger version to print out.)

What information can you conclude from your graph?

Based on the record of the vessels of the Continental Navy, determine how many vessels remained in the Continental Navy after 1783.

The Army

George Washington takes command on June 23, 1775 of the Massachusetts Citizens Army consisting of 17,000 men.  These men were farmers and craftsmen -- not trained or professional soldiers.  The table below lists some of the occupations of men who fought in the American Revolution.  In the second column, list skills these men possessed that would have been useful in the war.

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Occupation Useful Skills
Farmer/Laborer use of heavy equipment, manage wagons, horses, digging trenches/redoubts
Blacksmith make metal pieces for weapons, wagons, nails, tools, hinges
Furniture Makers/Builders  
Physick (physician)  

Men skilled in a craft were known as "mechanics", or "tradesmen", or "leather aprons."  Leather aprons were worn to protect an individual from injuries that could result from their work.

What do you think these "mechanics" did for a living?               Printer-friendly version


Type of work 

Do These Jobs Exist Today?
If not, what has replaced them?
Peruke Maker    
Potash Maker    
Plasterer (current event)    

Winter 1777- 1778 at Valley Forge  

The Early American Digital Library The Early American Digital Library

You have been assigned as the newspaper correspondent for Valley Forge, the Winter Headquarters for General George Washington.  Using the images of Valley Forge above, write a news feature for each image on the conditions at Valley Forge during the Winter Camp.  Your news article should elaborate on the hardships faced by the American troops.  Newspaper stories should include who, what, when, where.  As a reporter you might want to interview a soldier or officer who was present.  Be sure to give your article a date and headline.

View the image at left (click on image for a larger version to view) and write a letter home to your family about General Washington's inspection of the Winter Headquarters at Valley Forge.  In your letter describe General Washington and how he treated the soldiers.  Tell your family about Washington's leadership and what the men in the camp think of him. 
The Early American Digital Library

Battle of Brandywine Creek, 1777  

Lafayette was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine Creek, Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777.  In an interview in 1825 for the Poulson's Advetiser Lafayette remembers the incident:  

The ball went through and through; I was on foot when I received my wound; a part of our line had given way but a part still held its ground. To these I repaired. To encourage my comrades, and to show them I had no better chance of flight than they, I ordered my horse to the rear. The news of my being hurt was conveyed to the commander-in-chief, with the usual exaggerations in such cases. The good General Washington freely expressed his grief that one so young, and a volunteer in the holy cause of freedom, should so early have fallen; but he was soon relieved by an assurance that my wound would stop short of life, when he sent me his love an gratulation that matters were no worse. On the field of battle the surgeon prepared his dressings, but the shot fell so thick around us, that in a very little time, if we had remained, we should both have been past all surgery. Being mounted on my horse I left the field, and repaired to the bridge near Chester, where I halted and placed a guard, to stop fugitive soldiers, and direct them to join their respective regiments. I could do no more; becoming faint, I was carried into a house in Chester and laid on a table, when my wound received its first dressing. The general officers soon arrived, when I saluted them by begging that they would not eat me up, as they appeared to be very hungry, and I was the only dish upon the table in the house. The good general-in-chief was much gratified on finding me in such spirits, and caused a litter to be made, on which I was conveyed to the Indian Queen [a tavern/hotel] in Philadelphia, and was there waited upon by the members of Congress, who were all booted and spurred and on the wing for a place of greater safety to hold their sessions. The enemy continuing to advance, I was removed to Bristol, and thence in the coach of President Laurens (and coaches were rare in those days) to Reading [here Lafayette's memory fails him -- he was actually moved to Bethlehem], where I remained until so much recovered as to be able to repair to head-quarters.

Courtesy of the Independence Hall Association

Committees were established to help provide medicines, provisions and clothing for the wounded on the battlefields and in the hospitals. List organizations and agencies in the 21st century that provide similar services.

Review the Certificate for Revolutionary Medicine shown at left (click image to view larger version). Most of the practicing physicians in 1775 were apprenticed-trained.  What does it mean to be apprenticed-trained?  Create a chart listing the things an apprentice would need to know in order to receive a certificate to practice medicine.   The Revolutionary period became a training ground for doctors.  Once an apprentice had served a five year period with a physician, he could practice medicine as a doctor.  Compare and contrast this process with medical training and requirements today.  In 1776, about 5% of the 3,500 individuals practicing as physicians had degrees in medicine.

Compare Revolutionary cures/treatments with modern-day treatments for the following conditions.

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Problems  Revolutionary treatment Modern treatment
Head wound    
Bullet wound to leg/arm    
Heat Stroke    
Fractured leg    
Small Pox (current event)    
Frost bite on fingers and toes    
Bleeding wounds    
Wound inflammation    

As a surgeon on the battlefield at Brandywine Creek, describe in your surgeon's journal your medical duties.  

When and where was the first hospital in the colonies built?  When and where was the first medical school established in the colonies?


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