The Marquis de Lafayette got his commission as a major-general in the American army on this date in 1777. He was 19.
Nineteen! I mean, really. He was five weeks short of being 20, but just how much combat experience could he have had? It’s no wonder the Congress declined to give him a unit to go with the commission; he got to be an aide to Washington for a while, but didn’t get any actual soldiers under his command for another year.
But the whole point of Lafayette was not to add a seasoned campaigner to the rolls, but to get the French to support the Revolution, which a year later they did. And Lafayette was so connected – not only was his own family venerable and respected for its military achievements, but he married the daughter of the Duc de Noailles, which was something like marrying a Rockefeller.
Lafayette probably knew what was going on, but he seems to have been good-natured about it and ultimately served quite bravely. But he really was just a very young adventurer – he outfitted his own boat to get here, hitched a ride when it was captured by the British, and offered immediately to serve without pay. Just spoiling for a fight.
After an eventful life, he died in 1834 and was buried in Paris. And just to prove that people were every bit as strange then as they are now, his grave was topped with soil from Bunker Hill.
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The Pilgrim fathers left Holland on this date in 1620 in the Speedwell and sailed to Southampton, England, where they met up with like-minded dissenters aboard the Mayflower and they all set out for America. The Speedwell twice sprung leaks and finally everybody squished into the Mayflower.
It later turned out that the crew of the Speedwell had been poking holes in the ship because they’d changed their minds about the trip. For some reason, I find that absolutely hilarious.
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Happy birthday to J.K. Rowling, who once was poor, but now is rich. Good for her – along the way she got thousands of kids not only reading, but acquiring an attention span.