Lafayette Trail in Maine – Julien Icher is a French scholar who is leading the process of documenting the footsteps of General Lafayette, at the time he visited the United States, after the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). This historic visit by Lafayette was significant because the French General had been a close ally to General George Washington. He visited the United States, in 1824-1825, at the invitation of President James Monroe.
In addition to being a military hero, as well as a French aristocrat and a friend to George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) was also an inspired humanitarian.
During America’s Revolutionary War, the Marquis de Lafayette was a close friend with General George Washington, who led the colonial armies. A history about their friendship is documented in “For Liberty and Glory,” by James R. Gaines. I was glad to find my hard copy edition of this book when I learned about Icher’s work to document Lafayette’s last visit to the United States.
Lafayette was wealthy and an orphan when, at 16 years old and already a French army officer, he married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles, who was from one of the wealthiest families in France. At a gathering in France on August 8, 1775, Lafayette heard about the struggle in the British colonies. He made clandestine arrangements to travel to America and joined the revolutionary cause.
He landed near Charleston, South Carolina, June 13, 1777, and then traveled to Philadelphia, where he was commissioned on July 31, as a Major General. This reflected his wealth and social station, rather than years of battlefield experience, because, he was only 19 years old at the time. He was introduced to his commander-in-chief, General George Washington, who would become a lifelong friend. “They were often seen as father and son,” wrote Gaines.
Aurore Eaton, a New Hampshire writer, reported, “In addition to his military contributions, Lafayette was instrumental in obtaining vital aid from the French government in support of the new United States of America. After the American Revolution, Lafayette returned to France, where he was caught up in the perilous political conflicts that emerged at the time of the French Revolution. He was arrested in 1792, and held in captivity for more than five years.”
“Throughout his adult life, Lafayette advocated for human rights, including an end to slavery in the United States. His 1824-1825 tour of the 24 American states, a pilgrimage through his adopted country, was cause for celebration in the towns and cities where he stopped along his route.” (Including in Maine.)
On the Maine Historical Society website, it was reported, “Between July 1824 and September 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette – the last surviving French general of the American Revolutionary War – toured the US at the invitation of President James Monroe to help mark the fledgling nation’s 50th anniversary. Lafayette’s tour encompassed several stops in Maine, including a visit to Portland, where he met Stephen Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s father.”
Icher has a website, The Lafayette Trail. This nonprofit Franco-American effort will document Lafayette’s footsteps during his 1824-1825 tour.
From the website www.thelafayettetrail.com:
“We are The Lafayette Trail, a Franco-American effort to document, map and mark the footsteps of General Lafayette during his fourth and last visit to the United States in 1824-1825.”
Icher contacted me to explain the project, “I created The Lafayette Trail to increase mutual understanding between France and the US by building upon Lafayette’s ubiquitous legacy. The goal of the trail is to document, map, and mark the footsteps of Lafayette during his fourth visit to his adopted land in 1824. This is in preparation for the bicentennial celebrations, in 2024. The trail also aims at raising Lafayette’s critical contribution to the founding of the United States.”
“It is my intention to invite as many localities as possible to proactively engage in the national conversation that we are building around Lafayette, his message and the values he consistently advocated for throughout his entire life.”
Read Aurore Eaton’s article in “Looking Back” at this site:
Check out the social media page @thelafayettetrail for The Lafayette Trail.
Contact Julian Icher at email@example.com
Icher is wroking with Maine legislators, including York County Senator Susan Deschambault, and other across the United States, to secure official recognition about the significance of Lafayette’s 1824-1825 visit. He is looking to obtain from state legislatures the authorization to work with their transportation departments, to erect and maintain Lafayette Trail historical markers.
More information about The Lafayette Trail history in Maine is also reported in this article.