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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why We Honor Lafayette

The man who designed the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, is responsible for the bronze statue of Marquis de Lafayette in Union Square in New York.

This statue was cast in 1873 and dedicated in 1876, according to the NYC Parks webpage on it.  A gift from the French government, by way of gratitude for aid given by New York City to the French during the Franco-Prussian War.  When the American forces arrived in Paris during the First World War, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stanton (not General John Pershing) uttered the words "Lafayette, we are here" before the French general's grave.  There are Fayette Counties around the country named for him.

While his courage under fire was demonstrated, his lack of real military experience almost led to disaster at Barren Hill.  Nonetheless, a favorite of George Washington, he also gave significant diplomatic service in maintaining French-American relations.  Still, the fascination and respect afforded Lafayette, like that to Pulaski, Kosciusko, von Steuben and other foreign figures that were generals and officers in the American Revolution, seems to attest to the universality of the philosophical underpinnings of the Revolution.  It also speaks to another time in which people literally put their money where their mouth was, and even more literally, their lives.  These were not the "hit and run" commentators of today's digital world, striking through 140 character comments in the ether.  

We wander our cities and see these statues as part of the landscape, but it is good to remember who these people were and why they continue to be in our consciousness today.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Western Frontier of the Revolution

Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark established a camp on Corn Island at the Falls of the Ohio in 1778 in order to carry the Revolutionary War westward.  With no regular Continental Army soldiers, he relied on militia units.  We can see the sweep of the river by the statue to him in Louisville overlooking the falls and the area of Corn Island.

Corn Island became his base for action in the Revolution, which included his victory at Vincennes in Indiana in 1779.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pulaski and Kosciuszko

Casimir Pulaski and Thaddeus Kosciuszko are honored in a unique park next to the Cooper River near Camden, New Jersey in the Polish American Congress Monument.

We see Kosciuszko in the foreground and Pulaski in the background in this view.  I have posted previously about these two; both are memorialized elsewhere in New Jersey and in other states.  The two of them are also part of the 14 statues comprising the American Revolution Statuary in Washington, DC.

The day I was there was somewhat cold and the park sparsely attended.  The two generals faced the road, their backs to the Cooper River.  Pulaski died at Savannah and Kosckiuszko survived the war, although he was wounded at the Siege of Ninety-Six in South Carolina.  I simply found this one of the more interesting sites memorializing Revolutionary War generals, and in particular, uniting the two Polish generals.  Their paths crossed in South Jersey, with Kosciuuszko engineering the Delaware River defenses and Pulaski seeing action with British Major Patrick Ferguson, though I do not believe they ever fought side by side.