I laughed along with the men, then asked shyly: “I still do not understand why Lafayette is thought to be such a hero, sir. I heard he won no big battles.”
The veteran shrugged. “That is true enough, my girl, but he did very well when he was finally given men to command.”
I listened closely as the man explained that Lafayette’s actions at Brandywine had so impressed General Nathanael Greene that had he sent the young Frenchman on a reconnaissance mission commanding a few hundred men. Lafayette had led them on a surprise attack on some Hessians near Gloucester, in the Jerseys. Though outnumbered, it was said that Lafayette and his men “fought like demons,” and it was not until the British commander, Cornwallis, sent out some grenadiers from the main camp that Lafayette withdrew.
The stranger took another gulp of the rum. “Greene said afterwards that Lafayette ‘seemed to search for danger.’ High praise indeed for such a young man in his first command.”
Mr. Towne explained that after that, Washington put Lafayette in command of a division, so he was no longer a major general without any troops.
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