La Fayette's Visits to Mount Vernon

LA FAYETTE’s VISITS to MOUNT VERNON



1781

31 March Lafayette paid a brief, courtesy visited to Mount Vernon, having visited Washington's mother in Fredericksburg the previous day. This event occured during Lafayette's personal 'advance reconnaissance' in to Virginia, prior to leading his American troops back into the state to begin his Virginia Campaign in the summer of 1781that led to the allied Yorktown Campaign of that year.

Primary reference for this visit is in Izerda’s letters of Lafayette: Lafayette’s 8 April 1781 letter to GW mentions that the marquis made the visit, but is not specific on the date for Mount Vernon. Gottschalk’s work on Lafayette does not cover it! However, a very important work was complied by J. Bennett Nolan for the American Friends of Lafayette: Lafayette In America Day by Day (John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1934).
There was no a bicentennial commemoration in 1981. The 225th commemoration was conducted in 2006. See The 225th ANNIVERSARY of LAFAYETTE's FIRST VISIT to MOUNT VERNON 31 March 2006.


1784

This would be the only time Lafayette was at Mount Vernon with George Washington. Lafayette departed France for a visit to the US. He arrived at New York 4 August 1784. Though his initial itinerary took him briefly to New York and Baltimore However, his principal destination on this trip was Mount Vernon, which he visited on two occasions: 17 August to 28 August 1784 and 24-28 November 1784, where he was in the close company of George Washington and the General’s family.
Lafayette reportedly visited 10 states before returning to Mount Vernon. At one of these visits, Washington presented Lafayette with a badge of the Order of the Cincinnati. The emblem was designed by Pierre L'Enfant. Reportedly, it was during one of these visits that Lafayette gave Washington a Masonic apron embroidered by Adrienne. However, this incident appears to be a legend [See link at bottom of this page.]. In late November, George Washington rode with the Marquis as far as Annapolis, where there were some more ceremonies before La Fayette departed on his own to New York. See "Lafayette's 1784 Visit to the United States and Mount Vernon."

The only known commemoration of this visit was conducted by The District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The DC Society used the occasion of their traditional October program that celebrates the anniversary of the American victory at Yorktown and to honors the contribution of the French heroes of the American Revolution, to support a special program commemorating the 225th Anniversary of a unique moment for two of the great heros of the American War for Independence. The program was held on 24 October 2009, at the Officers' Club, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC. With the DC Society's President, Gary Nordlinger, presiding; and with French Embassy guests [M. Françoïs Rivasseau, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Col. Vincent Cousin, Air Attaché, present; the program Chairman, Peter Arrott Dixon, introduced a representative of the American Revolution Round Table of DC to give a talk "Commemorating Lafayette's Visit with Gen. Washington at Mt. Vernon in 1784."


1824-25

16 [15?] August 1824 Lafayette arrived at New York to begin his 'final farewell' American Tour. He visited Mount Vernon more than once during his extended tour of the US. Specific Mount Vernon visit dates are based upon Nolan’s Lafayette in American Day by Day: Also consulted as a source is Lafayette the Guest of the Nation, by Jane Bacon MacIntire (1967).

He visited George Washington’s grave site on the grounds of Mount Vernon, 17 October 1824. He stayed at the Executive Mansion 25 August. Visited [evidently supported in Adams’ Memoirs]. Woodlawn and Mount Vernon 30 August 1825. It appears that he had dinner at the White house and remained there over night on 31 August 1825. Then he dined at Mount Vernon on 1 September 1825, but returned to the White House. This appears to be his last time at Mount Vernon. Lafayette remained with John Quincy Adams at the White house until his 7 September 1825 day of departure from the Capitol. The ceremonies of Lafayette’s departure from the US terra-firma began on 7 September 1825 at Cana’s Wharf [today’s Navy Yard, in Washington, DC] where Lafayette boarded the steamboat Mount Vernon. Farewell ceremonies continued as the ship proceeded down the Potomac River, past crowds on the shore waving, past Mount Vernon, which he viewed in silence and gazed at the estate which continued the tomb of his beloved adopted father. The steamboat reached the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, where La Fayette board the USS Brandywine

[Bicentennial commemoration would be in 2024-5]



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Page posted 11 June 2008; revised 15 April 2010.