Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

finishing blow to the war, presented a vast field of tents at the reception of Lafayette. The same house occupied by Cornwallis, as his headquarters in 1781, was still standing. The general appearance of the place gave evidence of a deserted village. The houses of yore, which had been riddled with balls and blackened with smoke, still retained the marks of battle. In many parts of the ground were seen broken shells and gun-carriages, with various implements of war,—some on rocks, and others half buried in the earth; every arrangement having been made to give the town on Lafayette's arrival, the appearance of a place taken and occupied after a severe contest in battle. One of the tents erected on this occasion, was the one used by Washington at the time of the siege, together with others which had furnished temporary apartments for weary soldiers during the eventful campaign. An arch, bearing the names of Lafayette, Hamilton, and Laurens, was erected on the very spot where stood the redoubt stormed by Lafayette; an obelisk was also erected, bearing the names of distinguished Frenchmen. And on the same spot it is said that the orator of the occasion was designing, at the close of his address, to place a blended civic crown and national wreath in honor of Lafayette, who, while he acknowledged the unique compliment, gracefully averted its consummation, and, taking the symbolic garland in his hand, called for Colonel Fish, the only survivor of the attack upon the redoubt, and declared that half the honor belonged to him. Washington's marquee was erected on the plain, just out of the village. Being escorted to this tent, Lafayette gave an effecting welcome to the officers of the militia. Two veterans were there, who had faced the enemy in war, and stood firm in the midst of the roar of the cannon; but they pressed the hand of Lafayette on this occasion, the old heroes wept and fainted. Some of the servants who were present discovered in an obscure corner of a cellar a large box of candles, bearing marks of belonging to Cornwallis's military stores—having re

as

mained undisturbed for forty-three years. They were lighted for the evening, and notwithstanding the fatigues of the day, some of the old soldiers remained till the last vestige of these British candles had expired in the socket.

Taking Camden, South Carolina-Governor Richard J. Manning, -in his tour, Lafayette assisted in laying the cornerstone of a monument erected to the name and memory of Baron de Kalb, a German by birth, who came over in the same vessel with Lafayette, in 1776, and volunteered his services in the American army for three years. He fell while bravely engaged in the battle at Camden, pierced with eleven deadly wounds. It is said that Washington visiting the baron's grave many years after his death, sighed as he looked upon it, and exclaimed, “There lies the brave De Kalb, the generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles, and to water with his blood the tree of Liberty. Would to God he had lived to share with us in its fruits !” At Savannah, Georgia, after being welcomed by Governor Troupe, Lafayette united in the same service commemorative of Generals Greene and Pulaski. On the seventeenth of June, Lafayette witnessed the laying of the cornerstone of Bunker-Hill monument, at Charleston, Massachusetts; he was the only surviving major-general of the Revolution who was present at this ceremony. Colonel Francis K. Huger participated in the patriotic services—the man who, when a lad, walked with Lafayette over his father's grounds, and who, some thirty years before, this seventeenth of June, risked his life in attempting to aid the escape of Lafayette from the castle of Olmutz. The people of Charlestown not only welcomed Huger, but gave him a seat by the side of Lafayette, in the carriage which moved in the procession, and also one near him at the festive board. Daniel Webster was the orator for the day; it was the fiftieth anniversary of the battle; and everything conspired to render the day memorable. As the procession passed, Lafayette was continually hailed with demonstrations of love and gratitude. The procession was several miles long, and, on arriving at the historic spot, the impressive rite of laying the corner-stone was performed by the grand master of the Freemasons, the president of the Monument Association, and General Lafayette, in the presence of a vast concourse of people. The procession then moved to a spacious amphitheater, where the oration was propounded by Mr. Webster, before as great a multitude, as perhaps was ever assembled within the sound of human voice.

There was one place-Kaskaskia, on the route of Lafayette's tour, at which, though no preparations had been made to receive him, he paused a short time; and here it was that a most affecting incident occurred. Curiosity induced one of his companions to go and look at an Indian encampment, a short distance from the town. He there met with an educated Indian woman, who spoke the French language tolerably well, and who expressed a desire to see Lafayette, and to show him a relic which she always carried with her, and which was “very dear to her.” She wished to show it to Lafayette as proof of the veneration with which his name was regarded among their tribes. It was a letter written by Lafayette in 1778, and addressed to her father, Panisciowa, a chief of one of the six nations. This letter expressed the hearty thanks of Lafayette for the faithful services of that chief in the American cause. The name of this only child of the old chief was Mary, who, at the decease of her mother, was placed under the care of an American agent, by whom she was instructed and kindly treated. She became a Christian. As she was walking out in the forest, about five years after, an Indian warrior overtook her and informed her that her father was dying, and wished to see her. She started off, traveled all night, and in the morning reached his hut, which was situated in a narrow valley. As she came to his bedside he took from his pouch a paper wrapped in a dry skin, and gave it to her, with a charge to preserve it as a precious gift, saying: “It is a powerful charm to interest the palefaces in your favor. I received it from a great French warrior,

a whom the English dreaded as much as the Americans loved him, and with whom I fought in my youth.” The chief died the next day. Mary returned to her white friends, and soon after married the young warrior, who was her father's friend and companion. She had the pleasure of showing the letter to Lafayette, who recognized it, and listened with great respect and deep feeling to her touching story.

Another most interesting episode was that which transpired at Lafayette’s reception in Nashville, Tennessee, Governor Carroll presiding at the state ceremonies. There had come from different parts of the country about forty officers and soldiers of the Revolution. Among the number was an aged man who had traveled one hundred and fifty miles. His name was Haguy, a German, and he was one of those who embarked in the same vessel with Lafayette for this country, nearly fifty years back, and served under him during the whole war.

The veteran, clasping Lafayette's hand with affectionate warmth, the tears rolling down his cheeks, said:

“I have come many miles to see the 'young general.' I have had two happy days in life—one, when I landed with you on the American coast, nearly fifty years ago, and to-day when I see your face again. I have lived long enough.” The sensation produced by this scene, in that great throng, was for a time completely overpowering.

Not less interesting was the interview at Buffalo, between Lafayette and Red Jacket, the old chief of the Seneca tribe of Indians. They had both met in council at Fort Schuyler, in 1784. Red Jacket in conversation with General Lafayette, made some allusions to that famous council, and to those who participated in its proceedings, when Lafayette inquired with some curiosity

“Where is the young warrior, I wonder, who opposed the burying of the tomahawk?"

“He is here before you,” instantly replied the chief.

[ocr errors]

ness.

“Ah, I see,” replied the general, "time has changed us. We were once young and active."

"But," said the chief, "time has made less change on you than me." Saying this, he uncovered his head, and exhibited his entire bald

The general wore a wig, and, not wishing to deceive Red Jacket, took it from his head, to the no small amusement of the astonished Indian.

A visit to the tomb of Washington was one of the most notable events in Lafayette's tour. His arrival there was announced by the firing of cannon, which brought to his memory the din of war,the scenes of the Revolution, when he and the great but now lifeless chieftain, were side by side in battle. Standing for a while upon the consecrated ground and amid the solemn stillness of the place, he descended alone into the tomb with his head uncovered. There he remained in solitary contemplation for some time—the living veteran communing with the illustrious dead. He returned with his face bathed in tears, and, taking his son, and Levasseur, the secretary, by the hand, led them into the tomb. He could not speak, but pointed mutely to the coffin of Washington. They knelt reverently by it, kissed it, and rising, threw themselves into the arms of Lafayette, and for a few moments wept in silence. Lafayette was now presented by the hand of Mr. Custis, one of the surviving family connections of Washington, with a massive fingerring containing a portion of the hair of his departed friend. He was also the recipient of some other personal memorials of the Father of his Country.

During this tour Lafayette visited every one of the twenty-four states of the Union, and traveled over five thousand miles. In nearly every region which he visited, towns or counties, and literary, scientific or civic associations, named in honor of him, still preserve his memory. Indeed, one of the foremost of the colleges of the

« AnteriorContinuar »