Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Lafayette and the American Revolution

Lafayette and the American Revolution

Russell Freedman
For ages 12 and up
Holiday House, 2010   ISBN: 978-0823421824

Gilbert de Lafayette was not yet two years old when his father, who was a colonel in the French Grenadiers, was killed in battle. Gilbert then inherited the family titles (of which there were many), lands, and a fortune. He lived a quiet life in the family chateau in the village of Chavaniac, and his mother spent most of her time in Paris where she worked to develop the “connections” that her son would need in the future.

When he was eleven, the “shy country boy” was taken to Paris where his “education as a gentleman” began. Just a few years later, Gilbert’s young mother and her father died, and Gilbert came into a vast fortune. His great-grandfather became his guardian, and a military man himself, he decided that Gilbert should begin his military career. He also began to look around to find a suitable wife for Gilbert, and when the young man was only sixteen he was married to Adrienne, the daughter of the duc d’Ayen.

Adrienne’s father expected Gilbert to become a courtier in the court of Louis XVI, but Gilbert put his foot down. He was not interested in being the servant of a member of the royal family. Instead, he wanted to have a real military career.

Unfortunately for Gilbert, the military was being downsized, and as one of the newly commissioned officers, he was one of the first to lose his active duty status. He was a captain in name only, and he found this to be a very frustrating and unsatisfying situation.

When recruiters came to France from America, looking for officers to serve in the American army, Gilbert was thrilled. What could be better than having the opportunity to fight for true liberty in another land that is far beyond the reach of ones relatives and in-laws. Desperate to control his own life, Gilbert set about planning his escape. Here at last was his chance to prove himself.

In this fascinating and wonderfully written book, award winning author Russell Freedman tells the story of a young man who dared to defy convention, and who went to fight in another country’s army. The narrative is engaging, and it is punctuated with quotes that help readers to better understand what Gilbert Lafayette was like. The narrative also gives readers a fascinating picture of life in France and America during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Annotated illustrations can be found throughout the book.