Gilbert du Montier was born on September 6, 1757 in Auvergne, France. His full given name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Montier. His father died when he was 2 years old, and when his mother and grandfather died 11 year later, he inherited a large fortune. Lafayette, who came from a long line of solders, studied at the Military Academy in Versailles and became a captain in the French cavalry at age 16.
In 1777, Lafayette purchased a ship, and with a crew of adventurers set sail for America to fight in the revolution against the British. Lafayette joined the ranks as a major general and was assigned to the staff of George Washington. He served with distinction, leading America forces to several victories. On a return visit to France in 1779 Lafayette persuaded the French government to send aid to the Americans. After the British surrender at Yorktown, Lafayette returned home to Paris. He had become a hero to the new nation. At home he cooperated closely with Ambassadors Benjamin Franklin, and then Thomas Jefferson in behalf of American interests.
Article written by Robin Chew - September 1995