Watching news of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, I'm thinking about the longstanding alliance America has with France. France was our first important ally--we may not have won the Revolution with out her. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, is a great symbol of our friendship. In 1777, the 8th Virginia fought at Brandywine alongside a 19 year-old French volunteer named Lafayette. After the Battle of Germantown, Lafayette was given his own Division, and the 8th was part of it. In 1921 Frank Schoonover depicted Lafayette encouraging the men in front of the regiment's banner in this painting.
Many years later, America honored the alliance by sending soldiers across the Atlantic to save France. On July 4, 1917 American Colonel Charles Stanton went to Lafayette's tomb and said, "America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here."
The words "Lafayette, we are here!" ("Lafayette, Nous Voila!") were once famous. Ninety-eight years ago, they gave hope to France--even to those behind enemy lines. They gave meaning to the service of that war's late-arriving American troops and to the sacrifice of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy 27 years later. The World War I generation is gone, and the currency of the phrase has largely gone with them. Today is a good day to revive it.
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed near the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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