PORTSMOUTH – 197 years ago the city received a special visit from a famous wartime Frenchman, a day filled with warm greetings, fine cuisine and ballroom dancing.
At the Vaughan Mall, the visit of this man, the hero of the War of Independence, the Marquis de Lafayette, was commemorated to recognize the last steps he took in 24 states during his last visit to the United States from America.
Erected Friday across from Music Hall, Mayor Rick Becksted and municipal staff joined Julien Icher, founder and president of the non-profit Lafayette Trail, to celebrate the unveiling of a sign marking Lafayette’s visit in Portsmouth on September 1, 1824.
City spokesperson Stephanie Seacoard shared the story of the war hero’s visit, which began with a visit to Governor John Langdon’s home on Pleasant Street. Then Lafayette ventured to Portsmouth Shipyard, and later attended a dinner at Jefferson Hall and a ball at Franklin Hall.
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At the end of the evening around 10:30 p.m., Lafayette had a refreshment at Warner House before boarding for Boston.
“He’s had a busy day to say the least,” Icher said.
Lafayette’s America Tour
In 1824 and 1825, Lafayette embarked on a farewell tour of the union, which then consisted of 24 states, and the Maryland-based Lafayette Trail is an organization that plans to plant 175 signs in localities where Lafayette visited on the occasion of the bicentenary of the tour in 2024.
Having founded the group in 2019, Icher this year featured markers in municipalities across Lafayette’s 24 travel states, including Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas.
On May 3, Icher was held in Greenland, where Lafayette also visited on September 1, 1824, to commemorate the installation of a marker. New Hampshire leads all states on Lafayette’s tour with nine total scorers.
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“I think it’s a small but personal contribution to something much bigger, which is the Franco-American alliance and what impact Lafayette has had in this country,” Icher, 28, told About its organization.
Who was the Marquis de Lafayette?
Born in France in 1757, Lafayette left his homeland in 1777 at age 19 to help the leaders of the American Revolution.
After relentless attempts to convince the leaders of the Continental Army, Lafayette was appointed major general and he fought with George Washington at Valley Forge later in the year throughout the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.
Portsmouth’s place in American history
Along with its growing list of restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, Becksted said another major reason people flock to Portsmouth is its importance in American history.
“One of the really great things about Portsmouth and the pride that I take and share with so many people is our story here,” said Becksted.
The downtown scorer is the 38th overall in the Lafayette Trail series, and earlier on Friday the organization presented a scorer to Pembroke.
Portsmouth, however, was the first major city in Granite State that Lafyette visited on his long journeys. Upon his arrival, a procession was led through the modern quarters of Middle Street, Broad Street and Court Street, and the chairman of the city’s board of directors received and greeted him.
“The history of Portsmouth is what draws people here,” Becksted said.