This portrait of the Marquis du Lafayette by Rembrandt Peale, apparently painted in 1825, hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Biddeford Sen. Susan Deschambault has submitted a bill that would designate The Lafayette Trail, marking locations where he traveled in Maine during his 1825 return to America from his home in France.

BIDDEFORD — The return to America of a French aristocrat who became a general under George Washington’s Army and fought in the American Revolution has sparked the interest of a French scholar and a Biddeford legislator.

Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, said she became fascinated with the story of the Marquis de Lafayette’s involvement with the American Revolution and his later trip to America, where he made several stops in York County. She a has submitted a bill to establish markers, outlining Lafayette’s travels in Maine as part of his 1825 visit.

Deschambault said she was asked to submit a bill by a New Hampshire legislator so the trail could continue — Massachusetts and New Hampshire have already approved it — and so began reading about Lafayette, who was 19 years old when he came to America in 1777.

The bill, LR 2830, “An Act To Designate and Erect Highway Markers to Commemorate and Recognize the Lafayette Trail,” would honor the trip Lafayette made to meet with old friends and colleagues.

“He’s an interesting character,” Deschambault said. “It is interesting a young man like that could be taken under the wing of General Washington.”

French Americans have a rich history in Maine, she said.

“I welcome the opportunity to amplify the connection between our two countries and cultures,” said Deschambault. “Recognizing the trip Lafayette took when he visited Maine is an easy way to maintain his legacy and keep his memory alive.”

On his tour of America in 1825, Lafayette, spent the night of June 23 in Dover, New Hampshire, and stopped in South Berwick the following morning for breakfast at the invitation of local townspeople, according to an account published by the Old Berwick Historical Society.

According to the New England Historical Society, Lafayette was then escorted to the Cleaves Hotel in Saco. He apparently dined with Captain Seth Spring, a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill, at a visit to Spring’s Tavern on Spring Island in Biddeford, according to the Maine Memory Network. The location in later years became the headquarters of Deering Lumber.

Earlier this year, French scholar Julien Icher came to Biddeford and spoke about Lafayette’s 1824-25 trip to America  at a presentation hosted by the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center  where he visited old friends and helped mark the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution. Icher also spoke about the quest to have Lafayette’s trek through 25 states recognized as the Lafayette Trail, complete with markers.

In a telephone interview earlier this month, Icher noted the designation of the Lafayette Trail by Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and said North Carolina is going through the legislative process.

“I’m very encouraged,” said Icher, who has established

He said he plans to return to Maine to testify during the upcoming Legislative session, which begins in January.

Born to a distinguished family in France in 1757 as Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette traveled to the American colonies in 1777, when he was 19. He was commissioned as a Major General and introduced to General George Washington, who would become his lifelong friend and mentor. Lafayette was wounded in the Battle of the Brandywine in September 1777, and later joined Washington and the Continental Army to camp for the winter at Valley Forge, according to an to an Aug. 22 Journal Tribune story written by Ed Pierce.

Washington gave Lafayette command of an army in Virginia, and in 1781 he conducted hit-and-run operations against forces under the command of Benedict Arnold. He later chased British commander Lord Charles Cornwallis and his English troops across Virginia, trapping him at Yorktown in late July 1781. A French fleet and several additional American armies joined the siege, and on Oct. 19 Cornwallis surrendered, ending the Revolutionary War and ensuring independence for America, according to historical accounts.

Establishing the Lafayette Trail in Maine would help celebrate the state’s heritage and the cultural connection between Maine and France, Icher said.

“We share the same language,” he said of many Mainers.

Deschambault said she plans to learn more about Lafayette and enjoys research.

“It opens a whole different world for me,” she said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: