Marquis de Lafayette was born into French nobility and inherited a large family fortune at the age of 14. At the age of 19, and against the will of the King of France, Lafayette used his own money to secure a ship to America. Lafayette described his feelings, “The moment I heard of America, I loved her; the moment I knew she was fighting for freedom, I burnt with a desire of bleeding for her; and the moment I shall be able to serve her at any time, or in any part of the world, will be the happiest one of my life.” With the approval of Congress, Lafayette joined General Washington on the battlefield. Unsure at first how to accept Lafayette, Washington quickly gained respect for Lafayette after observing him in his first battle, the Battle of Brandywine. Washington wrote Congress and recommended Lafayette be given a command.
“I would take the liberty to mention, that I feel myself in a delicate situation with respect to the Marquis de Lafayette. He is extremely solicitous of having a Command equal to his rank, &… it appears to me, from a consideration of his illustrious and important connections—the attachment which he has manifested to our cause, and the consequences, which his return [to France] in disgust might produce, that it will be advisable to gratify him in his wishes—and the more so, as several Gentlemen from France, who came over under some assurances [of appointments], have gone back disappointed in their expectations.
His conduct with respect to them stands in a favorable point of view… and in all his letters has placed our affairs in the best situation he could. Besides, he is sensible—discreet in his manners—has made great proficiency in our Language, and from the disposition, he discovered at the Battle of Brandywine, possesses a large share of bravery and Military ardor [passion].” George Washington, Letter to Henry Laurens (Congress), November 1, 1777.