• General Lafayette Sought Bunker Hill Dirt For His Grave

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    MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE was a hero for freedom both in France and the United States. He died on May 20, 1834. With his love for both countries, he requested that dirt from each country be placed on his grave at Picpus Cemetery in Paris.  In 1825, Lafayette brought back soil from each of the 24 states. But near the end of his tour, the steamship Mechanic, carrying Lafayette, his entourage and the soil, sunk in the Ohio River. The next best thing was soil from Bunker Hill.

    Offering a one-page ALS, approximately 6 ½ x 8 answering the request. The writer’s signature has been damaged by chipping at the bottom, possibly by mouse chews, but could possibly be Paul Williams.

    The letter was written to a Mr. Woods, according to a note on the verso.

    “Charlestown, Mass, May 14th, 1829

    “Yours of the 10th is this morning received. I have communicated its contents to my associate of the Selectmen of this town – and we are free to express the emotions which this request of our illustrious friend has excited in our bosoms. We shall take a lively and hallowed interest in executing it in exact accordance with his [Lafayette’s] wishes.

    “With regard to expense for freight & etc for which your letter alludes, you will permit us to defray this on behalf of the people we represent.

    “We will wait your decision, whether it be shipped directly to Heuer or to New York and shall be ready to comply with your directions in every particular.

    “...I am your friend, Paul [?] Williams.”

    Verso contains a brief but significant note in another hand.

    “14 May to Mr. Woods, communication in relation to supplying a cork of Bunker Hill earth for covering the grave of Gen’l Lafayette”

    George Washington met the 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette on August 5, 1777, less than a week after the Continental Congress appointed the young Frenchman to be a volunteer Major General in the Continental Army.  Lafayette was assigned to serve on Washington’s staff. He worked tirelessly along with Washington for the cause of freedom.  Unlike Washington, he supported the abolition of slavery.

    He returned to France in 1789 to help launch the French Revolution. He served in the National Assembly and drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He fled from France when the revolution turned violent.  He was imprisoned at Olmutz by the Austrians who considered him dangerous and his fortune was confiscated. Many of his relatives died by the guillotine.

    One of his greatest joys came in 1824 when he accepted an invitation from his friend President James Monroe to visit the United States. At Mount Vernon he went to visit the grave of George Washington, returning to his carriage with tears in his eyes. He remained a defender of democratic ideals until his death in 1834.

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