ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — In his quest to memorialize French-American history, Annapolis is a key part of Frenchman Julien Icher’s “boots on the ground” mission.
In 1777, the Marquis de Lafayette made his first trip to America accompanied by Annapolitan Edmund Brice. In 2018, it’s only fitting that as Icher is following Lafayette’s final footsteps through the United States near the end of his life. Monday, he had help from Annapolis historian Glenn Campbell.
Icher, 25, is the founder of The Lafayette Trail project, a Franco-American endeavor mapping Lafayette’s farewell tour across 24 states from 1824 to 1825. So far, he’s put about 9,000 miles on his car in the last four months following Lafayette.
“My primary point is to accurately see these places Lafayette went. It will be my mission to track them down,” Icher said. “This is a token of friendship between France and America.”
In April, he accompanied President Emmanuel Macron to Washington D.C. where he saw the White House, the Capitol and George Washington University where Lafayette attended the first commencement on Dec. 15, 1824.
Icher continued tracing Lafayette’s footsteps through 13 states until he arrived in Annapolis.
As the last surviving Revolutionary War general, Lafayette’s tour through all the existing states was about as popular as the Grateful Dead tour in the ’70s.
“He was seen as a rock star. He was a celebrity of his day,” Campbell said. “He reminded people of the ideals of the revolution. It was very emotional for Lafayette and all these locals who came out to see him.”
The Historic Annapolis senior historian took Icher to the same places they tracked Lafayette from Dec. 17 to 21, 1824.
They started at the State House, where Lafayette was received by government officials and taken into the old Senate chambers to see where Washington resigned his commission.
There, it’s reported that Lafayette saw an old comrade from the war and the two “rushed into each other’s arms and wept like children.”
At St. John’s College, Icher and Campbell walked along the green where Lafayette judged a marksmanship competition and saw McDowell Hall, where he later attended a ball and dinner.
Between North Street and State Circle, they saw where attended Sunday services at what used to be the Methodist Church. At Fort Severn, now Naval Academy grounds, they stood where the old governor’s mansion was, where Lafayette spent the night. At the Maryland Inn, they recalled the spot as the Williamson Hotel, where Lafayette’s entertainment was organized.
Icher also stopped by the state park that was once Northhampton Plantation in Bowie, where Lafayette spent the night visiting then Gov. Samuel Sprigg the night before his Annapolis visit.
“Just like Lafayette, I’ve met a lot of government officials, but also a lot of average citizens,” Icher said. “I want to preserve their part of our history too.”
He was to continue his journey in Baltimore visiting places such Fort McHenry, the Belevedere Hotel and the Exchange House, among others.
You can follow his journey online at thelafayettetrail.com.
Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com
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