Today, the Lafayette Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when the general visited America and arrived at Providence, Rhode Island on August 23, 1824.
From the Memoirs of General Lafayette, With an Account of His Visit to America, and of His Reception by the People of the United States; from His Arrival, August 15th, to the Celebration at Yorktown, October 19th, 1824 by Samuel Lorenzo Knapp, published in 1824:
They reached New Haven about midnight, on his approach to which he was met by the governor’s guard, and escorted into that city. Most of the buildings on the principal streets were illuminated, and a national salute was fired.
“The night was almost turned into day, and the scene was very brilliant and impressive.”
He was detained at all the villages on the road from New York to New Haven, through the eagerness of the citizens, to see and be introduced to this distinguished hero of the revolution.
The public road was thronged with multitudes of both sexes and youth, who greeted him with reiterated acclamations, and continued “welcome, welcome.”
They prepared sincere, though simple offerings of respect to the man, “who fought not for honor or for pay;” but in imitation of his political, American parent, was devoted, life and property, to the cause of our country’s freedom.
After a public breakfast, a visit to the college, and calls upon Mrs. Trumbull, the widow of the late governor of the state, Hon. Mr. Daggett, senator in Congress, and some other eminent characters, he left New Haven, for New London, Saturday morning, attended by the city authorities and escorted by a company of cavalry, a part of the distance, until met by another troop of horse, by which General La Fayette and suite were then attended to Saybrook, on Connecticut river, about forty miles from New Haven.
Part of the Sabbath was passed in New London; and at this place, he attended public worship.
He expressed a desire to avoid travelling on that day, as much as possible.
At New London, and at most other places on his journey, he met some of his old revolutionary companions, who were delighted to see again in their own free and happy country, a man who had devoted his earliest days and zealous efforts to secure its independence.
He reached Providence on Monday, the 23d, at 12 o’clock, having been met at an early hour, on the boundary line between Connecticut and Rhode Island, by the aids of the Governor of the last named state.
When he arrived at the limits of the town of Providence, an immense crowd of citizens were assembled to bid him welcome, and to offer him their hearty gratulations.
The houses and streets in the western part of the town, where he entered, were filled with citizens, who greeted him as he passed with reiterated cheers.
” When he arrived in front of the State House, he alighted, and was received in a very interesting manner.
“The avenue leading to the building was lined with female youth, dressed in white, holding in their hands branches of flowers, which they strewed in his path, at the same time waving their white handkerchiefs.
“La Fayette appeared much gratified and affected by this simple, but touching arrangement. In the senate chamber, he was introduced to the Governor and many other distinguished characters; among whom were several late officers of the revolutionary army.
“These he embraced with much affection; and his emotions were so great, he was unable to address them. He recognized Captain Olney, the moment he saw him, among a crowd of citizens.
“This gentleman commanded a company under General La Fayette, at the siege of Yorktown, and was the first to force the redoubts thrown up by the British troops, and carried by our light infantry, in a most brilliant manner, when led on to the assault by their commander in person.
“At this interview, so affecting and interesting, a thrill ran through the whole assembly, and not a dry eye was to be found among the throng of spectators; while the shouts of the multitude, at first suppressed, and then uttered in a manner tempered by the scene, evinced the deep feeling and proud associations it had excited.”
Another respectable veteran, of eighty-five years of age, was found among the multitudes assembled to render their affectionate homage to La Fayette.
He was a volunteer in the expedition on Rhode Island, in the autumn of 1778, and assisted in conducting the retreat from that place, under direction of the Marquis, when the militia were in great danger from the superior number of the British forces.
The aged patriot was overwhelmed with joy, on beholding once more, his beloved general.
On account of a previous engagement to be in Boston, Monday night, or early on Tuesday morning, General La Fayette was obliged, though reluctantly, to leave Providence the afternoon of the day he arrived there.
As he left the town he walked some distance, in order to view the troops, which were drawn up in the public street leading towards Boston; and then entered his carriage, accompanied by the Governor and several other public characters; and amidst the cheers of the people proceeded on his journey.
He was also attended by the society of Cincinnati of the State of Rhode Island, as far as Pautucket river, the southern bounds of Massachusetts.
When someone expressed an apprehension, that he might be fatigued by his rapid travelling and the various scenes through which be passed in the course of the day, he quickly replied, that he experienced too great pleasure, to be sensible of any fatigue.
The Lafayette Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the Old Providence State House, circa mid-1930s.