Cabarrus Citizens Escort General Lafayette

16 May 2014

The Marquis de Lafayette in his later years. Courtesy of the British Museum.

The May 17, 1889 issue of the Concord Times reported the death of Charles Jay Harris on May 13. The son of Dr. Charles Harris who built “Favoni” (the 1791 Harris home in Concord listed in the National Register) and established the first medical school in North Carolina. Charles Jay Harris was a member of the Poplar Tent community and of Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church. He was also the last Cabarrus survivor of the escort to the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) during his 1825 visit to the United States.

An invited guest of the United States, Lafayette traveled through the new nation, honored with grand dinners and balls hosted by prominent families and surviving soldiers of the American Revolution. Lafayette, the French nobleman who outfitted and trained American soldiers during the War for Independence at his own expense, was a general and a hero in America. He called himself “an old American soldier and adopted son of the United States – two titles dearer to my heart than all the treasures of the world.”

The Salisbury Western Carolinian reported the General’s progress through the nation, counting down his arrival in North Carolina. He was expected in Raleigh in early March, by way of Norfolk, Virginia. When Lafayette arrived in Murfreesboro, Hertford County, the volunteer cavalry troop from Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties set out to meet him. Meeting the General’s party south of the state capital, they formed an escort to Fayetteville. The town named in honor of Lafayette treated him to a “La Fayette Ball” and invited all former Revolutionary participants, including the Mecklenburg-Cabarrus squadron, to stay in Fayetteville during the General’s visit.

Concord merchant and Cabarrus historian Robert Washington Allison (1809-1898) recalled a few of the men who formed the General’s escort. In “A History of Cabarrus County and Concord,” Allison named James A. Means, Daniel Coleman, Francis Ross, Peter Boger, Charles W. Alexander, Ibzan Cannon, Dr. Cy A. Alexander, William Gardner and Charles A. Harris among the group. Harris was one of the youngest, just barely nineteen.

From Fayetteville, Lafayette traveled into South Carolina and Georgia. The grand receptions and balls in North Carolina were over, but Tarheels continued to track the French hero’s travels. The Western Carolinian reported the events held in other states to honor Lafayette. Perhaps young Charles Jay Harris read the papers and remembered the honor of escorting the Marquis de Lafayette through North Carolina.

Courtesy of the Cabarrus County Public Library, Lore Local History Room.