July 27, 1777, a twenty-four year old french cavalry officer takes his first step onto American soil. He traveled across an ocean to offer his services in the fight for freedom, and 200 years later his descendants live in the most free and powerful country on earth.
Son of Joseph Allard Duplantier, delegate from the Dauphine to the National Constitutional Assembly in France, Armand Allard Gabriel Duplantier sailed to America on the Marquis de Lafayette’s ship, La Victoire. The ship anchored in Philadelphia, where the Frenchmen aboard volunteered to fight with the American army. Lafayette volunteered to serve without pay, and was appointed Major General of the Continental army under George Washington.
Lafayette was only nineteen when he accepted command, but he proved himself in battle and his troops respected and admired him. Armand was appointed Lafayette’s aide de camp, and the two developed a life-long friendship.
Records of Armand’s participation in battles are hard to come by, but he most likely served under Lafayette during the entire war and was present at several major battles including Yorktown.
Lafayette spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge with George Washington. Conditions were unbearable, and disease was rampant. Lafayette said, “The patient endurance of both soldiers and officers was a miracle which each moment served to renew.” In contrast, Governor Morris said of his visit to the camp, “An Army of skeletons appeared before our eyes, naked, starved, sick, discouraged.”
After the hard winter, Washington and Lafayette led their troops to battle. British General Clinton fought them to a stand-still at the battle of Monmouth Court in New Jersey, but American General Charles Lee called a retreat. Washington was infuriated with Lee, as this enabled Clinton to continue to New York.
In August of 1778, Lafayette marched to Newport, Rhode Island, to conduct a combined siege with d’Estaing’s French ships. The ships were held up and battered by inclement weather, and Lafayette’s troops were delayed, leading the siege to failure.
Meanwhile, in 1780, General Clinton took Charleston and captured 5,500 American prisoners. This was the greatest loss the Americans felt during the war.
In June of 1781, Lafayette, General Anthony Wayne, and Baron von Steuben formed a combined force in Virginia to oppose the British forces under the traitor Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis.
Two months later Count de Grasse’s French fleets, which the Americans had been counting on, arrived off of Yorktown and eliminated Cornwallis’ hope for retreat by sea. Lafayette’s forces blocked retreat by land.
On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, and victory was in reach of the Americans. Armand must have trusted in this for he married eighteen year old Augustine Gerard, the step-daughter of his Uncle Trenonay, that same year.
Armand served a few months after Yorktown, until he received an injury and was released from duty. In March of 1782 he joined Augustine on his Uncle’s plantation in Point Coupee, Louisiana.
Armand and his wife remained with Uncle Trenonay for several years, and helped him keep up his plantation. In 1783, the year the revolution ended, Augustine gave birth to their first son, Fergus Duplantier. Eight years later they were blessed with another son, Guy Allard Duplantier, and soon after Armand Allard, named for his father.
Armand’s young family, like the young nation in which they lived, was soon faced with more grief. Abolitionists in the North were stirring the slaves to revolt and, in 1792, Uncle Trenonay was killed by a slave.
This was the beginning of the inevitable conflict between North and South, which some of the founding fathers predicted. Armand’s sons would later enter the conflict as confederate soldiers.
Armand met another tragedy when, after giving birth to their daughter Augustine Eulalie, his wife died of yellow fever in 1799. It was not uncommon for men in his position to remarry, and three years after his wife’s death Armand wed Constance Rochon.
Constance had inherited her dead husband’s plantation, called Magnolia Mound, which produced crops of indigo, sugar cane, cotton, and tobacco. It was a very wealthy plantation, and the Duplantiers entertained frequently.
Armand’s family continued to grow, as did our country. In 1802, Constance gave birth to a son, Alberic Nicholas. One year later, the United States purchased Louisiana from Napoleon I. Congress voted to give General Lafayette his choice of land in Louisiana, and Lafayette appointed his old friend Armand to select the lands.
Bringing Louisiana into the Union was not easy. In 1804 Armand wrote that the Americans had possession of the colony, but Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes were still under Spanish rule. Armand later became Captain of the Baton Rouge Militia and thwarted a local uprising.
Louisiana was eventually divided into the territory of New Orleans and the district of Louisiana. Armand did much to help the new district, and Thomas Jefferson’s military envoy lived in one of his plantations for several years. General Lafayette also stopped at Armand’s plantation in 1825, it had been 43 years since the two men had met.
In the meantime Armand and Constance had had four more children; Euphemie Amelia in 1804, Augustin in 1806, Didier in 1809, and Joseph Alfred Allard in 1813.
Armand was a soldier, a leader, and a father to eight children. Each position takes a giving of one’s self, both for country and for family.
Buried in Highland cemetery of Baton Rouge, in 1827, Armand was given military honors and called one of the “Fathers of our Independence”. He fought to give this country freedom, a freedom that all his descendants would enjoy. Politicians, Judges, writers, and soldiers have owed their freedom and their family to Armand Duplantier.
It is because of the bravery and sacrifices of many men like Armand that has made our country what it is today, the most free and powerful country on earth. We are proud to call ourselves “American.”