Last month, the Newport Historical Society acquired a silver dress sword, made in France around 1765. The sword, along with two silver spurs, were donated to the Society by Bruce Lyman Blakemore, a descendant of Daniel Lyman, who was a notable Newport resident of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. According to Lyman family lore passed down through several generations, the items were a gift to Daniel Lyman from the Marquis de Lafayette. Initial research conducted by Newport Historical Society staff indicates that the family lore is indeed true; Lyman and Lafayette knew each other and were together in Rhode Island on multiple occasions.
Lyman was born in Connecticut in 1756. He attended Yale, but his studies were interrupted in his junior year, when the Continental Congress declared independence from Britain and he enlisted in the Continental Army. Lyman served under Lafayette and Major General Nathaniel Greene during the Battle of Rhode Island in late August, 1778. After the British evacuation in 1779, Lyman and Lafayette were both in Newport, Lyman to personally greet General Rochambeau and Lafayette to serve as representative and confidant of George Washington. Lafayette was impressed with the American militia in Newport. He wrote a complimentary letter to Washington, citing a French officer who noted the “patience and sobriety” of soldiers under the command of Daniel Lyman and General William Heath and considered them “good examples” for French soldiers stationed in the city.
The Marquis de Lafayette later helped secure victory for American forces at Yorktown and was hailed as a “hero of two worlds” before his return to France in 1782. After the war, Daniel Lyman settled in Newport, where he married Polly Wanton, daughter of John Wanton, a prominent Newport merchant. They settled in a home now known as the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House (c. 1697) and owned by the Newport Historical Society. Lyman went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, President of the Rhode Island Society of Cincinnati, and founder of the Lyman Cotton Manufacturing Company in North Providence.
Daniel Lyman’s sword carries a fascinating story that exemplifies French-American amity during the Revolutionary War. In recognition of this historic and longstanding friendship between nations, on July 8, 2015, French consul general in Boston, Fabien Fieschi, presented the sword to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (pictured below). The ceremony took place at Fort Adams State Park, where L’Hermione, a reconstruction of the original 1779 French frigate that returned Lafayette to America in 1780, was docked during its commemorative visit to Newport.