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LAFAYETTE’S MEETING IN BOSTON WITH COLONEL
WHO DESCRIBES HIS ATTEMPTED RESCUE OF THE GENERAL FROM THE AUSTRIAN PRISON
When Lafayette arrived in Boston in 1824 he said to Josiah Quincy, then aide-de-camp to the Governor: “There is one man in America whom I saw but for ten minutes, and this was thirty years ago; but I saw him under circumstances which engraved his countenance forever upon my mind. I count the moments till I can embrace my good friend, Colonel Huger of South Carolina.” He was not disappointed, for the Colonel came North especially to meet the man for whom he had risked his life. Lafayette had been imprisoned by the Russians in an Austrian dungeon at Olmutz for expressing too openly his ideas on liberty and politics, and he was told he should never leave his filthy cell. A physician of the prison told the Austrian Government that Lafayette would soon die unless given purer air, but the reply came back, “No, he is not sick enough yet.” Public indignation was finally aroused, and he was allowed occasionally to go out driving.
Colonel Huger related his extraordinary and thrilling adventure to a number of his friends in Boston. He was a child three years old when Lafayette, in order to avoid some British cruisers, landed on North Island in South Carolina, and by chance knocked on the door of his father’s house, which was the first place in America at which he stayed. The next day the Frenchman departed to join the American Army. Many years later, just after Lafayette’s arrest in Austria, a physician named Dr. Bollman was hired by some of Lafayette’s friends to hunt up his whereabouts, and he discovered after a long search that he was confined at Olmutz in Moravia. Bollman succeeded in notifying the prisoner by means of a book sent in to him that an attempt would be made to rescue him, and just at this time he happened to meet Colonel Huger, to whom he told his plans. The two men decided to work together, and they set out at once from Hoff, which was near Olmutz. They then hid in the woods near the road from the prison, and soon a carriage approached in which were Lafayette and two guards. As neither of the rescuers knew the prisoner by sight it had been arranged by means of this same book that was passed into the jail, that Lafayette, to reveal his identity, should raise his hat and wipe his forehead with his handkerchief. As the carriage came nearer the signal was given and the two men followed along behind. Presently the prisoner alighted on the pretence of taking a little exercise, when suddenly he grasped the sword of the guard who was with him, Dr. Bollman and Colonel Huger galloping up at the same moment. This officer was overpowered, the other one returning at once to the prison for assistance. Lafayette was hurried to a horse which had been brought here for this purpose, and as he rode away Colonel Huger told him to “Go to Hoff” where further preparations had been made for his escape. The General unfortunately misunderstood the directions for “Go off,” and rode to Zagorsdorf. Consequently the plans miscarried. It was a very unlucky incident and resulted in the capture of all three conspirators, who were taken back to Olmutz and imprisoned separately, each one ignorant of the other’s condition. Huger finally discovered that Dr. Bollman was in the room above him, and from Bollman Huger learned of the defeat of the plan of rescue. Lafayette had conveyed the news to Bollman by a message placed in an imitation carrot made of wood which Lafayette had hollowed out and placed in the prison soup-dish. A man who served as their interpreter obtained the release of Huger and Bollman, and just as they had passed the Austrian frontier an order for a new trial was received. It came too late, and their lives were probably saved by this small margin. Lafayette remained in prison three years after this attempt to rescue him, five years in all. He was told that his two friends had been captured and would soon be executed but was never informed of their release. A play was acted in New York at this time called “The Castle of Olmutz,” in which Colonel Huger was the central figure. One of his admirers asked him if he were not the hero of the play, to which he replied: “Heroes are always married at the end of the play, and I am not so fortunate. I am represented, however, as desperately in love with the daughter of the Governor of the Castle, and I am left in the same unhappy situation at the end of the play. I have always had a particular aversion to romantic love-stories, and little thought that I should ever see myself figuring in one of them.” While in Boston a lady expressed to him the admiration with which he was regarded by every one. “I simply considered myself the representative of the young men of America, and acted accordingly,” was the modest reply.
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