The Young Rebels

I’ve always loved history, and when I was a kid, I was enamored of the period surrounding America’s War of Independence.

It began, I think, when I read the children’s novel Johnny Tremain. It’s about a young teen in Boston who is caught up in the events that lead to the American Revolution.

My interest in that time period heightened when I began watching a TV show called The Young Rebels. It was about a group of four teens/young adults who single-handedly fought off the British Army’s attempts to infiltrate Philadelphia and its environs.

From time to time the Rebels had help from General the Marquis de Lafayette of France. I think my first crush was on Philippe Forquet, who played Lafayette in the show. I recall that he had a charming French accent and a pair of dimples that went on for days.

Actor Philippe Forquet in 1970 dressed as Lafayette on the set of The Young Rebels.

Rick Ely (whose brother Ron played Tarzan in his own TV show) starred as Jeremy, the leader of the merry band of patriots. Alex Henteloff played a brainy, Benjamin-Franklin-like character who was always inventing explosives or contraptions to harass the British army with. Louis Gossett, Jr. played a brave ex-slave, and in a few episodes Hilary Thompson played Jeremy’s sometime girlfriend.

Male members of the cast: Alex Henteloff, Rick Ely, Philippe Forquet, Louis Gossett, Jr. in a still from one of the show’s scenes.

Together, Lafayette and the Rebels blew up British munitions depots, blocked British cavalry troops from crossing rivers, thwarted the King’s messengers from reaching their commanders in time to summon help. By the time the show went off the air, I was convinced they had single-handedly won the War of Independence for all Americans (high school history classes subsequently corrected that belief).

It was a lot like The A-Team (a TV show that came along twelve years later) set during Colonial America, but with wigs and waistcoats.

I loved that show, and I especially loved the character of Lafayette.

The real Marquis de Lafayette.

But it should be known that I wasn’t the only one with a crush Lafayette. America love him, too . . . the real Lafayette, that is.

Lafayette’s image on an American cigar box.

And when Lafayette returned to the United States in 1824, American’s rolled out the red carpet for him.

Medal struck when Lafayette visited the United States in honor of the country’s 50th anniversary, 1826. From ForgottenDelights.com

Newspapers published adoring tributes to him.

“The National Guest” by Thomas Hope, published in a Wilmington Delaware newspaper on September 18, 1824.

Cities erected monuments in his honor.

A statue of Lafayette in Union Square, New York.

Banks printed his image on money.

A five pound bank note printed by the Bank of Manchester, Michigan.

Communities held banquets and balls and welcomed him to every event as if he were royalty.

Admission ticket to an 1824 fete to honor Lafayette

Lafayette’s image was everywhere, from playing cards to cigar boxes.

A deck of playing cards with Lafayette’s image.

But when I think of Lafayette, I don’t think of those images; I still think of the lasting impression a young actor named Philippe Forquette made on me when I was young. I still remember how a TV show helped ignite my love for our country’s history at the time we were fighting for our independence.

In fact, the show helped ignite my love for history of all eras, and I’m fortunate to be able to share some of the historical bits and bobs I’ve collected along the way in the blogs I write.

Tomorrow is America’s birthday, and in honor of the day, I think I’m going to reread the book that started it all, Johnny Tremain.

What about you? Was there a television show, book, or movie that made an impact on you when you were young? Please share your thoughts!

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