Discussion questions for teachers

Older students ages 12 and up

  1. What motivated the Marquis de Lafayette to join the American cause? [Inspired by a people seeking to overthrow a king, fighting for freedom.]
  2. Put yourself in James’ shoes… when General Lafayette asked you to spy for him, would you say yes or no?
  3. How did General Rochambeau subtly manipulate General Washington’s decision to attack the British in Virginia? [He had written to de Grasse about the deteriorating condition in Virginia and suggested the navy come to Virginia.]
  4. What were various ways that enslaved Virginians sought freedom? [Served in their owner’s place in a military regiment; escaped to the British army; volunteered with the British military.]
  5. Was Lund Washington’s meeting with the British brave or stupid? Was he right to disobey General Washington’s wishes? Do you think he saved Mount Vernon?
  6. The central theme of the book is freedom. How did the main characters define freedom differently? [For James it was personal freedom, for Washington and military leaders is was freedom for Americans to decide their own future away from the authority of the king.]
  7. What methods did Washington employ to keep the army’s march south secret from the British? What specifically did he do? [Inserted misleading communication in the mail, built fake bread ovens, built boats to indicate a river crossing, expanded roads to indicate a specific line of attack, prepared for the navy which was not coming.]
  8. Why do you think it took so long after he served as a spy for James to obtain freedom? [Virginia laws restricted manumission, owner William Armistead did not seek his manumission, manumission law freed soldiers who fought but not spies.]
  9. Why was it risky for both the Americans and the French to join together in an alliance? [The French had been America’s enemy in the previous war and they were inviting a foreign power to bring military forces onto American soil; For the French, another war with Britain would be costly and could spread.]

Younger students

  1. Why did the Marquis de Lafayette go to America to fight?
  2. If you were James, would you say yes or no when Lafayette asked you to become a spy? (knowing it could mean death if you were captured)
  3. How did the Americans and French keep their march a secret from the British?
  4. What are some ways enslaved people sought freedom?