The ink to be barely dried on the contract of Paris in 1763 prior to the French international ministry started planning and preparing for the “next” battle with an excellent Britain. As a country France was established to avenge the humiliating defeat during the 7 Years War, which had required it to offer up Canada and had upset the balance of strength in Europe. As at an early stage as 1767 France started following the growing problem between an excellent Britain and its north American colonies with an excellent interest, also sending agents to America to uncover how significant the colonists were in their resistance to British attempts to taxes them without your consent.

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This 18th-century French sculpture depicts the October 19, 1781, british surrender at Yorktown to allied American and French forces.Jamestown-Yorktown foundation collection.


In 1774 pendant of the Patriot reason approached French officials questioning for assistance, yet the French foreign Minister, the Comte de Vergennes, decided it was too quickly to acquire involved. The feared that the crisis can be solved or the open treatment would result in a battle that France was no yet prepared for, and also instead he adopted a policy of “watchful waiting.” In 1775, however, the did send a secret agent to Philadelphia to satisfy with the continental Congress. Over there were 2 necessary problems for France to openly assist the American rebels: very first they had actually to declare their independence, and 2nd they had actually to display that castle were capable of defending themselves against the brother army. Till these conditions were met, Vergennes made decision to officially remain neutral, however early in 1776 he started secretly sending military supplies and also financial assist to the Americans.


By the fall of 1776 a fictitious trading firm had already procured and also shipped come the rebels almost 300,000 pounds of gunpowder, 30,000 muskets, 3,000 tents, an ext than 200 pieces of artillery, and also clothing because that 30,000 soldiers. In December 1776 three American agents in Paris, led by Benjamin Franklin, propose a formal alliance between the unified States and France. The French to be still hesitant around openly start the conflict, partly due to the fact that preparations for war, especially efforts to combine the French fleet, were not yet complete.

A number of idealistic French aristocrats, such as the Marquis de Lafayette, were far too impatient to wait because that their nation to enter the war. In 1777 Lafayette and many rather from France concerned America come volunteer as soldiers in George Washington’s continental Army. By the finish of the year, news got to Paris the the stunning American win in October in ~ Saratoga, brand-new York, end British basic Burgoyne. Through both of his conditions now met, Vergennes started negotiating a treaty of alliance through the American commissioners. On February 6, 1778, France and the United states signed a “Treaty of Alliance” as well as another contract of “Amity and Commerce.” The French explanation of war against great Britain readjusted everything. The British were now affiliated in a global war, no just an effort to put down a rebellion. The king’s ministers now had actually to adopt a more defensive army strategy, and also they were also forced to spread their army resources and also navy end a much broader theater that operations.

The grand strategy envisioned by the continental Congress and its generals was to use French equipped forces, specifically the French navy, come neutralize the existing brothers superiority top top land and also at sea and also thereby decisively loss King George’s forces in America. The very first direct French military support to with America, in July 1778, was an expeditionary force of 4,000 soldiers and also 16 pearls under the command that the Comte d’Estaing. The an initial attempt to mount a joint American-French military operation, however, ended in failure. The French pearl were not able to sign up with in an strike on British-occupied new York City because they can not get throughout a sandbar the blocked the entrance into the harbor. The next plan called because that an attack on british troops in ~ Newport, Rhode Island, with the French providing naval assistance to an American soil force. Regrettably a mix of negative communication and a absence of coordination once again caused failure. The americans blamed the French because that the botched attack, and when d’Estaing and his fleet went back to Boston for repairs, anti-French emotion was so an excellent that a French officer was killed throughout a riot. These failures to be due in component to social differences between the new allies. D’Estaing and also his aristocratic policemans were scornful of the citizens soldiers lock encountered in America and also treated them together inferiors.

The british were now shifting the key theater of their operations come the southern states, and by December 1778 they had recorded Savannah, Georgia. In September 1779 Admiral d’Estaing returned to North America from the West Indies and made a 2nd attempt at a joint military operation with the Americans, this time to take back Savannah indigenous the British. When again the project was unsuccessful. The allied military assaulted the strong British fortifications however was repulsed with hefty casualties. The Americans want to continue the siege, yet d’Estaing refused as he to be under order to return to France. Together a result of these failures plenty of Americans had end up being disillusioned about the French alliance, and also some even started to suspect French intentions. Cultivation ill will towards the French was just counterbalanced by the money and supplies that continued to come from France.


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A pair of pistols own by the Marquis de Lafayette, who served v the American Continental army from 1777 to1781, is on exhibition in the The American transformation Museum at Yorktown’s Converging ~ above Yorktown Gallery. Courtesy of Mr. And also Mrs. Leslie O. Lynch, Jr.


The year 1780 was possibly the lowest suggest in the American struggle to victory independence. The British to be securely dug in at new York, had actually taken Charleston, south Carolina, in may after a short siege, and also were on the verge that overrunning the Carolinas. The just encouraging development was the come of one more French expeditionary pressure under the command that the Comte de Rochambeau in July. For plenty of months, however, Rochambeau’s tiny fleet and 5,500 well-equipped soldiers were isolated in Rhode Island, blockaded through the british navy. Uneven Admiral d’Estaing, general Rochambeau took an excellent pains to cultivate great relations with his American allies and also treated George Washington as his equal. After conferring with general Washington in the spring of 1781, Rochambeau and his four regiments marched overland to join up v the Continental army near White Plains, new York. His little fleet, which had actually on board state-of-the-art siege artillery, remained in Rhode Island.

Washington’s initial arrangement was to use the merged American and French forces to force the British out of brand-new York City and its environs. The situation changed dramatically however, on respectable 14, 1781, as soon as Rochambeau learned that Admiral de Grasse and also a huge French fleet, and some additional French infantry, would soon arrive in the vicinity the the Chesapeake Bay. De Grasse was all set to assistance a military project in the area but was not willing to walk as much north as new York, and he warned the he had actually to return to the West Indies through mid-October. This news was to set the phase for the final and decisive military project of the American Revolution.


Early in 1781 the war had actually finally involved Virginia. Very first an invading force under the command of the traitor Benedict Arnold had overrun lot of the eastern component of the state, destroying beneficial supplies and also cargos the tobacco. Lot to Governor cutting board Jefferson’s dismay, the state’s militia units, the only men available for defense, were not able come stand approximately the experienced British soldiers. The state’s plight deepened in the summer as soon as British basic Cornwallis exit his not successful attempt come subdue the Carolinas and instead made decision to sign up with the brother forces already in Virginia. With an military now numbering virtually 7,000 men, basic Cornwallis began a wide-ranging campaign of economic and also military destruction aimed at ending Virginia’s crucial contributions to the war effort. Return Washington had sent the Marquis de Lafayette come Virginia through a couple of Continental troops, he was no able to avoid the British from rampaging through the state, burn the funding of Richmond, and almost capturing the legislature assembly in Charlottesville. By early on August Cornwallis began setting up a fortified base at Yorktown, with the expectation the reinforcements.


Upon discovering of the impending arrival of de Grasse and also his fleet, Rochambeau encouraged Washington to abandon his setup to attack brand-new York. Instead Rochambeau and Washington would integrate their forces and rapidly march to Virginia in an attempt to trap Cornwallis and his army. This time the “grand strategy” worked. On august 29, 1781, ten job after the allied army left brand-new York, Admiral de Grasse arrived in the Chesapeake Bay. Conscious of this news, the brother dispatched a fleet from new York the arrived turn off the Virginia capes top top the fifth of September. The French and also British fleets involved in battle for numerous days, and although the outcome was indecisive, Admiral Graves, the british commander, chose to return to brand-new York for repairs.

Cornwallis was currently trapped. Without naval support he might neither escape no one be resupplied or reinforced. Outnumbered 2 to one, through October ninth he was surrounding by the ally army and under extreme bombardment native the hefty siege cannon. After ten days of intense, disastrous artillery fire and running quick of food, that was compelled to surrender his military on October 19, 1781. Although that was an additional two year before great Britain formally recognized American independence and also negotiated tranquility with the joined States, public perspective in England turned against the war, and also the Yorktown project was the last significant military fight of the Revolution.

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Without the direct and indirect help of France, it is cynical that Americans might have winner the war for independence. Native 1776 come 1783 France provided the United states with numerous livres in cash and also credit. France likewise committed 63 warships, 22,000 sailors and 12,000 soldiers come the war, and also these pressures suffered fairly heavy casualties together a result. The French nationwide debt incurred during the war added to the fiscal situation France skilled in the so late 1780s, and also that was one variable that brought on the French Revolution. In the finish the French people paid a high price for helping America obtain its independence.

Edward Ayres Jamestown-Yorktown structure Historian


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