Following the 1778 Treaty of Alliance, France openly provided arms and funding to the Americans and engaged in full-scale war with Britain.
Evaluate France and Spain's impact on the Revolutionary War
The French offered covert assistance to the Patriots prior to entering the war.
The British defeat at Saratoga persuaded the French of the strength of the Continental Army and directly influenced King Louis XVI's decision to recognize the United States and sign a treaty of alliance with Congress.
France formally recognized the United States on
February 6, 1778, with the Treaty of Alliance. This prompted Britain to declare
war on France on March 17, 1778. The French navy was particularly helpful to the Continental forces, who were unable to contend with the formidable British navy.
In 1780, the comte de Rochambeau was appointed commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force and brought 7,000 French troops to New England.
The 680-mile march of the combined Continental Army of Washington and the French Expeditionary Force under comte de Rochambeau from Newport, Rhode Island, to Virginia, ending at the decisive siege at Yorktown in 1781.
A defensive alliance between France and the United States, formed in 1778, in the midst of the American Revolutionary War. The treaty promised military support in case of attack by British forces indefinitely into the future.
Following the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was well received in France,
perceived by many to be the incarnation of the Enlightenment spirit. Benjamin Franklin, dispatched to France in December 1776 to rally support, was warmly welcomed.
the French also had other reasons for supporting the Patriots. France bitterly
resented their loss in the Seven Years’ War, in which they fought against Great
Britain and lost a number of their territories in North America as well as
favorable trading status in ports along the Indian subcontinent. The French
were keen on ensuring that the British did not tip the balance of power further
in their favor, and many in France perceived the American Revolution as an
opportunity to strip Britain of their North American possessions in
retaliation for French losses a decade previously.
Prior to France's official involvement, King Louis XVI and the French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, the comte de Vergennes, authorized merchants to covertly sell gunpowder and ammunition to the Patriots. French ports also accommodated Continental Navy warships that acted against British merchant ships. France provided significant economic aid and technical assistance in terms of military strategy.
French volunteers, moved by the prospect of glory in battle or animated by
sincere ideals of liberty and republicanism, joined the American army. Some of these volunteers included Pierre Charles L’Enfant and Gilbert du Motier,
Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette enlisted in 1777, at the age of 20 in defiance
of King Louis XVI’s orders. He became an aide to General George Washington and
a combat general. Most importantly, the charming young aristocrat helped to solidify
a favorable American stance toward France and gave legitimacy to the war
among potential European supporters.
In 1777, news of the Patriot victory at the Battle of Saratoga was received with great enthusiasm in France. Following this victory, King Louis XVI immediately negotiated an alliance with Benjamin Franklin. France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, with the Treaty of Alliance. The treaty provided open support from the French army, navy, and treasury. As a result, Britain declared war on France on March 17, 1778.
was also instrumental in securing Spain’s involvement in the Revolutionary War.
On April 12, 1779, France and Spain signed the Treaty of Aranjuez. Under the
terms of the treaty, France agreed to aid in the capture of Gibraltar, the Floridas,
and the island of Minorca in return for Spain’s agreement to join in France’s
war against Great Britain. In June 1779, Spain launched the unsuccessful Great
Siege of Gibraltar, the first and longest Spanish action in the Revolutionary
War, which lasted until February 1783. In 1781, the Spanish defeated the
British at the Battle of Pensacola, giving the Spanish control of West Florida.
In 1782, Minorca surrendered to a combined Franco-Spanish force, restoring the
territory to Spain nearly 80 years after it had initially been captured by the
British. The French navy provided valuable assistance to the Patriots and engaged British naval forces several times in 1778 and 1779, in European and North American waters. Under
Paul, Marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse, the French defeated a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, ensuring the success of allied ground forces in the Siege of Yorktown, the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War.
Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau,
was appointed commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force. He was given command of approximately 7,000 French troops and sent to join Washington's Continental Army. Rochambeau landed at Newport, Rhode Island, in July 1780, and remained there for a year to support the French fleet blockaded by the British in Narragansett Bay.
In July 1781, Rochambeau's force left Rhode Island, marching across Connecticut to join Washington on the Hudson River at Dobbs Ferry, New York. In mid-August 1781, Washington and Rochambeau led the Celebrated March of combined Franco-American forces towards Virginia and the siege of Yorktown.