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How the French Saved America

Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis XVI, and the Success of a Revolution

Author: Tom Shachtman

How the French Saved America

How the French Saved America


About This Book

Americans today have a love/hate relationship with France, but in How the French Saved America Tom Shachtman shows that without France, there might not be a United States of America.


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Americans today have a love/hate relationship with France, but in How the French Saved America Tom Shachtman shows that without France, there might not be a United States of America.

To the rebelling colonies, French assistance made the difference between looming defeat and eventual triumph. Even before the Declaration of Independence was issued, King Louis XVI and French foreign minister Vergennes were aiding the rebels. After the Declaration, that assistance broadened to include wages for our troops; guns, cannon, and ammunition; engineering expertise that enabled victories and prevented defeats; diplomatic recognition; safe havens for privateers; battlefield leadership by veteran officers; and the army and fleet that made possible the Franco-American victory at Yorktown.

Nearly ten percent of those who fought and died for the American cause were French. Those who fought and survived, in addition to the well-known Lafayette and Rochambeau, include François de Fleury, who won a Congressional Medal for valor, Louis Duportail, who founded the Army Corps of Engineers, and Admiral de Grasse, whose sea victory sealed the fate of Yorktown.

This illuminating narrative history vividly captures the outsize characters of our European brothers, their battlefield and diplomatic bonds and clashes with Americans, and the monumental role they played in America’s fight for independence and democracy.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Press



In The News

"The author makes a convincing case that, without France, the United States may never have gained independence."Kirkus

“At last a full and compelling accounting of the crucial role that France and the French played in the American Revolutionary War! Shachtman skillfully shatters the myth that Americans secured their independence from Great Britain alone and by themselves. Through meticulous research, he tells the fascinating story of how the American revolutionaries slowly and at times fitfully negotiated their country’s first international alliance, ultimately leading to military victory and the creation of the United States. This book deserves a place on the bookshelf of every American history buff.” —Jeswald W. Salacuse, Distinguished Professor and former Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and author of Real Leaders Negotiate!

“Tom Shachtman casts a fresh overview on America’s complex struggle for independence from England in his intricately nuanced When the French Saved America. His engrossing portraits of the various players on every side, from George Washington to Louis XVI, his ministers, and their English rivals, are rendered with insight and vividly brought to life. He depicts the torturous efforts to win the support of France, the cradle of the Enlightenment, for the desperately needed funds, ammunitions, troops, and military officers, and, once the alliance with France was forged, the two countries’ all-out, merciless war with England.” —Charles Ruas, literary critic, translator of Foucault

“When General John Pershing landed in France exactly a century ago at the head of American forces, he exclaimed, 'Lafayette, nous sommes ici!' (Lafayette, we are here!). With clarity and verve, Tom Shachtman explains exactly what 'Black Jack' Pershing meant. Without the incalculable contributions of the French, the United States could not have survived its revolutionary break away from the mighty British empire. In How the French Saved America,Shachtman brings back to life an exciting cast of charactersking, soldiers and sailors, engineers, armorers and diplomats.” —Willard Sterne Randall, author of Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution

“A terrific read, incredibly researched, vivid, persuasive, wonderful details and analysis—everything you want history to be.” —Constance Rosenblum, author of Gold Digger: The Outrageous Life and Times of Peggy Hopkins Joyce, and a former editor at the New York Times

"With verve and style, Tom Shachtman brings a fresh new look to the critical role played by the French in the American Revolution. The fast paced narrative focuses on the military side of the events that led from the first tentative discussion in Philadelphia by French emissaries in 1775 to the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. All the well-known characters crowd the mythic stage but many of the French figures that have been largely forgotten are also brought to life with context and animated quotes from the historical record.” —William Howard Adams Author of The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson, and of On Luxury: A Cautionary Tale

About the Creators

How the French Saved America

How the French Saved America