MERCI, MES AMIS
France began secretly supplying the Patriots soon after the outbreak of war, eager for any chance to get one over on the old enemy. Then came the American victory at Saratoga in October 1777, which convinced the French to enter the war.
Their alliance with the Americans was pivotal. With the nascent Continental Navy outclassed, Patriot sea power had been confined to privateering, but the presence of French ships made the British Navy more vulnerable, something that only increased when Spain and the Netherlands joined the fray.
The Continental Army was reinforced by French soldiers commanded by the Comte de Rochambeau. Another officer, the Marquis de Lafayette, became Washington’s aide even before France officially declared war. To this day, he is celebrated as a hero in the US. The Patriots had little hope of winning without France, which ended up more than one billion livres in debt and facing its own revolution.
The Marquis de Lafayette defied the French King to sail for the colonies