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

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