America's First Ally

France in the Revolutionary War

Norman Desmarais

An overview of how France influenced the American War of Independence, intellectually, financially, and militarily, and how this resulted in America's eventual victory.
Date Published :
June 2019
Publisher :
Illustration :
20 black and white illustrations and maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612007014
Pages : 312
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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An overview of how France influenced the American War of Independence, intellectually, financially, and militarily, and how this resulted in America's eventual victory.

This is a comprehensive look at how France influenced the American Revolutionary War in a variety of ways: intellectually, financially, and militarily. It raises the crucial question of whether America could have won its independence without the aid of France.

The book begins with an overview of the intellectual and ideological contributions of the French Enlightenment thinkers, called the philosophes, to the American and French revolutions. It then moves to cover the many forms of aid provided by France to support America during the Revolutionary War. This ranged from the covert aid France supplied America before her official entry into the war, to the French outfitters and merchants who provided much-needed military supplies to the Americans. When the war began, the colonists thought the French would welcome an opportunity to retaliate and regain their country. France also provided naval assistance, particularly to the American privateers who harassed British shipping and contributed to the increased shipping rates which added to Great Britain's economic hardships. France's military involvement in the war was equally as important.

America's First Ally looks at the contributions of individual French officers and troops, arguing that America could not have won without them. Desmarais explores the international nature of a war which some people have called the first world war. When France and Spain entered the conflict, they fought the Crown forces in their respective areas of economic interest. In addition to the engagements in the Atlantic Ocean, along the American and European coasts and in the West Indies, there are accounts of action in India and the East Indies, South America and Africa.

Also included are accounts drawn from ships' logs, court and auction records, newspapers, letters, diaries, journals, and pension applications.

About The Author

Norman Desmarais is Professor Emeritus at Providence College and an active reenactor. He is a member of Le Régiment Bourbonnais, the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment and the Brigade of the American Revolution. He is editor-in-chief of The Brigade Dispatch and the author of a number of titles on the Revolutionary War.


1: Covert Aid
2: Outfitters and Suppliers
3: Canada: The Fourteenth Colony
4: Naval Assistance
5: Military Aid
6: The West and East Indies


"This is [...] a persuasive look at the significant role of foreign aid in the revolution’s success. Readers intrigued by the international dimensions of the Revolutionary War will find this a worthy volume.”

- Publishers Weekly

“Author Norman Desmarais has collected an enormous amount of basic information about France’s involvement in the American Revolutionary War. Throughout, by implication, he addresses the question of whether victory would have been possible for the American rebels without so much vital French assistance.”

- New York Journal of Books

This book takes an in-depth look at all the supplies that the French government provided and examines, in-depth, the battles they fought. Like many other books from Casemate, it is more of true military history and not much of analytical history.

- Seattle Book Review

"Norman Desmarais usefully puts the reader in the passenger seat by explaining in the Introduction what to expect from each of five distinct chapters, which cover France's aid to the colonies prior to alliance, the merchants and outfitters whom supplied necessary arms, possible re-establishment of New France territories, and the naval assistance and overall military involvement in the American Cause."

- The Colonial Review

"...researchers seeking a detailed accounting of French aid drawn from primary and secondary sources will benefit from the author’s workmanlike effort to accumulate an impressive repository of quantitative data."

- Journal of Military History

"...focuses on details of French aid in the Revolutionary War, contributing greatly to our understanding of the war as an international conflict, and strengthening our appreciation of that country’s role in America’s independence. If you need a reference book detailing what French investors, the French navy and soldiers did for the American Revolution, this is a good place to begin."

- Journal of the American Revolution

"The breadth of the research is stunning...a tremendous reference regarding the details of French support..."

- History: Reviews of New Books

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