Who Saved It, by Larrie D. Ferreiro
American Revolutions (previously reviewed in this blog) took a broad look at the social and regional revolutions that were taking place on the continent during the American Revolution; and a forthcoming book this spring--Scars of Independence, by Holger Hoock--will characterize the American Revolution as a civil war.
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, famous for the plays The Barber of Seville
and The Marriage of Figaro, was heavily involved in arranging arms shipments
to the Americans. Portrait by Marc Nattier, 1755.
John Trumball's 1822 painting of the surrender of General Burgoyne at
Saratoga. The American victory at Saratoga prompted France to enter the war.
The heart of this book is Ferreiro’s explanation of how the diplomatic and military actions all converged, the way the decisions of different powers inter-related across a global landscape, with events in one remote part of the world affecting the tactical and strategic map in America. Perhaps the best example of this is the wonderful account of how everything came together in terms of international collaboration with the Americans in what proved to be the decisive battle of the Revolution, the siege of Yorktown and the surrender of Cornwallis.
French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes
maneuvered France and Spain into war against Britain, turning
the American Revolution into a global war between the European
powers. Portrait by Antoine-Francois Callet.
Jose Monino y Redondo, Conde de
Floridablanca, the Spanish Foreign
Minister. By entering the conflict,
he hoped to regain Gibraltar from
the British. Portrait by
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette.
Portrait by Joseph-Desire Court, 1791
When French military resources, both naval and ground troops, finally assembled in the colonies, it looked like things were propitious for a collaborative and direct American and French attack on British troops, but there was disagreement over what the target should be. For many of the Americans and for Lafayette, who strongly identified with their ambitions, the desire was to attack the British army lodged in New York. It was a desire that had less to do with cool calculations about the military odds of success and more to do with the ignominious history of the early defeat of the Continental Army there. The youthful Lafayette wrote a long letter to the leader of French troops in America (a veteran of many military campaigns on the European continent), the Comte de Rochambeau, pressing him to agree to an attack on New York. Rochambeau finally had enough of Lafayette’s importuning, and in a restrained but pointed letter he replied, “My dear marquis, allow an old father to reply to you as a dear son….you know me well enough to believe that I have no need to be spurred, and that at my age when a decision is reached….all the incitements possible cannot make me change without a positive order from my general [Washington]. It is always a good to think the French invincible, but I am going to tell you a secret learned from 40 years’ experience. There are no easier men to defeat than those who have lost confidence in their leaders, and they lose it at once when they have been endangered through personal and selfish ambition.”
Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau.
Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale, 1780.