How the French Saved America: Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis XVI, and the Success of a Revolution

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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.

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About the author

TOM SHACHTMAN has written or co-authored more than thirty books, as well as documentaries for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and BBC, and has taught at New York University and lectured at Harvard and Stanford. He is a former chairman of The Writers Room in Manhattan, a trustee of the Connecticut Humanities Council, a founding director of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, and is currently a consultant to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's science and technology initiatives. Tom is the author of Gentleman Scientists and Revolutionaries.
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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Sep 12, 2017
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781250146144
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Liberté? Egalité? Fraternité? Or just plain gall?


In this provocative and brilliantly researched history of how the French have dealt with the United States, John J. Miller and Mark Molesky demonstrate that the cherished idea of French friendship has little basis in reality. Despite the myth of the “sister republics,” the French have always been our rivals, and have harmed and obstructed our interests more often than not.

This history of French hostility goes back to 1704, when a group of French and Indians massacred American settlers in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The authors also debunk the myth of French aid during the Revolution: contrary to popular notions, the French did not enter the war until very late and were mainly interested in hurting their rivals, the British. After the war, the French continued to see themselves as major players in the Western hemisphere and shaped their policies to limit the growth and power of the new nation. The notorious XYZ affair, involving French efforts to undermine the government of George Washington, led to an undeclared naval war with France in 1798. During the Civil War, the French supported the Confederacy and installed a puppet emperor in Mexico.

In the twentieth century, Americans clashed with the French repreatedly. The French victory over President Wilson at Versailles imposed a short-sighted and punitive settlement on Germany that paved the way for the rise of fascism in the 1930s. During World War II, Vichy French troops killed hundreds of American soldiers in North Africa, and diehard French fascist units fought against the Allies in the rubble of Berlin. During the Cold War, Charles DeGaulle yanked France out of NATO and obstructed our efforts to roll back Soviet expansion.

The legacy of French imperial power has been no less disastrous. The French left Haiti in a shambles, got us into Vietnam, and educated many of the world’s worst tyrants at their elite universities, including Pol Pot, the genocidal Cambodian dictator. The fascist Baath regimes in Iraq and Syria are another legacy of failed French colonialism.

Americans have been particularly irritated by French cultural arrogance—their crusades against American movies, McDonalds, Disney, and the exclusion of American words from their language have always rubbed us the wrong way. This irritation has now blossomed into outrage. Our Oldest Enemy shows why that outrage is justified.
This book tells the story of a plan put forth by President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II for an Allied military occupation of France in the aftermath of liberation, and of General Charles de Gaulle's efforts as self-appointed leader of the Free French Movement to thwart FDR's intentions. Charles L. Robertson frames the narrative as a mystery in which he plays the role of detective. He begins at a dinner party thirty years ago, where he first learned of the alleged plan from an elderly former aide to de Gaulle. Yet it wasn't until 2004, when he heard the same story repeated during the 60th commemoration of D-Day, that he set out to investigate whether it was true.

Many French are aware of this episode and believe, on the basis of later Gaullist officials' writings, that until the last moment a military occupation of their country was imminent. This view, across the years, has helped darken relations between France and the United States. Yet few if any Americans have ever heard of this plan, and in the event, no Allied military government of France was ever established.

How and why it never came to be, and why the French still believe it almost did, is the subject of this book. Robertson recounts how the president of the most powerful nation in the world was outmaneuvered in both his earlier plans for an occupation of France and his subsequent attempts to keep General de Gaulle from "seizing" power -- in a France that ultimately, despite Roosevelt's intentions and expectations, regained its place among the victorious powers under de Gaulle's leadership.

A New York Times Bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

“Nobody has captured Hamilton better than Chernow” —The New York Times Book Review 

Ron Chernow's other biographies include: Grant, Washington, and Titan.
The #1 bestseller that tells the remarkable story of the generations of American artists, writers, and doctors who traveled to Paris, the intellectual, scientific, and artistic capital of the western world, fell in love with the city and its people, and changed America through what they learned, told by America’s master historian, David McCullough.

Not all pioneers went west.

In The Greater Journey, David McCullough tells the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work. What they achieved would profoundly alter American history.

Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was one of this intrepid band. Another was Charles Sumner, whose encounters with black students at the Sorbonne inspired him to become the most powerful voice for abolition in the US Senate. Friends James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel F. B. Morse worked unrelentingly every day in Paris, Morse not only painting what would be his masterpiece, but also bringing home his momentous idea for the telegraph. Harriet Beecher Stowe traveled to Paris to escape the controversy generated by her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Three of the greatest American artists ever—sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, painters Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent—flourished in Paris, inspired by French masters.

Almost forgotten today, the heroic American ambassador Elihu Washburne bravely remained at his post through the Franco-Prussian War, the long Siege of Paris, and the nightmare of the Commune. His vivid diary account of the starvation and suffering endured by the people of Paris is published here for the first time.

Telling their stories with power and intimacy, McCullough brings us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’ phrase, longed “to soar into the blue.
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