French Covert Action in the American Revolution
“If Benjamin Franklin’s covert operations are not well known to the American public, the secret role of the French in the birth of our nation has certainly been minimized and usually overlooked by historians. James Potts’s book successfully fills this gap. Moreover, proving that true spy stories are often more interesting than spy fiction, French Covert Action, exciting as it is well documented, makes a fascinating as well as valuable contribution to American colonial history. “
JOHN H. WALLER, noted author and authority on intelligence
U.S. intelligence specialist James Potts tells the story of how covert French military aid changed the course of history by enabling the rebellious Americans to hold off the forces of Britain’s King George III, most notably in the pivotal battle of Saratoga in October 1777. Potts probes the actions of France’s King Louis XVI’s government in secretly providing vital arms and ammunition to George Washington’s forces––and much-needed subsidies to the Continental Congress––in the critical early years of the American Revolution, beginning in 1775.
Drawing heavily on contemporaneous French government archives and other historical sources, Potts brings to life the colorful leading characters in the drama: France’s Foreign Minister (and secret spymaster) le Comte de Vergennes; Vergennes’s principal agent, the playwright Beaumarchais; Lord Stormont, King George’s ambassador in Paris; Benjamin Franklin, the wily American Commissioner in Paris; and numerous perpetrators of high intrigue on land and sea. The author also shows the highly-effective British counterespionage operations, whose American agents had penetrated Franklin’s mission in Paris, even intercepting his letters to the Continental Congress. In 1778 France joined the Americans openly in their war against the British and, at great cost to French fiscal well-being, further helped them win their independence.