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Impact of French World-Wide Involvement in the War for American Independence

This page provides a brief summary of data to help assess the size of the French contribution to the War for American Independence. In particular the American cause was fought by the combined action of two partners:
The insurgents of the thirteen English Colonies, coordinated by the American Continental Congress.The dominant power in Continental Europe, namely France

Respective belligerent resources and forces in the ‘War for America’

Populations (as a potential for raising manpower and taxes to support military and naval operations):

13 American colonies: 2 million, including the loyalists
United Kingdom: 11 million
Spain: 12 million
France: 28 million.

Historians have estimated the overall cost of the War to the Royal French budget at 1,500 million livres — about five billion Euro Dollars — (L’économie de la Révolution Française by Florin Aftalion (Hachette, Paris 1987).

Continental Army (according to général Knox, secretary of War, report to Congress, 1789).(militia not included)
1775 27,443
1776 46,891
1777 34,820
1778 32,899
1779 27,699
1780 21,015
1781 13,292
1782 14,256
1783 13,476

British ground troops : The War for America by Piers Macksey (Harvard 1964).

REGION Apr 1775
Aug 1777 Oct 1778 Mar 1780 Mar 1782South UK 10,61213,86853,46561,40264,274North UK + Scotland 1,7452,1163,2825,6515,872Jersey/Guernesey 3434312,5852,6744,556Gibraltar / Minorca 5,2325,3517,0818,0087,371India 1,0991,0091,062West Indies 1,9833,3151,7519,2908,756Canada incl in USA7,7676,6477,47110,225″USA” 6,99123,694*39,63732,14934,463embarked 6,1945,872TOTAL 27,06357,637*112,239142,386150,310* these figures for 1777 do not include mercenaries from German principalities [Hesse-Kassel, Anspach-Bayreuth].

French Royal Armies in 1778 (États Militaires; Ordonnances en vigueur)
Infantry = 109 regiments ; half of them have been involved in this world war : at least 40 in North America and the West Indies (two Irish, one German speaking). (see ‘Régiments’, in

Cavalry = 52 regiments; 4 have sent drafts in North America or the West Indies.This means altogether 220,000 professional soldiers, 35,000 officers on a war footing among them. One thousand officers and more than 15,000 soldiers (Land service) were directly engaged in North America (2,113 lost their lives); twice as many around the World.

Marine Royale (1779) ( La vie de Charles-Henri, comte d’Estaing by Jacques Michel (éd. J. Michel, 1976): 72,500 sailors, 2,500 officers

The annual French Royal Navy budget amounted to 140 million livres (470 million Euros).Line vessels (French Navy and American Independence by J. Dull)

Year FrenchSpanishDutchAmeric.Total alliedBritish1778 52–052661779 6358-0121901780 6948-0117911781 7054130137941782 735419014694European alliances

Thanks to Louis XVI’s foreign diplomacy, Britain did not succeed, for once, entering into any alliance.

In order to balance the British Navy effectives, France dragged Spain into the conflict. Spain’s policy was to minimize the American English colonists’ forces that could threaten her efforts to keep Louisiana, to recover Florida, and to enlarge further its possessions in North America.

To obtain Spain’s participation, the French Royal Government had to:
remind Spain and request the implications of the so called “Family Compact” between the two Bourbon kingdoms, negotiated and concluded on August 1761 by Choiseul, French Foreign Affairs Minister;accept preparing a military landing in the UK;undertake not to stop fighting until Spain recovered Minorca and Gibraltar.

The other main European nations (Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Portugal) entered into a League of Armed Neutrality not to be involved. They refused the American Congress demand to be admitted into this pacific alliance.
Germany did not yet exist as a nation. Almost every German speaking participant from Europe who fought for the American cause were members [or had been in service] of the French Royal Armies (Deux-Ponts, Kalb, etc. …) or dispatched under French governmental influence (Steuben).

This page is based upon one created by the comte de Trentinian, Executive vice-president, French State Society, Sons of the American Revolution.Originally prepared for the website of Fils de la Révolution Américaine; SAR – branche française, and modified for this page.

Page posted 15 November 2001; revised 3 January 2010.
RETURN TO WEBPAGES for:World War Context of the American Revolution.
French Regiments in the American Revolution
The Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society.