With A Bloodless Victory now off to the printers, I can fully turn my attention to what I want my next book to be about. Given my work at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, it makes sense it would explore the American War of Independence, but what aspect?!

I toyed around with several ideas. A comparative memory study of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr? The play Hamilton came out and would make you look like a bandwagon fan. A study of the military art and science books in George Washington’s library? Kevin Hayes’s excellent George Washington: A Life in Books took that topic off the table. An investigation of how George Washington established a professional military culture in the Continental Army? Maybe one day, but…

In the fall of 2016, the Washington Library acquired five of the letters written between George Washington and the marquis de Chastellux, and I started to realize just how understudied the Franco-American aspects of the War of Independence are. The last English-language biography of the comte de Rochambeau is more than forty years old. The other major officers also have similarly outdated English-language biographies or don’t have them at all: de Grasse — 1945, d’Estaing — none, Chastellux — none.

Operational and tactical histories are not in much better shape with Rhode Island and Savannah receiving little outside of local history attention and the operations around New York in 1781 are almost completely unstudied. Yorktown, for obvious reasons, receives tremendous English-language attention, but is almost always investigated through a Continental Army angle. Oh, and the French don’t actually leave the United States until the winter of 1782, more than a year after Yorktown…

William Stinchcombe authored a valuable general overview of the French war in 1969. Diplomatic and naval topics were covered earnestly by J.R. Dull in 1976 and 1985. The Twenty-first century has witnessed two very excellent micro-cultural studies of the French Army and the extent to which (if any) those soldiers’ time in America radicalized them prior to the French Revolution.

Clearly there is an opportunity and a need for more investigation of the French military effort in the American War of Independence, and that is what I will work on next!

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