From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an Age of Revolution

By Samuel F. Scott | Go to book overview

7

BETWEEN REVOLUTIONS

IN RETROSPECT, the six years between the return of Rochambeau's special expedition and the advent of the French Revolution represent a period of quiet normality between two great upheavals; yet, they were also years of significant change for those units and the men in them. In the United States Rochambeau's army of five thousand had constituted a substantial military force and been a decisive factor in the course of the war. In France the corps was broken up into its constituent elements and scattered in various garrisons, thereby losing the collective identity it had possessed for more than three years. Furthermore, the regiments, or parts thereof, made up but a small—and not particularly important—portion of the regular military establishment of one hundred and seventy thousand men. Major changes were also made in the units' personnel, as the number of American veterans progressively declined over the years. Because of their extensive military experience and the advancement in rank that often went with it, however, those men enjoyed an influence in their regiments disproportionate to their dwindling numbers.

The units and men that had contributed to the success of the American Revolution played a less prominent role in the larger context of the French Revolution. Consequently, they must be treated differently in this part of the study, as comparatively minor participants in events taking place on a much grander scale. 1 One might question the usefulness of pursuing their story into the era of the French Revolution. The basic reason for doing so is an attempt to evaluate the influence of the American Revolution on the only substantial group of “ordinary” people to have had personal experience

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