Also known as the flag of Bourbon France.

Date: 1754.

Blue field with Gold fleur-de-lis. [R43]

The Continental Congress had long hoped for French aid and in 1776 sent Benjamin Franklin to Paris to persuade Louis XVI to give the Americans weapons and other badly needed supplies. In addition, the Congress wanted France to declare war on Britain.

The French were eager to defeat Britain. France was still angry about its defeat at British hands in the French and Indian War. However, Louis XVI did not want to help the Americans openly unless he was sure that they could win. The American victory at Saratoga convinced France that the United States could stand up to Britain. In February, 1778, France became the first nation to sign a treaty with the United States. It recognized the new nation and agreed to provide military aid.

The Marquis de Lafayette, a young French noble, brought trained soldiers to help the Patriot cause. In Virginia, American troops under Lafayette staged raids against the British. Lafayette did not have enough troops to fight a major battle. Still, his strategy kept Cornwallis at bay in Virginia.

Later Cornwallis was trapped on the Yorktown peninsula, in Virginia. Washington's troops marched south from New York. With the Americans were French solders under Comte de Rochambeau. The combined army rushed to join Lafayette in Virginia. Meanwhile a French fleet under Admiral de Grasse was also heading toward Virginia. Once in Chesapeake Bay, DeGrasse's fleet closed the trap. Cornwallis was cut off. He could not escape by land or sea. At the Battle of Yorktown, 16,000 American and French troops laid siege. The British surrendered on Oct. 19, 1781.