Washington followed up the coast and took up his quarters at White Plains.
AID FROM FRANCE; TRAITORS
This month of July, 1778, marked two vital changes in the war. The first was the transfer by the British of the field of operations to the South. The second was the introduction of naval warfare through the coming of the French. The British seemed to desire, from the day of Concord and Lexington on, to blast every part of the Colonies with military occupation and battles. After Washington drove them out of Boston in March, 1776, they left the seaboard, except Newport, entirely free. Then for nearly three years they gave their chief attention to New York City and its environs, and to Jersey down to, and including, Philadelphia. On the whole, except for keeping their supremacy in New York, they had lost ground steadily, although they had always been able to put more men than the Americans could match in the field, so that the Americans always had an uphill fight. Part of this disadvantage was owing to the fact that the British had a fleet, often a very large fleet, which could be sent suddenly to distant points along the seacoast, much to the upsetting of the American plans.
The French Alliance, ratified during the spring, not only gave the Americans the moral advantage of the support of a great nation, but actually the support of a powerful fleet. It opened French harbors to American vessels, especially privateers, which could there take refuge or fit out. It enabled the Continentals to carry on commerce, which before the war had been the monopoly of England. Above all it brought a large friendly fleet to American waters, which might aid the land forces and must always be an object of anxiety to the British.
Such a fleet was that under Count d’Estaing, who reached the mouth of Delaware Bay on July 8, 1778, with twelve ships of the line and four frigates. He then went to New York, but the pilots thought his heavy draught ships could not cross the bar above Sandy Hook; and so he sailed off to Newport where a British fleet worsted him and he was obliged to put into Boston for repairs. Late in the autumn he took up his station in the West Indies for the winter. This first experiment of French naval cooeperation had not been crowned by victory as the Americans had hoped, but many of the other advantages which they expected from the French Alliance did ensue. The opening of the American ports to the trade of the world, and incidentally the promotion of American privateering, proved of capital assistance to the cause itself.