Silas Deane assisted the Patriot cause as a representative to the First and Second Continental Congresses, as a mastermind behind the Patriot capture of Fort Ticonderoga (May 10, 1775), and as Congress' first envoy to France. While in France, Deane purchased and shipped supplies for the Continental Army. He also helped the United States stay on good terms with the French crown.
Deane's supplies played a large role in the Patriot victory at the Battle of Saratoga (1777). His good relationship with Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes helped to persuade France to join the war on the behalf of the United States.
Silas Deane's efforts made the Franco-American alliance a reality and yet few outside of Connecticut know who he was.
My latest article for the Journal of the American Revolution provides an overview of the extraordinary life of Silas Deane.
Here's a taste:
Silas Deane assisted the Patriot cause as a congressman, merchant, and diplomat. In 1776, Deane undertook a mission to France as the Patriots’ official, unofficial envoy. Officially, Deane arrived in Paris to conduct business as a private merchant. Unofficially, the Second Continental Congress had tasked Deane with securing supplies for the army and presents for Native American peoples. Congress also asked Deane to make contact with King Louis XVI’s Foreign Minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes to determine whether France would recognize the colonies as an independent nation.
Silas Deane fulfilled all of the tasks Congress asked of him. His good relations with Vergennes kept France interested in the American cause. His success in acquiring and shipping war materiel to the Continental Army made the Patriot victory at Saratoga possible. And yet, Silas Deane stands in the shadows of early American history, victim of the jealousy and paranoia that pervaded Congress and took hold of other Patriot officials.