During 1796, one of France’s most successful and charismatic revolutionaries, General Hoche, hatched a grand and complex plan for the co-ordinated invasion of England, Wales and Ireland. He was aided in this by Irish patriot Theobald Wolfe Tone, who was in France promoting the invasion of Ireland by a French army of...
During 1796, one of France’s most successful and charismatic revolutionaries, General Hoche, hatched a grand and complex plan for the co-ordinated invasion of England, Wales and Ireland. He was aided in this by Irish patriot Theobald Wolfe Tone, who was in France promoting the invasion of Ireland by a French army of liberation. The Irishman promised popular support if the French invaded, with the expectation being that an uprising in Ireland would draw British troops and resources away from Continental Europe and might even lead to an independent and anti-British Ireland. The plan was approved and a French invasion fleet of around 50 ships carrying 15,000 veteran troops began to gather at Brest to sail to Bantry Bay, County Cork in south-west Ireland.
Prince Frederick, Duke of York, was the second son of King George III. As an inexperienced young military officer, he presided over an unsuccessful campaign against the French in the Low Countries in 1793. Two years later he was appointed commander-in-chief of the British army, and in that post he made amends for his initial military setbacks by brilliantly reorganising the nation’s forces and putting in place administrative reforms that were a critical factor in enabling the British to prevail over Napoleon. He also founded the renowned military college, Sandhurst. Word reached him of the French designs and he sought his father’s permission to send troops to Ireland to meet the threat. The King responded with this letter.
Autograph Letter Signed, Weymouth, August 19, 1796, to his son Frederick, approving the reorganization of forces he was proposing for the Ireland campaign. “I approve of the 6th Regiment of Dragoon Guards and the 12th Light Dragons returning to Ireland as also the Loyal Tay Fencible Cavalry; the foreign corps of Lowenstein, Hompesch and Waldstein now in the Isle of Wight may be sent to Cork til they can proceed to the West Indies. I approve of colonels Burton and Monson being placed as brigadiers on the staffs of Guernsey and Jersey as it would not be desirable the commands should [go] to fencible colonels. The memorandas are all very proper. I am very glad you think of arriving here on Sunday…” Napier Christie Burton, who assumed command of the forces on Guernsey pursuant to this letter, later became commander-in-chief of Canada.
The invasion fleet sailed in December but the weather was so violent that no troops could be put ashore, and by the first week of January 1797 the French invasion fleet, battered and dispersed, crept back to Brest. In 1798, the Irish did rise and the French did invade, but the British defeated both.
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