Wind that Shakes the Barley - A FAILED PLAN for FREEDOM

James Gillray  (1756–1815) created this artistic impression of France’s failed effort to help the Irish in 1798. The work is called “End of the Irish Invasion ; — or — the Destruction of the French Armada.” Online via the Library of Congress, where it has this summary:

“French warships, labeled Le Révolutionaire, L'Egalité and The Revolutionary Jolly Boat, being tossed about during a storm blown up by Pitt, Dundas, Grenville and Windham, whose heads appear from the clouds. Charles Fox is the figurehead on Le Révolutionaire which is floundering with broken mast. The Revolutionary Jolly Boat is being swamped, throwing Sheridan, Hall, Erskine, M.A. Taylor and Thelwall overboard.”


After his political organization was banned, Tone went to America. He spent a brief time in Philadelphia but soon left for France. Since the newly formed French Republic was already at war with England, Tone found an ally. As he said at the time:

England's difficulty [with France] is Ireland's opportunity.

But Tone had problems living in France. He didn't know the language. He had a wife and three young children. Undaunted, Tone directed his considerable discipline toward developing a plan. He was given a commission as a French military officer.

Working with “citizen generals” of the French Republic, Tone helped to plan a French military landing in Ireland. He thought it was the only way to evict Britain from Irish shores.

A French invasion—with nearly 15,000 French troops—was first attempted in December of 1796. The sea around Ireland is not a friendly place in the winter, however. Bad weather at the landing point of Bantry Bay, near the country’s southern tip, was ruinous for the French expedition.

What might have been a successful effort to end British control of the Emerald Isle never got its start. Even so, the Irish people supported French involvement, as this popular Irish ballad—of the 1790s—illustrates:

They come, they come
See myriads come -
Of Frenchmen to relieve us;

Seize, seize the pike
Beat, beat the drum
They come, my friends
To save us.

Although Tone's ship arrived in Bantry Bay, General Louis Lazare Hoche, the expedition commander, was delayed by thick fog and bad weather. On Christmas Day, winds were at gale force and Tone's ship was forced to leave Bantry Bay harbor. Tone and his French colleagues had to scrap plans for 1796 invasion.

Before Tone could finalize new plans, Irish rebels began up an uprising in County Wexford in the spring of 1798. Since they were located in southeast Ireland, Wexford rebels believed the French could easily come to their aid. Napoleon Bonaparte, however, was now Commander of the French Army. He had significant plans for his troops. Those plans did not include battles in Ireland.

By the time a French relief expedition was hastily put together, Irish rebels had been defeated at Vinegar Hill in County Wexford. French forces had arrived—about two months too late.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Jun 28, 2019

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"A FAILED PLAN for FREEDOM " AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2006. Jun 05, 2020.
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