Bantry Bay

This content was created/compiled by  Christine White and Lauren Moran.

In Brief:

After much persuasion from Wolfe Tone, the French (who were at war with Britain) finally sent help to Ireland. 43 ships and 15,000 men set sail from Brest in support of a hoped for armed rebellion led by the United Irishmen, who were determined to establish an Irish Republic. However the fleet, which was led by France’s greatest general, Lazare Hoche met Easterly storms and fog off the Irish coast.  This caused chaos and dispersed the fleet.  While some succeeded in anchoring in Bantry Bay, most were scattered in the Atlantic. After a few days, the order was given to abandon the attempted invasion and the few remaining ships in the bay that were seaworthy sailed for France. Any chance of catching the British by surprise had been ruined.

Wolfe Tone’s diary, December 29th:  ‘At four this morning, the commodore made the signal to steer for France; so that there is an end to our expedition for the present, perhaps forever.’



More Information:


Timeline of Bantry Bay

Dec 11, 1796 – on 11 December 1796 – A message was despatched with news that seven French ships of the line had arrived in Brest. This was part of the preparation for an invasion of Ireland. The French fleet left harbour and evaded the main British blockade fleet and sailed for Bantry Bay.

Dec 15, 1796 – 5. On December 15, 1796 – A French expedition of fourteen thousand men under the command of General Louis Lazare Hoche had set out from Brest for Bantry Bay in Ireland.

Dec 16, 1796 – On December 16th 1796, the expedition, consisting of forty-three sail, with an army of 15000 men, under the command of Hoche and Grouchy, left Brest. Tone, who now held the rank of adjutant-general in the French service, was on board the ‘Indomitable’. -In the night the ships were scattered. The ‘Fraternité’, with Hoche on board, never reached Ireland. But the French General Grouchy, with thirty-five sail, including the ‘Indomitable’, eventually made Bantry Bay.

Dec 21, 1796 – They stayed in the Bay for two weeks without an attack from theBritish fleet, which was then in Spithead.

However, storms scattered them and most returned to France.

“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.“

“Ils arrivent, ils arrivent.
Regarde les myriades de Français
Qui viennent nous libérer;

Prends, prends ton épieu
Bats, rebats du tambour
Ils sont ici, mes amis,
Pour nous sauver.“

Irish marching song / Chant de marche d’époque


General Lazare Hoche

Born: 24-Jun-1768

Birthplace: Versailles, France

Died: 18-Sep-1797

Location of death: Wetzlar, Nassau, Germany

Cause of death: Pneumonia

Gender: Male

Occupation: Military

Nationality: French

Executive summary: French General

Military service: French Army (1784-97).


History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published on April 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm Comments (3)
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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. on May 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm Daniel Poland Said:

    I never heard of Lazare Hoche until now!

  2. on May 31, 2010 at 5:42 pm caoimhe mahon Said:

    This was very helpful. I have learned alot I didn’t know about on Bantry Bay!

  3. on March 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm soracha moran Said:

    well done, didn’t know you possesed such extensive knowledge of irish history. 🙂

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