#OTD in 1798 – French fleet intercepted off Donegal and Wolfe Tone is captured when the Hoche strikes its colours.

“To unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter under the common name of Irishmen in order break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils, that was my aim”.” –Theobald Wolfe Tone

Theobald Wolfe Tone was one of the founders of the United Irishmen. In efforts to free Ireland from English rule, he had encouraged a French invasion of Ireland which due to bad planning and bad luck was never successful. In October 1798, French forces consisting of eight frigates were intercepted by British ships off Buncrana, Co Donegal. Retreating French ships offered Tone escape but he allegedly said “Shall it be said that I fled, whilst the French were fighting the battles of my country?” He was captured on the ship Hoche.

Two years previously, Wolfe Tone had attempted to land at Bantry Bay, Co Cork on another French “invasion”. High winds and storms would mean the planned landing would be aborted some days later. He wrote in his journal:

“We are now, nine o’clock, at the rendezvous appointed; stood in for the coast till twelve, when we were near enough to toss a biscuit ashore; at twelve tacked and stood out again, so now we have begun our cruise of five days in all its forms, and shall, in obedience to the letter of our instructions, ruin the expedition, and destroy the remnant of the French navy, with a precision and punctuality which will be truly edifying.”

Some days previously, Tone’s brother Matthew Tone was executed having been captured at the Battle of Ballinamuck fighting with French forces.

Featured Image | Wolfe Tone Memorial | St Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Image | Grave of Wolfe Tone | Bodenslown, Co Kildare

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