DESCRIPTION: "General wonder in our land ... As General Hoche appeared; General woe fled through our land ... General gale our fears dispersed ... General joy each heart has swelled, As General Hoche has fled... General of the skies That sent us general gale"
EARLIEST DATE: 2000 (Moylan)
KEYWORDS: navy war sea ship storm France Ireland patriotic
December 1796 - A gale disrupts the French Fleet of 43 ships and 15000 men under General Hoche in Bantry Bay; only one ship was sunk and drove several ashore, and the rest returned to Brest. (source: "'Rackets and Tea': The Life and Writings of William Hazlitt (1778-1830)" in _Biographies_ on the Blupete site)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Moylan 29, "General Wonder" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), p. 259, (no title) (1 text)
cf. "The Shan Van Vogt" (subject)
NOTES: As this song implies, the French invasion commanded by General Hoche was probably the closest Ireland ever came to being liberated by foreign forces. General Hoche was one of the brightest young stars of the French Republic (Napoleon being the other), and he had a sufficient force to cause the British great discomfort at least. (It might have been more than discomfort, given how bad most of the senior British officers were.)
But the wind caused disaster twice. First it scattered and damaged the French fleet. Most ships made it to Bantry Bay, but bad weather made it difficult to land. And the wind had also blown Hoche and naval commander de Galles away from the rest of the fleet. With no assertive officer to force the remaining ships to get something down, the French fleet essentially sat still in Bantry Bay from December 22 to December 25, then sailed for home. The Royal Navy was severely (and rightly) criticized for its complete failure to do anything, but the British had lucked out even so. Hoche would die soon afterward, and no one else in France was willing to devote significant resources to Ireland.
For more context on Hoche's expedition, see the notes to "The Shan Van Voght." - RBW
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