Napoleon's Irish Legion
AUTHOR: Gallaher, John G.
PUBLISHER: Southern Illinois University Press
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Drawing heavily on the original documents of the Archives de la guerre, John G. Gallaher has written the first complete account of the storied Irish Legion, which joined with Napoleon to fight England.
Following the failed Rebellion of 1798, hundreds of Irishmen fled to the Continent to avoid imprisonment or execution. As part of his planned campaign against England and Ireland in 1803, Napoleon authorized the creation of an Irish Legion to invade Ireland in order to tie down British forces that could otherwise have been used against the main French invasion of England. The promise of returning to Ireland with the French army at their backs brought many recruits to the Legion. The Irish emigrants who enlisted in this special unit of the French army were Irish nationalists who intended to liberate Ireland and create an Irish republic.
When the anticipated expedition to Ireland never took place, some of the Irishmen quit the army though the great majority of them remained to fight for Napoleon. Battalions of the Legion encountered the British at Flushing in 1809, fought Wellington in Portugal in 1810#150;11, and served with distinction at the Battle of Bautzen and in Silesia, where after heavy losses in lesser engagements with the enemy, the Legion was finally destroyed on the banks of the Bober River in 1813. The Legion was reorganized in the winter of 1813#150;14, but with a dwindling number of Irishmen.
With the passage of time the Irish became Bonapartists, and following the Second Restoration in 1815, the surviving remnants of the Irish Legion were disbanded. Until the end, the men of the Legion did not lose their love for Ireland nor their hope that one day they would return to their native land as part of a French military expedition. The Irish veterans of the Napoleonic wars were retired at half pay and most settled in France. They had become French soldiers of the Napoleonic Empire.
PUBLICATION DATE: 5/1/1993