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A short history of the original Wild Geese



The original Wild Geese were 30,000 Irish soldiers who left Ireland after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. Believing they had negotiated a treaty that guaranteed the rights of their people, and as one of the conditions of the agreement, they were exiled to France. Once the soldiers were gone, the Treaty was ripped up and replaced by the Penal Laws, which stripped Irish Catholics of their land and removed every right of citizenship. For the next 100 years the French army would include an Irish brigade, which was fed by a continual stream of young men from Ireland.


Though some may have joined foreign armies looking for adventure, others to make a living, many were looking to fight the ancient enemy, England. It has been estimated that as many as half a million or more Irishmen died in the service of France in the century after Limerick. The majority of the recruits came from the counties of Clare, Limerick, Cork, Kerry and Galway. French ships which arrived on the west coast smuggling in brandy and wine would depart with recruits for the Irish Brigade. In the paperwork of the ships, the recruits would be listed as "Wild Geese", thus the origin of the name. In 1745, after France's Irish Brigade was so instrumental in the famous victory over the British at Fontenoy, England's King George II would express a sentiment often echoed over the years: "Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects."


Many of the "Wild Geese" rose to prominence in the armies of Europe. George Brown and eleven different men named Walsh were made Generals by Emperor Charles IV of Austria. Francis Maurice Lacy was a Field Marshal in both the Austrian and Russian armies. Many reached high commands in France and Spain.


In South America Bernardo O Higgins became the Liberator of Chile and Admiral William Brown from Mayo, was the founder of the Argentine Navy.


Members of the Irish Brigade of France served as Marines with John Paul Jones and other were at Yorktown with Rochambeau. The Hibernia regiment of Spain fought the English at Pensacola, Florida in 1781. There were 17 Generals and thousands of Irishmen in the Revolutionary army fighting the the English in America. 


They fought on both sides of the American Civil War, with 150,000 in the US army and 50,000 wearing the grey of the Confederacy.


Is it any wonder they were known as the "Fighting Irish"