When The Wild Geese landed in France in 1691, they joined a new Jacobite army forming in France, under Louis XIV. By the following year, this army numbered 15,000 with Patrick Sarsfield commanding it’s second unit.
Louis XIV planned an invasion of England using this Jacobite army, to put James II back on the throne. An additional 7,000 troops and a train of artillery joined the invasion force.
For Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese this was their ticket home. They held high hopes of returning to their beloved Ireland.
The Battle of Barfleur and La Hogue
In preparation for the invasion, Louis XIV decided to strike a preempted blow against the English navy, but was unaware that the English and Dutch had struck an alliance. The french ships sailed out to meet a fleet that outnumbered them two to one.
Stood on the Cotentin Peninsular were the Irish Exiles, who watched the navies pound each other until the French fleet was crippled. Losing control of the channel, Louis called off the invasion and the hopes of The Wild Geese returning home quickly faded.
Although a bitter defeat, The Wild Geese held their heads high, still determined lead a successful career as Irish soldiers abroad. Irish soldiers were welcomed into armies throughout Europe, their ferocity and determination a key characteristic recognised across the continent.
Patrick Sarsfield took this opportunity to serve in the French army, where he was given the rank Marechal de camp, the French equivalent of a major general. For Sarsfield, the fight continued and Ireland remained close to his heart.