The Irish Military Establishment 1796-1798. A study in the evolution of military effectiveness.
The period from 1796 to 1798 was one of crisis and change for the IME as they faced an unparalleled dualthreat from within and without; rebellion and invasion. Orthodox historiography characterises the IMEresponse to the December 1796 Bantry Bay invasion scare as haphazard and confused, and the crushing ofthe rebellion between May and July 1798 a result of failure in rebel coordination and leadership.
The landing of a small French force in Mayo August 1798 was too little and too late to alter the course of the rebellion, but their victory at Castlebar on 27 August has become a leitmotif for IME incompetence. This dissertation challenges the orthodox viewpoint, as represented by Bartlett’s dismissal of the IME as a passive actor which had merely “ridden out the storm”. Instead, the IME should be recognised for its creation of an effective local response to a heightened invasion threat in 1796 when Spain’s unexpected declaration of war tipped the scales of naval dominance against the Royal Navy. Furthermore, the way theIME responded to that threat created an operational environment which not only defeated the 1798 rebellion but was ahead of its time.