Volunteering 1776–85


Map Code: Ax01695

The tradition of volunteering amongst Irish Protestants first took root at the time of the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland (1715 and 1745), in the (unfulfilled) anticipation of a Stuart invasion. In 1760, during the Seven Years’ War, the French actually landed and seized Carrickfergus. Their rapid expulsion was assisted by local militiamen, and after the war, various landowners maintained volunteer forces as makeshift police forces. The practice mushroomed with the outbreak of the American War of Independence. A French invasion was once more anticipated, and Irish Protestants felt highly vulnerable after the large-scale transfer of troops across the Atlantic. The various militias had their own uniforms and insignia, and were usually commanded by ex-military officers: the highest concentrations were in Ulster and Cork. After the British victory over the Spanish at Cape St Vincent (1780), fear of invasion receded, but the Volunteers mutated into political pressure groups, particularly for free trade.

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