Bantry Recruits

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XII (3) - Start of Chapter

“Bantry Recruit.” When in 1796 the French ships appeared outside Bantry Bay, their approach caused great alarm. The country people struck out a plan to intimidate them, and a very effective one it proved. The costumes of the fair sex in these parts comprised at that time as an indispensable essential, a scarlet cloak—the proposition was to assemble all the damsels that could be collected together, and marshal them on the heights around the bay. It was done, and the French soldiers beheld with dismay, this formidable array of scarlet, the wearers whereof appeared to be “good men and true.” Hence women or girls wearing scarlet cloaks were termed “Bantry recruits.”

A very similar happening occurred in February, 1797, when a body of French landed on the coast of Pembrokeshire, having for their ultimate object the burning and sacking of Bristol. A force of Volunteers and Militia besides a great number of country people assembled with such weapons as they could muster. Misliking the state of affairs in front, and mistaking, it is said the red cloaks of the Welsh women for the red coats of the British infantry, the “Black Legion” surrendered at discretion without a blow.