In 1779, John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette (pictured here allegorically) conspired to take the Revolutionary War to the British homeland by landing French infantry in port towns on the western coast of England. Spain's entry into the war scrapped the possibility of such small-scale raids—but would the plans have succeeded?
The sleepy inhabitants of Liverpool stared in amazement as French troops, dressed in their finest white grenadier's uniforms and with bayonets glistening, disembarked from naval transport vessels along the city's broad waterfront. Liverpool's impressive harbor, often home to dozens of merchantmen plying the East and West Indies trade, was occupied by a squadron of vessels flying the colors of the American Continental Navy. In the spring's dawn mist, the troops of Louis XVI swiftly took up positions around the city's wharves and docks. Other soldiers moved quickly through the city streets, gathering the most prominent of Liverpool's inhabitants and political leadership. Once collected, the prisoners were marched through the confused and frightened city to the headquarters of the invasion's commander. These principals of Liverpool's politics and industry, on arriving at their destination, were greeted with an unbelievable sight. There, conferring with his army and naval officers, was the commander of this modestly sized expedition, Colonel Marquis de Lafayette of the King's Dragoons, recently returned from the American theater. 1 Resplendent in his finely tailored French uniform, the 21-year-old officer greeted the gentlemen pleasantly and proceeded to make his guests as comfortable as the occasion would allow. The captives were yet again surprised to discover the identity of the expedition's naval commander: none other than the dreaded John Paul Jones himself! The American war had come home to roost and one of Great Britain's largest industrial and merchant cities was being held ransom by the combined forces of the American Continental Congress and the king of France.