seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Birth of Major General Thomas Conway


thomas-conwayThomas Conway, a major general in the American Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, is born in Cloghane, County Kerry, on February 27, 1735. He becomes involved with the alleged Conway Cabal with Horatio Gates and later serves with Émigré forces during the French Revolutionary War.

Conway is born to James Conway and his wife Julieanne Conway. As a child, he immigrates to France with his parents. At 14, he enrolls in the Irish Brigade of the French Army and rises rapidly to the rank of colonel by 1772.

Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War he volunteers to the Continental Congress for service with the American rebels in 1777. Based on an introduction from Silas Deane, the Congress appoints him a brigadier general on May 13, and sends him on to George Washington.

Conway commands the leading brigade on the American right flank at the Battle of Germantown, and is justly praised for his actions. However, Washington opposes his promotion to major general, believing that many American-born officers with longer and valuable service deserve the rank. This, and Conway’s condescending attitude, lead to continued friction between the men. Congress appoints Conway a major general anyway in December 1777, and makes him inspector general of the army.

When his name is used politically, it is used to describe the infighting known as the Conway Cabal. During the affair, he has written a letter to General Horatio Gates in which he refers to Washington as a “weak general.” The letter is intercepted by Washington and his backers after its delivery is botched by Brigadier General James Wilkinson, and is brought before the Congress for inquiry. When the contents of the letter are made public, Conway loses his command as a result. He tries a ploy that had worked before his promotion, and submits his resignation to Congress in March 1778. This time, however, it is accepted, so he is forced to leave the Continental Army. John Cadwalader shoots him in a duel on July 4, 1778. When he recovers, he writes an apology to Washington and returns to France.

Conway later returns to the French Army. In 1787 he receives promotion to Maréchal-de-camp (Major General) and an appointment as Governor of French colonies in India.

In 1793 he fights with royalist forces in opposition to French Revolution in southern France. Their loss forces him to become an exile from his adopted country.

During the French Revolution he is condemned to death. He is saved only by an appeal to Great Britain, against which he had fought in the American Revolution, but is compelled to flee from France for his life. He supposedly returns to Ireland and remains there until his death.

After that Conway disappears from history. He is believed to have died about 1800 in poverty and exile.


Author: Jim Doyle

As a descendant of Joshua Doyle (b. 1775, Dublin, Ireland), I have a strong interest in Irish culture and history, which is the primary focus of this site. I am a Network Engineer at The Computer Hut, LLC, which is my salaried job. I am a member of the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (2010-Present, President 2011-2017) and a commissioner on the City of Little Rock Arts+Culture Commission (2015-2020, 2021-Present, Chairman 2017-2018).

4 thoughts on “Birth of Major General Thomas Conway

  1. “After that Conway disappeared from history. He is supposed to have died about 1800 in Ireland in poverty and exile.” is a bit harsh.

    Daniel O’Connell wrote on September 29th 1794 “two regiments more have been added to the four Originally Granted, one of which, the 5th, was given to Gen Tom Conway,and the 6th fortunately fell to Gen James Conway, as the Senior Officer of all those who remained unprovided for. The Six Appointed Colonels had the honor of Kissing the King’s hand on Wednesday last, and the Queen’s on Thursday.” Source: O’Connell, Mrs, Morgan John. The last colonel of the Irish Brigade, Count O’Connell, and old Irish life at home and abroad, 1745-1833 Volume II, (1892) Page 153.

    He died in February 1795. Source: Privy Council of Great Britain, (Moore, Edmund F. & Knapp, Jerome William.) Reports of Cases Argued and Determined Before the Committees of His Majesty Countess de Conway’s Case – 13th June 1834

    He was buried at Bath Abbey on 3rd March 1795. Source: Murray, Keith W.The Genealogist Volume VI, (April 1890).

    He wasn’t living in Bath at the time but had visited it several time when in ill health. The Bath Chronicle of 12th February 1795 recorded the arrival of a General Conway in town.

    As for his second stint in the French Army that would fill a book too.


    • Thank you for the additional information. My posts are typically just a re-hash of the post on Wikipedia. You should update the entry for General Conway.


  2. I have been researching the burial sites of generals for a future publication who served in the American army during our War for Independence from 1775-1783. I was fortunate to be guided to this information on Continental Major General Thomas Conway, by Mr. Thomas Burk of the Genealogical Society of Ireland, as every book that I know of on the American Revolution lists Conway as having died in poverty and obscurity in Ireland. Now the facts about Conway (although his reputation in not thought highly for trying to depose Washington as our Command-in-Chief) will need to be rewritten. My many thanks and deep appreciation to you and Mr. Falvey for this new data.


    Andrew A. Zellers-Frederick
    Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania) American Revolution Round Table


    • You need not worry to much about his reputation:

      In a letter of July 12th 1786 his cousin Robin Conway wrote “General Conway is now at Bath for his health. ‘Tis time. He was in a fair way of making money at the Cape of Good Hope, but General Conway is such a man that spends a deal of money and nobody knows how; he owed, I am told, on his return to Europe 70 thousand Livres. His Brother is much more prudent and much a better Country Man.” [.

      In September 1787 he was appointed Governor of Pondicherry and subsequently all the French possessions in India. A local trader wrote “This man is insofar as anxious, violent and awful, inasmuch as our General has never been the right one to run the colony. […] The hope is that another heart failure will free us from that man.”

      Or his lack of support for his second in command Louis de Saillans in the Royalist forces: The French version is longer.

      All the best



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s