Tracing the Irish at War: From Stono Ferry to New Orleans: Part 2

Read part one

That summer of 1781, a French fleet under the Comte de Grasse as well as General Washington's combined French-American army all arrived in Virginia.  Cornwallis now found himself trapped in his coastal enclave at Yorktown. He surrendered on October 19, 1781 after about three weeks' siege.   Cornwallis pleaded illness and sent Brigadier General Charles O'Hara in his place to surrender his sword formally. Washington had his second-in-command, Benjamin Lincoln (repatriated after his surrender at Charleston) accept Cornwallis' sword. 

With the American war ended in 1783, Cornwallis was by 1789 Governor-General and commander in chief in India.  Andrew Jackson was a frontier lawyer in the now independent United States.

For France, 1789 was the year of revolution.  A 22 year old French soldier, Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, was a
participant, (born in 1767 in the townland of La Coâre Saint-Nabord, outside Remiremont Vosges).  He was soon a sergeant in the National Guard of Lyon, rising through the ranks to become brigadier general on April 9, 1794.

Having participated in the failed attempt to land a French army in Ireland in 1796, two years later Humbert was placed in command of part of a new expedition.  On August 23, 1798, he was able to land at Killala, Co Mayo, meeting with initial success in the battle of Castlebar.

A Republic of Connacht was declared and Humbert began with hopes of marching across Ireland and taking Dublin.  However, in June, 1798, now 1st Marquis Cornwallis was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Commander-in-Chief in Ireland.  London also sent reinforcements, eventually having 60,000 British forces there.

Humbert’s tiny command was only a fragment of the planned French force most of which never reached Irish shores.  Blocked from reaching Dublin, Humbert and his Irish allies were defeated in a brief battle of Ballinamuck on September 18, 1798.  Humbert surrendered but many of the Irish were denied that chance and Cornwallis also  ordered the execution by lot of a number of Irish rebels captured.

Also in Ireland was Major Edward Pakenham, 'Ned' to his friends.  Pakenham was born at Pakenham Hall, nowTullynally Castle, County Westmeath, Ireland.  Educated at The Royal School, Armagh, his family purchased his commission when he was only sixteen.  In Ireland in 1798 he was serving in one of the regular British army cavalry units there - 23rd Light Dragoons.  As a regular British Army officer, Pakenham according to some sources may also have served as an aide to Cornwallis.

Read part three

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Tags: American Revolution, Ballinamuck, Castlebar, Connacht, Cornwallis, France, Humbert, Military History, Pakenham, Revolution, More…Revolutionary War, United States, Washington, Yorktown

Comment by Mike McCormack on April 5, 2015 at 12:30pm

Let's tie these characters together,  First of all, Pakenham was the general who took Humbert's sword at the surrender of the French forces on the field at Ballinamuck, after which the French were expatriated back to France in disgrace..  Secondly, Humbert, who was not favorably received back in France ended up in retirement in the French colony of New Orleans.  Years later New Orleans became part of the U.S. and Humbert remained there.  Coincidentally, it was Pakenham who was leading a British fleet south to sack New Orleans as a parting shot in the War of 1812.  Thirdly, according to a Cajun historian, Andy Jackson who had to face Pakenham in that battle had called on Humbert's military expertise to assist him, but Humbert refused saying he was done with war -- until he learned it was Pakenham leading the Brits. Reportedly Humbert sided with Jackson, but he never got the chance to face Pakenham as Pakenham was killed in the battle.  However, he got his revenge by sending his body back to England packed in a barrel of New Orleans brandy -- so that the General might arrive in good spirits!

Comment by Robert A Mosher on April 5, 2015 at 5:48pm

You read ahead!!


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