Jean Humbert, County Mayo, Bliadhan na bhFrancach (The Year of the French), the Battle of New Orleans, et al.

On 22 August 1798 a French force of about 1000 under General Jean Humbert (left) landed in Killala Bay in County Mayo Ireland, and provided military assistance to the Irish rebels in the "Rising of ‘98" ‑‑‑ sometimes referred to as Bliadhan na bhFrancach or "The Year of the French."  About five days later Humbert's force surprised and routed a British force at Castlebar.  This encounter is often referred to as the "Castlebar races."  Nevertheless the 1798 Rising was ultimately suppressed, and Humbert surrendered to British General Cornwallis (of Yorktown fame) at Ballinamuck, County Longford, in early September.  Humbert was repatriated to France later in 1798.

Now let's turn to the New Orleans connection.  Humbert ultimately emigrated to New Orleans and participated with Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans ‑‑‑ the last engagement of the (Anglo ‑ American) War of 1812.  The Battle of New Orleans was fought on 8 January 1815.  Humbert directed the mounted scouts and was commended by Jackson in General Orders of 21 January 1815, for having "continually exposed himself to the greatest dangers with characteristic bravery."

Humbert spent his remaining years in New Orleans.  He died in New Orleans on 2 January 1823 ‑‑‑ almost eight years after the Battle of New Orleans.  New Orleans gave him a hero's funeral.  The corps d'elite of The Louisiana Legion formed a guard of honor and a huge concourse of citizens came out spontaneously to pay him a final tribute.  Humbert's remains were interred in Saint Louis Parochial Cemetery No. 1 on 3 January 1823.  The exact burial site within the cemetery is unknown.  But the cemetery is near the Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square near the French Quarter.

The author at the site of the Battle of New Orleans

I last visited in New Orleans in December of 2000.  I found a (very) brief reference to Humbert in a book at Chalmette National Park (the site of the battle).   The photo (above) shows the site of the Battle of New Orleans, and it is now the Chalmette National Historical Park a href="">>; run by the US Department of Interior ‑ National Park Service.  I doubt that the smoke stack was there in 1815.  But the cannon and fortifications are real enough.  Big irony, the Treaty of Ghent (Belgium) ending the War was signed on 24 December 1814 ‑‑‑ about two weeks earlier.  Communications in the early 19th century weren't what we have today.  So the battle ensued.

Books, Articles, and Websites on "Rising of ‘98" ‑‑‑ sometimes referred to as Bliadhan na bhFrancach or "The Year of the French."   

The Year of the French  by Thomas Flanagan.  Flanagan's The Year of the French was also made into a movie.  As far as I know it was only show only on RTE, and so far has not been released in America.   The Chieftains provided the musical background for the film, with a recording produced under the title, “Year of the French.” (Right: The monument to Humbert in Ballina, Co. Mayo.)

A Flame Now Quenched: Rebels & Frenchmen In Leitrim: 1793-1798 by Liam Kelly

Napoleon’s Soldiers in America by Simone de la Souchere Delery (Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing Co., 1972) contains many references to Humbert.

 “Jackson wins at New Orleans” by Edward T. O'Donnell.  Published in the Irish Echo in December 2002.

“He (Humbert) Fought Pakenham Twice” by Ned Hémard.  Published in New Orleans Nostalgia in 2012.

Books and Websites on the (Anglo ‑ American) War of 1812

The War of 1812 by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler

The War of 1812 by John Grant and Ray Jones

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Comment by Joe Gannon on March 4, 2015 at 2:06pm

RTE actually did a mini-series (6 episodes), not a movie, based on "The Year of the French" and it ran once here in the US. I believe it was on PBS. If memory serves it was probably the mid 80s or so. I saw some of it, though I don't think I ever saw the last two. I've been trying to find it anywhere on DVD since then, but haven't been able to find it. If anyone has any information about this mini-series being available on DVD somewhere, or even video tape, I'd love to get ahold of one. Alas though I think it was never done.

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Comment by Nollaig 2016 on August 21, 2018 at 7:35pm


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