The History of the 1798 Battle of Ballinamuck
This was the last major engagement of the 1798 rebellion. Twelve days earlier, with 1,100 French troops and 1,500 Irish, Humbert had beaten a much larger force under General Lake at Castlebar. With Lake in pursuit, joined by Lord Cornwallis 20,000 troops from Dublin, he tried to join up with surviving rebel forces. After an overnight chase, Lake caught up with himJust north of here. Caught with his forces strung out on the road, Humbert regrouped, but was soon outflanked and forced to surrender. The day ended in a massacre of the Irish rebels, effectively ending the rebellion.
Humbert had planned to join forces with 3,000 United Irishmen he believed to be near Granard. On the night of September 7th they stopped at Cloone for four hours rest. Lord Cornwallis marched to Ballinalee, to cut them off, sending orders to General Lake to attack from the rear. Lake’s advance guard arrived in Cloone, to discover that the French had left only an hour before.
Humbert’s men were spread out along the road. While Humbert waited for them in Ballinamuck, his rearguard of 200 men, under Gen. Sarrazin, surrendered after a brief skirmish ❶ at Kiltycrevagh (Croppies Gap).
Map of the 1798 Battle of Ballinamuck
Humbert moved up Shanmullagh Hill with 400 men, while General Blake with a battalion of pike men and a company of French grenadiers under Capt. Jobit took up position along the road. Jobit ordered his grenadiers to attack across the bog ❷, but they sank into it and were forced to surrender.
General Lake now arrived in the valley with large forces and attacked the left flank of Shanmullagh Hill ❸. This was repeatedly repelled by a detachment of pike men. Meanwhile, Lake sent a large detachment of cavalry and infantry around the hill, under cover ❹ to attack Humbert from the rear. Humbert was surprised by cannon fire followed by a cavalry charge and forced to surrender in minutes.
On the roadway, cannon fire was exchanged and Lake’s cavalry were repulsed repeatedly by Blake’s pike men and Magee’s cannon ❻. Blake led his men along the foot of Shanmullagh Hill for a flank attack on the road, but when he got there, Humbert had surrendered. The rebels fought with the courage of desperation, as they realised that they were to be shown no mercy. Many fled into the bog ❼, where the cavalry could not follow, but they were surrounded by muskets and slaughtered.
The Irish battalions on the top of the hill ❽ watched, as the French were treated with all the civilities of a formal surrender, but were themselves then set upon and slaughtered without mercy. 500 are believed to have been buried in mass graves ❾ on the hill.
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