Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ful necessity of supporting the assertion by a longer enumeration.*

Mr. Walter Devereux, having obtained protections from several officers, had gone to Cork to embark for Portugal: he was there taken up, tried, condemned, and executed. Mr. Gibson, a yeoman and wealthy Protestant shopkeeper, and Mr. William Kearney, an extensive brewer, were summoned and attended at his trial, and proved that he was in Wexford, and even in gaol, at the very time some soldiers of the Wexford militia were shot thirty miles from that town; and the principal charge against him was, that he gave orders and was present at their execution, which some men of that regiment were hardened enough to swear!!! Mr. Hay the historian saw him in Wexford on the alleged day. He was also accused of aiding and abetting the abomination at Scullabogue, and this charge was similarly supported by the testimony of some soldiers wives! and yet it is a notable fact, that he was all that day engaged at the battle of Ross, where he displayed the most heroical bravery and courage, qualities inconsistent with the odious crime it was falsely sworn he had perpetrated!!! but what puts the falsehood of the facts alleged against him beyond all question is, that after his execution another Mr. Devereux was taken up on the discriminating sagacity of the same witnesses, who prosecuted the former to death; but who now (as they said) had discovered the right Devereux. The trial of the latter has been published, and is recon.mended to the perusal of such as wish for further proof of

* Hay's Hist. 282....In quoting the authority of Mr Hay, it has been to me, as I presume, it has been to others, a great satisfaction to read the following testimony of his History from Major Fitzgerald, who had such ample means of knowing the truth, and exerted them with so much honour and credit to himself, to his employers, and to his country:

"SIR,

"Dublin, 14 December, 1802.

"I RETURN, with my thanks for your polite attention, the "manuscripts you were so kind as to leave for my perusal Am exceedingly glad to find, through the whole of your compilation, so strict an observance "of facts, which chiefly came under my cognizance as brigade-major. It is "with pleasure I observe also, your adherence to truth and impartiality, free "from the rancorous spirit of party-fabrication, which is the true criterion "that exalts the historian above the class of party scribblers, who dissipate as "rapidly as unerring truth unveils itself, strongly exemplified in the past and "present times. I give you much credit in not retorting as you might for "your unremitted sufferings, by exposing the crimes of some respectable per"sons: for, indeed, if they are not very forgetful and very insensible, the com"punctions of their consciences must be sufficiently tormenting. There is "little doubt of your labours meeting their due reward from an unprejudiced "public, which is the wish of

"Your obedient humble servant,

"To Edward Hay, Esq."

"B. E. FITZGERALD."

the miserable and lamentable condition of existing in the county of Wexford during that unfortunate insurrection.

It was happy for Great Britain and Ireland at this alarming crisis, that the French government was in the hands of feeble politicians, who, though well acquainted with the state of Ireland, had unaccountably neglected to embrace the opportunity, and pursue the plan which had been laid out for them by Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and others of the male contents in Ireland; this was, to risk some frigates and light vessels with a proper supply of officers, arms and ammunition, with some few troops to keep the insurgents in spirits; Ireland might then have been lost for ever, and ultimately Great Britian itself, since, in the present state of Europe, both islands must stand or fall together. They are naturally united, and the interests of neither will bear a separation. And hence the expediency or rather necessity of an incorporate union. With that lazy after-thought that marks the folly of a bad statesman, the French in the latter end of August, detached a small force to the North of Ireland, under the command of General Humbert who on the 22d of August landed at Killala.

The French entered the bay under English colours, and the feint succeeded so well, *that two sons of the bishop of Killala, threw themselves into a fishing boat, with the port surveyor, Mr. James Rutledge, and were presently surprised to find themselves prisoners. Some alarm had been given in the morning of the 22d to the people of Killala by the unusual appearance of ships of that size in their bay; in so much, that the only magistrate of the town, Mr. Kirkwood, who commanded the yeomanry, had kept his corps under arms the whole day at the sea house, called the castle, as did also Lieutenant Sells of the Prince of Wales's fencibles, with twenty militia men. Yeomen and fencibles together formed a corps of fifty men, all Protestants.

The indentings of the bay of Killala, and the chain of hills between that town and the spot where the enemy landed, will in part account for the secrecy with which the debarkation was conducted. It is not without reason, however, suspected, that the peasantry had no intention to prevent the surprise that took place. Even among the bishop's servants, for some days before this event, a whisper had gone about, that the French were coming to Killala, and that something very terrible would shortly happen: a protestant servant maid, lately married to a Catholic inhabitant of the place, had circulated the report in the castle. Between seven and eight on that evening a terrified messenger suddenly announced to the bishop, that the French were landed, and

See the Bishop of Killala's interesting and authentic narrative of this transaction throughout.

that near three hundred of them were within a mile of the town. The cavalry officers rode off directly, in full speed, with the intelligence to Ballina. The yeomanry and fencibles drew up before the castle gate, and resolutely advanced into the main street to meet the French advance guard.

Borne down by numbers, and seeing two of their corps fall, they were seized with a panic, and fled. Kirkwood and nineteen yeomen were taken, and ordered into close custody at the castle. All opposition being now at an end, the French General marched into the castle yard at the head of his officers, and demanded to see the bishop, who fortunately was conversant with the French language. Humbert desired him to be under no apprehension for himself or his people; they should be treated with respectful attention, and nothing should be taken by the French troops, but what was absolutely necessary for their support; a promise which, as long as those troops continued in Killala, was most religiously observed.

Mr. Kirkwood was examined, as to the supplies that could be drawn from the town and neighbourhood to assist the progress of the invaders. The queries were interpreted by some Irish officers, who came with the French, to which he answered with such an appearance of frankness and candour, that he gained the esteem of the French general, who told him he was on his parole, and should have full permission to return to his family, and attend to his private affairs. The conjugal affection of this gentleman on the next day made him forget his parole, and go to attend his sick wife, who from the dread of the enemy had secreted herself in the mountains. Enraged at this breach of parole, the French took every thing they wanted out of his stores, oats and salt and iron to a considerable amount; nor had they been careful to prevent depredations by the rebels in his dwelling house, as they would have done if he had not fled; so that when he returned he found it a wreck.

The bishop's castle was made the head quarters of the French general. But such excellent discipline was constantly maintained by these invaders while they remained in Killala, that with every temptation to plunder, which the time and the number of valuable articles within their reach presented to them. from a sideboard of plate and glasses, a hall filled with hats, whips, and great coats, as well of the guests as of the family, not one single article of private property was carried away.

On the morning after his arrival, Humbert began his military operations by pushing forward to Ballina a detachment of a hundred men, forty of whom he had mounted on the best horses he could seize. A green flag was mounted over the castle gate, with the inscription Erin go Bragh, importing to invite the country people to join the French. Their cause was to be

forwarded by the immediate delivery of arms, ammuni tion, and clothing to the new levies of the country. Property was to be inviolable. Ready mon y was to come over in the ships expected every day from France. In the mean time, whatever was bought was paid for in drafts on the future directory.

Though cash were wanting, the promise of clothing and arms to the recruits was made good to a considerable extent. The first that offered their service received complete clothing to the amount of about a thousand. The next

comers, at least as many, received arms and clothing, but no shoes or stockings. To the last, arms only were given. And of arms, Colonel Charost assured the bishop, 5500 stand were delivered.

Humbert left Killala with a quantity of ammunition in the possession of 200 men and 6 officers, and on the 25th, about seven o'clock in the evening took possession of Ballina, from whence the garrison fled on his approach. Here he left behind him an officer named Truc, with very small part of the French and several of the Irish recruits. Humbert was sensible of the advantage of pushing forward with vigour, and that a rapid progress into the interior could alone bring the natives to his standard. At Ballina many hundred peasants repaired to the French standard, and with eagerness received arms and uniforms. The French commander determined to attack the forces at Castlebar, and began his march on the morning of the 26th, with eight hundred of his own men, and less than fifteen hundred Irish. He advanced through mountains, by ways generally deemed impassable to an army, with two small curricle guns, the repairing of the carriage of one of which, broken by the ruggedness of the roads, caused fortunately for our army, some hours delay in their march. The French were at seven o'clock within two miles of the town before which our army had taken their position on a rising ground to receive them.

Our artillery at first made such execution among the French, that they instantly fell back some paces. They then filed off in small parties to the right and left, and assailed our troops in flank, who had scarcely fired a second round, when the royal army seized with a panic, broke on all sides, and fled in extreme confusion through the town on the road to Tuam. Some have asserted, that General Lake gave an order for retreating. The force that general commanded at Castlebar fell very little short of 6000 men.*

This most disgraceful conduct of our troops in the face of so small a force of the enemy has been differently spoken of by the several persons who

So strong was the panic of our troops on this fatal occasion, that they never halted, till they reached the town of Tuam, nearly forty English miles from the scene of action. On the night of the same day they renewed their march, after a short refreshment, and retired still farther towards Athlone, where an officer of carabineers, with sixty of his men, arrived at one o'clock on Tuesday the 29th, having performed a march of above seventy English miles (the distance of Athlone from Castlebar) in twenty-seven hours. The artillery, lost by our army in this defeat, consisted of fourteen pieces, of which four were curricle guns. Beside that of the carabineers, of

have written on the subject. Sir Richard Musgrave has selected half a dozen officers to whom exclusively (perhaps invidiously) he attributes the credit of attempting to rally their men, (p. 594.) "In justice to the Earls "of Ormond and Longford, I think it proper to observe, that they did their "utmost to rally their regiments. The Earl of Granard, Major Tompson, "Captains Chambers and Armstrong, rallied some soldiers of the Longford, "and some stragglers of other corps, and covered the retreat of our troops by "maintaining, as they retired, a well-directed fire, from behind hedges and "walls, on the enemy as they advanced."

"The bishop of Killala thus avoids direct censure. (Narrative, p. 45.) "The writer of this narrative professes only to describe what he saw and "felt. It is not his business therefore, if he were competent to the task, to "trace the events of an invasion, the first successes of which caused so much "astonishment, or to shew by what means a handful of men continued so long "to brave the force of a whole kingdom; men, who, from the time they miss"ed their reinforcements from home, confessed their belief that they were no "more than a forlorn hope sent to annoy the enemies of their country, and, "that duty done, expected every hour to be forced to surrender themselves "prisoners of war."

The Rev. Mr. Gordon says, (p. 285,)" I am informed by good authority, "that the French officers, at the first view of the number and excellent ar"rangements of our troops, expected no other fortune than to be obliged to "surrender themselves prisoners of war, till observing the irregular fire "of our musketeers, many of whom fired without orders, they con"ceived some hope, and advanced under cover of the smoke; but "that they must have probably laid down their arms, if General "Lake had not commanded a retreat, which was the real cause of "the rout; and, that if General Hutchinson had been chief comman"der on this occasion, the career of the invaders would have ended at "Castlebar."

There is no question, but that a very serious difference happened previous to the disgraceful action at Castlebar between General (now Lord) Hutchinson and General Lake: and that the army in general was strongly affect. ed by the former's having been superseded in his command by the latter; General Hutchinson was acquainted with every inch of the country, and had prepared an able and efficient plan for stopping the progress of the enemy; he commanded alike the confidence of the army and the affections of the natives. As cruelty and cowardice are ever inseparable, it was unlikely that troops, which had debased themselves by massacreing the fugitive, surrendered or unoffending, by burning their houses, and destroying their property, by torturing, strangling, and flogging the suspected to extort confessions, should, when left to themselves or under the command of the promoter of that savage warf.re, bravely face an enemy, upon whom they dared not exercise their wonted atrocities.

« AnteriorContinua »