1798 and the French Invasion of Ireland

An Eyewitness Account by Louis Octave Fontaine

The French invaded Ireland in 1798. General Humbert landed just over a thousand men in County Mayo in August, coming ashore in a land that was still reeling from an abortive rebellion against British rule. Deprived of reinforcements, and always struggling for supplies, Humbert nevertheless launched his little expeditionary force into the fray, defeating the British at Killala, Ballina and then Castlebar before succumbing to superior forces at Ballinamuck that September. His French troops surrendered and were eventually shipped back to France but those Irish who had joined him in this last great gamble of the Irish revolution were mercilessly cut or hunted down.

A few of the participants in this unusual adventure left eyewitness accounts. One of the most valuable is by Louis Octave Fontaine who rode alongside Humbert and marched with his men. Written shortly after the end of the campaign, Fontaine’s account looks at events from the French point of view and gives important, and fascinating, descriptions of those events. Accompanied by explanatory notes, this is a valuable document when it comes to understanding the year of the French and France’s attempts to support the Irish cause.

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