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The Battle of Ballinamuck
Jun 12, 2005, 19:17

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At three o’clock on the afternoon of August 22nd 1798, three ships dropped anchor at Kilcummin about five miles north of Killala. Immediately, about a thousand men of a French expeditionary force, commanded by General Humbert, began to disembark bringing with them guns, ammunition and supplies. Thus started a military campaign which lasted for eighteen days and saw memorable victories for the Franco- Irish force. The most notable of these was the renowned ‘Races of Castlebar’ where the defending Redcoats were routed and fled the town in disorder. After the Castlebar episode, the French and their ill-equipped Irish allies fought another bloody battle at Ballysodare, Co. Sligo, where they suffered a large number of casualties, and later, many weakening skirmishes occurred along the way.

On the 8th of September, wearied by the constant battles, long forced marches, and lack of supplies, the Franco -Irish approached Ballinamuck a village in north Co. Longford. There they were confronted by a vast, numerically superior, Redcoat army under the command of Lord Cornwallis. According to contemporary reports, the French troops made a face-saving show of resistance but surrendered almost immediately. Later, they were segregated from the Irish and were marched away from the field of battle, to be treated as POW’s. In Longford town a banquet was given in their honour. They were then taken to Dublin, where another reception was planned, before being repatriated.

No such consideration was shown to the Irish, they were insurgents and were to be taught a grim lesson. General Lake, the defeated commander at Castlebar was to have his revenge. As the Irish stood defenceless on Shanmullagh Hill overlooking the village, volleys of musket shot was poured into them, followed by a cavalry charge, and an estimated five hundred souls perished in the carnage. Many of the dead were from all parts of Co. Mayo. Their bodies and those of their comrades from other counties were gathered and unceremoniously buried in a mass-grave, known ever since as the ‘Croppie’s grave.’ Their resting place is marked by a modest cross erected by the local people who care for the site on a voluntary basis. A memorial stone, inscribed in three languages was erected some years ago for “all who died” in the battle; a magnanimous gesture under the circumstances.

It is a melancholy experience to walk the Co. Longford hillside where so many of those poor forgotten creatures shed their blood and are buried a long way from their homes.

The 1798 campaign was a heroic failure.

Pikeman monument, Ballinamuck.


Cannon reputed to 'Gunner' Magee's captured in Castlebar.


Memorial stone inscribed in three languages.


'The Croppie's Grave'.


© Copyright 2006 by the author(s)/photographer(s) and

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