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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert

jean-joseph-amable-humbertGeneral Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, French soldier and French Revolution participant who leads a failed invasion of Ireland to assist Irish rebels in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, dies on January 3, 1823 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Born in the townland of La Coâre Saint-Nabord, outside Remiremont Vosges, Humbert is a sergeant in the National Guard of Lyon. He rapidly advances through the ranks to become brigadier general on April 9, 1794 and fights in the Western campaigns before being allocated to the Army of the Rhine.

In 1794, after serving in the Army of the Coasts of Brest, Humbert serves under Louis Lazare Hoche in the Army of the Rhin-et-Moselle. Charged to prepare for an expedition against Ireland, he takes command of the Légion des Francs under Hoche, sailing in the ill-fated Expédition d’Irlande against Bantry Bay in 1796, and is engaged in actions at sea against the Royal Navy. Contrary weather and enemy action force this expedition to withdraw. The trip home ends in a naval battle, the Action of 13 January 1797, during which Humbert, on the French ship Droits de l’Homme (1794), narrowly escapes death. As the ship is destroyed and sinks, hundreds of men perish, but Humbert is among the last to escape.

On his return to France, Humbert serves in the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, before being appointed to command the troops in another attempt to support a rising in Ireland in 1798. His command chiefly consists of infantry of the 70th demi-brigade with a few artillerymen and some cavalry of the 3rd Hussars, however by the time he arrives off the Irish coast the United Irish rising has already suffered defeat. The expedition is able to land in Ireland at Killala on Thursday August 23, 1798, meeting with initial success in the Battle of Castlebar where he routs the Irish Militia. Humbert subsequently declares a Republic of Connacht, with hopes of taking Dublin. However, Humbert’s small force is defeated at the Battle of Ballinamuck by the Irish Royal Army and he is taken as a prisoner of war by the authorities. The British send the French officers home in two frigates and then massacre their Irish supporters. Humbert makes no attempt to save the Irish who bravely supported him.

Humbert is shortly repatriated in a prisoner exchange and appointed in succession to the Armies of Mayence, Danube and Helvetia, with which he serves at the Second Battle of Zurich. He then embarks for Santo Domingo and participates in several Caribbean campaigns for Napoleon Bonaparte before being accused of plundering by General Brunet. It is also rumored that he engages in an affair with Pauline Bonaparte, the wife of his commanding officer Charles Leclerc. He is returned to France by order of General Leclerc in October 1802, for “prevarications, and liaison relationships with organisers of the inhabitants and with leaders of brigands.” A committed Republican, his displeasure at Napoleon’s Imperial pretensions lead to him being dismissed in 1803 and he retires to Morbihan in Brittany.

In 1810, after brief service in the Army of the North, Humbert emigrates to New Orleans, where he makes his acquaintance with French pirate Jean Lafitte. In 1813, Humbert joins the revolutionary Juan Bautista Mariano Picornell y Gomila in an unsuccessful attempt to foment rebellion in Spanish Mexico, but the effort fails. In 1814, Humbert again leaves New Orleans and joins the rebelling forces of Buenos Aires, briefly commanding a corps, before returning home. Humbert last fights the British at the Battle of New Orleans, as a volunteer private soldier in U.S. ranks, in the War of 1812, wearing his Napoleonic uniform. General Andrew Jackson thanks him for his assistance there after the American victory in January 1815. Thereafter Humbert lives peacefully as a schoolteacher until his death on January 3, 1823.

A monument to General Humbert depicting Mother Ireland stands on Humbert Street, Ballina, County Mayo. In 1989, sculptor Carmel Gallagher unveils a bust of General Humbert in Killala, Ireland, to mark the upcoming bicentennial of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.


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Don Hugo O’Conor Named Commandant Inspector of New Spain

don-hugo-oconorDon Hugo O’Conor is named Commandant Inspector of New Spain on January 20, 1773. O’Conor, a descendant of king of Ireland Turlough Mor O’Conor, is born in 1732 in Ireland but is raised in Spain. The O’Conor family is also related to two officers in the Spanish army, Colonel Don Domingo O’Reilly and Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly. Originally, it is believed that the family name is most likely spelled “O’Connor” but is changed as the result of frequent misspellings by Spanish speakers.

In 1751, O’Conor follows his two cousins to Spain where they are already serving as officers in the Spanish Royal Army. He immediately joins the Regiment of Hibernia.

O’Conor serves in Spain’s war against Portugal in the early 1760’s and is then sent to the New World, serving in Cuba under his cousin, Field Marshal O’Reilly. O’Conor rises steadily through the ranks and in 1763 is made a knight of the Order of Calatrava.

In 1765, O’Conor is transferred to Mexico and serves on the staff of Don Juan de Villalba and shortly thereafter, to temporarily command the northern presidio of San Sabá. He goes to Texas to investigate a dispute around San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio between Governor Ángel de Martos y Navarrete and Rafael Martínez Pacheco, a future governor of Texas. During this time he obtains the title of inspector general of the Provincias Internas. In 1767, he is appointed governor of Texas, replacing Martos y Navarrete. When he takes office, he finds that one of its major cities, San Antonio, is shattered by frequent attacks of several Indian tribes. As a result, the new governor set up a garrison at Los Adaes to protect the city.

In 1771, O’Conor becomes the commander of the Chihuahua frontier and on January 20, 1773 is appointed Commandant Inspector of New Spain. Utilizing a system of frontier presidios, O’Conor fights a constant battle with numerous Indian tribes, primarily the Apaches, while helping reorganize and unify New Spain’s northern borders. He becomes the founding father of the city of Tucson, Arizona when he authorizes the construction of a military fort in that location in 1775.

In October 1776, O’Conor returns from the frontier and is appointed governor of the Yucatán, however at his station in Mérida his health begins to fail. On March 8, 1779, Don Hugo O’Conor dies at Quinta de Miraflores, just east of Mérida. O’Conor is only 44-years-old when he dies but has already risen to the rank of brigadier general. Had he lived to old age, Don Hugo O’Conor may well have risen to the highest ranks of Spain’s army or government.