General Humbert: The Frenchman who came to help the 1798 rebellion

General Jean Joseph Humbert was a French soldier who took part in the French revolution and was a leader of two invasion attempts of Ireland to assist rebels at the end of the 18th century.

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General Jean Joseph Humbert (22 August 1767 – 3 January 1823)

In 1794 Humbert was serving in the Army of the Coasts of Brest under Louis Lazare Hoche when he was given the responsibility to prepare for an to expedition to Ireland. Two years later he was in command of the Légion des Francs as they sailed into Bantry Bay. Horrendous weather, however, meant a landing wasn’t possible and the subsequent arrival of Royal navy forced a withdrawal.

The trip home ended in a naval battle during which Humbert, on the French ship Droits de l’Homme, narrowly escaped death. As the ship was destroyed and sank, hundreds of men perished but Humbert fortunately managed to escape.

The second attempt to land in Ireland was somewhat more successful when Humbert led troops in an attempt to support the 1798 Rebellion. However, by the time he arrived off the Irish coast, the United Irish rising had already been defeated. The expedition was able to land in Ireland at Killala on Thursday 23 August 1798 and met with initial success in the battle of Castlebar.

Humbert subsequently declared a Republic of Connacht with hopes of eventually taking Dublin. However, Humbert’s small force was defeated at the Battle of Ballinamuck. Humbert was taken prisoner of war but was repatriated shortly after.

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Humbert Monument in Killala, Co Mayo

A bust of General Humbert in Killala was erected in 1998 to mark the 200 year anniversary of the rebellion.

About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews