Incidents at Ballinalee/Battle of Ballinamuck

SignificanceEdit

The Battle of Ballinamuck marked the defeat of the main force of the French incursion during the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.

victory of General HumbertEdit

The victory of General Humbert at Castlebar, despite gaining him c. 5,000 Irish recruits had not led to a renewed outbreak of the rebellion as hoped. A massive British army of some 26,000 men was assembled under the new Viceroy Lord Cornwallis and was steadily moving towards his forces. Abandoning Castlebar, Humbert moved towards Ulster with the apparent intention of igniting a rising there but after defeating a blocking force of British troops at Collooney in Sligo he altered course following reports that rebellions had broken out in Westmeath and Longford.

17 French soldiers were killed in the brief fight, 96 French officers and 748 men were taken. British losses were initially reported as 3 killed and 16 wounded or missing, but the number of killed was later reported as 12. Approximately 500 Irish lay dead on the field, 200 prisoners were taken in the mopping up operations, almost all of whom were later hanged, including Matthew Tone, brother of Wolfe Tone. The prisoners were moved to Carrick-on-Shannon, St Johnstown, today's Ballinalee, where most were executed in what is known locally as Bullys Acre.

Humbert and his men were taken by canal to Dublin and repatriated. The British army then spread out into rebel held Mayo in a brutal campaign of killing and house burning which reached its climax on 23 September when Killala was stormed and retaken with much slaughter. Members of the French inspired "Republic of Connaught" such as George Blake, were hunted down and hanged with many other suspected insurgents.

The catastrophe at Ballinamuck left a strong imprint on social memory and featured strongly in local folklore. Numerous oral traditions were later collected about this episode, principally in in the 1930s by the historian Richard Hayes and by the Irish Folklore Commission.