General Gerard Lake

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Lake, Gerard, Viscount, an English general, who took a prominent part in suppressing the Insurrection of 1798, was born 27th July 1744. He served in Germany during the Seven Years' War, and in America during the War of Independence. He was Lieutenant-Colonel under Cornwallis, and was taken prisoner at Yorktown. He served in the Low Countries in 1793. In 1797 he was engaged in Ulster chiefly in disarming the population and counteracting the plans of the United Irishmen. Early in 1798 General Abercrombie resigned, apparently sickening at the severity which the Government considered it necessary to exercise towards the people of the disaffected districts. General Lake was appointed to the chief command on 23rd April; and on 24th of the following month the insurrection burst forth.

His most distinguished military service in the County of Wexford was the capture of Vinegar Hill, and the occupation of Wexford next day, the 22nd June. The former was the culmination of a series of combined movements by General Lake, supported by Dundas, Needham, Johnson, and Loftus, with 13,000 troops in four columns. Early in the day the insurgent position on the hill was attacked and carried with trifling loss to the assailants. General Lake says: "The carnage.. was dreadful. The rascals made a tolerable good fight of it." He had a horse killed under him early in the action. Great as was the loss of the insurgents, it would have been greater but that large bodies were able to break away through a pass left open by the accidental delay of General Needham in taking up his position. This accident has been by some erroneously ascribed to General Lake's deliberate intention to leave way open for the people to escape. Of the executions which he afterwards carried out at Wexford he writes to Lord Castlereagh: "I really feel most severely the being obliged to order so many men out of the world; but I am convinced, if severe and many examples are not made, the rebellion cannot be put a stop to."

After the landing of the French at Killala in 1798 [See HUMBERT], General Lake marched to confront them. On 27th August he was, partly through the unsteadiness of the Galway, Kilkenny, and Longford militia (probably in secret sympathy with the enemy), defeated at Castlebar by a combined force of about 2,000 French and insurgents. After this disaster General Lake fell back upon Tuam, where he was reinforced, and acting in concert with Colonel Vereker and Lord Cornwallis, after a series of exhausting marches, he effected the capture of General Humbert and the whole remaining French force at Ballinamuck on the 8th September. The French were treated honourably as prisoners of war; but the insurgents, numbers of them in French uniforms, and indeed the country people generally of the districts that had been in occupation of the French, were slaughtered unmercifully, and their cabins were burnt to the ground. General Lake was brought into Parliament for Armagh in 1799, by Lord Castlereagh, to vote for the Union. He was afterwards Commander-in-chief in India, where on more than one occasion he strenuously opposed the policy of Lord Cornwallis, his former coadjutor in Ireland. For distinguished services, especially at the battles of Delhi and Laswanee, he was granted a pension, and was in 1804 created Baron Lake, and in 1807 raised to a viscountcy. He died in London, 20th February 1808, aged 63.

Sources

72. Castlereagh, Viscount: Memoirs and Correspondence, edited by the Marquis of Londonderry. 12 vols. London, 1848-'53.

87. Cornwallis, Marquis, Correspondence: Charles Ross. 3 vols. London, 1859.
Cotton, Rev. Henry, see No. 118.

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

249. Musgrave, Sir Richard: Memoirs of the Different Rebellions in Ireland. Dublin, 1801.

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