French Landing at Killala in 1798

A. M. Sullivan
c. 1900
CHAPTER LXXX. (continued)

Just as the short and bloody struggle had terminated, there appeared in Killala Bay the first instalment of that aid from France for which the United Irish leaders had desired to wait. If they could have resisted the government endeavors to precipitate the rising for barely three or four months longer, it is impossible to say how the movement might have resulted. On the 22d of August the French general, Humbert, landed at Killala with barely one thousand men. Miserable as was this force, a few months earlier it would have counted for twenty thousand; but now, ten thousand, much less ten hundred, would not avail They came too late, or the rising was too soon. Nevertheless, with this handful of men, joined by a few thousand hardy Mayo peasantry, Humbert literally chased the government troops before him across the island; and it was not until the viceroy himself, Lord Cornwallis, hurrying from Dublin, concentrated around the Franco-Irish army of three thousand men a force of nearly thirty thousand, enveloping them on all sides—and, of course, hopelessly overpowering them—that the victorious march of the daring Frenchman was arrested by the complete defeat and capitulation of Ballinamuck, on the morning of September 8, 1798.

It was the last battle of the insurrection. Within a fortnight subsequently two further and smaller expeditions from France reached the northern coast; one accompanied by Napper Tandy (an exiled United Irish leader), and another under Admiral Bompart with Wolfe Tone on board. The latter one was attacked by a powerful English fleet and captured. Tone, the heroic and indefatigable, was sent in irons to Dublin, where he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to be hung. He pleaded hard for a soldier's death; but his judges were inexorable. It turned out, however, that his trial and conviction were utterly illegal, as martial law had ceased, and the ordinary tribunals were sitting at the time. At the instance of the illustrious Irish advocate, orator, and patriot, Curran, an order was obtained against the military authorities to deliver Tone over to the civil court. The order was at first resisted, but ultimately the official of the court was informed that the prisoner "had committed suicide." He died a few days after, of a wound in his throat, possibly inflicted by himself, to avert the indignity he so earnestly deprecated; but not improbably, as popular conviction has it, the work of a murderous hand; for fouler deeds were done in the government dungeons in "those dark and evil days."