The Races of Castlebar

Valerian Gribayedoff
Chapter V

The Theatre of Operations—Weary March of the French and Irish—Scenes in Castlebar—The Battle—Panic and Flight of the British.


UMBERT'S theatre of operations belonged to one of the most picturesque portions of Ireland. A remote corner of the country, little visited by outsiders, its rugged aspect had remained unchanged for centuries. Its physical formation was most varied in nature: rocky heights and precipitous cliffs, covered with brush and heather, alternating with verdant plains, upon which browsed well-fed cattle. The banks of the River Moy, which empties its waters into the Bay of Killala, had been the scene of many an episode in early Irish history, and traces of a greater past were visible on all sides. The romantic ruins of Rosskerk, Belleek and Moyne abbeys—the theme of many a poet's song—lying between Killala and Ballina, attested to the artistic and architectural glories of a generation unfettered by the chains of the conqueror. In short, nature and history had combined to add to the poetry impregnating the very air of this most thoroughly Celtic section of the Green Isle.

There are two roads leading from Ballina to Castlebar. One almost skirts the River Moy to the town of Foxford, after which it turns to the southwest. This was the usual route chosen by travellers. The other one branches from Ballina in a westerly direction, winding around Lough Conn, a lake noted for the majestic beauty of its rocky banks. At the town of Crossmalina the road turns abruptly southward and crosses the mountains of Fanogue. It passes under the shadow of the great Nephin, an imposing mountain over 2,000 feet high, and at a point called Barnageehy becomes a narrow defile that, properly defended, could defy the assaults of another Xerxes. About fifteen miles in a direct line south of Crossmalina lies Castlebar, in a plain near a large lough. The capital of the county, it is the point of convergence of numerous roads and highways. A small river flows by the town, and is crossed by a stone bridge of ancient construction. The name of Castlebar is derived from a fortress of the De Burgh family, long since a ruin. Sir Henry Bingham held the castle for Parliament in the old Cromwellian days, and, besieged by Lord Mayo in 1641, he surrendered it on favorable conditions. These, however, were treacherously violated, and he and the entire garrison were put to the sword. Mayo's treachery was avenged twelve years later on his son, Sir Theodore Burke, who suffered death at the headsman's hands. At the time of our narrative Castlebar was a fairly prosperous city of about 3,000 inhabitants, exclusive of the military. It possessed a strong stone jail, a court-house, and the usual county offices, situated in a square in the centre of the town. Its long main thoroughfare was intersected by smaller and narrower ones, eminently adapted to street warfare.

The English army from Galway, under Major-Generals Hutchinson and Trench, reached Castlebar late at night on the 24th of August. At the same time Brigadier-General Robert Taylor, commandant of the garrison of Sligo, had approached from the northeast with a considerable force. When he entered Foxford he found written orders from Hutchinson directing him to remain there and await the French, who were expected to select that route in preference to the one by Barnageehy. In spite of Hutchinson's executive ability and his popularity among his men, so great had become the demoralization of the army that preparations for encountering the invaders were attended with the greatest difficulty. Fights and broils between the regulars and the militia were of hourly occurrence, and even indulgence in intoxicating liquors seems to have been not infrequent. The disgraceful scenes reached their climax on Sunday night, the 26th, after the main body of the Longford militia had entered town. The men were bivouacked on the green, eating bread and cheese, when a shot, discharged from a window close by, fell in their midst. Immediately a stupendous uproar ensued. "In the dark of the night," wrote an eye-witness, "four thousand enraged soldiers in the town! A noise arose—the clamor of irritated passions. Arms clashed against each other, and glass flew from windows, whilst the enraged men called for vengeance on the culprit. The general shouted for the officer commanding (Captain Chambers) to stand in the street until the affair should be over. The fellow who fired the shot fled off when he thought he had kindled a flame which would destroy the town. I am told if there had not been instant peace the general would have caused the cannon to be brought to bear on the street and swept it with grapeshot; but glory to the Prince of Peace! he gave us a silent street in ten minutes."(25)

The writer of the above was an old inhabitant of Castlebar, who, being thoroughly well acquainted with the surrounding country, drew out a detailed map thereof on the night of the 26th, and sent it to General Hutchinson. His guest on this occasion was Captain Chambers, one of the few real heroes of the royal army. As an illustration of the pietistic spirit prevailing among Protestants in those days, it may not be uninteresting to quote the following anecdote from the same authority:

"A little before day (August 27)," he says, "my wife told me: 'I will see the battle in the street, having in a dream beheld flags—a green, and another of a different color.' We then agreed to consult the Bible. I first opened for our army, 2 Kings, vii. 7: 'Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their houses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.' We next opened for our country, Jer. v. 15: 'Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from afar, O house of Israel, saith the Lord; it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say.' I next opened for our king, Psalms, lxi. 7: 'He shall abide before God forever: O prepare mercy and truth which may preserve him.' I lastly opened for my wife and myself, John, xiii. 7: 'Jesus answered and said unto him: 'What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.' From all these I concluded that we should lose that battle, but that the king and constitution would still be upheld."

Unfortunately for the arms of England, General Hutchinson was not destined to lead the king's troops in the coming struggle. On Saturday night, between ten and eleven o'clock, General Lake, the ruthless exterminator of thousands of patriots in the county of Wexford, rode into Castlebar with his staff and took command of the army. Almost from the moment of his arrival disagreements arose between him and Hutchinson.(26) The latter, though suffering from a severe attack of fever, had taken pains to study the topography of the surroundings, and had inspected every inch of ground within a radius of many miles, the result being a very efficient and comprehensive plan of operations, which, if carried out, say the apologists of the English, would have effectually disposed of Humbert and his weak force. Lake, however, belonged to that class of Englishmen, unfortunately very large, who entertain a supreme contempt for foreigners of every description, among others for the French. He had been brought up from boyhood to believe that one English soldier was a match for at least two Frenchmen, three Spaniards, four Dutchmen, and an inconceivable number of savages—a pleasant delusion that even his participation in the inglorious campaigns in the Netherlands against revolutionary France does not seem to have materially affected. He was a tried soldier, however, having entered the army at the age of fourteen, and had won laurels during the Seven Years' War in Germany, and under Cornwallis in America. Martinet and Tory, he detested all rebels from the bottom of his heart. Hence his selection by the British Ministry to succeed the mild and humane Abercromby. In suppressing the uprising in Wexford, he had not failed to give vent to his passionate hatred of revolution in any form, as the thousands of desolated homes and orphaned families fully attested.

When news arrived at the British headquarters at Castlebar that Humbert's army, on the march from Ballina, exclusive of the Irish corps, fell short of eight hundred regulars, Lake thrust aside Hutchinson's maps and plans with a gesture of disdain. Lord Jocelin's "Fox Hunters," he declared, would suffice to account for so insignificant a foe, even if Taylor failed to hold his own at Foxford. The "Fox Hunters" were a body of light horse attached to Lake's cavalry, who had distinguished themselves at the Curragh of Kildare, a short time before, by treacherously butchering in cold blood a division of rebel prisoners. The unfortunates had surrendered on the express stipulation that their lives should be spared.

During all this time General Humbert's army was slowly but steadily plodding on its way to Castlebar. The French general had been informed by one Father Conroy, the parish priest of Adergool, of the Barnageehy route, and had resolved to follow it in preference to the one by Foxford. But in order to deceive the British he first marched his army some distance down the Foxford road, and then at nightfall suddenly turned to his right and proceeded toward Crossmalina. Father Conroy rendered another important service to Humbert. Learning that a man named William Burke had been despatched to the British commander with information as to the route of the French, he overtook the messenger and made him retrace his steps and take the United Irishmen's oath. Both Conroy and Burke were afterward hanged at Castlebar by sentence of an English court-martial.

Many were the hardships of the army during its tramp over the Fanogue Mountains. Heavy rains had made the roads almost impassable, and when the men were not stumbling over rocks or into crevices they found themselves up to their knees in incipient bogs. The two curricle guns and the ammunition wagons, drawn by farm horses, proved a serious obstacle to the advance, for they were constantly sticking in the mud. In fact, the poor beasts soon became entirely unserviceable, and had to be replaced by the Irish peasantry, who performed the tedious task with cheerfulness. The carriage of one of the guns broke down, and its repairing delayed the army a couple of hours. Yet no signs of faltering were visible on the countenances of the weary but determined men. The French had surmounted greater difficulties than these in their former campaigns, and had never known defeat. They hummed snatches of patriotic songs to keep up their spirits, and exchanged compliments with the Irish contingent, some of whom aroused no little good-natured mirth by their awkward movements and unsuccessful attempts to assume a martial bearing. Not an incident occurred during the whole march to ruffle the harmonious relations of the allies, so different in sentiments and temperament.

With the dawn of day the column emerged from the pass of Barnageehy and descended into the vale beyond. A Protestant yeoman, who was visiting his farm in the vicinity, saw a line of blue coats in the distance, and dismayed beyond measure, sped to Castlebar with the intelligence. His story obtained no credence, so convinced were the British commanders that Humbert had chosen the Foxford route; but to make entirely sure, General Trench set out in person to reconnoitre, attended by a few dragoons. The party rode three miles in a northerly direction, when they were fired upon by a French picket. There was no doubt about it now. The French were coming, and at a rapid pace, too! The horsemen whipped up their steeds and galloped back to Castlebar, with feelings akin to those experienced by the yeoman.

In a few moments after their arrival the stillness of the morn was broken by the sound of alarm bells, the bugle's blast, and the shouts and vociferations of the excited soldiery. Realizing the gravity of the situation and his own helplessness, General Lake gave Hutchinson carte blanche to arrange the troops in line of battle. Hutchinson at once sent orderlies to the various division commanders with instructions to march to an elevation at the northeast extremity of the town, known as Mount Burren, which had been selected the day before as an alarm post. A good deal of confusion resulted from the unexpectedness of the alarm, but within an hour some order was restored, and when the sun burst out from over the hillocks on the east the British army, about 6,000 strong, with 18 guns, was drawn up in an imposing battle array, prepared to receive the enemy.

It is well to state that this calculation as to the strength of the English at Castlebar is based on the most reliable authority. It is true that General Hutchinson, in an official statement submitted to Lord Cornwallis a month later,(27) placed the numbers of the loyalists at "1,600, or 1,700 cavalry and infantry, 10 pieces of cannon and one howitzer," and his testimony is evidently accepted as unimpeachable by Mr. Froude and the few other British historians who have deigned to notice the affair of August 27th, 1798. But if any credence can be placed in Sir Richard Musgrave's account of the battle—and it is certainly the most detailed in existence—Hutchinson's estimate falls very far short of the truth. Musgrave, as a loyalist, carefully avoids mentioning figures altogether; but as he gives a list of the various infantry regiments present on the field, it is comparatively easy to approximate their numerical strength, which by the lowest calculation must have aggregated 5,000 men. Francis Plowden, another writer of the day, also a loyalist, but one of a far different calibre to Musgrave in breadth of mind, declares Lake's army to have "fallen little short of 6,000 men," including the cavalry, an assertion supported by many actors in the short and bloody drama.(28)

"The sudden progress of such a handful of men into the very centre of the island," wrote a yeoman in Lake's army to his brother in Castlebar, "was, I think, a clear comment on the words of Solomon, that 'the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong.' Thus what 6,000 men could not do at Castlebar five flank companies and a few cavalry effected at Ballinamuck."(29) Equally reliable testimony in the same direction is furnished by Bishop Stock, who says: "The enemy's main body had hardly marched from Killala when a flag of truce arrived from Castlebar, carried by Captain Grey, of the Carabineers. It came under the pretence of in-quiry after an officer who was wounded and made prisoner at Ballina, but the object of it was to learn the force of the enemy. As soon as this was known, Captain Grey privately desired us not to be uneasy, for a force equal to three times their number was waiting at Castlebar to give a good account of them." Captain (or lieutenant) Grey returned to Castlebar on Saturday,(30) the 25th—that is, long before the last reëforcement reached that town.

To reduce the matter to a few words, Humbert's army of 800 men—the Irish contingent for reasons shortly to be stated need not be included—found itself opposed to a force almost eight times its superior in size.

That General Hutchinson, whose conduct throughout the engagement was beyond all praise, should have rendered himself guilty of wilful misrepresentation, is only excusable on the ground perhaps that he considered himself justified as an officer of his Majesty in shielding the reputation of the British arms. No such duty devolves on the British historian, who in this case, however, has only followed his time-honored custom of pandering to the inordinate national vanity of his countrymen. The average Englishman goes through life with an exalted conviction of Britannia's superiority over all other nations. Not content with her unquestioned supremacy on the sea and in the world of commerce, he would wish her military record to dazzle the eyes of all creation. So firm a hold has this hobby gained upon him that paltry skirmishes figure in English history as important battles, and mediocre captains are magnified into Caesars and Alexanders. Maida (31) is mentioned in the same breath with Austerlitz, and Wellington, who never risked an engagement save when the chances were overwhelmingly in his favor, is ranked above the great Napoleon. The same tone of empty and arrogant boasting pervades alike the pages of most English historical works and the utterances of the large class of British "Jingoes." But this vanity were a bagatelle if the truth were not constantly sacrificed on its altar. Chauvinism and mendacity flourish in the same soil!

General John Hely Hutchinson


The British at Castlebar were drawn up in three lines running from east to west across the crest of the hill. They commanded a slight elevation in front, over which any attacking force from the north must necessarily pass. The first line consisted of a portion of the artillery, including two curricle guns served by men of the Royal Irish Artillery under Captain Shortall, an experienced officer, the Kilkenny Militia, a portion of the 6th Regiment of Foot under Major McBean, and a detachment of the Prince of Wales' Fencibles. Captain Shortall himself took post with the two curricle guns in front of the line, the Kilkenny regiment being stationed at his right and the Kilkenny artillery to his left, separated by a road, but parallel to him. The second line was composed of what might be called the flower of the army, the Fraser Fencibles—Scotch Highlanders in their national tartans, plaids, and feathers, who had fought bravely throughout the rebellion without dimming the lustre of their arms by acts of wanton cruelty. The Frasers were supported by a corps of Galway militiamen, both bodies having been drawn up in irregular lines so as to fully occupy the summits of the British position. In a valley on the left of the elevation held by the Kilkenny troops stood several companies of Longford yeomanry.

However, the strength of Lake's army lay principally in its cavalry, which comprised some of the best troops in the king's service. There was "Lord Jocelin's Light Horse," already mentioned for their treacherous cruelty in Kildare; there was the 6th Carabineers; the 23d Light Dragoons; Lord Roden's Roxborough Fencible Cavalry, and several squadrons of yeomanry horse.(32) The bulk of this imposing body of mounted men occupied a large space in the rear of the first line, Lake's apparent intention being to throw them upon the foe as soon as the artillery and musketry fire had sown confusion in his ranks. Among the officers commanding the king's forces were a number of English and Anglo-Irish noblemen who had promised themselves good sport shooting down the Sans-culottes and hanging the "croppies."(33) It never occurred to them that, with a tremendous numerical superiority in favor of the British, the choice of position, and an enemy exhausted by fifteen hours' steady marching, any other result could be possible!

When, toward eight o'clock, General Humbert and his staff arrived within sight of the British lines and beheld the heights scarlet with the uniforms of the regulars and militia, they concluded within themselves that the game was lost in advance. At a glance they recognized the fact that the one possibility they had counted on, viz., a surprise of the enemy, was out of the question. Nothing now remained to counterbalance his weight of numbers and his almost unassailable front. Humbert decided that if he were destined to succumb he would at least maintain the honor of his flag. He accordingly took immediate measures to attack the British position. He first formed a column from the ranks of the Irish insurgents, and sent them ahead to drive in the English outposts and commence the assault on the foremost line of artillery. Close behind the Irish followed General Sarrazin with the Grenadiers. Short work was made of the outposts, and elated by their easy success the simple-minded peasants, many of them clad in the French uniform, made a bold dash at the enemy's guns. Not a sound issued from these until the assailants were within fifty yards. Then Captain Shortall gave the signal, the gunners applied their fuses, and the head of the attacking column was literally split in twain, the messengers of destruction leaving a furrow thickly strewn with dead and dying. The survivors—most of whom in their unfrequented regions had never, perhaps, until that day heard the report of a musket, much less witnessed the effects of artillery fire—were overwhelmed with terror. They turned upon their heels and sped down the mountain side in wild confusion. They took no further share in the battle of Castlebar.

It was now the turn of the French to face Shortall's fire. Sarrazin's Grenadiers, undisturbed by the precipitate flight of their allies, marched steadily up the slope with fixed bayonets, and approached the British centre. At the same time a battalion of the line moved toward the British left. The French were aided in their movements by the peculiar formation of the ground, which, intersected by stone walls and high hedges, afforded them excellent shelter against the small-arms' fire of the enemy. Sarrazin's first attack, however, proved a failure. The English artillery, superbly served, once more performed its deadly office. One of Shortall's shots cut clean through the infantry battalion, who, seeing themselves taken at a disadvantage, ran to the cover of a small house near by. The Grenadiers then wheeled half way, and under a galling musketry and artillery fire rushed to the relief of their brethren. After this the attacking force retreated down the slope, leaving many dead and wounded. A very brief period intervened before the next attack. The French this time attempted to neutralize the effects of the enemy's marksmanship by driving some cattle in front of them, but such of the poor brutes as were not shot down at the first discharge scampered, terror-stricken, into the very ranks they were intended to screen, nearly causing irremediable disorder.

So far the tide of fortune had been against the assailants, yet from this very circumstance there gleamed for Humbert a ray of hope. The inertness of the British, and their neglect to follow up their advantages, satisfied him that they were badly led. The moment had therefore arrived to hazard a bold stroke—no less than a general attack along the whole length of the enemy's line! To do this it became necessary to extend the French front until it should overlap his left wing. At the word of command the sturdy little Frenchmen deployed from the centre with the rapidity and precision of a dress-parade, and when they commenced their next advance up the steep incline the British looked down in amazement on a long, thin line of blue in open order, its full strength not exceeding five hundred bayonets! Was this skeleton force about to brave the entire British front? Such audacity was scarcely conceivable.(34)

It was a critical moment. A combined effort of the English would probably have given the day to them. As it was, the infantry supporting the guns seemed to have lost their heads. Instead of awaiting their foe at close quarters they commenced firing in a desultory fashion at so great a distance as to produce no effect. Orders of any kind from the commanding general were lacking, and the splendid cavalry corps stood inactive within its lines. Only the Highlanders posted behind a fringe of bushes on the British left and the artillery appeared to understand their duty, and to perform it.

Perceiving the lack of cohesion among the British, Sarrazin ordered the Pas de charge sounded, and the French rushed forward to some hedges immediately in the enemy's front. Under cover of these they continued to advance in separate bodies, uttering the while their war cries and firing as rapidly as they could reload. As they came nearer some confusion was perceptible in the English ranks. The artillery was vomiting grape and canister, but the fire of the infantry had slackened. Now that the soldiers of the republic were at hand with their deadly bayonets, the warriors of his Majesty felt their hearts fail within them. Some one raised the cry that the French were on the flanks, and of a sudden the entire British infantry—regulars, yeomen and Fencibles—wavered, broke and beat a hasty retreat, leaving on the field Major Alcock, sorely wounded, and many others dead and dying. Sarrazin's men engaged the artillery on the right of the enemy's position, while Chief of Battalion Ardouin attacked the Frasers and the Galway men on the left. Shortall had already lost his best soldiers, but instead of retiring he pulled up his sleeves and took a stand at one of the guns himself. A French officer rushed toward him with levelled weapon, and missing fire, drew his sword. The intrepid Englishman, like many of his compatriots an adept at the manly art of boxing, doubled up his fists and knocked his opponent down. He then mounted his horse and rode away with the same cool and deliberate air that had signallized his deportment throughout the engagement.

The astonishing behavior of the infantry on the British right, and the capture of Shortall's guns, so alarmed General Lake that he hurriedly ordered a retreat, and that in the teeth of Hutchinson's opposition.(35) The command was superfluous. The British formation was already a confused mass. Infantry, artillery and cavalry, seized with an indescribable panic, were scurrying to the rear, unheeding the exhortations of their officers. The cavalrymen, gorgeous in scarlet, gold and pipe-clay, with powdered wigs and clean-shaven faces—the pride of many a review—presented now a sorry aspect as they spurred their horses in a mad flight for safety. Killing prisoners in cold blood was one thing, and meeting a disciplined foe another! The former occupation had unfitted them for the latter. So they dashed onward, a disordered horde, riding down all who crossed their path, whether friend or foe. Of the infantry the Longford and Kilkenny regiments were the most demoralized. They, too, had revelled in the blood of their unfortunate compatriots, and as cruelty and cowardice are twin sisters, fear lent wings to their feet as they fled from the scene of action. The Earls of Longford and Ormond, their respective commanders, vainly endeavored to rally them. They were only drawn into the current themselves. Ormond, chief of the historic Butlers of Ireland, young, handsome and brave, a preux chevalier from head to foot, threw himself among his men, in a frenzy of mortification and despair. He implored them impassionately to turn and face the foe. Finding they heeded him not he lost all self-control, and with curses and imprecations laid about him with his sword. He ran two men through the body and left the field with tears of anger streaming down his cheeks. Even when rallied in a churchyard, with a thick wall to protect them, the militia refused to make a stand. The first appearance of the French caused them to scamper over the tombstones like frightened sheep and make their way out by the rear entrance.(36)

At the bridge over the Castlebar River a horrible crush ensued. The main body of the British army had converged to that point, and the narrow structure was blocked with field guns, caissons and supply wagons, against which the struggling mass of humanity surged in unreasoning terror. Here it was every one for himself, the alternative to the luckless foot soldier being death under the hoof or a plunge into the waters beneath. To increase the confusion some shots fell in among the fugitives, and in their desperation they turned their weapons against each other. How many perished on the bridge has never been fully ascertained, but for weeks afterward the river and the lough near by threw up mutilated corpses in the uniform of the British line and of the Anglo-Irish yeomanry.

But the battle was not yet over. The most desperate fighting was still to come. By the exertions of the Earl of Granard, Major Thompson, and Captains Chambers and Armstrong, a comparatively large body of men were gotten together to cover the retreat of the army. This they endeavored to do by maintaining a musketry fire from behind hedges and thickets on the approaching Sans-culottes. Unable to hold their ground they retired to the bridge, and took up a position there with a curricle gun. At the same moment the Highlanders and some carabineers, after being driven from the left wing at the point of the bayonet, stationed themselves in the public square of Castlebar, where Lieutenant Blundell with two curricle guns had been posted early in the morning. To dislodge the enemy from both these positions, Humbert detached his cavalry from his centre and moved it on to the town, with some infantry under Sarrazin and Adjutant-General Fontaine.

A Protestant citizen present at the battle thus relates some of the details of this conflict: "Colonel Miller," he says, "rushed into the town crying: 'Clear the street for action!' when in a moment, as a dam bursting its banks, a mixture of soldiers of all kinds rushed in at every avenue; a sergeant desired that every woman should go to the barracks; but Dr. Hennin's, another family and mine retired into a house, fell on our knees, and there remained in prayer until the town was taken.. . . Four brave Highlanders at a cannon kept up a brisk fire on the French, but were killed while loading, the gunner taken, and the guns turned on our men. Now the street action became hot; before it was peal answering peal, but now thunder answering thunder; a black cloud of horrors hid the light of heaven—the messengers of death groping their way, as in gloomy hell, whilst the trembling echoes which shook our town concealed the more melancholy groans of the dying. When the French approached the new jail, our sentinel (a Fraser Fencible) killed one Frenchman, charged and killed another, shot a third and a fourth, and, as he fired at and killed the fifth, a number rushed up the steps, dashed his brains out, tumbling him from his stand, and the sentry-box on his body."

The street action lasted nearly an hour, during which period every foot of ground was obstinately disputed. The British, still having the advantage of position and numbers, inflicted severe losses on their opponents, and were only overcome in the end by sheer pluck and hard fighting on the part of the latter. Death had no terrors for these sons of the republic, even though to them it meant not an awakening in another and better world, but chaos and an end of all things. Utterly regardless of grape and canister, of sword and shell, they flung themselves upon the foe. One grenadier, after sabring two gunners, placed his thumb on the touch-hole of a cannon in time to extinguish the burning fuse. He earned his epaulettes for the bold deed, which saved the head of the advancing column from certain destruction.(37) Here and there the town's defenders succeeded in barricading themselves within private dwellings, whence they maintained a galling fire through shutters and improvised loopholes of every description, thus necessitating a series of separate assaults, in which the bayonet played as active a role as the bullet.

When the main portion of the town was in their hands the French turned their attention to the bridge. There, as has been mentioned, a body of British with a curricle gun had taken stand. A desperate melée was the result. Worked up to a pitch of fury by the bitterness of the preceding conflict, neither side gave nor demanded quarter. The defenders of the bridge consisted of the remnants of many of the regiments present on the field an hour before. There were some Longford and Kilkenny men, a sprinkling of "Frasers," and a corporal's guard or so of the 6th Regiment. The gun itself was worked by the few remaining survivors of Captain Shortall's Royal Irish Artillery Corps. The French began by installing themselves in the deserted buildings near the river's banks, and from here and the roads leading to the bridge they poured volley after volley on the enemy. As soon as the last gunner had fallen a squadron of French horse, emerging from the cover of a neighboring house, dashed at the gun, hoping to reach and spike it before assistance arrived. In this they were foiled by the energy of the British officers in command; but in the hand-to-hand combat that followed fully half of the bridge's defenders were mercilessly cut down. The Chasseurs lost two of their men and drew back; then, reenforced by the arrival of the infantry, they charged once more and swept the enemy from the field.

Acts of heroism were not lacking during the obstinate struggle. Captain Chambers, on the British side, fought like a very demon. With his own hand he killed or wounded several Frenchmen, including an officer. Throwing away his sword he seized a musket from a soldier's hands and continued to fight until a grenadier had run a bayonet clear down his throat, and driven the point of it out at the side of his neck. A French chasseur, on the other hand, received a ball in his right arm. Grasping his sword with his left, he went on fighting desperately. Presently a ball entered his left breast; but, still undaunted, he remained on the spot, slashing at the enemy with might and main. In the end a royal soldier pierced him with a bayonet, and the brave Frenchman fell to the earth a corpse.(38)

Captain of Grenadiers Laugerat was struck by a shell which shattered his shoulder. Raising himself as well as he could, he continued to encourage his men. "Friends," he cried, "do not trouble yourselves about me. Go forward to victory; she awaits you. Let me remain here, for I die happy." These were his last words. A grenadier of the same detachment, being mortally wounded, turned to one of his comrades with the words: "Take these cartridges; send them to those rascals." Then grasping his gun in a feverish embrace, he exclaimed, "Thus dies a French grenadier!" Even in the last agonies of death the man's love of display had not deserted him.(39)

While the better men of the British forces were spilling their blood in defence of the flag and their country's honor, their comrades were speeding over the highroad to Hollymount and Tuam. Lake, accompanied by his staff, rode furiously along in the midst of the fugitives, with livid face and compressed hps. He cast not a glance behind him, nor heeded the surrounding turmoil. His haughty and aggressive spirit was smarting under the humiliation of defeat, for which he knew that he alone was to blame. Hutchinson felt the pangs of mortification no less than his commander, but to him this was not a time for vain regrets. He directed all his efforts to rallying the men and turning the flight into the semblance of an orderly retreat. He was not successful. Neither persuasion, commands nor threats availed to stem their wild stampede.

General Lake's flight from Castlebar


On they rode, hearing a menace in every whisper of the wind, a cannonade in every rustling of the leaves. Beside this, John Gilpin's famous pace sinks to the level of a peddler's jog, nor did Tam O'Shanter's Mag e'er display such mettle as their panting, sweating beasts, spurred on until the blood dripped from their flanks. So great was their fright, indeed, that they never stopped for breath until they had reached the town of Tuam, forty miles away; and even here they paused scarce long enough to eat, and then made on to Athlone. At this place an officer of carabineers, with sixty of his men, arrived on the afternoon of the 29th of September. These heroes had covered a distance of over seventy English miles in twenty-seven hours! No wonder the battle has been jocularly styled "the races of Castlebar"!