Historical Notes and Stories of the Ballinamuck, Co. Longford III

Historical Notes and Stories
of the
County Longford.
James P. Farrell
1886 – Dollard Printing House, Wellington Quay, Dublin


Copy of a letter from Lieutenant-General Lake to Captain Taylor, Private Secretary to His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, dated, “Camp, near Ballinamuck, September 8th, 1798.”     .

“Sir,-I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, that finding upon my arrival at Ballaghy the French army had passed that place from Castlebar, I immediately followed them to watch their motions. Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford, who commanded my advanced corps, composed of detachments of Hempesch’s (?) and the 1st Fencible Cavalry, vigilance and activity, being so close upon their rear, that they could not escape from me, although they drove the country and carried with them all their horses. After four days and nights’ most severe marching, my column, consisting of the Carabineers, detachments of the 23rd Light Dragoons, the 1st Fencible Dragoons, and the Roxburg Fencible Dragoons, under the command of Colonel Sir Thomas Chapman, Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, Earl of Roden, and Captain Kerr; the 3rd Battalion Light Infantry, the Omagh, and part of the Kerry Regiment, the Reay, Northampton and Prince of Wales’ Fencible Regiments of Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Innes, of the 6th Regiment, Lord Viscount Gosford, Earl of Glandore, Major Ross, Lieutenant Colonel Macartney, arrived at Cloon about seven this morning, where, having received ,directions to follow the enemy in the same line, whilst his Excellency moved by the lower road to intercept them, I advanced, having previously detached the Monaghan Light -Company, mounted behind dragoons to harass their rear. Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford., on coming up with the French rear-guard, summoned them to surrender; but, as they did not attend to his command, he attacked them, upon which upwards of 200 French infantry threw down their arms, under the idea that the rest of the corps would do the same thing. Captain Pakenham, Lieutenant-General of Ordnance, and Major-General Cladock arrived., upon which I ordered up the Third Battalion of Light Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Innes, and commenced upon the enemy’s position. The action lasted upwards of half-an-hour, when, the remainder of the column making its appearance, the French surrendered at discretion. The conduct of the cavalry was, on all occasions, highly conspicuous. The Third Light Battalion, and part of the Armagh Militia (the only infantry that were engaged), behaved most gallantly, and deserve my warmest praise. Lieutenant-Colonel Innes’s spirit and judgment contributed much to our success. To Brigadier General Taylor I have to return my most sincere thanks for his great exertions arid assistance on this day; also to Lord Roden, Sir Thomas Chapman, Major Kerr, and Captain Ferguson, whose example contributed much to animate the troops. I ought not to omit Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, Major Pockenham, and Captain Kerr, whose conduct was equally meritorious, and I feel infinitely thankful to all the commanding officers of corps, who, during so fatiguing a march, encouraged their men to bear it with unremitting perseverance. I cannot conclude my letter without expressing how much our success is to be attributed to the spirit and activity of Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford. I beg leave to recommend him as a most deserving officer.- I have the honour to be, &c.,

Copy of the Lord Lieutenant’s letter to the Duke of Portland, relative to the defeat of the French.
“St. Johnstown (Ballinalee),
“County Longford,
“9th September, 1798 .
“My Lord, – When I wrote to your Grace on the 5th, I had every reason to believe, from the enemy’s movement to Drumahaire, that it was their intention to march to the North, and it was natural to suppose that they might hope that a French force would get into some of the bogs in that part of the county, without a succour of which kind every point of discretion for their march seemed equally desperate. I received, however, very early in the morning of the 7th, accounts from General Lake that they had turned to the right at Drumkeerin, and that he had reason to believe that it was their intention to go to Boyle or Carrick-on-Shannon, in consequence of which I hastened the march of the troops under my immediate command in order to arrive before the enemy at -Carrick, and directed Major-General Moore, who was at Tubbercurry, to be prepared, in the event of the enemy’s movements to Boyle. On my arrival at Carrick I found that the enemy had passed the Shannon at Ballintra, where they attempted to destroy the bridge; but General Lake followed them so closely that they were not able to effect it. Under these circumstances I felt freely confident that one more march would bring this disagreeable warfare to a conclusion; and, having obtained satisfactory information that the enemy had halted for that night at Cloone, I marched, with the troops at Carrick, at ten o’clock on the 7th, to Mohin, and directed General Lake to proceed at the same time to Cloon –  which is about three miles from Mohill, by which movement  I should be able to join with General Lake- in the attack of the enemy, if they should remain at Cloone, or to intercept their retreat if they should, as it was most probable, retire on the approach of our army. On my arrival at Mohill, soon after day-break, I found that the enemy had begun to move towards Granard. I therefore proceeded, with all possible expedition, to this place, through which I was assured, on account of a broken bridge, that the enemy must pass on their way to Granard, and directed General Lake to attack the enemy’s rear, and impede their march as much as possible without bringing the whole of his corps into action. Lieutenant-General Lake performed this service with his usual attention and ability; and the enclosed letter, which I have just received from him, will explain the circumstances which produced an immediate surrender of the enemy’s army. – I have the honour, &c.,
(Signed)    “CORNWALLIS.”

Immediately after the battle, as the foregoing letters go to show, a great many rebels were hanged and sabred.  Amongst the rest was a man named Andrew Farrell, who, despite the fact that some influence was brought to bear on the authorities to save his life, was, hanged out of a spoke-wheel car. When life was extinct, the body, and also the bodies of several other men, were brought into a barn and stretched on a table on some straw. After: a time, a Catholic soldier of the Longford Militia, who knew Farrell, came into the barn, and seeing him, said “Poor Farrell, I’m sorry to see you there;” and a yeoman ruffian, hearing the words, drew his clenched hand and smote the lifeless man’s face, breaking his nose and forcing the very blood to the roof, whilst the Catholic soldier could do nothing to prevent this outrageous act lest he would bring himself into trouble. Farrell’s friends afterwards attempted to bury the body in Longford graveyard, but the authorities prevented them; and they had to inter it at Newtownforbes.

After the famine of 1847 and 1848, which committed fearful ravages in this and the neighbouring parishes, the landlords made a desperate attempt to evict all the Catholic tenants, and plant in their stead a number of Scotch families. Such indeed was the venom with which King-Harman set about this monstrous task, that the tenants, bad and all as they were with the pangs of hunger, rose up en masse, and every attempt at eviction was a bloody massacre, in which the tenants fought wildly and madly for their homesteads; and many of them were sent to their last account by the use of the rifle.  The fearful sacrifice of life considerably subdued them, and their vengeance then took the form of midnight attacks on the “planted” families, during which several of them were killed, and one whole family wiped out. A strong police barracks, loop-holed for musketry fire, was then erected by the Harman family, which is the martial-looking building I have referred to at the commencement of this chapter. But after all these determined attempts to exterminate the people, it is gratifying to know that they are still “to the front,” and that there are few better men in the county than in this same Ballinamuck, or ” The Mouth of the Ford of the Pig.”

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