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Jean Humbert

General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert (22 August 1767 – 3 January 1823) was a French soldier, a participant in the French Revolution, who led a failed invasion of Ireland to assist Irish rebels in 1798. Born in the townland of La Coâre Saint-Nabord, outside Remiremont Vosges, he was a sergeant in the National Guard of Lyon, and rapidly advanced through the ranks to become brigadier general on 9 April 1794, and fought in the Western campaigns before being allocated to the Army of the Rhine.

Monument to General Humbert depicting Mother Ireland on Humbert Street, Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland

Expeditions to Ireland

In 1794 after serving in the Army of the Coasts of Brest, Humbert served under Hoche in the Army of the Rhin-et-Moselle. Charged to prepare for an expedition against Ireland, he took command of the Légion des Francs under Hoche, sailing in the ill-fated Expédition d'Irlande against Bantry Bay in 1796, and was engaged in actions at sea against the Royal Navy. Contrary weather and enemy action forced this expedition to withdraw, on his return to France he served in the Army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, before being appointed to command the troops in another attempt to support a rising in Ireland in 1798. His command chiefly consisted of infantry of the 70th demi-brigade with a few artillerymen and some cavalry of the 3rd Hussars,[1] however by the time he arrived off the Irish coast the United Irish rising had already suffered defeat. The expedition was able to land in Ireland at Killala on Thursday 23 August 1798, meeting with initial success in the battle of Castlebar, and subsequently declaring a Republic of Connacht, with hopes of taking Dublin. But his small force was defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck and he was taken as a prisoner of war by the Kingdom of Great Britain.[2]

Later Service

He was shortly repatriated in a prisoner exchange and appointed in succession to the Armies of Mayence, Danube and Helvetia, with which he served at the 2nd Battle of Zurich. He then embarked for Saint Domingo and participated in several Caribbean campaigns for Napoleon Bonaparte before being accused of plundering by General Brunet. He was returned to France by order of General Leclerc in October 1802, for "prevarications, and liaison relationships with organisers of the inhabitants and with leaders of brigands".[3] A committed Republican, his displeasure at Napoleon's Imperial pretensions led to him being dismissed in 1803 and he retired to Morbihan in Brittany.

Humbert was employed in the Army of the North in 1809, but again retired in 1809, then was given leave to pass into service of the United States in 1812. He settled in New Orleans, once again fighting the British at the battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. In 1814 he joined the rebelling forces of Buenos Aires, before once again retiring to New Orleans, where he thereafter lived peacefully as a schoolteacher until his death.

War of 1812

Infuriated by the Kentuckians' fleeing, Jackson directed a French General, Jean Humbert, to cross the River and retake the American position. Humbert, who had fought under Napoleon and always appeared in his old uniform was delighted to accept the assignment. But in the U.S. ranks, he was serving as a volunteer private. Since Jackson neglected to give him written authority, American officers on the west bank refused to take orders from a man who was not a citizen, and Humbert returned angrily to Jackson's Headquarters ( From Union 1812: The Americans who Fought the Second War of Independence by A.J. Langguth)


  1. F. Glenn Thompson "The Uniforms of 1798-1803" p.50
  2. See Guy Beiner, Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007)
  3. Alain Pigeard "Les Étoiles de Napoléon" p.402


  • Thomas Bartlett, ‘Général Humbert takes his leave’, in 'Cathair na Mart, xi (1991) 98-104.
  • Marie-Louise Jacotey, Un Volontaire de 1792 Le Général Humbert ou la passion de la Liberté (Mirecourt, 1980).
  • Sylvie Kleinman, Entry, 'Jean-Joseph Amable Humbert (1767-1823), Dictionary of Irish Biography (Royal Irish Academy/Cambridge University Press, 2009).

External links

  • Author and historian Stephen Dunford discusses his book and documentary " In Humbert's Footsteps" at [1]

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