Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Jeremiah Fitzhenry- Irish rebel who fought for Napoleon

The first of the articles form the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society which I obtained from Wexford library was about Jeremiah Fitzhenry, one of the leaders of the 1798 rebellion. Here's a summary of his history. When the full text of this article is available on-line via the Wexford library (the digitisation process is happening at the moment) I'll add a link.
I'm indebted to William Sweetman, a member of the Wexford Historical Society who wrote this article as it gives us more information about the Wexford Fitzhenrys. As he said:"During the commemoration of the bicentenary of the 1798 rebellion, no mention was made of Jeremiah Fitzhenry: this article attempts to redress that omission"

Jeremiah Fitzhenry was born in about 1772, the son of William Fitzhenry and grandson of Bryan Fitzhenry of Ballymackessy. The Fitzhenrys were tennants of Lord Carew of Castleboro and Bryan held about 300 acres.
In 1790 the lands were divided and the part held by Jeremiah was named Borohill.
In his mid-twenties, he married Mary Colclough, sister of John Henry Colclough of Ballyteigue, who was executed by the English for his part in the 1798 rebellion.
In the spring of 1798, Jeremiah was made a freeman of Enniscorthy.

Jeremiah's part in the rebellion is unclear. Miles Byrne, (whose autobiography is now digitised on Google books) and who like Jeremiah, went to fight in the Irish Battalion of the French army, wrote

I met Jeremiah Fitzhenry in Paris in 1803. He had taken an active part in the County Wexford insurrection in 1798 being with Bagenal Harvey at the battle of New Ross on the 5th June. After the execution of his wife's brother... he came over to France with his wife and two little girls. He went to live at St. Germain-en -Laye... Fitzhenry's wife was brought to bed of another little girl at St. Germain and he, seeing hostilities were on the point of breaking out between England and France in 1803, hastened to send his wife and three childen back to Ireland.
Mrs Fitzhenry took a house at Ballyteigue and then moved to her in-laws at Ballymackessy in 1804.

By 1807 Jeremiah had joined the Irish battalion fighting for the French (under Napoleon) in Spain. Byrne describes him thus:
No man rode better than he did... He was a very handsome man, six feet high and about thirty six years of age
However Fitzhenry was passed over in promotion, and in April 1811 he deserted from the French army. He was received into the camp of the Duke of Wellington at Salamanca and returned to Ireland, not having seen his family for 8 years. He was granted a Royal pardon both for his participation in the 1798 rebellion and for fighting for the French army.
He returned to Ireland to spend the rest of his days at Borohill with his family. He died on 25 February 1845 and is buried in Ballybrennan graveyard.

The full text of the article is from:
Jeremiah Fitzhenry - a chief who knew how to command
William Sweetman
Journal of the Wexford Historical Society:17 (1998-99), 144-158. ISSN 0790-1828.

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