Colooney 1798

The battle of Colooney was a small battle between the French Expeditionary forces under General Humbert and the Limerick Militia under Colonel Vereker on 5th July 1798.

Thursday, August 24, 2006



Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ballad - Garryown Heroes

The Gallant Limerick Militia ;
Or, Garryown Heroes.

You stout Irish heroes that ne'er was dismayed,
Or of any enemy was never yet afraid ;
Attend to my story, while shall unfold,
Our intrepid Limerick boys who are stout hearts of gold.
The fifth of Sept. the year eighty-nine,
The Rebels and French both together did join,
Naer the town of Sligo, our force to subdue
While balls they in showers were pouring like rain,
We stood them like Trojans and never did flinch,
Tho' they were ten to one boys we ne'er gave an inch.
But being outnumbered were forced to retreat.
We still fought like lions, ne'er feared a defeat.
We are the boys that did clearly make known,
That we were loyal heroes of bold Garryown.
And ravage our country and make ue to rue.

Brave Colonel Vereker, appriz'd their scheme,
Went with his Limerick heroes those gallants of fame,
Who was always courageous and still did make known
That they would shew them play as from sweet Garryowen,
Our foes at Coloony assembled they were,
And to salute them we straight did repairm
We gave to them a breakfast, and speedily make known,
We were the rare heroes of sweet garryown.
We fought them two hours, and our pass did maintain,
Vereker our brave Colonel may God him preserve,
Who made it his study his men to reserve
To face those proud Frenchmen and rebels also,
We shew'd Limerick heroes could give 'em a blow.
And now to conclude boys we'll for ever sing,
A health to brace Vereker and great George our King,
Likewise our gallant Limerick boys that did make known,
They were all gallant heroes from sweet Garryown.

from small book Lord Howe's Victory over the French to which is added The Gallant Limerick Militia,
published in Limerick, 1800, by W. Goggin

Vereker - the only officer capable of commanding 100 men.

The attention of Humbert was now directed to the north, in a rapid march for Sligo he reached Colooney with the van of his army on the morning of the 5th. Here its advance was impeded by a small but gallant force, under the command of Colonel Veriker of the Limerick regiment, who, after a bold resistance, was compelled to retreat with the loss of
his cannon. This action was bravely contested, and, as Humbert declared, creditable to the arms of his opponents. Mistaking the enemy which he had repulsed the advance-guard of a more formidable army, and expecting its attack, the French General remained for some time on the field forming his troops, as they came up, for action; then, without
making any attempt on Sligo, he entered Leitrim, and by a rapid march reached Manor Hamilton on the 6th, more than fifty miles distant from his late headquarters at Castlebar.

[Humbert bore honourable testimony to the gallantry of Colonel Veriker, whom he pronounced the only British officer he had encountered in Ireland who was capable of commanding a hundred men.]

Sequel to The History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798

Charles Hamilton Teeling


From "The year of Liberty"

In the north west of lreland, Humbert had managed, in his masterly way, to throw off his pursuers and keep the initiative. In one bound -fifty-eight miles marched in the span of a night and a day he had reached the outskirts of Sligo. Ahead of him the garrison was almost defenceless. Its commander, Colonel Vereker, had more courage than experience. He pushed forward with his yeomanry and militia to a strategic village called Collooney. And there they stood, a few hundred rustics from Sligo and Limerick, to contest Collooney with the veterans of Bonaparte's Army of ltaly.

The action that followed was to be one of the most celebrated in the whole rebellion. It earned a peerage for Vereker; he took the motto of "Collooney"; and people spoke of him as the Irish Leonidas. In fact the battle was of little direct significance. After a short skirmish, a hundred of Vereker's men surrendered and were sent back to Sligo on parole, and there were about fifty casualties on each side. Humbert pushed on unchecked to the north. In one sense however, Vereker had achieved a victory, Humbert had learnt that the Irish militia did not always run at the first shot; and with such a small force as his, he could not afford very many Collooneys.

The Year of Liberty

Thomas Packenham



From John Moore book

On their counter-march they heard of an action which had taken place two days before. Colonel Vrereker, with 300 of the Limerick Militia, wrongly informed as to the strength had boldly engaged them near Colooney and been soundly beaten.

Sir John Moore
by Carola Oman
Hodder and Stoughton


Some details of British Troops

The advanced guard of the French, having arrived at Coloony, was opposed on the 5th by Colonel Vereker, of the city of Limerick militia, who had marched from Sligo for the purpose, with about two hundred infantry, thirty of the Twenty-fourth Regiment of Light Dragoons, and two curricle guns. After a smart action of about an hour's continuance, he was obliged to retreat, with the loss of his artillery, to Sligo.

The History of Ireland

John Mitchell


Irish Militia Perspective

The next engagement with Humbert in which the militia were concerned as Colooney. The Essex Fencibles and some yeomanry were in it also but the main force was Limerick (city) militia and the officer in command, to whom Ireland awarded laurels, was colonel Vereker. After Castlebar Humbert had headed north-west with Ulster as his general destination and Sligo as his immediate goal. At this town the Limerick city were stationed. Dispositions to meet this move by Humbert do not appear to have been made. Lord Ormonde is reported to have always maintained that ‘ if they had no generals that day Humbert would have been signally defeated at Castlebar, notwithstanding that his troops were hardy and well-tried veterans.... and his opponents raw and untrained militia and fencible levies’. The absence of any general at Colooney realized this conception of a
satisfactory fight. Colooney is about five miles west of Sligo and the route to be followed by Humbert, who had with him the whole of his recently successful force, was through the pass at that place. Here Vereker, with his three hundred or so men, and with good military judgment, took up his position and ‘ although he retreated without his guns, the loss he inflicted on the enemy was most serious and discouraging’. This opposition caused Humbert to abandon his design on Sligo. On this occasion the militia engaged were well led ; ‘ I met’, said Humbert subsequently, ‘ many generals in Ireland, but the only General I met after all-was-Colonel Vereker ‘. Though the Impartial Relation concedes that the officers and men of the Limerick city regiment behaved most gallantly and suffered considerably, it attaches no importance to the fight. But Irish opinion applauded Vereker’s success. The city of Limerick gave a piece of plate for the officers’ mess and medals for the non-commissioned officers and men and later fifty guineas was voted for the purchase of a sword of honour. How the imagination of Ireland was struck by this piece of military enterprise may be seen from a speech of lord Plunket :

I mean him [i.e. lord Cornwallis] no personal disrespect; but this I
must observe, that whilst the military lord lieutenant was in the field, with
an army of 60,000 [sic] to support him, history will have it to record that we in
Ireland from being indebted to a gallant Irishman (Mr. Vereker) at the head of about 800
native troops, for having withstood the enemy, and prevented the capital of Ireland from being entered in triumph by a body of not one thousand Frenchmen.

There is rhetoric here ; Colooney was not a Thermopylae ; but yt was a creditable action and there is something in the underlying criticism.

The Irish Militia
1793 – 1816

A Social and Military Study


Sir Henry McAnally



I went to a talk last night about Colonel Vereker. I was disappointed that there was not more discussion on the battle. I did of preparation for the talk and I am going to post the information that I gathered in preparation for the talk.