Charles Edward Jennings de Kilmaine

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Charles Edward Jennings
General Kilmaine.jpg
General Charles Edward Jennings Saul de Kilmaine
Nickname(s) Brave Kilmaine
Born (1751-10-19)19 October 1751
Sauls Court, Dublin, Ireland
Died 11 December 1799(1799-12-11) (aged 48)
Paris, France
Allegiance United Irishmen
 France
Flag of France.svg First French Republic
Service/branch French Army
French Navy
French Cadets
Regiment of Hussars
Years of service 1765-1799
Rank Général d'Armée
Battles/wars Campagne au Sénégal
American war of Independence
French Revolutionary Wars

Charles Edward Jennings (19 October 1751 – 11 December 1799), commonly known as Brave Kilmaine, was a revolutionary and one of the greatest Irish soldiers to serve France in the eighteenth century. A gallant and celebrated general, philanthropist and baron, he was committed both to the cause of Irish independence and to that of the French Revolution. A devoted friend to Theobald Wolfe Tone and a close confidant of Napoleon I, he has been described as the only officer Bonaparte ever trusted completely.

Kilmaine is remembered and honored for his services in the American War of Independence and more significantly in the French Revolutionary Wars, to which he devoted most of his life. Often Irish historians fail to recognize the importance Kilmaine's contribution also brought to the ignition of an Irish Republic. Kilmaine was known for his extreme personal reserve and as one of the most charismatic Irish generals of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, focused his energies on liberating Ireland from British rule.

Early life[edit]

Son of Dr. Theobald Jennings and Lady Eleanor Saul, he was born on 19 October 1751 at his mothers residence at Sauls Court, Dublin. His father, a prominent physician, descended from an ancient Irish family 'Mac sheoinín' (meaning "son of little Sean", a subset of the great Burke family) which had always been strongly attached to the Irish Catholic religion, and opposed to the interests of England. His father was of Polaniran (Ironpool), Tuam, County Galway - see Soraca Jonin - left Ireland in 1738 and settled in the town of Tonnay-Charente in the south west of France with his wife. The latter, finding that she was about to become a mother, left France for Dublin in 1751 in order that her child might be born in his native land. Young Jennings was reared in Saul's Court in Temple Bar, Dublin with his relatives. As there were few opportunities for Catholics due to discriminatory anti-Catholic Penal Laws at the age of 11 years he left Ireland and joined his father in France. Kilmaine was educated in Tonnay-Charente and quickly becoming proficient in the French language

Military career[edit]

When only in his 14th year, he joined the French cadets and entered the service of Austria, a country which held strong alliances with France during this time, in the regiment of Imperial Emperor No.1. In 1775 he returned to his hometown in France following the sudden death of his father, Dr. Theobald Jennings. Subsequently, he rejoined service, and entered the French army, but he broke tradition and joined the prominent 5th Dragoon Regiment, not the Irish Brigade of France, in which other members of the Jennings family had been previously officers. Three years later he was made adjutant to the general of the master legion of foreign volunteers in the navy and that same year he left for Senegal on a campaign with the Duc de Lauzun, Armand Louis de Gontaut, returning safely in 1779.

American War of Independence[edit]

The following year he was appointed to the grand position of sous-lieutenant of the master legion of foreign volunteers of the Navy and entered a campaign in the United States under Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette, Grand Provost of the kingdom of France to assist the Americans in the War of Independence.

He served with distinction in the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Association with revolutionary officers of the United States army greatly affected him, and added to those impressions made upon him during his youth in Ireland and the teachings of his father, caused Kilmaine to imbibe strongly the sentiments of a revolutionary. And so it was during this time that he developed strong republican principles. He returned to France after three years and became an important zealous supporter of the new ideas of freedom, liberty and Justice.

French hussar of the 18th Century

Chef d'Escadron[edit]

In 1786 he was awarded the title lieutenant in command, and took control of the regiment of Hussars of Duc de Lauzun (the first cavalry regiment in France). Two years later he made the rank of captain. A growing military reputation brought him promotion as "Chef d'escadron", which in the Armored Cavalry Corps is equal to the rank of a Captain-Major.

On 21 March 1791 and seven months shy of his 40th birthday, he honorably retired from the army, was given the title of Baron and took a civic oath. A civic oath was sworn by all persons as a pre-condition for citizen status. This was especially important leading up to and during the French revolution, especially among foreigners and nobility, both of which Kilmaine was. For almost an entire year he pursued family life and philanthropic interests. By personal invitation of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, he rejoined the French army when the war broke out in 1792 between France and monarchic Europe.

Reinstated as a chef d'escadron, Kilmaine served throughout the first campaigns of the Revolution, and under Charles François Dumouriez and Lafayette commanded a corps of that army which burst into the Netherlands and annexed that territory to republican France. His next great conflict was at the Battle of Valmy in September 1792. A notable part in that brilliant victory for France was played by Kilmaine with some squadrons of the splendid cavalry regiment to which he belonged, and during the day a body of hussars under his command saved a whole French division from annihilation. In November 1792 at the Battle of Jemappes, he fought with remarkable bravery, when that battle seemed lost, Kilmaine and the Duke of Chartres (the future king of France as Louis Philippe) turned apparent defeat into victory. On the field he was raised to the rank of chief colonel, and from that day was ever afterwards known as, "les brillant et courageux Kilmaine".

Kilmaine the Generous[edit]

He continued to serve with this army, and to be one of its most active and able officers, during all the sufferings which occurred succeeding the victory at Jemappes. It consisted of forty-eight battalions of infantry, and three thousand two hundred cavalry. In December, by the neglect of the Revolutionary Government, these troops were shirtless, shoeless, starving and in rags. Fifteen hundred men deserted. The cavalry of Kilmaine were soon destitute of boots, saddles, carbines, pistols and even sabres. The military chest was empty, and 6,000 troop and baggage horses died at Lisle and Tongres, for want of forage. Honourable testimony has been given to the unceasing efforts of Kilmaine to preserve order among his soldiers amid these horrors, he frequently endeavoured by private contribution to make out a day's subsistence for his men, who roved about in bands, robbing the villages around their cantonments at Aix-la-Chapelle, and in revenge many were murdered by the peasants when found straggling alone beyond their out-post. He was named general of brigade on 8 March 1793.

After the defection and flight of Dumouriez in April 1793, Kilmaine adhered to the National Convention, and by that body was appointed a general of division on 15 May 1793. He now redoubled his energies to restore order in the army, which by the defection of its leader was almost disbanded, thus, in one month after Auguste Marie Henri Picot de Dampierre took command, so ably was he seconded by Kilmaine, the discipline was completely established.

Kilmaine the Brave[edit]

He commanded the advance-guard of Dampierre in the new campaign against the allied powers, on the failure of the congress at Antwerp on 8 April 1793 and his leader bears the highest testimony to the gallantry and noble conduct of Kilmaine, in the "murderous affairs of the 1st and 2nd May" in which, according to the official report, he had two chargers killed from under him as he managed to fight off a determined attack. Six days of incessant skirmishing succeeded, during which Kilmaine never had his boots off, nor returned his sabre once to the scabbard, and he displayed the most reckless valour on 8 May in the Battle of Raismes, fought by Dampierre to deliver Condé-sur-l'Escaut.

The French were routed with great loss, Dampierre was slain, and on Kilmaine as an active cavalry officer and general devolved the task of covering the retreat of the infuriated and disorderly army, which fell back from Condé, which is a barrier town, and was then the nominal lordship of the unfortunate Duke d'Enghien.

François Joseph Drouot de Lamarche succeeded Dampierre and sent Kilmaine with his division to the Army of Ardennes, which formed a part of the theatre of war, on the invasion of France by the allies but he remained there only a short time, and rejoined the main army, which he found in the most critical circumstances.

The fall of de Dampierre and the arrest of Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine acted fatally on the army of the North, which was now reduced to about thirty thousand rank and file, and these remained in a disorderly state, without a proper chief, and without aim or object, its manoeuvrings committed to chance or directed by ignorance, for with the exception of Kilmaine, its leaders were destitute of skill, experience, and energy. Quitting the camp of Caesar, they returned to their fortified position at Famars, three miles distant from Valenciennes, the approach to which it covered. Here they were attacked on 23 May, driven back, and obliged to abandon the city to its own garrison under Jean Henri Becays Ferrand.

Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the North[edit]

He was named Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the North 17 July 1793. Kilmaine rejoined the army with his division from the Army of Ardennes, and his position became almost desperate. In presence of the scaffold erected by the Revolutionary authorities for all the vanquished generals, and in a camp where no suspected person dared to assume the precarious office of leader, when pressed upon him, he accepted the appointment provisionally, and in the meantime the representatives who were sent from Paris to manage affairs (and act as spies upon the army), reported

"that there be no other more skillful than Kilmaine to take the great responsibility of leading the troops of the Republic."

His presence for a time appeased the disorder in the army. Though upon the banks of the Scheldt, and having before him both the Duke of York and the Prince of Coburg, Kilmaine, with only 24,000 ill-appointed troops, he dared not attack them. The enemy in much superior numbers was threatening it on all perceivable sides, and only 40 leagues lay between it and Paris. If he fought and lost the day, he could thereafter assume no position of sufficient strength to prevent the allies from penetrating to Paris and crushing the power of the Convention. He dared not abandon the capital or retire beyond the Loire, as the tides of war and politics were setting in against them.

Kilmaine The Brave, accordingly carried out a masterly retreat, the Convention styled it (at the time)

"completely mutinous"

Imprisonment and release[edit]

Even at this epoch of deception and duplicity, and when political insanity and revenge were rampant, Kilmaine, who had rendered such gallant services to that new and most faithless Republic, had by a judicious retreat (executed against the advice of the meddling and presumptuous representatives of the people, and in consequence thereof perilled his life), preserved to France her most important army. And precisely for that reason, was denounced to the Convention. It didn't help that he had also became the object of suspicion on account of his foreign birth and his relations abroad. He was immediately deprived of his command and relieved from the army and sent into exile to Luxembourg. He accepted it all with calm dignity, saying,

"I am ready, to serve the cause of the Republic in whatever rank I am placed, and wherever set I shall do my duty."

In a short time, Kilmaine returned to Paris undercover, and retired with his wife to the Parisian suburb of Passy. There they lived quietly for some months. When the Reign of Terror began, he and his wife were arrested and flung into a loathsome prison in Paris, where he passed a year. One would think that being imprisoned as a foreigner, was an act of injustice which would weigh heavily on an officer who had given 30 years of unselfish devotion to France, had gone through nine campaigns and had fought in 46 battles. However in the obscurity of his dungeon, he got his reward, however strange, in that he had not perished on the scaffold like the gallant Custine, his predecessor in the command, like his old colonel and protector Biron, and like Jean Nicolas Houchard, who for the brief period of fifteen days had been his successor, and who, after winning a signal and decided victory over the Duke of York, was nevertheless executed.

Kilmaine narrowly escaped the guillotine and recovered his liberty after the fall of Robespierre in July 1794. By the influence of the more extreme revolutionary party, he was released immediately on an order signed personally by Lazare Carnot and remained for sometime in Paris with his wife. Without military employment, though eagerly and anxiously seeking it, he was not about to settle into his second retirement.

Italian Campaign[edit]

Kilmaine found himself there at the epoch of the insurrection of 22 May 1795, and with much zeal and valor he seconded Jean-Charles Pichegru in the struggle made by that officer to defend the National Convention against the excited mobs of the Parisian fauxbourgs. Amid a thousand dangers Kilmaine continued to fight for the Convention until the 13th Vendemaire of the year following, actively co-operating with Bonaparte and the revolutionary party.

Early in 1796 he set out with Bonaparte on the Italian campaign, and at the Battle of Lodi on 10 May contributed to the great victory by a brilliant cavalry charge. Later in September of the same year he was appointed to the onerous position of commander of all northern Italy. This campaign increased his high reputation throughout Europe as a truly brilliant officer.

Dagobert Sigismund Count de Wurmser

In October, while in action before the Austrians, who were commanded by the former French soldier turned Austrian veteran Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser. Kilmaine had his horse killed under him, and a rumor was spread through France and British Isles that he was killed. Wurmser made several furious sallies, and on one occasion was severely routed by Bonaparte. In the Courier du Bas Rhiuy we are told that the French repulsed him with the loss of 1,100 men and five pieces of cannon, and that "their dispositions were made by great General Kilmaine, commander of the siege of Mantua." Bonaparte, in his dispatch to the Directory, dated 1 October 1796 wrote thus,

Le General Kilmaine who commands the two divisions which press the siege of Mantua, remained on the 29th ultimo in his former position, and was still in hopes that the enemy would attempt a sortie to carry forage into the place, but instead they took up a position before the gate of Pradello, near the Carthusiaii convent and the chapel of Cerese. The brave General Kilmaine made his arrangements for an attack, and advanced in two columns against these two points, but he had scarcely begun to march when the enemy evacuated their camps, their rear having fired only a few muaket-shots at him. The advanced posts of General Vaubois have come up with the Austrian division which defends the Tyrol, and made one hundred and ten prisoners"

Early in December, Wurmser led an army, sword in hand, against Kilmaine. The Imperialists sallied out of Mantua before seven in the morning, and almost in the dark, under a furious cannonade, which lasted all day. Bonaparte noted

"But Kilmaine made him return, as usual, faster than he came out, and took from him two hundred men, one howitzer, and two pieces of cannon. This is his third unsuccessful attempt."

So energetic were the measures, and so able the precautions of Kilmaine, that Wurmser, seeing all hope of success end, surrendered, after a long, desperate, and disastrous defense, at ten o'clock on the morning of 3 February 1797, giving up his soldiers as prisoners of war. The following is a translation of Kilmaine's brief letter on this important acquisition,

Kilmaine, General de Division and Commandant of Lombardy, to the Minister of War. Milan, 17 Pluviose, 1797

Citizen Minister,

I avail myself of a courier which general Bonaparte sends from Romagna (in order to announce to the Directory the defeat of the Papal troops), to acquaint you with the capture of Mantua, the news of which I received yesterday evening by a courier from Mantua itself I thought it necessary to announce this circumstance, because General Bonaparte, who is occupied in Romagna annihilating the troops of his Holiness, may probably have been ignorant of this fact when his courier departed. Tho garrison are our prisoners of war, and are to be sent into Germany in order to be exchanged. I have not yet received the articles of capitulation, but the commander-in-chief will not fail to send them by the first courier.

Kilmaine.

The capture of Mantua was celebrated in Paris by the firing of cannon and the erection of arches in honour of Bonaparte and Kilmaine 'the Irish Commandant of Lombardy', and a grand joy was diffused through every heart in the city on the fall of what they styled the Gibraltar of Italy, while Bonaparte, loaded with the diamonds of the vanquished corrupt Pope, and the spoils of our Lady of Loretto, pushed on to seek fresh conquests and new laurels.

Celebrated Kilmaine remained for some time in command at Mantua after its capitulation before returning to Paris where he was duly appointed the title of Baron de Kilmaine Jennings.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armée d'Angleterre[edit]

In the spring of 1798, the French Government was seriously employed in preparations for a descent upon Britain and Ireland and planned to place Kilmaine in charge . In the February of that year, a grand march to the coast of the Channel took place. Forty demi-brigades of infantry, thirty-four regiments of cavalry, two regiments of horse artillery, two regiments of foot artillery, six companies of sappers and pioneers, six battalions of miners and pontooniers. The forces were led by eighteen distinguished generals of division, and forty-seven generals of brigade the most brave and able in France. Among the former were Kilmaine, Louis Alexandre Berthier, Jean Baptiste Kléber, André Masséna, Jacques MacDonald, Michel Ney, Claude Perrin Victor, and others whose names were to become famous in future wars as the marshal dukes of the great military empire. Headed by bands of music, the soldiers marched through Paris, displaying black banners, indicative of a war of extermination, and inscribed,

Napper Tandy

"Descent upon England, long live the Republic! May Britain perish"

On St. Patrick's day, the 17th of the following month, Kilmaine hosted a great banquet in Paris. Along with many Irish generals, O'Cher, Colonel O'Shee, and all the Irishmen in Paris. Other guests in attendance were Irish rebels James Bartholomew Blackwell, William Corbet and Napper Tandy, also there was the notorious American radical and intellectual Thomas Paine (then a political fugitive and pseudo-anarchist, who had been invited to attend by Kimaine). Irish republican Wolfe Tone had not been present at the banquet. He was hiding in Paris around this time and had been holding secret meetings with Napoleon (set up through Kilmaine) to discuss an Irish Revolution, as he detested many of the Irishmen in Paris, describing them as "sad, vulgar wretches, and I have been used to rather better company in all respects" he stayed well away. However all the corresponding members of the Irish clubs and malcontent party at home were also present. Many fierce end stirring political toasts were drunk, amid vociferous enthusiasm, among these, one in particular,

"Long live the Irish Republic, long live the Republic"

Thomas Paine

Speeches were made expressive of the rapid progress which republicanism had made in their native country, and of the strong desire of the Catholics and Dissenters to throw off the yoke of England, (that yoke which Kilmaine in his boyhood had been taught by his father to abhor and to hate). Irish rebel leader Napper Tandy, was in the chair for most of the night, on his left sat none other than Thomas Paine, and on his right sat Kilmaine, who, immediately after the banquet, had to leave Paris to rejoin his column of the army on the coast.

The future Irish Republic was enthusiastically saluted by Kilmaine that night, and every confidence (though merry) expressed in the accomplishment of his most ardent desire for the magnificent emancipation of Ireland.

Within days hundred's of gunboats were ordered to be prepared, and transports were to be collected at Dunkirk, to be protected from the British fleet by a Dutch squadron then at the mouth of the Scheldt. All of Britain was up in arms on hearing of an armament so formidable.

Meanwhile the condition of France was then absolutely desperate and wild. In April, Kilmaine returned to Paris, after having executed, by order of the government, a survey of all the coasts of France and Holland (then reduced to a province of the former). He was promptly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armée dAngleterre destined for the invasion of British Isles. The position of which had been meant for Louis Desaix, the hero of Marengo, was now bestowed upon him. As the supreme chief of command of this famous militia force, the eyes of all Europe were now fixed firmly on him.

French whispers throughout Europe at the time asserts that this expedition was destined, not for Britain, but in fact for Egypt, and that Kilmaine received the command of it, not so much for his great military skill, but as to deceive the ministry, supposing that the name of an Irishman would cause them to believe that the armament was destined for Ireland and so they named him General in Chief of the Arniee d'Angleterre, which never existed at all. Even if this was the case Kilmaine didn't know it. The number of transports was soon increased to over a thousand, and all the naval and military resources of Holland were pressed into the French service and managed by Kilmaine.

Colonel Shee, Wolfe Tone, General Clarke, General Humbert and Kilmaine, were by this time hard at work planning an Irish invasion. They were well acquainted with the extent of the military organization of the United Irishmen, and knew that by the close of the preceding year the people were well provided with arms, and knew the use of them. In the beginning of 1797, great quantities were discovered and seized by the British Government, who, in Leinster and Ulster alone, captured 70,630 pikes, with 48,109 muskets. If the Irish managed their projected rising, one cannot for a moment doubt what the result would be, once Kilmaine's formidable expedition landed in Ireland.

Irish Assault[edit]

Meanwhile Kilmaine's health was slowly declining. The duties of a 47 year old Kilmaine were alike harassing and arduous, as he had to superintend the equipment and organization of this vast force, composed of men of all arms and several nations, and he was repeatedly summoned to Paris, even in the middle of the night, by couriers who overtook him in his progresses, thus, though suffering under severe ill health. The Directory once brought him on the spur from Bruges early in July, and again from Brest about the end of the same month only to bring him back a few days later.

During the summer of 1798, the European press were full of words expressing admiration for Kilmaine.

Citizen d'Arbois, an officcer on the staff of Kilmaine, in a letter published a glowing account of Jennings in the Parisian papers of 7 August 1798, stating ;

"The eagerness with which our troops, both by sea and land, await the moment when, under the brave and brilliant warrior Kilmaine, they will engage the English, is the best pledge of our approaching success, and the defeat of our enemies."

Around this time too, a Brussels print states,

"We are assured that the French republicans shall be able to make a successful descent upon Ireland, the Belgian youth will be employed in that country under General Kilmaine, who, being a native of it, will there have the command of the French and Irish forces."

Doubts hovered in the minds of the Directory, even if there were none in the hearts of their soldiers and generals and long delays ensued. General Hoche, who was the main spring of the projected movement in favor of Ireland, had died. And Bonaparte, to whom Kilmaine, Tone, Shee, and others of the Irish patriots turned, had no longer any sympathy with their cause, as all his views were now directed towards a warfare in the East.

Paddy Kilmaine[edit]

By the beginning of autumn 1798, the Directory began to begin breaking up their boasted Armee d'Angleterre, and withdraw Kilmaine's troops. Upon this, Jennings came anxiously and lustily to Paris to plea with the government and the minister of Marine concerning the embarkation of the troops and departure of the fleet. His questions were waived, or left unanswered. They had now more important plans for him.

Of chef-commander Kilmaine's forces that did 'independently' sail to Ireland, their fate was sealed from the onset.

The first attempt from Brest, On 22 August, initially got off to a good start, about 1,000 French soldiers under General Humbert landed in the north-west of the country, at Kilcummin in County Mayo. They joined up to 5,000 local rebels, and drove the British from Castlebar, setting up a short-lived "Republic of Connaught".They were defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck, in County Longford, on 8 September 1798. The French troops who surrendered were repatriated to France in exchange for British prisoners of war, but hundreds of the captured Irish rebels were murdered by execution.

A second attempt in September, accompanied by Napper Tandy, came to disaster on the coast of Donegal and was unable to land, before eventually returning to France.

The third and final attempt, On 12 October 1798, under Admiral Bompard, with General Hardy in command of a larger force of about 3000 men, including Wolfe Tone himself, never had a chance. They attempted to land in County Donegal near Lough Swilly, but were intercepted by a bigger Royal Navy squadron, and eventually surrendered after a three hour battle without ever landing in Ireland. Tone was captured, taken prisoner and was tried in court-martial.

For some time all of Britain supposed the troops were led by the commander-in-chief in person and all the press of England and Scotland teemed with blustering or scurrilous remarks on "Paddy Kilmaine and his gang". In truth General Kilamine never embarked, although he certainly wanted to, as commander in Chef, a master tactician and without the blessing of his commander Napoleon, he superintended the departure of 6,000 of his troops from Rochfort and Brest.

Theobald Wolfe Tone

Broken Dreams[edit]

By the end of 1798 the army of England and its expedition were alike completely dissolved, and The Directory turned their ambition totally eastwards and to the middle East. Napoleon now wished to give Kilmaine command of the forces assembled for the great war in Egypt. But for the present his career finished on the coasts of France and Holland, looking out toward fighting Ireland.

The Directory's outright decision to abandon the project completely shattered all of Kilmaine's hopes of helping to achieve the independence of his native land. For some years an intimate friendship had existed between him and fellow Irishman Wolfe Tone (while the latter lived in Paris) and upon hearing of his friends arrest in Ireland, he strongly urged the French government to intervene in his case and to hold for Tones safety, hostages of equal rank chosen from the British military prisoners then in France. He assembled a petition and wrote a brilliant letter to the President of the Executive Directory, it reads,

Head-Quarters at Rouen 27th Brumaire, 7th year of the Republic. Kilmaine, General in Chief of the Army of England to the President of the Executive Directory

Citizen President,

From the assurances which the executive Directory has given, that the Adjudant General Smith, taken on board the Hoche, shall be claimed in a peremptory manner, it would be superfluous in me to request your interference a second time. But, as Commander in Chief of the Army, in which he served with such distinction, I consider myself as in duty bound to acquaint the Directory more particularly with that officer. His real name is Tone; that of Smith was assumed to conceal from the English Government his residence in France, and spare to his family in Ireland those persecutions which would infallibly inflicted upon them. Obliged, as he had been one of the most zealous and respectable apostles of the cause of liberty in his country, to seek a refuge from its tyrants in North America, he was called from thence, on the demand of the French Government, to co-operate with General Hoche in his first expedition to Ireland. He was then promoted to the rank of Adjutant General, and served the Republic in that capacity in the Army of England, where he was known to me in the most advantageous light, and had acquired, by his talents and social qualities, the esteem and friendship of all the Generals with whom he served. He was employed in the expedition of General Hardy, merely as a French officer, and ought to be acknowledged in that character; he had adopted France as his country; his right to be considered as a French prisoner of war is undoubted, and no one can regard him in any other light. I know not what treatment the British Government may reserve for him, but if it were other than such as any French officer, in a similar situation, has a claim to expect, I am clearly of the opinion that the Directory should designate some British prisoner of superior rank to serve as a hostage, and to undergo precisely the same treatment that Adjutant General Smith may suffer from the British Government. By this measure you may save to the Republic one of its most distinguished officers; to liberty, one of her most zealous and most enlightened defenders, and a father to one of the most interesting families which I have ever known.

Health and respect, Kilmaine.

Even though he garnered much support from prominent Frenchmen and even Napoleon, his appeal was strangely ignored much to Kilmane's profound disapproval. Subsequently Tone was found guilty and was sentenced to be hanged. He pleaded in virtue of his status as a French officer to die by the musket instead of the rope. Denied his wish, and before the sentence was carried out, he cheated and attempted suicide by slitting his own throat and died of his severe wounds days later.

Generalissimo of the army of Switzerland[edit]

At the beginning of 1799 Kilmaines health was now further deteriorating, he also had become greatly saddened by his friend, Wolfe Tone's death. In the Spring of that year, the Directory appointed him supreme generalissimo of the army of Helvetii, as they chose to designate Switzerland, thus reviving the ancient name of the people whom Julius Caesar conquered. The French troops already occupied Lombardy on one side, and the Rhenish provinces on the other. Thus they never doubted their ability to conquer the Swiss and remodel the Helvetic constitution.

48 year old Kilmaine accepted the command, and ignored his condition for quite sometime, until his rapidly failing health forced him to give up his baton to Massena and he was compelled to retire from active service for good.

With a sorrow which he could not conceal, he saw that army march which penetrated into the heart of the Swiss mountains, and imposed on their hardy inhabitants a constitution in which Bonaparte, under the plausible title of Mediator, secured the co-operation of the valiant descendants of the Celtic tribe of Helvetii in his further schemes of conquest and ambition.

Death[edit]

In a fragile condition Generalissimo Kilmaine left Switzerland and returned to Passy in Paris, where his domestic griefs and chagrins added to the poignancy of his bodily sufferings, for his constitution was now completely broken up.

Struck by a deadly malady he developed chronic dysentery, and died on 15 December 1799, in the forty-eight year of his age, at the very moment when the triumphant elevation of Bonaparte was opening up to his comrades a long and brilliant career of military glory.

He was interred with all the honors due to his rank and immense bravery, and a noble monument was erected in his memory. He had surely been the greatest of officers of all The Wild Geese.

Legacy[edit]

The Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Kilmaine's name on the Northern pillar, Column 05

He is historically honored at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where his name can be seen on the inside triumphal arch, on the Northern pillar, Column 05, Underneath is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I.

In the memories of Captain Landrieux, his aide-de-camp, Kilmaine is described as

"the only officer in whom Napoleon ever placed complete and utter confidence."

A generous man, he frequently supplemented out of his own private means the rations of his men, who with difficulty were prevented from deserting and more importantly kept alive.

In the Memoirs published by General Charles Tristan, marquis de Montholon, he wrote of Jennings,

"Brave and noble Kilmaine, being an excellent cavalry officer, had coolness and foresight, he was well fitted to command a corps of observation, detached upon those arduous or delicate commissions which require spirit, discernment, and sound judgment. He rendered important services to the army, of which he was one of the principal generals notwithstanding the delicacy of his health. He had a great knowledge of the Austrian troops, familiar with their tactiques, he did not allow himself to be imposed upon by those rumors which they were in the habit of spreading in the rear of an army, nor to be dismayed by those heads of columns which they were wont to display in every direction, to deceive as to the real strength of their forces. His political opinions were brilliantly moderate."

Wolfe Tone wrote of Kilmaine in his private Journal, one of his diary entries read,

"Clarke then said there were some Irish officers yet remaining in France, who might go, and he mentioned Jennings, who used to call himself Baron de Kilmaine, God knows why. I answered, that in Ireland we had no great confidence in the officers of the old Irish Brigade, so many of them had either deserted, or betrayed the French cause, that, as to Jennings, he had had the unfortunate misfortune to command after Custine, and had been obliged to break up the famous "Camp de Caesar", that, though this might probably have been no fault of his, it had made an impression, and, as he was at any rate not a fortunate general but a typical Irish soldier of fortune, I thought it would maybe better to have a Frenchman."

There is a personal portrait of General Kilmaine in the 'Hotel de Ville' (City Hall) at Tonnay-Charente, where his father Dr. Theobald Jennings practiced as a physician.

A monument was erected in his memory in Tonnay-Charente in the 19th century.

Rue du Général Kilmaine, a street in Tonnay-Charente was named in his honor, in the 19th century.

Descendants[edit]

Kilmaine married when he was relatively young and had at least one child. There is reason to believe that his wife 'Baroness de Kilmaine' died a few years before he did. There are likely numerous descendants of Jennings in Ireland, and as the pseudo-surname "de Kilmaine" (minus Jennings) survives to this day, also too in France.

See also[edit]

References[edit]