Charles Jennings Kilmaine



Kilmaine immortalised on the Arc de Triomphe
Although a product of the old Catholic nobility, Charles Edward Jennings (Dublin, 1751 – Passy, France, 1799) was only born by chance in Ireland.
“If I was born in Ireland, I owe it to the chance that retained my mother there during her pregnancy," he wrote. His parents, who lived in the Charentes region of western France, had already been naturalized French citizens in the 1730s. Yet Jennings himself did not move permanently to France until he was 11, in 1762, when he picked up the title "Baron de Kilmaine".

In a stellar military career, Kilmaine fought first for King Louis XVI in Senegal and in the American War of Independence and then for the new revolutionary regime in France at the battles of Valmy and Jemappes. Despite his battle honours, Kilmaine’s progress to the top was blocked by a certain amount of pettiness among his peers. One letter in the archives warns the War Ministry that it would "perhaps not be prudent" to confide a commander-in-chief position to Jennings because "he is Irish and republicanism does not enter easily into the heads of that lot."  But Kilmaine was finally nominated to the position of general of brigade in March 1793 and promoted quickly thereafter to commander-in-chief of the Army of the North. Kilmaine's name can be found on the North face of the Arc de Triomphe, along with that of other famous generals of Irish descent (Dillon, Clarke).
 
Passy in the 18th century
Kilmaine was briefly thrown into prison along with his wife during the Terror of 1793-1794, before playing an important role in Napoleon’s Italian campaign in 1796. Back in Paris, General Kilmaine became a firm friend of
Wolfe Tone and urged a prisoner exchange after the latter's capture by the British. He also helped Matilda Tone after her husband’s death in 1798. In the same year, he was appointed commander of the cavalry forces being drawn up for the invasion of England, but he fell sick and died a year later in Passy (now 16th arrondissement of Paris) according to some sources. However, one researcher points out that his will suggests he may have died in the Rue du Coq Héron (1st arrondissement), while his death certificate mentions the rue du Coquillère, just around the corner. The researcher points out that the family of General Kilmaine's aide-de-camp owned a number of properties in this district.


 Kilmaine's account of the events of May 1795
I have been unable to locate the site of  
Kilmaine’s residence in Passy, so I will concentrate instead on his exploits in the Faubourg Saint Antoine (11th arrondissement), where he was sent to suppress rumblings among the Paris working classes in May 1795. In his account of his actions that day, Kilmaine tells us he sent troops to search la maison Santerre, (located at the present-day 11, rue de Reuilly, 12th arrondissement) at the outer end of the Faubourg Saint Antoine to root out the assassins of Jean-Bertrand Féraud (member of the Convention that governed revolutionary France at that time) and to disarm the populace. After their search of la maison Santerre revealed nothing, Kilmaine and his men found their way back into the city blocked by a series of barricades. “We were welcomed by roars and the most awful insults uttered by a multitude of armed men and a great number of women—or rather furies—who wanted to cut our throats from what they said,” he wrote. Indeed, the women, according to Kilmaine, were “a thousand times more dreadful than the men”. Kilmaine finally got through the barricades by threatening the mob with canons, although his rearguard was forced to abandon its heavy weaponry. 
 
Plaque at the emplacement of "la maison Santerre"
Kilmaine regrouped further to the west, on the rue de la Loi (now called rue Richelieu, 2
nd arrondissement) before moving back to the Faubourg Saint Antoine. His orders were to sweep up the rue Saint Antoine and dismantle the barricades. “We went along the boulevards,” Kilmaine writes, “and then we took the rue Saint Gilles (3rd arrondissement) to the right and the rue de la Tournelle (3rd-4th arrondissements) to the left. I placed a column in the rue Saint Antoine and planted two canons at the entrance to the faubourg.” After firing off a couple of shots at rioters on the corner of the rue des Tournelles Kilmaine threatened them that “if they did not obey the Convention’s orders within the time prescribed, the faubourg would be reduced to ashes.” Order was restored.






----------
Select Bibliography
“Détails circonstanciés de ce qui s’est passé le 4 Prairial au Faubourg Saint-Antoine”, General Charles Kilmaine (1795)

Irish Soldiers in Europe 17th-19th Century (2010)
George B. Clark

Le général Kilmaine 1751-1799 (1896, 3rd edition)
Léonce Grasilier “

General Charles Jennings Kilmaine 1751-1799”, Richard Hayes, in Studies, vol. 23, nos., 90 and 91, June and September 1934

Comments