Wednesday 29 May 2013

Eyre Massy Commander British Forces at La belle Famille


Looking into the British Commander in this battle has been a real eye opener, when he commanded at La Belle Famille Eyre was well in to his 60 year military service. In a time when most people never left their own county he travelled the world with the army. When he finished his service he returned to his home county of Limerick, where he became the first Lord Clarina.

"Nor yet blessed city is that worth no more,
Which first in fighting fields thy sons did claim,
Lo! Coote's strong arm controls the Indian shore,
And Niagara roam thy Massy's name. "

(An Address to Limerick)


The above was written in the 1760s by the Limerick poet Daniiel Hayes and refers to our Eyre Massy.

This and the information found below have been taken from The Old Limerick Journal written by Matthew Potter.

Eyre Massy purchased a commission in the army in 1739, and thus began a military career that lasted for over sixty years. he joined the 27th Foot, known as the Enniskillings, and became a Lieutenant in the Grenadiers. Massy had no sooner received his commission than he found himself on active service in war time. The year 1739 saw the outbreak of war between Britain and Spain. This conflict was known as the War of Jenkins Ear. It soon merged into a major war involving most of the European powers. It was but one of a series of wars which had begun in 1689, and were to continue until 1815. This second "Hundred Years War" was essentially a struggle for world domination between Britain and France, but various conflicts between the powers of continental Europe were also bound up in it. The stakes were very high - at issue was the future of North America, India and other parts of the world where the two great powers and their allies were opposed. The titanic struggle ended in 1815 and resulted in vast areas of the globe coming under the sway of the Anglo-Saxon powers.

Massy saw action in two of the most important of these struggles, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and the Seven Years War (1756-63). These were in the nature of world wars, with fighting in North America, the West Indies and India, as well as in Europe. In 1739, the British Government intended to attack and conquer large parts of the Spanish- American Empire. To this end, a fleet commanded by Admiral Edward Vernon set out for the Caribbean. In November 1739, Vernon and his forces captured the important city of Portobello in Panama. The 27th Foot, including Massy, played an important role in this battle, which was regarded as a great victory for the British forces. Massy and the other survivors returned to Britain in December 1740. In 1745-6, he served with his regiment in Scotland. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, had raised the Jacobites in rebellion, and the British Government sent a strong army to Scotland to crush the threat. This force was commanded by William, Duke of Cumberland, a son of George 11. Cumberland's army decisively defeated the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and the rebellion collapsed. Massy was wounded in the battle. His bravery attracted the attention of the Duke, who became his patron. In 1747, Cumberland promoted Massy to the rank of Captain- Lieutenant and it was due to the Duke's influence that he became Captain in 1751 and Major in 1755.


In 1756, the Seven Years War broke out. The most important theatre of war in the early stages of this conflict was North America, and Massy was sent there in 1757 as a Major in the 46th Foot. In 1758, he became Lieutenant-Colonel of this regiment. The following year was the decisive one in the North American campaign. The British invaded New France (Canada), the main French colony in North America, in force. An army commanded by General Wolfe captured Quebec, the largest city in Canada. A second force, commanded by Major- General Jeffrey Amherst, was sent to capture Fort Niagara, near the famous Niagara Falls. This move was intended to cut off Canada from the France's other great American colony, Louisiana. Massy was in command of the 46th Regiment, which formed part of Amherst's army.

His role in the decisive battle of La Belle Famille, fought near Fort Niagara on 24th July 1759, is a matter of some conjecture. His own account of this crucial episode in his career is set forth in the far from modest "Memorial of his Services", which is a very subjective account of his military career. He claims that he commanded the British forces and their allies in this battle and masterminded the victory against the French. The British army consisted of a force of 500 men from the 46th Regiment plus some Indians. The French army was much larger, consisting of 1,800 French and French-Canadians, and 500 Indians. The battle was hard fought, but the British emerged victorious, capturing all of the French officers except one, who managed to make good his escape. Fort Niagara surrendered soon after, and the whole of the Upper Ohio fell into British hands.

Massy claimed that this was the first engagement since the outbreak of the war in which the Indians were defeated. However, the standard accounts of the battle do not credit Massy with the victory. The actual commander of the army and architect of its success was another Irishman, Sir William Johnson. Shortly after the fall of Fort Niagara, Massy requested a transfer back to his old regiment, the 27th Foot. During the campaign of 1760, he commanded the grenadiers. His superior , General Amherst, led the British forces out of Oswego, New York, and sailed down the St Lawrence River to capture Montreal.

Blocking the way was the French stronghold of Fort Levis (now Chimney Island, New York). There the Battle of the Thousand Islands was fought, resulting in another British victory. Massy took part in this last battle fought by the French in defence of New France.


1 comment:

  1. Blimey this chap got around a bit! They should make a flm about him!