The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was on its last legs when a mini French army of just over 1,000 men, led by animal skin dealer turned revolutionary general Joseph Humbert, landed near Killala in County Mayo.
Skilfully avoiding British forces, the French plus a few Irish recruits they had managed to pick up, found themselves early on the morning of August 27 before the walls of Castlebar, County Mayo’s county town, where they finally faced the enemy.
It should have been no contest. The British had cavalry and artillery with a range of 1,000 yards. The French had only muskets effective at 100, but they managed to launch a ferocious bayonet charge.
Was it the fact that a new British commander had arrived just hours before the attack? Was it that many in their ranks secretly sympathised with the rebel cause? Whatever the reason, the British force fled from the field with such speed and enthusiasm that the encounter was dubbed ‘the Castlebar Races.’ The full story is in Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters.