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MILES BYRNE (1780-1862)

Miles Byrne was born at Ballylusk, in the parish of Kilanerin near Monaseed in County Wexford. He became involved in the United Irishmen with Anthony Perry of Inch who was the chief organiser in the area. At the age of eighteen he participated in the '98 Rising at Vinegar Hill Enniscorthy, Arklow and the last battle in County Wexford at Ballygullen on July 4, 1798.

Following the rising, he went on the run in the Wicklow Mountains and afterwards worked as clerk in a Dublin timber yard where his half-brother Edward employed him as foreman from 1799 to 1803. There he met Robert Emmet. He was in command of the Wexford men (group intended becoming involved in Emmet's failed rising but never did so) stationed at Coal Quay, Dublin, on July 23, 1803. Sometime between the failure of the 1803 Rising and before his arrest, Emmet sent him to Paris to support his brother Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet.

When the Irish Legion was formed by Napoleon he joined with the rank of Sous-Lieutenant; later he was promoted to Lieutenant and later to the rank of Captain of the Grenadiers. He fought in the Napoleonic campaign (1804 - 1815) and was retired with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel when the British Government forced the dismissal of the officers of the Irish Legion on half pay and disbanded the Legion. He received the Cross of Officer of Legion of Honour from Louis Phillipe on July 21, 1832.

He retired in 1835 after thirty-two years and seventeen campaigns in the French army. He died peacefully in his sleep on January 24, 1862 aged 82 years and is buried at Montmarte cemetery. His memoirs were published in Paris in three volumes by his widow in 1863. They were reprinted in 1997. Among the highlights of the memoirs are detailed accounts of Emmet's home made rockets and ammunition, the well-organised plans for revolt and a great description of the Dublin workingmen who formed the large part of his army.

John Mitchel who visited him when he was eighty years old described him as 'one of those rare beings who never grow old'.

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