Sunday, 14 April 2013
14 April 1794: On this day General Arthur Dillon [likeness above], a soldier of Irish descent , was guillotined in Paris. The Dillon family were amongst the most famous of the Irish ‘Wild Geese’ who served in the armies of France in the 17th and 18th Centuries. He was born in England in 1750.
He was the son of Lady Charlotte Lee and Henry Dillon, 11th Viscount Dillon of Costello-Gallen, and cousin of Théobald Dillon (not to be confused with his brother, also named Théobald). His grandfather was general Arthur Dillon. He was the grandfather of Arthur Dillon (1834-1922), also a military officer.
He had a distinguished military career, seeing action in the West Indies and in the American Revolutionary War. He was briefly Governor of the Caribbean island of St Kitts and also of Tobago. He was the representative of Martinique in the National Assembly.
As the king called for the Estates General in 1789, Dillon was elected as one of two deputies of the nobility for Martinique. In 1792 he became a general and took command of his regiment and the left wing of the Army of the North under Lafayette. After the famous 10th of August, Dillon swore fidelity to the king and a week later was replaced by General Dumouriez. However, a week after that he was reintegrated into the army in command of a division under Dumouriez, where he took command of the advance guard. That September he served in the Argonne, but then in October returned to Paris to defend his conduct.
Back in Paris, Dillon was suspended of his command and then accused of conspiring with the enemy for having written a letter to the Landgrave of Hesse. Nevertheless, he remained free until July of 1793 when he was arrested. Imprisoned at the Luxembourg Palace, he was tried and condemned to death by a revolutionary tribunal. He was executed by guillotine on April 13, 1794. His daughter, Fanny Dillon, would go on to marry General Bertrand in 1808.
In June 1792 he received command of the Army of the North but fell into political disfavour with the Jacobins and was reduced to a subordinate position where he distinguished himself. However he compromised his security by offering the Austrians a chance to withdraw unhindered and was arrested and imprisoned. He was eventually accused of being involved in a plot behind bars called the Luxembourg Prison Plot.
He was executed with 20 others including his intimate friends Lucile Desmoulines and her husband. He was twice married and had two daughters. His daughter Fanny married General Bertrand and was with Napoleon on Elba and St Helena.
His name is commemorated on the North face of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.