Harty, Oliver (1746–1823), Baron de Pierrebourg , soldier, was born 2 December 1746 in Knockaney, Knocklong, Co. Limerick, son of Thomas Harty and his wife Margaret Shee. While still under 16, he went to France where he joined Clare's regiment (later renamed Berwick's) as a cadet on 16 September 1762; three of his maternal uncles were then officers in the Irish brigade. He served in the Île de France (Mauritius) in 1771 and the Île de Bourbon (Réunion) in 1772 and was promoted sub-lieutenant on 20 July 1774. As captain of grenadiers he was decorated by Louis XVI with the Order of St Louis two years before the outbreak of the revolution. He was a committed republican; as a captain of Berwick's in Landau (1791) he had called on the corps to stand by France when the colonel, Bartholomew O'Mahoney, wanted to desert to join the royalists beyond the Rhine. In the event only a few seceded with O'Mahoney. When the Irish regiment was dissolved in 1791 due to a reconstituting of the army, he remained in France – unlike others of his fellow countrymen – and was promoted to colonel of the 88th Regiment (formerly Berwick's) on 13 December 1792 and major-general on 15 May 1793. Harty then volunteered for service in Santo Domingo, where he avenged the defeat of Governor Roxel de Blanchelande at Les Platons and was appointed provisional governor of the province. However, in 1793 he fell foul of Commissioner Polverel: he was accused of ‘incivism’ (as were many foreign officers serving France at the time), and was imprisoned for seventy days and sent back to France. During the journey he was captured and imprisoned by the British in Bermuda but managed to escape to Charleston. On his return to France he was vindicated, his rank was restored (18 May 1795), and he was employed in the Armée des Côtes de Cherbourg and the Armée des Côtes de l'Océan and was for a short time commandant of Montagne in Normandy.
While stationed at Morlaix he was visited on 29 October 1796 by Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv), and informed him of the arrest of his associates Thomas Russell (qv) and Samuel Neilson (qv) by showing him an article in the Morning Post. Six weeks later Harty took part in the disastrous Bantry Bay expedition as commandant of the Foreign Brigade, composed of the regiments of O'Meara, Lee, etc. After Rear-admiral Bouvet had hurriedly abandoned the bay, Harty (as the senior general present) presided over a meeting on the Indomptable with Generals Humbert (qv) and Chérin and with Wolfe Tone, where the decision was taken that weather conditions necessitated a retreat. Harty narrowly escaped drowning when returning to his ship, L'Eole. In his report (23 January 1797) of the expedition to the marquis de Grouchy, he denounced Bouvet's cowardice. In August 1799 he was appointed commandant of the Morbihan sub-division of the Armée d'Angleterre, with headquarters in Vannes. There he won an important, hard-pressed victory against the Chouans (royalists) at the battle of Grand Champ (25 January 1800) which led to his being commended by Gen. Berthier, minister for war. After war was resumed with Britain in May 1803, Harty, in the absence of Alexander Dalton, ADC of the war ministry, was given the task of negotiating with the United Irishmen. On 30 June he met with Thomas Addis Emmet (qv), who suggested that the French government should use Irish exiles to establish a corps similar to the old Irish brigade. This suggestion led to the formation of the Irish Legion, which was endorsed by a consular decree of 31 August 1803. Harty never served in it, though he had a crucial recruiting role and in 1805 acted for a short period as inspector-general when the legion was mobilised near the coast of Brest. Subsequently he commanded regiments in the Napoleonic campaigns in Antwerp in 1807 and in Westkappelle in the island of Walcheren. As commandant of the military district of Munster in Westphalia in 1813 he entertained the Irish legion at his headquarters; Miles Byrne (qv) described him then as ‘brave, honest frank and agreeable with no desire to show off as a great hero’ (Byrne, 115). A passport description of 1795 writes of ‘a handsome man, slightly over five foot ten, fair-haired, blue-eyed with an aquiline nose’ (quoted in Van Brock, 288). He retired from active service on 1 May 1814 with the rank of lieutenant-general, having been created (30 June 1811) Baron de Pierrebourg by Napoleon, an honour that was confirmed by Louis XVIII after the Bourbon restoration. He died at Strasbourg on 2 January 1823. From his marriage to Anne Marie de Grenveld, he had a daughter (who married Lt-gen. de Brice) and two sons, one of whom became a distinguished officer in the royal guards.