Battle of Vinegar Hill

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXXVI. ...continued

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The camp on Vinegar Hill was now beset on all sides by the royal troops. An attack was planned by General Lake, with 20,000 men and a large train of artillery. General Needham did not arrive in time to occupy the position appointed for him; and after an hour and a-half of hard fighting, the Irish gave way, principally from want of gunpowder. The soldiers now indulged in the most wanton deeds of cruelty. The hospital at Enniscorthy was set on fire, and the wounded men shot in their beds. At Wexford, General Moore prevented his troops from committing such outrages; but when the rest of the army arrived, they acted as they had done at Enniscorthy.

Courts-martial were held, in which the officers were not even sworn, and victims were consigned to execution with reckless atrocity. The bridge of Wexford, where a Catholic priest had saved so many Protestant lives, was now chosen for the scene of slaughter; and all this in spite of a promise of amnesty. Father Roche and Mr. Keogh were the first victims of the higher classes; Messrs. Grogan, Harvey, and Colclough were hanged the following day. A mixed commission was now formed of the magistrates, who were principally Orangemen, and the military, whose virulence was equally great.

The Rev. Mr. Gordon, the Protestant clergyman whose account I have principally followed, as above all suspicion, declares that "whoever could be proved to have saved an Orangeman or royalist from assassination, his house from burning, or his property from plunder, was considered as having influence amongst the revolters, and consequently as a rebel commander." The reward for their charity now was instant execution. The Rev. John Redmond, the Catholic priest of Newtownbarry, had saved Lord Mountmorris and other gentlemen from the fury of the exasperated people, and had preserved his house and property from plunder. He was now sent for by this nobleman; and, conscious of his innocence, and the benefits he had rendered him, he at once obeyed the summons. On his arrival, he was seized, brought before the court, and executed on the pretence of having been a commander in the rebel army. He had, indeed, commanded, but the only commands he ever uttered were commands of mercy.

Well might Mr. Gordon sorrowfully declare, that he had "heard of hundreds of United Irishmen, during the insurrection, who have, at the risk of their lives, saved Orangemen; but I have not heard of a single Orangeman who encountered any danger to save the life of a United Irishman." With equal sorrow he remarks the difference in the treatment of females by each party. The Irish were never once accused of having offered the slightest insult to a woman; the military, besides shooting them indiscriminately with the men, treated them in a way which cannot be described, and under circumstances which added a more than savage inhumanity to their crime.

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