Bagenal Beauchamp Harvey

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Harvey, Bagenal Beauchamp, an estated gentleman of about £3,000 a year, in the County of Wexford, and a barrister, commander of the Wexford insurgents in 1798. He was born about 1762, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, studied at the Middle Temple, and was called to the Bar in 1782. Madden says that before the Insurrection of 1798 he "was in tolerable practice as a barrister, and was extremely popular with all parties. He was high-spirited, kind-hearted, and good-tempered, fond of society, given to hospitality, and especially esteemed for his humane and charitable disposition towards the poor."

He resided at Bargy Castle, and when the insurgents took the field in May 1798, in the north of the county, Harvey, with his friends Colclough and FitzGerald, was immediately imprisoned in Wexford on suspicion. After the defeat of the royalists at the Three Rocks, Wexford was evacuated by the small garrison that remained, and the prisoners were on 30th May released by the inhabitants, who implored Harvey to intercede with the insurgents for the safety of the town. This he did; and upon its being occupied by the insurgents he was appointed Commander-in-chief.

A provisional government was established, and with the exception of the barbarous massacre of ninety-seven Protestants on the bridge, and the inevitable requisitions for provisions incidental to all military occupations, their lives and property were secured to the inhabitants. Nearly the whole of Wexford County was soon in the possession of the insurgents, frightful atrocities being committed on both sides, and it was necessary that New Ross should be taken, so as to open communication with those ready to rise in other counties. Accordingly, on 4th June, the Wexford force under Harvey marched out, and having been joined by a contingent from the camp at Carrickbyrne, they concentrated at Corbet Hill for the attack on New Ross. It is said that the evening before the battle was spent by Harvey and the insurgent officers in a carouse, from which they had scarcely recovered when the engagement began. At first the insurgents carried all before them, drove the troops from their intrenchments, through the town, and across the bridge into the County of Kilkenny.

Instead of following up their success, as regular troops would have done, they commenced drinking and pillaging; and when the royalists returned to the support of a brave party that still held the market-house, they were able to retrieve their losses, and the insurgents were slaughtered almost like sheep to the number perhaps of 2,500. After the engagement a straggling band of insurgents set fire to a barn at Scullaboge, containing 120 fugitives, in retaliation, it is said, for the previous burning of an insurgent hospital containing nearly 100 patients, by the troops at Enniscorthy. During the battle of Ross, Harvey and his aide-de-camp, Mr. Gray, a Protestant attorney, spent most of the day on a neighbouring hill, almost inactive spectators of the fight. In the retreat, on seeing the blackened walls of Scullaboge barn, he remarked to a friend: "I see now the folly of embarking in this business with these people: if I succeed, I shall be murdered by them; if they are defeated I shall be hanged."

After these events Mr. Harvey was deposed from the supreme command, and appointed president of the council of government. The battle of Vinegar Hill was lost by the insurgents on 21st June, and next day Wexford was re-occupied by the King's troops. Harvey and Colclough, with the wife of the latter, took refuge on one of the Saltee Islands. They were pursued, and after a long search were found concealed in a cave, disguised as peasants. Harvey was tried by court-martial and executed on Wexford bridge on the 28th June, with Mr. Grogan, Captain Keugh, Governor of the city, and numbers of others. He met his fate reverently and bravely. His body was cast into the river, and his head spiked on the Court-house. The body was ultimately recognized by some friends and buried at Mayglass, a few miles south of Wexford. A Bill of attainder was passed against him, but his property was, in 1829, restored to his brother James.

Sources

331. United Irishmen, their Lives and Times: Robert R. Madden, M.D. 4 vols. London, 1858-'60.

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