Rebellion in Dublin 1798

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXVI

The rising did take place, but it was only partial. The leaders were gone, dead, or imprisoned; and nothing but the wild desperation, which suggested that it was better to die fighting than to die inch by inch, under inhuman torture, could have induced the people to rise at all. The ferocity with which the insurrection was put down, may be estimated by the cruelties enacted before it commenced. Lord Cornwallis, in his Government report to the Duke of Portland, declared that "murder was the favourite pastime" of the militia. He declared that the principal persons in the country and the members of Parliament were averse to all conciliation, and "too much heated to see the effects which their violence must produce." To General Ross he writes: "The violence of our friends, and their folly in endeavouring to make it a religious war, added to the ferocity of our troops, who delight in murder, must powerfully counteract all plans of conciliation; and the conversation, even at my table, where you will suppose I do all I can to prevent it, always turns on hanging, shooting, burning, &c; and if a priest has been put to death, the greatest joy is expressed by the whole company."

On the 23rd of May, Dublin was placed under martial law; the citizens were armed, the guard was trebled, the barristers pleaded with regimentals and swords, and several of the lamplighters were hung from their own lamp-posts for neglecting to light the lamps. The country people were prepared to march on the city, but Lord Roden and his Foxhunters soon put down their attempt. The next morning the dead were exhibited in the Castle-yard, and the prisoners were hanged at Carlisle-bridge. Sir Watkins Wynn and his Ancient Britons distinguished themselves by their cruelties.

The Homsperg Dragoons and the Orange Yeomanry equalled them in deeds of blood. The fighting commenced in Kildare, on the 24th, by an attack on Naas, which was repelled by Lord Gosport. Two of his officers and thirty men were killed, and the people were shot down and hanged indiscriminately. "Such was the brutal ferocity of some of the King's troops," says Plowden, "that they half roasted and eat the flesh of one man, named Walsh, who had not been in arms." At Prosperous the insurgents attacked and burned the barracks, and piked any of the soldiers who attempted to escape from the flames. This regiment, the North Cork Militia, had been specially cruel in their treatment of the people, who were only too willing to retaliate. A troop of dragoons, commanded by Captain Erskine, was almost annihilated at Old Kilcullen. But reverses soon followed. At Carlow the insurgents met with a severe defeat; and the defenceless and innocent inhabitants, who fled into their houses for shelter from the fire, were cruelly and ruthlessly burned to death in their own habitations by the military.