William Smith O'Brien at Ballingarry - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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sternly ordered him to lower his rifle, and, having removed some carts, he himself led the officer's horse through the barricade, as a sign to the people that the soldiers were not to be molested. The dragoons went on their way. O'Brien was not yet at war; and the villagers of Killenaul wondered what it meant.

All this while, from day to day, crowds of stout men, many of them armed, flocked to O'Brien's company; but they uniformly melted off, as usual, partly compelled by want of provisions, partly under the influence of the clergy. The last time he had any considerable party together was at Ballingarry, where forty-five armed police had barricaded themselves in a strong stone house, under the command of a certain Captain Trant, who certainly had the long-expected warrant to arrest O'Brien, but who was afraid to execute it until after the arrival of some further reinforcements. O'Brien went to one of the front windows and called on Captain Trant to surrender. Trant demanded half an hour to consider, and got it. During this half hour, some of the crowd had thrown a few stones through the windows; and Captain Trant, seeing that the people could not be controlled much longer by O'Brien, gave orders to fire. O'Brien rushed between the people and the window, climbed upon the window, and once more called on the police to surrender. At the first volley from the house two men fell dead, and others were wounded; and the crowd on that side fell back, leaving O'Brien almost alone in the garden before the house. [For a garden there certainly was; though whether the celebrated "cabbage" grew there, I shall not certainly avouch]. At the other side, Stephens and MacManus had been collecting some straw and piling it against the door, with the intention of burning the place and forcing the police out. But when O'Brien learned what they were about, he peremptorily forbade them to set fire to it. Why, I have never learned; but MacManus has since assured me that he almost kneeled to O'Brien for permission to go and fire his pistol into that straw; in vain. In the meantime, some priests made their appearance, and exhorted the people to go home and leave O'Brien to his fate: then, shortly after, sixty additional police marched up and relieved Captain Trant. "His friends, then," says Mr Doheny, "pressed Mr O'Brien to retreat, which he refused. By long and passionate entreaty they induced him to mount the police officer's horse and retire."

Through all these scenes, O'Brien preserved the same calm and impassive demeanour, exposing himself ever foremost where there was danger, as he was always wont to do: but mere bravery is only one, and a quite minor one, of the qualities which fit a man to kindle an insurrection under such discouraging circumstances. ...continue reading »

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