“At Granard, County Westmeath, an ill-conceived and disorganised attack on the garrison was dispersed, while at Wilson’s Hospital in County Longford, an estimated 200 rebels were slaughtered in the hospital grounds after they had negotiated to surrender. Some United Irishmen from these defeated groups did manage to join the French only to be killed at Ballinamuck. The massacre of five hundred of rebels who were forced to flee after the French had surrendered was followed by the summary execution of the majority of the 90 insurgents who were captured. Further atrocities were committed by government troops in mopping-up operations in the recapture of Killala in County Mayo.” P. 26
“However, some atrocities committed by government troops had been given official sanction. Lake’s order of 24 May that no rebel prisoners were to be taken during the military operations became common knowledge throughout the kingdom ensuring that quarter was seldom given by either side….The voluntary ‘laws of nations’ that were the accepted rules of conduct of between warring European states, prohibited measures that were themselves unlawful, including the massacre of an enemy who had surrendered. In the 1798 rebellion these rules were ignored by many within the Irish military establishment, especially the yeomanry, who zealously followed Lake’s lead. An example was General Duff who authorised the massacre of 350 rebel prisoners at Gibbet Rath on 31 May after they had already negotiated terms with General Dundas. This was followed by the standard practice of dispatching all rebel wounded found on the battlefield, as well as the indiscriminate execution of insurgent suspects. Such actions were vigorously carried out by government troops at Vinegar Hill, where the rebel hospital in nearby Enniscorthy was burned while the wounded were still inside. These practices that were promoted by Lake were considered ruthless by many of his contemporaries, with Cornwallis giving a clear indication of the state of affairs in a letter to the duke of Portland on his arrival in Ireland: ‘The accounts that you see of the numbers of the enemy destroyed in every action, are, I conclude, greatly exaggerated; from my own knowledge of military affairs, I am sure that a very small proportion of them only could be killed in battle, and I am much afraid that any man in a brown coat who is found within several miles of the field of action, is butchered without discrimination.’ The responsibility of the atrocities committed by the government forces, including the militia, during the rebellion and subsequent French invasion lies with the high command. “ p.171-2
"At Ballinamuck, General Lake promoted the slaughter of the Irish levies by encouraging the cavalry to run the rebels down instead of accepting their surrender.524 Captain Pakenham, the lieutenant-general of the government ordnance, told the rebels to run before they were cut down but the warning came too late. Of the 1,000 rebels still with the French at the time of surrender over 200 were indiscriminately killed while either trying to surrender or attempting to escape. However, about 90 insurgents were taken prisoner on the battlefield only to be executed a short time later, including nine deserters from the Longford Militia who had joined the French at Castlebar. Prior to this the rebels in the midlands suffered the same fate. On 5 September at Wilson’s Hospital, near Longford, more than 200 rebels were hunted down and killed by a force of local yeomanry and Highland fencibles while the insurgents were negotiating a surrender, while at Granard an unsuccessful attack on the garrison led to a rout of the rebels and the massacre of more than 400 insurgents, many of them while attempting to surrender. The bloodshed continued with the end of the campaign in County Mayo, where 400 rebels were sabred to death by fencible cavalry in the streets of Killala on 23 September after their attempts to surrender were refused. Subsequently, the zeal of the military forces, especially the yeomanry, ensured that many innocent civilians, including women, children and priests, became victims of an unofficial counter-insurgent policy of extermination that remains a stain on the reputation of the Irish army of the period. " p. 182
REBELLION, INVASION AND OCCUPATION: A MILITARY HISTORY OF IRELAND, 1793-1815
University of Canterbury, 2008
A couple more cherries for consideration. Mr Stack presented a thoughtful and balanced thesis, fully referenced (Citation numbers removed for ease of reading). I am sure he would want that clearly demonstrated "The 1798 uprising was a tragic episode in Irish history that had political and social ramifications for future generations of Irishmen. Massacre and atrocities were perpetrated by both government and rebel forces, each feeding on long-held hatred that was sponsored by religious bigotry. A bloodbath ensued in the few counties where the rebels succeeded in gaining active popular support, especially in Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and Wexford, with the hated yeomanry and hundreds of innocent Protestant civilians being targeted by Protestant and Catholic insurgents.The rebels fought bravely, and though poorly armed and ill-organised, initially inflicted some reverses on detachments of government troops that mainly consisted of militia and yeomanry. ... It was only in County Wexford, where the combination of a number of factors ensured the rebellion gained significant popular support. Recent counter-insurgent operations, combined with the limited number of troops stationed in the county and economic hardship had inspired a number of Protestant gentry, as well as the Catholic peasantry, to rise against the government" p.27.
"Numerous atrocities during the uprising were initially inspired by the actions of government troops during the disarming campaigns, as well as religious fervour and fear promoted by both the Ascendancy and the republicans. News of such events quickly spread, fostering a hardening of attitudes and promoting a sense of desperation amongst the belligerents. Heinous acts were repeatedly committed by factions who now saw the conflict as a struggle for survival, typical of civil wars where the normal rules of society are disregarded. The temporary eviction of government troops from Wexford allowed many rebels to seek vengeance for past oppression by attacking and murdering loyalist gentry and citizens who had been held prisoner in the town gaol. News that troops at New Ross had hanged or shot every rebel they had found created hysteria in Wexford that led to the massacre of loyalist men and women prisoners at the town bridge by a republican mob. The other most notorious rebel atrocity occurred at Scullabogue on the day the United Irish were defeated at New Ross, where more than 100 loyalist prisoners, including women and children, and some Catholics, were burned in a barn after 35 men had already been shot in front of their families. Such incidents only promoted further murderous activity which ensured that the majority of deaths were suffered by non-combatant from both sides. pp 170-171
The opposite approach taken by Cornwallis towards the insurgents led to a less blood-thirsty end to the rebellion. When he took office as the lord-lieutenant and commander-in-chief of the armed forces in Ireland on 22 June 1798 he was convinced the actions promoted by Lake had left the rebels with no other option but to remain fighting: ‘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, most powerfully counteract all plans of conciliation.’ By this time the rebellion was restricted to guerrilla-style warfare in the Wicklow Mountains. In an attempt to end hostilities he directed General Moore and a force of regular troops that he could depend on to confront the rebels to ‘try either to seduce them or invite them to surrender, for the shocking barbarity of our national troops would be more likely to provoke rebellion than to suppress it.’... Ultimately, it was Cornwallis’s humane and just treatment of those insurgents remaining under arms after Vinegar Hill and Ballinamuck, but who had later surrendered, that convinced many insurgents to lay down their arms.
A very informative work, thanks for sharing. An English ancestor of mine volunteered from a Scottish Fencible regiment into a Highland regiment of foot while stationed in Ireland in 1799. This work puts that contortion nicely into context.
The extracts you've chosen (above) are sobering examples of the brutality of civil war. No glory there.