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This instantly convinced his excellency of the imperious necessity of that total change of system, which was soon after established throughout the kingdom, so much to the honour of the chief governor and to the welfare of the British empire. These posthumous acts of the extorted system of coercion in the final scenes at Wexford, will be properly noticed at present, before we draw the attention of the reader to the progress of the rebellion in other parts of the kingdom.
After the total evacuation of the town of Wexford by the rebel forces, under a general confidence that their proposal and Lord Kingsborough's undertaking would have been attended to and observed, General Lake entered the town on the 22d of June, in the morning, and remained there with his staff for several days, in the house lately occupied by the rebel Governor Keugh. Although the town were providentially not delivered over to be sacked and demolished by the military, yet almost all the principal inhabitants were immediately taken up, confined to gaol, and arraigned for treason. Captain Keugh had remained at Lord Kingsborough's lodgings, and after the surrender of the town two sentinels were placed on him there for two days, when he was removed to the gaol. Mr. Cornelius, Grogan was taken at his seat at Johnstown where he had remaited, unconscious of any danger until conducted to prison. Mr. Bagenal Harvey had gone to his residence at Burgy castle, in plenary confidence that the terms agreed upon with Lord Kingsborough, would be ratified; and under that conviction he sent some fat cattle into Wexford for the use of the army; but learning from the messenger who drove them thither, that no conditions whatever would be obtained, he hastened with the fatal news to Mr. Colclough. This gentleman had previously taken his wife and child to one of the Saltee islands, where he thought to have weathered out the storm of the angry time in a cave, which he had resorted to for concealment. Thither Mr. Harvey also repaired; they were all soon discovered, and the news of their being taken arrived in Wexford, while they were making the harbour in a boat. This attracted a great number of people to the quay, curious to see them brought in, and amidst this concourse Mr. Harvey, and Mr. Colclough and his lady were landed. The gentlemen were then led through the gazing multitude to the gaol, where they were confined in the condemned cells.
A court martial was instituted for the trial of prisoners on charges of treason. The Reverend Philip Roche was the first tried and condemned by this tribunal. Captain Keugh was the next put on his trial, at which he made a very able defence, but was also condemned. The entrance of the wooden bridge was the scene fixed on for the place of execution. The large
stature of the Reverend Philip Roche caused the rope he was hauled up with to break; but another was soon procured, and his life was ended with double torture. The head of Captain Keugh was separated from his body, and placed on a pike over the front of the court house. Their bodies, together with those of others executed at the same time, were stripped and treated with the utmost brutality and indecency, previous to their being thrown over the bridge.
Mr. Grogan was brought to trial on the 26th, but the evidence, which he hoped to obtain of his innocence, did not attend on account of the general apprehension that prevailed. His trial was therefore postponed, and he was remanded to gaol. Mr. Harvey was then put on his trial, which lasted for the best part of the day, and ended in his condemnation. Mr. Grogan's trial was then resumed; but this he did not expect until the next day, and consequently he had not been able to procure all the necessary evidence. It was indeed proved, that he was forced to join the insurgents, but this did not prevent a sentence of conviction. The condemnation of these gentlemen was afterwards confirmed by the Irish parliament, which passed an act of attainder against them, and a confiscation of their properties; on the parliamentary enquiry into the merit of these proceedings, it appeared that the court martial had not been even sworn; Mr. Grogan has been considered by very many as sacrificed to the violent temper of the times. On the 27th Messrs. Harvey, Grogan, and Mr. Patrick Prendergast, a rich maltster in Wexford, were ordered out to execution. They were conducted to the bridge, and there hanged: the heads of Messrs. Grogan and Harvey were cut off, and placed upon pikes upon each side of that of Captain Keugh; their bodies were stripped and treated with the usual brutal indecencies, before they were cast over the bridge! Mr. Colclough was tried on the same day, and condemned. On the next day he was executed, but his body, at the intercession of his lady, was given up to her to be interred. Mr. John Kelly of Killan, whose courage and intrepidity had been so conspicuous at the battle of Ross, now lay ill in Wexford, of a wound which he had received in that engagement; he was taken prisoner from his bed, tried and condemned to die, and brought on a car to the place of execution, his head was cut off, and his body, after the accustomed indignities, was thrown over the bridge. The head, however, was reserved for other exhibition. It was first kicked about on the custom house quay, and then brought up into the town, thrown up and treated in the same manner opposite the house in which his sister lodged, in order that she might witness the savage sport and horrid spectacle; the head was afterwards placed above that of Captain Keugh, over the door of the court house.
With this last bloody scene at Wexford the reign of terrorism may properly be said to have closed. On the 28th of June General Lake was ordered from Wexford, and a new system of mercy and conciliation was seriously entered upon. General Hunter, upon whom the command at Wexford fell on the departure of General Lake, found that the only severity he had to exercise was upon the gentry and yeomanry, whose sanguinary and vindictive exertions, it became necessary to check, lest the people should be goaded into a relapse. He soon gained the affections and gratitude of the people, who in consequence of that change of measures flocked in shoals to surrender their arms, take out protections, and return to their homes in peace.
The province of Ulster, where insurrection had been most of all dreaded, and where from the spirit of the inhabitants it would, if extensive, have been the most formidable, had hitherto remained undisturbed. On the 7th of June, a meeting of magistrates having been appointed in the town of Antrim for the prevention of rebellion, the insurgents, with design of seizing their persons, attacked the town at two o'clock in the afternoon, and soon overpowering the troops within it, very nearly gained possession. Major General Nugent, who commanded in that district having received intelligence of the intended rising, had ordered a body of troops to march to Antrim, who arrived after the rebels had taken possession of the town. They then attacked the insurgents in the town, but their van guard, consisting of cavalry, being repulsed with the loss of twenty three men killed and wounded, of which three were officers, Colonel Durham who commanded the troops, brought the artillery to batter the town, which obliged the insurgents to abandon it, together with a six pounder which they had brought with them, and two curricle guns which they had taken from the king's army. They were pursued towards Slane's castle and Randal's town with considerable slaughter; on this day Lord O'Neil was mortally wounded.* A small body made an unsuccessful assault on the town of Larne, and some feeble attempts were also made at Ballymena and Ballycastle. The main body of these northern insurgents retired to Donegar Hill, where, disgusted with their want of success and other circumstances, they agreed to surrender their arms, and almost all of them dispersed.
On the 8th of June another body of insurgents in the county of Down near Saintfield, under the command of a Dr. Jackson, set fire to the house of a man named Mackee, an informer
He had ridden into the town to attend the meeting of the magistrates, not knowing that the rebels were in possession of it. He shot one who had seized the bridle of his horse, after which he was dragged from his saddle, and so wounded with pikes that he died in a few days.
against the United Irishmen. They placed themselves the next day in ambuscade, and nearly surrounded a body of troops under Colonel Stapleton, consisting of York fencibles and yeo men cavalry, of whom they killed about sixty: the infantry, however, on whom the cavalry had been driven back in confusion, rallying with a coolness not very common in this war, dislodged and dispersed the rebels, and after a stay of two hours on the field of battle, retreated to Belfast.
Little discouraged by this defeat, in which their loss was very small, the rebels reassembled, and took post at Ballynahinch on the Windmill hill, and at the house and in the demesne of Lord Moira. On the 12th General Nugent marching from Belfast, and Colonel Stewart from Downpatrick, formed with fifteen. hundred men a junction near the Windmill hill, of which they gained possession, together with the town, which before the action, they wantonly set on fire. The action was maintained about three hours with artillery with little or no execution, at length the Monaghan regiment of militia, posted with two field pieces at Lord Moira's great gate, was attacked with such determined fury by the pikemen of the insurgents, that it fell back in confusion on the Hillsborough cavalry; they likewise fell back in disorder. The want of discipline in the insurgents lost what their valour had gained. The disordered troops found means to rally, while the Argyleshire fencibles, entering the demesne, were making their attack on another side. The insurgents, confused and distracted, retreated up the hill, and making a stand at the top, at a kind of fortification, defended the post for some time with great courage, but at length gave way and dispersed in all directions. Their loss exceeded a hundred; that of the royal army not above half that number. The main body of these insurgents retired to the mountains of Slyeeve Croob, where they soon surrendered or separated, returning to their several homes; and thus terminated this short and partial, but active insurrection in the north, in the course of which some slighter actions had taken place, particularly at Portaferry, where they were repulsed by the yeomanry; they also set fire to a revenue cruizer in which forty men perished. On the subsiding of this local insurgency in the north eastern quarter of the island, another insurgency of less force commenced in the opposite south western quarter, in the county of Cork. The principal action, and the only one, which government has thought proper to communicate to the public, took place near the village of Ballynascarty, where on the 19th of June, two hundred and twenty men of the Westmeath regiment of militia, with two six pounders, under the command of their Lieutenant Colonel, Sir Hugh O'Reilly, were attacked on their march from Clognakelty to
Bandon, by a body of between three and four hundred men, armed almost all with pikes. This was only a part of the rebel force, here placed in ambush in a very advantageous position. The attack was made from an height on the left of the column, so unexpectedly and rapidly, that the troops had scarcely time to form; and at that critical moment, a hundred men of the Caithness legion arrived on the spot, and by a brisk fire helped to put the assailants to flight; their loss amounted to between fifty and a hundred men; that of the royal troops, by the commander's account, only to a serjeant and one private.
Fortunately for the country, the new system of moderation gained ground through the most disturbed parts of the country, and carried with it the happiest effects. General Hunter, at Wexford, Brigadier General Grose, stationed under him at Enniscorthy, and General Gascoyne, quartered at Ross with the Coldstream regiment of Guards, exhibited the blessed effects of the reverse of that system of coercive severity, which had been productive of so much evil to that unfortunate country.
The main body of the Wexford insurgents, supposed to be fifteen thousand in number, having lost most of those leaders who were men of education and property, directed its march, under Father John Murphy, north-westward to Scollogh-gap, an opening in the great ridge of Mount Leinster, which separates the counties of Wexford and Carlow, with intention to penetrate into Kilkenny, in hopes of raising the colliers about Castlecomer, who had been in a state of disturbance in the year 1793: upon entering the gap, they dispersed some troops, who opposed their progress, and burned the little town of Killedmond. They also defeated a small body of the 4th dragoon guards, and of the Wexford militia, who disturbed their passage over the river Barrow; some few were killed, and twenty-seven taken prisoners, of whom, seven condemned as Orange-men, were shot. This horrible function, it is reported, their fellow soldiers were forced to execute. Major General Sir Charles Asgill, who had marched with a force of about a thousand men, to seize the post of New-bridge, arrived too late to stop the progress of the rebel army, which by a rapid movement had pre-occupied that post, where they passed the night.
The general was likewise on the following day too late at Castlecomer for the protection of the town. On the next morning the rebel troops descended from the heights upon Castlecomer, and defeated a body of about two hundred and fifty men, who opposed them at Coolbawn, a mile and a half from that town, of whom they killed about fifty. The town was set on fire, and of this conflagration each party accuses the other.*
*Notwithstanding the constant charges of this contest having become a religious war, it must be allowed that to the last, the innate and cordial enemy