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right by a natural rising of the ground, until the enemy leaving their cover should advance to an open attack. This open attack was made three times in most formidable force, the assailants rushing within a few yards of the cannon mouths; but they were received with so close and effective a fire, that they were repulsed with great slaughter in every attempt. The Durhams were not only exposed to the fire of the enemy's small arins, but were also galled by their cannon. General Needham who in riding from post to post exposed himself to the enemy's fire, fearing to be overpowered by numbers began to talk of a retreat: to which Colonel Skerret spiritedly replied to the general, that they could not hope for victory otherwise than by preserving their ranks if they broke, all was lost: he knew the spirit of his corps, and could never bear the idea of its giving ground. By this magnanimous answer of the colonel the general was diverted some time from his scheme of a retreat, and in that time the business was decided by the retreat of the rebels, who re tired in despair, when frustrated in their most furious assault, and dispirited by the death of Father Michael Murphy, who. was killed by a cannon shot, within thirty yards of the Durham line, while he was leading his people to the attack.
The battle of Arklow, though not altogether the most bloody, was perhaps the most important of this civil war, since it most probably decided the fate of Ireland. As the rebels were not pursued (pursuit would have been hazardous, at the close of the evening), they carried away most of their wounded, so that their loss could not be ascertained, but is reported to have amounted to three or four hundred. The loss of the Durham regiment, out of three hundred and sixty men, of which it consisted, was twenty privates killed and wounded. The loss of men sustained by the rest of the army never was accurately ascertained, but was smaller than might have been expected: for though the weight of the combat lay on the Durhams, the action was every where warm, and the defence bravely maintained. The rebels' guns having been generally worked by the artillery men they had taken prisoners, were designedly pointed too high, which accounts for the paucity of the slain on the king's side.*
A very warm contest subsists between Sir Richard Musgrave and the Rev. Mr. Gordon, relative to their respective representations of the conduct of General Needham in this action: for the particulars of which, see the Appendix to the second edition of Mr. Gordon's History of the Rebellion, No. IX. The following was the official account of this battle:
"Dublin, 10th June, 1798.
"ACCOUNTS were received early this morning by Lieutenant "General Lake, from Major General Needham, at Arklow, stating that the "rebels had, in great force, attacked his position in Arklow, at six o'clock
The town of Wexford was the prime seat or head quarters of the rebellion in the south. It remained in the possession of the rebel force about three weeks; namely, from the 30th of May to the 21st of June. During this space of time it was the melancholy scene of much distress and cruelty: and afterwards became the object of much more obloquy and defamation than the real horrors, great as they were, would justify. The sanguinary and vindictive turn the insurgency had very early taken, rendered submission to either, alike dreadful to both parties respectively. On the evacuation of the town by the military, all the vessels lying in the harbour were instantly crowded with fugitives, who dreaded nothing so much as to fall into the hands of the rebels. The quays and every avenue leading to the water side, were crowded with men, women, and children, begging in the most pitiable manner, to be admitted on board the vessels. They were filled in every part. On seeing the flames of the toll-house and bridge, all the vessels weighed and stood towards the mouth of the harbour, where they cast anchor. About one o'clock, a white flag was seen flying in Wexford (a signal that the rebels were in possession of the town); all the captains answered the signal, except two, who sailed for Wales. They then again weighed anchor, and stood for the town, where they soon landed all their passengers to share the fate of their neighbours.
The rebels who entered the town, were headed by Edward Roche, a farmer, who had been permanent serjeant in Colonel Le Hunte's corps of yeomen cavalry, from which he had lately deserted, and become a rebel general. They immediately by acclamation appointed Gen. Keugh governor and commandant of the town; and bore him on their shoulders to the courthouse. This extraordinary man, having been a private in his majesty's service, had risen to the rank of captain-lieutenant in the 6th regiment, in which he served in America. He was a man of engaging address, and of that competency of fortune, which enabled him to live comfortably in Wexford. Proud and ambitious, he appreciated his own abilities too highly and in clubs and coffee-houses, he had long been in the habit of censuring the corruptions of government, and was so violent an advocate for reform, that the lord chancellor had deprived him of the commission of the peace, in the year 1796. In order to intro
"yesterday evening. They advanced in an irregular manner, and extended "themselves for the purpose of turning his left flank, his rear and right flanks being strongly defended by the town and barrack of Arklow. Upon their "endeavouring to enter the lower end of the town, they were charged by the "40th Dragoon Guards, 5th Dragoons, and Ancient Britons, and completely "routed. All round the other points of the position, they were defeated with "much slaughter. The loss of his majesty's troops was trifling, and their behaviour highly gallant."
duce some order into the town, the rebels chose certain persons to distribute provisions, and for that purpose to give tickets to the inhabitants to entitle them to a rateable portion of them, according to the number of inhabitants in each house. Many habitations of the Protestants who had made their escape were plundered, some of them were demolished, and but few of those who remained in the town were spared. Most of the Protestant men were committed to prison, except a few leaders who were really attached to their cause, or who affected to be so to save their lives, or those who concealed themselves.
Although several of the Protestant inhabitants of Wexford were imprisoned, they were those only, whom the rebels considered the most obnoxious.* It has been asserted by one author, with a mischievous mixture of truth and falsehood, that "those who could obtain written protections from the Popish "clergy, whose influence was unbounded, or from the rebel "leaders, were not molested." It is a most lamentable truth, that during the tumultuary rule of this ferocious and enflamed rabble, many partial, though premeditated and cruel murders without any form or pretence of trial, were perpetrated in Wex ford, with a savage affectation of solemnity, in order to excite and extend the sanguinary enthusiasm of this frantic multitude. An author of candour and credit has said, that he could not state with accuracy, what number had been massacred during the whole time of the rebels' possession; he believed it to have amounted to 101.
Most, if not all of the massacres perpetrated in Wexford were laid at the door of an infuriate sanguinary monster by the name of Dixon, a captain of a trading vessel, who was on board
The following rebel proclamation seems to justify the idea, that they had no intent or wish to spill the blood of any, who had not been guilty of acts of cruelty, violence, and oppression against the people.
Proclamation of the People of the County of Wexford.
"WHEREAS it stands manifestly notorious, that James Boyd, Hawtry "White, Hunter Gowran, and Archibald Hamilton Jacob, late magistrates of "this county, have committed the most horrid acts of cruelty, violence, and "oppression, against our peaceable and well-affected countrymen. Now we, "the people, associated and united for the purpose of procuring our just rights, " and being determined to protect the persons and properties of those of all “religious persuasions who have not oppressed us, and are willing with heart "and hand to join our glorious cause, as well as to shew our marked disap “probation and horror of the crimes of the above delinquents, do call on our "countrymen at large to use every exertion in their power to apprehend the "bodies of the aforesaid James Boyd, &c. &c. &c. and to secure and convey "them to the gaol of Wexford, to be brought before the tribunal of the " people.
"Done at Wexford, this 9th day of June, 1798.
Musgrave, p. 445.
"GOD SAVE THE PEOPLE."
his vessel with a large number of fugitives in the harbour, and was the first to re-land them: he had also behaved towards some of the ladies in his ship with brutal ferocity. This man had acquired an unfortunate ascendancy over the very worst and most fanatical part of this wretched assemblage. After his return to shore he was made a captain in the rebel army; which increased his influence, and extended his means of exciting the rabble, under the mask of zeal for their cause, to those inhuman atrocities, in which he appeared to delight. It happened, that some Orange furniture had been found by, the wife of this man (an inhuman prototype of himself) in the drawing room of Mr. Le Hunte, four miles from Wexford, particularly two firescreens, with emblematical figures; Dixon informed the mob, that his room had been the meeting place of Orangemen, and that the figures denoted the manner, in which the Roman Catholics were to be put to death by these conspirators; that they were to be first deprived of their sight, and then burned alive, without the exception even of children; and particularly that the seamen of that communion were to be roasted to death on red-hot anchors. Mr. Le Hunte, who hadhither to been permitted to remain with little molestation in a private house in the town, was instantly dragged into the street by the rabble, who would soon have torn him in pieces, if he had not been saved by the exertions of two Catholic gentlemen, who commanded an influence upon the people, named Edward Hay, and Robert Carty, who hurried him into the gaol, under pretence of bringing him to trial, and parried in the crowd the thrusts of the pikes, two of which, in spite of their endeavours, wounded him slightly in the back.*
The number of Protestants in the town of Wexford, when it fell into the hands of the rebels, did not merely consist of the inhabitants of that town and its environs, but had been greatly encreased by the assemblage of refugees and prisoners from more distant parts of the country. Of these, about 260 were confined in the gaol and other places of imprisonment: several were confined in their own houses: the dread of massacre fell indiscriminately upon them all. In the perturbed state of a tumultuary assemblage of individuals so credulous, so irritable, and so ferocious, it would be useless to investigate the particu
Gordon, second edition, p. 178. This Mr. Hay, in 1802, wrote a very interesting letter to Mr. Gordon on some mis-statements in the first edition of his history, which the reverend author has had the candour to publish at full length in the Appendix to his second edition, and is to be seen in Appendix, No. CXIII. This gentleman (ibid.) says he is convinced, that Mr. Hay had no command among the rebels, and exerted himself only to save lives and property. Mr. Edward Hay has, since the publication of the Rev. Mr. Gordon's second edition, published a history of the insurrection of Wexford.
lar cause, motive, or incentive to each particular massacre. On the 6th day of June, under an order from Enniscorthy, ten prisoners at Wexford were selected for execution, and suffered accordingly. Conjectures have been hazarded, why such orders emanated from Enniscorthy rather than from Wexford. The natural inference from the limitation of the victims to half a score, is that the rebels, who avowed to act upon the principles of retaliation, had received information that a similar number of their people had suffered in like manner on the preceding day. Bloody as the rebels are represented to have been, there could have been no other reason for their limiting their lust for murder to the particular number of ten. It has been said,* that a general slaughter of the prisoners was twice in vain attempted by the sanguinary Dixon, at the head of bands of peasants. He was magnanimously opposed, first by one Hore, a butcher, and next by one Scallion, a nautical trader; the former with a sword, the latter with a pistol, defying him to single combat, and insisting, that he must shew himself a man before he should dare to put defenceless men to death. ever fatal influence was practised by some individuals over the most profligate and infuriated fanatics of the multitude, the leaders of the rebels most solemnly disclaimed every idea of cruelty, and strongly recommended brotherly love and affection towards their countrymen of every religious persuasion.† influx of fugitive rebels from the northern parts of the county into Wexford, by retailing some facts, and exaggerating or inventing more tales of cruelties, horrors, and barbarities committed upon them by the soldiery, had excited an unaccountable degree of ferociousness and revenge in the rebel multitude. The rage for retaliation which operated as strongly from the representation of false as of true facts, the barbarous Dixon enflamed by whiskey, and supported by the most inhuman exhortations. This monster had before assumed into his own hands a summary administration of justice, and by having exercised it upon an individual, whose character and conduct were odious to the multitude, had acquired from them a degree of credit in selecting the objects of his severity.
The Rev. Mr. Dixon, his relative, a Roman Catholic clergyman, having been sentenced to transportation, had been sent off to Duncannon Fort the day preceding the insurrection; he was found guilty on the testimony of one Francis Murphy, whose evidence was positively contradicted by three other witnesses. Under these circumstances, Dixon took a summary
Gordon, second edition, p. 180.
See the proclamations, signed B. B. Harvey, on the 6th of June, and by Edward Roche, on the 7th, in the Appendix, No. CXIV.