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Local Studies Department

The 1798 Rebellion in County Kildare

May 26th - 31st

Saturday May 26th
(Battle on Hill of Tara; Rebellion breaks out in Wexford at Tincurry near Scarawalsh and the Harrow near Ferns)

Castletown 3.00 a.m.
Lady Louisa Connolly witnessed around 200 rebels "quietly" crossing the lawn at Castletown in Celbridge. They marched to Tara.

Rathangan 3.00 p.m.
A huge rebel force (5,000) led by Captain John Doorley of Lullymore, entered Rathangan. Spenser's (a yeoman) house was surrounded and attacked. Spenser and three others who were promised their lives were killed on surrendering. Some of the leaders like Martin Hinds and Edward Molloy were disaffected yeomen. One yeomanry lieutenant, Mr. Moore, barricaded himself and others in a Quaker house - he and six other Protestants were killed - in all 19 loyalists died and the rebels fortified the town.

Ballitore 26th
Abraham Shackleton, a Quaker from Ballitore, mediated with Colonel Campbell in Athy to allow the Rebels to surrender (unconditionally) in return for protection. Campbell agreed but their arms were to be surrendered by six o'clock. Some rebels wanted more talks and Campbell demanded six hostages and the arms to be surrendered by noon the next day. The rebels could not decide and Campbell's deadline passed.

Meath 6.00 p.m.
The rebels were routed at the Battle of Tara. Many of the stragglers crossed into Kildare to camp at Timahoe.

Athy 12.00 p.m .
Colonel Campbell marched his troops out of Athy leaving the town protected by Captain Rawson and the yeomanry.

Knockaulin - 26th
It is possible that the first overtures for peace and surrender were made by the rebels on Knockaulin Hill on Saturday.

Sunday May 27th
(The Battle of Oulart) Narraghmore & Ballitore - Midnight - 3.00 a.m.
Colonel Campbell force marched his troops from Athy to Ballitore. On the way they used canon to destroy Colonel Keating's (a known rebel) mansion at Narraghmore.

Ballitore 3.00 a.m.
Intelligence reached Ballitore that the army was on its way (the rebels fled). Major Dennis commanded the detachment of 9th Dragoon Guards that arrived from Carlow. They were shortly joined by Colonel Campbell and his troops. Some loyalist prisoners were freed. The retribution of the troops was severe - suspects were shot and hanged, even Dr. Johnson, Mary Leadbeater and the Quakers were horrified. Having made an example of the town they returned to Athy. While the United Irish Movement was broken the spirit of disaffection remained in the Narraghmore, Ballitore and Athy area for the rest of the year.

Knockaulin 27th
Negotiations, through Captain Annesley of Ballysax, were opened between Dundas and the 4,000 strong rebel army on Knockaulin Hill, for terms for surrender. The date set for the surrender was Whit Monday 28th May. Dundas was favourable to terms but the government were not. General Lake, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, was sent to oversee the surrender at Castlemartin.

Limerick 27th
Major General Sir James Duff left Limerick at the head of 60 Dragoons, 350 Militia and 6 field pieces determined to open the lines of communication with Dublin. The path lay through Kildare.

Monday May 28th
(Battle of Enniscorthy) Rathangan - morning
Lieutenant-Colonel Dunne at Tullamore ordered Lieutenant Colonel Mahon to recapture Rathangan. Mahon marched from Tullamore with 80 of the 7th Dragoon Guards and some of the Tullamore Yeoman Cavalry in two columns. He encountered rebels outside the town and killed 14 - 16 of them. Mahon attacked the rebels in the town but was repulsed by their well directed fire and lost three men.

8.00 a.m.
Mahon was joined by some of the Edenderry Regiment and the Geashill Yeomanry for a second attack on the town. They could not dislodge the rebels from the houses and had four of their men killed and two wounded.

11.00 a.m.
Colonel Longfield arrived at Rathangan with the city of Cork Militia, a detachment of Dragoons and 2 field pieces. After the second discharge of the canon the rebels fled pursued by the cavalry who killed 50 - 60 of them. Longfield wrote to Dundas the next day to say "I took no prisoners. The troops are in want of everything, the Rebels having destroyed everything in and near the town". Rathangan and its environs were in ruins. One of the rebel leaders Edward Molloy was hanged.

Knockaulin 28th
Delegates from the rebel camp at Knockaulin met Dundas and Lake at Castlemartin (Patrick O'Kelly from Athy and Patrick and John Finnerty from Kilrush). The only acceptable terms for Lake and the government was unconditional surrender in return for the issue of protections - the rebels to return home. The rebels agreed but would only surrender their arms on the hill. Dundas and 2 dragoons accepted this surrender on Knockaulin and protections were given. Seemingly Lake had a large force nearby in case things had gone otherwise.

Tuesday May 29th

Monasterevin 7.00 a.m.
General Sir James Duff marched from Monasterevin to Kildare with 7 pieces of artillery, 150 dragoons and 350 infantry "determined to make a dreadful example of the rebels". The rebels camped at Gibbet Rath (an old prehistoric Danish fort) on the Curragh were in the process of seeking to surrender.

Kildare Town 2.00 p.m. - Gibbet Rath (the Curragh)
" Tuesday 2 O' clock Kildare
My Dear Genl,
(I have witnessed a melancholy scene) We found the rebels retiring from the town on our arrival, armed. We followed them with the dragoons. I sent on some of the yeomen to tell them, on laying down their arms, they should not be hurt. Unfortunately some of them fired on the troops, from that moment they were attacked on all sides - nothing could stop the rage of the troops. I believe from two to three hundred of the rebels were killed.
[They intended we are told to lay down their arms to Genl Dundas] We have 3 men killed and several wounded. I am too fatigued to enlarge".
Yours sincerely
Maj. Gen
James Duff
General Duff to Dublin Castle (General Lake) May 29th Duff put a line through sentence in square brackets; the word rage was crossed out and replaced by anger which was removed and repalced by rage again. Two sentences in brackets omitted from the official government bulletin.

Wednesday May 30th
(Battle of Forth Mountain near Wexford; Wexford Town captured by the Rebels; Battle of Newtown Mount Kennedy)

Blackmore Hill (near Blessington)
General Duff dislodged the Rebel force encamped on Blackmore Hill with his artillery. He continued to Dublin where he was hailed as a hero by the loyalists.

A large force of rebels (c. 2,000) burned the Protestant charter-school at Carbury.

Thursday May 31st
(Committee set up in Wexford to supervise civil government)
Captain Ryan, who was wounded during the arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, died of his wounds.

Published by Kildare County Council

Written by Mario Corrigan .