What have you got in your hand?
A green bough.
Where did it first grow?
Where did it bud?
Where are you going to plant it?
In the crown of Great Britain
-- From the United Irish catechism
(Left: The crest of the United Irishmen)
In May 1798, in Ireland, where the native population had been forced to live as slaves by the despots who ruled over them, a desperate people rose up. In several places across Ireland, with little coordination or chance of ultimate success, these Irishmen and women sacrificed their lives in a futile attempt to free their nation from bondage. Though they didn't fulfill the dream of freeing their people, they did keep the light of Irish freedom burning, passing it to the next generation and they to the next. Looking back through the prism of 200 years, we continue to draw inspiration from their courage.
The Unfortunate Wolfe Tone, below right, in French uniform.
The United Irishmen, the revolutionary organization that led the '98 Rising, took its inspiration from the American and French revolutions which preceded it. Virtually all of the founders and leaders of the United Irishmen were Protestants, including the famous Theobald Wolfe Tone. The Rising of '98 is one of the most tragic events in the history of a country whose middle name might well be tragedy. In the space of just a few short months that summer about 30,000 people were killed.
Many of the dead were peasants who charged cannons armed with farm implements or crude pikes, and a significant number of them were women. The fact that so many would take the field so poorly armed, with so little hope of success, is another indication of just how far down the road to total despair England's corrupt colonial rule had driven the impoverished masses of Ireland. The rebellion was put down with as much violence as the British Empire could muster. Many who tried to surrender were killed on the field and many more executed afterwards. When it was over the British government forced an Act of Union on the Irish people that would prove to be another sad and tragic legacy of England's misrule of their neighbors.
In 1998 the Irish commemorated that vain attempt to push the stranger back across the Irish sea. On New Year's Eve, in Enniscorthy, a ceremony was held opening the year of commemorations. Touches were carried to the top of Vinegar Hill, just outside Enniscorthy, to commemorate the final battle of the rising in Co. Wexford.
From late January throughout the rest of the year the National Library in Dublin offered an interactive and animated exhibit telling the story of the Rising. The Down County Museum in Downpatrick had an exhibit on 1798 in Co. Down from April through December. The Ulster Museum in Belfast presents "Up in Arms: The 1798 Rebellion in Ireland" from April through December. On April 13, in Boolavogue they celebrated the official opening of the Fr. John Murphy Centre. Fr. Murphy was one of the leaders of the rising in Co. Wexford.
A Chronology of 1798
Feb. 26: Abercromby, Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, condemns the state of the Army. Mar. 12: Police raid meeting of Leinster directory of United Irishmen at Oliver Bond's house at Dublin, arresting 12 leaders; four others arrested elsewhere; all but two members of supreme executive thus arrested.
Mar. 30: Privy Council proclamation declaring Ireland in state of rebellion and imposing martial law.
April 19-21: Earl of Clare's visitation of Trinity College and purge of United Irishmen; 19 expelled.
April 25: Lake succeeds Abercromby as commander-in-chief in Ireland.
May 17-18: Meetings of new national directory of United Irishmen.
May 19: Lord Edward Fitzgerald arrested. (Dies from wound, 4 June.)
The arrest and mortal wounding of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, right. From a cartoon by George Cruikshank.
May 21-2: Trial at Maidstone, Kent of Arthur O'Connor and Rev James Quigley, United Irishmen; former acquitted of treason but re-arrested, latter convicted and sentenced to death. (Hanged, 7 June.)
May 23-24: Rebellion begins in Leinster, and spreads to Wexford.
May 24: Archibald Hamilton Jacob conducts the Enniscorthy Yeomen Cavalry to the village of Ballaghkeen where they flog a man to death. Thirty-five suspected United Irish prisoners shot in Dunlavin.
May 25: Twenty-four United Irish prisoners shot in the ball alley at Carnew. Four hundred and sixty United Irishmen killed in the unsuccessful attack on Carlow town.
May 26: Insurgents defeated at Tara, Co Meath.
May 26 - Battle of the Harrow.May 27: Battle of Oulart Hill, Co Wexford; detachment of North Cork militia and local yeomanry almost annihilated.
May 29: 350 insurgents killed at Curragh, Co Kildare, by troops under Sir James Duff.
May 30: Battle of the Three Rocks, Wexford town captured by rebels.
May 31: Establishment of civilian government in Wexford Town led by four Catholics and four Protestants.
June 1 - Battle of Bunclody.
June 4: Lord Edward Fitzgerald dies of wounds sustained during his capture.
June 4: Battle of Tubberneering.
June 5: June 5: Insurgents routed at New Ross, Co Wexford, after heavy fighting; massacre of over 100 Protestants by insurgents at nearby Scullabogue. .
June 6: Rebellion breaks out in Ulster: Henry Joy McCracken issues proclamation calling United Irishmen in Ulster to arms.
June 7: United Irishmen, led by McCracken, attack Antrim Town and are repulsed with heavy loss. (McCracken executed in Belfast, 17 July)
Capture and destruction of Carnew, County Wicklow.
June 9: Wexford insurgents, advancing towards Dublin, repulsed at Arklow.
June 13: United Irishmen led by Henry Monro defeated at Ballynahinch, Co Down. (Monro executed at Lisburn, 15 June.)
June 16: Engagement of the Wexford and South Wicklow United Irishmen at Mountpleasant, near Tinahely, County Wicklow.
June 18: Engagement at Kllcavan Hill, near Carnew, County Wicklow.
June 20: Battle of Foulksmills; decisive battle in which the New Ross United Irish division challenged the crown forces under General Sir John Moore.
Marquis Cornwallis sworn in as Lord Lieutenant
June 21: Wexford insurgents defeated at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy.
The charge of the 5th Dragoon Guards at Vinegar Hill, right. By Sadler, National Library of Ireland.
June 22: The famed 45-mile route march out of Wexford under Father John Murphy and Miles Byrne to Kiltealy, the Scullogue Gap and the engagement of Killedmond in County Carlow.
June 23: Engagement at Goresbridge, County Kilkenny.
June 26: Bagenal Harvey, a member of the United Irishmen, hung from Wexford bridge.
July 2: Execution of Father John Murphy and his bodyguard, James Gallagher, at Tullow, County Carlow.
Engagement at Ballygullen, Craanford, west of Gorey.
July 14: John and Henry Sheares executed.
July 17: United Irishman leader Henry Joy McCracken hanged at Belfast market-house.
July 19: French Directory authorizes the sending of three expeditions to Ireland and gives command of the first one to Gen. Humbert.
August 4: Thomas Addis Emmet, Arthur O'Connor, and William James MacNeven deliver to government their 'Memoir or detailed statement of the origin and progress of the Irish Union' (on United Irish movement).
Aug. 6: Gen. Humbert's force of 1100 men sets sail from Rochefort in three frigates.
August 7-14: Examination of MacNeven, O'Connor, Neilson, TA Emmet and Bond by secret committee of House of Lords.
Aug. 22: General Humbert lands at Cill Chuimín, Co. Mayo and captures Killala. Irish rebels rally to them.
Aug. 23-24: Humbert's Franco-Irish army captures Ballina.
Aug. 25: Cornwallis takes command of British forces in the field and sends urgent request to England for reinforcements.
Aug. 26-27: Humbert takes 1500 man force on a forced march through the mountains to the west of Loch Con and descends on Castlebar.
Aug. 27: Humbert and his Irish rebels defeat government forces at the "Races of Castlebar," a huge amount of supplies and guns captured. Humbert sends an urgent request for reinforcements to France.
Aug. 28-31: Humbert takes Westport, Ballinrobe, Hollymount, and other towns and proclaims a Republic of Connacht. Cornwallis holds back, assembling a massive army to crush Humbert.
Sept. 3-4: With the British closing in, Humbert evacuates Castlebar towards Sligo. His army is now nearly 3000 strong,
Sept. 5: English force under Col Vereker attacks Humbert at Collooney but Humbert outmanoervers him. Cornawallis has split his army and is closing in on Humbert. Humbert hopes to elude them and move toward Dublin.
Sept. 6: Humbert reaches Drumkeerin, Cornwallis sends a message offering terms, they are rejected.
Sept. 7: Humbert's army is nearly exhausted, as they reach Cloone in southern Leitrim. Cornwallis is only 5 miles away with 15,000 troops.
Sept. 8: Cornwallis blocks the road in front of Humbert, Lake's army attacks from the rear at Ballinamuck, Co. Longford. The French surrender after a half-hour fight. The Irish are given no quarter by the British, 500 are slaughtered, many more are hung later. About 1000 escape into countryside.
September 16: Small French force under James Napper Tandy makes brief landing on Rutland Island, Co Donegal.
Sept. 21-23: British Gen. Trench attacks the French and Irish left behind by Humbert to hold Killela. About 300 Irish rebels are killed, some while trying to surrender.
October 6: Grattan removed from Irish Privy Council on groundless charge of being a sworn member of United Irishmen.
October 12-20: French invasion squadron under Admiral JBF Bompart engaged outside Lough Swilly by British squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren; seven of ten French ships captured.
Nov. 3 : Theobald Wolfe Tone is arrested at Lough Swilley, Co. Donegal, aboard a captured French vessel.
November 10: Tone tried and convicted by court martial in Dublin; sentenced to be hanged.
November 19: Tone dies from self-inflicted wound in provost-marshal's prison, Dublin barracks.