1798 Rebellion

A. M. Sullivan
c. 1900
CHAPTER LXXX. (continued)

The capture of Lord Edward, so quickly followed by the arrest of the brothers Sheares, was a death-blow to the insurrection, as far as concerned any preconcerted movement. On the night of the appointed day an abortive rising took place in the neighborhood of the metropolis. On the same day Kildare, Lord Edward's county, took the field, and against hopeless disadvantages made a gallant stand. Meath also kept its troth, as did Down and Antrim in the north keep theirs, but only to a like bloody sacrifice, and in a few days it seemed that all was over. But a county almost free from complicity in the organization, a county in which no one on either side had apprehended revolt, was now about to show the world what Irish peasants, driven to desperation, defending their homes and altars, could dare and do. Wexford, heroic and glorious Wexford, was now about to show that even one county of Ireland's thirty-two could engage more than half the available army of England!

Wexford rose, not in obedience to any call from the United Irish organization, but purely and solely from the instinct of self-preservation. Although there was probably no district in Ireland so free from participation in the designs of that association (there were scarcely two hundred enrolled United Irishmen among its entire population), all the horrors of free quarters and martial law had been let loose on the county. Atrocities that sicken the heart in their contemplation, filled with terror the homes of that peaceful and inoffensive people. The midnight skies were reddened with the flames of burning cottages, and the glens resounded with shrieks of agony, vengeance, and despair. Homes desolated, female virtue made the victim of crimes that cannot be named, the gibbet and the triangle erected in every hamlet, and finally, the temples of God desecrated and given to the torch, left manhood in Wexford no choice but that which to its eternal honor it made.

Well and bravely Wexford fought that fight. It was the wild rush to arms of a tortured peasantry, unprepared, unorganized, unarmed. "Yet no Irishman has need to "hang his head for shame" when men speak of gallant Wexford in Ninety-eight. Battle for battle, the men of that county beat the best armies of the king, until their relative forces became out of all proportion. Neither Tell in Switzerland nor Hofer in the Tyrol earned immortality more gloriously than that noble band of "the sister counties," Wexford and Wicklow—Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey; Colclough of Tintern Abbey; Fitzgerald of Newpark; Miles Byrne, and Edmond Kyan, in the one; and the patriot brothers Byrne of Ballymanus, with Holt, Hackett, and "brave Michael Dwyer," in the other. And, as he who studies the history of this country will note, in all its struggles for seven hundred years, the priests of Ireland, ever fearless to brave the anger of the maddened people, restraining them while conflict might be avoided, were ever readiest to die:

Whether on the scaffold high
Or in the battle's van—

side by side with the people, when driven to the last resort. Fathers John and Michael Murphy, Father Roche, and Father Clinch, are names that should ever be remembered by Irishmen when tempters whisper that the voice of the Catholic pastor, raised in warning or restraint, is the utterance of one who cannot feel for, who would not die for, the flock he desires to save.