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mode of excitement; and here and there, unappalled and self-sustained, the desperation of maternal love, victorious and supreme above all lower passions. I recapitulate and gather under general abstractions, many individual anecdotes, reported by those who were on that day present in Enniscorthy; for at Ferns, not far off, and deeply interested in all those transactions, I had private friends, intimate participators in the trials of that fierce hurricane, and joint sufferers with those who suffered most in property and in feeling. Ladies were then seen in crowds, hurrying on foot to Wexford, the nearest asylum, though fourteen miles distant, many in slippers, bare-headed, and without any supporting arm; for the flight of their defenders, having been determined by a sudden angular movement of the assailants, coinciding with the failure of their own ammunition after firing, had left no time to give warning; and most fortunate it was for the unhappy fugitives, that the confusion of the burning streets, together with the seductions of pillage, drew aside so many of the victors as to break the unity and perseverance of the pursuit.
Wexford, however, was in no condition to promise more than a momentary shelter. Orders had been already issued to extinguish all domestic fires throughout the town, and to unroof all the thatched houses; so great was the jealousy of internal treason. From without, the alarm was hourly increasing. On Tuesday, the 29th of May, the rebel army advanced from Enniscorthy to a post called Three Rocks, not much above two miles from Wexford. Their strength was now increased to at least 15,000 men. Never was there a case requiring more energy in the disposers of the military force; never was there one which met with less, in the most responsible quarters. The nearest military station was the fort at
Duncannon, twenty-three miles distant. Thither, on the 29th, an express had been despatched by the Mayor of Wexford, reporting their situation, and calling for immediate aid. General Fawcet replied, that he would himself march that same evening with the 13th regiment, part of the Meath militia, and sufficient artillery. Relying upon these assurances, the small parties of militia and yeomanry then in Wexford gallantly threw themselves upon the most trying services in advance. Some companies of the Donegal militia, not mustering above 200 men, marched immediately to a position between the rebel camp and Wexford; whilst others of the North Cork militia and the local yeomanry, with equal cheerfulness, undertook the defence of that town. Meantime, General Fawcet had consulted his personal comfort, by halting for the night, though aware of the dreadful emergency, at a station sixteen miles short of Wexford. A small detachment, however, with part of his artillery, he sent forward; and these were the next morning intercepted by the rebels, at Three Rocks, [such was the activity and such the information of general officers in those days!] and massacred almost to a man. Two officers, who escaped the slaughter, carried the intelligence to the advanced post of the Donegals; but they, so far from being disheartened, marched immediately against the rebel army, enormous as was the disproportion, with the purpose of recapturing the artillery. A singular contrast this to the conduct of General Fawcet, who retreated hastily to Duncannon upon the first intelligence of this disaster. Such a movement was so little anticipated by the gallant Donegals, that they continued to advance against the enemy, until the precision with which the captured artillery was served against themselves, and the non-appearance of the promised aid, warned them to retire. At Wexford they
found all in confusion and the hurry of retreat. The flight, as it may be called, of General Fawcet was now confirmed; and, as the local position of Wexford made it indefensible against artillery, the whole body of loyalists, except those whom insufficient warning threw into the rear, now fled from the wrath of the rebels to Duncannon. It is a shocking illustration of the thoughtless ferocity which characterized too many of the Orange troops, that, along the whole line of this retreat, they continued to burn the cabins of Roman Catholics, and often to massacre, in cold blood, the unoffending inhabitants, totally forgetful of the many hostages whom the insurgents now held in their power, and careless of the dreadful provocations which they were thus throwing out to the bloodiest reprisals.
Thus it was, and by such insufferable mismanagement, or base torpor, that on the 30th of May, not having raised their standard before the 26th, the rebels had already possessed themselves of the county of Wexford, in its whole southern division,- Ross and Duncannon only excepted; of which the latter was not liable to capture by coup-de-main, and the other was saved by the procrastination of the rebels. The northern division of the county was overrun pretty much in the same hasty style, and through the same unpardonable blunders in point of caution, and previous concert of plans. Upon first turning their views to the north, the rebels had taken up a position on the hill of Corrigrua, as a station from which they could march with advantage upon the town of Gorey, lying seven miles to the northward. On the 1st of June, a very brilliant affair had taken place between a mere handful of militia and yeomanry, from this town of Gorey, and a very strong detachment from the rebel camp. Many persons at the time regarded this as the best fought action in the whole war. The two parties had met about
two miles from Gorey; and it is pretty certain that, if the yeoman cavalry, (who were seldom of any real use,) could have been prevailed on to charge at the proper time, the defeat would have been a most murderous one to the rebels. As it was, they escaped with considerable loss of honor. But even this they retrieved within a few days, in a remarkable way, and with circumstances of still greater scandal to the military discretion in high quarters, than had attended the movements of General Fawcet in the south.
On the 4th of June, a little army of 1500 men, under the command of Major-General Loftus, had assembled at Gorey. The plan was— - to march by two different roads upon the rebel encampment at Corrigrua; and this plan was adopted.
Meantime, on that same night, the rebel army had put themselves in motion for Gorey; and of this counter-movement, full and timely information was given by a farmer at the royal head-quarters; but such was the obstinate infatuation, that no officer of rank would condescend to give him a hearing. The consequences may be imagined. Colonel Walpole, an Englishman, full of courage, but presumptuously disdainful of the enemy, led a division upon one of the two roads, having no scouts, nor taking any sort of precaution. He was suddenly surprised, and faced he refused to halt or to retire; was shot through the head; and a great part of the advanced detachment was slaughtered on the spot, and his artillery captured. General Loftus, advancing on the parallel road, heard the firing, and detached the grenadier company of the Antrim militia, to the aid of Walpole. These, to the amount of seventy men, were cut off almost to a man; and when the General, who could not cross over to the other road, through the enclosures, from the encumbrance of his artillery, had at length reached the scene of
action by a long circuit, he found himself in the following truly ludicrous position:-The rebels had pursued Colonel Walpole's division to Gorey, and possessed themselves of that place; the General had thus lost his head-quarters, without having seen the army whom he had suffered to slip past him in the dark. He marched back disconsolately to Gorey, took a look at the rebel posts which now occupied the town in strength, was saluted with a few rounds from his own cannon, and finally retreated out of the county.
I have related this movement of General Loftus, and the previous one of General Fawcet, more circumstantially than might have been proper, because they both forcibly illustrate the puerile imbecility with which the Royal cause was then conducted. Both foundered in one hour, through surprises against which each was amply forewarned. Fortunately for the Government, the affairs of the rebels were managed even worse. Two sole enterprises were undertaken by them after this, previously to their final and ruinous defeat at Vinegar Hill; both of the very utmost importance to their interests, and both sure of success if they had been pushed forward in time. The first was the attack upon Ross, undertaken on the 29th of May, the day after the capture of Enniscorthy; it must inevitably have succeeded, and would immediately have laid open to the rebels the important counties of Waterford and Kilkenny. Being delayed until the 5th of June, the assault was repulsed with prodigious slaughter. The other was the attack upon Arklow, in the north. On the capture of Gorey, on the night of June 4, as the immediate consequence of Colonel Walpole's defeat, had the rebels advanced upon Arklow, they would have found it for some days totally undefended; the whole garrison having retreated in panic, early in the morning of June 5,