« ForrigeFortsæt »
to Wicklow. The capture of this important place would have laid open the whole road to the capital, would probably have caused a rising in that great city, and, in any event, would have indefinitely prolonged the war, and multiplied the distractions of Government. Merely from sloth, and the spirit of procrastination, however, the rebel army halted at Gorey until the 9th, and then advanced with what seemed the overpowering force of 27,000 men. It is a striking lesson upon the subject of procrastination, that, precisely on that morning of June 9, the attempt had first become hopeless. Until then the place had been positively emptied of all inhabitants whatsoever. Exactly on the 9th, the old garrison had been ordered back from Wicklow, and reinforced by a crack English regiment, (the Durham Fencibles,) on whom chiefly the defence on this day devolved; which was peculiarly arduous, from the vast numbers of the assailants, but brilliant and perfectly successful.
This obstinate and fiercely contested battle of Arklow was, by general consent, the hinge on which the rebellion turned. Nearly 30,000 men, all armed with pikes, and 5000 with muskets, and supported by some artillery, sufficiently well served to do considerable execution at a most important point in the line of defence, could not be defeated without a very trying struggle. And here again it is worthy of record, that General Needham, who commanded on this day, would have followed the example of Generals Fawcet and Loftus, and have ordered a retreat, had he not been opposed by Colonel Sherret of the Durham regiment. Such was the almost uniform imbecility, and the want of moral courage, on the part of the military leaders for it would be unjust to impute any defect in animal courage to the feeblest of these leaders. General Needham, for example, exposed his person without reserve
throughout the whole of this difficult day. But he could not face a trying responsibility.
From the defeat of Arklow, the rebels gradually retired, between the 9th and the 20th of June, to their main military position of Vinegar Hill, which lies immediately above the town of Enniscorthy, and had fallen into their hands on the 28th of May, when that place was captured. Here their whole forces, with the exception of per haps 6000, who attacked General Moore, when marching on the 26th towards Wexford, were concentrated ; and hither the Royal army, 13,000 strong, with a respectable artillery, under the supreme command of General Lake, converged in four separate divisions, about the 19th and 20th of June. The great blow was to be struck on the 21st; and the plan was, that the Royal forces, moving to the assault of the rebel position upon four opposite radii, should completely surround their encampment and shut up every avenue to escape. On this plan, the field of battle would have been one vast slaughter-house; for quarter was not granted. But the manœuvre, if it were ever seriously entertained, was entirely defeated by the failure of General Needham, who did not present himself with his division until nine o'clock, a full half-hour after the battle was over, and thus gained for himself the sobriquet of the late General Needham. Whether the failure were really in this officer, or (as was alleged by his apologists) in the inconsistent orders issued to him by General Lake, with the covert intention, as many believe, of mercifully counteracting his own scheme of wholesale butchery, to this day remains obscure. The effect of this delay, caused how it might, was for once such as must win everybody's applause. The action had commenced at seven o'clock in the morning. By halfpast eight, the whole rebel army was in flight, and nat
urally making for the only point left unguarded, it escaped with no great slaughter, (but leaving behind all its artillery and a good deal of valuable plunder,) through what was facetiously called ever afterwards Needham's gap. After this capital rout of Vinegar Hill, the rebel army daily mouldered away. A large body, however, of the fiercest and most desperate continued for some time to make flying marches in all directions, according to the positions of the King's forces, and the momentary favor of accidents. Once or twice they were brought to action by Sir James Duff and Sir Charles Asgill; and, ludicrously enough, once more they were suffered to escape by the eternal delays of the late General Needham. At length, however, after many skirmishes, and all varieties of local success, they finally dispersed upon a bog in the county of Dublin. Many desperadoes, however, took up their quarters for a long time in the dwarf woods of Killaughrim, near Enniscorthy, assuming the trade of marauders, but ludicrously designating themselves the Babes in the Wood. It is an explicable fact, that many deserters from the militia regiments, who had behaved well throughout the campaign, and adhered faithfully to their colors, now resorted to this confederation of the woods; from which it cost some trouble to dislodge them. Another party in the woods and mountains of Wicklow, were found still more formidable, and continued to infest the adjacent country through the ensuing winter. These were not finally ejected from their lairs, until after one of their chiefs had been killed in a night skirmish by a young man defending his house, and the other, weary of his savage life, had surrendered himself to transportation.
It diffused general satisfaction throughout Ireland, that, on the very day before the final engagement of Vinegar Hill, Lord Cornwallis made his entry into Dublin as the
new Lord-Lieutenant; and soon after Lord Camden departed. A proclamation, issued early in July, of general amnesty, to all who had shed no blood except on the field of battle, notified to the country the new spirit of policy which animated the Government, and doubtless worked marvels in healing the agitations of the land. Still it was thought necessary that severe justice should take its course amongst the most conspicuous leaders or agents in the insurrection. Martial law still prevailed; and, under that law, severe justice is often no justice at all. Many of those who had shown the greatest generosity, and with no slight risk to themselves, were now selected to suffer. Bagenal Harvey, a Protestant gentleman, who had held the supreme command of the rebel army for some time with infinite vexation to himself, and taxed with no one instance of cruelty or excess, was one of those doomed to execution. He had possessed an estate of nearly three thousand per annum; and at the same time with him was executed another gentleman, of more than three times that estate, Cornelius Grogan. Singular it was, that men of this condition and property, men of feeling and refinement, who could not expect to be gainers by such revolutionary movements, should have staked their peace and the happiness of their families upon a contest so forlorn from the very first. Some there were, however, and possibly these gentlemen, who could have explained their motives intelligibly enough: they had been forced by persecution, and actually baited into the ranks of the rebels. One characteristic difference in the deaths of these two gentlemen was remarkable, as contrasted with their previous habits. Grogan was constitutionally timid, and yet he faced the scaffold and the trying preparations of the executioner with fortitude. On the other hand, Bagenal Harvey, who had fought several duels with coolness, ex
hibited considerable trepidation in his last moments. Perhaps in both, the difference might be due entirely to some physical accident of health, or momentary nervous derangement.
Among the crowd, however, of persons superior in rank who suffered death at this disastrous era, there were two whom chiefly I regretted, and would have gone any distance to have shaken hands with. One was a butcher, the
other a seafaring man, both rebels. But they must have been truly generous, brave, and noble-minded men. For, during the occupation of Wexford by the rebel army, they were repeatedly the sole opponents, at great personal risk, to the general massacre then meditated by the Popish fanatics. And, finally, when all resistance seemed likely to be unavailing, they both insisted resolutely with the chief patron of this bloody proposal, that he should fight them with sword or pistol as he might prefer, and 'prove himself a man,' (as they expressed it,) before he should be at liberty to sport in this wholesale way with innocent blood.
One dreadful fact I shall state in taking leave of this subject; and that, I believe, will be quite sufficient to sustain anything I have said in disparagement of the Government; by which, however, I mean, in justice, the local administration of Ireland. For, as to the supreme Government in England, that body must be supposed, at the utmost, to have sanctioned the recommendations of the Irish cabinet, even when it interfered so far. In particular, the scourgings and flagellations resorted to in Wexford and Kildare, &c., must have been originally suggested by minds familiar with the habits of the Irish aristocracy in the treatment of dependants. Candid Irishmen must admit that the habit of kicking, or threatening to kick, waiters in coffee-houses or other dependants, - a habit which, in