« PreviousContinue »
DURING the five days the rebels were encamped on Goreyhill, a number of atrocities were committed. They then began to think they had wasted too much time, knowing that if they could gain Arklow, it would open a communication with the Wicklow and Kildare rebels, and that an attack might be made on the metropolis soon after ; they therefore resolved to try their strength on that town, for which purpose messengers were sent to the different encampments at Wexford and Vinegar-hill, ordering all persons to repair to the camp at Gorey-hill immediately.
On the eighth of June, the rebel picquet saw a party of the king's army reconnoitering at Coolgreny, and instantly returned with information that the king's troops were advancing against The town. In consequence of this, the prisoners, twenty-one in number, were ordered to be murdered ; but Bagenal Harvey's proclamation arrived in time to save their lives.
Early in the morning of the ninth of June, the rebel camp was crowded from all quarters, and masses were celebrated. As they were not allowed to murder the prisoners, they made caps of brown paper and coarse linen, melted pitch and besmeared the inside of them, and put them on the prisoner's heads..
About twelve o'clock the rebels, to the number of twentysix thousand, of whom near five thousand were armed with
guns, the rest with pikes, with three pieces of artillery, marched for Arklow, under the command of Anthony Perry, who had appointed Esmond Kyan captain of the artillery. When they had arrived within two miles of Arklow, they were ordered to halt by one of their officers. Those who were armed with guns, were ordered to the front, and the pikemen were placed in the rear. These arrangements being made, and the plan of attack agreed upon, they were ordered to advance; but they evinced the most disorderly disposition imaginable ; for their officers were obliged to drive them on before them, and in this manner they proceeded towards Arklow..
If the rebels had made their appearance two days before, they would, in all probability, have carried the town; but fortunately the garrison was reinforced that morning by the Durham fencibles, a brave and well-disciplined regiment, which strengthened it, and quieted the fears of the inhabitants.
General Needham, the commander in chief of the garrison, was quartered at the house of Mr. O`Neille in Arklow, where he had ordered a great breakfast for him and his guests. Two officers belonging to the Durham regiment happened to be passing by the house, and were mistaken by a servant, and informed that breakfast was ready for them and their associates. This intelligence being communicated, the Durham officers immediately repaired to the house and devoured the whole breakfast. Captain Wallington remaining behind the rest, assembled about him the drivers of the carriages in which the regiment had travelled from Dublin, to pay them their dues. The general at length arrived with his guests, and was astonished when he found his lodgings occupied with a crowd of wrangling coachmen; but soon being informed of the fate of his breakfast, he burst into a rage and drove out the intruders with such fury, that they, with their paymaster, tumbled one over another in the street, in their haste to escape.
The garrison then consisted of detachments of the fourth and fifth dragoon guards; the Ancient British fencible cavalry; a small detachment of the Royal Irish artillery ; the Durham fencible infantry; the Cavan battalion; detachments of the Armagh, Antrim, North-Cork, and Londonderry militia; the North and South Arklow cavalry; the Camolin, Gorey, Coolgreny, and
Castletown cavalry; and a number of loyalists in coloured clothes, making in the whole upwards of fifteen hundred men.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, information was received that the rebels were advancing towards the town. The drums immediately beat to arms, and the troops repaired to their different stations, and every preparation was made to meet the enemy. : The Cavan battalion, with some yeomen infantry, under colonel Maxwell, extended from the centre of the town to the Fishery; on the left was the sea; on the right the Durham regiment was drawn in front of their encampment, with two field pieces ; detachments of the Armagh and others were placed on the right of the Durham'; and the Antrim with other detachments and all the loyalists were stationed in the barrack. The cavalry were placed beyond the bridge, on the Dublin road.
The rebels endeavoured to surround the army, and by that means to have overpowered it by their great superiority of num. ·bers; but the excellent disposition of the king's forces, sufficiently convinced them of the impracticability of that measure. When they had advanced as far as the charter school, captain Elliot, who was posted there, retreated into the town, on which the rebels drew their cannon to the right, on an eminence that commands the town. The Dunbarton fencibles were then ordered out in front of the Armagh, to line the hedges on each side of the road, where the rebels were advancing. A smart fire was maintained between the Dunbartons and the rebels for some time, when the former were ordered to retreat and join the Armagh, which they accomplished. The rebels then set fire to different parts of the town, to annoy the army with the smoke; but the wind shifted and drove it on themselves. : On the retreat being sounded, the rebels pursued, and sent forth most dreadful yells, and one of their officers, waving his hat, called out, “Come on, my boys, the town is our own.” At that instant his horse was shot and himself wounded, on which he fell as if killed. A short time after he was observed by some of the soldiers and shot dead. The rebels followed him, but on receiving a welldirected fire of musketry and grape-shot, they fell back a considerable distance. They then extended a long line in front of the Durham regiment, but in a confused manner, endeavour
ing to turn their left flank ; but the Durhams keeping up a constant and well-directed fire, they were unable to accomplish it. Some of the rebels, armed with muskets, getting behind hedges, annoyed the army considerably, and their artillery also played briskly on the town; but sergeant Shepherd of the Royal Irish artillery, who was taken prisoner at the Three-rocks and compelled to serve in the rebel army, elevated their guns so high that the balls fell on the other side of the town. At one time he loaded with grape-shot, and turning the gun a little on one side, killed and wounded several of the rebels. · One of their officers observing this, galloped up and would have instantly killed Shepherd, had not Kyan, the captain of artillery, interposed and insisted that it was the cannon of the king's army which did the execution. He was then ordered to load with ball and batter. the town; but at every opportunity he loaded with grape-shot, knowing it could do no injury. Two of the rebel officers then rode towards the town, to observe the execution of the cannon, and finding that Shepherd was not favouring their cause, returned and informed Kyan of it, on which he levelled the cannon himself, and one of them with such fatal precision, that the ball struck the carriage of one of the Durham fieldpieces, shivered it to atoms, and killed four men: another ball struck the top of a house in the town and did some damage. All this time the royal army was playing upon them with good effect, having killed and wounded a considerable number. In
Another body of the rebels made an attempt to gain the lower end of the town, and advanced by the sea side: but in that quarter they were received with great spirit by the Ancient British fencible cavalry, under Sir W. W. Wynne, who made a most desperate and successful charge upon them. They then proceeded in great force to a road that led to the middle of the town, and made a desperate effort to enter it in that direction; but a sergeant and twelve men who were stationed in the markethouse, kept up so constant and effectual a fire that they were obliged to fall back with the loss of many men. . A bndy of them also attempted to ford the river, but this pass was well defended, and they were obliged to relinquish it.
Father Murphy, of Ballycannow, was not in the beginning of the action, having stopped at Coolgreny. When he was coming to the attack, he met a number of rebels retreating : driving them back again to the battle, he assured them that he could defeat the king's army even with the dust of the road. When he came into the engagement, he shewed the rebels some mus. ket balls, which he said he had caught in his hands as they flew from the guns of the enemy. Father Murphy, however, after many escapes, fell himself by a cannon shot, his bowels having been torn out, whilst waving a standard in his hand, and encouraging his men to press forward. The rebels who followed him, immediately retreated in great haste from that quarter, exclaiming as they went along “that the priest himself was “ down!”
The hottest part of the action was maintained by the Durham fencibles, commanded by colonel Skerret, to whose determined bravery the country is indebted for this victory. Colonel Maxwell and the Cavan battalion also acted in a most spirited manner, as did also the whole army engaged on that occasion. .
The action commenced about four o'clock and continued till half past eight, when they retreated in confusion to Gorey. It was not thought prudent to pursue the retreating rebels, as it was then the close of the 'evening, otherwise it is most probable that a great slaughter must have ensued. The military stood under arms till four o'clock next morning, when they cast entrenchments round the camp, and remained in full expectation of another attack.
The loss of the Durham regiment was about twenty privates killed and wounded: that of the other regiments was very trifing, though they had been warmly engaged for a considerable time. : '! . ; ; . . . . .
In this important action, the principal attempts of the enemy were directed against the Durham regiment; and it was to the excellent discipline and steady valour of that fine body of men on that day, aided by the magnanimous conduct and military skill of their commander, colonel Skerret, that the British government was indebted for the suppression of the rebellion in that quarter. General Needham had wisely given discretionary authority to Colonel Skerret to act with his regiment according to the dictates of his own judgment. Intimidated by the formidable attacks of the rebels, the general, at one period of