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Their associates at Gorey had aho remained some Chap. days without enterprise, after the defeat of Wal-v^^^^L/ pole's troops, and the retreat of Loftus, wasting^aw* their time in the burning of Carnew, the trials ofj""e9« prisoners for orangism, and the plundering of houses. At length, assembling at Gorey on the ninth of June, they advanced northward to form a junction with a body of insurgents in the county of Wicklow, for the attack of Arklow, a post which they might have seized without opposition at any time before the very day of the attempt. Here the loyalists, who had retreated from the county of Wexford, had been ordered to surrender their arms at the barrack with promise of restoration; but these arms, on the news of the defeat at Clough, were formed into a pile and burned, to prevent, as was alledged, their becoming a prey to the rebels. But the disarming of their owners tended to weaken the royat cause; and pistols of high value, supposed to have perished in this conflagration, were seen afterwards in the possession of military gentlemen. While the garrison was preparing for flight, to escape from the victorious rebels, whose onset was expected, a guard was placed on the bridge to prevent any people from leaving the town until it should have been previously evacuated by the troops. By this management the whole multitude of fugitive women, disarmed men and children of the loyalist party was destined to fall into the hands of the enemy, if they had arrived. What could be the motive? To expe6i that thus would be prevented the intelligence - , of
Chap, of defeat, which was carried by various roads, from <^^—> being propagated northward, would be absolutely childish. To leave a helpless people a prey for the foe, to impede pursuit, would be as useless as cruel. On the retreat of the garrison, before day, in the morning of the fifth of June, the rebel force at Gorey might have seized Arklow, pursued the fugitive troops to Wicklow, which must in that case have been abandoned to their increasing multitude, continued their course- to Bray, and thence to the immediate vicinity of the capital, in which and the neighbouring counties many thousands awaited such.a signal to rise in arms.
The dreadful state of things, to which misconduct on one side had left the kingdom exposed, was fortunately prevented by misconduct on the other. The opportunity was neglected: Arklow remained unmolested, though defenceless: the fugitive garrison was remanded to its post: some other troops followed; and, at the critical moment, the day of attack, arrived the fencible regiment of Durham, commanded by colonel Skerrett, a brave and accomplished officer, to whom Ireland is indebted for the defence of this then most important station. The royal force consisted of sixteen hundred men, arranged in lines, with artillery in front, so as to cover three sides of the town, the fourth of which was guarded by the Ovoca river. The army of the assailants amounted to above twenty thousand, of whom four or five thousand carried guns, but were very scantily furnished with ammunition, the want
of of which is assigned as the cause of their four days' Chap. delay at Gorey. The approach of a column, which v—^^ advanced by the sea-shore, was so rapid, that a part of it entered, and fired what is called the Fishery, composed of thatched cabins inhabited by fishermen. A guard of yeomen cavalry, stationed in that quarter, had no other means of escape than galloping through the flames,- and most of them were so terrified that they stopped not their flight till they had crossed, by swimming their horses, at the extreme peril of drowning, the broad stream of the Ovoca. This body of assailants was easily repulsed; but, if a great force had been directed to that point, the town very proba-" bly would have been taken.
Happily, to the rebel force, where the main attack was directed, the most efficient part of the royal army was opposed, the Durham regiment, whose line extended across the fields, in front of the barrack, to the road leading from Gorey. General Needham, the first in command, had with laudable attention to the object of defence, given discretionary orders to colonel Skerrett to exert his abilities and skill to the best of his judgment. As the rebels at first poured their fire from the shelter of ditches, where they could be little affected by the opposite fire of the soldiery, Skerrett commanded his men to stand with ordered arms, their left wing covered by abreast-work, their right by a natural rising of the ground, until the enemy, leaving their cover, should advance to an open attack. Thrice was made this attack with such impetuosity, that the assailants
rushed within a few yards of the cannons' mouths: . but they were received with so close and effective a fire as to be repulsed with great slaughter in every attempt. During the whole engagement, which lasted four hours, from about four o'clock in the afternoon, this regiment maintained as perfectly unbroken ranks as at parade, though sometimes obliged to shift its ground, to avoid being enfiladed by a cannon, which was so well directed by Esmond Kyan, a chief among the insurgents, that by a shot from it the carriage of one of the battalion-guns wa9 broken. At length general Needham, who had displayed all the personal courage which could be useful in his place, perhaps apprehensive that the pikemen of the assailants, none of whom had hitherto come into action, might, under the shadow of the near approaching night, make, as was far from impossible, an irresistible onset, sent to notify to Skerrett the expediency of arranging matters for a retreat. The latter returned a determinate answer in the negative, declaring that in that case all would be lost. Fortunately nocturnal fighting was not in the plan of these insurgents, who, exhausted of ammunition, and discouraged by the fall of Michael Murphy, a priest, their principal commander, ceased from combat as soon as darkness came, and retired unpursued toward Gorey.
As the rebels could not without fruitless danger be molested in their retreat by the garrison, they had sufficient leisure to carry away their wounded. Consequently their loss is unknown, but may hare
amounted amounted to three or four hundred. Of the royal Chap.
troops also the number of killed and wounded is un- v_/.«l/ known to me, except of the Durham regiment, which out of three hundred and sixty lost twenty men. The importance of this repulse can be fully appreciated only by those who know in what state the country then was, the general indiscipline then prevalent in the royal army here, and the danger to which the capital would have been exposed, if the insurgents had gained Arklow and followed the blow.
Vol. It Ee , CHAP.