Attacks on Prosperous and Clane
In that same report, Gosford confirmed the reports of attacks on Prosperous and Clane. Naas had been attacked, according to him, at about half past two in the morning. In accordance with their plans the other towns were attacked at about the same time. At Prosperous the rebels under Dr. John Esmond and Andrew Farrell (both yeomen) attacked the town in three places though notably concentrating their attack on Brooke's cotton mill and the barracks where the City of the Cork Militia and the Ancient Britons were housed under the command of the infamous Captain Swayne. Some who were privately billeted were piked or shot in their beds. Thirty eight soldiers (as Pakenham points out, mainly Catholics from the south), were killed, only nineteen escaped or were spared.
The rebels had gathered in the woods all day. They maintained complete surprise and passed the guards without alerting them. To overcome the garrison the ground floor was set on fire by the insurgents thrusting the lighted furze through the windows.
When the soldiers fled from the flames they were piked or shot in the streets. Captain Swayne was shot and piked and his body was later burned in a tar barrel. Witnesses later reported how the rebels parading and exulting, had filled the streets all with weapons in their hands. The frenzied crowds ferocity was due to Swayne?s excessive behaviour and his threat to burn the Catholic chapel with the priest in it, if arms were not surrendered. The success at Prosperous served as a rebel icon and greatly encouraged the United men. Prosperous was not recovered until late June when Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stewart ransacked and burned this receptacle of rebellion.
Around an hour later, Clane was attacked by about 300 rebels. Some of the Armagh Militia were piked to death in their private billets as in Prosperous. Richard Griffith commander of the Clane yeoman cavalry was woken at three in the morning and was quickly in command of the town. The combined militia and yeomanry drove the rebels from the town when reports started to come in about the massacre in Prosperous.
Six prisoners were put to death, four of whom were Griffiths' own tenants. To add to his dilemma, three of his corps had deserted with their arms and the arms of others. With many in the uniforms and helmets of the Cork Militia and Ancient Britons from Prosperous the rebels launched a second attack. Griffiths' men's sustained fire, dispersed them when he charged them down with his yeoman cavalry. He decided not to attempt an attack on Prosperous but returned to Clane and retreated as ordered to Naas.
Dr. Esmond, a lieutenant in Griffiths corps, had led the attack on Prosperous, and now, gallingly appeared, to take his position at the head of the troop on its retreat to Naas. Another yeoman, Phillip Mite who had accompanied Esmond had told Griffith of Esmond's complicity, before his arrival. Griffith remained calm and cleverly allowed his Lieutenant to accompany him in his usual role, until they reached Naas jail whereupon Esmond was incarcerated. A man of great local influence, we are unsure of his exact role in Prosperous, though it appears he planned it. The government was quick to set an example and he was hanged on CarlisleBridge, with his coat turned out to identify him as a traitor.
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