Outbreak of Rebellion and the attack on Naas

Dublin had been on alert since Sunday 20 May, the day after the arrest of Lord Edward. Camden seemed to imply that local commanders like Dundas were partly to blame. He told Portland, that on 23 May notice was sent to the General Officers in the neighbourhood and Dublin was put in a state of preparation. The measures taken in the metropolis prevented any movement whatsoever; but I am concerned to acquaint your Grace that acts of open Rebellion were committed in the counties of Dublin, Meath and Kildare.

Battered and broken, piece by piece, the organisation within the city had been effectively controlled. Military efforts had been successful in Kildare and huge amounts of arms had been surrendered. The spirit of disaffection indeed seemed broken. Then in the early morning of 24 May, the danger they had feared for so long, exploded into rebellion.

Neilson had devised the signal for the beginning of the rising; the mail coaches would be stopped and burned. The northern coach was attacked and burned at Santry and the Galway coach at Lucan, though it was saved and the rebels driven off. The Munster mail however made it as far as Naas where it was attacked and burned and the passengers hacked to death.

Michael Reynolds in his scarlet regimentals led an attack on Naas, once the signal had been given. The United force consisted of about 1000 men mostly armed with pikes, and they put severe pressure on the forewarned garrison commanded by Lord Gosford. But Naas was not an outpost, it was one of the best protected garrisons in the country and the presence of cannon did much to decide the outcome in favour of the government. Lord Gosford even had six cabins and six houses (including an Inn and an Alms house) destroyed to accommodate the cannon fire.

Typical of many of the United attacks in Kildare, Reynolds had his men attack at different points simultaneously. Although the engagement lasted almost one hour, the resistance of the military proved to great and the rebels were forced to withdraw. They lost about 130 men while government casualties amounted to 22 troops. The troops pursued the fleeing rebels and many were cut down as troops took retribution on the town. This ceased with the arrival of Dundas later that day, and from then until the rebellion ended, very few were executed in Naas. About 800 pikes and 20-30 firelocks were captured, many of which were found in the Tipper quarries, the original rallying point of the rebel.

Michael Reynolds escaped to the Wicklow Hills where he continued a rebel in arms until he was mortally wounded at the battle of Hacketstown on 25 June. He died a few days later. An interesting part of Gosfords report to Lake, was his praise for the conduct of the cavalry and infantry; exemplary throughout, but he could not make a good report about the yeomanry. Even though the yeomanry were a volunteer force they often behaved extremely efficiently and loyally.

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