Rebel Tactics

The co-ordination of the times of the initial attacks and their similarity irrefutably attests to the strength of the United movement in Kildare. What is strongly absent is any attempt to march on Dublin or combine the various forces once they had appeared in the field. They had gathered in their own areas and concentrated their attacks on local garrisons and towns without any attempt to form a great midlands army. Whatever the military plans of the Directory were or should have been it seems clear that the concentrated action against local garrisons, in Kildare was the accepted United plan in that county.

Pakenham noted that at one time there were four rebel camps serving Kildare - at Knockaulin Hill near Kilcullen, at the gibbet on the Curragh, at Timahoe on the edge of the bog of Allen and Blackmore Hill on the border of the WicklowMountains. Simultaneously he recognised that Dundas had almost abandoned the county to their mercy. Yet there was no attempt to unite these forces and little or no attempt to break out of the county even without a unified army.

We can only marvel that the leaders of these groups were able to keep them together at all and indeed retain any sort of control. Certainly the great hopes of a unified national mass rebellion entertained by the United Irishmen were dashed at this stage. Militarily in Kildare the rebellion proved to be a bit of a shambles despite its potential potency. It had indeed been a last throw desperate attempt to rouse the country but the arrests of Lord Edward, the Sheares Brothers and Neilson, and the disintegration of the Directory had turned confusion at national level into chaos at local level.

This was evident within the county itself. Around Athy men had gathered as ordered, ready to march on the town 9again from different directions), but the expected reinforcements or new orders never arrived. They gathered a second time and marched to the colliery but the colliers refused to rise after the news of the massacre in Carlow and a local defeat on 25 May. The men could do little but return to their homes though some went north to fight with other groups. In any event Athy was not attacked, which left the second strongest military post in the county still functioning against the rebels who inadvertently killed the messenger to Campbell with orders for him to withdraw his troops.

KildareTown meanwhile had been occupied by 2000 rebels when General Wilford had evacuated his troops. Similarly Rathangan was taken on 26 May after captain Langton had withdrawn the militia in accordance with his orders. Unlike Kildare however, a yeomanry force under Captain Spenser existed in Rathangan to offer some defence of its loyal inhabitants. The evacuation of the militia demoralised this force and many subsequently deserted to the rebels.

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