Battle of Three Rocks

The Battle of Three Rocks was a United Irish victory during the Wexford Rebellion, a part of the 1798 rebellion, against a British artillery column marching to reinforce Wexford town against anticipated rebel attack.

Battle of Three Rocks
Part of the United Irishmen Rebellion
Three Rocks Monument - Wexford - Ireland

Monument at the site of the battle. Erected in 1952.
Date30 May 1798
Location
Forth Mountain, County Wexford
Result United Irishmen victory.
British abandon Wexford.
Belligerents
United Irishmen Kingdom of Great Britain British Army
Commanders and leaders
Thomas Cloney, Robert Carty, John Kelly, Michael Furlong Captain Adams,
Lieutenant Birch
Strength
1,000–2,000 100
Casualties and losses
Unknown 70 dead, 18 captured

Background

By 29 May, patriot victories at Oulart Hill and Enniscorthy had spread the rising throughout county Wexford, with patriot camps amassing at several locations and confining British troops to a few towns now vulnerable to attack, such as Wexford, Gorey, and Bunclody/Newtownbarry.

Upon receipt of these reports, General Fawcett, commander of the British garrison at Duncannon fort, led a column of 200 soldiers to bolster the garrison at Wexford town. Orders were given for a supporting artillery column of almost 100 militia and gunners with two howitzers to follow and link up with the infantry column halfway between Wexford and Duncannon at the village of Taghmon.

Making rapid progress and encountering no opposition, Fawcett's column arrived about dusk at Taghmon and free-quartered his troops for the night among the inhabitants of the village. Sometime after two o’clock in the morning, the slower artillery column arrived at Taghmon but pressed on towards Wexford for unclear reasons. It appears that patriot sympathisers and agents may have duped the column with false reports of a clear road to Wexford and of the urgency of their pressing ahead.

Patriot preparations

Contrary to these reports, a large army of South Wexford patriots had gathered on Forth Mountain and were well aware of the advancing British redcoats. An ambush position was prepared at the eastern end of Forth mountain, where the ground receded to the “Three Rocks”. In the pre-dawn darkness, patriot musket men were stationed parallel to the anticipated line of advance, concealed behind the rock outcrops and scrub while hundreds of pikemen waited out of sight. Patriot signallers with flags watched the approaches and waited for the troops to enter the chosen killing ground.

As dawn broke, the British column walked unsuspectingly into the trap and suffered a close range volley of musket fire followed by a massed pike charge into the line, giving the soldiers no chance of regrouping. The fighting was over in a matter of minutes, leaving around 70 of the militia dead, most of the gunners captured, and the two howitzers in the hands of the patriots.

British retreat and withdrawal

A few survivors of the rout reached Fawcett’s force in Taghmon about an hour later, bringing news of the disaster. Unnerved by the annihilation of his support column and by the prospect of attack from United Irishmen armed with artillery, Fawcett ordered his men to retreat to Duncannon, thus abandoning his original mission to relieve Wexford.

Meanwhile, the commander of the British garrison at Wexford, General Maxwell, concerned by the non-arrival the troops from Duncannon and by reports of fighting, led a force of cavalry in the direction of the Three Rocks to meet the expected reinforcements. They soon encountered United Irishmen drawing up the captured artillery to use against Wexford and fled back to the town but lost a cavalry captain to rebel gunfire before escaping.

Fall of Wexford

The retreat of the cavalry, news of defeat at Three Rocks, the prospect of facing patriots with artillery, and the visible massing of more patriots north across Wexford bridge sapped the garrison's will to resist, and envoys suing for peace were dispatched to parley with the approaching patriots. Though the intention to surrender the town was genuine, the garrison had no intention of being held prisoner by the patriots and sneaked away while the United Irishmen were distracted by the peace envoys, wreaking revenge by indiscriminately burning, raping and murdering as they fled to Duncannon.

The garrison was well away before the United Irishmen forces entered the town, freeing prisoners such as Bagenal Harvey, setting up a Committee of Public Safety derived from the French model, and even organising a makeshift navy to protect the harbour. Any British military personnel or prominent loyalists who failed to escape were quickly rounded up to be lodged in the town jail, a prison ship, or makeshift prisons.

The United Irishmen now had control of almost all County Wexford, and were in a powerful position to launch offensives against the few remaining foreign garrisons in the county at Bunclody, Gorey, and New Ross.

Coordinates: 52°19′53.91″N 6°32′39.85″W / 52.3316417°N 6.5444028°W

Battle of Bunclody

The battle of Bunclody or Newtownbarry as it was then called, was a battle in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which took place on 1 June 1798 when a force of some 5,000 rebels led by Catholic priest Fr. Mogue Kearns attacked the garrison at Bunclody as part of the Wexford rebels campaign against border garrisons.

The garrison was forewarned of the approaching rebels and had prepared defensive outposts facing the rebel line of advance. The rebel army occupied high ground to the west and stationed an artillery piece, captured in their victory over the military at the battle of Three Rocks, facing the approaches to town. As the bulk of the rebel army formed for the attack, their gunners opened an accurate fire on the exposed lines of soldiers who retreated into the cover of the town.

Seizing the moment, the rebels quickly moved in, forcing the garrison to flee across the bridge into County Carlow but crucially, failed to occupy this approach to the town. The rebels now had an almost bloodless victory and numbers of them began to celebrate, roaming the town in search of plunder and enemies. As rebel discipline began to waver, trapped units of yeomen, some of whom had barricaded themselves into their own houses, opened fire on the unsuspecting rebels milling in the streets outside.

Meanwhile, the garrison had paused in their retreat and upon hearing the sound of gunfire from the town, turned about and launched a surprise attack back across the bridge, which caught the rebels, distracted by the unexpected pockets of resistance, completely by surprise. In the rout that followed 400 of the rebels were killed and their army scattered for the loss of no more than half a dozen of the military.

Duncannon

Duncannon (Irish: Dún Canann) is a village in southwest County Wexford, Ireland. Bordered to the west by Waterford harbour and sitting on a rocky headland jutting into the channel is the strategically prominent Duncannon Fort which dominates the village.

Primarily a fishing village, Duncannon also relies heavily on tourism and is situated on the clearly signposted and very scenic Ring of Hook drive. Duncannon beach, a mile long golden beach, very popular spot with locals and tourists alike and once a blue flag recipient.Duncannon Fort, which was built in 1588 incorporates a maritime museum, Cockleshell Arts Gallery, Officer's Mess Café and Craft shop and various other Art and Craft outlets and is open daily to visitors 7 days from June to September. Rest of year 5 days Guided tours are available. Duncannon Fort was the location for the opening scenes of the 2002 remake of 'The Count of Monte Cristo', starring Jim Caviezel and Richard Harris.After being closed for some time, Duncannon Fort reopened to the public in 2016 when guided tours recommenced.

Duncannon Fort

Duncannon Fort is a star fort and National Monument located in County Wexford, Ireland.

History of County Wexford

County Wexford (Irish: Contae Loch Garman) is a county located in the south-east of Republic of Ireland, in the province of Leinster. It takes its name from the principal town, Wexford, named 'Waesfjord' by the Vikings – meaning 'inlet (fjord) of the mud-flats' in the Old Norse language. In pre-Norman times it was part of the Kingdom of Uí Cheinnselaig, with its capital at Ferns.

The county was formed in Norman times. It was created in 1210 by King John during his visit to Ireland.

Irish Rebellion of 1798

The Irish Rebellion of 1798 (Irish: Éirí Amach 1798) was an uprising against British rule in Ireland. The United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary group influenced by the ideas of the American and French revolutions, were the main organising force behind the rebellion, led by Presbyterians angry at being shut out of power by the Anglican establishment and joined by Catholics, who made up the majority of the population. Many Ulster Protestants sided with the British, resulting in the conflict taking on the appearance of a sectarian civil war in many areas, with atrocities on both sides. A French army which landed in County Mayo in support of the rebels was overwhelmed by British and loyalist forces. The uprising was suppressed by British Crown forces with a death toll of between 10,000 and 30,000.

John Kelly of Killanne

John Kelly (Kelly of Killanne) (died c. 25 June 1798) lived in the town of Killanne in the parish of Rathnure and was a United Irish leader who fought in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

While Kelly was obviously well known to rebel and loyalist alike during the short duration of the Wexford Rebellion, almost nothing is known of him outside this time. He was one of the leaders of the rebel victory at the Battle of Three Rocks which led to the capture of Wexford town but was later seriously wounded while leading a rebel column at the Battle of New Ross.

Robert Gogan describes how Kelly was under orders from the Wexford commander Bagenal Harvey to attack the British outposts around New Ross but on no account to attack the town itself.

The rebels outnumbered the British forces and so Harvey sent a messenger to give them an opportunity to surrender. The messenger was shot while carrying a white flag. This angered the rebels who began the attack without receiving the official order from Harvey.

Kelly's column of 800 men attacked and broke through Ross's "Three Bullet Gate" and proceeded into the town itself. After initial success, they were eventually beaten back by British troops and Kelly was wounded in the leg. He was moved to Wexford to recuperate but after the fall of Wexford on 21 June was dragged from his bed, tried and sentenced to death. He was hanged on 25 June 1798 along with seven other rebel leaders on Wexford bridge, after which his body was decapitated, the trunk thrown into the River Slaney and the head kicked through the streets before being set on display on a spike.

Wexford Rebellion

The Wexford Rebellion refers to the outbreak in County Wexford, Ireland in May 1798 of the Society of United Irishmen's Rising against the British domination of Ireland. It was the most successful and most destructive of all the uprisings that occurred throughout Ireland during the 1798 Rising, lasting from 27 May 1798 until about 21 June 1798. The Wexford Rebellion saw much success despite County Wexford not being thought of as an immediate threat by the government, because of the spontaneous risings that occurred both before and after the significant rebel victories in Oulart, Enniscorthy, and Wexford town.

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