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Rebellion in Leinster

As the rebellion in Dublin failed to ignite, the rest of the United Irishmen in Leinster still waited for the stopping of the mail coaches as their signal to rise. Some of the coaches were stopped on the edge of Dublin. The signal rallied the local United Irishmen into action.   

Kildare was the scene of the earliest fighting in Leinster and the rebels met with much initial success, attacking isolated columns of British Units. However as the uprising dragged on, the rebel army suffered many losses throughout the county. Despite their superior numbers, the poorly-trained and ill equipped United Irish rebels were no match for battalions of regular British soldiers.

However, having closely escaped a defeat to the insurgents’ pikemen at Old Kilcullen, General Dundas, the commander of the British army in the areawas nearly defeated at Old Kilcullen by a force of United Irishmen armed with pikes. This ambush, scared General Dundas enough to call for a large-scale withdrawal of his troops. Concentrating his forces in central Kildare, Dundas left much of Kildare defended only by loyalists organized in militias.This left most of Kildare open for the United Irishmen to take control.

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The retreat was a disaster for the army. Within only a few days, much of Kildare and South Leinster were under rebel control.

Their victories were often accompanied by the killing and plundering of Protestant loyalists who tried to defend their homes, but such atrocities did not go unavenged: loyalists executed rebel prisoners throughout the uprising.

As the rising in Kildare began to run out of steam after some minor defeats, many of the rebels decided to retun to their homes and hand up their arms. The rebels had been in the process of giving up their arms to General Dundas, who was offering amnesty to the United forces in return for their surrender. Dundas’ peacemaking was ruined by the massacre led by General Duff and his militia troops who slaughtered several hundred unarmed rebels at Gibbet Rath to avenge the destruction of Kildare town. As a result, the rebellion in Kildare continued for some more weeks.

Later in the month, Cornwallis proposal of a general pardon met with considerable success and many rebels returned to their homes. The more dedicated United Irishmen, besieged by new army reinforcements and driven out of their camps, fled to the mountains of Wicklow and the bogs of Kildare. By July the rebellion had become a guerilla war on a small scale.

Cornwallis’ pardon and the arrival of British reinforcements had succeeded in suppressing the rebellion. On July 23rd, the rebel group at Timahoe in Kildare surrendered – the last major concentration of United Irishmen troops in Leinster.