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Rebellion in Wexford

Rumours of United successes and of the atrocities committed by both sides spread like wildfire across the country but in Wexford, these rumours had a dramatic effect.

The full force of martial law had not been enforced in Wexford as it was a wealthy county with a large Protestant minority. The county was quiet in the months leading up to the rebellion. The United army there was thus relatively well-armed and well supported when the revolution began, but it still suffered from a severe shortage of guns and experienced soldiers among its ranks.

When the rebel forces emerged they were led by two Catholic priests Father John and Father Michael Murphy. The rebels armed with pitchforks scythes and pikes routed a military column at Oulart on 26th May and soon after took Ferns and Gorey. Enniscorty was captured on the 28th May. Wexford was surrounded and British reinforcements were wiped out by a large group of Wexford pikemen at the Battle of the Three Rocks. The rebels finally occupied Wexford on the 30 May and a republic was established. Wexford with the exception of New Ross was in the hands of the rebels.

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By June, the rebels were in control of several towns in Wexford and along the Wicklow border, and major rebel encampments were established at Carrickbyrne, Enniscorthy, Gorey, and Wexford town itself.

The fiercest battle of the entire rebellion occurred on 5 June 1798 in New Ross, County Wexford.In Wexford, the rebels were led by Bagenal Harvey, a Protestant landlord. Harvey was incharge during on of the fiercest battles of 1798 - The battle of New Ross. The rebels breached the defences of the town but had to retreat due to staunch defending of loyalist forces. The reinforcing loyalist troops looted the town over several days, killing suspected rebels. The death toll amounted to over 3,000.

When the news reached Scullabogue, asmall town near New Ross, an angry mob killed over 100 loyalist prisoners including women and children by locking them in a building which was then set alight. Harvey resigned as commander of the rebels discouraged at the defeat in New Ross and disgusted by the Scullabogue atrocity.

On the days before June 21 the rebels made their way to at Vinegar Hill in Wexford. The main rebel camp, did not realise that General Lake with British reinforcements were closing like a noose. The Irish pikemen were no match to artillery or cavalry and many were slaughtered on the field.

On 21st June, General Lake attacked the main rebel camp at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy. Some rebels escaped and went to the Three Rocks camp near Wexford town. What General Lake took Vinegar Hill, it was mostly the camp followers, women, children and the injured who remained and all were killed.

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The rebel camp there, like the other camps, had large numbers of refugees who followed the United army to protect themselves from loyalists and the British Army. These refugees hindered United Irishmen movements, and many rebels were force to leave the camps in order to provide for their families.

For many rebels who escaped Vinegar Hill, the choice was to return home and face the risk of been arrested or to go on the run in the hills of Wicklow and Carlow. A small force left to make their way to the other rebellions still camped in Timahoe.