Easter Rising and the Irish Rebellion of 1916
Irish Rebels, 6,000 men
James Connolly, Commander
Patrick H. Pearse
Edmond de Val era
Major John McBride
English Army, 60,000 men
General John Maxwell
Brigadier General W. H. M. Lowe
Major G. A. Harris
Irish Republic Proclaimed
The Irish Republic was proclaimed at the base of Nelson's Pillar, Dublin, on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. The preamble read: "We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty. Six times during the past 300 years they have asserted in arms.
"Standing on that fundamental right, and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a sovereign independent state, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations. Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government, Thomas J. Clarke, John McDermott, Thomas MacDonagh, P. H. Pearse. Edmond Kent, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett." Pearse was elected President of the Republic and Commandant-General of its forces ; Connolly was chosen to command the forces in Dublin.
Opening Scenes of the Rebellion in Dublin
Early on the morning of April 24, 1916, Augustine Birrel, Chief Secretary for Ireland, gave his orders for the disarming of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen's Army, but leaving the still traitorous Ulster Volunteers in possession of their arms. The Irish Revolutionists in Dublin also had received orders to assemble for inspection and parade" at 10 A. M. on that day. Shortly before noon a company of the Citizen's Army swung along O'Connell Street, entered and seized the Post Office, hauled down the British flag, and raised the tricolor of Ireland. A moment later, a column of British Lancers, their horses at full gallop, and their rifles ready for immediate use, appeared far up the street. The rebels threw a body of men across the street as a first line of defense and a score of rifle barrels appeared over the parapet of the Post Office roof.
When still some distance away, the Lancers fired a volley, killing one of the rebels. An answering volley from the rebel line sent a half dozen Lancers plunging headlong from their saddles to the ground. Without waiting for the command, the Lancers wheeled and galloped back to the Castle, leaving their dead and wounded behind them. Meanwhile, barricades had been thrown up within the Post Office, while on the roof the defenses of the building were perfected. President Pearse of the newly proclaimed Irish Republic, accompanied by a number of his officers, then addressed the throngs that surged around the building, telling why a Republic had been proclaimed, and urging his hearers to join in the struggle for independence. Many volunteers came forward.
A trolley car was turning the corner and stopped at the entrance to North Earl Street. It was toppled over by a bomb, forming a substantial barricade to this approach to the Post Office. All this time people were walking up and down the street in the usual manner, but taking the keenest interest in the progress of the rebellion. The police were nowhere to be seen, having been ordered off the streets earlier in the day by the Castle authorities.
The Clash at Stephen's Green
Simultaneously with the attack on the Post Office, the rebels had made similar attacks at other points in accordance with their plan of campaign. Stephen's Green, a strategic point, was taken, and the ten gates opening from it were closed. A double line of trenches was at once dug within the in- closure. The pedestrians in that vicinity were warned to disperse, and did so. Incoming and outgoing trolley cars were halted at the street corners, their passengers and crews expelled, and the cars toppled over on their sides by means of bombs to form barricades. An hour later an automobile, laden with supplies for the rebels, was fired upon by four English soldiers in Nassau Street.
The rebel marksmen on the car fired a volley in return, wounding two of the soldiers. The other two soldiers escaped. This incident occurred while the street was still crowded with people, all of whom ran terrified to the nearest shelter. A little later a trolley car hove in sight, filled with English soldiers. It was greeted with a salute of rifle bullets, the soldiers dropping for safety to the floor of the car, and soon passing on out of sight. The rebels also seized Jacob's biscuit factory, using the bags of flour stored there to barricade the windows. Haricourt Street Railroad Station also was seized; then the rebels took Portobello Bridge over the Grand Canal, and Clanbrassil Street Bridge, these two positions cutting the English militia off from the rest of Dublin.
Castle Taken by Woman and Boy Scouts
A little before noon, while the British garrison in Dublin Castle was awaiting the arrival of other soldiers from the Curragh, ten miles away, the Countess Markievicz, Irish wife of a Polish nobleman, leading a band of Irish Boy Scouts, marched up to the outer gate of the Castle. The sentry pointed his rifle at the invaders. Without a moment's hesitation, the Countess shot him dead.
Then, with a cheer, the Boy Scouts followed their intrepid leader into the lower quadrangle, occupied by the barracks of the Dublin Metropolitan police and of several companies of British soldiers quartered there. The sound of the pistol shot brought out a score of the military who, seeing that an attack was in progress, retreated within the Armory and the Police Barracks, but the Boy Scouts carried the Barracks on the run before the occupants had time to close the doors, and all inside surrendered.
From the adjacent Armory, however, there was fired a fusillade of shots, killing several of the scouts. A moment later, one of the Boy Scouts shattered the lock of the Armory door with a bullet, and led by Countess Markievicz in person, the Scouts charged for the broken door. A scattering volley met the charge, resulting in two casualties. Just at that moment the Lancers, who had previously run away from the Post Office, reappeared, their horses covered with foam. The Countess, realizing that her little force was unable to cope with the situation, ordered the Boy Scouts to fall back toward the gateway. Keeping up a running fire, they made their retreat toward the entrance. There they met reinforcements, under Commander John Connolly, and again they charged into the Castle.
This time the Lancers turned tail, dashing out of the Castle through the Ship Street entrance. Several Britishers and a few rebels were killed in this fight. The barracks were again occupied and a rifle fire was kept upon the Armory. Soon the Castle was virtually in possession of the rebels. The Countess Markievicz with her Boy Scouts then marched toward Stephen's Green to take possession of the Royal College of Surgeons. The fame of her exploit at the Castle had preceded her, and she and her company were greeted with cheers as they marched along the west side. The rebels next took over and occupied the office of the Evening Mail newspaper and the Empire Theater.
Commander Connolly Shot at City Hall
Captain John Connolly led his company to the City Hall, which he seized. He went directly to the flagstaff, pulling down the municipal flag and running up the Republican flag in its stead. As he was tying the last knot, a sudden volley rang out from the quadrangle of the Castle, killing him instantly. Connolly was an actor, closely connected with the Abbey Theater Company and the National Players.
Trinity College Fighters
Trinity College, a bulwark of the English in Ireland, had established an Officers' Training Corps, which formed a rallying point for units of the British forces. They successfully defended the Dublin Bank and the College, driving the rebels up Dame Street. Meanwhile, Captain Edmond de Valera, destined later to be chosen Provisional President of the Irish Republic, had seized Westland Row Station and sent forward a detachment of 100 men to hold Boland's Mills, where the Republican flag was hoisted at 1 o'clock. A regiment of British soldiers made two attacks upon this position, but were repulsed. By Monday evening the rebels had taken possession of a line of defenses in the southern part of the city which stretched from the Canal to the Castle, and from the Castle to Ringsend.
Around the Post Office, the rebels had patrolled the entire length of O'Connell Street to the Parnell Monument, and had seized the newspaper offices, Liberty Hall, Beresford Place, the Amiens Street Station, the Customs House, the Four Courts, and other points of vantage.
Magazine Fort Taken by Surprise
One of the most daring episodes of the first day was the taking of the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park. This Fort was so placed as to command every building in Dublin. At noon, on Easter Monday, a company of rebels approached the Fort from two sides. Three of the rebels advanced through the open door, depriving the sentry of his rifle. The body of Volunteers then rushed into the Fort and within two minutes, were in full possession. The attack was a complete surprise.
The garrison were disarmed and imprisoned in one of their own dormitories before they had time to assimilate the idea that there was really a Revolution in being. The rebels then collected all the small arms and ammunition stored therein, and marched away exultantly.
British Rush 20,000 Soldiers to the Scene
It so happened that, when the Rebellion was begun, General Field, commander of the troops in Ireland, was on a leave in England; Colonel Kennard, the garrison commander at Dublin Castle, was out of town, and я number of the other officers were in attendance at the races at Leopardstown.
The news of the Rebellion was received at first with incredulity, but upon confirmation of the first report steps were taken to cope with the situation. Before 5 o'clock that afternoon 1,600 cavalrymen from the Curragh were dispatched to the scene, with 1,000 infantry, a battery from the Reserve Artillery Brigade at Athtone, the Fourth Dublin Fusiliers from Templemore, and a composite battalion from Belfast. It is estimated that the Government had 20,000 men at its disposal by Tuesday morning, whereas, the rebels in Dublin mustered 1,809 rifles at most. All Monday evening the sound of firing could be heard as various bodies of troops came in contact with the insurgent outposts. Martial law was proclaimed in Dublin on Tuesday.
Custom House Taken by the British
At midnight, on Monday, the British troops drove the rebels out of the Custom House and into Liberty Hall. A few hours later, the British held the Magazine, Phoenix Park, the upper courtyard of the Castle, the Royal Hospital, the Barracks, the principal railway at stations, the Dublin Telephone Exchange, the electric power station, and Trinity College. The rebels held Sackville Street, the General Post Office, the Four Courts, the Jacob's Biscuit Factory, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen's Green, all the approaches to the Castle except the Ship Entrance, and many houses throughout the city.
The Second Day's Fighting
On April 25, 1916, the second day of the Rebellion, Brigadier General W. H. M. Lowe arrived with 5000 troops. By establishing a line of posts from Kingsbridge Station to Trinity College, he divided the rebel operations to the north and south. The holding of these buildings not only separated the rebel center round the General Post Office, from that round St. Stephen's Green ; it established a valuable base for the collection of reinforcements as they arrived, and prevented the rebels from entering the Bank of Ireland, directly opposite to and commanded by the rebel buildings.
A cordon was established by the British troops around the northern part of the city, from Park Gate to the North Well. As the rebels were directing a heavy fire upon the Castle from the Corporation Buildings and the Daily Express office, these positions were assaulted by the Government troops. The main forces of the rebels now having been located in and around Sackville Street, the Four Courts and adjoining buildings, it was decided to enclose that area north of the Liffey River by a cordon of fire and steel so as to localize the efforts of the rebels.
While fierce and bloody tragedy reigned in one locality, the populace of Dublin showed their unconcern in other localities near by. Women sat in the doorways, men lounged at the street corners, and the children played fearlessly in the side streets, while their ears were dinned with the explosion of shells and the rattle of musketry.
The Rebellion Outside Dublin
Despite the proclamation of Professor MacNeill, countermanding the order for rebellion, there were several uprisings in the outlying districts. In County Dublin, the insurgents captured the villages of Swords, Lusk, and Donábate. Troops were sent to repel the attack, but only when they had been reinforced by the Staffordshire Regiment on Thursday morning, and helped by the guns of warships, did they succeed. Further north, in Drogheda and Dundalk, several collisions occurred between the rebels and the Government troops. At Drogheda the National Volunteers, supporting John Redmond, assisted the military in subduing the rebels.
The rebels in County Louth seized Barmeath Castle, holding it for several days. There was bitter fighting, too, at Ardee. In County Meath, a force of insurgents defeated a body of police, capturing their rifles and ammunition. In Ulster, a flying squadron of 3000 men from Belfast made a search for concealed weapons, seizing a number of persons suspected of sympathy with the rebels, and 3000 rounds of ammunition. In Cork, rebellion was prevented through the persuasion of Bishop Cohalan, who beseeched the Volunteers not to join the Rebellion. Acting upon his advice, the Volunteers surrendered their arms upon agreed terms which were shamefully violated by the British officials.
In Kerry, the rebels made a small demonstration, but in Galway and Wexford they held out for several days. Had it not been for the heavy fire from warships in the harbor after the military had been put to flight, the rebels might have captured Galway. In County Wexford, the rebels seized Enniscortly, holding it for several days and finally surrendering to a large force sent from Dublin in an armored train.
Gunboat Shells Liberty Hall Needlessly
The real Battle of Dublin began on Wednesday morning, April 26, 1916, the third day of the Rebellion. British troops had been arriving hourly in great numbers during the preceding night and a naval gunboat, the Helga, had pushed up the Liffey River, opposite the Custom House, ready to co-operate with the infantry forces. A circle of steel now encompassed the rebels.
At 7 o'clock Wednesday morning the guns of the Helga began to bombard Liberty Hall, a rebel stronghold. After 100 or more shells had been aimed at the target the British Infantry charged across Beresford Place, and into the Hall, only to learn that their assault had been needless. The rebels, during the preceding night, had tunneled their way out of the building, taking everything of military value with them, and were now partaking of a hearty breakfast in the Post Office while the British were occupying the deserted ruins of Liberty Hall.
Bombardment of Houses and Stores
The guns of the Helga next played on the buildings along O'Connell Street and adjacent houses in the rear of the city. Several buildings were soon in flames and red ruin faced Dublin. Meanwhile the cordon was being drawn tighter around the rebels.
The Bloody Battle of Mount Street
The bloodiest encounter of the Rebellion occurred on Wednesday during the engagement known as the Battle of Mount Street. Two battalions of the Sherwood Foresters had been ordered to advance and recapture Trinity College at all costs. The rebels at this time occupied strategic positions in scattered school buildings and houses. One battalion of Government troops, advancing toward Ringsend, prepared to assault the position held by a company of rebels under command of De Valera. The rebel flag was at once run up over the school buildings where the rebels had intrenched themselves, and a warning shot was fired over the heads of the approaching soldiers.
The Battalion dashed forward but was met by an enfilading fire which mowed down line after line. The remainder of the Battalion broke and fled, ignoring the curses and exhortations of their officers. Two hours later the Sherwoods again advanced to the attack, with the assistance of bombing parties led by Captain Jeffares. Under cover of bomb and rifle fire, the British charged up to the end of the bridgehead. From all directions the rebels poured a hail of bullets into the lines. Wave after wave of the Battalion was swept out of existence. A wall of dead and dying was piled up along the bridgehead, and it was the awful task of the bombing party to blast their way through this wall of mangled flesh and bone in their efforts to get at the rebels.
After six hours of desperate fighting, the Britishers won the position, with the loss of hundreds of men. Again, to their chagrin, as at Liberty Hall, they found the rebels had all escaped by an underground passage. So severe were the British losses that they did not care to push on to Trinity College despite positive orders to that effect. It was not until midnight that, reinforced by the arrival of the South Staffordshire Regiment, they occupied the coveted position.
Dublin a Blazing Inferno
Dublin that night was a raging furnace. Vivid sheets of red and scarlet flame, dense clouds of thick smoke, indicated the price the Rebellion had exacted. All through the night, guns were bombing from the south side of the Liffey, from the gunboat Helga, and from Trinity College. O'Connell Street was an inferno. With buildings blazing on either side of the street and heavy smoke rolling above, with bullets falling like hail, death stalked abroad and commanded every inch of this section. The whole center of Dublin was ablaze; it seemed as if the city would be totally destroyed with thousands of its inhabitants.
In the heart of the inferno, throughout that dreadful night, in the blazing streets and amidst a tempest of shells and bullets, the rebels held their ground without wavering. As the hours wore on through that doomful night, the intensity of the battle increased. Into a hundred and one minor points which the rebels had captured, the shells were poured. In O'Connell Street the fires were most appalling, the firing heaviest, the fighting intensest. A crossfire of bullets constantly swept the thoroughfare from both ends of the street.
Women and Girls in the Firing Line
The Irish Rebellion was remarkable for the heroic part taken in it by Irish women and girls. On Easter Sunday, the day first appointed for the "maneuvers," the women in the movement were mobilized and instructed to bring rations for a certain period. These women, who performed their duties with a cool and reckless courage unsurpassed by any man, were in the firing line from the first to the last day of the Rebellion. They comprised women of all ranks, from titled ladies to shop assistants, and they worked on terms of equality with the men. Some of these women patriots acted as snipers, and both in the Post Office and in the Imperial Hotel, there were women on guard with rifles, relieving exhausted Volunteers.
The girls proved themselves heroic messengers, carrying dispatches under fire to all points of the firing line. One young lady, a well-known writer, whose relations held appointments under the Crown, volunteered to take a dispatch for Commander Connolly under heavy machine gun fire. Shaking hands with the commander, she stepped coolly out amid a perfect cross rain of bullets from Trinity College and from the Rotunda side of O'Connell Street. Other girls were engaged in Red Cross work ; still some others cooked, catered, carried supplies. All the women could throw hand grenades; they understood the use of bombs—in fact, they seemed to understand as much of the business of warfare as their men folks.
Fall of the Rebel "Forts"
All day Thursday and Friday the rattle and roar of big guns made the center of the city a roaring inferno. The streets were swept by machine guns. Whole rows of houses had been blown up, apparently with the object of giving the British forces a clear field for a play of artillery and field guns. Fire was the greatest ally of the British, enabling the troops to draw closer and closer to the insurgents. There was no general battle between the military and the rebels; sniping and house-to-house fighting was the rule, with high explosives ever and anon battering down the walls upon the heads of the defenders, and machine guns sweeping them into oblivion as they endeavored to escape.
On Thursday night the British heavily bombarded the "fort" at Hopkins store, which the rebels held in force. The place soon became untenable and orders were issued to retire to the Post Office. Few of those who essayed the journey achieved it, for as they emerged, the machine guns came into deadly play. With this heavy bombardment, the whole block of buildings from Hopkins' northward began to take fire. The flames spread rapidly, driving the insurgents from the houses toward the Post Office across the street.
Friday morning the British raked the Post Office with their artillery. From within came the sharp replies of rifle bullets, accompanied by the patter of a machine gun on the roof. But the unequal contest could not last ; by evening, explosive shells had set the building afire; by daybreak of Saturday the Post Office and the buildings near it were gutted, and the insurgents had been driven northward. It was advisable ПОЛУ to sue for the best possible terms of surrender. After a meeting of the Provisional Government of the Republic, a woman messenger was sent to Brigadier-General Lowe to ask for terms.
The insurgent force at Jacob's factory, numbering 200, held out till Sunday. One of the most pathetic incidents of the insurrection is connected with the defense of the "fort." It seems that the factory was one of the chief sources of employment for the very poor of Dublin and they were in anguish lest it be destroyed. They crowded around the building in terror lest their only means of employment should be taken from them. Their presence there saved the building from destruction, for of course the soldiery could not fire upon these noncombatants. The building was finally surrendered through the good offices of a Carmelite friar.
Rebels Surrender Unconditionally
At last, on Saturday, April 29, 1916, the rebels decided that further resistance would entail needless slaughter, and they surrendered unconditionally to Brigadier-General Lowe. But though the military gave the order to cease fire on Saturday afternoon, the streets of Dublin did not become quite safe until Monday, as sniping was carried on by the rebels, who, in their coverts, had not received word of the surrender. Some preferred to meet death rather than surrender.
On the day of the surrender, the British forces numbered about 60,000, while the rebels at most numbered 1,100. Two hundred buildings, valued at $12,500,000, were destroyed by fire. The casualties were 600 dead and 1400 wounded for both sides, the British losses being in excess of the rebel casualties.
Rebel Leaders Executed
A large number of the rebels were arrested, deported, and confined in jails without being brought to trial. Court martials were held by Sir John Maxwell, beginning May 2, 1916. On the following day Provisional President Patrick Pearse of the Irish Republic, Thomas MacDonagh, and Thomas J. Clark were shot. Other leaders were executed in due order. Sentence of death was passed upon both Countess Markievicz and Henry O'Hauroban, but this was commuted to penal servitude for life. Professor MacNeill also was sentenced to penal servitude for life. As the result of a week's court-martial, 16 men were put to death, six sentenced to penal servitude for life, 20 others were sentenced to terms of imprisonment with hard labor, extending from six months to two years.
Sir Roger Casement Executed
Sir Roger Casement, an Ulster Protestant, who had acted for the rebels in Germany, was hanged in Pentonville prison on August 3, 1916. In his last days he became a convert to the Catholic faith, and received the last rites of the church on the scaffold.