The Irish Rebellion of 1798 Causes and Events

Irish Rebellion 1798

This timeline is a chronology of the causes and events of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.


Causes of the Irish Rebellion
1695 – 1728
Penal Laws
These were a series of laws that placed restrictions on Catholics in Ireland. Catholics were not allowed to: buy land; carry weapons; vote in elections; serve as members of Parliament and serve in the army. Their right to education was also restricted.
1775 (19th April)
American War of Independence
Colonists in the 13 states of America rebelled against British rule and war began.
1783 (3rd September)
Peace of Paris
The American colonists gained independence from Britain.
1785 (around)
This was a group of Catholic countrymen who were annoyed that the authorities failed to deal with the Protestant Peep o’ Day Boys. It was founded in Grangemore, County Armagh. The Peep o’ Day Boys used the pretence of confiscating arms from Catholics, who held them in contravention of the Penal Laws, to make nighttime raids on Catholic homes.
1789 (14th July)
French Revolution
The people of France rose against the autocratic rule of Louis XVI and the nobility.
1790 (during)
This group had expanded and was now a country-wide society with local branches. It was run in similar fashion to the Freemasons.
1791 (October)
Society of United Irishmen
This group of liberal minded Protestants and Catholics was formed in Belfast with the aim of uniting all Irish people against British rule in Ireland. They drew inspiration from the French slogan ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’.
1792 (21st September)
France was proclaimed a Republic.
1793 (April)
Catholic Relief Act
This act reversed many of the restrictions on Catholics imposed by the Penal Laws of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.
1793 (21st January)
King Louis XVI was executed by guillotine. Soon afterwards war broke out between Britain and France.
1793 (9th April)
Militia Act
This act allowed the government to station militia regiments in each county. The reason for this was to defend Ireland in the event of attack or invasion.
1794 (during)
Many leaders of the Society of United Irishmen were arrested and imprisoned. Others went into hiding.
1795 (during)
Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the Society of United Irishmen, sailed to America to avoid being arrested by the British. He then went to France to get support for a revolution in Ireland.
1795 (21st September)
Battle of the Diamond
This was an armed confrontation between the Catholic Defenders and the Protestant Peep o’ Day Boys. The short battle was won by the Protestants.
1795 (late September)
Orange Order
The Protestant Peep o’ Day Boys founded the Orange Order. Named after William of Orange, the swore to defend ‘..the King and his heirs so long as he or they support the Protestant Ascendancy’. This placed them in direct opposition to the United Irishmen.
1796 (March)
Insurrection Act
This act gave the British government greater powers to act against rebels.
1796 (December)
Wolfe Tone, left France with 35 French ships captained by General Hoche and sailed for Ireland. Unfortunately they hit bad storms. Several ships sank and many sailors lost their lives. Those that survived waited for calmer weather at Bantry Bay but eventually gave up and went home.
1797 (during)
Society of United Irishmen
Membership of the group reached 200,000.
1797 (2nd March)
The British government attempted to prevent any further attempt at rebellion in Ireland by placing the country under martial law. Suspected rebels faced extreme violence including house burning, torture, intimidation and murder.
1797 (May)
The British militia in Ireland shut down the newspaper of the United Irishmen – the Northern Star. In Ulster, they stirred up animosity between the Orange Order and the United Irishmen and also between Catholics and Protestant members of the United Irishmen.
1797 (September)
The government learned from their informer, Leonard McNally, that Lord Edward Fitzgerald was in charge of the military organisation of the United Irishmen.
Events of the Irish Rebellion
1798 (12th March)
The British government were tipped off about the planned rebellion, probably by an inside informer, Thomas Reynolds. A number of leaders of the United Irishmen in Dublin were arrested. Edward FitzGerald was not among the number.
1798 (30th March)
Martial Law
The government introduced martial law in order to put down the United Irishmen. The Militia were instructed to use whatever means necessary to crush the rebels.
1798 (April)
With the government closing in on the United Irishmen and using any method necessary to crush the rebels, plans for a full scale uprising were brought forward.
1798 (April)
It was decided that the uprising would begin place on 23rd May. The plan was to take Dublin first then the risings would fan out to surrounding towns making it difficult for Loyalist troops to put down. The signal for the rebellion to begin would be the stopping of mail coaches.
1798 (9th May)
The government offered a reward of £1,000 for information leading to the arrest of Edward FitzGerald.
1798 (18th May)
Edward FitzGerald’s hiding place was discovered and a group of militia went to arrest him. FitzGerald stabbed two militia before being brought down by a shot to his shoulder. He was taken to Newgate Prison Dublin.
1798 (24th May, 1 a.m.)
Battle of Ballymore-Eustace – County Kildare
The rebels attacked the town of Ballymore-Eustace. Militia had been stationed in eight houses around the town and these were the initial focus of the attack. The United Irishmen were unable to overpower the militia and were defeated with the loss of around 100 men.
1798 (24th May – 2 a.m.)
Battle of Prosperous – County Kildare
This was a battle between United Irishmen and the British Army in the town of Prosperous, County Kildare. Fought in the early hours of the morning, the United Irishmen were victorious and took control of the town.
1798 (24th May, 2.30 a.m.)
Battle of Naas – County Kildare
United Irishman, Michael Reynolds, led a large force of rebels in an attack on Naas. There were around 1,000 rebels while the garrison at Naas numbered around 250 men. However, the garrison had cannon and the rebels were unable to take the town.
1798 (24th May, dawn)
Apart from a few armed clashes, there was little rebellion in the capital city.
1798 (24th May, 7 a.m.)
Battle of Kilcullen – County Kildare
A number of rebels, including those that had fled the Battle of Ballymore-Eustace, gathered in Kilcullen. A British force noticed the rebels and marched to disperse them. The rebels bariccaded themselves in position and repelled the attack.
1798 (24th May, 9.30 a.m.)
Battle of Kilcullen – County Kildare
Rebel numbers had grown after the 7 a.m. victory. Army commander Ralph Dundas knew he could not win a straightforward attack. Instead he sent a small advance party to lure the rebels out of their positions. His plan worked and the rebels were defeated.
1798 (24th May)
The rebellion began just after dawn in Dublin when rebels seized a mail coach. However, the British had been informed of where the rebels would assemble and stationed a large military presence in the streets. Many rebels arriving at the muster points were reluctant to engage with the military and went home. The failure of the capital to rise and the loyalist British military presence there greatly hampered the success of the rising. Rebels did rise in the surrounding counties.
1798 (24th – 28th May)
Battle of Rathangan – County Kildare
Captain Doorley of the United Irishmen led the rebels in an attack on Rathangan, County Kildare. The rebels successfully took the town and held it for four days, but were then defeated by British reinforcements.
1798 (24th May)
Dunlavin Green Executions – County Wicklow
Thirty-six prisoners, accused of being members of the United Irishmen, were publicly executed by firing squad.
1798 (25th May)
Carnew Executions – County Wicklow
Twenty-eight men, held in Carnew Castle on suspicion of being members of the United Irishmen, were executed by firing squad.
1798 (25th May)
Battle of Carlow
This was a battle between United Irishmen and the British Army in the town of Carlow, County Carlow. The rebels marched on the town completely unaware that the British army were waiting for them. They were defeated with the loss of 500 men in the fighting. Afterwards around 150 men were executed for their part in the rising.
1798 (26th May)
Battle of the Harrow – County Wexford
In response to news of the executions at Carnew, Father John Murphy mustered a number of United Irishmen under the pretence that they were cutting turf for the church. They attacked and defeated a party of militia.
1798 (26th May evening)
Battle of Hill of Tara – County Meath
Around 4,000 rebels had taken Tara Hill in County Meath. The militia mustered at the bottom of the hill and proceeded to fire at the rebels using guns and cannon. The rebels had no defence against the artillery and a large number of men were killed.
1798 (27th May 2 p.m.)
Battle of Oulart Hill – County Wexford
A large number of United Irishmen had gathered on Oulart hill, Oulart, County Wexford. They were led by Father John Murphy. Without knowing the numbers, a militia force of about 100 men was sent to disperse the gathering. Instead of going back for reinforcements, they decided to charge the rebels. All except four men were killed.
1798 (28th May 1 p.m.)
Battle of Enniscorthy – County Wexford
A force of United Irishmen attacked the town and set fire to a number of properties. The garrison managed to drive the rebels back before abandoning the town and falling back to Wexford.
1798 (29th May)
General Gerard Lake and General Ralph Dundas had issued a statement promising an amnesty to any rebels that surrendered to the British army.
1798 (29th May)
Gibbet Rath Massacre – County Kildare
Sir James Duff, led a force of around 600 militia towards Dublin. His mission was to open the route to Dublin and break up any pockets of resistance along the way. When he reached Gibbet Rath he found more than 1,000 rebels waiting to surrender in return for the promised amnesty. At some point, Duff’s men attacked those rebels and 350 were killed. Some accounts of the event stated that Duff gave the order to attack, while others claim that the rebels opened fire on the soldiers first.
1798 (30th May)
Battle of Newtownmountkennedy – County Wicklow
A force of about 1,000 rebels led by Michael Neil, attacked the military barracks in the village. They were pushed back with a loss of 170 men.
1798 (30th May)
Battle of Three Rocks – County Wexfordbr>A force of about 100 government troops marching to Wexford, were attacked by a force of more than 1,000 United Irishmen. Around 70 were killed and others were captured. The rebels took their weapons and artillery and gained control of Wexford.
1798 (late May)
A force of United Irishmen led by William Aylmer mounted a campaign of guerrilla warfare from the bogs of Timahoe.
1798 (1st June)
Battle of Bunclody – County Wexford
A force of about 5,000 rebels led by Father Mogue Kearns, attacked the garrison at Bunclody. They managed to take the town but were then pushed back by the militia.
1798 (4th June)
Battle of Tubberneering – County Wexford
A militia force of about 400 were ambushed by a force of United Irishmen led by Father John Murphy. Around 100 militia were killed, including their leader Lieutenant-Colonel Walpole, the remainder fled the battle.
1798 (4th June)
Edward FitzGerald died in Newgate Prison. The gunshot wound to his shoulder had become infected and caused his death.
1798 (5th June early)
The United Irishmen rounded up suspected Loyalists and locked them in Scullabogue Barn. This was done to prevent them informing the militia in New Ross of the impending attack.
1798 (5th June dawn)
Battle of New Ross – County Wexfordbr>A force of around 10,000 rebels attacked a force of 2,000 militia. Rebel leader Bagenal Harvey attempted to negotiate the surrender of the militia. Matt Furlong, who was holding a white flag of truce, was shot by the militia. This prompted a charge of around 500 rebels led by John Kelly. Further attacks followed and the rebels managed to gain control of much of the town. However, by noon Crown reinforcements had arrived and the rebels could not match the firepower of the militia and were pushed back. Those that were trapped in the town or had been taken prisoner were killed.
1798 (5th June afternoon)
Scullabogue Barn Massacre
United Irishmen who had survived the Battle of New Ross returned to Scullabogue with news of their defeat and heavy losses – around 3,000 men. Angry rebels set fire to the barn. Anyone who escaped the blaze was shot or stabbed. Only two men managed to escape and survive.
1798 (6th June)
The leader of the Antrim United Irishmen, Henry McCracken agreed that the time was right for the north to rebel.
1798 (7th June)
Battle of Antrim – County Antrim
After taking a number of smaller towns in Antrim, a force of rebels marched to take Antrim. Along the way there were disagreements between groups of United Irishmen and groups of Defenders. McCracken had no choice but to revise his planned attack. The delay in attacking Antrim allowed the militia to send for reinforcements and the United Irishmen were defeated.
1798 (9th June afternoon)
Battle of Arklow – County Wicklow
A large force of around 10,000 United Irishmen marched on the town of Arklow which was held by the British. Although they had some success using captured artillery to fire on the town militia, the rebels were unable to enter the town as they were continually driven back by gunfire. The rebels persisted with the attack but after Father Michael Murphy was killed they lacked order and eventually withdrew.
1798 (9th June)
Battle of Saintfield – County Down
A force of around 1,000 United Irishmen attacked and set fire to the home of the unpopular, loyalist McKee family. A British force led by Colonel Granville Staplyton marched to meet the rebels. However, the rebels had guessed the militia would arrive and were waiting for them in dense woodland. The British were surprised and cut down giving the rebels victory.
1798 (12th – 13th June)
Battle of Ballynahinch – After the victory at Saintfield, large numbers of rebels converged on the town of Ballynahinch. The British advanced on the town from two sides. The battle began when British cannon were fired at the town. The assault halted overnight and many rebels left the town under cover of darkness. Those that remained faced a renewed assault at first light. They were unable to withstand attacks on two sides and began to retreat. Many rebels were killed in the attempt to retreat.
1798 (19th June)
Battle of Ovidstown – County Kildare
After initial victories by the United Irishmen, County Kildare had seen little fighting and had remained in rebel control. Loyalist troops were now diverted from other counties to remove the rebels. The United Irishmen had some initial success but were eventually defeated by the militia.
1798 (19th June)
The United Irishmen lost control of the town of Prosperous in Kildare.
1798 (19th June)
Battle of the Big Cross – County Cork
A force of militia led by Sir Hugh O’Reilly were marching to Bandon when they were met by a force of United Irishmen. The Irishmen were defeated with around 100 men killed.
1798 (20th June)
Battle of Foulksmills – County Wexford
A force of around 1,000 United Irishmen attacked and set fire to the home of the unpopular, loyalist McKee family. A British force led by Colonel Granville Staplyton marched to meet the rebels. However, the rebels had guessed the militia would arrive and were waiting for them in dense woodland. The British were surprised and cut down giving the rebels victory.
1798 (21st June early morning)
Battle of Vinegar Hill – County Wexford
A large British force of more than 13,000 attacked the rebel camp at Vinegar Hill. Large numbers of United Irishmen had amassed at the site. The battle began with the British bombarding the hill before advancing on the camp. The rebels were forced into an ever decreasing space which meant artillery bombardments caused increasing loss of life. The rebels tried to charge out of the enemy lines but were unable to do so. Eventually a gap in the British line allowed the rebels to escape. Those that could not escape were killed. The battle left the rebels severely defeated.
1798 (26th June)
Battle of Kilcumney Hill – County Carlow
The rebels found themselves overwhelmed by the militia. Some, including Father John Murphy, managed to escape. Murphy was taken in by a friend in Tullow, County Carlow.
1798 (30th June)
Battle of Ballyellis – County Wicklow
Those United Irishmen that had escaped Vinegar Hill had made for County Wicklow. They were pursued by British forces. One group of rebels reached Ballyellis and set up an ambush for the pursuing force. A number of militia were killed before they retreated.
1798 (2nd July)
Father John Murphy and his bodyguard were captured. They were tried and found guilty of treason. They were then tortured and flogged before being executed by hanging and decapitation.
1798 (21st July)
The rebel army led by William Aylmer surrendered to the British.
1798 (22nd August)
A French force of 1,100 troops landed in County Mayo.
1798 (27th August)
Battle of Castlebar – County Mayo
A force of French troops and United Irishmen had taken a number of towns in County Mayo and now marched on Castlebar where around 6,000 British troops were stationed. Rather than taking a direct route they approached from a different direction. The British had managed to move their artillery and fired on the rebel approach. The French soldiers made a bayonet charge which put the British to flight.
1798 (31st August)
Commander Jean Humbert declared the Republic of Connaught.
1798 (3rd September)
The Republic of Connaught collapsed when French troops left the area.
1798 (5th September)
Battle of Collooney – County Sligo
A combined French and United Irishmen force led by Jean Humbert defeated a British force at Collooney.
1798 (8th September)
Battle of Ballinamuck
Humbert’s force of French and United Irishmen advanced towards Dublin. Meanwhile a British force led by Charles Cornwallis was marching West. The British charged the rebels and Humbert decided to surrender. A number of Irish had not laid down their arms and they were pursued and killed.
1798 (23rd September)
Battle of Killala
A number of rebels had gathered at Killala. They were aware of a British advancing force and positioned themselves to attack. However, they were no match for the British and were forced to retreat. Many were cut down as they fled the battle.
1798 (24th September)
Large numbers of rebels who had fled the Battle of Killala were hiding in houses or in the surrounding area. The British combed the countryside and burned houses to root them out. When discovered they were killed. Many civilians also lost their lives in the violence.
1798 (12th October)
Wolf Tone and a French force of around 3,000 men arrived off the coast of County Donegal. However, before the men could land they were intercepted by a Royal Navy squadron. After a three-hour battle the French surrendered. Wolf Tone was taken prisoner.
1798 (8th November)
Wolf Tone was tried and found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
1798 (12th November)
Wolf Tone suffered a fatal neck wound. It is unclear whether the wound was self-inflicted or whether he was attacked.
1798 (19th November)
Wolf Tone died from a mortal neck injury.
1798 (late)
Rebel leader Joseph Holt had continued to lead sporadic attacks on the militia but decided to surrender. He successfully negotiated transportation to Australia rather than execution.
1801 (1st January)
The Act of Union
This act was a political union of Great Britain and Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The separate parliaments of each country were merged and Ireland sent Members of Parliament to the House of Commons. The government appointed a Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary for Ireland to implement laws passed n Westminster that affected Ireland.


Published Jun 9, 2020 @ 9:00 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). The Irish Rebellion of 1798 Causes and Events. Last accessed [date]


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