[1798] - Uprising of the United Irishmen, led by Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone

Following the aborted French invasion of Ireland in December 1796, the British government began a campaign of repression throughout the country. Martial law was imposed on 2 March 1797, the leadership of the United Irishmen was imprisoned, and the organization’s newspaper, the Northern Star, was suppressed. The extent of the repression, and its accompanying violence, increased pressure on the United Irishmen to act before it was too late to effect change. It was therefore decided that a rebellion would take place on 23 May without the assistance of the French. In Dublin the uprising was easily foiled. Furthermore, a lack of leadership hampered progress elsewhere. Nonetheless, after heavy fighting in County Kildare, the rebellion spread to other areas of the country. The rebels seized control of the county of Wexford, only to be heavily defeated at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on 21 June.

On 22 August a small French expeditionary force under General Humbert landed in County Mayo. Although it enjoyed some initial success, it was decisively defeated at the Battle of Ballinamuck on 8 September. A month later, on 12 October, a larger French fleet attempted to land in County Donegal with the assistance of Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the United Irishmen. The fleet, however, was intercepted by the British navy and defeated. In addition, Tone was captured and court-martialled. Denied a soldier’s death by firing squad, he took his own life on 19 November 1798. Although pockets of armed resistance remained active, Tone’s death effectively marked the end of the 1798 rebellion.

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