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The Battle of Carlow

General Plan

An attack on the town would take place simultaneously from four different directions, through the four main streets.

From Bennekerry and Tinryland, an assault would be made into Tullow Street.

From Ballybar and Garryhundon, people would march in through Burrin Street.

From Leix, the attack would be across Graigue bridge, over the Barrow and past the old Norman Castle crouching in the darkness.

From Palatine and Maganey, Dublin Street would be infiltrated.

All would converge on Potato Market.

As the various contingents advanced, they did not know that Colonel Mahon of the Ninth Dragoons had the military in the barracks and the town was on the alert. Their every move was known to him.

A strong party of military was stationed in the court house which is now known as the Deighton Hall (this is situated immediately to the north of the bridge across the river Burrin).

Another party with two small cannon were stationed on the bridge. On Graigue bridge, there was an officer’s guard of yeomen.

In Dublin Street and to the north, well-armed loyalists filled some large strong houses, but without military support, as the attack was known to be weak from that quarter.

Tullow Street was left open and to all appearances undefended against what was expected would be the strongest attack of all. The trap was laid.

An Excerpt from William’s Farrell Account of the Attack

"Hayden was so confident in the assistance of the United Men that were in the Yeomen Militia and even the Ninth Dragoons, who he was certain, would run armed to join him the moment he entered the town, and so, blinded with hopes of victory, he would listen to nothing else."

"Full of these vain hopes, he returned to the people and marched them on. Never before, since the world began, did such an army march on to take a garrisoned town; a set of trembling, ignorant country-men, headed by an unfortunate, foolish, enthusiastic young man. There was no obstacle in their way to prevent their going into the town; the most trifling one would have done it. Had there been a single sergeant’s guard before them, they never would have faced it. Unfortunately for them, there was no such thing, and in they marched."

"When they came to Potato Market, the place appointed, they halted and commenced shouting as a signal for all their friends to come to their assistance, but they shouted in vain; the friends they expected were too much terrified with the preparations that were made to stir one inch. When they found this, that they were left alone, they were seized with a sudden panic, and some of them proposed to march forward to bring in the Queen’s County men. But just as they made the movement to go on, there were two sentries at the Collector’s house, a little below them in Tullow Street, and one of them presented his piece and fired, and killed one of the party, and this single shot stopped the whole body."

"They then thought to go through Bridewell Lane and get off that way, but just at that moment, Colonel Mahon, who had been closely watching them, ordered out a strong party of soldiers from the Barrack, who, taking them in the rear, had them covered the length of Tullow Street, from the Fair Green to Potato Market, and opened on then a tremendous fire of musketry."

"The scene that followed could hardly be described; they flew like frightened birds, some down Tullow Street towards the Queen’s County; some across Potato Market and down Bridewell Lane for the same place, and were fired at from the windows as they went along."

"Others were so overcome with fear that they were not able to run away, but forced in the doors of about forty thatched cabins that were on the spot, to hide themselves. In vain did Hayden call out to them to stand and fight for their lives; he might as well be whispering to a tempest, and was obliged at last to run himself when all was lost, and saw his woeful mistake when it was too late. The army advanced, firing volley after volley, till they came up to the cabins that were completely filled with the unfortunate creatures that rushed in. By this time, there was not one of those that came in to be seen in the street, except such as were killed, and they were lying in heaps."

"The army, now having no enemy to oppose them, turned their attention at once to the cabins and made short work of them by setting every one of them on fire, and all that were in them, men, women and children, innocent and guilty, even all burned together in one common mass."

"In this affair of Carlow, some of the unfortunate people rushed out of the flames, thinking to save themselves, but they were instantly shot or bayoneted, and even the people who ran out of their beds with whatever covering they could throw around them shared the same fate."

"While the houses were burning, the rest of the enraged soldiers were in full cry through the town, dragging the terrified creatures out of every hiding-place they could find, and either shooting them on the spot, or hanging them out of gateways or signposts whichever they chose. There was no opposition as they were nearly dead with fear beforehand, without touching them at all."

Research for this web page used the following sources:

Come Capture Castles

by Victor Hadden

Carlow in ‘98,

Memoirs of William Farrell