Vinegar Hill

This content was created/compiled by Eoin Egan.

In Brief:

After their initial successes in Wexford at Oulart Hill, Enniscorthy and Wexford town, the rebels led by Bagenal Harvey and Fr. John Murphy were defeated after intense fighting at the Battle of New Ross. This loss took a heavy toll on the rebels and soon a British force led by General Lake drove them back until they were eventually cornered at their camp on Vinegar Hill. Even though they had about 15,000 men – outnumbering the British – their pikes and scarce muskets could not match the cannons and cavalry of their opponents. They were easily defeated with heavy casualties. The leaders escaped but were later captured. Bagenal Harvey was hanged on Wexford Bridge on 28 June while Fr. Murphy was caught and executed some days later.


Claymation rendition of the battle between the Wexford United Irishmen and the British Army in 1798 (created by Sean Murphy, Coláiste Naomh Phádraig).



More information:

Vinegar hill

The battle began shortly before dawn with an artillery bombardment of Irish positions on the hill.

Advance units quickly moved against rebel outposts under cover of the shelling and moved artillery closer as forward positions were secured.

The tightening ring forced the rebels into an ever-shrinking area and increased exposure to the constant shelling, including new experimental delayed-fuse shells resulting in hundreds of dead and maimed.

Mass charges by the rebels failed to break the lines of the advancing British military and the situation on Vinegar Hill soon became desperate for the rebels.

When British troops crested its eastern summit, the rebels began to withdrawal through a gap in the British lines later known as “Needham’s Gap”; named after the late arrival of General Needham’s brigade.

Attack on Enniscorthy

The British simultaneously launched an attack on Enniscorthy town to cut off the escape route via the bridge linking Vinegar Hill to the town, but were met with fierce resistance, led by William Barker.

British progress in the town was slow and they suffered heavy casualties as the town saw heavy street fighting for the second time in one month.

The rebels were eventually driven across the bridge, but were reinforced by a large contingent of newly arrived comrades, who managed to prevent the military from breaking through until most of the rebels had escaped along the eastern side of the River Slaney.

When it became clear that the bulk of the Irish were retreating from Vinegar Hill, the British cavalry were unleashed, closely followed by the infantry.

A massacre of hundreds of stragglers ensued, including many women and children, from a combination of the cavalry and infantry attack, but also from the field guns which were switched to grape shot to maximise casualties among the fleeing masses.

In addition, the British military were guilty of multiple instances of gang rape of females amongst the Irish camp.

Meanwhile, in Enniscorthy, British troops set fire to a makeshift hospital in the town, burning scores of trapped and helpless wounded Irish troops alive; their bodies were said to be still hissing in the embers the following day.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the rebel force streamed unmolested towards the Three Rocks camp outside Wexford town and, following the decision to abandon the town, split into two separate columns in a new campaign to spread the rebellion beyond Wexford.

One set out to the west, the other northwards towards the Wicklow Mountains to link up with General Joseph Holt’s forces.

The defeat was therefore not the immediate crushing blow to the Wexford rebels that it has traditionally been depicted as, but it did alter the course of the fighting as continued resistance now took the form of mobile warfare, raids, and large scale guerilla-type operations.


Vinegar Hill, 1798 song



History@Banagher College, Coláiste na Sionna.

Published on April 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm Comments (3)
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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. on May 31, 2010 at 8:07 pm joey Said:

    cool video,interesting

  2. on June 1, 2010 at 8:45 pm Eric Moloney Said:

    I didn’t think there’d be so much information on Vinegar Hill.. Good work and very interesting videos.

  3. on March 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm tweety nohlan Said:

    very good information

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