The Bowles of Canada and their Roots in Ireland and England 

The Battle of Carlow

An excerpt from Richard Musgrave's Memoirs Of The Irish Rebellion of 1798, published in 1802

Note: They say that history is written by the winners.  This book is no exception.  It was published from the viewpoint and with the aim of marketing the British Government's official position that the rebellion had been a Catholic plot to kill as many Protestants as possible.  So please read this excerpt with an understanding of the author's view of the times.  These same events could also be portrayed in a very different manner given the present popular view of the non-denominational aspect of the rebellion and its many Protestant leaders. 


The mail-coach from Dublin always reached Carlow in the morning about eight o'clock; and, as its not arriving on the morning of Thursday the twenty-fourth of May was to be the signal for rising there and in its vicinity, the rebels could not make their intended attack on that town till the morning of the twenty-fifth.

About two o'clock on that morning they assembled in great force, mostly from Grange, Hacketstown, Tullow, Leighlin, and that part of the country between Rathvilly and Borris, headed by one Roach a farmer. They gave a most dreadful yell as soon as they entered the town, where they were joined by most of the lower class of the popish inhabitants, and numbers of people who had been secretly coming into it the whole of the preceding day and night. They marched, in number about two thousand, through Tullow-street, till they arrived at the potato market, where their progress was interrupted by two sentinels posted at the collector's door, and a loyal protestant who joined them; and they, by a constant and well-directed fire, defeated their design of uniting with the Queen's county rebels, (who were to have met them at Graigue-bridge) and drove them across the potato market towards the gaol, where two sentinels, with equal spirit, checked them in their career, and forced them to retreat through Bridewell-lane, towards the court-house; where having received a few shots from the house of a loyal protestant, they cried out that they were surrounded by the soldiers, threw down their arms, and, in the greatest consternation, endeavoured to retreat by the road through which they had at first advanced; but, fearing to meet the army in that direction, numbers of them retired into the houses in Tullow-street, which it is believed were inhabited by their associates; for when the soldiers set fire to them, to make the rebels bolt, there was not a woman or child in any of them. Some rushed out through the flames, and were shot or bayoneted; others remained in the houses till they were consumed. The other miscreants who had taken different routes, were shot by the loyal inhabitants from their windows; and such of them as escaped, were pursued and killed by the soldiers and yeomanry; so that the streets, the roads, and fields contiguous to the town, were strewed with carcasses. That evening, and all next day, nineteen carts were constantly employed in conveying the dead bodies to the other side of the Graigue-bridge, where four hundred and seventeen bodies were buried in three gravel-pitS, and covered with quick lime. On the whole, it was believed, that no less than six hundred of the unfortunate wretches perished, including those who were consumed in the houses, and those who fell in the roads and fields, and were secretly interred by their friends. 

The Queen's county rebels were to have met, and joined those of the county of Carlow, at Graigue-bridge; but having heard that there were two pieces of cannon posted there, they changed their route; and, headed by one Redmond, and one Brennan, who had been a yeoman, they burned some protestant houses in the village of Ballyckmoiler, and attacked the house of the reverend John Whitty, a protestant clergyman, near Arles, about five miles from Carlow; but it was bravely defended, by himself and eleven protestants, who kept up a constant fire, killed twenty-one rebels, and baffled all their attempts to storm or burn it. The conflict continued from three till six o'clock in the morning; when Mr. Whitty's ammunition being nearly expended, he sent two of his party to a neighbour to borrow more; but they were surrounded and overpowered after a gallant defence. The corpse of one of them, whom they killed, was mangled in a barbarous manner. They left the other, whose name was Impey, supposing him to be dead; but he afterwards recovered. He sought for a draught of water from some persons who were present, but they would not relieve him, till he asked for a priest, and then they supplied him with it. This party was first informed, by emissaries from Carlow, that their friends were successful, and had got possession of the barrack; on which they felt a degree of joy equal to madness, but it was only the delusion of a moment; for the dismay which they felt, on hearing the fate of their friends was such, as to check their sanguinary design of immolating an unfortunate protestant, whom they were on the point of shooting.

Richard Waters, a member of Mr. Rochfort's corps of yeomanry, fell into their hands; and they had him for some time on his knees, ready for execution, when an account of the defeat of the rebels at Carlow arrived.  He, taking advantage of the panic which it produced, recommended to them to surrender their arms, and throw themselves on the mercy of government; and his exhortation not only produced the desired effect, but saved his life.

See The Bowles of Canada

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This page was last updated 10/18/18