Introduction. The Catholic Bishop and his experience of the rebel regime. Bishop James Caulfield, the Catholic bishop of Ferns, who resided in Wexford town, reported to his superior, Archbishop John Troy of Dublin on his efforts to deal with the rebels once they took possession of the county and once some of them began to threaten their enemies (or suspected enemies) with destruction. What follows is an excerpt from a letter Caulfield wrote to Troy on 31 July, 1798.
Source. Dublin Diocesan Archives, Troy Correspondence (AB2/116/7 No. 73).
... it soon became treason to plead for protections for they were `all Orangemen and would destroy us all’, in vain did we urge humanity, charity, religion and mercy. I declared that if any of them had killed my friend, my brother, my father, that I would protect and save him, if he threw himself on my mercy; for it was by showing mercy that I could expect mercy myself. This conduct and language graduated me equal to an Orangeman; my house must be pulled down or burnt or my head knocked off; this last sentence was boldly pronounced to my face, surrounded as I was in the public square, by 4 or 5 thousands pikes, spears or muskets, when I was striving to save Lord Kingsborough’s life, and which we providentially effected by gaining over a few of those rebels who had influence on the rest, that task engaged me from nine o clock in the morning to eight in the evening, in which time I had not a moment’s rest nor did I expect much rest in this wicked world and I was alone i.e. without any of the clergy with me, this latter part of the day, except Rev. James Roche, who remained indoors with Lord Kigsborough, there were other priests there too from the country but dared not show themselves or speak, for fear of Pikes etc. I remained until the King’s army began to come in (it was Thursday 21st June) then I was in as perilous a situation as ever, not knowing but an indiscriminate slaughter might be their first act, however I sat down with Lord Kingsboro and some others at his place of confinement to a bit of salt beef at the fall of night and got a Captain Bourke of the North Corks, a worthy fellow, to escort me home. Two days before this the demon of murder broke out and a banditti as dispelled from Hell, assailed the jail and the barrack, both crammed with prisoners and called them out by dozens to be executed and two prison ships in the harbour to be brought out two and two to be executed on the Bridge. Mr. Corrin dined with me (for my cry to the clergy was that we should keep together, living and dying) at the close of dinner, a call for Mr. Corrin came from Mr. Kellett, who was brought out of the ship on the bridge for execution; he ran with all speed and found Kellett and several others waiting the awful moment; he addressed the wretches in the best manner he could, warned them that the blood they were spilling and to spill must shortly appear against them at the awful tribunal of God and conjured them to stop etc etc. They did so. Kellett and the rest were allowed to live and after that there was no more massacre.
Professor Daniel Gahan