Introduction. The battle of Knightstown Bog, near the Meath/Louth border, was the last significant engagement of the Wexford Rebellion. Here one of Luke Cullen’s informants, who participated and survived, recollects the fighting.
Source. Myles Ronan, Personal Recollections of Wexford and Wicklow Insuregents of 1798, as collected by Rev. Bro. Luke Cullen (Enniscorthy 1959) pp 58-9; National Library of Ireland, MS 9760 Cullen Manuscript.
The next day these parties advanced again, but with a superior force without infantry. Our generals told us that these were only the advance, that the Infantry and Artillery were certainly coming after. They were now sufficiently skilled in warfare to know that Gen. Byrne ordered us to give a cheer in defiance, and although they did not seem eager to engage us, we forced the battle on them. The Commanders were busily riding across from line to line and from rank to rank in front of every charge, animating and encouraging us by their example. And their principal cry to us was “Keep to them now and beat them before the reinforcements come up!” Our horses were foundering and broken down. Theirs were fresh and gave them a great advantage over us. But when we came into deadly conflict with them I saw no great advantage in their discipline, particularly if opposed to our pikemen. I have been 13 years campaigning in Egypt, in Spain, in Portugal, and whether it was by accident or the skill of our Commanders, I never saw anything, for the numbers engaged, better contested. Not like previous skirmishing, the enemy kept their ground and never gave way one inch unless by dint of force.
But the artillery came up and opened a shower of grape on us. I think out Officers were wounded, although none of them severely but a great number of our men fell with that discharge. A great number of us jumped from our horses and put them between us and the enemy. General Byrne was in the midst of us. Fitzgerald was covered with blood. The enemy was rapidly extending their lines with superior numbers to surround us. Perry rode up to Fitzgerald at this time and the latter, pointing his sword to the high ground, that was convenient, said, “Whelan! Lead for the road. Men! Follow him!”. Perry and the other officers, at a short distance from Fitzgerald, directed their march for the same road. Here the cavalry closed on us to prevent our getting off. But General Byrne brought up the few pikemen we had and we forced our way through them, leaving many of our fine comrades behind us.
They were now completely put on their defence until night came on, when a Council of War was held. It was then announced to the men that if any of them chose to separate and do the best they could individually, they were at full liberty to do so. Some few went towards Ardee. Some of the Wexfordmen wandered away. They said they could not attempt to go home
Professor Daniel Gahan