In the context of the United Irishmen’s rebellion of 1798, the Battle of Prosperous on 24th May, represents the very first shots fired and the first victory for the rebels.
On that day, about five hundred men with pikes, eight had firelocks, one musket, one fusee, and five pistols, and one blunderbuss fought with incredible bravery.
The leaders; Andrew Farrell, a farmer's son, led the attack on the barrack at Prosperous; John Mahon, from Bishop's-court, a servant of Mr. Fitzgerald; Thomas Wylde, son of the English manufacturer; Bryan Rourke; Bernard Duggan, a cotton weaver in Prosperous; Bryan M'Dermott, son of a farmer; Edward Hanlon, farmer; Patrick Tobin; a tailor of Prosperous, killed at Prosperous and Denis Hanlon, a cotton spinner, who served as the guide to Dr. Esmonde, in the attack, had very little or none at all military training, but still, after the victory at Prosperous, they advance on Clane to assist their neighbouring village.
Some would join forces with the Wicklow, Wexford and county Meath rebels.
Despite its historical part in the Rebellion of 1798, Prosperous fails to get a single word of any significance in terms of its part in the rebellion.
*It was said, that if his majesty forces were to quash the rebellion of ’98, once and for all, they would have to take the village of Prosperous and hold it.
On the 10th July, the remnants of the great Wexford Unite Irishmen army [an estimated 1600 men], under Ryan as General, with Colonels Perry, Fitzgerald, and Rossiter, and Garret Byrne, with part of the Wicklow rebels, following the battle of Carnew and after a long forced march to County Kildare, halted near Prosperous. On perceiving a body of troops moving after them they took a strong position near the heights above the town, a bog in front, only passable by a narrow road, through which an army should march to attack them. (This is possibly the hill of Ballynafagh). They had taken the precaution to place their bullock’s baggage, etc., in such a situation on the road that their riflemen could fire with precision from behind them.
A heavy column of musketeer and pikemen, in trenched in the ditches, assumed so formidable an appearance, that his majesty's troops drew off without firing a gun, and left them to prosecute their march unmolested (to the Timahoe camp).
Letter date: July 27, 1798 by Felix Rourke
*Prosperous remained a rebel outpost even though the main army (United Irishmen) were camped in the bog near Timahoe. The size of the camp now reached an estimated four thousand rebels.
Prosperous was eventually taken by his majesty forces after which Aylmer was forced to surrender. On the 21st July Colonel Liam Aylmer, Captain Andrew Farrell and other officers surrendered. That was the end of the 1798 rising in Kildare –
“Gradh mo chroidhe, my Leinster-men, you fanned the flame aglow”
Prosperous, The French Connection.
Another letter by Bernard Duggan- (United Irishman involved in the attack on Prosperous)
William Putnam M'Cabe was very active at the time the French troops were in Killala and Ballinamuck, endeavouring to raise the Irish to aid the French, but when the French surrendered he and three other gentlemen came through County Kildare, and passed Naas at night until they came near the Cock bridge on the Grand Canal, close by to Phil Mite's public house where there was a guard house and a party of the Londonderry militia, of which the travelling party was not aware of and were much surprised when the sentinel challenged them at some distance at a late hour of about 12 o'clock at night.
The guard advanced and the gentlemen retreated. Mr. M'Cabe and the other gentlemen separated. One of them, a Mr. Palmer and another, a French gentleman, got through the demesne of Donore to a farmer's house of the name of Malone. M'Cabe and the guide got by the guard leaving a sack with a portmanteau in it, containing maps and papers relative to the plans of operation and movements of the French troops, as well as the United Irishmen, which would, if detected, be the cause of immediate death.
The sack with the portmanteau lay there until morning, when I went before daylight and brought it into Prosperous. (Signed) "B. DUGGAN
Dr. Esmonde was a lieutenant in the Kildare yeomanry cavalry.
He took an active part in local politics, electioneering, and Catholic affairs of his country, so early as 1793—4. He was early connected with the society of United Irishmen and to him the orders were sent down for the outbreak of the insurrection in Kildare on the 22nd of May. He waited on Swayne on his arrival at Prosperous and urged him strongly to give the people time to bring in the weapons. Swayne was sent down, according to Musgrave, for the express purpose of exercising “free quarters," and he carried his order into execution with a vengeance.
This was before the insurrection broke out that the scourging of the people began at the triangles in the market-house that picketing a human being was put in practice that burning of cabins, trampling down of crops, letting loose a licentious soldiery on the people. The destruction of the marauding soldiery was determined on and accomplished in a manner shocking to humanity.
An act of kindness/bravery shown,
At this stage the barracks is heavily on fire...
Nicholas Eldon, the deputy barrack-master, his wife and children, and the families of some of the Cork soldiers, remained in one of the underground offices, during this scene of carnage, having retired there for safety. When the heat and smoke became too much for them they tried to escape. Led by Mrs Eldon they made their way outside, only to be driven back by a “ferocious ruffian” ready to dispatch them with his pike, exclaiming, “Let the heretic remain to be burnt.” They returned and continued to pray, till the flames forced them out again. Mrs Eldon rushed out and dropped to her knees surrounded by her three children, having one of them in her arms. Her tears and appeals and her piteous situation, suspended the fury of the rebels for a moment. A young rebel named James McEvoy intervened and brought them to the safety of his father’s house Hugh McEvoy.
It was in fact the rebels’ intensions to burn all the occupants of the barracks, as they had placed armed men guarding all the door ways.
During all of the chaos the rebels did manage to free a prisoner (one that we know of), a Mr Murray from Clonkeevin, who was being held in chains, he fainted with the joy of being rescued. He was carried from the burning barracks by Tom Ennis.
(A big thank you to the officers, wives and babies of the Lord Edwards Own reenactors)