A Damning Report on Captain Richard Swayne.
By W. H. MAXWELL, Esq. (1845)
Prosperous, a small but thriving town, then generally inhabited by persons employed in manufacturing cottons, is seventeen miles from Dublin. It was garrisoned by a detachment of the North Cork Militia, some forty men under Captain Swayne, with a lieutenant and twenty of the Ancient British cavalry. The infantry occupied a temporary barrack, half the cavalry were quartered in an opposite house and the remainder in single billets.
On the Sunday (20th) previous to the outbreak, Swayne arrived in Prosperous with his detachment. He attended at the chapel with Dr Esmond—a man of great local influence—and then implored the people there assembled, to deliver up any arms which might be concealed, return to their allegiance, and receive the protection he was authorized to grant them.
This exhortation proved ineffectual, some coercive measures—such as the seizure of cattle, then warranted by martial law, were resorted to.
“On the 23rd, it was intimated that fear had hitherto prevented the peasantry from bringing the concealed arms to the town; and that should they be permitted to enter after dark, unchallenged and unmolested, on the following night, pikes and fire-arms would be brought in and deposited in the streets.
It is difficult to decide whether the stupidity of Swayne, or the treachery of Esmonde, were most to be condemned. A man, individually, may trifle with himself—but for him who turns right or left from the plain path which duty points to, and compromises the safety of those committed to his charge, (his men) there can be no extenuation.
Members of the Prosperous Drama Society play out the inquisition by the army into the fall of Prosperous.
For Swayne's folly there can be no apology—his guards should have been doubled— a cart—a ladder — drawn across the street would have marked sufficiently where those who came to surrender arms might approach with full security. A step beyond it, if the challenge failed, the advanced sentry shot the intruder, and the garrison was at once alarmed.
So much for Swayne—his weakness was inexcusable — he died its victim—ignobly, certainly, but still by the weapon of a foe man: Esmond met the doom he merited—a noose, a fitting death for a traitor.
"About two o'clock on Thursday morning, the 24th of May, the two sentinels were surprised and killed; and both the barracks were assaulted while the soldiers were fast asleep.
Nothing could have been more detestable than Esmonde's treachery. He wore the royal uniform, and yet was false to the monarch to whom he had sworn allegiance.
When men of desperate fortunes swerve from the paths of honour, poverty may be pleaded to extenuate, though not excuse. Esmond had no plea to offer—he was wealthy, well born, and respected. He might have proved a rebel, but why play the traitor?
When in the house of God, loyalty was on his lips, while the heart was contemplating bloodshed. Even the tie a savage venerates could not turn him from his truculent design—and while he had devoted him to death, he shared his victim's hospitality—dined with Captain Swayne " at an inn on the 23rd day of May, and continued to enjoy the glow of social mirth with him, till a few hours before the perpetration of that bloody scene, which he had for some time meditated.
The work of death at Prosperous was interrupted by intelligence conveyed to the insurgents, that at Clane, three miles off', their friends had been defeated—for although partly surprised, that little garrison succeeded in beating off their assailants.”