The Battle Of Vinegar Hill
On June 21st 1798 the British numbering 13,000 attacked Vinegar Hill just outside the town of Enniscorthy in Co Wexford which was the main camp & headquarters of the United Irishmen in Wexford.
The Irish rebels numbered between 16,000 – 20,000 but the majority lacked firearms and had to rely on pikes as their main weapon.
The camp also included thousands of women and children who were staying there for protection against the rampaging military.
The British bombarded Vinegar Hill with cannons and a detachment of light infantry attacked Enniscorthy.
Advance units quickly moved against rebel outposts under cover of the bombardment and moved artillery closer as forward positions were secured.
The tightening ring forced the rebels into an ever-shrinking area and increased exposure to the constant bombardment, including new experimental delayed-fuse shells resulting in hundreds of dead and injured.
At least two mass charges were launched by the rebels which failed to break the lines of the military and the situation on Vinegar Hill soon became desperate for the rebels.
Because of the delay of General Needham’s troops reaching Vinegar Hill which prevented the British from completely encircling the camp this left a gap for the rebels to escape.
Known as “Needhams’s Gap” the majority of the rebels made their escape but those left behind were routed and there was also mass rapes of the women in the camp.
Despite a brave defence Enniscorthy also fell to the British and rebel wounded were burned to death when the British set fire to a building used as a casualty station.
The bulk of the rebel force streamed towards the Three Rocks camp outside Wexford town and, following the decision to abandon the town, split into two separate columns in a new campaign to spread the rebellion beyond Wexford.
One immediately set out to the west, the other northwards towards the Wicklow Mountains to link up with General Joseph Holt's forces.
The British lost around 100 men and the rebels about 1,500 in the battle.
The defeat at Vinegar Hill steered the rebels into more guerrilla warfare type fighting.