The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was meant to have been a three-sided struggle, with the British under attack by the forces of the United Irishmen and a French army at the same time. In the event the leadership of the United Irishmen was disrupted before the revolt began and the French arrived late and in tiny numbers, but despite this the Irish rebels achieved some startling successes, and a wide range of British and Irish troops were used against them.
This entry in the Men-at-Arms series looks at all three of the armies involved in this conflict. The Government forces are the most varied. As well as the regular line infantry, there was an Irish Militia, 15,000 strong (in theory) and open to both Protestants and Catholics by 1798, the volunteers of the Yeomanry (both infantry and cavalry in Ireland) and the Scottish and English Fencibles, home service regiments that by 1798 could be used anywhere in the British Isles.
The Irish rebellion was led by the United Irishmen, a vast underground organisation that in theory could have raised an army nearly 280,000 strong. Even if only equipped with pikes, this fast force might have been able to sweep aside the limited British garrison in Ireland and at least capture Dublin (this was indeed the plan for the first day of the uprising). Sadly for the rebels the British authorities sensed trouble and arrested most of the United Irishmen leadership, leaving the movement without many of its most able leaders just when they were most needed.
Finally the French contribution was tiny - just over 1,000 strong, but even so if it had arrived when the rebellion was still underway then it might have played a more major role in events.
Reid includes a brief narrative of events, which help place these different armies in their context. There is the normal selection of colour plates, with a great deal of information contained in the plate notes. In the case of the illustrations of rebel soldiers many of the notes include an original source, mostly eyewitness accounts.
The United Irishmen
Chronology of the Campaign
The British Army
Author: Stuart Reid