Military Wiki
"Battle of Ballingarry"
Part of the Revolutions of 1848
Date29 July 1848
LocationBallingarry, South Tipperary, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Result Rebels besiege a police unit, but retreat after police reinforcements arrive
Flag of Ireland.svg Young Irelanders United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Irish Constabulary
Commanders and leaders
William Smith O'Brien Sub-Inspector Trant
Sub-Inspector Cox
unknown 47, unknown number of reinforcements arrived later
Casualties and losses
2 killed unknown

The Young Irelander Rebellion was a failed Irish nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement, part of the wider Revolutions of 1848 that affected most of Europe. It took place on 29 July 1848 in the village of Ballingarry, South Tipperary. After being chased by a force of Young Irelanders and their supporters, an Irish Constabulary unit raided a house and took those inside as hostages. A several-hour gunfight followed, but the rebels fled after a large group of police reinforcements arrived.

It is sometimes called the Famine Rebellion (since it took place during the Great Irish Famine) or the Battle of Ballingarry.


William Smith O'Brien

Michael Doheny

Thomas Francis Meagher

As with the earlier United Irishmen, who had been inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, the Young Irelanders were inspired by struggles for freedom on the continent.

1848 was a year of revolutions throughout continental Europe. In February 1848, King Louis-Philippe of France was overthrown and the Second Republic was proclaimed in Paris. This revolution sent political shock waves across Europe, and revolutions broke out in Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Prague, and Budapest. At least temporarily, absolutist governments were replaced by liberal administrations, near universal suffrage was introduced and elections were held to constituent assemblies to draw up new national constitutions. It was sometimes described as the "springtime of the people."

Inspired by these events and the success of liberal, romantic nationalism on the European mainland and disgusted by Daniel O'Connell's acceptance of patronage from the British Liberals,[1] a group known as Young Ireland broke away from O'Connell's Repeal Association. They took an uncompromising stand for a national Parliament with full legislative and executive powers. At its founding, the Confederation resolved to be based on principles of freedom, tolerance and truth.[2] While the young men did not call for rebellion, neither would they make absolute pledges for peace. Their goal was independence of the Irish nation and they held to any means to achieve that which were consistent with honour, morality and reason.[3] The Young Irelanders, as they had become known, longed to see achieved in Ireland the liberties achieved on the Continent. At the beginning of 1847, they formed an organisation known as The Irish Confederation.[4]

Leaders William Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher and Richard O'Gorman led a delegation to Paris to congratulate the new French Republic. Meagher returned to Ireland with a tricolour flag (now the national flag) – a symbol of reconciliation between the Orange and Green, made for them by French women who sympathised with their cause.

Since most of the continental revolutions were relatively bloodless, O'Brien believed he could attain similar results in Ireland. He hoped to unite Irish landlords and tenants in protest against British rule. The government, however, forced the leaders' hands on 22 July 1848 by announcing the suspension of habeas corpus. This meant they could imprison the Young Irelanders and other opponents on proclamation without trial. Having to choose between armed resistance or an ignominious flight, O'Brien decided that the movement would have to make a stand.[5]


Ballingarry 1848

The Widow McCormack's House

From the 23rd to 29 July 1848, O'Brien, Meagher and Dillon raised the standard of revolt as they travelled from County Wexford through County Kilkenny and into County Tipperary. The last great gathering of Young Ireland leaders took place in the village of The Commons on 28 July. The next day, O'Brien was in The Commons where barricades had been erected, near the Commons colliery,[6] to prevent his arrest. His local supporters—miners, tradesmen and small tenant farmers—awaited the arrival of the military and police. As the police from Callan approached the crossroads before The Commons from Ballingarry, they saw barricades in front of them and, thinking discretion the better part of valour, they veered right up the road toward County Kilkenny. The rebels followed them across the fields. Sub-Inspector Trant and his 46 policemen took refuge in a large two-storey farmhouse, taking the five young children in the house as hostages. They barricaded themselves in, pointing their guns from the windows. The house was surrounded by the rebels and a stand-off ensued. Mrs. Margaret McCormack, the owner of the house and mother of the children, demanded to be let into her house, but the police refused and would not release the children. Mrs. McCormack found O'Brien reconnoitring the house from the out-buildings, and asked him what was to become of her children and her house.

Terence MacManus

O'Brien and Mrs. McCormack went up to the parlour window of the house to speak to the police. Through the window, O'Brien stated, "We are all Irishmen—give up your guns and you are free to go." O'Brien shook hands with some of the police through the window. The initial report to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland stated that a constable fired the first shot at O'Brien, who was attempting to negotiate. General firing then ensued between the police and the rebels. O'Brien had to be dragged out of the line of fire by James Stephens and Terence Bellew MacManus, both of whom were wounded.

The rebels were incensed that they had been fired upon without provocation, and the shooting went on for a number of hours. During the initial exchange of fire, the rebels at the front of the house—men, women and children—crouched beneath the wall. So great was the pressure of the crowd that one man, Thomas Walsh, was forced to cross from one side of the front gate to the other. As he crossed between the gate piers he was shot dead by the police. During lulls in the shooting, the rebels retreated out of the range of fire. Another man, Patrick McBride, who had been standing at the gable-end of the house when the firing began—and was quite safe where he was—found that his companions had retreated. Jumping up on the wall to run and join them, he was fatally wounded by the police.

Removal of Smith O'Brien under sentence of death

It was evident to the rebels that the position of the police was almost impregnable, and a Catholic clergyman of the parish, Rev. Philip Fitzgerald, endeavoured to mediate in the interests of peace. When a party of the Cashel police under Sub-Inspector Cox were seen arriving over Boulea Hill, the rebels attempted to stop them even though they were low on ammunition, but the police continued to advance, firing up the road. It became clear that the police in the house were about to be reinforced and rescued. The rebels then faded away, effectively terminating both the era of Young Ireland and Repeal, but the consequences of their actions would follow them for many years.


John Mitchel, the most committed advocate of revolution, had been arrested early in 1848, then convicted on the purposefully–created charge of Treason-felony. He was sentenced to transportation to Bermuda, where he joined other convicts labouring on the construction of the Royal Naval Dockyard on Ireland Island. He was subsequently sent to Van Diemen's Land (in present-day Tasmania, Australia) where he was soon to be joined by other leaders, such as William Smith O'Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher who had both been arrested after Ballingary. John Blake Dillon escaped to France, as did three of the younger members, James Stephens, John O'Mahony and Michael Doheny. Meagher and John Mitchel (who had been transported there before for political activities) both managed to escape and emigrate to the United States in the early 1850s. They served on opposite sides of the American Civil War: Meagher serving with the Union, for which he recruited and commanded the Irish Brigade, and Mitchel allying himself with the South and living there, sending three sons to fight with the Confederacy.[7]

The McCormack family emigrated to the USA about 1853. Since that time, the McCormack house (which was owned by numerous other families after 1848) has always been known locally as the Warhouse. In 2004, the State decided on "Famine Warhouse 1848" as the official name of the house, which had been designated a national heritage monument.[citation needed]

Fenian Brotherhood, Irish Republican Brotherhood[]

After the collapse of the rebellion, James Stephens and John O'Mahony went to the Continent to avoid arrest. In Paris they supported themselves by teaching and translation work and planned the next stage of "the fight to overthrow British rule in Ireland." In 1856 O'Mahony went to America and founded the Fenian Brotherhood in 1858. Stephens returned to Ireland and in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day 1858, following an organising tour through the length and breadth of the country, founded the Irish counterpart of the American Fenians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood.[8][9][10]

Books By Young Irelanders (Irish Confederation)[]

Additional reading[]

  • The life of John Mitchel,William Dillon, (London, 1888) 2 Vols.
  • Life of John Mitchel, P. A. Sillard, James Duffy and Co., Ltd 1908
  • John Mitchel, P. S. O'Hegarty, Maunsel & Company, Ltd 1917
  • Irish Mitchel, Seamus MacCall, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd 1938
  • John Mitchel First Felon for Ireland, Edited By Brian O'Higgins, Brian O'Higgins 1947
  • John Mitchel Noted Irish Lives, Louis J. Walsh, The Talbot Press Ltd 1934
  • John Mitchel, A Cause Too Many, Aidan Hegarty, Camlane Press
  • Life of John Martin, P. A. Sillard, James Duffy & Co., Ltd 1901.
  • The Politics of Irish Literature: from Thomas Davis to W.B. Yeats, Malcolm Brown, Allen & Unwin, 1973.
  • Thomas Davis, The Thinker and Teacher, Arthur Griffith, M.H. Gill & Son 1922.
  • Brigadier-General Thomas Francis Meagher His Political and Military Career,Capt. W. F. Lyons, Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited 1869
  • Young Ireland and 1848, Dennis Gwynn, Cork University Press 1949.
  • Daniel O'Connell The Irish Liberator, Dennis Gwynn, Hutchinson & Co, Ltd.
  • O'Connell Davis and the Collages Bill, Dennis Gwynn, Cork University Press 1948.
  • Smith O'Brien And The "Secession", Dennis Gwynn, Cork University Press
  • Meagher of The Sword, Edited By Arthur Griffith, M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd. 1916.
  • Young Irelander Abroad The Diary of Charles Hart, Edited by Brendan O'Cathaoir, University Press.
  • Christine Kinealy. 'Repeal and Revolution. 1848 in Ireland', Manchester University Press, 2009.
  • Rossa's Recollections 1838 to 1898, Intro by Sean O'Luing, The Lyons Press 2004.
  • Labour in Ireland, James Connolly, Fleet Street 1910.
  • The Re-Conquest of Ireland, James Connolly, Fleet Street 1915.
  • Thomas Davis: Essays and Poems, Centenary Memoir, M. H Gill, M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd MCMXLV.
  • The Fenians in Context Irish Politics & Society 1848–82, R. V. Comerford, Wolfhound Press 1998
  • William Smith O'Brien and the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848, Robert Sloan, Four Courts Press 2000
  • Ireland Her Own, T. A. Jackson, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd 1976.
  • Life and Times of Daniel O'Connell, T. C. Luby, Cameron & Ferguson.
  • Young Ireland, T. F. O'Sullivan, The Kerryman Ltd. 1945.
  • Irish Rebel John Devoy and America's Fight for Irish Freedom, Terry Golway, St. Martin's Griffin 1998.
  • Paddy's Lament Ireland 1846–1847 Prelude to Hatred, Thomas Gallagher, Poolbeg 1994.
  • The Great Shame, Thomas Keneally, Anchor Books 1999.
  • James Fintan Lalor, Thomas, P. O'Neill, Golden Publications 2003.
  • Charles Gavan Duffy: Conversations With Carlyle (1892),with Introduction, Stray Thoughts On Young Ireland, by Brendan Clifford, Athol Books, Belfast, ISBN 0-85034-114-0. (Pg. 32 Titled, Foster’s account Of Young Ireland.)
  • Envoi, Taking Leave Of Roy Foster, by Brendan Clifford and Julianne Herlihy, Aubane Historical Society, Cork.
  • The Falcon Family, or, Young Ireland, by M. W. Savage, London, 1845. (An Gorta Mor) Quinnipiac University

See also[]

  • List of Irish rebellions
  • John Blake Dillon
  • Terence MacManus
  • Thomas Francis Meagher
  • William Smith O'Brien
  • Father John Kenyon
  • Young Ireland



  1. Griffith, Arthur (1916). Meagher of the Sword, :Speeches of Thomas Francis Meagher in Ireland 1846–1848 : Preface. Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd. 
  2. Duffy, Charles Gavan (1888). Four Years of Irish History 1845–1849. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 
  3. The Felon's Track, By Michael Doheny, M.H. Gill &Sons, LTD 1951, Pg 112
  4. Christine Kinealy. 'Repeal and Revolution. 1848 in Ireland' (Manchester University Press, 2009)
  5. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Four Years of Irish History 1845–1849, London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1888, p. 389
  6. Annual Register James Dodsley 1849 Account of evidence given at trials
  7. "John Mitchel", Dictionary of National Biography vol 38, p. 55.
  8. Fenian Fever: An Anglo-American Delemma, Leon Ó Broin, Chatto & Windus, London, 1971, ISBN 0-7011-1749-4., pg.1
  9. The McGarrity Papers, Sean Cronin, Anvil Books, Ireland, 1972, pg.11
  10. It has been suggested, notably by O'Donovan Rossa, that the original name for the organization was the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood

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