The Battle of Vinegar Hill
With the rebels scattered in the north, attention shifted once again to those still 'out' in Wexford, and the army laid plans to attack their camp at Vinegar Hill. On 21st June, General Gerard Lake attempted to surround Vinegar Hill with some 20,000 men, in four columns of soldiers, in order to prevent a rebel breakout. Battle was joined. It lasted about two hours: the rebels were mercilessly shelled, and artillery carried the day. 'The rebels made a tolerable good fight of it' wrote Lake, and then pronounced the 'carnage ... dreadful' among them; hundreds of men may have fallen on the field of battle, though numbers managed to escape. Although a 'little war' continued in the Wicklow mountains for some time afterwards, in effect, after Vinegar Hill, the rebellion in the south-east was over.
In defeat, rebel discipline collapsed in some places. After the defeat at New Ross, about 100 loyalists had been killed at a barn in Scullabogue; and now, following the disaster at Vinegar Hill, about 70 Protestant prisoners were piked to death on the bridge at Wexford town. The army repaid these atrocities with interest: the mopping-up operations after Vinegar Hill resembled, to the fury of the newly-appointed Lord Lieutenant, Marquis Cornwallis, little other than universal rape, plunder and murder.
Retribution for the rebel leaders was swift and largely uncompromising. Bagenal Harvey, Cornelius Grogan, Mathew Keogh, and Anthony Perry - all Wexford commanders (and, incidentally, all Protestants) - were executed; their heads were cut off and stuck on spikes outside the courthouse in Wexford town. Father John Murphy, the hero of Oulart and Enniscorthy (or a latter-day mixture of Attila, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, as loyalists viewed him), was captured in Tullow, County Carlow. He was stripped, flogged, hanged, and beheaded: his corpse was burned in a barrel. With an eye for detail, the local Yeomanry spiked his head on a building directly opposite the local Catholic church, and with great glee, they forced the Catholics of Tullow to open their windows to admit the 'holy smoke' from his funeral pyre.
For a brief period in late August, there appeared a prospect that the rebellion would flare up again. On 22nd August, a French force of some 1,100 men, under the command of General Humbert, waded ashore at Kilcummin Strand, near Killala, County Mayo. Humbert scored a striking victory at Castlebar, but then his campaign ran out of steam. It soon became clear that the apparent signal victory at Castlebar was an empty triumph. On 8th September at Ballinamuck, County Longford, the French force, vastly outnumbered, laid down its arms. The French were treated as honoured prisoners of war, but those Irish auxiliaries who had recklessly joined them were promptly massacred. The rebellion was finally over: between 10,000 and 25,000 rebels (including a high proportion of non-combatants), and around 600 soldiers had been slain, and large areas of the country had been effectively laid waste.