Even fellow military men recoiled in horror at the unprovoked massacre at Ballyholland in 1797. Some felt it contributed to the popularity of the United men in an area that had till then been peaceable and uninvolved.
"I was directed to the route taken that day by the Ancient Britons, by the smoke and flames of burning houses. I came upon the dead bodies of boys and men slain by them, even though no opposition whatever had been given to them – and to this testimony I shall answer to Almighty God.
I believe not a single gun was fired but by the Britons or the Yeomanry. I declare there was nothing to fire at, save old men, women and children. From ten to twenty were killed outright, many wounded and eight houses burned.
Two of the Britons, desiring to enter a gentleman’s residence, the yard gate was opened to them by a lad, who, for his civility they shot and cut to pieces."
In his history of the times, Ireland from its Union, Plowden records that …
"Among the murdered were a woman and an old man of seventy. A woman was fired at and two boys shot, one of them ten years old, the other six."
Concerning the latter, he records, "Near the gate stood a boy about six years old, whom they ordered to open it. The child said he would if they would not hurt him. Before he could do so, one of the Britons struck him over the gate with a sabre and broke his arm. They still insisted upon him opening it which the child did with his other arm. They rode through and cut the boy up with their sabres and one of them made his horse (with great difficulty) trample upon him."
Another account of the Ballyholland massacre is given by "Observor" in Madden’s "United Irishmen".
Plowden goes on to voice the opinion that "this atrocious massacre has always been considered to have contributed to the rebellion that took place the following year".
"The Britons never afterwards," he says, " came in contact with the rebels without being remembered of Ballyholland and they were generally refused quarter … they exceeded one thousand effective men and it is considered that not nearly one tenth of the privates who first came over survived the contest."
The Protestant statesman Henry Grattan referred to the ‘barbarities committed on the habitations, property and persons of the people’.
Lord Moira, an Ulster Protestant landlord, told a similar tale of capricious house-burning, torture and wanton destruction of property in what he referred to as ‘one of the most peaceable portions of this province before the insurrection’.
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