Battle of Ballynahinch

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Battle of Ballynahinch
Part of the United Irishmen Rebellion
Battle of Ballynahinch by Thomas Robinson (extract).jpg
Battle of Ballinahinch by Thomas Robinson
Date12–13 June 1798
Result Decisive British victory, end of rebellion in Ulster
Green harp flag of Ireland.svg United Irishmen
Green harp flag of Ireland.svg Defenders
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg British Army
Commanders and leaders
Henry Munro

Major-General George Nugent

Colonel Robert Stewart
~4,000 ~2,000, 8 cannon
Casualties and losses
c. 300-400 dead c. 80 dead

The Battle of Ballynahinch was fought outside Ballynahinch, County Down, on 12 June, during the Irish rebellion of 1798 between British forces led by Major-General George Nugent and the local United Irishmen led by Henry Munro (1758–98).

Ballynahinch, County Down town in County Down, Northern Ireland

Ballynahinch is a town in County Down, Northern Ireland. It had a population of 5,703 people in the 2011 Census.

County Down Place in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

County Down is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland, in the northeast of the island of Ireland. It covers an area of 2,448 km2 and has a population of 531,665. It is also one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland and is within the province of Ulster. It borders County Antrim to the north, the Irish Sea to the east, County Armagh to the west, and County Louth across Carlingford Lough to the southwest.

Sir George Nugent, 1st Baronet British Army officer

Field Marshal Sir George Nugent, 1st Baronet, GCB was a British Army officer. After serving as a junior officer in the American Revolutionary War, he fought with the Coldstream Guards under the Duke of York during the Flanders Campaign. He then commanded the Buckinghamshire Volunteers in the actions of St. Andria and Thuyl on the river Waal and participated in the disastrous retreat from the Rhine. He went on to be commander of the northern district of Ireland, in which post he played an important part in placating the people of Belfast during the Irish Rebellion, and then became Adjutant-General in Ireland. He went on to be Governor of Jamaica, commander of the Western District in England, commander of the Kent District in England and finally Commander-in-Chief, India.


Munro was a Lisburn linen merchant and Presbyterian United Irishman who had no military experience but had taken over command of the Down organisation following the arrest of the designated leader, Rev. William Steel Dickson on 5 June. Upon hearing of the victory at Saintfield on 9 June, Munro joined the rebel camp there and then moved to Ednavady Hill, Ballynahinch to join the thousands who had gathered in support of the rebellion. The response of the British garrisons was to converge on Ballynahinch from Belfast and Downpatrick in two columns accompanied by several pieces of cannon.

Lisburn City in Northern Ireland

Lisburn is a city in Northern Ireland. It is 8 mi (13 km) southwest of Belfast city centre, on the River Lagan, which forms the boundary between County Antrim and County Down. Lisburn is part of the Belfast Metropolitan Area. It had a population of 45,370 people in the 2011 Census.

William Steel Dickson (1744–1824) was an Irish Presbyterian minister and member of the Society of the United Irishmen, a revolutionary republican organisation in late 18th century Ireland.

Battle of Saintfield

The Battle of Saintfield was a short but bloody clash in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The battle was the first major conflict of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 in Down. The battle took place on Saturday, 9 June 1798.

Battle of Ballynahinch

The battle began on the night of 12 June when two hills to the left and right of Ballynahinch were occupied by the British who pounded the town with their cannon. During a pause when night fell, some rebel officers were said to have pressed Munro for a night attack but he refused on the grounds that it was unchivalrous. As a consequence many disillusioned rebels slipped away during the night.

As dawn broke the battle recommenced with the rebels attacked from two sides and although achieving some initial success, confusion in the rebel army saw the United Irishmen retreat in chaos, pursued by regrouping British forces who quickly took advantage by turning retreat into massacre. Initial reports claimed four hundred rebels were killed, while British losses were around forty. [1] James Thomson (mathematician), the father of the famous scientist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin was at the battle and published an eyewitness account.

James Thomson (mathematician) Irish mathematician, born 1786

James Thomson was an Irish mathematician, notable for his role in the formation of the thermodynamics school at Glasgow University. He was the father of the engineer and physicist James Thomson and the physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin.

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin British physicist and engineer

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, was an Irish-Scottish mathematical physicist and engineer who was born in Belfast in 1824. At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He worked closely with mathematics professor Hugh Blackburn in his work. He also had a career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye and ensured his wealth, fame and honour. For his work on the transatlantic telegraph project he was knighted in 1866 by Queen Victoria, becoming Sir William Thomson. He had extensive maritime interests and was most noted for his work on the mariner's compass, which previously had limited reliability.


Munro escaped the field of battle but was betrayed by a farmer who he had paid to conceal him and was hanged in front of his own house in Lisburn on 16 June. Ballynahinch was sacked by the victorious military after the battle with sixty-three houses being burned down. Cavalry scoured the surrounding countryside for rebels, raiding homes and killing indiscriminately, the 22nd Dragoons being guilty of some of the worst atrocities. [2] The most famous victim was Betsy Gray, a young female rebel who, with her two brothers, was slaughtered in the post-battle massacre, ensuring her place in legend to this day.

Henry Munro was a United Irishman born in Lisburn, County Down.

Betsy Gray, was an Irish Ulster-Scots Presbyterian peasant girl from outside Gransha, Bangor in County Down, Ireland who was killed due to the 1798 Rebellion of the United Irishmen. She is the subject of many folk ballads and poems written since her time down to the present day.

Following the suppression of the 1798 Rebellion and the passing of the Act of Union, the Presbyterian population in the area of Ballynahinch would subsequently become predominantly Unionist and the Orange Order would have a strong presence there. Nonetheless, historian Guy Beiner has shown that many local family traditions continued to preserve in private memories of their United Irish ancestors' participation in the battle. [3]

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  1. Nugent, report to Dublin Castle 14 June 1798
  2. p.224, The Summer Soldiers -The 1798 rebellion in Antrim and Down A.T.Q Stewart (Belfast 1995) ISBN   0-85640-558-2
  3. Guy Beiner, Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster (Oxford University Press, 2018).