Although this site concentrates on the Irish emigrant experience and where that intersects with the American Civil War, I thought readers may be interested in some work I undertook wearing my other hat– that of a conflict and battlefield archaeologist. I recently had the opportunity to direct some fieldwork at the Vinegar Hill battlefield, the climactic battle of the 1798 Rebellion where a United Irishmen force was defeated by Crown troops, just outside the town of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.
The 1798 Rebellion (which you can read about here), was inspired in part by events in the United States and particularly France, and served as a motivator for generations of Irish nationalists. There are many connections between the battle and America. A number of the British officers who fought there were veterans of the American Revolutionary War, while participants on both sides would later find themselves facing each other during the War of 1812. Indeed quite a number of former United Irishmen would make their way into United States military service. United Irish exiles often named new areas for the iconic battlefield which had defined their rebel experience. As a result, the placename “Vinegar Hill” can now be found as far afield as America and Australia, with examples in Brooklyn, Bloomington and Richmond. With the coming of the American Civil War, some Irish units invoked the spirit of 1798 as they marched off to war.
Wexford County Council has been funding The Longest Day Research Project to explore the archaeology of the battlefield, and I had an opportunity to be part of an international team from Rubicon Heritage Services, Sligo I.T., Cotswold Archaeology and Earthsound Geophysics as we searched for evidence of the fighting that engulfed the hill on 21st June 1798. The results we uncovered are the most impressive to date from any battlefield in the Republic of Ireland, and have been receiving quite a bit of media attention this week ( e.g. here and here). During the most recent phase of fieldwork, I delivered a public lecture on our work, with an introduction discussing the value of battlefield archaeology and details of some of our initial results. That talk is now available on YouTube, which you can have a look at below.