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Eoin Mac Neill, the leader of the Irish Volunteers, therefore canceled mobilization orders for the insurgents, but Pearse and Clarke went ahead with about 1,560 Irish Volunteers and a 200-man contingent of the Citizen Army.On April 24 their forces seized the Dublin General Post Office and other strategic points in Dublin’s city centre, and Pearse read aloud a proclamation announcing the birth of the Irish republic.Pearse and 14 other leaders of the rebellion were court-martialed and executed by British authorities in the weeks that followed.
The rebels knew that after enjoying the element of surprise they would almost certainly be met with an overwhelming British military response. That the British were initially caught off guard is understandable (indeed it was part of the rationale for the Rising): they were engaged at the time in a much bigger fight on their “eastern front”: in Belgium and France.
In fact, it’s not possible to understand the Easter Rising without frequent reference to the Great War. In , Charles Townshend’s compelling account of the insurrection, there is an aside that is emblematic of this relationship between the Rising and the European war.
It began on Easter Monday after a false start, due to internal divisions, on the previous (and more potently symbolic) day.
The rebel force that took to the streets of the capital was comprised of fewer than 1,500 men and women, drawn from two militias, the Irish Volunteers and the much smaller Irish Citizen Army, as well as the female auxiliary organization, Cumann na m Ban.
To the rescue of little (imperial) Belgium came the British army.
In its ranks, in the course of the war, would be more than 200,000 Irishmen; some 35,000 of them were killed.The analogy may seem to falter because the Rising is not a book, but rather, as the grander plaque inside the GPO states, a historical act that “asserted in arms Ireland’s right to freedom” — it involved actual lives and actual deaths: of combatants on both sides, of civilians, and, ultimately, by firing squad, of the leaders themselves.But the Rising, as we will see, had a forceful aesthetic dimension.Yeats “worked on [his poem “Easter, 1916”] through the [subsequent] summer at [his muse Maud Gonne’s] house on the Normandy coast (where, from time to time, ) [italics mine].” On that battlefield Irishmen of both Nationalist and Unionist persuasions were dying.By that stage, from the British point of view, all was quiet on the home front: Ireland had been pacified, for now.The uprising was planned to be nationwide in scope, but a series of mishaps led to its being confined to Dublin alone.The British had learned of the planned uprising and on April 21 arrested Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement in County Kerry for running arms for the rebels.The explanations on the 1916 plaques are bilingual.Here is where Tom Clarke, the veteran Fenian (revolutionary nationalist) and first signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic, had his tobacco shop.British troops soon arrived to put down the rebellion, and for nearly a week Dublin was paralyzed by street fighting.British artillery bombardments compelled Pearse and his colleagues to surrender on April 29.