The Battle of Castlecomer


In the early morning of 24‭ June 1798, the bloody Battle of Castlecomer began and was to end with the town being razed to the ground with no clear win for either side.

After the United Irishmen were badly defeated by English forces at the Battle of Vinegar Hill (Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford), it was decided to march on Castlecomer, where it was hoped that the militant coal miners would join their 8,000 strong number.

While many miners did indeed join the battle, they were untrained, badly prepared and ill equipped to face the highly trained garrison of 300 English soldiers stationed in the garrison. Located in what is now the car-park at the rear of the Avalon House Hotel, the garrison was commanded by Walter Butler, the future 18th Earl of Ormonde. The rebel’s fate was sealed when ‭Major General Charles Asgil of the British Army arrived with a further 1,000 troops, including an artillery battery.

The English forces could have easily been overwhelmed with the weight of numbers had the dramatic effect of the burning town, early morning fog and artillery not masked their weaker position. In the end, the English forces retreated back to Kilkenny under a cloud of gunpowder smoke, leaving their discarded possessions and property to a handful of remaining rebels. The others decided to March on to Co. Laois, being no longer convinced of the prospect of igniting revolt in in the town. One of the casualties in the town was the first house of Lady Anne Wandesforde in what is now the town’s main square. Today, the square is home to the Creamery House and its titular Lady Anne restaurant.

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