The Rising Day by Day
In the weeks leading up to the Rising, even the most optimistic members of the Military Council must have known that the possibility of success was slight. In Dublin, the combined forces of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army amounted to only about 3,000 and the number of Irish Volunteers in the country as a whole was no more than 10-12,000. With such small numbers and being as lightly armed as they were likely to be - even if Casement’s German guns did materialise - they could hardly have expected their forces to be a match for those of the British army with their virtually unlimited numbers, machine guns and artillery.
Once it transpired that the German arms had been lost, any expectations of success must have ebbed away. Moreover, MacNeill’s countermand eﬀectively scuppered any remaining chance. In the face of these two catastrophes, the signatories must have been fatalistic: presumably, they now hoped that the Rising and their personal martyrdom would be of symbolic value and would shock Irish nationalists into reappraising their destiny.
The strategy was to occupy a number of defensible sites in Dublin and hold out until there was a general insurrection by the Irish Volunteers throughout the country. There was also the hope that some of the National Volunteers (then numbering possibly 150,000) would rise in support. In addition, there was an expectation that Germany would launch a diversionary oﬀensive on the Continent and that it might provide naval support. As it turned out, apart from relatively small numbers in parts of counties Wexford and Galway, the Irish Volunteers obeyed MacNeill’s countermand and stayed at home, nor did any of the National Volunteers turn out. In Dublin, the total number that reported for duty on Easter Monday amounted to possibly 1,400, counting Irish Volunteers, ICA, Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and perhaps 30 Hibernian Riﬂes, a force consisting of members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
In the following sections there are many images illustrating various aspects of the actual ﬁghting. One aspect, however, which is not documented in the imagery available in the National Library of Ireland is the human carnage resulting from the Rising: while there are many images of ruined buildings there are none of ruined bodies or ruined lives, none either of mourning families with their now unrealizable hopes and dreams. This gap in the documentation is of such signiﬁcance that it must be highlighted. Over 400 people were killed and well over 1,000 injured, the majority - as almost always in such strife - being civilians. But there are no images of dead or maimed bodies, which would have been a major feature of the scene at the time. The existence of this most signiﬁcant gap or lacuna in the evidence provided in this on-line presentation might well be borne in mind when considering certain other aspects of the Rising.