In Dublin, Ireland, on Easter Monday, 1916, nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic. Bolstered by some 1,600 followers, they staged a rebellion against the British government in Ireland. They didn’t have planes nor tanks, and only limited use of artillery. Instead, the rebels made a stand using personal weapons and Mauser rifles that had been smuggled into the country two years earlier.
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For the organizers, the lack of weapons was a concern, and limited them in what they could plan and do during the insurrection. This issue had also dominated previous rebellions since 1798, when pikes were the main weapon of the rebels.
The Mausers arrived in July 1914, when the Asgard, a yacht belonging to writer Erskine Childers, sailed into Howth, north Dublin, with 900 rifles. Those were quickly unloaded in 30 minutes and distributed to waiting Irish Volunteers and boys of Fianna Eireann. The rifles immediately were hidden. On the following day, more rifles were landed at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, bringing the total to 1,500 rifles and 45,000 rounds of ammunition.
During the Easter Rising, the rebels seized prominent buildings in Dublin, including the General Post Office, and clashed with British troops. Within a week, the insurrection had been suppressed and more than 2,000 people were dead or injured. The leaders of the rebellion soon were executed – and some escaped.
One of the rebels, American-born Eamon de Valera, was sentenced to death. He served only a brief prison term, and went on to become one of Ireland’s leading political figures, with a career spanning half a century.
The executed leaders were hailed as martyrs. In 1921, a treaty was signed that in 1922 established the Irish Free State, leading to the modern-day Republic of Ireland.