Despite being highly organised by the United Irishmen, Athy failed to rise in 1798. Men had gathered near the town but in insufficient numbers to attack the garrison, Athy being the second strongest in the county. The commander, Colonel Colin Campbell had a corps of yeoman infantry under his command as well as regular troops. Strong action by the military prior to the Rebellion, had subdued the area around Athy and, significantly, the messenger sent to Campbell, to order him to withdraw to Naas, was killed by the Rebels.

Captain Erskine and the 9th Dragoons who died at the Battle of Old Kilcullen on the 24th of May, were part of Campbells force. Campbell was responsible for recovering the villages of Narraghmore and Ballitore from the rebels, though the area was to remain disturbed for most of the year. The bulk of the rebels from Ballitore surrendered to Campbell at Ballindrum near the Moat of Ardscull on Wednesday the 30th May. On the 2nd June the troops from Athy defeated a large party of rebels in the bogs near Cloney, killing 100 of them with no loss to the troops.

Prior to the rebellion Athy had been a centre of military repression, especially with the operation of the "Triangles" by Captain James Rawson in an effort to procure information against the United Irishmen. During the rebellion, the town became a loyalist haven, as many loyalists from the surrounding areas took refuge in the town.

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