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|Connolly, James (prisoner 90)
|24 April 1916 - 2 July 1918
File relates to the field general courtmartial of James Connolly [Commandant General, Irish Citizen Army; Irish Republican Brotherhood], held on the 9th of May 1916 at [Red Cross Hospital, Dublin Castle, Dublin]. The courtmartial was presided over by Colonel D. Sapte (president), Major W. R. James and Major D. B. Freur. Charges brought against Connolly were that: 1. he 'Did an act to wit did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His majesty the King such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy' and 2. he 'Did attempt to cause disaffection among the civilian population of His Majesty'. Connolly pleaded not guilty to the said charges, but was found guilty of charge 1. and sentenced to 'Death', and not guilty of charge 2. Charge Sheet and confirmation of sentence included signed by General J. G. Maxwell. No specific details of Connolly's execution [12th May 1916] included in the file.
Four witnesses were called for the prosecution and their statements are contained in the file. These include, Second Lieutenant S. L. King, Royal Innis[killing] Fusiliers '...I was taken prisoner by the rebels and taken upstairs in the General Post Office...I saw the accused, in uniform and equipped with a revolver etc., going across to the Hotel Metropole. I saw him pointing out as if to order a window to be broken in the Hotel which was done, and fire opened from the window. I saw the accused 3 or 4 times near the General Post Office'. On cross examination by Connolly, Lieutenant King stated 'We were very well treated generally by the rebels'. On re-examination by the prosecution he further stated 'When we were put out of the Post Office we were told to run for our lives, and we were fired on by the rebels, and 2 of us hit. I cannot state whether the British troops were firing at the time'.
The second and third witnesses for the prosecution; Captain H. E. de C. Wheeler, Reserve of Officers and Second Lieutenant S. H. Jackson, 3rd Royal Irish Regiment respectively make reference to a document (referred to as exhibit X). Captain Wheeler stated 'I saw the accused, James Connolly in bed at the Dublin Castle Hospital... I had previously seen the rebel leader P. H. Pearse surrender at the top of Moore Street off Great Britain Street. I produce a document which I brought to the accused from Pearse, which he signed in my presence.' Lieutenant Jackson stated 'On the 1st May 1916 I searched the rebel John McBride and found on him the document I produce to the court. It purports to be signed by James Connolly...' This document is not included in the file however a note is included which reads 'Received from the Judge Advocate General a document signed by P. H. Pearse, James Connolly and Thomas McDonagh, which was attached as exhibit X to the proceedings of the F.G.C.M. held at Dublin on James Connolly on 9th May 1916. Lost 2 July/18'. Signed by J.G. Maxwell.
The final witness for the prosecution was Second Lieutenant A. D. Chalmers 14 Royal Fusiliers who stated 'About 12.10 p.m. on 24th April 1916 I was in the General Post Office Dublin when about 300 armed rebels entered and seized the Post Office and made me [prisoner]... The accused ordered me to be tied up in the telephone box...' On cross examination by the accused Lieutenant Chalmers stated '..I did not actually hear the accused order me to be tied up in the box...'
In his defence, Connolly read a statement which is included as exhibit Y. The statement includes the following 'I do not wish to make any defence except against the charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made in that direction... deal only with the inevitable incidents of a hurried uprising... and nowhere show evidence of a set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed prisoners. We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire and to establish the Irish Republic. We believe that the call we thus issued to the people of Ireland was a nobler call in a holier cause than any call issued to them during this war...I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys and hundreds of Irish women [and] girls, were equally ready to affirm that truth and seal it with lives if necessary.'
File also includes a letter marked exhibit Y found on John McBride and referred to in his courtmartial (see WO71 350). This letter headed Army of the Irish Republic and signed by James Connolly and P. H. Pearse to Officers and Soldiers in Dublin of the Irish Republic, congratulates the officers and men 'We salute you. This day the flag of the Irish Republic has been hoisted in Dublin... This is the greatest day in Irish history and it is you who have made it so.' (25 April 1916, 1p).