The Rebel Garrisons in 1916
Map and Caption from the Atlas of the Irish Revolution (CUP 2017)
Though the Easter Rising was planned to be a national affair, IRB strategists primarily concentrated on seizing Dublin. They intended to hold the Irish capital as long as possible, in order to grab international attention and inspire future generations of Irish nationalists. The republican military plan ringed the city centre with interconnected strongholds, which could reinforce each other. Positions were selected to contain the numerous British Army barracks in the Dublin suburbs, and control major road and rail approaches into the city centre to be used by military reinforcements.
Irish Volunteers and members of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) carried food, water, and picks to burrow between buildings. Street barricades would slow advancing troops, and subject them to republican fire from hidden positions in nearby buildings. Though heavily outnumbered and outgunned, the rebels knew the urban terrain, while their officers had months to select strategic firing points and defensive posts.
In terms of dispositions, the Irish Volunteer 3rd Battalion held the area around Boland’s Bakery, threatening Beggar’s Bush Barracks and an advance from Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), the probable source of troop reinforcements arriving by ship from Britain. The ICA at Stephen’s Green stood astride a major crossroads into the heart of the city, which included a likely approach from Portobello Barracks. Another ICA unit would attack Dublin Castle and divert British troops to that locale, rather than allowing them to concentrate against rebel positions still being fortified. The 2nd Battalion headquartered in Jacob’s Factory could repel British advances from Wellington and Portabello Barracks, and target other reinforcements dispatched to Dublin Castle. The 4th Battalion in the South Dublin Union and surrounding areas covered Richmond and Islandbridge Barracks, as well as Kingsbridge Railway Station, a likely arrival point for military reinforcements. Across the river, 1st Battalion units in the Four Courts and King Street could frustrate approaches from the Royal and Marlborough Barracks; they could also provide the rebels with a possible line of retreat from the city, should the countryside rise up. A garrison with the Provisional Government group occupied the GPO and other strong buildings along Sackville Street. During the fighting, this basic plan allowed the rebels to seize Dublin, despite a low turnout of Volunteers and the presence of thousands of British troops within the wider area.
Significant success was achieved in places like North King Street, South Dublin Union and Mount Street Bridge, where the rebels conducted hit-and-run attacks on advancing British troops, or lured them into hidden pre-planned fields of fire. However, after a few days of fighting the weight of the British forces ultimately constricted the rebels, and pinned them into isolated positions that were then blasted by vastly superior British firepower. Considering the odds that were stacked against them, their five-day stand was about as much success as the rebel planners could have reasonably hoped for. [Source: Atlas of the Irish Revolution, (CUP, 2017]