Artifacts of the United Irishmen


Harp Badge

The United Irishmen displayed their Irish pride through their green uniforms and harp-decorated flags and insignia. An Irish Revolutionary wore this harp badge at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on June 21, 1798. The United Irishmen chose the harp, the traditional symbol of Gaelic people, as their primary emblem. Flags they carried also featured harps and mottos such as “Liberty or Death” and “Erin Go Bragh” (Ireland Forever). Many supporters of the Irish Revolution went into battle without uniforms, wearing their civilian clothing. At Vinegar Hill, British forces under General Sir Gerard Lake declared victory after forcing 20,000 Revolutionaries to retreat from their hill-top camp. 

ca. 1798
Silk, Metal
© National Museum of Ireland

Symbol of the Revolution

Irish blacksmiths hammered out thousands of pike heads to arm the Defenders and the United Irishmen against the better-equipped British Army and their Irish supporters. Attached to long wooden poles, pike heads proved to be formidable weapons against cavalry charges but were no match for musket and cannon fire. Pikes became iconic symbols of the grass-roots Irish Revolution of 1798.

Pike Head 
ca. 1798 
Courtesy of Board of Trustees of National Museums NI