Maynooth University acquired the archive of Edward Baker Littlehales in 2014. Littlehales had a long tenure in Ireland, first as Private Secretary to Lord Cornwallis (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) 1798-1801 and subsequently as Under-Secretary at the Military Department, Dublin 1801-1819. In this latter capacity he was heavily involved in the work of the British Army in Ireland, from construction and maintenance of barracks, the provision of supplies, and the arrangement of transport facilities, through bigger issues such as the defence of Ireland from internal and external threats. Littlehales is particularly interesting as he is the only person working in post after the changes wrought by the Act of Union of 1800– once he retired his post was never refilled.
One particular item of interest in the archive was written by Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington in his capacity as Chief Secretary. Writing in 1808 he details plans for the defence of the country, should an enemy invade. Wellesley was famous as a tactician who was happy to fight defensively until the right opportunity presented itself and his plans reflect elements of this, noting the need to give ground in both Connaught:
“if another of the Enemy Corps should have landed in the Shannon, the first Corps must be called out of Connaught, and a large collection of Troops must be made to cover the Capital”
As well as the south:
“If this second Corps should not be able to defeat or even cripple the Enemy’s Corps, which will land at Waterford, so much as to make it no longer an object of apprehension to Dublin, it must fall back upon that City”
Wellesley also notes the potential of insurrection locally and provisions for it: “The first measure to be adopted is, the seize all the Leaders of the Disaffection in all parts of Ireland, upon the first alarm”
This fascinating 11 page letter offers is an insight into both the fears of the administration at the time (both the 1798 rising and Emmet’s Rebellion were still fresh in the mind) and also into the mind of one of a man who would soon be hailed as one of the finest military leaders of his age.