• Stephen Callaghan

The death of Captain Charles Dodgson, 4th Dragoon Guards

Charles Dodgson (the grandfather of Lewis Carroll) was born in 1769. He was the son of Bishop Charles Dodgson and Mary Frances Dodgson (née Smyth). Charles (Snr) was bishop of Ossory and Ferns and then later Elphin.


Charles was commissioned via purchase into the 26th Light Dragoons as a Cornet on 16 June 1795 (a Cornet being equivalent to Second Lieutenant in cavalry units). At the time it was possible to buy commissions in the army, rather than being promoted on the basis of merit, this was later done away with in 1871 as part of the Cardwell Reforms.


The 26th Light Dragoons had only been raised the same year. The unit’s roles was that of mounted infantry, they would use horses for mobility but dismount to fight.


Cornet Dodgson was further commissioned as a Lieutenant into the 1st Regiment of Dragoons via purchase on 30 December 1797. The 1798 army register also records him still with this regiment. He was subsequently commissioned as Captain and transferred to the 4th (Irish) Dragoon Guards. The regiment can trace its origins back to 1685, when it was raised as Earl of Arran's Regiment of Cuirassiers, later being renamed the 4th Dragoon Guards in 1788. The regiment had been present at Vinegar Hill, during the 1798 rebellion. However it is likely Dodgson had just missed out on this action.


On 16 February 1799, Lieutenant Dodgson married Lucy Hume at St Botolph's Aldgate Church, London. They would have two children together.


In the early 1800s Captain Dodgson was stationed in Philipstown Barracks. An infantry/cavalry barracks built in the late 1700s/early 1800s. The barracks was surrendered in April 1852 to become a convict depot (later becoming St Conleth's reformatory), with tenders for its conversion advertised in June 1852. The condition of its surrender was that it could be reused for soldiers if needed.

The murder of 1st Viscount Kilwarden

After the failed rebellion of 1798, Irish Republicans lead by Robert Emmett attempted to overthrow the government on 23 July 1803, hopefully starting a rebellion. On the day of the rebellion the Lord Justice of Ireland, Arthur Wolfe, 1st Viscount Kilwarden turned onto Thomas Street, Dublin while trying to get to his home in Kildare. There was a large leaderless mob of United Irishmen on the street. Despite Wolfe having been sympathetic to Wolfe Tone, he was disliked by the United Irishmen as he had been the chief prosecutor of United Irishman William Orr. When the mob saw Wolfe, he became a target and was murdered.


After the murder and failed rebellion, a reward was offered for the capture of two prominent United Irishmen and known associates of Robert Emmett, Thomas Wylde and his brother-in-law John Mahon. They both fled to Kildare/King's County (Offaly). Believed to be stayed in a house near Ballycommon, King’s County, Lieutenant John Longfield was tasked with apprehending the insurgents, he set out on the 15 December to search for them.


Calling for reinforcements, Lieutenant Longfield was joined by Captain Dodgson and Lieutenant Sherlock of the Yeomanry. The officers set out for the house with the aid of the Philipstown gaoler (who was actually the brother in law of Wylde). Upon arriving at the house around 11am, the party were spotted by men hiding on the parapeted roof, one was armed with a blunderbuss and another with a pistol. The rebels started throwing stones and flagstones down on them and a shots rang out, Captain Dodgson and Lieutenant Sherlock returned fire. The brief engagement ended with Captain Dodgson fatally wounded and Lieutenant Longfield was hit, but his wound was only minor.


Wylde and Mahon made their escape via a bog. When the house was searched a pound of gunpowder and cannon balls were discovered. The gaoler and his wife were imprisoned, as it was implied they had assisted the bandits before leading the party of men to apprehend them. A government proclamation was issued with a reward of 500 pounds over the initial 100 pounds offered for the apprehension of Wylde and Mahon.


While newspapers seemed optimistic about the capture of the rebels and the military out searching for them, both men escaped the hangman’s noose. Wylde died a free man in New York in 1813.


Captain Dodgson was interred in the local graveyard, his tomb being barely legible.

Captain Dodgson's grave in Daingean (Philipstown) Offaly.

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