General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell arrived in Dublin as commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland in the morning. He wasted no time declaring his intent.
“The most vigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing in their armed resistance to the law. If necessary I shall not hesitate to destroy any buildings within any area occupied by the rebels and I warn all persons within the area specified below, and now surrounded by HM troops, forthwith to leave such area,” he said.
At the GPO, Pearse ordered the Cumann na mBan women out of the GPO for their safety — despite their protests.
James Stephens reported on the scene in the city centre. “This morning there are no newspapers, no bread, no milk, no news,” he wrote. “The sun in shining and the streets are lively but discreet. All people continue to talk to one another without distinction of class, but nobody knows what any person thinks,” he wrote.
“The feeling that I tapped was definitely anti-Volunteer but the number of people who would speak was few.. I received the impression that numbers of them did not care a rap what way it went.”
Stephens described a city which had been destroyed. “From the roof there comes the sound of machine guns. Looking towards Sackville Street one picks out easily Nelson’s Pillar which towers slenderly over all the buildings of the neighbourhood. It is wreathed in smoke. Another towering building was the DBC cafe (Dublin Bread Company). Its Chinese-like pagoda was a landmark easily to be found, but today I could not find it. It was not there, and I knew that, even if all Sackville Street was not burned down, as rumour insisted, this great cafe had certainly been curtailed by its roof and might, perhaps, have been completely burned.”
Aside from the flames and destruction, the blood-letting continued with Stephens describing in lurid detail an incident on Camden Street.
“One man saw two Volunteers taken from a house by the soldiers. They were placed kneeling in the centre of the road, and within one minute of their capture they were dead. Simultaneously there fell several of the firing party. An officer in this part had his brains blown into the roadway. A young girl ran into the road, picked up his cap and scraped the brains into it. She covered this poor debris with a little straw, and carried the hat piously to the nearest hospital in order that the brains might be buried with their owner,” he wrote.
On North King Street, after a two-day battle, the South Staffordshire Regiment, under Colonel Taylor, had advanced just 150 yards down the street at a cost of 11 dead and 28 wounded.
But it would emerge that 15 civilians and boys who had no connection with the Rising had been killed, some by bayonet, in the North King Street area.
The Volunteers still held Jacob’s factory, but elsewhere the Rising was nearing its end.
By 6pm it is clear that the garrison at the GPO will have to either break out or surrender with fire spreading through the building and wounded Connolly propped up on an iron bed.
Pearse gave the order to abandon the GPO and at 8pm they decided to break out, hoping to link up with the garrison at the Four Courts.
A nurse, Elizabeth O’Farrell, one of the three Cumann na mBan left in the GPO after Pearse ordered the others to leave, gave a witness account of events.
“Commandant Pearse was the last to leave the building. He went round to see that no one was left behind. We immediately preceded him, bullets raining from all quarters as we rushed to Moore Lane,” she said.
Eamon Bulfin added: “There was no cohesion. Nobody seemed to be in charge once we left the post office; it was every man for himself.”
Leading the charge, The O’Rahilly was killed. He had been director of arms for the Irish Volunteers. Despite having travelled the country in the early part of the week to spread the message of MacNeill’s countermand, since the Rising went ahead he had been fully immersed in the action.
“I helped wind this clock and I’ve come to hear it strike,” he told men from the Kimmage movement.
As he lay slumped, dying, he wrote a note to his wife. It said: “I got more than one bullet I think.” The note itself was pierced with a bullet. Then, on the doorway, in his own blood he wrote: “Here died The O’Rahilly. RIP.”
Eventually, the main body of the Volunteers got into some houses in Moore Street and O’Hanlon’s Fish Market.
The Rising was coming towards an end, although the people of Dublin were as yet unaware of this.
“Each night we have got to bed at last, murmuring, ‘I wonder will it be all over to-morrow’, and this night the like question accompanied us,” wrote James Stephens.
However, the North King Street killings — along with news spreading about the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington had sparked public revulsion and helped sway further support towards the insurrectionists as people became more aware of the calibre of the men behind the Rising.