The demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which at one point had reportedly ballooned to a million people, were not the only pro-democracy protests in the country at the time. Demonstrations had spread to hundreds of cities, including Shanghai, China’s largest, and in the days after the military mobilized in Beijing, protesters were putting up blockades in Shanghai.

Once one of China's most prosperous cities and industrial centers, Nanking took decades to recover from the devastation it experienced. Abandoned as the national capital in 1949 for Beijing, it grew into a modern industrial city during the communist period and today is home to many of China's largest state-owned firms.

Efforts to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding the massacre and to detail the killings themselves are hampered by lack of evidence. Eyewitness accounts of the massacre are few. A number of depositions, taken from the relatives of victims, were transcribed by Sir Richard Musgrave and published three years after the event, and these give us some insight. In addition, the records of several of the court martial trials of individuals accused of having taken part have survived. We also have the very vivid accounts of the event on the loyalist side written by Sir Richard Musgrave and George Taylor. Both accounts appeared in its immediate aftermath and both are based on evidence collected from those indirectly familiar with it. On the ‘pro-rebel’ side we have the memoirs of Edward Hay and Thomas Cloney. Neither was present at the killings either but Hay travelled the county in the year or so after the rising and talked to those generally familiar with it, Scullabogue included. Cloney spent the day of the battle in New Ross, where he took a prominent part in the fighting, and returned to Carrickbyrne the next morning. His account is chiefly valuable for the details it provides of the battle. Most critical of all is the very detailed narrative of the battle of New Ross compiled by James Alexander, a former officer in the British army and a seemingly fair-minded observer. His version of events, more than any other, has a genuine ring of truth about it; he was a loyalist, tried and true, but it is clear that he also disapproved strongly of the abuses to which soldiers in the New Ross garrison resorted before, during and after the battle.

Round-ups of loyalists not unusual

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