The military plans for the rising remain vague but it was beset by misfortune from the start. A gunboat carrying the German-supplied weapons necessary for success was scuttled after its interception by the British navy. John (Eoin) MacNeill, the leader of the Irish Volunteers whom the military council relied on to provide the soldiers for the rising, countermanded Pearse's orders for mobilization on Easter Sunday, 23 April.
The military council pressed ahead, nonetheless, and around 1,600 rebels turned out to fight for the ‘provisional government’ of the ‘Irish Republic’ on Easter Monday. The rebels occupied a number of prominent buildings forming a ring around central Dublin and awaited the British army's assault. Little attempt had been made to mobilize separatists outside Dublin or take the offensive, suggesting that the rebellion was a bloody protest aimed at reviving sympathy for separatist objectives rather than a genuine attempt to overthrow British rule.
Chief among the Volunteers who opposed the rising was its chief of staff, Eoin MacNeil. In the end, Pearse and the others in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, along with James Connolly and his Citizen Army, planned a rising for April 23, Easter Sunday, using the Volunteers' scheduled maneuvers in Dublin as a cover. These plans were made without MacNeil's knowledge. MacNeil found out on Thursday and at first, after being told of the shipment of German arms that Roger Casement was bringing to the southwest, he agreed to support it.
However, when MacNeil found out that Casement had been captured and the weapons lost, he canceled the maneuvers and got word to the countryside that the rising was off. In military terms, there was nothing for Pearse and his cohorts to do but call off the rising, but Pearse was not a military man, he was a visionary. He saw a destiny for himself and his country.
Six years earlier he had written in a poem:
"I have turned my face to the road before me, to the deed that I see and the death I shall die."With that deed, that near-certain death, now staring him in the face, he didn't waver.