Sir John Maxwell, the British Commander-in-Chief caused sixteen of the Irish to be court-martialed and shot. The execution of these men was an attempt to murder of the Provisional Government of Ireland. Patrick Pearse was the first to be singled out for execution, he was not allowed to see his mother or brother before he was executed on May 3, 1916. In his jail cell he wrote his famous poem 'Mother'.
When MacDonagh laid down his arms at the time of surrender, he said he "would give anything to see Muriel once more". When somebody offered to go for Muriel, he declined, not wanting his wife to see and remember what the area looked like during defeat.
He was executed at 3:30 am May 3. His wife had not been able to reach him, but his sister, a nun was able to see him shortly before his death. When his sister entered the cell and saw that was no water, she asked the guard for some water, the guard, acting under orders refused the request. His sister gave him a rosary that had belonged to their mother, she said she wished that after his death that they would return the rosary to her. As MacDonagh put the rosary around his neck he said no, "they will shoot it to bits" . Only four beads were shot away, and his sister did eventually receive the rosary.In his final letter to his wife written a few hours before his death he said" I am ready to die, and I thank God that I am to die in so a holy a cause. My country will reward my deed richly. I counted the cost of this, and I am ready to pay it."