Monday, July 18, 2011

The Third Kingdom, Part One:

28 February, 1567

Pardon for Thomas Yonger (alias Crathorne) and Nicholas Gybson ‘Yeoman’
So that they forthwith go over to Ireland there to serve the Queen in her wars and other business and do not return to England without her special licence

Calender of Patent Rolls, Elizabeth 1566-69

For the average Englishman, the reign of Henry the Seventh, first of the Tudor dynasty, was an age of prosperity. Although the later Tudor period has generally attracted more attention from historians, an analysis of surviving economic records show that it was in the day of Henry VII that conditions for the working Englishman were at their best. The 1490s in particular stand out: things had never before been so good, and they would not be again for over 300 years. (1) In real terms, the average worker in the late 15th century had a purchasing power approximately one-third greater than that of his Elizabethan counterpart, judged by the number of everyday items a worker could purchase with their wage. Things did not get any better over the 17th century, and not until the Agricultural Revolution of the early decades of the Eighteenth Century was there any substantial improvement, and even then, only for a few decades. The reason for this stark difference was due to an unusual alignment of favourable circumstances occuring in England at the dawn of the Tudor era.

At the close of the 15th century, the population of England is estimated to have been around 2.5 million, a considerable drop from the 4 million or so who are estimated to have lived in the same kingdom two centuries earlier. When Henry VII came to the throne, the population of England had not recovered from a series of disasters that had struck the kingdom from the 14th century: the famine of 1315-17, the Black Death in 1349-50 and the two great wars of late Medieval England, The Hundred Years wars against France and the subsequent War of the Roses. Of these disastrous events, the famine and plague had wrought the greater devastation, though the successive wars served to curtail any subsequent population growth.

For England, the one positive aspect of the wars was that they were not particularly destructive, causing minimal economic damage to the kingdom. As such, when things stabilised in 1485, everyday economic life was able to resume the same pattern it had taken in an earlier, more irenic age. But the much reduced population ensured labour was in demand. An employer in these circumstances generally had little choice but to pay an attractive wage to a labourer, or else go to great trouble to find someone else willing to work for less. This combination of demand for labour, and the presence of the economic infrastructure which had been long present in England, would result in an unusually bountiful time for the majority of England’s population.

Darkening Skies

The deterioration of conditions from the high of the 1490s was gradual process, which more or less correlated with the reign of Henry VIII. The surviving historical data reveal that there were still some individual good years: 1519, 1523, 1526, & 1542. But whereas good years had been common in the time of Henry VII, they had now become a rarity. This was the start of a long decline in demand for labour in England, continuing into the second half of the 16th century and on into the 17th century. The purchasing power of the average worker in 1542, the last of the good years of the Tudor period, would only be matched again in the 1730s. For the typical English worker, the intervening years were a grim period to live through.

The cause of the deteriorating standard of living was in part due to rising population: Henry VIII was no pacifist, but the wars fought by England in his reign against France & Scotland (1513, and again from 1544) and in Ireland during the Fitzgerald revolt (1534-35) were not grinding affairs, and while these were important regional wars, they did not result in large English losses. The early Tudor period was also free of major occurrences of disease, with the last major outbreak of plague in England having taken place in 1479. There was also, however, a second important factor which played a part in exacerbating the declining living standards. From the 1540s, the Spanish had started to ship large quantities of precious metals, particularly silver, from the Zacatecas mine in Mexico and the Potosi mine in Peru (2)The impact of this would be a gradual reduction in the value of coin. Not only did a worker have to contend with increasing competition due to a rising population, the value of the coin that they received as pay ended up being continually eroded by the flow of precious metals from the new world.

Rising Tension

By the early Elizabethan period, the gate house tower of London Bridge was typically adorned by the rotting heads of as many as thirty executed felons, and criminals could also be commonly seen chained to the nearby riverbank. (3) Such sights were a demonstration of the increasingly harsh attitude to law and order by the ruling elite. Although practices such as spiking heads went back to before the Middle Ages, in the Tudor era societal stresses ensured that such displays would become increasingly common.

By the 1540s, the expansion of England’s population was already becoming a concern to the highest levels of government. Increasing numbers of masterless men began to move across the countryside, some heading to the towns and cities in search of employment, others seeking adventure. The population of beggars in large centres began to noticeably increase, and it is likely that criminal activity also became more common, as desperate men and women found themselves cut off from the opportunities that had been formerly been available. The overall effect of this was to create a ‘siege mentality’ amongst the ruling elite.

The fears of the elite were reflected in increasingly draconian legislation directed at miscreants starting around the middle of the 16th century. The 1530, ‘Act concerning Egyptians’ (Gypsies) is one of the earliest examples. The Gypsies had spread across Western Europe in the 15th century, and in England as elsewhere they were blamed for robberies and deceits. This act stipulated that any Gypsies in England were required to depart within sixteen days, otherwise they could be imprisoned and have their possessions divided between the king and whoever apprehended the gypsies. (4) Later, the act was modified to the effect that any Gypsy who had not left within forty days was to be executed. This harsh measure seems to have had the desired effect, though eventually the Gypsises made a return to England.

Not long after, similar severe measures were enacted against brothels: As houses of vice, they were inevitably associated with criminality. In 1546, in an unexpected move, the King attempted to shut down the brothels in London, and legislated for the branding of all those found to be working as whores. As with the attempted expulsion of the Gypsies, this attempt at prohibition was unrealistic, and when the King died the following year so did any efforts to enforce the ban. However, it would not be long before other Monarchs would move to make legislative assaults on other disliked groups of the lower class.

In 1566, in a work titled A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds, the author Thomas Harman gave thanks to god that through wholesome laws the memory of gypsies had been clean extinguished and wished for a like fate to the home-grown vagabond. (5) The views of Harman must have reflected the prevailing mood, for not long after, the attention of the authorities would be directed at the very group named by Harman.

This is the first of a series of articles looking at the origins of the Tudor English expansion in Ireland. I hope to post more of this series in future.



(2)pg 88, Spain’s road to Empire, Kamem

(3)pg 17,The Elizabethan Underworld, Salgado

(4)ibid pg 153

(5)ibid pg 154

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ireland: Highland Regions

The Irish Highland Regions: An Overview

Ireland is by no means a flat land. Other comparably sized areas of Europe, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and to a certain extent even England, have a notably flatter landscape. Ireland, however, has no regions that are comparable in size and scale to the Highlands of nearby Scotland. Scotland could be fairly said to be mountainous, but the topography of Ireland would be more accurately described as a landscape of rolling hills, with the occasional tall peak breaking out of the landscape.

Frequently, topographical maps representing Britain and Ireland underestimate the extent of the highland areas of Ireland. Part of the problem may be due to the layout of the Hills and Mountains of Ireland: In Britain, the highland areas are clustered in the West and the North of the island, with the East and South being fairly flat (in the south-east of England, a considerable chunk of land even falls below sea-level). In Ireland, by way of comparison, areas of highland are scattered in all directions, as if having been spewed forth onto the landscape by some ancient Celtic god. There are no regions of highland comparable to the Scottish or Welsh Highlands. However, there are several areas in Ireland very similar to England's only true mountain region, the Cumberland Mountains in the extreme North-West of England. The hilly terrain of Cornwall is also somewhat like the terrain found in some parts of Ireland. Overall, the western parts of England are the regions of Britain most like Ireland in terms of terrain.

The strategic importance of areas of hills and mountains have been long recognised by military minds. In the 18th century, Maurice de Saxe argued in his memoirs that strong natural sites made more defensible strongholds than walled cities, but the logic of the argument had long been recognised, not least by the Gaelic population of Ireland. It is notable that the Medieval Anglo-Normans invaders in Ireland largely failed to conquer areas of Ireland dominated by highland (Kerry, Iar Connacht and Western Ulster) although certainly the remoteness of all these regions from England also played a part here, given the limitations of naval power in the Middle Ages.

The largest areas of unbroken highland in Ireland are located in county Wicklow and in the West of Munster, but it should be noted that in Ireland, many relatively small clusters of hill and mountain could have a disproportionate influence due to their strategic location. The best example of this in Ireland are the Slieve Bloom mountains, located in Laois in the heart of Ireland. As mountains go, the Slieve blooms are not particularly impressive: the tallest peak rises to only 530 metres, and in terms of area, they are only one-quarter the size of the Wicklow mountains further to the east; indeed they would more fairly be described as formidable hills rather than mountains. The importance of the Slieve Blooms lie in the fact that they are the only substantial cluster of highland terrain in central Ireland. A commander hoping to pacify this region had to contend with some serious logistic hurdles: a 50 mile march from Dublin over boggy and wooded terrain was required to reach the Slieve Blooms, and the locals were often ready well in advance, for by taking advantage of the high ground they could see for miles across the low lying surrounding land. The O'Molloy sept native to the area were able to remain unconquered until the Elizabethan era, and this had much to do with the location of this cluster of highland. Interestingly, despite the much greater size and scale of the Wicklow mountains, the Medieval invaders managed to pacify this region in the 13th century, even if only for a few decades. Clearly, other factors apart from the size and area of rugged highland areas are important determinants in the effectiveness of these areas as strong points.

A counter example to the Slieve Blooms is in the extreme west of Ireland, in county Kerry. The Dingle peninsular is dominated by an area of highland comparable in area to the Slieve Bloom hills, but vastly exceeding them in scale. The tallest peak, Mt Brandon, is a mountain by even the most rigid definition, standing 950 meters above sea level at its highest point, and a number of other peaks here are over 2000 feet (610m.) However, the mountains of Dingle have never proved to be of much strategic importance in Irish history. They were conquered by the Normans in the 13th Century (unlike the more southerly mountains of Kerry), and they did not offer sufficient protection to the outlawed Earl of Desmond, who met his end here in 1583 while hiding out near Tralee. The strategic problem in this case is that they are located in the very Western extremity of Ireland, on a narrow peninsular that could easily be cut off by a single company of soldiers. The land is not particularly fertile, and only the town of Dingle was worth any consideration from an invaders view point, though even this town declined in importance over the 16th century.

Above mention was made of the fact that the mountains and hills are scattered about the landscape, but there is one notable exception here. The North-Central region of Ireland (an area which roughly corresponds to the ancient province of Meath) is very flat. Although the terrain here was still difficult in parts (due to some lakes and large areas of bogland) there are few hills, and no mountains in this one area of Ireland. The nature of the terrain in Meath favoured forces with effective cavalry, and in general this meant English armies had an edge over the Irish in this region.

The Influence of terrain on Irish History

The geography of any land plays a great part in the shaping of its history. In contrast to England, which gradually unified over the course of the Middle Ages, Ireland remained divided, Even if there was a sense of cultural unity. It is hard not to see that differences in terrain played a part here: Ireland is broken up by not only large highland areas, but also by long rivers and large lakes to a far greater extent than is England. The most extreme example of this is the entire province of Connaught, which is divided from the rest of Ireland by the formidable river Shannon as well as some great hills in the north-east.

There are many lesser examples. The lakes of lough Corrib and Mask partitions Iar Connacht (west Connaught) from the rest of the province just as Connaught is partitioned from the remainder of Ireland by the river Shannon. In the province of Munster, the 'Sliabh Luachra', a long and formidable stretch of highland running from the Beara peninsular to central Cork, acted as a barrier between South Cork and the West Cork/Kerry region. In Ulster, the Medieval era lordship of the O'Neills was sharply divided by the Sperrins, a mass of formidable hills that effectively sliced the territory in half.

The importance of this was that in many parts of Ireland, it was problematic for any conqueror to maintain their grasp on territory. Great lakes and regions of formidable hill and mountain made it hard for conquerors to react swiftly to any resistance, as their armies would be forced to take lengthy detours or organise shipping to get around this impassable terrain. The Norman invaders of England, a relatively flat land, were able to conquer the region in a matter of years. Many of the grand-sons of these invaders then went on to launch an invasion of Ireland in 1170, but the eventual subjugation of Ireland took centuries. Ireland's chequerboard terrain made it a tougher nut to crack. As such, military domination of the island would have to wait until the improvements in England's naval capabilities in the 16th Century made a conquest viable.

The Highlands of the East: Wicklow

At one time, the Wicklow mountains were without question the most strategically important region of highland in Ireland. The main reason for this is simply that the principal city of Ireland, Dublin, is virtually a neighbour to this major block of highland. Apart from that, the Wicklow mountains are formidable in their own right: this area of highland stretches roughly 25 miles North-to-South and 15 miles East-West. If we define a highland region as a substantial area at least 200 metres above sea-level, the Wicklow mountains are amongst the largest of such regions in Ireland, and certainly the largest outside of Munster. One unusual feature of the Wicklow mountains is that a considerable expanse of the region is over 300 metres /1000 feet: measured by area, the largest cluster of land over 1000 feet in Ireland is found within this area of high ground. This is why the Wicklow mountains are occasionally labelled as the most substantial Highland region in Ireland; certainly by using a more restrictive definition, this would be quite accurate.

The Influence of the Wicklow mountains on Irish History

The Wicklow highlands are probably the only area of mountain in Ireland that could clearly be said to have changed the course of British history. In October 1394, the King of England, Richard II landed at Waterford with a large army, demanding the submission of all the Irish lords. In this the king was successful, but only temporarily. The king of Leinster Art MacMurrough was amongst the Irish leaders to have sworn allegiance to the King of England, but within a few years he was once again engaged in hostilities. Richard returned to Ireland in 1399 to quell this warring chieftain, but MacMurrough, having taken refuge in the natural fortress of Wicklow, was able to bog the English army down by cutting off their supplies. While conducting this miserable campaign, an exiled cousin of Richard, Bolingbroke, returned to England and was promptly elected king by a sympathetic Parliament. Richard in desperation left Ireland for England, but was quickly captured on his return. He died in captivity the following year. Richard II would prove to be the only English ruler to lead a major army into Ireland until Oliver Cromwell's invasion of 1649, two-and-a-half centuries later: the miserable experience of Richard II no doubt discouraged the other intervening rulers in England from following in his footsteps.

The example set by Art MacMurrough ensured that the strategic importance of the Wicklow mountains was well understood by later Gaelic leaders, most notably during the Irish wars of the Elizabethan era. In 1580, the English Lord Arthur Grey embarked on an ill-advised attempt to destroy a Gaelic force led by Feagh MacHugh O’Byrne in Glenmalure, the remote valley in the bowels of the Wicklow mountains. Up against a local Irish force defending a wooded slope, the assault was a debacle, becoming infamous in Ireland as a local version of Braddock's last stand.

The Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O'Neill could not have missed the significance of this defeat. During the Nine Years War, alliances with the Gaelic leaders native to Wicklow such as Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne enabled O'Neill to launch a proxy war from Wicklow, forcing the Crown forces to divert resources southwards to Wicklow and securing O'Neill's own northern support base. Fifty years later, the conspirators of 1641 also seem to have been aware of the value of the Wicklow region: Within three weeks of the first movements of the Ulster insurgents, substantial disturbances were recorded in county Wicklow, Carlow, Wexford & Laois. Counties Carlow & Wexford neighbour Wicklow (some of the foothills of the Wicklow extend into the north of Wexford): Laois is the exception, not bordering Wicklow, but interestingly, as earlier noted it is home to another strategically important area of highland, the Slieve Blooms. It has been suggested that the rapid eruption of these areas into rebellion points to some involvement in, or at least a foreknowledge, of the 1641 conspiracy by some of the locals in Wicklow and Laois. (pg 254, Perceval-Maxwell, The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641) Wicklow, being so close to the principal city of Ireland, would have made a suitable base for insurgents wishing to avoid detection before embarking upon mischievous endeavours in the capital.

The proximity of Wicklow to Dublin was something of a double edged sword. While Irish forces in Wicklow were within striking distance of Dublin, they themselves were in turn vulnerable to counter attacks from Dublin. In the Nine years war, there were two successful raids launched into Wicklow by the Crown forces, firstly in 1597 and then in 1600. In the first raid, William Russell, the Lord Deputy, employed deceptive manoeuvrers to enact a surprise raid in which he captured O'Byrnes's house at Ballincorr: O'Byrne himself narrowly managed to escape, but thereafter the mountains were flooded with hundreds of soldiers, and eventually O'Byrne was cornered in a cave and killed. Phelim, the son of Feagh MacHugh continued to support Hugh O' Neill, and a second raid was launched on Christmas Eve of 1600 by Mountjoy. In this raid, Phelim MacFeagh also managed to escape by leaping out of a back window, but his own son was captured: thereafter he was induced to surrender. Presumably this raid left an impression on the progeny of Phelim O'Byrne: Hugh MacPhelim, the son of Phelim O'Byrne, would turn Tory during the Cromwellian invasion some fifty years later, becoming noted for his uncanny ability to escape capture.

The last conflict in which the Wicklow mountains played a considerable role was the 1798 rebellion: insurgents fleeing from Vinegar Hill inflicted a defeat on a force of 200 troopers in an ambush at Ballyellis, and for years afterwards the mountains acted as a protective shelter for the surviving insurgents. As a result of the 1798 disturbances, the British government built a fortified military road to the mountain core via the Sally Gap (one of the major passes in the Wicklow mountains). The military road was not much used for its intended purpose, however, for 1798 would prove to be the last time in which the Wicklow mountains played a major part in a conflict in Ireland.

Highlands of the South: West Munster

Although the Wicklow mountains are substantial in terms of area, they can be in no way compared to the sheer scale of the Highlands in the Western parts of Munster. This region is frequently dubbed West-Cork/Kerry, but this is is a little misleading: Although the highland areas here are centred about the border regions of Kerry and Cork, they actually stretch a fair way into the West of county Limerick, an area known in former times as the Barony of Shanid.

Unlike in Wicklow, the areas of mountain and hill of this region form into several medium-to-large blocks, most of which, though in close proximity, do not quite join together to form one mass of highland. The region is dominated by two main blocks of highland. The first of these is the long stretch of formidable hill or mountain running from the Beara peninsula up towards central Cork: this area is called the 'Sliabh Luachra'. The second block is the mass of hills centered on the Mullaghareirk mountains, which spreads out across into three nearby counties. As probably the most impassable area in Ireland, the region was extremely difficult to conquer.

While neither of the major west Munster blocks of highland is confined to a single county, they predominate in the County of Kerry. Today, nearly 50% of Kerry is classed as Mountains or Bog, with most of the remaining land being cultivated regions. The areas of bogland were even more extensive centuries ago.

The Sliabh Luachra

The 'Sliabh Luachra' is a long wall of formidable highland that run from the Beara peninsular (south of the Kenmare river) and into county Cork. This area of Highland encompasses the Caha, Sheehy and Boggeragh mountains. From one end of these mountains to the other, it is possible to walk over fifty miles (80 km) without ever falling below an altitude of 200 metres above sea level. The foothills of the Boggeragh mountains, at the extreme East of this length of highland, are a mere twelve miles (20 km) from the town of Cork. These formidable hills thus were of some strategic importance, providing a protective corridor of movement to a weaker force who wished to move between central Cork and Kerry.

The West Munster Hills

The second major (in terms of area) highland region in western Munster is centred on the borders of counties Limerick, Cork and Kerry. The area centres on the Mullaghareirk mountains but also encompasses the Glanaruddery and Stacks mountains of Kerry and the hills of West Limerick. It is seldom realised that these hills form one of the largest unbroken highland regions in Ireland: these hills cover an area nearly as great as that of the Wicklow mountains. The lack of recognition of this highland area is quite understandable however, for although these hills can be compared with Wicklow in terms of surface area, there is no comparison when it comes to comparing the relative altitude. The tallest peak of these hills is the 438 metre hill of Knockanefune, a formidable hill certainly but less than half the height of the great Wicklow mountain Lugnaquilla.

At their most southerly point, the West Munster Hills come within three miles/ five kilometres of the Mountains of the Sliabh Luachra, only divided by the narrow western extremity of the Blackwater valley. Two of the four great highland areas of Ireland are thus within close proximity; furthermore, a third, smaller but still formidable stretch of highland dominates the nearby peninsular of Iveragh. This peninsular is home to the Macqillycuddy's Reeks, location of the tallest mountain in Ireland, Carrauntouhill (1041). The three of these formidable Highland clusters are divided only by narrow valleys: There is little question as such that the West of Munster is the most mountainous area in Ireland.

The West of Munster in the Eleven Years War

It was common for weakened armies to take shelter in Kerry and the surrounding regions, and this region played a particularly notable role in the Eleven Years War. Murrough O'Brien, the Baron (and later Earl) of Inchiquin seemed particularly adept at this tactic. In early 1643 Inchiquin, facing a shortage of supplies and reinvigorated Confederate armies, led his force of counter-insurgents into Kerry. Several years later, when faced with the Cromwellian push across Ireland, Inchiquin again retreated into Kerry with a large number of soldiers, from where he launched opportunistic counter-attacks against the invaders.

Inchiquin eventually lost hope and departed for Europe, but the county of Kerry would remain one of the last regions to hold out against the Cromwellian invasion. After 1650 it was one of only two substantial areas to remain in Irish hands (the other being Greater Connaught, the area west of the river Shannon). The remote fortress of Ross Castle, located in the valley running between the two largest areas of west Munster highland, caused particular consternation for the Parliamentarian Commander Ludlow. Donough MacCarthy, the Viscount Muskerry had strengthened the fortifications of the remote castle, and many of the surviving Irish leaders and ecclesiastics took refuge there. The stronghold held out for some time against a force of over 2000 soldiers, before finally surrendering in July 1652.

Highlands of the North: The Caledonian Mountain Range

The Caledonians were a vast ancient mountain range, the remains of which still dominate the landscape of much of Connaught and Ulster today. The remnants of these once mighty highlands also stretch into Scotland, northern Scandinavia and even as far as the east coast of North America. The imprint of these mountains is more obvious in nearby Scotland, where the Southern uplands bordering North England still today form a large block of Highland of Caledonian origin, though these hills today are nowhere near as great as they were in past millennia. In Ireland, the Caledonian mountains do not form a continuous block of highland, and as such they are not immediately obvious from a detailed topographical map of Ireland. They can be seen more clearly on a larger scale topographical map of Ireland (or one covering both Britain and Ireland): The bounds of these ancient mountains were on the North-Western fringes of Ulster and Connaught. Although these large hills do not retain their ancient majesty, the remnants form a notable pattern as they stretch across the north-west of Ireland. The ruins of the Caledonians are spread about in fairly close clusters, at intervals of, at most 10-15 miles (15-25 Km). These regular clusters of hill are a distinctive feature of the North-West of Ireland.

Strategically, this terrain gave a notable advantage to Gaelic forces, who were generally deficient when in came to cavalry. The constant clusters of hill over this large area acted not entirely unlike stepping stones over a pond, a series of safe places to which infantry forces could escape to if threatened by a swift force of horsemen. Thus, a lightly armed fleet-footed force could hop between one cluster of highland to the next; in this manner they could potentially reach as far as Connemara in Connaught from the hills around the Roe Valley in North Ulster, a distance of over 200 Kilometres.

The Sperrins

The Greatest single mass of the ancient Caledonians remaining in Ireland is to be found in the Sperrins of central Ulster. In terms of area, the Sperrins are an unevenly shaped mass of Highland, running about 20 miles North-South and the same East-West, though narrow valleys cut into the Sperrins in a number of places. With respect to both area and height, the Sperrins are not quite as great as Wicklow: The tallest peak in the Sperrins, Sawel Mt. is 680 metres above Sea-level. This is fairly impressive by Irish standards, but still falls a fair way below the biggest mountains of Wicklow or Kerry. That said, the Sperrins are still a formidable area of High ground, with three peaks over 2000 feet/610 m in height. And though the Sperrins are smaller in area, the difference is not a great one. Perhaps one strategic advantage the Sperrins had over Wicklow was that it is surrounded by clusters of hill, particularly to the north (the hills surrounding the Roe Valley) and to the south-west. As the central and west of Ulster was once part of the Caledonians, these small clusters of hill rise out of the landscape at irregular intervals, each typically about 5-10 kilometres apart. In earlier times, a lightly armed force of infantry would be able to move from one cluster of hill to the next in a matter of hours. In modern parlance the hills acted as a force multiplier: a force based in the Sperrins was able to exert its influence over a wide range, even more so than was the case for Wicklow (the terrain in the immediate surrounds of the Wicklow mountains is predominately low-lying, excepting the Blackstairs mountains to the south-west).

In 1609, when Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland was promoting the plantation of Ulster, the representatives of the London guilds were deliberately kept away from the Sperrin Mountains. It would have been obvious to observers of the day that this substantial highland was well suited to act as a shelter for outlaws of all types, particularly given that the province was full of Irish veterans of the recent war. The instability that frequently plagued Ulster was surely in part due to the nature of the landscape: The Sperrins split the northern half of the province, with countless small clusters of hill dotting the landscape further to the west and north.


From the perspective of a historian with any military interest, the terrain of Ireland makes for an interesting study: as an island, the nature of the land means that armies were isolated from outside influences to a greater degree than was the norm in continental wars. In addition, as has been noted above, the Irish landscape is of a patchy nature, with clusters of hill and mountain interspersed with substantial areas of flatter countryside. Fynes Moryson, the Elizabethan traveller and secretary to Mountjoy during the Nine Years War, remarked that the Irish landscape was more varied than he had anticipated, and without doubt the Irish landscape is much less monotonous than in many other Western European lands.

This aspect of the Irish terrain had important historical ramifications. The Irish people have been historically divided to a greater extent than the neighbouring lands of England and Scotland. At times, the terrain of a land can serve to unify a people: something of this sort can perhaps be seen in Scotland, where a culturally diverse group of people gained a sense of identity form the mountainous regions in which they resided; this perception of unity helped the Kingdom of Scotland to survive for centuries.

The Kingdom of England, too, was in part characterised by its terrain, though to a lesser extent than Scotland. But in both these kingdoms, differences in landscape often marked out differences in regional culture: England had a distinct North/South divide between the inhabitants of the hilly regions and those of the low lying lands further South, and in the same manner in Scotland the Highlands and Lowlands were distinctive.

The regional cultural divisions in Scotland and England could be profound, but they were generally manageable. But in Ireland, these regional divisions were more problematic. Instead of the massive Highland regions in Britain, Ireland was endowed with numerous smaller areas of highland scattered around the landscape. In the Middle Ages, though these areas of Highland more often than not remained unconquered natural strongholds, they also found themselves increasingly isolated, perhaps leading to a greater degree provincialism across the island. It is worth pondering if by the end of the 16th Century, the Gaelic inhabitants of Kerry felt much of a cultural connection with the Gaels of Ulster, given the gulf that had emerged between these two regions. It would be fair to surmise that the divisions that would plague the Irish in the wars of the 1640s were at least in part a legacy of this variable Irish landscape.

Appendix: Defining a Hill and a Mountain

It is not particularly easy to determine the cut off point between a Hill and a Mountain. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines a mountain as a peak reaching at height of least 610 metres (2000 feet) but some hold even more rigid definitions, with heights of 915 metres (3000 feet) being proposed as the minimum accepted size for a mountain. To add the confusion, on a local basis peaks are often labelled mountains, with no consideration given to any technicalities. All across Ireland there are areas of highland which have long been described as mountains, though often the tallest peak falls far short of even 2000 feet. Some definitions of mountains also stress the importance of local elevation, rather than just the height above sea level. By this method of measurement, the overall height is measured purely from the foot of the mountain to the top of the tallest peak: the height of any 'base' the mountain may be sitting on is disregarded. Using this definition, Galtymore mountain, in central Munster, would come down to the same height as the Ulster peak Sleive Donard (from 919 metres, down to 850 metres- Galtymore is further from the coast from Slieve Donard, so it is raised somewhat by the higher lie of the land). Generally speaking, given that Ireland is not a large island, using the elevation above sea level is not problematic. Local elevation is of more importance when dealing with massive areas of highland, such as in the central areas of Europe or Asia.

The 3,000 + peaks

If we accept the most rigorous definition of mountain, that of at least 3000 feet above sea level, then mountains are found in only three regions of Ireland. The first of these is Wicklow: the tallest peak in this county, known as Lugnaquilla, reaches 926 metres in height, and would therefore make the grade. Central Munster has a peak of comparable size: Galtymore, as mentioned earlier, stands at 919 metres, and would pass as a mountain without debate. The third region is the mountainous peninsulas in Kerry. Kerry has not one, but two clusters of highland which reach heights in excess of 915 metres. The first of these, Brandon mountain in Dingle, is 953 metres, and the second, at 1041 metres, is the tallest mountain in Ireland, Carrantuohill. This mountain in fact has multiple peaks breaking the 3000 foot point, but for the sake of simplicity only the tallest points of individual mountains have been counted here

It is noteworthy that all of these mountains are in Southern Ireland, but it would be a mistake to infer from this that the Southern Provinces of Ireland are more rugged than the North. The highland areas of the north of Ireland are most ancient in nature, considerably older than the mountains in Kerry or Wicklow, but due to weathering over the millennia, they tend to be modest in size. At any cost, the 3000+ definition used above is one of the most restrictive out of many definitions. In many ways, the size of a mountain is a matter of opinion. As mentioned above, some define a mountain as being over 2000 feet, and some definitions allow peaks even less than this.

Peaks of 2000 +

If we use the 2000 feet/610 m. cut off point to determine a mountain, the island of Ireland would have in total 25 mountains, considerably more than in England/Wales (which together have 11 all up) though many less than can be found in Scotland, which has more than 80 in the 2000+ range. Oddly, for whatever reason Ireland has a particularly large number of peaks falling in the 2,000 - 2,500 foot 'borderline' range (12 in Ireland, compared to only 7 in mountainous Scotland and none in this range in England/Wales). Going through all 25 of the 2,000+ peaks is not practical for the purposes of this article, but the list below of the tallest peaks in Ireland by region is pretty indicative as to the location of the most significant peaks in Ireland.

Greatest Irish Peaks: By Region

Name of
RegionHeight (metres)
CarrantuohillThe Reeks, West Munster104
BrandonDingle, West Munster95
LugnaquillaWicklow, Leinster926
GaltymoreCentral Munster919
Slieve DonardMourne Mountains, Ulster850
MweelreaSouth Mayo, Connaught815
Nephin MountainNorth Mayo, Connaught8o6
Mount LeinsterBlackstairs, Leinster795
KnockmealdownTipperary, East Munster794
ComeraghWaterford, East Munster792

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Siege of Duncannon

Based on an article by John Dorney

The fortress of Duncannon would prove to be one of the more strategically important fortresses in Ireland during the wars of the 1640s, with the fort being besieged on three occasions within the span of a decade. Of these, the most significant was the Siege of 1645. In this year, an Irish Catholic Confederate army under Thomas Preston besieged and successfully took the town of Duncannon in south eastern Ireland from its English Parliamentarian garrison.

Duncannon had formidable modern defenses, and it overlooked the sea route to Waterford and New Ross, two of the most important Catholic held towns in Ireland in the 1640s, and also ports at which the Confederates received military aid from Catholic Europe. Gunfire from cannon in the fort had the potential to harass or deter any shipping heading to these important towns.

The 1645 siege was conducted with a high degree of technical skill, and it was the opinion of the prominent Confederate leader Castlehaven that the siege of Duncannon was the only 'regular' siege in Ireland during this decade of warfare (i.e. the only siege where trenches & batteries were laid out systematically by the attackers). (Castles & fortifications in Ireland, P Kerrigan, pg 86)

Preston's troops were very well equipped, and the 1645 siege is also notable in being the first conflict in Ireland in which mortars were employed.

The First Siege of Duncannon

In the last weeks of 1641, the Kavanaghs and O'Byrnes, who sympathised with the objectives of the Northern insurgents, cleared the counties of Wicklow and Wexford of any opposition. The one place to successfully hold out was the formidable fort of Duncannon, under the command of the Lord Esmond. (Meehan pg 61)

By Christmas 1641, a scattered force of around 1000 Insurgents had deployed in a wide arc surrounding the fortress. The leaders of the Irish insurgents, Rossiter and Browne, had made Shelboggan, four miles from Duncannon, their headquarters, but most of the Irish were scattered in about in small groups in rudimentary fortifications or camps. Duncannon was not particularly hard to isolate, as it was located to the south of Wexford, overlooking Waterford harbour. That said, being on the water and so close to England, it could very easily be reinforced by ships from that Kingdom: In February 1642, the original garrison of 100 was reinforced by 200 soldiers under the Captains Aston and Weldon, along with six cannon. Duncannon was also located in a very strategically important position: Waterford harbour was a passage for ships heading to Waterford town and even (via the river Barrow) upstream to the town of Kilkenny. Duncannon was a major threat to these major towns, and the Irish were willing to devote a great deal of time and effort in taking the fortress.

Faced by this encirclement, the 300 defenders of the fort were by no means complacent. Raids were frequently employed against the attackers, with varied success. In one such an attack, a raiding party led by a Lieutenant Travis managed to surround a detachment of two-dozen Irish soldiers, inducing them to surrender. After these soldiers were brought to Duncannon, Esmond had most of them hanged. (Lenihan, Confed Catholics, pg 178) Brutality of this kind was the norm in the early stages of the war, but it would not be long before the Irish would have a chance to reciprocate.

The Fight at Redmond's Hall

Located not far from Duncannon Fort was Redmond's Hall, home to Alexander Redmond, a prominent local figure who was known to aid the Irish insurgents. Redmond's Hall was visible to the garrison at Duncannon, which can only have served as a constant reminder to the garrison of the sympathies of its owner. By mid summer, Captain Aston had become convinced that the hall could be easily taken and on 20 July 1642 took ship from Duncannon with around ninety men and two small cannon, landing near the Hall.

Alexander Redmond barricaded the Hall and prepared to defend it. The defenders, made up of mostly of members of the Redmond family and their tenants, numbered ten, all of whom were armed with fowling pieces.

Captain Aston drew his men up in front of the Hall and demanded admission in the name of the King. Alexander Redmond responded that he was welcome to come in, if he left his soldiers and weapons outside. This exchange of words was promptly swapped by a lengthy exchange of gunfire from both parties. Aston soon discovered that his cannon were too small to make much impression on the main door. To add to his troubles about half his men abandoned him to pillage the countryside. As the fight dragged on a heavy sea-mist descended on the area.

Captain Rossiter, still encamped at Shielbaggan, was alerted by the sound of gunfire. Organising a large party of soldiers, the force marched rapidly to the aid of the defenders in the hall and surprised the attackers under cover of the fog. About thirty of the English escaped to their boats and back to the fort, but most of the English were slain or captured. Captain Aston himself was one of those killed. Those taken prisoner included Lord Esmond's two nephews Lieutenants John and Walter Esmond. Several of the English prisoners were hanged the following day: another eleven were hanged at New Ross several days later. Amongst those executed was one of the Esmond brothers.

Because of a lack of heavy artillery on the part of the Irish, the first siege of the fortress had petered out by the end of 1642, and in 1643 the Royalists signed a ceasefire with the Irish Confederates. The ceasefire enabled shipping to once again enter Waterford harbour in safety, and hostilities between Duncannon and the surrounding area were suspended. But the death of his nephew at the hands of the Irish forces can hardly have left Esmond with anything other than a thirst for revenge.

Laurence Esmond, Commander of Duncannon

At the time the Irish rebellion erupted in 1641, Laurence Esmond was a member of the house of Lords in Irish Parliament. Being both a member of the Irish Parliament and a Protestant, Esmond was naturally hostile to those involved in the Irish rebellion. He had served as Constable of the fort of Duncannon since as far back as 1606, which may in part explain his stubborn defense of the fort in the 1640s.

In 1641, Esmond was of advanced years, and going blind. It is clear however that he was still a formidable figure, with one contemporary source describing him as an ould and crafty fox. Subsequent events would prove that he was not one to miss a chance.

Esmond Changes sides

In 1644, the English garrison of Cork, under Lord Inchiquin, unhappy with the Royalist truce with the Irish Confederates, declared for the English Parliament, who were to remain hostile to Irish Catholic forces throughout the 1640s. Esmond took advantage of the situation and changed to the side of Parliament, effectively resuming war with the Catholic Confederates.

Needing to keep the passage of Waterford harbour open and also fearing the presence of an English garrison deep in their territory, the Confederates' Supreme Council in Kilkenny dispatched Thomas Preston, general of their Leinster Army, to take Duncannon in January 1645. Preston had at his disposal 1,300 men, four cannon and a mortar. The mortar, the first of its kind to be used in Ireland had been donated by Spain the previous year and was commanded by a French military engineer and firemaster named Nicholas La Loue. La Loue had served with Preston in Flanders and was chief of engineering in the Leinster Army.

The Siege

Duncannon possessed formidable defenses. For one thing, it was located on a peninsula and could only be approached from the north, the other three sides jutting out into the sea. Just off the town were docked four Parliamentarian ships, which were supplying Duncannon with food and reinforcements. Secondly, it possessed two lines of fortifications, the outer line being a more modern low deep rampart protected by a dry ditch and the inner wall being a medieval curtain wall, complete with three towers. However, it had two grave weaknesses, first, it was overlooked by a hill to the north, from which an attacker could fire into the town and secondly the water supply was also located outside the walls.

Preston arrived at Duncannon on January 20 and proceeded to construct a ring of trenches which cut off Duncannon on it landward side. From the hill that overlooked the town to the north, his guns were able to fire on a squadron of four Parliamentarian ships that were docked off Duncannon and providing the town with supplies. The Flagship, the Great Louis was badly damaged, its mast wrecked by cannon fire, and it took several more hits from the mortar as it tried to get away. The ship sunk in deep water, drowning its crew and 200 soldiers who had been on board.

Having cut off Duncannon's supply from the sea, Preston proceeded to dig saps closer to the walls, the ultimate aim being to bring his cannon close enough to the walls in order to blast a breach and open the way for an assault. His engineers also dug a mine underneath one of the town's bastions. All the while, the town's defenders were kept under a bombardment by the mortar and, as the Confederate troops got closer to the walls, by sharpshooters. On March 12, one of these marksmen killed the fort's second in command, one Captain Lurcan, who was hit in the head by a bullet.

On March 16, by which time the Irish trenches were, 'within pistol shot of the walls', Preston ordered the mine to be exploded, opening a breach in Duncannon's outer walls. The Irish infantry then assaulted the town, but were beaten off with some losses. The following day, St Patricks Day, Preston tried again and this time his troops succeeded taking the town's outer, more modern walls but were stopped at Duncannon's inner, medieval ramparts. They had succeeded in occupying one of the town's towers for an hour before being beaten back. Geoffrey Barron, a Confederate politician, who kept a diary of the siege, reported that 24 Irish soldiers were killed in the two assaults.

The Surrender

At this point, Preston summoned Esmond to surrender, before he had to, 'proceed to extremities'. This was a delicate threat, implying that if the town fell to an assault, its defenders would be put to the sword - as was customary in contemporary siege warfare. Esmond was also advised to surrender by the Parliamentarian vice admiral, William Smith, who was anchored off shore with seven ships, but could not break through to relieve the town. In a letter that reached Esmond on March 11, Smith had warned him that, 'if the rebels take the fort by storming it, they will undoubtedley put you all to should agree with thy adversary while thou art in the way' (Lenihan, Confed Cath,pg 186.)Esmond had Smith's letter publicly read to his troops after the assaults of March 16-17 to discourage those who favoured holding out.

Alongside the risk of massacre, the English garrison was also very low on gunpowder and water. The town's only source of fresh water, a well, was behind the Confederate siege lines.
In light of these facts, Esmond formally surrendered Duncannon to Preston on March 18. The Confederates took possession of the town but its garrison was allowed to march away to Youghal, which was in Protestant hands. However, they had to leave behind the town's 18 artillery pieces. Esmond himself died a few days after the end of the siege. Preston would go on to briefly besiege Youghal, but bad weather, a lack of supplies and squabbling with Castlehaven, the Confederate Munster general, put an end to his campaign for that winter.

The siege was of importance in that it re-opened the sea route into Waterford and eliminated a hostile English garrison in Confederate territory. Preston, who had for many years been the Spanish military governor of Leuven was highly experienced in siege warfare and his conduct of the siege drew widespread praise. Not only did he take the town, but he did so at a relatively low cost. Sixty seven Confederate soldiers died in the siege, of whom roughly 30 died of disease. Given that the campaign was conducted in mid-winter, in an age when disease routinely killed many more soldiers than combat, this represented a considerable logistical achievement on the part of the Irish general.

The Great Lewis, the Parliamentarian ship sunk during the siege, was re-discovered in 1999 and raised in 2004.

The Cromwellian siege

Duncannon was besieged for a third time during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland by the forces of the English Parliament, as part of the Siege of Waterford. It repelled a siege by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 but surrendered after a lengthy blockade by Henry Ireton in 1650.

Mortars in Ireland

It has been claimed that the 1651 siege of Limerick was the first example of a mortar used in an Irish engagement, but as has been noted above these weapons had been employed at Duncannon six years before. In fact, the siege of Limerick was not even the second time mortars were used in Ireland; they had been previously been employed by Coote and Venables at Charlemont in July of 1650.


Kerrigan, P (1995), Castles and fortifications in Ireland, 1485-1945, Collins Press, Cork

Lenihan, Padraig, (2001).Confederate Catholics at War, Cork University Press, Cork

Meehan, C.P (1882), Confederation of Kilkenny

Monday, March 23, 2009

Siege of Kilkenny

Confederate Capital

In October 1641, a coup was launched by disaffected members of the Ulster gentry. The coup proved only to be partly successful, but it led to a wave of discord across Ireland over the following months. This breakdown in social order increasingly alarmed the Catholic propertied classes. On the 11th of May in 1642, the clergy of Ireland held a national meeting at Kilkenny, which would set an example for the nobility and gentry. A body describing itself as the lords and gentry of the Confederate Catholics met at Kilkenny on the 7th of June, and from this point onwards began to make arrangements to form an army and create a system of local courts. On October 24, the first of a series elected general assemblies met at Kilkenny. Kilkenny thus became the heart of what was in effect an independent Irish government.

The meetings were held in a house belonging to a wealthy Kilkenny merchant, Richard Shee. The last such meeting was held in January 1649, after which James Butler, the leading Irish Royalist, subsumed the Confederation into a general Royalist alliance in opposition to the Parliamentarian regime. Because of its role as the capital of the Confederation, Kilkenny was a symbolically important centre for the Catholic majority of Ireland, but it was also dear to the Royalist supreme commander Ormond, as the town was the traditional seat of power of his family. As such, the town was of some strategic importance and a target for the Cromwellian forces who had launched their reconquest of Ireland in August 1649. By the Spring of 1650 the Parliamentarians had conquered most of the eastern seaboard, presenting the major towns of Kilkenny and Waterford as the next targets of attack.

Capture of Gowran

On March 20, 1650, John Hewson rendezvoused with the force of Soldiers led by Cromwell near the castle of Gowran. At the end of January, the Parliamentarian army in Ireland had launched their campaign for the year early, due to the unseasonably mild winter of 1649-50. Colonel John Hewson had led a force from Dublin eastwards into Kildare, capturing a number of strongholds after facing little resistance. This included Leighlinbridge, a strategically important stronghold overlooking a bridge over the river Barrow, the formidable river running several miles to the east of Kilkenny town. Hewson then marched the force under his command south into county Kilkenny. In the meantime Cromwell, with John Reynolds, had captured a number of fortresses to the south of the town of Kilkenny. The only major regional garrison left in the hands of the Irish defenders was at Gowran, a village and castle several miles east of Kilkenny. The Govenor of the castle was an Englishman from Kent, Colonel Hammond. Upon arrival at Gowran, Cromwell offered lenient terms of surrender, but Hammond refused, and the following day the heavy cannon opened fire. Within an hour a gap had been blasted in the wall. Hammond asked for a treaty, but Cromwell ignored him, instead informing the garrison directly that he would give them quarter upon surrender. The soldiers surrendered both the castle and Hammond to Cromwell. Hammond and several of the officers of the garrison were shot, and a priest captured in the castle hung. Clearly, the brutal tactics adopted by the Parliamentarians at Drogheda and Wexford were still being put into practice six months on. It was an ominous sign for the population of Kilkenny.

Kilkenny Town

Kilkenny was one of the largest towns in Ireland. The town was built on either side of the river Nore, an important river which facilitated trade between Kilkenny and the city and harbor of Waterford, and from there, with the wider world. Kilkenny Castle, the home of the marquis of Ormond, dominated the town, which in turn was divided into two parts. The High town, next to the castle, was surrounded by a strong wall connected to the castle. The Irish town, as it was called, was adjacent to the High Town on its north side. To the east, across the Nore, was another walled suburb, connected to the High Town by St John's Bridge. Kilkenny was thus a series of self-contained fortifications, which if competently defended could prove a formidable obstacle to the Parliamentarian conquest.The garrison and local population, however, had been the victims of the plague for the past several months. No more than 400 soldiers were still alive out of the 1,200 men whom Castlehaven (the commander of the Irish Leinster forces) had sent to garrison the town. As a result, the mayor and city fathers were responsible for the defense of Irish town, while the soldiers held the High Town and the castle. In spite of the odds against him, the govenor, Sir Walter Butler, was determined to prevent the fall of the town to the best of his ability.

Cromwell's Commanders

The commanders serving under Cromwell at the siege of Kilkenny were amongst the most skilled and determined commanders in the Parliamentarian army. Issac Ewer, John Hewson, and Daniel Axtel were all fanatically loyal to the Parliamentarian cause, each having played a part in the execution of King Charles in 1649. Ewer was a skilled horseman who had served as a major of Dragoons in the English Civil War and had fought in the brutal storm of Drogheda. John Hewson had worked his way from humble origins up to the rank of Colonel during the 1640s, and like Ewer had played a part in the taking of Drogheda, being appointed as governor of Dublin as reward. Another prominent Parliamentarian was Daniel Axtel. Axtel, a Baptist, had served in John Hewson's regiment during the second civil war, and was known for his extremism even by the unforgiving standards of the Parliamentarians.One of the more unusual Parliamentarian leaders to play a part in the Siege of Kilkenny was Colonel Giffard, an Irish Protestant who had served under Inchiquin during the Irish wars of the 1640s. Giffard had fought at the battle of Rathmines on the Royalist side in 1649, but he and his soldiers were forced to surrender after being overwhelmed by the Parliamentarians. He subsequently joined the invading army, and played a major part in the defection of the Royalist and mostly Protestant Cork garrison to the army of Parliament in October 1649.

The overall Irish commander of the Leinster Irish Army at this time was James Tuchet, the Earl of Castlehaven. (Ormond, the overall commander of the Irish army, had by this time fled to a more secure Westerly location). The 3,000 soldiers under his command however badly required reinforcements, leaving the army in a state of paralysis as the invaders pushed westwards. Castlehaven was thus able to do little more than observe the English attack on Kilkenny from a location twelve miles away and the soldiers under his command played no real part in the siege
Walter Butler, the Governor of Kilkenny, was responsible for the defence of the town. Walter Butler was a brother of the arch-royalist and overall commander of the Irish forces, Ormond. Unlike Ormond however Walter was a Catholic. These qualities meant that Walter Butler was a safe choice as town Govenor in the circumstances.

Siege of Kilkenny

Having captured Gowran, Cromwell had now isolated Kilkenny. On 18 March he ordered Ireton to move the heavy artillery from Fethard to Gowran. On 22 March Cromwell had led his army from Gowran , across the river Nore at Bennettsbridge, and north along the road known as the Bothar na Thoundish to within a mile of Kilkenny Castle.

On the 22nd of March, Cromwell demanded that Butler surrender the town, but this demand was promptly rejected by the Governor. When Cromwell summoned him to surrender the town, Butler made it clear that his intention was to 'maintain this city for his majesty, which, by the power of god I am resolved to do'. The following morning the English launched a sudden, large-scale cavalry thrust towards the gate leading to Irish town, hoping to panic the defenders, but this ruse failed, the townsmen holding firm. At the same time the attackers seized St Patrick's Church, just outside the south-western wall near a gate, and there established a battery of three cannon aimed towards a portion of the wall that was not flanked by other defenses.By now it was clear that the defenders of the town were determined to resist, so Cromwell planned a two-pronged attack. One infantry regiment, commanded by Colonel Hewson, would assault into the breach which the guns were going to establish near St Patrick's Church. Another regiment of 1,000 infantry commanded by colonel Ewer, was simultaneously to attack the gate on the West side of the Irish Town, hoping to burn or batter it down.

The English siege guns began to fire early on the morning of 25 March, and by noon a breach had been created by the 100 rounds fired at the wall near St Patrick's. Sir Walter Butler did not remain idle. As the English guns were firing he had commanded the town defenders to construct two counterworks opposite the inside of the breach. His troops fortified these works and lined up behind them in anticipation of an English assault.

The signal to attack was given, and Ewer's regiment charged the gate of the Irish Town. The town militia defenders panicked, falling back and allowing the attackers to seize the gate without loss. Once inside, the troops secured St Canice's Cathedral on the high ground overlooking Irish Town and advanced south towards the wall separating the High Town from the Irish Town. Ewer next attempted to fight his way across the small stream that divided the two parts of the city near its juncture with the River Nore, in the north-east corner of the High Town. But the townsmen this time held their ground, inflicting forty or fifty casualties. Ewer also failed to take the gate in the centre of the High Town's north wall.

The other prong of the assault, at the breach in the south wall of the High Town, was even less successful. There the attackers, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Axtell and Colonel Hewson, charged into the breach and were met by deadly fire from Butler's soldiers. Hewson was to later claim that the signal to attack was given prematurely, and that his soldiers were repulsed because the defenders had been able to prepare for the onslaught. He also somewhat implausibly claimed that only four or five men were wounded in the attack, a claim at odds with Cromwell's own account of the fighting. In any case, Butler's cleverly posted troops killed and wounded thirty or forty attackers, included Hewson, who probably here lost the sight in one of his eyes as a result of a wound. This was the first significant repulse the royalists had inflicted upon an Parliamentarian assault during the Winter offensive. Butler's defence so far had been impressive, however he had little hope of any outside relief, making it, and it was becomming increaingly clear he was only postponing the inevitable.

Butler's men were still in possession of the High Town and the castle as night fell on 25 March, but they were hemmed in by an increasingly unhappy Cromwell, with little hope of outside help reaching them. However, Cromwell renewed his offers to Butler to surrender on generous terms that would allow the townsmen to remain or depart with their goods, and the garrison with its priests, to march away.

This offer reflected a new approach by Cromwell to convince garrisons to surrender before it was necessary to go to all of the effort and losses required to take a town by siege or an assault, an approach more in tune with how the New Model Army had operated in England and Scotland. Butler asked for time to consider these terms. Cromwell allowed the negotiations to go on but continued with his preparations for taking the city by force.

With the Irish Town now under his control, Cromwell ordered eight companies of infantry commanded by Colonel Giffard to cross the River Nore and seize the weakly defended suburb of St John's, to the East of the High Town. The suburb was seized with minimal loss. This force next attempted to break into the High Town by crossing into St John's Bridge and assaulting a gate near the bridge. Butler saw this maneuver developing and shifted enough men to the newly threatened wall to repulse the attack. Giffard's column lost forty or fifty men in the process. Cromwell then ordered a second battery, on the east, to be prepared: The defenders, seeing that they were caught between the breach on the western side and the new battery on the east sent for a treaty on the night of 26 March.

Cromwell agreed to receive commissioners from Butler and the mayor, but he refused to stop his operations. By the morning of 27 March a second breach had been blasted near the bridge over the Nore, and an assault was being prepared. However, before this could happen, Sir Walter Butler agreed to surrender both the castle and the town in return for the favorable terms offered earlier. Cromwell accepted, feeling that continued battering and assaults against the defenses would cost him too much time and money. The agreement ending the siege of Kilkenny was signed that day. Cromwell had gained control of the second city of Ireland. He agreed to protect the inhabitants and their goods from his soldiers and to allow those who wanted to leave the town to do so. Butler and his men received a free pass to march away with arms, baggage and 150 horses, and were to be given an escort for the first six miles away from Kilkenny.
Cromwell accepted the surrender of Kilkenny on 28 March.


The stout defense of the town can be explained in part by the ruthless conduct of the Parliamentarians at Drogheda and Wexford, partly due to the fact that the Irish leadership were adapting to the tactics of the New Model Army, but also undoubtedly due to the fact that Kilkenny, as the former capital of the Confederate Catholics in the 1640s, was of some symbolic importance to the defenders. The fierce fighting claimed the lives of around 150 Parliamentarian soldiers, with the defenders suffering only light losses, a particularly notable feat considering that most of the defenders were town militia rather than professional soldiers. The Parliamentarians had faced one serious setback before the siege of Kilkenny, having had to lift the siege of Waterford during December 1649. The difference at Kilkenny was that concerted attempts to storm the town were repeatedly thrown back, essentially a tacitcal failure.

The New Model Army however was slow to learn from this setback. The following month, during the siege of Clomnel, Cromwell once again attempted to employ the assault tactics he had used with success at Drogheda and Wexford. This time the consequences would prove even more disastrous than they had been at Kilkenny.


Scot-Wheeler, James (1999). Cromwell in Ireland, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
O'Siochru, Micheal, (2008). God's Executioner- Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland, Faber & Faber: London
S.J Connolly (2008). Divided Kingdom Ireland 1630-1800, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Battle of Castlelyons


By the spring of 1643, the Crown forces in Ireland were in a desperate condition. Only twelve months earlier, the Irish insurgents had seemed to be on the brink of defeat, losing the important battles at Kilrush and Liscarrol. As during the Nine Years War four decades before, the English had put into action a scorched earth policy to cripple the insurgents: starvation and famine were recognised throughout Europe as a brutally effective stratagem of bringing rebels to heel.

The circumstances this time, however, differed markedly from those in the 1590s. By September 1642 England had descended into Civil War. The leaders of the Crown forces in Ireland realised, too late, that their tactic of scorched-earth was ultimately self-destructive. British supply ships that had previously succoured the soldiers of the Crown armies were needed back home, and the supply of munitions and victuals from Britain fell to a trickle. Agriculture in many regions of Ireland had been devastated, so there was little relief from that quarter. Essentially, the Crown army in Ireland now found themselves in the same boat as the Irish Insurgents.

The shortage of food invariably led to outbreaks of disease. Hundreds of the English soldiers garrisoning the strategically important town of Athlone died of dysentery and starvation, and subsequently withdrew to Athboy. The town was then occupied by Irish Confederate troops. The difficulties of the Crown forces afforded the insurgency enough breathing space to co-ordinate their political and military effort. Regular provincial armies were organized, as was a system of taxation and supply.

Murrough O'Brien, the Baron of Inchiquin and leader of the Munster Protestant forces described his condition as desperate in a letter to Parliament in May 1643. In truth, his forces seem to have been in a better shape than those of the other regions of Ireland, having by then taken control of most of the towns of the province of Munster. Killamock, a central Munster town located almost exactly halfway between the chief Munster Cities of Limerick and Cork, was Inchiquin's next target. The capture of this town would allow the Protestant army to expand their quarters and increase their food supply.

The Supreme Council of the Irish Confederacy in Kilkenny were alarmed by this development. The General of the Irish Munster army was Garret Barry, a highly experienced veteran of the Wars in Europe, but a man whose reputation was under a cloud since being beaten by Inchiquin's forces at Liscarrol the year before. As a result, the Supreme Council offered the Lord of Castlehaven the commission to command the Munster forces. Having received the commission, Castlehaven mustered eighty horsemen, as well as his own forty strong lifeguard of horse. This 120 strong force marched to Cashel to rendezvous with General Barry and Lieutenant-General Purcell. At Cashel he met another 120 horse of the Munster army, as well as seven hundred foot. The troop of Munster horse seem to have consisted mostly of mounted teenagers, for Castlehaven refers to them as 'boys'. The entire force that was assembled was now around 1,000 strong, including the squadron of light horse.

Inchiquin was preparing to besiege the town of Killamock when he recieved word of the Confederate approach. Having no stomach to risk his undersupplied force in battle, Inchiquin led most of the force he commanded westwards into Kerry, where the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather offered good protection to even a half-spent army. Before retreating he instructed Charles Vavasour, with a 1,600 strong force including some of the best horse and foot of the army, to take a strongplace known as Castle Cloghlea, a stronghold of the Condon family. Vavasour successfully pressured the castle to surrender, after which the stronghold was plundered by the troops. Thirty-eight men, women and infants found sheltering inside were stripped of their clothing, and then put to death. The soldiers of Inchiquin's army were brutal at the best of times, but in the desperate circumstances they were in, even less mercy than usual could be expected. In this one instance, however, Inchiquin's men would quickly pay a high price for their ruthless conduct.

The Generals

Sir Charles Vavasour came to prominence at the battle of Liscarrol, where he had fought alongside alongside Inchiquin and Lewis Boyle, the Viscount Kinalmeaky and the son of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork. Vavasour succeeded Kinalmeaky as governor of Bandon after the death of the young Boyle in the battle. Shortly afterwards, Vavasour helped to drive off an Irish army at the Battle of Bandonbridge. He had thus proven himself an effective commander on a number of occasions: Inchiquin could have had little doubt as to his reliability when he instructed him to take charge of over a thousand of the best soldiers available to the Cork army.

The Confederate General James Tuchet, Lord of Castlehaven, was born in England of an old Aristocratic family. He ended up in Ireland after the execution of his Father in 1631: at the time James Tuchet was a child, and was thus unable to prevent his extended family from taking control of the estates of his father in England. The only substantial lands remaining were located in Ireland, where he was to soon move.

At the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 Castlehaven was detained in Dublin by order of the Lord-Justices Parsons and Borlase. Castlehaven, fearing the worst, escaped with the help of a sympathiser, and fled to Kilkenny where he sided with the emerging Confederacy of Ireland. Castlehaven's English background and aristocratic lineage ensured he was highly valued by the Confederate leadership, who were always keen to emphasize their loyalty to the English Crown. Castlehaven would prove to be one of the more effective military leaders of the Confederates.

The Battle

On the 4th of June, only a day after the capture of the Condon castle, Vavasour became aware of the disturbing news that the Confederate Commander, Castlehaven, and hundreds of horsemen, were lurking in the nearby hills. Realising he risked being surrounded, Vavasour dispatched his artillery towards Fermoy, and shortly afterwards led the soldiers towards the Funcheon Ford, hoping that the many hedges in the area, as well as the castle itself, would block any pursuit on the part of the enemy.

Castlehaven, however, knew the ground well. Later in his memoirs he describes how in his youth he was a great Hunter in those parts of Deer, Wolves and Foxes, so that there was not a passage in Bog or Mountain , or Ford in the River that I did not know. Castlehaven and the Irish horse caught up with the forlorn hope of the Cork Protestant army as it was fording the river Funcheon. By this time, the leading companies of Vavasour's force had climbed the hill that overlooks the river, and were heading towards a narrow defile which led to the town of Fermoy. Vavasour ordered the men to prepare to defend this pass, but the Irish horsemen were already harassing the soldiers at the rear. Castlehaven's account mentions a sudden shower of rain falling on the battlefield at about this moment: This could have only added to the chaos of battle. Vavasour's cavalry launched a charge in an attempt to drive of their Irish assailants, but their efforts were in vain. The Cork horse were beaten back, and the men at the rear of the Cork army were consumed by a panic, fleeing down the hill towards the main body of the army, which threw them into confusion.

Discipline quickly collapsed, and the pursuit became a rout. Hundreds of men from the Cork army were cut down between the Manning-water and Fermoy, although most of the horse of the same army escaped. All the cannon and baggage were captured, and Vavasour himself was made a prisoner. A Protestant account of the battle records that 300 soldiers were slain; by contrast Castlehaven in his memoirs records twice that figure. Castlehaven's figure is quite plausible, given that the cannon- which was ahead of the main army- and Vavasour himself were captured in the fighting.

Against the odds, an Irish Confederate force had won a major victory. It would prove to be the only significant defeat inflicted on the Cork Protestant army by an Irish Confederate force. Two entire baronies in East Cork were won by the Confederates as a result of the victory. The result was surprising, given that the Irish were vastly outnumbered in the fight: General Barry with his 700 foot were still over a mile away at the time the battle was won, leaving the 240 horse to win the field against as many horsemen and many more foot soldiers in the army led by Vavasour. It was the first field victory by an Irish Confederate force in the 1640s (the Irish victory at Julianstown in late 1641 was essentially a rebel victory, taking place several months before the foundation of the Catholic Confederacy). How was it that, in contrast to the defeats suffered by so many Irish armies in the decade, this small force of Confederate horse was able to pull off such a win?.

Cavalry Tactics in Ireland

Borlase, in his history of the period, describes the fighting style of the Irish horse during the battle as akin to that of the Moorish and Getulian horsemen mentioned by Sallust in Jugurtha's War. This may simply be a reference to the irregular style of fighting used by these African horsemen, but the reference may be hinting at something more particular. The North African horsemen of Jugurtha's day were lightly armed with javelins, bows and other ranged weapons; indeed they were still using such weapons at the time Borlase was writing and would do so for a long time after. The description of Jugurtha by Sallust is instructive: Jugurtha, as he grew up ... exercised himself in riding, throwing the javelin, and contending in the race with his equals in age...

The Irish light javelin, usually referred to as a dart, had been used in Ireland since ancient times, and as in North Africa, it remained popular for a long time. In the Nine Years War of the 1590s the use of firearms began to proliferate throughout Ireland, replacing older weapons, but even into the early 17th century there is ample evidence that the throwing javelin remained popular with the Gaelic population. Accounts of the 1641-42 rebellion often mention the weapon in the hands of the Irish, alongside more conventional weapons, in regions as diverse as Tipperary and Wicklow.

Despite the popularity of the javelin in Ireland, it would probably be fair to say that footmen armed with this weapon were at a serious disadvantage against archers or hand-gunners. Thrown weapons are outclassed by these with respect to overall range, and fighters with thrown weapons can not take advantage of cover as effectively as an archer or a soldier with a firearm. However, javelins were also used from horseback, and could in fact be extremely effective when used in this manner. This is of course in part due to the ability of a horseman to cover ground more rapidly than a foot soldier, thereby reducing the chance of a soldier being shot down before they got within javelin-range, but it is also because a javelin hurled from a moving horse benefits from the increased speed of the horse, thus achieving a velocity considerably higher than what would be achievable from the hands of a footsoldier. The term 'horseman' for a mounted soldier is in many respects accurate, reflecting the fact that the rider and horse become one fighting unit on the battlefield: The rider benefits from the increased power of the horse, making a rider capable of feats of strength beyond that was possible for a mere footman. At the same time, the horse and rider think independently from each other, which is why horsemen were much more likely to survive a battle than a foot soldier: speed is not as big an advantage as might be imagined, as some fit humans are actually capable of outrunning a horse with a rider over long distances (horses generally tire quickly). The more important difference is that a man on horseback is capable of defending himself while the horse can concentrate on escape. A footman fleeing from a battlefield can not effectively defend himself while running away; perhaps the best he could hope to do was to hold up a targe over his upper body as he flees, in the hope of shielding the areas of his person most vulnerable to attack. But a soldier on horseback can ward off an attacking enemy with a sword, or even take pot-shots at them with a pistol if they get too close. This is why, in battles such as that at Castlelyons, the horse of the defeated party usually managed to escape the carnage.

The Irish Confederate armies generally contained only a small number of horse compared to foot, and this put them at a major disadvantage. Ostensibly, the reason for the small number of horsemen was because footmen were cheaper to equip and maintain than horse, but as Lenihan has noted, it was a case of false economy, given that horsemen were much more likely to escape from a battlefield in the event of a defeat (furthermore, they were also more likely to retain their weapons and equipment, as fleeing footmen would just throw their cumbersome weapons away).

The victory at Castlelyons highlights the importance of horsemen in 17th century warfare in Ireland. The victory was purely a cavalry victory, due in part to Castlehaven's knowledge of the terrain and also- as will be argued further below- the weapons used by the Munster horsemen. Castlelyons would prove to be the only major Irish field victory of either the Leinster or Munster armies (the victorious army was composed of elements of both these Confederate armies), at least against a Protestant force.

At Castlelyons, the decisive moment for the Irish was the rout of the enemy horse. The Cork Protestant army under Vavasour had comparable numbers of horsemen as the Irish force under Castlehaven, and it would seem that differences in weapons between the horse-soldiers of both armies played a part in the outcome of this Cavalry engagement.

The Horseboys of Ireland

Castlehaven, as mentioned above, refers to the Munster horse as 'boys' during the battle: This comment is suggestive of the horseboys of medieval Ireland. The horseboy was a sort of groom or squire who accompanied a horseman; their role was to look after the horses but also took part in battles as a kind of light troop. The most common weapon of the Irish horse was the throwing javelin: as noted above, these weapons are known to have been used by the insurgents during 1641-2 in many parts of Ireland. The horseboys were still being employed in the Irish Wars of the late 16th century, not only by the Irish horsemen, but also by mounted English soldiers. Although they were meant to act as a sort of squire, they seem to have been mostly employed to forage for food: In this they could be ruthless, and the horseboys are condemned in one Elizabethan source for their cruel conduct towards the peasantry during the Desmond wars in Munster.

Given that the horseboys were employed by English as well as Irish horsemen, it is unlikely that they disappeared entirely from Ireland at the end of the Nine Years War. It is probably fair to suggest that the 120 Munster horse were, or had been, horseboys of the kind mentioned above. It also seems, from Borlase's comparison of them to the ancient North African horsemen, that many were armed with javelins in the old manner.

Thrown weapons, such as javelins, are one of the few ranged weapons not to be adversely affected by rainy conditions, and with the sudden rain shower that accompanied the clash of the horse of both armies, the javelin may have provided a decisive advantage to the Irish horse. The standard weapons of the Cork horsemen was that used by English horse of the period (Pistols, Carbines, as well as swords for hand-to-hand fighting, a set of equipment known then as Harquebusier). In a downpour of rain, the pistols and carbines would have become extremely unreliable, if not useless. A javelin from horseback, however, could be used as normal. The inability of the Cork horse to counter a hail of javelins from the Munster horse with shot from their own firearms would have been a shock, and may have led to the overall collapse in morale and subsequent and retreat of the horse.


Overall it seems probable, thus, that the victory at Castlelyons was due at least in part to the employment of Gaelic-type horse tactics. A number of factors favored the Irish in the battle: Castlehaven's knowledge of the terrain was important, and it should also be kept in mind that, as an Englishman, Castlehaven may have had a better understanding of the battlefield capabilities of Anglo-Protestant armies than other Confederate leaders. Morale was another important factor: although the soldiers of the Cork Protestant army seem to have been in a good condition compared to most of the British forces in Ireland, the outbreak of the English Civil War several months before could only have been a blow to the morale of the Cork army. But the old Gaelic-type tactics and weapons of the Munster horse may have been the decisive factor of the battle.

It is commonly argued that, with the exception of the Redshanks under MacColla, Gaelic types of warfare had fallen out of favor by the time of the wars in Ireland in the 1640s. The Irish victory at Castlelyons suggests that, at least in the early years of the war, Gaelic tactics of warfare may have been more common than has been suggested.

Oddly, although Castlelyons was the first victory of a Confederate army, it seems to have had little influence on the tactical thinking of the Confederate Military leadership. Despite the importance played by horsemen in this victory, most Confederate armies of the 1640s fielded a dangerously low number of horsemen.

Location of Battle

Lenihan, in his work on the Irish Confederate Wars, states the battle occurred near the castle of Cloghlea. This would seem to be at odds with the account of the battle by Castlehaven, who, in his memoirs, states that the battle took place on a large plain in front of Castlelyons. Possibly, Lenihan may have sited it in the environs of Cloghlea due to a misreading of C P Meehan's 19th century account of the war.

A second battle was fought near Castlelyons in 1646.


Tuchet, James(1682). The Memoires of James Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven

Meehan, C.P (1882). Confederation of Kilkenny.

Nicholls, K.W (2003). Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages, Lilliput Press, Dublin

Lenihan, Padraig, (2001).Confederate Catholics at War, Cork University Press, Cork

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Sack of Cashel, September 1647

The Munster Mutiny

On the 12th of June in 1647, Donough MacCarthy, the Viscount of Muskerry entered the camp of the Irish Confederate Munster army. The Viscount Muskerry was probably the most powerful Confederate leader in Munster and was known to be sympathetic to the powerful Irish Royalist Ormonde. At that time, the Munster army was commanded by Glamorgan, an English Catholic nobleman who had been granted command of the army by the Confederate Supreme council for reasons of political expediency. Glamorgan was not popular, partly because he was English but also because he lacked money to regularly pay the soldiers. Muskerry was unsatisfied with the direction the Irish Confederate Supreme Council was headed under the influence of Rinuccinni and realised that he was in a position to influence the army of Munster and thereby strengthen his hand. He won the army over within an hour. A ceremony was afterwards arranged in which Glamorgan handed over command to Muskerry but this was merely to save face. Muskerry desired to turn his full attention to the politics of the Irish Confederations supreme council, and so immediately after the ceremony, Muskerry resigned in favour of Theobald Taaffe, a nobleman who had joined the Irish Confederates but who was known to be sympathetic to Royalism. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Lord Taaffe would subsequently prove to be one of the more incompetent leaders to command an Irish army during the 1640s.

Inchiquin's Offensive

In April 1647 Murrough O'Brien, the Protestant Baron of Inchiquin replaced Philip Sydney, Lord Lisle as the Parliamentarian Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland as Sydney's one year appointment had by then expired. Because of his Gaelic background O'Brien was not trusted by many Parliamentarians, not least by Lord Lisle, however the latter had achieved little in his time as Lord-Lieutenant and as a result Inchiquin did not need to deal with any serious opposition by the English Parliament.

O'Brien immediately embarked upon a vigorous summer offensive, rapidly capturing Dromana, Cappoquin and Dungarvan in County Waterford to the east. Raiding parties were dispatched northwards against the counties of Limerick and Clare, and Inchiquin next turned his attention to the bountiful County of Tipperary in central Munster. In early September, his forces quickly took the Castle of Cahir. This strong Tipperary castle was well positioned to become a base for the Cork Protestant army, and it was used to raid and devastate the surrounding countryside. The Munster army under Lord Taaffe did not make any serious effort to oppose Inchiquin, probably the result of the political scheming of Muskerry and other powerful Irish lords who hoped to keep the Munster army intact for their own ends. As such, Inchiquin was allowed to make a furthur push eastwards towards the town and ecclesiastical centre of Cashel.

The Attack

Inchiquin had already launched two minor raids against Cashel, and he now had the opportunity to launch a major assault. The Parliamentarian forces first stormed nearby Roche Castle, putting fifty warders to the sword. This attack terrified the local inhabitants of the region, some of whom fled to hiding places, while hundreds of others fled promptly to the rock of Cashel, a stronger place than the town itself. Lord Taaffe had placed six companies in the fortified churchyard that sat upon the rock, and considered the place defensible, though he did himself did not stay to put it to the test, leaving command to the Governor Lieutenant-Colonel Butler.

Arriving with his army at the Rock, Inchiquin called for surrender within an hour. The defenders of the churchyard offered to negotiate, but that was refused, and on the afternoon of the 15th of September the assault commenced. The Parliamentarians were first reminded of earlier atrocities against Protestants, and then began to deploy. The attack was led by around 150 dismounted horse officers (who wore more armour than the foot) with the remainder of the infantry following; troops of horse rode along the flanks of the advancing force to encourage the infantry. The Irish soldiers attempted to drive off the attackers with pikes while the civilians inside hurled rocks down from the walls: in turn the attackers hurled fire-brands into the compound, setting some of the buildings inside on fire. Although many were wounded, the Parliamentarians gradually fought their way over the walls, pushing the garrison into the church.

Initially, the Irish defenders managed to protect the Church, holding off the attackers trying to get through the doors, but the Parliamentarians then placed numerous ladders against the many windows in the church and swarmed the building. For another half an hour fighting raged inside the church, until the depleted defenders retreated up the bell tower. Only sixty soldiers of the garrison remained at this point, and they thus accepted a call to surrender. However, after they had descended the tower and thrown their swords away, all were killed.

The losses amongst the Parliamentarian soldiers were light. One contemporary states that as few as eight Parliamentarians were killed in the attack, apart from another hundred or so injured.

The Sack

In the end all the soldiers (save a single major) and most of the civilians on the Rock were killed by the attackers. The Bishop and Mayor of Cashel along with a few others survived by taking shelter in a secret hiding place. Apart from these a few women were spared, after being stripped of their clothes, and a small number of wealthy civilians were taken prisoner, but these were the exceptions. Overall, close to 1,000 were killed, amongst them Lieutenant-Colonel Butler. Theobald Stapleton, a clergyman who in 1639 published the first religious work in the Irish Gaelic language, was another prominent victim of the atrocity. Afterwards, a witness of the slaughter would record that the bodies in the churchyard were in piles five or six deep.

The slaughter was followed by extensive plunder. There was much of value inside, for apart from pictures, chalices and vestments of the church, many of the slain civilians had also brought their valuables with them. The sword and mace of the mayor of Cashel, in addition to the coach of the Bishop were captured. The plunder was accompanied by acts of iconoclasm, with statues smashed and pictures defaced. The deserted town of Cashel was also torched.


The atrocity at Cashel caused a deep impact in Ireland, as it was the worst single atrocity committed in Ireland since the start of fighting in 1641. Previously, the most infamous massacre amongst the Catholic population was that at Timolin in 1643, when 200 civilians were killed by Ormonde's army, but many more than this were killed at Cashel, and this atrocity was compounded by the fact that the Rock of Cashel was one of the chief holy places of Ireland. The political ramifications in the Irish confederation were also profound, serving to exacerbate the split between the Catholic party headed by Rinuccini and those sympathetic to the Royalist lord Ormonde. The former were enraged by the attack, and desired retribution against Inchiquin and his army, but the Ormondist faction saw the Sack of Cashel and a subsequent raid by Inchiquin's men into Kilkenny as evidence of the futility of defending Ireland without Royalist support. Taaffe was subsequently put under intense pressure by the Confederate leadership to engage Inchiquin, but when he did so at the battle of Knocknanauss in November of the same year the Munster army was destroyed. The divisions amongst the Confederates would subsequently exacerbate, leading to the brief but bloody Irish Confederate Civil War in 1648.


Manning, Roger, Oxford (2006), An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702
Meehan, C.P (1882), Confederation of Kilkenny
O'Brien, Ivar, Whitegate: Ballinakella (1991), Murrough the Burner
Stevenson, David, Edinburgh: Donald (1980). Alasdair MacColla and the Highland problem in the seventeenth century