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The History of Ulster
A Spanish Invasion


The Promised Aid from Spain arrives - The Spaniards enter and fortify Kinsale - Mountjoy and Carew leave Kilkenny for Cork - The Spanish General's Proclamation - The Spaniards find no Allies - O'Donnell's March to join them - Intercepted by Carew, but escapes - Mountjoy besieges Kinsale - Arrival of Reinforcements for the Spanish.

The Spanish fleet, conveying an army of about 3500 men, most of them veteran soldiers, under the command of Don Juan del Aguila, entered the harbour of Kinsale on the 23rd of September; and the English garrison, which was less than 100 strong, having evacuated the town on their approach and retired to Cork, the Spaniards marched in with twenty-five colours, and taking possession of the town proceeded to fortify themselves there, also in two castles which defended the harbour, that of Rincorran on the east and Castle Park on the west.

Mountjoy was at Kilkenny when he received news of the invasion, and a council of war was hastily summoned, at which Ormonde and Wingfield urged the Lord Deputy to return to Dublin and arrange his forces, while Carew should make ready to prepare for supplies at Cork. But the Lord President of Munster knew his province, and begged the Lord Deputy not to turn his back on the scene of action. His doing so, he urged, would be fatal, for it would be attributed to weakness, and the result would be a general revolt. The army also, he said, would naturally hasten to the field of conflict all the more readily when its general had preceded it.

Carew's words carried weight, and when he backed them up by announcing that he had supplies sufficient to maintain the whole army for some months, Mountjoy arose from his chair and embraced him (after the manner of those days), with many hearty expressions of commendation. The following day the Deputy and President set out with an escort of 100 horse and reached Kiltinan, where they were entertained by Lord Dunboyne; the next night was spent at Clonmel, and the third found the travellers the guests of Lord Roche at his castle of Glanworth. After a day spent at Cork, Mountjoy proceeded to reconnoitre, and, taking horse to a point from which he could overlook Kinsale, he discovered to his astonishment that the Spanish fleet had departed. Nothing could be done to disturb the enemy until the army arrived from Dublin, so the Deputy had to content himself with burning the corn for five miles round Kinsale, and issuing a proclamation warning the inhabitants to beware of taking part with the Pope and the King of Spain.

The Spanish general, who could not understand the spirit of a national rising, and had no sympathy for a rebellion of any kind, called on the people to rise in the name of the Pope.

"First of all, ye feign that we would lead away the pretended subjects of the Queen of England from their allegiance, to bring them thence under our yoke, which is a very untruth; for we endeavour not to persuade anybody, that he should deny true obedience (according to the true Word of God) to his prince; but ye know well that, for many years since, Elizabeth was deprived of her kingdom, and all her subjects absolved from their fidelity, by the Pope, under whom He that reigneth in the heavens, the King of kings, hath committed all power, that he should root up, destroy, plant, and build in such sort, that he may punish temporal kings (if it shall be good for the spiritual building), even to their deposing, which thing hath been done in the kingdoms of England and Ireland by many Popes, namely, by Pius V, Gregory XIII, and now by Clement VIII, as it is well known, whose Bulls are extant amongst us.

"I speak to Catholics, not to froward heretics (who have fallen from the faith of the Roman Church). Seeing they are blind leaders of the blind, and such as know not the grounds of the truth, it is no marvel that they do also disagree from us in this thing, that our brethren the Catholics, walking in the pureness of faith, and yielding to the Catholic Church (which is the very pillar of truth), will easily understand all these things. Therefore it remaineth that the Irish (which adhere to us) do work with us nothing that is against God's laws, or their due obedience nay, that which they do is according to God's Word, and the obedience which they owe the Pope.

"Who is there that hath demolished all the temporalities of this most flourishing kingdom, except the English? Look upon this and be ashamed. Whereas we, commiserating the condition of the Catholics here, have left our most sweet and happy country, Spain, that is replenished with all good things; and being stirred by their cries, which pierce the heavens, having reached to the ears of the Pope and our good King Philip (III), they have (being moved with pity) at last resolved to send unto you soldiers, silver, gold, and arms, with a most liberal hand, not to the end they might (according as they feign) exercise cruelty towards you, O Irish Catholics, but that you may be happily reduced (being snatched out of the jaws of the Devil, and freed from their tyranny) into your own pristine ingenuity, and that you may freely profess the Catholic faith.

"Therefore, my most beloved, seeing that which you have so many years before desired and begged for, with prayers and tears, and that now even now the Pope, Christ's Vicar on earth, doth command you to take arms for the defence of your faith, I admonish, exhort, and beseech you all all, I say, unto whom these letters shall come that as soon as possibly you can, you come to us with your friends and weapons; whosoever shall do this, shall find us prepared; and we will communicate unto them those things which we possess; and whosoever shall (despising our wholesome counsel) do otherwise, and remain in the obedience of the English, we will prosecute him as an heretic, and a hateful enemy of the Church, even unto death."

There was with Don Aguila, a Spanish Franciscan, one Matthew de Oviedo, the same as he who a little earlier brought a crown of Phoenix feathers to Tyrone from the Pope. This Oviedo had previously been papal commissary with Desmond twenty years; he was in addition titular Archbishop of Dublin, and was probably the author of the document of which the text is given above. He now wrote in his own name to Tyrone and O'Donnell, and Don Juan sent frequently to them urging upon them to hasten their coming, for the Spanish general's proclamation had little or no effect. "Don Juan doth procure," a Spanish authority states, "to draw from the country people, by love and reward all he can; yet, with all this, findeth no assurance from them; and the greater part have no will, seeing the small forces which have landed; but, seeing that there are more, they be still coming, and some of them receive pay, it will be very requisite to pay and arm them, because till now many of them are past to the enemy."

The army which Carew had under his command consisted of 3000 men, of whom, at least, 2000 were Irish, and the entire royal army at this time mustered about 7000 men. The Spaniards were not more than about half the number originally destined for Ireland; but ill-luck seemed to attend this expedition from the beginning. Owing to the absence of the fleet at Terceira, its departure was retarded, until the 6000 men originally composing the armament were diminished to less than 4000; and when the expedition did sail it encountered a storm that compelled seven of the ships, conveying a chief part of the artillery and military stores and the arms intended for distribution to the Irish, to put back to Corunna. Tyrone and O'Donnell had besought Philip to send his aid to Ulster, where they would be prepared to co-operate with their Spanish allies, and where a smaller force would have sufficed, while in Munster they could give no help; and yet this small army was thrown into an inconsiderable part of the southern province long after the war there had been totally extinguished. The Spaniards also had been given to understand that horses would be provided for the 1600 saddles which they had brought with them. These certainly would have been supplied them had they landed at Killybegs ; but, as it was, they were without cavalry, and, worse luck still, without allies, and surrounded on all sides by active foes.

The northern chiefs, notwithstanding the distance and the difficulties of so long a journey in winter, prepared to set out to join their unfortunate allies. O'Donnell, with characteristic ardour and alacrity, was first on the way. He was joined by Felim O'Dogherty, MacSweeney - na - tuath, O'Boyle, O'Rourke, the brother of O'Conor Sligo, the O'Conor Roe, MacDermot, O'Kelly, some of the O'Flaherties, William and Redmond Burke, and others, and mustered about 2500 hardy men. FitzMaurice of Kerry, and the Knight of Glin, who had been with him for some time, were also in this corps. He set out about the end of October, and had reached Ikerrin, in Tipperary, where he proposed to await Tyrone, when he found that Sir George Carew, with 1000 foot and 250 horse, was encamped in the plains of Cashel, to cut off his advance to the south, while Sir Christopher St. Laurence with the army of the Pale and some irregular forces under Lord Barry's command were approaching from Leinster. To the west the season rendered the lofty mountains impassable to an army encumbered with baggage. Fortunately for O'Donnell, a frost of unusual intensity suddenly set in and formed a fine open road for him over the bogs. Of this he availed himself, and by a circuitous route across Slieve Phelim, close to the Abbey of Owney, he reached Croom on the 23rd of November, after a march in one day of thirty-two Irish miles. Carew hastened to intercept O'Donnell on his descent from Slieve Phelim into Limerick, but found he had already passed, and, despairing of being able to cope with "so swift-footed a general", he rejoined the Lord Deputy, then besieging Kinsale, and left O'Donnell to pursue his march.

Mountjoy, having marched from Cork, encamped at Knock Robin, a hill close to Kinsale. He had to await the arrival of ships with guns and tools. These came to Cork, and were sent round to Oyster Haven, where there was no difficulty in unlading them. The English opened on Rincorran, "but within two or three shot the carriage of the better culverin brake, and, about two of the clock in the afternoon, the other received a flaw". In the morning the culverin, having been repaired, "began to play, and about nine of the clock the demi-culverin was mounted, which after a few shot brake her axletree; before three she was remounted, and by that time a cannon likewise planted, and all three pieces without intermission played". By six o'clock the besieged called for a parley. They offered to surrender the fort on condition of being allowed to depart with arms and baggage. This was refused, and the battery continued until two in the morning, when some of the besieged attempted to escape, and a score of Spaniards were taken and thirty killed. The following morning the fort was surrendered. The Captain having had his leg broken, the second in command was permitted to carry out his own sword and hand it to Carew. He was a brave man this Don Bartholomeo Paez de Clavijo, and wished to blow up the fort with himself and his eighty-six warriors in it. But his men did not see matters in the same light, and threatened, if he attempted any such thing, to give him a more ignominious death by casting him over the walls. Of the Irish all the fighting-men escaped, but "churls", women, and children were taken. The lives of the Spaniards were spared, and they were sent to Cork. Among the prisoners was one Don Dermutio, otherwise Dermot MacCarthy, an Irishman who had been in Florence's service, and had lived in Spain as a pensioner. As he was considered a dangerous foe, he was hanged at Cork to prevent him doing any further damage, and possibly, as in Byng's case long afterwards, pour encourager les autres.

Meanwhile the siege, as sieges are wont to do, went slowly, very slowly on. Captain Josiah Bodley, a brother of the founder of the great Oxford library, proved himself an admirable engineer officer. Thomond now arrived from England with 1000 foot and 100 horse, and Sir Richard Leveson also arrived with his squadron and 2000 soldiers. Armed now with all the sinews of war, the siege began in earnest. Castle Park, on the west side of the harbour, was taken, and its garrison of seventeen surrendered. The Spaniards made several desperate sorties, in which numbers were slain on both sides; but as the principal portion of their artillery was in those ships which had had to put back, they had only three or four cannon to defend the fortifications, while the English had about twenty pieces of ordnance continually playing on the walls of the town, and an army which, on the 20th of November, amounted, according to Fynes Moryson, to 11,800 foot and 857 horse, but which, in the gross, was probably nearer in numerical strength to 15,000 men.

The twenty guns having done great execution on both man and works, Don Juan was called upon to surrender, but refused to do so, saying he held the town, first for Christ, and then for the King of Spain, and he now made his greatest effort for both. About eight o'clock on the 2nd of December 2000 Spaniards sallied forth and attacked the trenches with great determination. Running headlong forward, blinded by rain and darkness, they managed to spike a gun; but being overwhelmed by numbers they were beaten back with a loss of 200 killed and as many wounded. Next day the missing portion of the Spanish fleet, under Don Pedro Zubiaur, arrived at Castlehaven, some twenty-five miles west of Kinsale, and landed five guns and over 700 men, some of whom were put in possession of Fineen O'DriscolPs castle of Baltimore, or were accommodated in Donnell O'Sullivan Beare's castle of Dunboy, or at Bearehaven and the fort of Castlehaven. Part of the English fleet, consisting of four men-of-war and two tenders, under Admiral Sir Richard Leveson, was sent from Kinsale to attack the Spaniards at Castlehaven, and a smart action ensued, in which the roar of Sir Richard's guns was heard in Mountjoy's camp. The result was that of the twelve Spanish ships only one escaped; the rest were either "shot-shattered" and sank, or were driven ashore. Leveson was windbound for twenty-four hours, during which time he was the target of the Spaniards, who fired 300 rounds at him, but he was nevertheless able to return uninjured to Kinsale.


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