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The History of Ulster
O'Neill and his Ulstermen in Leinster


Four Distinct Parties in Ireland : The Nuncio, the Confederates, Ormonde, and the Scots - The Nuncio attacks the Confederates - Preston joins him - Ormonde visits Kilkenny - Owen Roe O'Neill marches South - Ormonde, alarmed, returns to Dublin - O'Neill marches to Kilkenny - Rinuccini imprisons the Members of the Supreme Council - A New Supreme Council elected, including the Nuncio, Preston, Owen Roe, and Sir Phelim O'Neill - Preston and O'Neill invest Dublin - Their Distrust and Hatred of each other - Clanrickard's Fruitless Negotiations with Preston - The Nuncio and his Army return to Kilkenny - Ormonde surrenders Dublin to Parliament and leaves Ireland.

In Ireland there now existed four distinct parties, each with its own army. The Nuncio, for a time the most powerful opponent to Ormonde's proposals of peace, had the support of Owen Roe O'Neill; the Confederates at Kilkenny, by no means in accord with Rinuccini on many questions, had a large body under their control, with Preston as general; Ormonde, at the head of the Royalist troops, had to face great odds, for he was surrounded by enemies; and Ulster (O'Neill having left it) was garrisoned by George Munro and the Scots.

Of these four parties only one, the Nuncio's, was against the proclamation of peace. Rinuccini saw in a peaceful country no place for himself, and he therefore induced archbishops, bishops, vicars-general, and heads of religious houses to protest against the articles of peace as agreed to by the Supreme Council in Kilkenny, deciding "that all and every one of the Confederate Catholics, who shall adhere to such a peace, or consent to the furtherance thereof, or otherwise embrace the same shall be held absolutely perjured: especially for this cause, that in these articles there is no mention made of the Catholic religion, and the security thereof, nor any care had for the conservation of the privileges of the country as is found promised in the oath [of association]; but rather all things are referred to the will of the most serene King from whom in his present state nothing certain can be had".

The Nuncio now set himself to undermine the power of the Supreme Council, who, when the peace was proclaimed in Dublin, had given instructions that the Proclamation should be printed, "and do order and require the same to be published, and due obedience to be given thereunto by all the Confederate Catholics of Ireland". In Waterford, Clonmel, and Limerick, Ulster- King-at- Arms, who had received orders from the Lord -Lieutenant to proclaim the peace, was roughly handled, and in Limerick he was lodged in jail by the authorities, who gave out that he was dead, as the only means by which they could save his life.

The "pulpit drum ecclesiastic" was a power in the land, over which the threat of excommunication on all who did not see eye to eye with the Nuncio now hung heavy; even General Thomas Preston bowed his head to the storm of pontifical fulminations on receiving "a positive inhibition from the clergy that neither myself nor any of my commanders, upon pain of excommunication, shall obey any orders from my Lord-Lieutenant".

Ormonde, who thus felt the power of the Roman Catholics, must have been somewhat gratified to learn that there was at least one body of men in the country who approved of his actions. The Protestant clergy, who had found in Dublin the safety which they had sought in vain elsewhere, praised him for having "preserved not only in this city, but also in all the out-garrisons, the free and full exercise of the true reformed religion"; and if, said they, "any of our number be found disaffected to the religion, book of service, public worship, government of the Church, His Majesty's service, or disturbers of the present Peace, we do not supplicate for such, but leave them to your lordship to be proceeded with as you shall find convenient".

Additional proof that his actions won favour came to the Viceroy in the shape of an invitation to Kilkenny from the Supreme Council, who, finding their adherents overawed by the Nuncio and threatened with a visitation, accompanied by his army, from his servant O'Neill, deemed the presence of the Lord-Lieutenant likely to strengthen their position. Ormonde, somewhat gratified, accepted the invitation, and left Dublin, accompanied by Digby and Clanrickard, on the 28th of August, to visit scenes familiar to him, and be once again under his own roof-tree in the castle whose ancient battlements are reflected in the River Nore. He was accompanied by 1500 foot, whom he left at Gowran, under Sir Francis Willoughby, 500 horse accompanying him to Kilkenny, where he arrived on the 31st, and was received with general joy and many signs of welcome.

Owen Roe O'Neill, being informed of Ormonde's movements, immediately entered Leinster, and Ormonde, recognizing the fact that he could not cope with the Irish general, sent to Owen Roe, Daniel O'Neill, his nephew, to try to buy him off and induce him to accept the peace. The terms offered were generous enough, and included a gift of the estate of Lord Caulfeild, the custody of all lands in Tyrone forfeited through disloyalty, and recognition of his title by the Crown. Daniel O'Neill was supposed to have influence with his uncle, but on this occasion he failed in his mission, no doubt because Owen Roe came to the conclusion that the Viceroy, however honest in his intentions, had not the means wherewith to carry them into deeds, and therefore the Nuncio, whose power was not limited to this world, but extended to the next, was undoubtedly the better paymaster. O'Neill, therefore, to prove his own power, advanced to the south, encamping at Roscrea on the 9th of September and Ormonde, alarmed, returned to Dublin, entering the capital on the 13th.

In Kilkenny Rinuccini reigned supreme. Supported by O'Neill, whose army encamped in the immediate neighbourhood, he was irresistible. The Supreme Council was completely cowed by the triumphant Nuncio, who forthwith caused all the members to be committed as prisoners to the castle, with the exception of Patrick Darcy and Plunket. Amongst those thus incarcerated were the General of Munster, Lord Muskerry, Ormonde's brother-in-law; Bellings, the historian, who was secretary to the Council; and Edmond, the eldest son of Lord Mountgarret.

Having thus disposed of the old Council, the Nuncio called upon O'Neill and Preston to assist in the selection of a new one. Of the seventeen members of which it was composed, four were bishops; the laity included Glamorgan, to whom Muskerry's appointment was given, and its military strength was represented by Generals Preston, Owen Roe, and Sir Phelim O'Neill. Rinuccini himself was unanimously elected President.

Ormonde, hearing of these proceedings, hastened to strengthen Dublin against this fresh combination of forces, from whom he anticipated an attack. That his surmise was correct proved to be true, for at the end of October Preston had encamped at Leixlip, about seven miles from the capital, and O'Neill not far from him, near Lucan. The Viceroy, faced with this new element of danger, caused the mills in the vicinity to be destroyed and the country laid waste for a considerable distance, so that no provisions were available; and, the winter having set in with intense severity, the troops suffered greatly, as many as twenty or thirty men perishing nightly at their posts.

While Ormonde was visiting Kilkenny the Nuncio had called upon O'Neill to attack Dublin, believing that the victor of Benburb could easily take the city by assault during the


OWEN ROE O'NEILL
After a Dutch painting

Viceroy's absence; but Owen Roe pointed out to the domineering and pragmatical prelate that he had no artillery, and indeed his army was in a worse condition than he appears to have admitted. It consisted of 5000 foot, of which only half was armed, and that but indifferently, "the rest as the rabble used to be in the beginning of the distractions". His small troops of horse were described as "miserable", and they were reported to be "not above two armed with pistol, and none with defensive arms". This motley army was accompanied by a huge crowd of nearly 8000 "of the Ulster families, unarmed", whom the soldiers were expected not alone to protect but to feed. Preston's horse were in better condition and better armed, but of the combined forces not more than 10,000 could be reckoned as effective, and there were but five pieces of artillery.

The defences of Dublin were in so bad a state that the besiegers might have found it easy to storm the city at many points; but they were too busily engaged with their own dissensions to think of a combined attack on the capital. Even if they had not had their private differences, the generals had many subjects on which to disagree. The Leinster men were angered by seeing O'Neill's hungry followers devouring the products of their province, and they naturally carried their complaints to Preston, who expostulated and threatened; and, O'Neill having no power to repress the ravaging proclivities of his starving and desperate army, there was much dissension between the camps, which were in fact armed against each other, the Nuncio being fully occupied in passing between them, vainly endeavouring to reconcile the discordant elements, and to reconcile the generals, whose hatred and distrust of each other was such that he gradually came to the conclusion that "arms at first devoted to religion were about to minister to private passions alone".

All this time Preston's attitude was more than dubious. His vacillation was such that it was debated in Council whether he should not be seized and imprisoned as a traitor to the cause. He was openly in correspondence with Ormonde through the medium of Clanrickard, who was in Luttrellstown, and it subsequently transpired that he agreed to a plan by which he and Clanrickard were jointly to garrison Dublin, and to compel the Nuncio's party to accept the Peace. Ormonde, however, insisted that the original Peace should first be accepted; but to this Preston would not agree. Clanrickard then proposed on his own behalf to procure a repeal of the penal laws, and enjoyment by Catholics of such churches and ecclesiastical possessions as they held at the conclusion of the peace, until a settlement by a free Irish Parliament, "His Majesty being in free condition himself".

In confirmation of these terms Clanrickard undertook to have them ratified under the King's own hand, as also by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and by the French Government. If these terms were accepted and matters concluded the Catholics were to be "forthwith invested in such commands by His Majesty's authority, both in field and garrison, as may pass for a very sufficient part of the security". Preston's views of the proposed treaty may be gathered from his letter to the mayor and citizens of Kilkenny. "We have," he wrote, "by the divine Providence, wrought the splendour of religion to that extension as from Bunratty to Dublin there is Catholic religion professed and exercised, and from Waterford to the lower parts of Tyrone, and confined heresy in this Province to Dublin, Drogheda, Dundalk, and Trim, these places which in four days will be garrisoned by my army, by God's help; and then think you in what posture of religion those parts are in, for us and ours, having all penal laws against Catholics repealed; all in our own hands, churches and Church livings, secured till the King in a free Parliament declare the same for us; the government in the Catholics' hands; petitions of right allowed the parties grieved; and, to make this good, our arms in our own hands."

While these negotiations were proceeding, Ormonde wrote to General Munro asking for 500 Scottish soldiers to help to garrison Dublin, the fortifications of which were in an unsatisfactory condition. In repairing them the services of ladies were accepted to carry baskets filled with earth, the Marchioness of Ormonde being amongst the fair labourers thus employed. Munro, who was doubtless aware that the Lord-Lieutenant was in negotiation with the Parliamentarians, expressed regret at his inability to send his officers so far south. Ormonde then sent a deputation to London to treat with Parliament for the surrender of Dublin, with the result that commissioners were sent to interview Ormonde on the subject; and though terms were not arrived at, because the Lord-Lieutenant refused to deliver up the Sword of State without an order from the King, the mere presence of the Parliamentary Commissioners, of whom Sir John Clotworthy was one, served to alarm the Irish, and O'Neill, two days after their arrival, fearing that Preston and Clanrickard would combine with Ormonde and thus he would be placed between two fires, collected his men, threw an improvised bridge over the river, and marched south to Kilkenny, to which Rinuccini had preceded him. Preston's officers, "not being excommunication-proof, were fallen from him to the Nuncio's party", and therefore the negotiations with Clanrickard were hastily broken off, and Preston withdrew into Westmeath and Longford.

The Nuncio, having failed to take Dublin, as he had boasted he would, found on his return to Kilkenny that he must try to conciliate the many enemies he had made, and he therefore gave orders for the release of the imprisoned members of the former Supreme Council, and a meeting was held on the 10th January, 1647, at which all members bound them- selves by a new and stringent oath of association to make no peace without the consent of the General Assembly.

It being now evident the Peace would not be accepted by the Kilkenny Assembly, and Ormonde being in a desperate state through lack of provisions, he wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioners in Ulster offering to surrender the Sword of State and his garrisons to Parliament. This offer was immediately accepted, the Commissioners landed at Dublin with 1500 men on the 7th of June, and on the 28th of July Ormonde surrendered Dublin and left the country.

The Parliamentary party appointed Colonel Michael Jones Governor of Dublin and Commander of the Forces in Leinster. He had to contend with some of the difficulties which beset the Marquis of Ormonde, and the troops left by the ex-Lord-Lieutenant, ill-paid and ill-fed, being provoked by the severe discipline of the republican governor, became mutinous and plundered the citizens.

O'Neill, who had been given by the Confederates the command of the troops of Ulster and Connaught, now found himself destitute of resources at Boyle, and was both sullen and dispirited. He had the satisfaction, however, of learning that Preston was badly beaten by Jones at Dungan's Hill on the 8th August, when the Confederates lost 5470 men and the English 20, and of receiving in consequence a pressing summons to enter Leinster and harass Jones; but he refused to move. The personal entreaties of Bishop MacMahon at last prevailed, but many of his officers refused to obey. Their leader, the celebrated "Colkitto" MacDonald, had been with Preston at Dungan's Hill when 400 of his Redshanks had fallen, and he was with difficulty persuaded to change his mind. O'Neill now marched into Meath and encamped at Cloughjordan until November, when he collected about 12,000 foot and 1500 horse and devastated the country round Dublin.

Sir Henry Tichborne, who was continued by the Parliament as Governor of Drogheda, and "embraced it with cheerfulness", had helped Jones at Dungan Hill with nearly 2000 men and two guns. He now followed the northern army everywhere and cut off many stragglers, and exhibited such activity that the Nuncio's scheme that O'Neill should march "into Ulster to reduce the fort of Enniskillen, and to take possession of the Holy Place of St. Patrick's Purgatory, now about one hundred years in the hands of the heretics", seemed very unlikely to be realized. O'Neill, however, marched to within but a very short distance of Balbriggan, plundering and burning as he went to such an extent that over 200 fires were counted at one time from St. Audoen's steeple in Dublin. Near Garristown Jones and Tichborne suddenly appeared, and the latter wished to fight, but Jones overruled him, and O'Neill returned to Cloughjordan without having to strike a blow.


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