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The History of Ulster
Oliver Cromwell, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland


Charles II in Exile - Ormonde invites him to Ireland - O'Neill's Demands - Ormonde's Overtures to O'Neill, Coote, and Jones - Castlehaven invades Leinster - Ormonde besieges Dublin - Owen Roe O'Neill relieves Londonderry - Oliver Cromwell, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland - Arrives with Army in Ireland - Besieges Drogheda, and takes the Town by storm.

Ireland was now, in the language of Carlyle, "a scene of distracted controversies, plunderings, excommunications, treacheries, conflagrations, of universal misery and blood and bluster. . . . The History of it does not form itself into a picture, but remains only a huge blot, an indiscriminate blackness. . . ." Superabundance of Carlylese is apt to become mere incoherence; there is a ray of light in the indiscriminate blackness. We shall "follow the gleam".

Charles II was now thirty. From the impressionable age of twenty-one he had been an exile, living sometimes in France, sometimes in Holland; he loved neither. Paris, under the eye of Henrietta Maria, he found barely tolerable, but the Hague was at all times nauseous. He formed an early resolve that should he ever have the good fortune to return to reside in England he would never again set out on his travels. "Eyes had been given this man", said George Meredith of just such another voluptuary, "to spy out the good things of life", and such a man, despite the predominance of the Puritan element in the majority of mankind, inevitably becomes in the long run "one of our conquerors". England, whether he reigned or was a rover, always remained in Charles's eyes "a land of pure delight"; but the way to England at present lay through Ireland or Scotland, and, true to his instincts, he chose the path of least resistance. When Ormonde applied for a renewal of his commission as Lord-Lieutenant it was renewed with the fullest powers; and if the King hesitated to accept the invitation of Presbyterian Scotland, it was because he believed with the newly-appointed Secretary for Foreign Languages, John Milton, that "new Presbyter was but old Priest writ large", and he shuddered at the thought of subscribing to the Solemn League and Covenant. Man's chief end, he held, was to love women, wine, and song, and the best piety was to enjoy while we can. A pleasure-loving nature such as this was not likely to commend itself to the orthodox who believed in John Knox, so Charles had perforce to possess his soul in patience.

Ormonde in Ireland worked with a will on behalf of the exiled monarch. Now that the Nuncio was gone, it struck him that Owen Roe might be in a mood to be approached, and accordingly he made overtures to the Ulster chieftain, who was grimly holding his own at the head of 5000 foot and 300 horse, despite the fact that 2000 of his men had gone to Spain under the command of O'Sullivan Beare, and that daily his chiefs were deserting him. O'Neill agreed to accept the peace, provided that at the expense of the country he might command 6000 foot and 800 horse. He claimed that the six escheated counties in Ulster should be restored to the old Irish, and in this demand he was supported by the Marquis of Antrim; finally he declared that he was ready to join the King when His Majesty landed in Ireland, but he refused to hold any further communication with Ormonde unless his request for an army was granted. At this demand the Commissioners of Trust at first demurred, but finally agreed to the terms required, making it, however, a condition that regiments which had deserted O'Neill should be reinstated. Inasmuch as one of these regiments was commanded by Sir Phelim, who had taken an active part in the Council which had proclaimed him a traitor, Owen Roe flatly refused to consider the proposition, and turned to negotiate with the governors of Dublin and of Belfast. From the former he succeeded in purchasing some gunpowder; with the latter, who held the command of Dundalk, he made an arrangement to intercept the communication between the Scottish Royalists in the north and Ormonde in the central counties. This agreement, which was made on the 8th of May, 1649, was only to hold good for three months, neither party apparently placing any confidence in its durability. O'Neill undertook not to join either Ormonde or Inchiquin, and Monck supplied O'Neill with needed gunpowder.

Having failed to secure O'Neill, Ormonde addressed himself to Sir Charles Coote, who held Londonderry for the Parliament. Coote returned an evasive answer to the effect that he was prepared to obey the King's orders as soon as His Majesty was in a position to enable him to do so with safety. Coote at the moment was not strong, having been deserted by some of the officers who had served under Sir Robert Stewart. Enniskillen had been seized and Sir William Cole imprisoned by the deserters, who had declared for the King.

Baffled in this direction, Ormonde now turned to Michael Jones, the Parliament's Governor of Dublin, to whom he made a pathetic representation of the sufferings of the late King. Jones, who was loyal to his own party and daily expected reinforcements, turned a deaf ear to his arguments, and contented himself with replying that Ormonde himself was to be blamed for the death of Charles, inasmuch as by his activities in Ireland he had, while the treaty of Newmarket was pending, convinced everyone of the King's insincerity and driven to desperate measures the party in power. This was deeply disappointing to the Lord-Lieutenant, who had anticipated being without delay at the head of a formidable army. He had calculated on 4000 Irish foot and 800 horse from Munster, with 3000 foot and 600 horse under Inchiquin, with like numbers of horse and foot from Leinster and Connaught, and 5000 foot and 500 horse from Owen Roe O'Neill, "'if he would come in". O'Neill, as we have seen, did not come in, and from the other provinces Ormonde collected but a small portion of the 20,000 foot and 3500 horse which in imagination he had counted, and even when his hopes were to a small extent realized, he was obliged to borrow money on- his own credit to enable his army to march.

Hostilities commenced about the beginning of May. Castlehaven, at the head of 2000 Munster men, succeeded in reducing "several small places" in Leinster, including Maryborough and Athy, in which either O'Neill or the Parliamentarians had placed garrisons. The Presbyterians of the north decided to act against the Parliament, and under their commander, Lord Montgomery of Ardes, they besieged Sir Charles Coote in Londonderry. Sir George Munro, who had received a commission from the King to command in Ulster, joined the Marquis of Clanrickard in reducing the Parliamentary garrisons in Connaught, and then marched to join the Scots in the siege of Londonderry.

Ormonde, having been joined by Inchiquin on the 14th of June, and having received some monetary assistance through Lords Castlehaven and Taaffe, now proceeded with 7000 foot and 3000 horse to besiege Dublin, and advanced almost to the walls, encamping at Finglas, where his tents were visible to the besieged. He then called upon Prince Rupert, who was still with his fleet at Kinsale, to cut off supplies by sea from the capital by blockading the port; but this, Rupert, whose capricious conduct is difficult to understand, could not or would not do. Jones, being thus pressed, and being short of provisions for man and beast, sent, on the 20th of June, most of his cavalry to Drogheda; but they were attacked on the way and suffered great loss at the hands of Inchiquin, who went in pursuit of them with a strong body of horse. Inchiquin was then detached with 2000 foot and 1500 horse to beleaguer Drogheda, which was bravely defended for seven days by a small garrison of 600 men, who were, however, on the 28th, compelled, by want of ammunition, to surrender, and were permitted to go where they pleased. The majority marched to Dublin, some joining Jones and some Ormonde.

O'Neill meanwhile, with 3000 men, lay encamped near Dundalk. In May he had offered, if he could obtain some powder, to help Coote, and, having been refused, he now approached Monck, who declared his willingness to give the powder if O'Neill sent for it. O'Neill agreed, and arranged for the transfer ; but although the distance from town to camp was only seven miles, and an escort of 500 men under Lieutenant Farrell was provided, Colonel Trevor, acting under Inchiquin's orders, swooped down on the convoy, and, killing most of the soldiers, captured the stores. From some of the prisoners Inchiquin learned that Dundalk was by no means strong, and he therefore resolved to besiege the town. Here he was joined by a large body of Scots under Lord Montgomery of Ardes. Dundalk would probably have held out had not an underfed, unpaid garriron compelled Monck at the end of two days to surrender it.

Coote was still holding out in Londonderry, and Owen Roe again approached him, offering him assistance. Coote now consented to supply him with thirty barrels of gun- powder, with sufficient match, and also to give him 300 beeves or 400 in money, and, these terms being agreed to, O'Neill marched to his relief. Ormonde in the meantime had, on the 2nd of August, been defeated and his army utterly routed by Jones, who followed up his victory by advancing suddenly to Drogheda. Lord Moore, who commanded the garrison, made a brave defence, and Ormonde, having collected 300 horse, marched to Trim, whereupon Jones found it politic, on the 8th of August, to raise the siege of Drogheda and return to Dublin. These movements had a disquieting effect upon the Scottish forces besieging Londonderry, and on the approach of O'Neill the Scots marched away, compelling Lord Montgomery of Ardes to raise the siege at the very moment when the garrison of the bulwark of the north was reduced to the last extremity.

Charles was now at the Hague, uncertain what course to pursue. He had long been promising to visit Ireland, but want of money and other impediments had prevented him, the States refusing him a loan unless he went to Scotland and took the Covenant. Pressing invitations to Ireland reached him from Ormonde, who backed them up by sending Lord Byron to induce him to come over; but Byron found Charles surrounded by Scottish lords, who opposed the Irish visit, and who used all their influence in favour of the King's repairing to Scotland.

On the 28th of March, 1649, by a unanimous vote of the Parliament in England, Oliver Cromwell had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and Commander-in-Chief of the English forces in that country. He accepted the command with reluctance, stipulating that the soldiers should be satisfied both as to pay and to arrears; saying that unless this was done he had no hopes of success in a campaign in Ireland. Money wherewith to pay the soldiers having been found, it was decided to send 12,000 men to Ireland. The rising of the Levellers retarded his departure, and it was not until July that he was ready to depart. When the army, consisting of 9000 foot and 4000 horse, reached the coast for embarkation, difficulties in procuring transports for the troops caused a further delay. At last, "about five of the clock" on Tuesday, 10th July, 1649, "the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland began his journey; by the way to Windsor, and so to Bristol. He went forth in that state and equipage as the like hath hardly been seen; himself in a coach with six Flanders mares, whitish gray; divers coaches accompanying him; and very many great Officers of the Army; his Lifeguard consisting of eighty gallant men, the meanest whereof a Commander or Esquire, in stately habit."

Cromwell arrived at Bristol on the evening of Saturday, the 14th. He stayed there for several weeks, awaiting the sum of 100,000, making his preparations, and gathering his forces. At the end of July he left Bristol, going by Tenby and Pembroke to Milford Haven, where he embarked. On August the 13th, before sailing, he wrote "from aboard the John", commenting on "the happy news" of Ormonde's defeat, and rejoicing over it as "an astonishing mercy". Two days later, after a passage during which he was, as Hugh Peters tells us, "as sea-sick as ever I saw a man in my life", he landed at Ring's End, near Dublin, having with him 3000 men in thirty-five ships, Ireton following with a larger and stronger division in seventy-seven ships.

On his arrival in Dublin, Cromwell lost no time in assuming the authority of his office of Lord-Lieutenant, proceeding at once to regulate all civil and military affairs, and to offer indemnity and protection to all who would submit to the Parliament. He published two proclamations, one against profane swearing and drunkenness, the other prohibiting his soldiers, under the severest penalties, "to abuse, rob and pillage, and execute cruelties upon the Country People". He then committed the government of the city to Sir Theophilus Jones, and took the field on the 30th of August with a well-provisioned army of 10,000 picked men, his object being to take Drogheda.

Ormonde, when he had rallied after his defeat at Dublin, proceeded to garrison Drogheda with 2000 foot and 300 horse, all tried and picked men, and to victual it for a long siege. He judged rightly that Drogheda, a frontier town of the utmost importance for establishing communication with Ulster, would be the first object of Cromwell's attack, and he therefore increased its powers of resistance as much as possible. He appointed a Roman Catholic governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, who had distinguished himself in the English Civil War as governor of Reading and Oxford. Ashton was incapacitated to the extent of having lost a leg, the result of a fall "when curvetting on horseback in Bullingdon Green before certain ladies", and it would seem that he was subject to worries from the fair sex, for he was troubled by ladies in Drogheda who persisted, notwithstanding his instructions to the contrary, to correspond with Dublin, and to employ as their messenger a boy "of too small a size to be hanged". Ashton's troubles were, however, destined to increase, for on the 2nd of September Cromwell was close to Drogheda awaiting his guns. Sir Arthur, nothing daunted, and confident in his strength, wrote to Ormonde, who was at Trim, prepared to retire in the hope of forming a junction with Inchiquin, that he "would find the enemy play; and the garrison, being select men, was so strong that the town could not be taken by assault; and therefore", he advised him, "to hazard nothing by precipitating himself" to his relief. Cromwell's infantry now appearing, and the Boyne being forded by them, the Drogheda garrison sallied forth and drove them back, a success which increased the governor's confidence, and encouraged him to make a further sally on the 7th, which was also successful.

On Monday, the 9th of September, the English guns opened fire, and a summons was sent in to the governor to deliver over the town to the Parliament, Cromwell writing: "To the end effusion of blood may be prevented, I thought fit to summon you to deliver the same into my hands to their use. If this be refused you will have no cause to blame me." Ashton did not reply, and Cromwell commenced by beating down a tower and the steeple of St. Mary's Church, in which a gun had been placed that annoyed him. He selected this

OLIVER CROMWELL
From the painting by Samuel Cooper

point for attack because, though the defences here were most formidable, yet once taken it afforded a more secure lodgment for the first assailants than any other point in the fortifications. Some of the siege-guns carried shot of sixty-four pounds weight, and the cannon of the defenders must there- fore have been quite overmatched.

On Tuesday two formidable breaches were made in the south and east walls, rendering it possible at about five o'clock in the evening for Colonel Castle, with some 600 men, after a desperate assault, to effect an entry. The garrison fought with great courage, and the besiegers were quickly driven back through the breach, with the loss of Castle and several of his officers and men. Cromwell himself now entered the breach at the head of a reserve of infantry, who carried the church and some trenches which the defenders had made inside the walls. After a desperate struggle, in which, owing to the ground being too steep, Cromwell's horse could not render assistance, the garrison were driven "into the Mill Mount: a place very strong and of difficult access; being exceedingly high, having a good graft, and strongly palisadoed. The Governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, and divers considerable Officers being there, our men getting up to them were ordered", by the general, "to put them all to the sword. And indeed, being in the heat of action", he "forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the Town", and thus about 2000 men were slain the night Drogheda was stormed.

A party of about 100, who had taken refuge in the wooden steeple of St. Peter's Church, and refused to surrender, were suffocated by Cromwell's ordering the tower to be fired. Others, who had fortified themselves, some in a tower at St. Sunday's gate and some in a round tower near the west gate, being half-starved, surrendered next day; and it being proved that fatal shots had been fired from one of these towers, the "officers were knocked on the head; and every tenth man of the soldiers killed; and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes. The soldiers in the other Tower were all spared as to their lives only; and shipped likewise for the Barbadoes", Cromwell being "persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood; and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future. Which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret."


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