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The History of Ulster
The Triumphs of Tichborne


The Lords Justices summon the Catholic Lords to a Council Meeting - The Lords refuse to attend - The Companies raised by them desert, taking their Arms with them - Sir Simon Harcourt lands with a Large Force - Drogheda besieged by Sir Phelim - A Party of Irish break in, but are defeated and ejected - Lord Moore defeats the Irish at Mellifont - Art Roe MacMahon taken Prisoner - His Life spared in consideration of Lady Blaney - Ormonde marches to Drogheda - Tichborne takes Dundalk - General Robert Munro arrives with 2500 Scots - He sweeps all before him.

The coalition of peers and people at the meeting on Crofty Hill was no doubt hastened by a summons issued on the 3rd of December by the Lords Justices, calling upon several of the noblemen and gentlemen of the Pale to attend in Dublin on the 8th to confer on the state of the nation. Suspecting that this was only an artifice to draw them into the capital in order to secure their persons and deprive them of their liberty, a response to the summons was drawn up and signed by seven peers at the meeting at Tara, in which reference is made to the indifference with which their warnings and advice had been received. "We have given your lordships to understand, that we have heretofore presented ourselves before your lordships, and freely offered our advice and furtherance towards the particulars aforesaid, which was by you neglected, which gave us cause to suspect that our loyalty was suspected by you." The writers then referred to the rumours regarding the hostility of Sir Charles Coote to the Catholics. "We give your lordships further to understand that we have received certain advertizement that Sir Charles Coote, Knight, at the Council board, hath uttered some speeches tending to a purpose and resolution to execute upon those of our religion a general massacre, by which we are all deterred to wait on your lordships, not having any security for our safety from these threatened evils or the safety of our lives, but do rather think it fit to stand upon our best guard until we hear from your lordships how we shall be secured from these perils. Nevertheless, we all protest that we are and will continue both faithful advisers and resolute furtherers of His Majesty's service concerning the present state of the kingdom and the safety thereof to our best abilities."

The Lords Justices replied to this letter by a proclamation, in which they declared that there was no truth whatever in the allegations made regarding Sir Charles Coote, or that there was any intention to prosecute the Catholics, and that anyone who made any such suggestion should be severely punished; and they again summoned the lords of the Pale to attend at the Council board on the i7th of December. Ormonde personally gave his word of honour that they should return safely, and urged them not to lose this last opportunity of proving their loyalty. The only reply was a letter in which the disaffected lords reiterated their accusations of cruelty against Coote, and sent a final refusal to attend the meeting of the Council in Dublin.

The immediate consequence of these proceedings was the desertion of most of the companies which the gentlemen of the Pale had been commissioned to raise, "several gentle- men, who, in the several counties of the Pale, were made captains, and had received arms from the state for their companies, departed from their obedience, and addressed themselves and their companies wholly to the service of the rebels", and "before it was possible to use any means of prevention, the men were all gone with their arms and munition". Immediately after the meeting at Tara the lords of the Pale began to get together the means of resistance. Lord Gormanston was appointed General-in-Chief; Hugh Byrne, Lieutenant-General; and Lord Fingall, General of the Horse. On the 3ist of December Sir Simon Harcourt, long and anxiously expected, landed with iioo men. Three hundred more followed quickly, and Colonel George Monck, with Leicester's own regiment, was not far behind. Sir Richard Grenville came with 400 horse about the same time. It was fortunate that during this period the northern rebels lay wasting their strength before Drogheda, for had they marched to Dublin after their success at Julianstown, the capital would undoubtedly have fallen into their hands; but it was a noted characteristic of the Irish, from the days of Shane O'Neill to those of Sir Phelim, that they never followed up a victory.

Drogheda, though surrounded by the forces of Sir Phelim O'Neill, still held out under Sir Henry Tichborne. On St. Thomas's Eve (2Oth December) a determined effort was made to take the town by storm, but the rebels were beaten off with considerable slaughter. Tichborne sent a pinnace to Dublin for help. In answer to this appeal six vessels arrived with provisions and ammunition for the garrison, who were half-starved, and notwithstanding efforts made to obstruct their passage up the river, the ships overcame them, and succeeded in landing their cargoes in safety.

Thinking that both officers and men would be too busy attending to gastronomic delights to pay strict attention to means of defence, the besiegers attempted to take the town by surprise. Finding a weak spot in the wall, they broke open with pickaxes a passage through which they crept, two or three at a time, to the number of some 500; but they were discovered at about four in the morning by Tichborne himself, who immediately gave the alarm, and, turning out the nearest guard, bade them fire across the river. An accident contributed not a little to the confusion of the rebels. Tichhome's horse, which was being led by a groom, broke loose, and, galloping wildly about the town, led the Irish to believe, from the clatter of its hoofs, that cavalry were approaching. This decided many to beat a hasty retreat through the passage by which they had entered. The rest fought, and were for the most part killed. Outside St. James's Gate large numbers awaited admittance by their comrades. They were admitted by Tichborne's men, who, to induce them to enter unsuspectingly, made an Irish bagpiper whom they had taken earlier in the morning play lively airs. Once inside the gate their fate was sealed.

Besiegers and besieged now indulged in a series of attempts to harass each other. On the nth of February Tichborne obtained a signal advantage in an engagement with a large body of the rebels. At four o'clock in the morning of Sunday the 2ist, O'Neill, after his army had been considerably reinforced, attempted an escalade at a quiet spot near St. Laurence's Gate. The assailants had planted their ladders, and reached the top of the walls, but, the sentries being on the alert, the rebels were discomfited and fled, leaving thirteen ladders behind them. These successes encouraged the garrison to make further sallies. On the 27th, while protecting his foragers, Tichborne defeated the rebels on the fatal field of Julianstown, when 300 of the Irish were killed. The foraging parties from Drogheda now ranged to a distance over the country, and on 1st March four companies of foot and a troop of horse met with some resistance. Tichborne, hearing of this, determined to go himself, and in the afternoon met the Irish advancing from the hamlet of Stameen under the command of Sir Phelim. The Irish fled on the approach of horse, and O'Neill only escaped capture by hiding in a furze bush.

On 5th March 500 men, under Lord Moore, marched to Mellifont, followed by Sir Henry Tichborne with a reserve force. Moore attacked the rebels, leaving 400 men and many officers dead on the field. The prisoners made on this occasion included Art Roe MacMahon, whose head, for which a reward of 400 was offered, would have been cut off, but that he prayed for mercy, offering to ensure the safety of Lady Blaney and her children if his life was spared. His offer was accepted. Ormonde was now marching from Dublin at the head of 3000 foot and 500 horse, a fact which decided Sir Phelim to raise the siege of Drogheda, if siege it can be called, and he retired north precipitately.

The Lords Justices had worried Tichborne with orders not to venture farther abroad "than so as he might return the same day", and, these continuing, Tichborne remonstrated with such good effect that he was able to record: "I was left again to my own way of proceeding, with a grave and sound advice to be vigilant and careful in all my undertakings". In much the same manner as they had treated Tichborne, Parsons and Borlase proceeded to deal with Ormonde, giving him orders not to go beyond the Boyne and to return in eight days. Having arrived at Drogheda, Ormonde, on learning from Tichborne and his officers the state of affairs there, asked the Lords Justices for permission to proceed to Newry, which was peremptorily refused ; but he was allowed to give Tichborne 500 men and one or two guns to aid him in a proposed attack on Dundalk, which being done, Ormonde was forced to comply with orders and returned to Dublin.

The rebels, as much surprised at Ormonde's departure as they had been at his sudden advance, recovered their courage, and, collecting their forces, again threatened Drogheda. But Sir Henry Tichborne, feeling the freedom of being left to his own discretion, and reinforced with the men Ormonde left him, dislodged the Irish from Slane and burnt the town. On the 2ist of March he set out for Ardee with 1200 foot, four troops of horse, and provisions for two days. Here he found 2000 Irish posted in a good position on the right bank of the Dee. He drove them over the bridge into the town, in which some 600 of them were slain, and, turning their position by fording the river with his cavalry, he pursued them into the open country with great slaughter. He then turned his attention to Dundalk, and, with the approval of Lord Moore and the other officers, he suddenly presented himself before that town at nine o'clock in the morning of the 26th of April. He approached the outer gate and forced it under a heavy fire. Sir Phelim and his horse now opposed him, but finding the wind was in his favour Sir Henry ordered some houses to be fired, and under cover of the smoke reached the inner gate of the town. Seeing that resistance was useless, O'Neill and his men beat a hasty retreat through the north gate over the bridge, and left the town in the hands of the victors.

When the day was won, Tichborne tells us he "caused the quartermasters to divide the town into quarters, proportionable to the companies of horse and foot; and what booty was in any quarter, that I left to the officers and soldiers that were quartered in it, by a proportionable dividend amongst them, whereby the confusion about pillaging was taken away, and I had the soldiers in a readiness to answer the rebels' motion and attempts, who rumoured great words, and still swarmed very thick in those parts. The number of the slain I looked not after, but there was little mercy shown. ..."

The Lords Justices, on hearing of Tichborne's success, were by no means elated thereat, and in a grandmotherly manner wrote stating that they considered he had "engaged into too imminent danger", and sent him "advice to abandon the place". This extraordinary attitude on the part of the Government can only be accounted for by the fact that Borlase was suffering from senile stupidity, and that Parsons, who was a man of mean extraction, and had little or no education, devoted his whole attention to the acquisition of wealth. He clearly saw that the more rebels there were the more lands there would be to confiscate, and thereby he could gratify his cupidity. Tichborne, however, with noble independence, rejected the advice given him, and finding, as he said, "the town to be of importance for the service, I neither thought it fit nor honourable to do so, except I received a positive command and direction to that purpose; for I was confident to hold it against all the rebels' forces that durst appear before it; besides, I conceived the ten thousand Scots would not be idle when they should hear that I was advanced so far northward, with a handful of men in comparison with their numbers". Sir Henry here refers to the fact that early in November the English Parliament had, as already stated, resolved to send 12,000 men from England, and to ask the Scots to send 10,000 more, the arrival of the latter being now expected daily.

Tichborne did well to ignore the advice of the Lords Justices, for the Irish soon returned to Dundalk, and appeared in such imposing numbers that they kept Sir Henry and his men in a state of continual activity. On one occasion he ''took Toby Guinne, an especial favourite of Sir Phelim O'Neill, prisoner; this man", Tichborne tells us, "had been bred amongst us, and married to an Englishman's daughter, but now a degenerated, active, and notorious rebel; in which respect, notwithstanding many promises of large ransom or exchanges, I caused him to be presently hanged in the sight of Sir Phelim O'Neill and his battalions". On the arrival of the Scots in April, the Irish fired and deserted Carlingford, whereupon Sir Henry marched along the strand and took possession of the town.

The long-looked-for expeditionary force of the Scots was under the command of Major-General Robert Munro, and consisted of about 2500 men, who landed at Carrickfergus on the 15th of April. The King had hesitated in giving up the town to the Scottish regiments, but on the Commissioners expressing a hope that His Majesty, "being their native king, would not show less trust in them than their neighbouring nation", their hope was fulfilled, and it was agreed if any troops joined the Scots, the Scots general was to command them also. It is well that this was so, for Munro was not the man to brook opposition, as anyone familiar with his idiosyncrasies as displayed by Sir Walter Scott in the form of Dugald Dalgetty, for whom he served as a lay figure, will readily admit. The Scots occupying Carrickfergus, Lord Conway and Colonel Chichester retired with their regiments to Belfast.

On the 28th April Munro marched towards Newry, leaving a garrison behind him, and joining forces with Lord Conway, Sir James Turner, and the rest he had under his command, in all nearly 4000 men. At Enniskillen the next day the Irish, under Lord Iveagh, fled into Kilwarlin Woods at his approach. On the 30th, Dromore was razed to the ground, nothing being left standing save the church. A garrison in an island at Loughbrickland were put to the sword, no quarter being given. At Newry no attempt at defence was made, and on the 3rd of May the garrison were permitted to march out weaponless; but Munro, to Sir James Turner's disgust, on second thoughts, deeming mercy a mistake, on the following day hanged sixty townsmen. Leaving a garrison at Newry, and making a circuit of County Down, Munro on the 12th May returned to Carrickfergus.

"Sir Phelim O'Neill and his partizans," Tichborne tells us, "grew very jolly upon the Scots' return, and persuaded themselves of doing great matters against me, but their courage proved to be only in words, for I drew forth for some days together into a convenient field near unto them; but finding that they did only put themselves in arms, and would no more now than formerly forsake their strength to draw into equality of ground, notwithstanding their advantage of numbers, I concluded they were in another sort to be dealt with; and from thenceforth, for the most part, I fell every morning into their quarters, and continued these visitations for several weeks together, with the slaughter of very many of them, especially the new plantation in the county of Monaghan, and at the taking in of Harry O'Neill's house in the Fews; insomuch that by this course, and the like acted often by the garrison of Drogheda, there was neither man nor beast to be found in sixteen miles between the two towns of Drogheda and Dundalk, nor on the other side of Dundalk, in the county of Monaghan, nearer than Carrick-ma-cross, a strong pile twelve miles distant."

Sir Henry Tichborne, during his stay, carefully repaired and strengthened the fortifications of Dundalk, and thus placed a very important town, which the Lords Justices in their folly had advised him to desert, in an efficient state of defence.


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