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The History of Ulster
The Scots Army in Ulster


Ulster filled with Troops - Sir Phelim burns Armagh - "Colkitto" MacDonnell - The Rebellion dying out -  Revived by Arrival of Owen Roe O'Neill - The Nature of the War - Independence of the Scots - Expeditions of the English - Lord Leven arrives with Reinforcements - Thomas Preston lands in the South with Men and Arms - Leven's Ineffective Correspondence - He leaves Munro in command and returns to Scotland - O'Neill's Camp surprised - Lord Moore killed - A Cessation of Hostilities.

Ulster now was filled with troops. By the end of April there were 19,000 regulars and volunteers in garrison or in the field. Newry having been taken by Munro, and Dundalk by Tichborne, Magennis was obliged to abandon Down, and MacMahon Monaghan. Sir William Cole, who was the first to apprise the Government of the approaching danger, held Enniskillen throughout, while Captain Folliott held Bally- shannon. Sir William and Sir Robert Stewart, at the head of a daily increasing army, held undisputed sway over a wide stretch of country comprising the major portions of Counties Tyrone and Donegal. Londonderry and Coleraine also held their own, while Manor Hamilton, in the hands of Sir Frederick Hamilton, was in safe keeping.

Sir Phelim O'Neill, in desperation at the approach of the Scots, burned Armagh, "the cathedral with its steeple and with its bells, organ, and glass windows, and the whole city, with the fine library". In a severe action with Sir Robert and Sir William Stewart, notwithstanding the fact that both were professional soldiers, O'Neill was more fortunate than usual, a fact which perhaps may be attributed to the presence on the occasion of Sir Alexander MacColl MacDonnell, the famous Colkitto of the Irish and Scottish wars, who was considered by the Earl of Leven to be one of the most formidable leaders of the Irish. In an engagement in June with the same antagonists Sir Phelim suffered a severe reverse, his followers being put to flight with a loss of 500 slain, many wounded, and a large number of prisoners. The English in Ulster urged upon Munro the policy of following up this victory, and asked for assistance to that end; but the Scottish general refused aid, and the English, provoked thereby, attempted to carry on the war without Scottish help. But orders came from the Earl of Leven putting a stop to all proceedings until he should appear on the scene of action himself; and, it having been arranged when the treaty with the Scots was concluded that Scottish generals were to have sole conduct of the war, there was an immediate cessation of hostilities. The rebellion in Ulster had almost collapsed before the end of the year. The thousands who had rallied round the standard of Sir Phelim O'Neill were gradually reduced to a number of weak and disorganized bands of armed men seeking refuge in the woods. The English garrisons scoured the surrounding country, meeting with little opposition; where they did meet it they gave no quarter. Sir William Cole of Enniskillen stated that some 7000 of the rebels in his immediate neighbourhood had died from want and exposure. The ill success which continued to dog the steps of the insurgents must largely be attributed to the fact that they were without a leader to whom the profession of arms was familiar. Sir Phelim O'Neill was not lacking in courage, but the science of warfare as well as personal valour is needed in the field, and O'Neill was ignorant of the very rudiments of all that is required in a military commander. As a leader he was a failure, for he possessed neither the requisite knowledge of tactics nor the personal magnetism which makes men blindly follow their leader even "into the mouth of hell", and wildly fling themselves into the arms of death until

The foeman's line is broke,
And all the war is rolled in smoke.

In July, when Munro began to show some signs of activity and a renewal of hostilities was expected, a council of the Irish confederates was held, at which it was proposed to abandon a hopeless cause, and seek refuge on the Continent or in the Scottish Highlands. But at this moment, when the national cause seemed to be lost, when the Celtic population in Ulster was meditating wholesale emigration, "a word of magic effect was whispered from the sea-coast to the interior" Colonel Owen Roe O'Neill had arrived off Donegal with a single ship, a single company of veterans, 100 officers, some arms, and a large quantity of ammunition. The flagging hopes of the Irish rose once more.

Owen MacArt, better known as Owen Roe O'Neill, was a son of Art MacBaron, and therefore a nephew of Hugh O'Neill, the great Earl of Tyrone. In Luke Wadding's list, compiled about 1639, his name appears as " Art O'Neill", with the rank of captain, which he held in Henry O'Neill's Irish regimtnt. After the flight of the Earls he was present when Tyrone and his son Henry met at Douai. In 1633 he appears to have been colonel of the regiment. On the death of John O'Neill, titular Earl of Tyrone, in July, 1640, a cipher code was established between Sir Phelim in Ulster and Owen Roe in Flanders, the latter expressing his sympathy with Sir Phelim's projects and holding out hopes of aid from Cardinal Richelieu. When he heard of O'Connolly's having become informer "he was in a great rage", "and he said he wondered how or where that villain should live, for if he were in Ireland, sure they would pull him in pieces there; and if he lived in England there were footmen and other Irishmen enough to kill him".

Owen Roe O'Neill landed at Doe Castle, on the northern shores of Donegal, on 3ist of July, 1642, and sent his ship, with two others he had captured at sea, back to Flanders for reinforcements. Sir Phelim, with 1500 men, went to receive his kinsman, who proceeded by Ballyshannon to Charlemont, meeting with no opposition on the way. A general meeting of the heads of the various clans was held at Clones, at which Sir Phelim resigned the command of the Catholic army of Ulster, and was " nominated President of Ulster", Owen Roe being elected general-in-chief of the Catholic forces. He at once set about organizing an army. Possessed of a high sense of honour, and being inured to the strict discipline of the soldier, the defender of Arras expressed the strongest disapprobation of the retaliatory cruelties which had been tolerated by Sir Phelim, and even said he was determined that such offenders against the laws of humanity should be punished. He then hastened, with the assistance of the experienced officers who had accompanied him to Ulster, to strengthen the fort of Charlemont.

The nature of the war, and the spirit in which it was conducted, may be inferred from the nature of the weapons distributed from the military stores in Dublin. These included scythes, reaping-hooks, and whetstones. These were to be used to cut down the growing corn so that the populace might be starved into submission or forced into leaving the country. The commissary of stores was instructed to issue Bibles to the troops, a Bible to each file, so that they might read therein and learn from the conduct of wars in the Old Testament the sin and danger of sparing idolaters. Such were the methods of the Long Parliament, who, unwilling to trust the King with an army in Ireland, took the work of subjugation into their own hands.

The Scots in Ulster were at this time a sort of independent power, equally opposed to the King and to the Catholics. Left to their own resources by the English Parliament, which was now busy circumventing the policy of Charles, they plundered both parties, and " wasted Down and Antrim more than the rebels had done". Munro, during "the leafy month of June", marched and countermarched, filled with a grim desire to devastate the province; and as he neared them, the flying Irish, to protect themselves and secure their cattle, crossed the Bann, "burning the country all along". With the Scottish general were Lords Conway and Montgomery, their joint forces amounting to close on 5000 men. With the aid of Conway's cavalry 300 cows were captured. When they arrived at Kinard, where Sir Phelim had a house "built of freestone and strong enough to have kept out all the force", it was discovered that O'Neill had gone to Charlemont, and his followers who "for haste did not kill any prisoners" ran away; 200 prisoners in miserable plight were then released and the house was fired. The only person captured seems to have been a priest, "a prime councillor to Sir Phelim O'Neill", who "would not confess or discover anything", and who, though he as "Chanter of Armagh" had often used his voice to good purpose, suffered in silence and was hanged. Carts loaded with plate belonging to Sir Phelim, which were ready to proceed to their destination, were stopped, and the silver was sequestered, there proving to be a goodly quantity of it; and in a private trunk was found a crown, with which insignia the ambitious chieftain had provided himself, no doubt with a view to being prepared for his own installation as Prince of Ulster.

Sir William Brownlow, aided by other prisoners in Dungannon, having overcome the rebel guard "with the help of some Irish that formerly had relation to them", the town was taken and garrisoned. A week later Sir John Clotworthy set out on a cow-catching expedition with 600 foot. The lean and limber-limbed cattle, accustomed to being driven rapidly out of harm's way by their owners, were by no means easy to capture; but, there being a host of human beings to feed, including 500 rescued prisoners, wits were sharpened by hunger, and the device adopted of sending 200 men, relieved of all armour and clad like berserkers in their shirts, after the bovine quarry, with the result that near Moneymore 100 cows were captured, after which there was better cheer, and the countryside was swept for a radius of twelve miles from the fort of Mountjoy.

In August arrived the long-expected complement of Scottish forces under Lord Leven, with which the whole army in Ulster, both Scottish and English, under the new commander amounted to 20,000 foot and 1000 horse an army against which the Irish confederates could not hope to contend. Simultaneously with Leven's arrival in the north of Ireland there landed in the south, in Wexford, Colonel Thomas Preston, a nephew of Lord Gormanston. Preston had been a captain in the same regiment as Owen Roe O'Neill, but had always been his rival; he had had on the Continent a remarkable military career, distinguishing himself at the siege of Louvain, and he was now nearly sixty years of age. At Wexford he awaited some vessels from St. Malo, Nantes, and Rochelle, laden with arms and ammunition, and, having seen their cargoes safely landed and securely stored, he proceeded to Kilkenny, where he was unanimously elected by the confederates to the military command of Leinster.

Leven now drew together his forces, crossed the Bann, and entered Tyrone. There he encamped without meeting with any serious opposition, and he commenced proceedings by addressing a letter to Owen Roe, in which he expressed his concern "that a man" of his "reputation should be engaged in so bad a cause ". O'Neill replied that he had a better right to come to the relief of his country than Leven could plead for marching into England against his King, and added: "I charitably advise you to abandon this kingdom and defend your native country". At the conclusion of this fruitless correspondence the Scottish commander retired quietly, giving up the command to Munro, and, having warned him to expect a total overthrow if O'Neill should succeed in collecting an army, he returned to Scotland, having practically achieved nothing.

The General Assembly projected by the national synod of the loth of May met in Kilkenny on the 24th of October, 1642, the day after the battle of Edgehill. "Magna Charta and the common laws of England, in all points not contrary to the Roman Catholic religion, or inconsistent with the liberty of Ireland, were", says Carte, "acknowledged as the basis of the new government;" "and as the administrative authority was to be vested in the Supreme Council, it was agreed that at the end of every general assembly the Supreme Council should be confirmed or changed as the general body thought fit". The Supreme Council having been chosen, Lord Mountgarret was elected its first president, and it began the exercise of its executive powers by appointing Owen Roe O'Neill general of the forces in Ulster, Thomas Preston being appointed in a like capacity for Leinster, General Barry for Munster, and John Burke as lieutenant-general for Connaught, the chief command in that province being reserved for the Earl of Clanrickard, in the hope that he might eventually joim the confederation. Lord Castlehaven was given the command of the Leinster horse under Preston.

Munro in the meanwhile remained inactive, and, the civil war in England having broken out, the English and Scottish forces in Ireland were neglected, and being left without supplies of any kind they were soon obliged to struggle during the winter with the miseries of semi-nudity and hunger, while O'Neill continued to collect a formidable army without inter- ference. The rebels in Ulster could impute the extraordinary inactivity of the Scots to no other cause save cowardice, and accordingly their self-confidence was again in the ascendant.

Military supplies and men poured into the country, many Irish officers and veteran soldiers being discharged by Richelieu from the French army in order to enable them to serve in the rebel army in Ireland, and O'Neill was thus enabled to raise and equip a force of about 1500 men.

In May, 1643, O'Neill was attacked by Munro near Charlemont; but although the Scot had the superior force, there was little or no result from this passage of arms, although Munro himself fought on foot, calling to his men in a vain endeavour to hearten them: "Fay, fay, run away from a wheen rebels." Another attack on O'Neill made a little later was equally unsuccessful, as were also all endeavours to capture the Irish leader, shouts on the field of "Whar's MacArt?" meeting with no response, although MacArt was in the thick of the fight, and had a very narrow escape. In July, however, O'Neill met with a serious reverse near Clones at the hands of Sir Robert Stewart, when he lost 150 men. A month later his camp at Boyle was surprised by a small English force, and about 160 men were killed and wounded. This result was achieved by treachery, the sentries having been induced to drink by Irish sutlers, who procured the intoxicants from garrisons in the immediate vicinity.

The Ulster commander was now ordered by the Supreme Council to support Sir James Dillon in Meath. He obeyed by collecting some 3000 men, with whom he marched across Cavan to Portlester. Having taken the castle, O'Neill defended the passage across the Boyne against Lord Moore, who was at the head of superior forces, laying the cannon himself by which Moore was killed. Hostilities were then abandoned and a cessation of arms agreed to.


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