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The History of Ulster
Castlehaven's Invasion of Ulster


Ormonde appointed Lord-Lieutenant - A Day of Deputations - Activities of the Marquis of Antrim - The Covenant wins its Way in Ulster - Munro secures Supreme Command of all English and Scottish Forces in Ulster - He anticipates Insubordination and secures Belfast - Owen Roe O'Neill repairs to the Supreme Council - He asks for Aid to hold his Command in Ulster - Assistance given by the Confederates - Castlehaven appointed Commander of the Forces - O'Neill's Disappointment - Castlehaven invades Ulster, but achieves nothing - He attributes his Failure to O'Neill's failing to keep faith with him.

In August, 1642, Charles had made Ormonde a marquis; the King now appointed him Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and on the 2ist of January, 1644, he was sworn into office.

In the closing days of March a deputation from the Supreme Council of the Confederates waited on the King at Oxford and presented a statement of their grievances. They prayed for a repeal of the penal laws under which they suffered, but they obtained nothing more than empty assurances of His Majesty's intentions, the utmost extent of which was, that he was willing to remove from them any incapacity to purchase lands or hold offices, and to allow them to have their own seminaries for the education of their sons.

A counter-demonstration was made on the 17th of April by the Protestants, who, headed by Sir Charles Coote, the younger, requested that His Majesty should " encourage and enable Protestants to replant the Kingdom, and cause a good walled town to be built in every county for their security, no Papist being allowed to dwell therein"; and they further prayed His Majesty " to continue the penal laws, and to dissolve, forthwith, the assumed power of the confederates; to banish all Popish priests out of Ireland, and that no Popish recusant should be allowed to sit or vote in Parliament". The Council in Dublin followed this by sending Archbishop Ussher, Sir Henry Tichborne, and other Commissioners to the bewildered King, with instructions to Coote to withdraw his proposals and submit a less revolutionary scheme, whereby all that was requested of His Majesty was "that all the penal laws should be enforced, and that all Papists should be disarmed".

Randal MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim, a restless being who had already approached Charles with strange schemes, in which, when attempted, he had egregiously failed, was again employed by the King, no doubt through the influence of the Queen, to act for His Majesty in a private capacity, all public business passing as usual through Ormonde's hands.

Antrim, who had been treacherously seized and placed under arrest by Munro, had made his escape to England, and now proposed to raise in Ireland forces to be placed at the disposal of Montrose in Scotland; but no sooner did he land in Ulster than he was again seized by Munro, who imprisoned him in Carrickfergus Castle for some months. Escaping again, Antrim sought refuge with Owen Roe O'Neill, and was given by the Irish general a safe-conduct to Kilkenny. At the head-quarters of the Confederates he was received with open arms, was requested to join them, and was offered a command. These offers he refused, but he encouraged the Irish leaders to believe that he took a deep interest in their cause.

Soon after the cessation in December, 1643, Antrim went again to England and persuaded Charles that he had great influence with the Confederates, and offered to place 10,000 men at the disposal of the King, and to send 3000 more to Scotland to combat Argyll and the Covenanters. Henrietta Maria's influence again prevailed, and Antrim was given a commission to command such forces as he might succeed in raising for the King; and in recognition of his zeal in the royal service he was created a marquis. On his again visiting the Confederates he was astonished, when he demanded 10,000 men, "well armed, to be transported to England with all possible expedition" for the service of the King, to meet with a firm refusal; and on his moderating his request to that of 3000 men for Scotland, he was told he could only obtain permission to raise them in his own clan or sept, and that arms and ammunition for his levies would only be granted on his securing from the Government a convenient port in Ulster for their reception. It was further decided by the Confederates that the port thus acquired should be under a commander of whom they were to have the nomination. In the end Antrim succeeded in sending 2000 men to Scotland under Alexander MacColl MacDonald, better known as Colkitto, to fight under Montrose.

The sentiment against the cessation was strongest in Ulster, where the English party was at this time most powerful, and where the Protestant army was chiefly com- posed of men who, having suffered at their hands, bitterly hated the Roman Catholics. There was naturally more sympathy between Protestant Ulster and the Puritan English Parliament than between the Parliament and the other provinces, which were, as both Houses declared in their proclamation against the cessation, full of "furious blood- thirsty Papists". To Ulster, therefore, was sent by the Parliament Owen O'Connolly, now a captain, bearing letters to the colonels of the army in Ulster recommending them to disclaim the cessation and to take the Solemn League and Covenant, and promising them a speedy discharge of their arrears and full provisions for the future. The officers were by no means eager, but many of the English soldiers embraced the Covenant with ardour; and when, on account of urgent directions from the Government in Dublin, the officers caused the proclamation against it to be read, the soldiers who had taken it refused obedience and set their officers at defiance. The growing spirit of Ulster became evident when Sir Audley Mervyn, who owed his appointment as Governor of Londonderry to the zeal with which he had assailed the Covenant, had no sooner taken office than he himself embraced the very principles he had hitherto attacked and took the Covenant. He was not alone in this, for a deputation of Presbyterian ministers, being sent over by the Scottish General Assembly, landed at Carrickfergus at the beginning of April and induced many to take the Covenant, among those who did being Sir Frederick Hamilton, Sir William Cole, Sir Robert Stewart, and Munro, who immediately embraced the Covenant with all his officers and men.

The power of the Covenanters in Scotland was now so great that they were able to send Munro 10,000 and a supply of clothing and provisions. The zeal of the Scots in Ulster was now intensified, and all attempts of the Government at Dublin to check the spirit which had arisen in the north were fruitless. Munro, who with his officers had taken the Covenant with becoming solemnity in the church at Carrickfergus, at first professed to leave the convictions of others to the admonitions and persuasions of the Presbyterians, and possibly he might have continued thus passive; but at the end of April, having secured from Parliament the full command of both English and Scottish forces in Ulster, with an injunction to carry on the war against all the enemies of the Covenant, he immediately began to be aggressive.

The colonels of the English regiments met at Belfast on the 13th May to determine as to the degree of obedience they should give to the Scottish Commander; but Munro, having received intelligence of their design, marched suddenly to Belfast, and the gate, on his appearance, being opened by the friendly commander of the guard, he marched unopposed through the town and seized all the cannon. Having secured Belfast, Munro marched on Lisburn, but there he found the English officers prepared. Trouble between the English and Scots in Ulster seemed imminent, but an amicable agreement was come to that the English should not be forced to take any oath contrary to their consciences and to the laws of Ireland, and that their regiments should be furnished with the same provisions and have the same privileges and appointments as those enjoyed by the Scottish. On these conditions they joined Munro in vigorously carrying on the war against the Irish rebels, regardless of the cessation, reserving only to themselves the right of acting upon their own convictions in case of a direct order from the King to the contrary. Munro thus succeeded in getting all the Protestant troops in Ulster to serve under him. By the end of June he had mobilized at Armagh some 10,000 foot and 1000 horse.

Munro's contemptuous disregard for the cessation alarmed the Confederates, who recognized that O'Neill's army in Ulster was insufficient to resist with success the combined forces of Scots and English in the north. This opinion was shared by O'Neill, who, "leaving his troops and creaghts to shift the best they could, came to the General Assembly, then held at Waterford, where he held forth the lamentable condition of his people, desiring the assistance of the other three Provinces, and in the name of his Province, undertaking to join to their forces 4000 foot and 400 horse; but withal declaring, that otherwise he with his forces and creaghts should be obliged to save themselves in the other Provinces, and so get subsistence as well as they could".

The Council now promised to assist O'Neill by sending 6000 foot and 600 horse against Munro, but the old story of lack of co-operation amongst the Irish was repeated, for when the choice of a commander came to be considered, "contrary to O'Neill's expectation, who had designed this generalship for himself, by which he should be generalissimo", Castlehaven was chosen, which O'Neill naturally "took greatly to heart". "However," says Castlehaven, "he carried it fairly, and came to congratulate me, giving withal great assurances of his performance and readiness to serve me."

Castlehaven's campaign in Ulster resulted in nothing. He himself maintained that it kept the other three provinces "from being troubled either with Scots or Ulster people that year", but the lack of cohesion between the Leinster and the Ulster men served to make the invasion of Ulster by the forces of the Confederates a failure. There seems to have been, despite O'Neill's protestations of friendship, no genuine support given by him to Castletown, who was as ignorant of the natural conditions of the country into which he led his forces as were the British commanders in the initial stages of the war in South Africa of the region they had to traverse.

Castlehaven complains, in his account of the campaign, of the want of discipline in the forces he was called upon to command, the men having grown rusty during the time of comparative peace, "never seeing an officer till the next campaign", and therefore appearing when called upon "like new men half-charged ; and for the horse, so haggled out in riding up and down to see their friends, that they seemed hardly able to draw their legs after them; and both horse and foot with rusty arms, and not fixed". Making the most of such an army, which no doubt was an Irish equivalent of Falstaff's ragged regiment, the Irish commander marched, as ordered by the Supreme Council, "first into Connaught to reduce some of our own party, which had set up for themselves In the county of Mayo". He passed the Shannon with 2000 men, and quickly reduced these to obedience, and then, leaving the command to Sir James Dillon, he went to Kilkenny and set himself "to the great work, still having some mistrust of O'Neill's performance" of his promise to supply 4000 foot and 400 horse. "The first rendezvous", Castlehaven tells us, "that I made in order to this field, was 1644, about midsummer, in the county of Longford, at a place called Granard, where I had appointed 3000 horse and foot, with two or three field pieces, intending there to have expected the coming up of the whole army; for O'Neill was near encamped at Portlester, and the rest were marching as ordered." Only half his forces, however, had arrived when Munro's approach was announced. Munro advanced as far as Carlanstown Castle, which he burned; but finding that Castlehaven and O'Neill had joined forces, and finding his provisions running out, he again marched north.

"Now, then," says Castlehaven, "I was at leisure to call on General O'Neill for his 4000 foot and 400 horse, being resolved to follow the enemy, and try my fortune in Ulster, as I was designed to do. He excused himself by reason of the continual alarms in his country, that he could not at present make good his word; but withal, assuring me again, that so soon as I came into the Province, I should have no reason to complain. Having this assurance, I marched on with my 6000 foot and 1000 horse and dragoons; and O'Neill joined to me about 200 horse and 300 or 400 foot; his creaghts [herdsmen] marching with us, being all the Irish with their cattle of that Province.

"When he had drawn me on as far as Toinregoat [Tanderagee], I had intelligence that the enemy had revictualled themselves, and were returning to encounter me. Where- upon I pressed O'Neill very hard to make good his word; who plainly told me that he could not do it, alleging that his people were all amongst the creaghts, and everyone looking to save what he had."

Castlehaven then resolved to discover the whereabouts of the enemy himself, and, leaving O'Neill in command of the camp, he pushed on with 1000 horse and dragoons and 1500 foot, being led by guides supplied by O'Neill. At Drummore Iveagh he came upon Munro's quarters at sunrise, and some skirmishing ensued in which Castlehaven himself took part, but with no result, "the enemy at last drew off and so did I to my army".

O'Neill, on hearing that Munro was advancing, advised a retreat to Charlemont, to which Castlehaven agreed, encamping his horse at Benburb, the Scottish general fortifying himself at Armagh, "thus neither of us being able to engage the other, we lay in pretty good correspondence; and the small war we had was chiefly in cutting off convoys". During August and September little or nothing was done. One skirmish resulted in the taking of Captain Blair, and the killing of 100 Scots; in another, three of O'Neill's officers fell, which aroused O'Neill's ire, and he accused Colonel Ffennell of Castlehaven's horse of callously or cravenly looking on, making no attempt to save them or to avenge their death. When Castlehaven, tired of inactivity, returned to his own province, having achieved nothing 4< through the failing or something else of General Owen O'Neill", the Ulster leader went to Kilkenny and demanded an enquiry, repeating his remarks regarding Ffennell's failure to assist when help was needed, and drawing the attention of the Council to "a gentleman I see here, Lieutenant-Colonel Ffennell, with the feather, a cowardly cock, for seeing my kinsmen overpowered by the enemy, some of them hacked before his face, and a strong brigade of horse under his command, and never offered to relieve them". If O'Neill's request was acceded to, and an enquiry held, no record of it is extant.

During the three months in which Castlehaven and his troops were in Ulster, ostensibly to scare or to conquer the Scots, but succeeding in doing neither, the English garrisons maintained a commendable neutrality, and kept, to the very letter, the articles of cessation. No doubt this restraint was not endured without intense uneasiness, for inactivity to a soldier is most irksome, but nevertheless the Irish army was allowed to pass through the purely English districts without molestation. So strictly was the spirit of neutrality observed that Sir Henry Tichborne, on resigning the position of Lord Justice on Ormonde's becoming Lord-Lieutenant, and returning to Drogheda, was accused of not giving needed assistance to the army of Munro.

Tichborne defended himself, and in his defence threw some light on the situation: "When the Scotch forces advanced into Westmeath," he said, "returned by our quarters, and lodged at Atherdee, though they professed themselves opposite to our party, and had proffered some acts of hostility, yet did I not forbid nor hinder provision to be sent unto them, as some snarlers at all my actions have untruly suggested ; but the truth is, they abounded in all provisions, and staid at Atherdee but one night, insomuch that the drink and other necessaries, that several persons of Drogheda had provided, could not come time enough for them as desired.

"About eight or ten days after that the Scotch army," states Tichborne, "the Earl of Castlehaven and Owen Roe O'Neill, with all the Irish strength, came unto Atherdee, and remained in those parts, as I remember, about fourteen days; and during the time of their abode, they required the benefit of the market, for the buying of such provisions as were needful for them, and that the town and garrison might spare; which demand agreeing with the article of the cessation, could not be in reason absolutely denied by me, except I would draw their united forces on Drogheda, the garrison being weak and unable to oppose them. And this was a thing that was proposed amongst them by Owen Roe O'Neill, as I was informed. However, I cast in many rubs, and found several ways to delay their desire of commerce, until, at last, the Earl of Castlehaven sent his lieutenant-general to understand the reason of my backwardness, and to expostulate the matter with me at large; and then, indeed, I had direction from Dublin to grant them their desire; whereupon I sent for Mr. Alderman Geves, the present mayor of the town, and told him, in the presence of the lieutenant-general, that the articles of the cessation afforded free traffic for either party; and that a provident care being, in the first place, taken for the necessities of the town, the benefit of the market might be granted unto those that were without; and the lieutenant-general might appoint some one of the inhabitants of the town to buy such provisions for the use of the Irish army as could conveniently be spared. Whereupon he named one Dardis, who came unto me to know whether he might with safety, and without future blame, be employed by them, and I told him he might; for I was not willing that any of them should lodge in the town, or frequent our markets. The provision that they had was most drink. Of a hundred and sixty barrels of wheat bought for their use, I caused the moiety to be stopped. Some oatmeal they had, and coarse bread of beans and peas was carried forth by private persons to be sold unto them." All of which serves to prove the exact position of parties at the moment.


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