William Anderson O'Conor.

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But the anti-Irish feeling which had been created now barred the path
of compromise. Popular indignation burst out. Monk was compelled

1 Olanrickarde, according to Carte, Vol. III., p. 3S1.
= Carte, Vol. III., p. 473.


by his soldiers to resign, and his conduct on his return to London was
condemned by the very men who had prompted it. This treatment
sank deep into his mind, and bore the fruit of heavy retribution in after

Humbled by his defeat, Ormond made more decided overtures to
Owen,^ who, on hearing of the action at Rathmines had determined to
conclude a peace with him, but with punctilious honour waited till the
cessation he had made with Monk expired." The articles of the treaty
were completed on the twelfth of October. Owen was suffering from
severe illness at the time. He hastened his march, though he had to
be borne on a litter. His sickness increased, and he died on the sixth
of November, at Cloughouter in Cavan. While he lay dying he sent a
portion of his army to aid Ormond with advice how Cromwell could be
beaten without hazard. A banquet had been given in his honour at
Derry, at which it was said he received his death from the use of a pair
of poisoned boots, presented to him by a lady of the Coote family. A
person named Plunket, at Louth, also laid claim to the credit of the
deed. His health had broken down from a corresponding date. It
mattered not now who lost or won: the soldier who sought victory for
Ireland and could have won it, was dead.

He was dead, the Irishman who when his country was rent in body
and sovd by murderers and liars, never did an unjust or cruel act, nor
made a false promise, nor cherished a personal jealousy, nor yielded to a
selfish purpose. Towering above his contemporaries in military skill,
lie consented to serve under Castlehaven and Antrim for Ireland's sake.
Seeking friends for Ireland he gave way to no antipathies or preferences
under whatever name they sought shelter, but made alliances with
Puritans and Catholics alike. All men looked up to him and respected
him, and the Confederate lords hated and resisted him because they
were compelled to feel his superiority. The Protestant soldiers of
Inchiquin, indignant at their general's treachery, declared they would
make their way to the camp of Owen Roe. The confederates dared not
disband their superfluous forces, because they would flock to his
standard. Prince Rupert knew that the royal cause was safer with
Owen than with Ormond, and would co-operate only with him. He
stood alone and apart, so that Irishmen may see in him the one peerless
model for their imitation. He never changed. Inchiquin deserted the
king for the Pai-liament, and the Parliament for the king. Castlehaven
left the lords justices for the confederates, and the confederates for
Ormond. Broghil forsook the king for Cromwell. Coote and Monk
and Preston shifted from party to party. Ormond was faithful to no
interest but his own. Owen was motionless, while all the rest were in
motion. Yet he was the ally of the Confederates, the Parliamentarians,
and the Royalists. But it was they who gave way to him, not he to
them. He conciliated the bitterest foes of Ireland and Catholicism, and
the rejection of his treaty with Monk met a Nemesis without parallel in
history. While King and Parliament and Confederation, with the
prestige of authority, and the national resources at their command,

'■ Comp. Carte's " Collection of Letters," Vol. I., p. 317.
= Carte, Vol. III., p. 423.


could scarcely maintain their troops or hold them together, and all in
turn suffered defeat, Owen, by his superlative genius alone, during
seven years, made and led an army that never wanted provisions nor
mutinied, nor was forced to fight unless victory was secure, nor failed to
force a victory when it engaged. It was the only strictly Irish armed
and disciplined force that ever stood on Irish soil since the Anglo-
Norman came, and by it only should the military powers of the Irish at
home be judged. Led by Owen O'Neill, neither its coiu^age nor its
caution had ever encroached on each other. Had he survived it would
have exhausted the resources and baffled the generalship of Cromwell.
A single fragment of it sent him half paralysed from Ireland at last.



Section T.

On the sixth of February, 1649, the government of England was vested
in a Council of thirty-eight members, with Cromwell as President. The
rebellion had been conducted to this successful issue in the name and by
the power of religion. The army might be regarded as an embodiment of
fanaticism. The problem before Cromwell now was how to move this con-
crete religious force towards the personal ends to which he had shaped the
religious theory and conviction of his own soul. On the twenty-sixth
of February a petition was presented by a portion of the army to
Parliament, asking for a redress of grievances. This was treated as a
breach of discipline. The soldiers then petitioned Fairfax, denouncing
the Coimcil of State as destructive of freedom. The petitioners were
tried by court-martial and dismissed the army. Complaints arose
throughout the country that two or three military grandees had usurped
the Government. This was simply the fact; but it was not the turn
that events had taken, but the discovery of it that was new. A landlord
Parliament had entered into a contest against the prerogatives of the
Crown on their own behalf. As the strife advanced it narrowed to a
struggle for life. The leaders of the Parliament were haunted by the
ghastly terrors of the treason law, which they knew the king would
direct against them when he got the opportunity. They saved them-
selves for the time, and only for the time, by beheading him, and seized
his power as their pi'ey. The nation felt its hopes disappointed, but the
Parliamentary leaders never had entertained the hopes of the nation.

In April a body of men known as levellers appeared in Surrey,
inviting all to come and help them, threatening to pull down pai'k pales,
and declaring that the liberties of the people were lost by the coming in
of William the Conqueror, and that ever since their forefathei's had lived
luider tyranny. A few days after a mutiny broke out in the army. One
of the leaders was executed in St. Paul's Churchyard. His funeral was
celebrated with all the pomp of national mourning, and thousands of
men in rank and file followed the hearse. In May several regiments
mutinied and marched to Oxford. They were pursued by Cromwell, who
seized and executed their leaders. Colonel Lilburne, who appealed to
the country through the press, was lodged in prison. British and Saxon
England was pining for freedom as the Ii'ish people were pining for it,
and was silenced as the Irish were about to be silenced.

Cromwell was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by the Parlia-
ment. Early in July a devotional meeting was held at Whitehall.
Three ministers prayed, and Cromwell and others expounded scripture.
On the same afternoon the Lord Lieutenant began his journey in such


state and equipage as had scarcely ever been seen. He himself rode in
a coach drawn by six whitish-grey Flanders mares. Several other
coaches, containing the great officers of the army, accompanied him.
His life-guard consisted of eighty gallant men, in stately habits, the
meanest of them a commander or esquire. While this unparalleled
pageantry dazzled the eyes of the croAvd, their ears were stunned by
continual blasts of trumpets.

In the middle of August the Lord Lieutenant landed at Dublin with
eight thousand foot, four thousand horse, and a formidable train of
artillery. On Sunday, the ninth of September, he began to batter the walls
of Drogheda with his cannon. On Tuesday, having made a sufficient
breach, his soldiers assaulted the place, and after two repulses offered
quarter, and w^ere admitted on those terms. The garrison, consisting of
between three and four thousand of the king's best men, were English,
and the governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, was an Englishman.^ Learning
from Jones that they formed the strength of the king's army, Cromwell
ordered that no quarter should be given. The governor and chief
officers had their brains beaten out in cold blood, and the soldiers and
inhabitants were indiscriminately massacred. Multitudes took refuge in
St. Peter's Church, and were killed there. When pursuing their victims
up the galleries of the church, the assailants used children as bucklers
to ward off the blows aimed at them from above. All the women of
every rank had hidden themselves in the vaults, and were slaughtered
when the work in the church was finished. One of them, a beautiful
maiden clad in costly garments, moved a person named Wood, brother
of Anthony Wood, a well-known author, to pity by her entreaties. He
was helping her to escape, when a soldier ran his sword through her,
and her protector took away her money and jewels. Every man, woman,
and child within the walls were killed except thirty, who were sent to
Barbadoes and sold as slaves. There is a special reason why an adequate
conception should be made possible of the storm and massacre of
Drogheda. It was intended, it is said, to quell resistance by one stern
overwhelming blow, to appal by letting run a torrent of blood. If this
design did not succeed, it must be showia that the cause of the failure
lay in the souls of the men who could not be terrified, and not in any
half measures on the part of the ten*orists. Instead of spreading terror,
the massacre of Drogheda planted an ineradicable and eternal spirit of
defiance in the heart of Ireland to the act itself, and to every subsequent
event nominally associated with it. It is a singular fact that the fiercest
rage of indignation that Irishmen feel is excited by the murder of an
English army, engaged in the cause of an English king, at the hands of
an army of English rebels. The explanation is that they hear it
continually avowed that this deed was done to criish the spirit and ruin
the hopes of their country.

In his letter to the Parliament, giving an account of the storm of
Drogheda, Cromwell says he is persuaded that the massacre was the
righteous judgment of God upon those barbarous wretches, who imbrued
their hands in so much innocent blood. It is very difficult to gauge the

' See Carte's " Collection of Letters," Vol. II., pp. 397, 403, 411. Memoirs of E. Ludlow,
Vol. L, p. 301.



amount and the quality of the falsehood that is contained in tliis
sentence. It was consistent to excuse murder by referring to an
imaginary crime that was imagined for that very purpose. But Cromwell
knew that the English garrison of Drogheda had no share in or
connection with the Ulster insui-rection. It cannot be pleaded for
him that he was hurried away by a vengeance like that of the earthquake,
which buries innocent and guilty alike, because it was by his special
command that General Monk made an agreement with Owen O'Neill,
the responsibility of which, when the Parliament would not tolerate it,
he induced Monk to take npon himself^ He had been anxious for the
alliance of that Ulster army, by contact with which the king's army,
according to his own words, had imbrued their hands in so much
innocent blood ; and he actually made an attempt to win over Owen Roe
to his party by flattering offers, which were rejected on the express
ground of fidelity to the Crown."

It is in vain to say that Cromwell used the extreme right of conquest.
Was Ireland a conquered country? One of the charges that in England
brought Wentworth to the scaffold was that he declared Ireland to be a
conquered country.'^ One of the charges brought by the lords justices
in Ireland against the confederates was that they denied Ireland to be a
conquered country. And for whom are the privileges of conquest in
Ireland claimed? Assuredly not for the man whose dead body was
afterwai'ds hanged by the public executioner as that of a traitor and
regicide. Cromwell was not fighting against an Irish cause, but against
the cause of an English king in Ireland.

It is the nature of civilised warfore that a smaller or worse armed
force may meet a more powerful army, and suffer defeat without forfeiting
to the conquerors the right to exist. All the chivalry of war depends
on this understanding. A brave man is ready to fight under disad-
vantages, because it is assumed that those disadvantages signalise his
soldierly qualities in proportion as they imperil his triumph. Conquered
men are not criminals, nor conquerors executioners. A brave soldier
would not condescend to contend with an army of hangmen. No con-
sideration of this kind weighed with Cromwell. His was something-
more than the divine right of kings. "It was set upon some of our
hearts," he writes to the Parliament, " that a great thing should be
done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God. That which
caused your men to storm so courageously, it was the Spirit of God, who
gave your men courage and took it away again ; and gave the enemy
courage, and took it away again ; and gave your men courage again, and
therewith this happy success ; and therefore it is good that God alone
have all the glory." ^ It is certainly very convenient to have a god to
whom we can ascribe the glory of our crimes, while we keep their solid
fruits for ourselves. It did not occur to Cromwell to make his country's
freedom an offering to God,

The model with which he satisfied his conscience was the slaughter
of the Canaanites by the people of Israel. That barbarous episode in

* Gumble's "Life of General Monk," p. i'i.
- Carte's " Collection of Letters," Vol. I., p. 29S.
•" See Pym's SiJeech against him.
■• Comp. "Pacata Hibernia," p. 192.


the history of a nation tliat had misapprehended the Divine favour, and,
as the result, was hastening to the worst slavery and the greatest crime
that the world ever witnessed, has, with a perversity found only in
religious subjects, been singled out for approval and admiration. It is
an axiom in religious politics that the final catastrophe of Judaism
exposed and condemned the whole previous history of the nation. The
Jordan of Jewish life, it is seen, had been running into a Dead Sea.
The only example it has left which has found imitators is the massacre
of the Canaanites. The nations have been held back by this example
almost in as great a degree as Christianity has led them forward.

Cromwell's hope lay not in his power to strike terror, but in
spreading treachery and disunion among the king's forces, and in their
want of a single competent or trusted leader. The soldiers had no
confidence in Ormond or Inchiquin, who had already betrayed their
cause. The Catholics, with good reason, regarded Ormond as their
unrelenting enemy. The emissaries of the Parliamentary general were
busy in corrupting the garrisons of the towns. He won the good will
of the people, and secured provisions for his army by preventing
plunder, and promising that everyone should enjoy liberty of religion.^
There was nothing firm in Ireland to oppose him save the fragments
of Owen Roe's orphaned army.

After some unimportant captures, Cromwell attacked Wexford, was
treacherously admitted by Strafford, the Catholic governor of the castle,
and made as great a slaughter as had been made at Drogheda. Some
of the Ulster troops, heartbroken at the loss of their matchless general,
now recruited Ormond. Cromwell moved towards Kilkenny, but the
new army was at hand, and he changed his purpose. He attacked
Waterford, but abandoned the attempt in disorderly haste when
Ormond appeared.- He was at this critical moment joined by Lord
Broghil, who obtained for him the adhesion of all the garrisons in the
county of Cork, and provided comfortable winter quarters for his army.^
The well founded mistrust of the Catholics forced Ormond to disband
his troops. Eleven hundred Ulstermen, under Hugh O'Neill, nephew
to Owen, entered Clonmel.

Cromwell once more took the field, and approached Fethard. So
far was the garrison from being terror stricken that they fired on his
trumpeter, and during a full hour refused to hear him. Some mutual
acquaintances in both armies at last came together, and after a night
spent in treaty, the town was surrendered on what Cromwell described
as terms usually called honourable. The governor of Cashel yielded
the keys of the town. The soldiers at Gouran mutinied and delivered
up their officers, who were shot the next day. A few days before
Castlehaven had taken seven hundred Parliamentary soldiers prisoners
at Athy, and made a present of them to Cromwell, desiring, by letter,
that he would return the favour when he had the power.'* The king's
forces w^ere more hopelessly divided than ever. Some of the towns
positively refused to admit Protestant garrisons. Others were garrisoned

1 Carte, Vol. III., p. 489.

» Ibid., p. 508.

^ Ibid., p. 513.

* Castlehaveu's "Memoirs," p. 99.


by traitors, -who submitted. Kilkenny, vainly assailed by treachery,
was besieged, and though defended by only five hundred men, extorted
honourable terms of surrender.

Clonmcl was next invaded. Here, for the first time, Cromwell came
into actual conflict with the soldiers of the dead northern chief. A breach
was made, and an entrance attempted, but the Irish issued forth, and
two thousand of Cromwell's murderers had the unmerited honour of
fallinc before the veterans of Owen Roe. Cromwell did not venture
anoth'er assault, but tried a blockade. Hugh O'Neill having spent all
his ammunition and provisions, and seeing no prospect of relief, withdrew
his o-arrison by night, and the townsmen keeping their secret made good
conditions, and surrendered on the eighteenth of May, 1650. Cromwell
returned to England, leaving his son-in-law, Ireton, in command.
Wherever he met a remnant of the army of the north lie was foiled.
His spirit was broken in the last encounter at Clonmel. There is not a
doubt but that if Owen Roe O'Neill had lived he would have saved
Cromwell from the infamy of blood that will eternally attach to his name.
Though dead he avenged it.

The importance of the siege of Clonmel as showing the failure of
Cromwell's terrorism, and stripping his high-handed murder of the halo
of omnipotence, is seen in the pains taken to suppress the fiicts. Ludlow,
who explains the carnage at Drogheda as intended to discourage others
from making opposition, is careful not to specify the opposition made at
Clonmel. He only says that the Irish made good their breach till night
parted the dispute, when the enemy, perceiving that the besiegei-s were
resolved to reduce the place, beat a parley, and sent out commissioners
to treat. He thus ascribes the capitulation to the courage of the attack,
and represents it as having taken place on the night of, and in conse-
quence of, the storm.^ In reality the surrender did not take place for
some weeks after the assault, and only when forced by want of food and
ammunition ; and in the meantime, as Leland- informs us, Cromwell,
harassed and enfeebled by delay, made the most pressing instances to
Lord Bi'Oghil to hasten to his assistance. Carlyle, wlio increases the
number of Ulstcrmen present to two thousand from little more than
half that number, is totally silent about the two thousand Cromwellian
soldiers who fell, and quoting from a letter what he calls the solid
account of an eye-witness and hand-actor, gives us to understand that
the Irish were the principal losers in the conflict, and that the surrender
took place the same night. This eye-witness and hand-actor dates his
letter on May the tenth, and says that they entered Clonmel that same
morning, after having stormed the town on the ninth. ^ Carlyle is very
painstaking and ingenious in his efforts to establish a supremacy in blood-
spilling for his hero. He further quotes his eye-witness as telling how they
pursued the retreating Ulster soldiers, fell upon their rear of stragglers,
and killed above two hundred, besides those they slew in the storm. In the
storm they did not slay, but were slain, and the two hundred stragglers,
brought in to swell the tale, were mostly women." In prostituted

1 "Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow, Esq.," pp. 303 and 307.

2 Leland's " History of Ireland," Vol. IIL, p. 362. Comp. Carte, III., p. r>ZS.

3 Carlyle 's "Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations,' Vol. II., p. 147.
« "Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland," Vol. II , p. 412.


enthusiasm, in brutal buffoonery, and in moral turpitude there is not
tliroughout English literature a more monstrous and disgraceful produc-
tion than the Irish portion of Carlyle's "Life of Cromwell." Froude,
who suppresses all mention of Benburb, in which a purely Irish army
contended against English and Scotch, and afterwards, in reference to
the battle of the Boyne, a conflict of mingled nationalities, affirms that
the English always defeated the Irish, also omits the siege of Clonmel.
He is thus able to exalt the efficacy of murder by saying that the terrible
blows at Drogheda and Wexford virtually ended the war.^ We might
imagine that Ludlow was ignorant of Avhat occurred if we had not his own
testimony to his vivid knowledge of the truth. Wlien giving an account
of the surrender of Limerick, he informs us how Ireton, on account of
the blood formerly shed at Clonmel,- twice induced the court-martial to
condemn Hugh O'Neill to death, and refrained from executing the
sentence only in consequence of the dissatisfaction of some of his officers.

The manner in which Irish history has been Avritten is an essential
part of a true history of the people of Ireland, Murder is not God's
thunderbolt. They who represent it so to be are authorising others to
hurl it. The elaborate efforts that are made to represent the Irish as
Aveak and contemptible prove that they who make them believe just the
contrary, and only provoke the men thus falsely described to refute the
error in the only language their opponents seem capable of understanding,
Cromwell massacred the garrisons of Drogheda and Wexford simply to
deprive the king's cause of so many soldiers. His success was not
caused by teiTor, but chiefly by the death of Owen Roe, and then by the
defection of Lord Broghil from the king, the desertion of Inchiquin's
Protestant troops, the Catholic mistrust of Ormond, and the universal
mistrust of Charles. He took his departure from Ireland beaten, it
must be repeated, by a remnant of the only Irish army of the time. The
cause that was lost was the royal cause, and the only soldiers Avho aided
it by their victories and honoured it by their fidelity were men who, with
the restoration of their king, sought an independent parliament and a
free religion.

Section II.

Loyalty stands somewhat in the relation to patriotism that idolatry
does to spiritual worship. In times of prosperity the warmth of personal
interest, and in times of adversity disinterested zeal, blind the patriot
to the occasional deformity of his idol. It is always too heavy a demand
on the imagination of an Irishman to require him to love his country in
the person of an English monarch, whom he knows only as the repre-
sentative of the system that oppresses her. In subsequent times the
political hopes and the poetical visions of the nation clustered round the
ruined Stuart cause in undying verdure, but now the deformity of the
idol was too apparent. The royal interest could not lift its leading
supporters above their sectional motives. Rash and brilliant actions
Avere performed, but they were withovit counsel or support. Heber
MacMahon, Bishop of Clogher, raised to the command of the northern
army for his popularity and not for his fitness, Avith far inferior forces,
and from an inferior position, engaged Sir Charles Coote, was defeated,

» Froude's "English in Ireland," VoL I., p. 127.
" " Ludlow," p. 374.


taken prisoner, and put to deatli. While Cromwell was blockading
Clonmel, some troops coming to raise the siege were scattered, and tlie
Bishop of Ross among others taken prisoner by Lord Broghil. His life
was offered to him if he would advise the garrison of a neighbouring
castle to submit. Being brought within hearing he advised the soldiers
to hold out manfully, and was hanged. Tecroghau was besieged by
Colonel Reynolds, and was gallantly recruited by a division of Castle-

Online LibraryWilliam Anderson O'ConorHistory of the Irish people → online text (page 24 of 39)