The Siege of Dunboy

Don Juan spoke contemptuously of the Irish after the defeat at Kinsale, though he was the main cause of it, and he professed to be enamoured of the English, his late enemies. In an interview with Sir William Godolphin he expresses himself in the following style:—

“I have found in your viceroy a sharp and powerful opponent, yet an honourable enemy; in the Irish not only weak and barbarous, but (as I feared) perfidious friends. I am so far in my affection reconciled to the one and distasted to the other, that I invite you to an overture which will be profitable to the state of England, and little prejudicial to the crown of Spain.”

After having settled all his affairs for embarkation, he went to Cork, where he was the guest of Mountjoy. On the 10th of February, Carew heard that a pinnace arrived in a western port with letters from the King of Spain to the Spanish General. He hastens with the news to the Deputy, and asks him if he would desire to know the nature of the correspondence. The Deputy assures him that his heart is itching to have the letters in his hands, and prays the President to intercept them if he can handsomely doe it. Sir George sends for Captain Nuce, and tells him to select a few trusty soldiers, and deck them out like bandits, and rob the messenger of letters, money, and horses, and leave him and his guide bound by the wayside. The orders were faithfully carried out, and the messenger was bound, but soon released by parties who passed by. The messenger reached Cork that evening, and Don Juan happened to be dining with the deputy. On learning the news he complains to his host that the messenger had been robbed by soldiers of goods and letters. The deputy is very sorry; “debaucht soldiers” is a common thing in every army, but he suspects it was done by country thieves. Don Juan has a “vehemt suspicion ” of Carew, and urges the deputy to inquire of him. The Lord Deputy answers:—

“Upon his faith he was sure the president had them not; which he might well doe, for they were in his own possession.”

After the battle of Kinsale, the Irish Chieftains held a council of war, whereat it was decided that O’Neill should go to Ulster to defend the Northern province, O’Donnell to Spain, and O’Sullivan was to guard the interests of the South. On the nth of January, 1602, Don Juan not only capitulated for the garrisons of Baltimore and Castlehaven, but also for Dunboy.

Captain Roger Harvey and Captain Flower had been commissioned on the 10th of January to take possession of those fortresses. Harvey was successful in taking possession of Baltimore and Castlehaven, but Flower failed to reach Dunboy by reason of foul weather and contrary winds. He lost fifty of the soldiers he had on board and all his crew, except seven, from some infection.

O’Sullivan hastened to Dunboy and arrived safely, but he was refused admittance to his own castle. In the night, however, he mined his way into a weak spot of the castle which he well knew, bringing with him 84 men, among whom were the Jesuit, James Archer; Thomas Fitz-Maurice, Lord of Lixnaw; Donnell MacCarthy, Richard Tyrell, Captain William Burke, and Dominic Collins, a friar. A thousand brave soldiers were within gun-shot outside.

At the dawn of day, Archer knocked at the door of Savadra, the officer in command, and requests his presence in “O’Sullivan’s Chambers.” He comes, and is informed that the Irish are in possession of the castle, that they would guard it for King Philip, that there was no use in resistance since they had a thousand men abroad within musket shot, whom they could call to their assistance if needed. Savadra was bewildered, and a few of his men discharged a shot or two, killing three Irishmen. The Spaniards were then disarmed, and sent to Baltimore, but some gunners, by request, remained behind; there was no compulsion in their regard.

Don Juan de Aquilla, on hearing of the surprise of the castle, became enraged, and took it as an affront, and felt his honour compromised. He thought he was in honour bound to go back and retake the castle, and give it into the hands of her majesty. Mountjoy and Carew suggested that it was not his fault that the castle was surprised, that he need not trouble about it, for “they were desirous to see his heels towards Ireland.”

Donnell O’Sullivan Beare, writing to King Philip on February 20th, 1602, says:—

“I came to their presence, tendering my obeysance to them, in the name of your majesty, and being with four hundred at my own cost, towards your service I yielded out of my mere love and good will without compulsion or composition, into their hands, in the name of your majesty, not only my castle and haven, called Bearehaven, but also my wife, my children, my country, lordships, and all my possessions, for ever to be disposed of at your pleasure.

“They received me in that manner, and promised (as from your highness) to keep and save the said castle and haven during the service of your grace. Notwithstanding, my gracious lord, conclusions of peace Was assuredly agreed upon, betwixt Don Juan de Aquila and the English, a fact pitiful, and (according to my judgment) against all right and human conscience. Among other places, whereof your greatness was dispossessed, in that manner which were neither yielded nor taken to the end they should be delivered to the English, Don Juan tied himself to deliver my castle and haven, the only key of my inheritance, whereupon the living of many thousand persons doth rest, that live some twenty leagues upon the sea coast, into the hands of my cruel cursed, misbelieving enemies, a thing, I fear, in respect of the execrableness, inhumanity, and ungratefulness of the fact, if it take effect, as it was plotted, that will give cause to other men, not to trust any Spaniard hereafter, with their bodies or goods upon those causes.”

O’Sullivan placed a garrison in Dunboy under Richard McGeoghegan, and placed three Spanish guns and sixty men on Dursey Island, where there was a fort built by his uncle Dermot. He had about 2,000 followers altogether under the command of Richard Tyrell. He captured during the winter his cousin’s Castle of Cariganass.

On the 9th of March, 1602, Carew despatched the Earl of Thomond to Bantry and Beare, and gave him some definite instructions. He was to leave no means untried to get Donnell O’Sullivan Beare into his hands. He was to give all the comfort he could to Owen O’Sullivan. “Have special care,” he says, “to prosecute and plague the O’Crowleys who assisted Dermot Moyle MacCarthy. Sir Owen MacCarthy’s sons, if they be well handled, will prove the best instruments of doing so, as he stands between them and the lord of the country.”

Mountjoy, writing to the English Council, says:—

“As for Finan O’Driscoll, O’Donovan, and the two sons of Sir Owen MacCarthy, they and their fellows, since their coming in, are grown very odious to the rebels in these parts, and are so well divided in factions amongst themselves as they are fallen to preying and killing one another, which we conceive will much avail to the quieting of these parts.”

Thomond did his best to carry out the instructions, and marched as far as Bantry, where he learned that the Irish under Tyrell and O’Sullivan had occupied a strong position near Glengariff. The sons of Owen O’Sullivan and O’Donovan were at the time assisting the Earl,who, leaving a garrison of 700 men on Whiddy Island, thought it the wisest course to return immediately to Cork.

Meanwhile, O’Sullivan was not idle. He cut off the Whiddy garrison from all outside aid, and harrassed them so that they had to abandon the island, and to set out for Cork. O’Sullivan, with his cousin Owen, pursued the retreating army and captured their baggage, and would have destroyed them had they not met Carew’s army at the nick of time.

Carew, recovering from a severe illness, and still feeble and weak, and acting contrary to the pressing advice of friends, who urged on him the hopelessness of the enterprise, representing that Dunboy Castle was impregnable, that there were no roads, no bridges, leading to it, that the country was rough and rocky, with many narrow passes where a few determined men could destroy a whole army, started from Cork on the 20th of April, 1602, with 3,000 men. On the 30th the army arrived at Dunamark, where stood a castle built some hundred years before by an ancestor of Sir George. Here the army remained for a whole month awaiting the arrival of the ships, which were to bring victuals, munition, and ordnance.

In the meantime Carew sent for Sir Charles Wilmot, who was operating in Kerry with about 1,500 men, to join him—a movement which Tyrell and his men did their best to prevent, by occupying the passes south of Killarney. They kept him off for some time, but on the 12th of May he performed a remarkable feat, making a night march over Mangerton mountain, and then pushing on to Inchigeela. Carew joined hands with him at Cariganass on the 13th of May. Tyrell was forced to retire before superior force.

On the 1st of May, Captain Taaffe made a foray with a troop of horse, and brought in 300 cows, a great number of sheep, and some horses. On the 3rd the sons of Owen O’Sullivan made a foray, and brought into the English camp 50 cows and many sheep. There was no compensation in such cases, and many innocent men were robbed of their property. We infer there was no poverty at the time, as there could not be where there were so many cattle. On the 7th of May Carew wrote the following letter to the gunners in Dunboy:—

“A letter from the Lord President to the Spanish Cannoniers in Dunboy.

“When Don Juan de Aquila (General for the Spanish Armie in Ireland) departed from the Citie of Corke, having a care of your safeties, requested mee to favour you, saying that contrary to your willes the traytor Donnell O’Sullivan (by force) held you in his Castle of Dunboy, there to serve him as cannoniers, I now calling to mind his desire (in the love I beare him, being so great a captaine, and so honourable a person as he is), and in consideration of the promise I made him, doe write this letter unto you, promising (for the reasons before mentioned) that when I shall sit downe (with my forces) before the castle (where you are) if then you will quitt the same and come unto mee. I will by the faith of a gentleman and a Christian, make good my promise to Don Juan de Aquila, not onley to secure you in coming to mee, and in the like safetie to bee with mee, but also to relieve and supply your wants, and likewise at your pleasure, to accommodate you with a ship, and my passport, safely to passe into Spaine, in such manner as hath been already accomplished to the rest of the Spanyards that are returned to their countrey.

“This above written I am obliged by my promise to Don Juan to fulfill. But if you have a desire to finde or receive further favours at my hands, you may with facilitie deserve it, that is, when you leave the Castle to cloy the ordnance, or maybe their carriages, that when they shall have need of them,they may prove uselesse, for the which I will forthwith liberally recompense you answerable to the qualitie of your merit.

“Lastly, if there bee in your companies any strangers (English and Irish excepted), which are likewise by force held (as you are) these my letters shall be sufficient to secure their repaire to me, and also to depart, as hath beene before mentioned, condionally, that you and they present yourselves unto mee, before our ordnance shall begin to batter the Castle of Dunboy aforesaid. But if on your part default be made, I holde myselfe clearely acquitted of my promise made to Don Juan, and to be free from breach of faith on my part, and you ever after incapable of this favour of my promised offer. Returne me your answer by this bearer in writing, or by some other in whom you have more confidence.”

“From the Campe neere Bantrie, the Seventh of May, 1602.

“To the Spaniards held by force in the Castle of Dunboy.”

This letter, which is characteristic of Carew and his methods, produced no effect on the Spanish cannoniers, which proves that they were not detained by force.

On the 31st of May the army left Carew Castle and marched towards Bantry, and encamped that night a little further on on the Carbery shore. A strong garrison was placed on Whiddy Island.

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