Oliver Cromwell

Cromwell, Oliver, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, was born at Huntingdon, of an ancient and respectable family, 25th April 1599.

With the purpose of bringing Ireland under the power of the Parliament, Cromwell was, early in 1649, appointed Lord-Lieutenant, and left London for his command on 10th July.

We are told that “he went forth in that state and equipage as the like hath hardly been seen; himself in a coach, with six gallant Flanders mares, whitish gray, divers coaches accompanying him, and very many great officers of the army. His life-guard, consisting of eighty gallant men, the meanest whereof a commander or esquire, in stately habit, with trumpets sounding, almost to the shaking of Charing-cross, had it been now standing. Of his life-guard, many are colonels, and, believe me, it’s such a guard as is hardly to be paralleled in the world.”

Four days afterwards he entered Bristol, where he was delayed a fortnight, partly by the unwillingness of some of his soldiers to proceed further—partly by the necessary preparations for the campaign; thence by Tenby and Pembroke, where his forces were increased from the garrison, he marched to Milford Haven.

On 13th August, he set sail for Dublin in the John, with a fleet of transports carrying 4,000 horse, and 8,000 foot. The wind being favourable, he landed at Ringsend the second day following.

On his arrival, Carlyle tells us “he was received with all possible demonstrations of joy; the great guns echoing forth their welcome, and the acclamations of the people resounding in every street. The Lord-Lieutenant being come into the city—where the concourse of people was very great, they all flocking to see him of whom before they had heard so much—at a convenient place he made a stand, … and with his hat in his hand, made a speech to them, … which was entertained with great applause.” (It is right to note that Catholics were not then permitted to reside in the city.)

Within a few days Cromwell was joined by other detachments of troops, and found himself ready to take the field at the head of a well-appointed army of some 17,000 men, amply supplied with artillery and military stores, and a military chest of £200,000.

His generals were Ireton, Jones, Monk, Henry Cromwell, Blake, Ludlow, Waller, and Sankey.

On 24th August he issued a proclamation, notifying he had assumed the supreme command, and promising protection until January to all “well-minded persons” who were willing to supply the army with provisions at a fair rate, and stay peaceably in their homes.

The 15th to the 31st was mainly occupied in resting and drilling the troops; upon the latter date he took the larger division of the army across the Liffey, and encamped near Finglas.

The following day he marched for Drogheda, the possession of which was of the first importance—it being an open seaport, barring communication with the north.

Ormond had entrusted the command to Sir Arthur Ashton, an Englishman, who had distinguished himself at home and abroad, had served under King Sigismund against the Turks, had led the Royalist cavalry at Edgehill, and had been Governor of Oxford.

The garrison of Drogheda consisted of 3,500 men, mostry Irish. Cromwell arrived before the town on 3rd September, and put his batteries into position. Upon the 10th he opened fire, his summons to surrender being disregarded.

What follows cannot be better told than in his own words:

“Upon Tuesday, the 10th of this instant, about five o’clock in the evening, we began the storm; and after some hot dispute we entered, about 700 or 800 men; the enemy disputing it very stiffly with us—and indeed, through the advantages of the place, and the courage God was pleased to give the defenders, our men were forced to retreat quite out of the breach, not without considerable loss; Colonel Castle being there shot in the head, whereof he presently died; and divers officers and soldiers doing their duty killed and wounded. There was a tenalia to flanker the south wall of the town, between Duleek Gate and the corner tower before mentioned, which our men entered. Wherein they found some 40 or 50 of the enemy, which they put to the sword; and this tenalia they held; but it being without the wall, and the sally-port through the wall into that tenalia being choked up with some of the enemy which were killed in it, it proved of no use for an entrance into the town that way. Although our men that stormed the breaches were forced to recoil, … yet being encouraged to recover their loss, they made a second attempt, wherein God was pleased so to animate them, that they got ground of the enemy, and, by the goodness of God, forced him to quit his entrenchments; and after a very hot dispute—the enemy having both horse and foot, and we only foot, within the wall—they gave ground, and our men became masters both of their retrenchments and of the church; which indeed, although they made our entrance the more difficult, yet they proved of excellent use to us; so that the enemy could not now annoy us with their horse; but thereby we had advantage to make good the ground, that so we might let in our own horse, which accordingly was done, though with much difficulty. … Divers of the enemy retreated into the Mill Mount, a place very strong and of difficult access, being exceedingly high, having a good graft, and strongly palisaded. The Governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, and divers considerable officers being there, our men getting up to them were ordered by me to put them all to the sword. And indeed, being in the heat of action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town; and I think that night they put to the sword about 2,000 men.”

Sir Arthur Ashton was killed among the first; “he had his brains beaten out,” says one who was present, “and his body hacked and chopped to pieces.” Sir Edward Varney, Colonels Warren, Fleming, and Byrne, were slain.

“I don’t believe” writes Cromwell, “that any officer escaped with his life, save only one lieutenant, who, I hear, going to the enemy said that he was the only man that escaped of all the garrison.”

As every part of the town was commanded from the Mill Mount, further resistance was useless; Cromwell’s troops poured in through the breaches, crossed the bridge, and were soon in possession of the whole of the north side. The work of slaughter was continued. Hugh Peters, Cromwell’s chaplain, who gave the first account of the victory to the Parliament, sets down the number of the garrison at 3,350—none spared.

“About 100 of them,” says Cromwell, “possessed St. Peter’s Church steeple, … these being summoned to yield to mercy, refused, … whereupon I ordered the steeple … to be fired, when one of them was heard to say in the midst of the flames, … ‘I burn, I burn.’ The next day the other two towers were summoned, in one of which was about six or seven score; but they refused to yield themselves, and we, knowing that hunger must compel them, set only good guards to secure them from running away. … Notwithstanding their condition, they killed and wounded some of our men. When they submitted, their officers were knocked on the head, every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes. The soldiers in the other tower were all spared as to their lives only, and shipped likewise for the Barbadoes. … I believe all their friars were knocked on the head promiscuously but two—the one of which was Father Peter Taaff, brother to the Lord Taaff, whom the soldiers took the next day and made an end of; the other was taken in the round tower under the repute of a lieutenant, and when he understood that the officers in that tower had no quarter, he confessed he was a friar, but that did not save him. … Now give me leave to say how it comes to pass that this work is wrought. It was set upon some of our hearts 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 therewith this happy success; and therefore it is good that God alone have all the glory. … I wish that all honest hearts may give the glory of this to God alone, to whom, indeed, the praise of this mercy belongs. … I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret.”

The Parliament, on the receipt of the news, appointed a thanksgiving day, and voted a letter of thanks to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and to the army, “in which notice was to be taken that the House did approve of the execution done at Drogheda, as an act of justice to them [that were slain], and of mercy to others who may be warned by it.”

There is sufficient evidence that several women and children were sacrificed in the slaughter at Drogheda. The massacre had the desired effect. “It spread abroad,” says Carte, “the terror of his name; it cut off the best body of the Irish troops, and disheartened the rest to such a degree, that it was a greater loss in itself and much more fatal in its consequences, than the rout at Rathmines.”

Drogheda was taken on 11th September.

On the 13th Colonel Chidley Coote was despatched with two regiments of horse and one of foot, to Dundalk.

The Ulster Scotch, who garrisoned the place, retired by Ormond’s order. Ulster was then open. Venables took up Coote’s command, and strengthened by another regiment of foot and two troops of dragoons, pressed north to effect a junction with Sir Charles Coote, who was shut up in Derry.

Carlingford and Newry surrendered almost without a blow.

In a few days, Lisburn, Belfast, and Coleraine opened their gates, and before the end of September every port and every stronghold in the north, Carrickfergus excepted, was in the hands of the Parliamentary army.

Immediately after the capture of Drogheda, Cromwell returned to Dublin at the head of his division; and on 17th September he wrote to the Speaker, giving details of the northern successes, and urging that additional troops should be sent over to Ireland.

After a week’s rest, Cromwell proceeded southwards with 7,000 foot and 2,000 horse.

Before leaving Dublin he published, says Carte, “a proclamation forbidding his soldiers, on pain of death, to hurt any of the inhabitants, or to take anything from them without paying for it in ready money. This being strictly observed, and assurances given that they were for the liberties of the commoners; that everybody should enjoy the liberty of their religion; that those who served the market at the camp should pay no contribution; all the country people flocked to his camp with all kind of provisions: and due payment being made for the same, his army was much better supplied than ever any of the Irish had been.”

Upon the march, two soldiers were hung for stealing a chicken from a farm-house.

The capture of Wexford was indispensable for the reduction of the country. It was a seaport through which the Confederates obtained their principal supplies of arms and ammunition and kept up communication with the Continent. To have the support of his ships if necessary, Cromwell marched south by the sea road. He thus continues:

“The army marched from Dublin about the 23rd of September, into the County of Wicklow, where the enemy had a garrison about fourteen miles from Dublin, called Killincarrick, which they quitting, a company of the army was put therein. From thence the army marched through almost a desolated country, until it came to a passage over the river Doro [Avoca], about a mile above the Castle of Arklow, which … was upon the approach of the army quitted, wherein we left another company of foot. From thence the army marched towards Wexford, where in the way was a strong and large castle, at a town called Limbrick, the ancient seat of the Esmonds, where the enemy had a strong garrison, which they burnt and quitted the day before our coming thither. From thence we marched towards Ferns, an episcopal seat, where was a castle, to which I sent Colonel Reynolds with a party to summon it, which accordingly he did, and it was surrendered to him, where we having put a company, advanced the army to a passage over the river Slaney, which runs down to Wexford, and that night we marched into the fields of a village called Enniscorthy, belonging to Mr. Robert Wallop, where was a strong castle very well manned and provided for by the enemy. … We summoned the castle, and they refused to yield at the first, but upon the better consideration they were willing to deliver the place to us, which accordingly they did, leaving their great guns, arms, ammunition, and provisions.”

On 29th September his fleet appeared off Wexford, and on 1st October Cromwell with his army encamped before the walls, and on the 3rd he summoned the town to surrender.

General Jones, with a party of dragoons, captured the fort at Rosslare, on the 4th.

Several letters passed between Lieutenant-Colonel David Sinnott, the Governor of Wexford, and Cromwell. Although the town was invested closely on the south and west, Lord Iveagh managed to throw 1,500 men across the river, while Ormond advanced from Ross and succeeded in sending across Sir Edmund Butler, with 500 foot, and 100 horse. With these forces it was thought that Sinnott would be able to make a stout defence.

On the 11th, however, after Cromwell had bombarded the town for a few hours, Sinnott offered to surrender upon ten conditions, the chief of which were: the free exercise of their religion, and retention of church property; that he, with his army, should be allowed to march out with all the honours of war, and join the garrison of Ross; liberty to the inhabitants to leave for any other place they might desire, carrying away all their movable property; the corporate privileges of the mayor and burgesses to be preserved intact; that such inhabitants as should elect to remain, should be guaranteed all their property; finally, “that no memory remain of any hostility which was hitherto between the said town and castle, on the one part, and the Parliament or state of England, on the other part.”

Cromwell replied:

“I have had the patience to peruse your propositions, to which I might have returned an answer with some disdain. But, to be short, I shall give the soldiers and non-commissioned officers quarter for life, and leave to go to their several habitations with their wearing clothes, they engaging themselves to live quietly there, and to take up arms no more against the Parliament of England; and the commissioned officers quarter for their lives, but to render themselves prisoners. And as for the inhabitants, I shall engage myself that no violence shall be offered to their goods, and that I shall protect their town from plunder.”

Before Sinnott could consider these propositions, Cromwell had gained over Stafford, the commander of an outlying castle that commanded the walls, who admitted a number of Parliamentary troops. Seeing it thus occupied, the besieged abandoned the defence; the besiegers, crossed the walls without hindrance, by their scaling-ladders; the gates were thrown open, and Cromwell’s army poured in.

An attempt was made to prevent the advance of the cavalry, by placing ropes and chains across the streets.

The garrison retreated to the market-place, where the townspeople had gathered together.

“When they [his troops] were come into the market-place,” writes Cromwell, "the enemy making a stiff resistance, our forces brake them, and then put all to the sword that came in their way. Two boatfuls of the enemy attempting to escape, being overprest with numbers, sank, whereby were drowned near three hundred of them. I believe in all there was lost of the enemy not many less than two thousand; and I believe not twenty of yours from first to last of the siege. . . The town is now so in your power, that of the former inhabitants I believe scarce one in twenty can challenge any property in their houses. Most of them are run away, and many of them killed in this service, and it were to be wished that an honest people would come and plant here, where are very good houses and other accommodations fitted to their hands, which may by your favour be made of encouragment to them. . . Thus it hath pleased God to give into your hands this other mercy, for which, as for all, we pray God may have all the glory. Indeed your instruments are poor and weak, and can do nothing but through believing, and that is the gift of God also.”

The ordinary statements regarding the indiscriminate massacre of non-combatants at Wexford rest almost entirely upon the contents of a letter, written some fourteen years afterwards, to the Papal Nuncio, by Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns, who at the time of the capture of the town was lying ill, concealed in a neighbouring part of the country; while the tradition of the massacre of 300 women at the cross, was first mentioned by MacGeoghegan, in 1758.

Cromwell’s frankness would lead us to doubt the perpetration of any atrocities for which he does not give full credit to God.

The town proved a valuable prize. The Parliamentarians found 100 pieces of ordnance, a 34-gun frigate, two 20-gun frigates, besides other ships and vessels.

Six of the churches were demolished by Cromwell’s orders. The bells of Selskar, shipped to England, are said to be now in a Liverpool steeple.

On the 15th of October Cromwell left Wexford, and two days later encamped before New Ross. Ormond had sent General Taaffe with 1,500 foot to join the garrison of 1,000 foot, and hearing of Cromwell’s advance, he marched with his army towards Ross, and encamped on the other side of the river.

On his arrival before the town, Cromwell sent, on 17th October, the following summons to the Governor:

“Since my coming into Ireland, I have this witness for myself, that I have endeavoured to avoid the effusion of blood, having been before no place to which such terms have not been first sent as might have turned to the good and preservation of those to whom they were offered; this being my principle, that the people and places where I come may not suffer, except through their own wilfulness. To the end I may observe the like course with this place and people therein, I do hereby summon you to deliver the town of Ross into my hands, to the use of the Parliament of England.”

No answer being returned, early on the morning of Friday, the 19th, the large guns began to play. Soon after, when the Governor sent offering to treat, Cromwell again wrote:

“If you like to march away with those under your command, with their arms, bag and baggage, and with drums and colours, and shall deliver up the town to me, I shall give caution to perform these conditions, expecting the like from you. As to the inhabitants, they shall be permitted to live peaceably, free from the injury and violence of the soldiers.”

These terms were not accepted. The batteries still continued to play, and a breach was soon made. The men were ready to storm, when General Taaffe wrote again:

“There wants but little of what I would propose: which is, that such townsmen as have a desire to depart may have liberty within a convenient time to carry away themselves and goods, and liberty of conscience to such as shall stay; and that I may carry away such artillery and ammunition as I have in my command.”

Cromwell, in his reply, denied him the liberty of carrying away the artillery, and then went on:

“As for that which you mention concerning liberty of conscience, I meddle not with any man’s conscience; but if by liberty of conscience you mean a liberty to exercise the mass, I judge it best to use plain dealing, and to let you know where the Parliament of England have power that will not be allowed of. As for such of the townsmen who desire to depart and carry away themselves and goods (as you express), I engage myself that they shall have three months’ time so to do; and in the meantime shall be protected from violence in their persons and goods, as others under the obedience of Parliament.”

Taaffe felt himself unable to make further defence, and surrendered upon Cromwell’s terms, withdrawing most of his troops across the Barrow. Some 600 English soldiers in the town entered the service of the Parliament.

Then Cork and Youghal, Dungarvan, Bandonbridge, Baltimore, Castlehaven, and Cappoquin, surrendered before the 1st December, and received Parliamentary garrisons.

Cromwell’s steady successes completely disheartened the other parties then contending for the mastery in Ireland. He lay ill at Ross for some time after the surrender of the town, the Parliamentary fleet taking several rich prizes, and bringing them into the harbour. He employed part of his forces in making a bridge of boats to enable his army to pass across into the County of Kilkenny.

On the 15th November he sent Ireton and Jones to seize on Inistiogue. A party under Colonel Abbot attempted to fire the gates; whereupon the garrison fled and escaped across the river. Heavy rains did not allow the army to cross the river. They marched to Thomastown; but on arriving there they found the bridge broken down and a garrison left to defend the place. The main body returned to Ross, as their stock of provisions was exhausted.

Colonel Reynolds and Sir John Ponsonby were sent with some troops of horse, and captured Carrick-on-Suir.

Cromwell, recovered from his illness, left Ross on 21st of November, intending to march on Waterford by Carrick, and lay siege to that city. The castle of Knocktopher was summoned, and yielded without resistance. On the 23rd he entered Carrick, where he met Ponsonby, and as a reward for his services gave him the large tract of land that his descendant the Earl of Bessborough still holds. The next day he crossed the Suir at Carrick, and on the 24th arrived before Waterford with 5,000 foot and 2,500 horse.

After lying before the city for a week, and finding himself unable to reduce it, he resolved to seek winter quarters elsewhere; and the 2nd December commenced his march towards Dungarvan, which, with other towns throughout Munster that had gone over to the Parliament, would afford secure winter quarters.

Butlerstown Castle was seized and blown up. Kilmeadan, on the banks of the Suir, was destroyed, the owner was hanged, and his property, extending from Kilmeadan to Tramore, was afterwards divided among the soldiers.

Curraghmore, the seat of another branch of the same family, was saved from destruction by the courage of its owner.

Dunhill Castle offered a stubborn resistance, not surrendering until part of the walls was beaten down by the artillery, and the garrison weakened by repeated assaults.

On the evening of the 4th the army reached Dungarvan, and proceeded without delay to invest the place, as the townsmen seem to have repented of their hasty submission to Lord Broghill, and made preparations for defence. Terrified, however, at the presence of Cromwell, they surrendered at discretion.

On the 5th Cromwell entered Youghal, where fresh supplies from England awaited him. Here he established winter quarters for himself and for a part of the army—his residence being a castle the remains of which are still in existence. The rest of the army he distributed through the towns that had lately submitted to the Parliament.

General Jones died at Dungarvan, from the hardships of the campaign. During the winter Cromwell made excursions with Lord Broghill, to Cork, Kinsale, Bandon, and other places of strength.

The Catholic inhabitants of the city of Cork had been driven out, and even some of the Protestant bishops and clergy, we are told, escaped with difficulty the ire of Cromwell’s soldiery.

On the 4th of December, the Catholic prelates, to the number of twenty, met at Clonmacnoise, and published an address to the people of Ireland, calling on them to forget their past feuds, and to join in resisting Cromwell.

From Youghal, in January 1650, Cromwell issued “A Declaration of the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland for the undeceiving of deluded and seduced people, … in answer to certain late declarations and acts framed by the Irish Popish Prelates and Clergy in a conventicle at Clonmacnoise.” In this document he says:

“You warn the people of their danger, which you make to consist in the extirpation of the Catholic religion, in the destruction of their lives, and in the ruin of their fortunes. Concerning the losing of their religion, you tell them of resolutions to extirpate the Catholic religion out of all his Majesty’s dominions, and you instance Cromwell’s letter to the Governor of Ross. By what law was the mass ever exercised in any of the dominions of England or Ireland? You were open violators of the known laws. And now for the people of Ireland, I do particularly declare what they may expect at my hands on this point. I shall not, where I have power, and the Lord is pleased to bless me, suffer the exercise of the mass where I can take notice of it.”

Cromwell took the field once more on the 29th of January, the weather being unusually favourable. His forces were considerably less than when he had landed in Dublin, though they had been largely recruited from the garrisons that had revolted to the Parliament, and from the English who had been made prisoners in the captured fortresses.

Ormond, with a great part of the Confederate army, was in winter quarters at Kilkenny. Thither Cromwell led his troops with all possible speed.

The following is Cromwell’s account of the campaign:

“Having refreshed our men for some short time in our winter quarters, and health being pretty well recovered, we thought fit to take the field, and to attempt such things as God by his providence should lead us to upon the enemy. Our resolution was to fall upon the enemy’s quarters in two ways. The one party, being about fifteen or sixteen troops of horse and dragoons, and about 2,000 foot, were ordered to go up by the way of Carrick into the County of Kilkenny, under the command of Colonel Reynolds, whom Major-General Ireton was to follow with a reserve. I myself was to go by the way of Mallow over the Blackwater towards the County of Limerick and the County of Tipperary, with about twelve troops of horse and three troops of dragoons, and between two and three hundred foot.”

Barryscourt was spared, we are told, the owner having when a young man released Cromwell from financial difficulties in Holland.

“Upon Thursday, the one-and-thirtieth, I possessed a castle called Kilkenny, upon the edge of the County of Limerick, where I left thirty foot. From thence I marched to a strong house belonging to Sir Richard Everard, called Clogheen, who is one of the Supreme Council, where I left a troop of horse and some dragoons. From thence I marched to Roghill Castle, which was possessed by some Ulster foot and a party of the enemy’s horse, which upon summons, I having taken the captain of the horse prisoner before, was rendered to me. These places, being thus possessed, gave us much command, together with some other holds we have of the White Knight’s and Roche’s Country, and of all the land from Mallow to the Suir side, especially by help of another castle called Old Castletown, which since my march was taken by my Lord Broghill, which I had sent to his lordship to endeavour, as also a castle of Sir Edward FitzHarris, over the mountains in the County of Limerick. … I marched from Roghill Castle over the Suir, with very much difficulty, and from thence to Fethard, almost in the heart of the County of Tipperary, where was a garrison of the enemy. … After almost a whole night spent in treaty, the town was delivered to me the next morning, upon terms which we usually call honourable, which I was the willinger to give, because I had little above 200 foot, and neither ladders nor guns, nor anything else to force them that night. … From thence I marched towards Callan, hearing that Colonel Reynolds was there with the party before mentioned. When I came thither, I found he had fallen upon the enemy’s horse, and routed them, being about a hundred, with his forlorn; he took my Lord of Ossory’s captain-lieutenant, and another lieutenant of horse, prisoners; and one of those who betrayed our garrison of Enniscorthy, whom we hanged. The enemy had possessed three castles in the town, one of them, belonging to one Butler, very considerable; the other two had about 100 or 120 men in them, which latter he attempted; and they refusing conditions seasonably offered, were all put to the sword. Indeed some of your soldiers did attempt very notably in this service. I do not hear there were six men of ours lost. Butler’s castle was delivered upon conditions for all to march away leaving their arms behind them. Wherein I have placed a company of foot and a troop of horse, under the command of my Lord Colvil, the place being six miles from Kilkenny. From hence Colonel Reynolds was sent with his regiment to remove a garrison of the enemy’s from Knocktopher, being the way of our communication to Ross, which accordingly he did. We marched back with the rest of the body to Fethard and Cashel, where we are now quartered, having good plenty both of horse meat and man’s meat for a time, and being indeed, we may say, even almost in the heart and bowels of the enemy, ready to attempt what God shall next direct. … I had almost forgot one business. The Major-General [Ireton] was very desirous to gain a pass over the Suir, where indeed we had none but by boat, or when the weather served. Wherefore, on Saturday, in the evening, he marched with a party of horse and foot to Ardfinan, where was a bridge, and at the foot of it a strong castle, which he, about four o’clock the next morning, attempted; killed about thirteen of the enemy’s out-guard, lost but two men, and eight or ten wounded. The enemy yielded the place to him, and we are possessed of it, being a very considerable pass, and the nearest to our pass at Cappoquin over the Blackwater, whither we can bring guns, ammunition, or other things from Youghal by water, and then over this pass to the army. The County of Tipperary have submitted to £1,500 a month contribution, although they have six or seven of the enemy’s garrisons yet upon them.”

Writing from Cashel on the 5th March, Cromwell informs the President of the Council that he had taken not only Cahir, but Kiltinan belonging to Lord Dunboyne, Golden Bridge, and Dundrum. Garrisons were placed at Ballynakill, on the edge of the King’s and Queen’s Counties, and in other places in the County of Limerick, “and by these we take away the enemy’s substance, and diminish their contributions. By which in time I hope they will sink.”

The various corps now closed round Kilkenny, while Cromwell and Ireton met at Thomastown, and remained theresome days, to allow the large guns to be brought from Fethard, to attack Granny Castle, near Waterford.

The rendezvous was at Gowran, which Cromwell says was a

“populous town, where the enemy had a very strong castle under the command of Colonel Hammond, a Kentish man. … I sent him a civil invitation to deliver up the castle to me, to which he returned a very resolute answer and full of height. We planted our artillery, and before we had made a breach considerable unto, the enemy beat a parley for a treaty, which I having so fairly offered to him, refused. But I sent him in positive conditions—that the soldiers should have their lives, and the commissioned officers to be disposed of as should be thought fit, which in the end was submitted to. The next day the colonel, the major, and the rest of the commission officers were shot to death; all but one, who, being a very earnest instrument to have the castle delivered, was pardoned. In the same castle also we took a Popish priest, who was chaplain to the Catholics in this regiment, who was caused to be hanged.”

Kilkenny was ill fitted for defence. A plague reduced the force Castlehaven had thrown into it from 1,200 to 300 men; while Lord Dillon’s 2,500 foot and 600 horse rebelled, and refused to march to the relief of the city, declaring that they were ready to fight against man, but not against God.

At the same time, the garrison of Cantwell Castle, officered chiefly by English, Welsh, and Scotch, made terms with Cromwell, and received passes to go beyond the sea and serve in the armies of foreign states.

On 22nd March Cromwell appeared before the city, and wrote to the Governor, Sir Walter Butler, in the usual terms, offering the defenders their lives, liberties, and estates, if they gave up the city—“if you choose for the worst, blame yourselves.”

Butler replied next day: “I am commanded to maintain this city for his Majesty, which, by the power of God, I am resolved to do.”

The attack was immediately pressed on until the 28th, letters between Cromwell and the Mayor and Governor passing between the different assaults and sorties.

The Governor was poorly supported by the spirit of the towns-people, and on the 28th March the town and castle were delivered up on the the following conditions: The inhabitants to be preserved in their persons, goods, and estates, with free liberty to remove elsewhere; the garrison to march two miles out with bag and baggage, drums beating, and colours flying, matches lighted, and there to deliver up all their arms, except 100 muskets and 100 pikes, for defence against the bands of robbers who infested the country; then to pass on where they wished; that Kilkenny should pay a subsidy of £2,000; that hostages should be given to Cromwell for the due performance of these articles.

As the garrison marched out, Sir Walter Butler at their head, Cromwell complimented them on their bravery—saying they were gallant fellows, and that he had lost more men in the several attacks than at Drogheda, and he would have been obliged to raise the siege, were it not for the treachery and lukewarmness of the inhabitants.

The churches in Kilkenny suffered severely at the hands of Cromwell’s soldiers. St. Canice’s was “utterly defaced and ruined,” the roof broken down, and the beautiful windows, for which Rinuccini, shortly before his return to Italy, had offered £700, were smashed to atoms; and all the doors were broken in, so that “the hogs might come and root, and the dogs gnaw the bones of the dead.”

The main body of the army seems to have remained at Carrick for nearly a week—parties being sent out to seize on the strongholds in the neighbourhood.

Early in May Cromwell appeared before Clonmel. The town was garrisoned by 1,500 Ulstermen, commanded by Hugh O’Neill, cousin to Owen Roe.

A letter (quoted by Carlyle) from one of Cromwell’s soldiers, dated 10th May 1650, gives the following account of the capture of the town:

“Yesterday we stormed Clonmel, in which work both officers and soldiers did as much and more than could be expected. We had with our guns made a breach in their works, where, after an hot fight, we gave back awhile; but presently charged up to the same ground again. But the enemy had made themselves exceeding strong, by double works and traverse, which were worse to enter than the breach; when we came up to it, they had cross-works, and were strongly flanked from the houses within their works. The enemy defended themselves against us that day until towards the evening, our men all the while keeping up close to their breach, and many on both sides were slain.

At night the enemy drew out on the other side and marched away undiscovered to us, and the inhabitants of Clonmel sent out for a parley. … After signing of the conditions, we discovered the enemy to be gone, and very early this morning pursued them, and fell upon their rear of stragglers, and killed above 200, besides those we slew in the storm. We entered Clonmel this morning, and have kept our conditions with them.”

Another letter says that they “found in Clonmel the stoutest enemy this army had ever met in Ireland. … There was never so hot a storm of so long a continuance, and so gallantly defended, either in Ireland or England.”

It has been stated that between disease and fighting, Cromwell lost 2,500 men before the town. Clonmel being captured, Cromwell transferred the command to Ireton, and on 29th May 1650, after nine months in Ireland, sailed in the President frigate from Youghal, landed at Bristol, and hastened up to London.

“What a crowd comes out to see your Lordship’s triumph,” exclaimed someone beside him. “Yes,” he added, “but if it were to see me hanged, how many more would there be.”

In the proceedings of Parliament at this time we read:

“The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland this day did come to the House, to whom our Speaker did, by order of the House, give the hearty thanks of this House for his great and faithful services unto the Parliament and Commonwealth.”

The war in Ireland was continued by Ireton (who died at Limerick the end of 1651) and by Ludlow, and was not brought to a conclusion until nearly two years after Cromwell’s departure.

Henry Cromwell (Oliver’s son) was for many years Lord-Deputy, and had much to do in carrying out the Cromwellian policy.

Before and at the conclusion of the war in 1652, it is stated by Prendergast that as many as 40,000 Irish were permitted to enlist in the armies of the Continent:

“Just as the King of Spain sent over his agents to treat with the Government for the Irish swordsmen, the merchants of Bristol had agents treating with it for men, women, and children, to be sent to the sugar plantations in the West Indies.

The Commissioners of Ireland gave them orders upon the governors of garrisons, to deliver to them prisoners of war; upon the keepers of gaols, for offenders in custody; upon masters of workhouses, for the destitute in their care ‘who were of an age to labour; or, if women, were marriageable, and not past breeding;’ and gave directions to all in authority to deliver them to these agents of the Bristol sugar merchants—in execution of which latter direction, Ireland must have exhibited scenes in every part like the slave marts in Africa. … In the course of four years they had seized and shipped about 6,400 Irishmen and women, boys and maidens.”

In March 1655 these proceedings were discontinued until October, when another shipment of 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls for Jamaica was arranged for at Galway.

The following succinct account of the Cromwellian settlement is given by Mr. Froude:

“Ireland was now a blank sheet of paper, on which the English Commonwealth might write what characters they pleased. … The principles of the Cromwellian settlement were generally these. The surviving population was estimated by Dr. Petty at about 850,000, of whom 150,000 were English and Scots. Experience had shown too repeatedly that when the English and Irish were intermixed, the distinctive English character in a few generations was lost. To prevent a recurrence of a transformation so subtle and so dangerous, Cromwell determined to make Connaught into a second Wales. The western province had a natural boundary in the Shannon. Beyond this deep and effectual barrier, the families of the chiefs, the leading members of the Irish race—the middle and upper classes, as we should call them, from whose ranks the worst elements of disorder arose—might receive an equivalent for the lands of which they were deprived. There, living among themselves, they might die out or multiply as their lot might be. A line of physical demarcation would then be drawn between the Teutonic and Celtic population.

Ulster, Munster, and Leinster would be the exclusive possession of Protestant English and Protestant Scots, reinforced, it might be, by Calvinist fugitives from the Continent. The Irish peasantry might be trusted to remain under their new masters, if the chiefs of their own blood were removed; and with peace, order, and good government, and protected from spoliation, they might be expected to conform, at no distant time, to the habits, language, and religion of their conquerors. The ‘swordsmen,’ those who had been out in the war, were offered the alternative of Connaught or exile. Some chose the first, the larger number chose the second, and went with the most devoted of their followers, into the French, Spanish, and Austrian services. The Catholic priests were more sharply dealt with. They were declared in a sweeping judgment guilty of high treason, and ordered to depart. A thousand of them hastened away of themselves, but as many or more remained, and it was a question what to do with them. At first, such of them as did not remove of their own accord were put on board vessels bound for Spain. This proving no deterrent, they were sent to the Barbadoes settlement. Finally, when the numbers arrested were too great to be so provided for, they were removed to two islands in the Atlantic—the Isle of Aran and Inishbofin, where cabins were built for them, and they were allowed sixpence a day for their maintenance. On these principles Ireland was laid out and resettled by Cromwell’s officers. In the apportionment of the claims, the soldiers were asked whether their lands should be selected by authority for them, or divided by lot. They answered remarkably, ‘that they would rather take a lot upon a barren mountain as from the Lord, than a portion in the most fruitful valley of their own choice.’ Both methods were adopted in the final decision. The regiments were kept together in bodies; the lot determined the situation of individuals. They were settled down regiment by regiment, troop by troop, company by company, almost on the lands they had conquered. The peasants remained under them in their natural homes as their under-tenants, or farm servants. They built and planted, they drained and ploughed. They went to work with heart and will in the homes which they had earned, and by the natural enchantment which gives to order and industry its immediate and admirable reward, the face of Ireland began once more to wear a look of quiet and prosperity. The disorderly elements could not at once and altogether be removed. In inaccessible hiding places—in the bogs and mountains, and still enormous forests—bands of outlaws who had escaped Connaught lurked, under the name of Tories, and continued a war of plunder and assassination.”

The foregoing would lead us to the conclusion that the letter of the law had not been kept to, either regarding the clearance to Connaught of all the Irish, or the extirpation of the clergy.

Cromwell’s policy aimed to put an end to a desolating and distracting eight years’ war—to revenge the atrocities that he believed had been perpetrated by the Irish during this war, and to weaken a system he thought contrary to morality and truth, as the Catholics upon the Continent had, from like motives, attempted to destroy Protestantism.

The following are the most eloquent portions of Carlyle’s defence of Cromwell’s Irish policy:

“The history of the Irish war is, and for the present must continue, very dark and indecipherable to us. Ireland … has been a scene of distracted controversies, plunderings, excommunications, treacheries, conflagrations, of universal misery and blood and bluster, such as the world before or since has never seen. The history of it does not form itself into a picture, but remains only a huge blot, an indiscriminate blackness, which the human memory cannot willingly charge itself with! There are parties on the back of parties, at war with the world, and with each other. There are Catholics of the Pale, demanding freedom of religion, under my Lord This, and my Lord That. There are Old-Irish Catholics, under Pope’s Nuncios, under Abbas O’Teague of the excommunications, and Owen Roe O’Neill, demanding, not religious freedom only, but what we now call Repeal of the Union, and unable to agree with the Catholics of the English Pale. Then there are Ormond Royalists, of the Episcopalian and mixed creeds, strong for King without Covenant; Ulster and other Presbyterians, strong for King and Covenant; lastly, Michael Jones and the Commonwealth of England, who want neither King nor Covenant. All these plunging and tumbling, in huge discord, for the last eight years, have made of Ireland and its affairs the black unutterable blot we speak of. … One could pity this poor Irish people. … The claim they started with in 1641 was for religious freedom. Their claim, we can now all see, was just—essentially just, though full of intricacy; difficult to render clear and concessible; nay, at that date of the world’s history, it was hardly recognizable to any Protestant man for just; and these frightful massacrings and slaughterings and sanguinary blusterings have rendered it for the present entirely unrecognizable. … Oliver’s proceedings here have been the theme of much loud criticism, and sibylline execration. To those who think that a land overrun with sanguinary quacks can be healed by sprinkling it with rose-water, these letters [Cromwell’s] must be very horrible. Terrible surgery this; but is it surgery and judgment, or atrocious murder merely? That is a question which should be asked and answered. Oliver Cromwell did believe in God’s judgments, and did not believe in the rose-water plan of surgery.”

Oliver Cromwell died 3rd September 1658.

In his Parliament of 1656 both Ireland and Scotland were represented.

Cromwell’s account of his Irish campaign is most accessible in Carlyle's edition of his Letters and Speeches.


91. Cromwell in Ireland, Series of Articles in The Irish Monthly. February to August, 1875. (Pamphlets.)

92. Cromwell, Oliver, Letters and Speeches: Thomas Carlyle. 3 vols. London, 1857.

93. Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland: John P. Prendergast. London, 1870.

141. Froude, James A.: The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century. 3 vols. London, 1872-'4.

175. Ireland, History of: Samuel Smiles, M.D. (the Invasion to 1829). London, 1844.