ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Battle of Dungan's Hill, 1647
Dungan Hill


General Thomas Preston attempted to enlist the aid of Owen Rua's forces to crush the Parliamentary army under Jones (both where Catholic Confederates) Parliamentary Commandeer in Dublin, Owen Rua and Preston actually came to blows over the command of the forces outside Dublin, O'Neill accused Preston of treachery[apparently he was in secret discussion with the Duke of Ormand the communication was delivered to O'Neill by mistake]Preston insulted O'Neill, the intervention of the Nuncio and O'Neill's officers prevented O'Neill from strangling Preston[not a bad idea], O'Neill then withdrew all his forces from Dublin and retired to Connaught instead, however he flooded the Leinster passes, denying Preston safe passage..

General Preston decided to gain a great victory for himself, so he reorganised his army enlisted the support of MacColla who was made Marshall of the Confederate Leinster army and commanded Preston's Foote. Preston meandered all over County Meath, he was prevented from entering O'Neill territory at the ford of Portlester by a large force of O'Neill Cavalry, he was also prevented from entering O'Moore territory by the Baron of Ossory's forces. Preston trapped on the rolling plains of Meath was in mortal danger, Jones the Parliamentary Commandeer of Dublin with 4,500 reinforcements from England, and the Dublin garrison of 4,000 where on a sweep for Preston[it is very possible that O'Neill gave Jones the nod but I find this very hard to believe].

Preston safe in the area of Auger, due West of Dublin, Jones was coming down on him from the Boyne [North] in the direction of Trim/Portlester, made for Dublin as Preston was nearer to Dublin than Jones, however if he expected to out-pace Jones he had a snow balls chance in hell, as his cannon was drawn by oxen.

Preston seized the summit of Dungan's Hill [as one contemporary wrote "in the most un'towards place one could imagine"] he placed his advance guard there along with his artillery. This was an excellent position to hold[hold been the important word]MacColla and his highlanders was detached and placed in fields of wheat and a bog commanding Prestons Left, apparently the wheat was over 7 feet high the Preston logic was presumably to hide his forces and prepare an ambush, who knows as it is all very confusing, while Preston and the cavalry waited behind the hill out of view. MacColla had about 1,500 highlanders in his personal regiments. This was the nature Preston's intention, however as he commanded in excess of 12,000 men of very mixed and dubious quality it would require a satellite and couple of mobile phones to co-ordinate his intended ambush, or the positioning of his forces. It is patently clear that Preston was not ready to receive Jones army when they advanced.

The scene was now set for a disaster.

Jones had 4,500 heavy dragoons, County Meath is beautiful horse country[ask King William], Preston had lost contact with his enemy, Jones's Cavalry was actually bearing down from the North or MacColla's flank. The Heavy dragoons took the summit with some casualties as Prestons artillery managed a few volleys, they routed Preston's advance guard, who charged mad down to where MacColla was, MacColla managed to steady the his men and re-grouped the fleeing advance guard.

MacColla not only stood up to the advancing New Model army manfully, as all good highlanders would, he launched his highlanders three times at the massed ranks of the advancing pikemen and musketeers, they where eventually overthrown, leaving 1,000 dead highlanders on the field having inflicted and received heavy casualties. They remainder retreated in some order, however the bulk of Preston's army where caught on the open rolling plains of Meath and completely routed.

Preston's cavalry of which he had about 4,000 well equipped and trained professional horseman where themselves caught in the narrow laneway's attempting to get to the battle to cover the retreat[rout]. Preston who had approx. 12,000 troop and Cavalry lost approx. between 2,000/5,000 casualties. O'Neill's cavalry finally took to the field [they where 5 miles away, 2,500 thousand of the best troops in the country sunning themselves!]to cover the fleeing troopers. Preston and his tattered army escaped though the ford/pass of Portlester Mill. O'Neills cavalry took out the advance brigades of Jones and routed them, Jones fearing O'Neills army high tailed it back to Dublin with O'Neill cavalry snapping all the way.

Jones suffered approx. 2,500 dead, and abandoned the Preston loot and baggage. The Pale was ravaged[yet again the harvest for Dublin was destroyed]. Preston been Preston blamed it all on O'Neill, on his Ulster Scotch. He was rewarded for his upset by been Knighted and given the rest of the summer off. His army and his reputation where in tatters, and figures very little in the remaining campaigns[are you surprised?].

Note: It must be said that Jones was euphoric, however then as now the first casualty of war is the truth, it is impossible to determine how many dead there was on either side. But O'Neill himself puts Preston's dead at about 2,500 as he and his men buried them 4 months later. Jones did not show his face outside of Dublin for the rest of the year and when he did he was resoundly routed at Monstereavin in December of 1647 by O'Neill.

What of MacColla?? He survived intact with a large body of his fighters, they regrouped and headed South to Kilkenny. Very little is known of this period about MacColla, one can only assume that in the South of the country there was still scope for him, but sadly this is really a black period for MacColla. He simply had nowhere to go.

However worse was to follow. The Duke of Glamorgan was dismissed from command of the Irish Confederacy Forces in Munster after his Gaelic Irish army mutinied and hanged 200 Protestant Officers(yes they where all fighting on the same side!), the Command passed to Lord Taffe an Old English Lord from Leinster [if Preston was a military incompetent Taffee was just an idiot]. MacColla recruited from the tattered remnants of the Leinster Army and was made Chief Marshall of the Munster Confederate Forces.

Lord Inchiquin (Murragh O'Brien alias the incendiary, alias the Burner) with his Irish Parliamentary levies broke out of Cork in September of 1647, they rampaged across Mid-Munster, burning Dromore, Mallow, Nenagh, and Callan. They burned everything in there path, particularly awful was the dreadful sack of Cashel, over 4,000 men, women, and children where all burned alive in the holiest Catholic shrine in the country. O'Neill was outraged and mustered his army for an attack on the Confederate capitol as he rightly held them responsible for their lack of protection of the general populace. It was this which goaded Lord Taffe and the Kilkenny Confederates, he and MacColla pursued Inchiquin's forces West. They caught up with him to the South West of the town of Buttevant on the 13th of November 1647. The battle site is actually 4 miles due East of the town of Kanturk in County Cork, the site is not marked except by the summit of 454 feet, that's Knocknanoss or in Gaelige Cnoc na nDos[Red Hill].

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