ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Battle of Knocknanoss, 1647 (Version 2))
Knocknanoss 1
Knocknanoss 2

Conditions of Battlefield

Due to the terrain, Taaffe and MacCholla could not visually see each other. The Crown of the summit separated the Royalist forces, and the view of the Right from Inchiquins CP.
The Royalist Right slope is very steep, the Left slope is a much gentler rise.
Estimated time of Battle approx. 2.30 p.m. on the 13th Nov. [24th by old Calendar], very late in the year for campaigning.
Weather conditions good, very cold with snow threatening.
Sequence of Battle; Phase 1
As Inchiquins Right infantry was forming up for an attack, Taaffe in an attempt to take advantage of their disorder, attack's first. He orders the [7] CastleConnell Horse with infantry under Col. Piers Walsh to attack Inchiquins right, Roes Infantry Regiment [7].
The CastleConnel Horse Charge is met by sustained musket fire. Front files of horse annihilated. CastleConnel's horse scatters in chaos.
Temple's Horse [11] counter-charges, CastleConnell horse [7] retreat and run down supporting infantry.
Inchiquin orders Roes infantry Reg. [7] into Counter-Attack.
CastleConnell Horse [7] retreat's across the front of, and through the Leinster Reg. [6] and the Connaught and NW Reg. [8], disordering both. Pursued by Temples horse [11], these both gallop off South and East.
Panic grips Taaffes right, both Major Purcell [10] and Taaffe with his horse guards
[11] Saber and pistol deserters, adding to the general panic. Purcell sends urgent messengers over to the Right to recall the Rights Horse [1, 2 & 3]. Col. MacDonagh MacCarthy [2] ignores recall.

Note: At this point Col. Richard Butler moves his Tipperary Reg. [5] to engage Roe [7]. A furious fire fight envelops as Roe [7] engages Butler [5]. As the left's two other Regiment [6] and [8] disintegrate.

Taaffe takes [6], [8], [10] and [11] when joined by [2] and [3] due South off the field, he turns right [West] towards his base in Kanturk..
Col. Richard Butler attempts to stop Taaffe and threatens to pistol Taaffe, a furious argument develops. Many of Taaffes officers desert him and fight on.
Butler's Reg. [5] forces Roe [7] to a standstill, Butlers Pike press home, Roe's attack [7] falters.

At this point, Inchiquin, gathers reserves [8] and [10] and pushes home charge. Col. Butler's [5] line folds up from the left after about ten minutes of furious fighting. Parliamentary forces pursue Left in rout. The flat summit of the hill is a mass of dismounted horses, dead, running troopers, and hastily abandoned baggage. Col. Butlers Captains and Ensigns desperately gather knots of officers as the remnants of the left and Castleconnells horse scatter about in terror. These are relentlessly run down by the Inchiquins horse and foot. The rout continues in the general direction of Buttevant. Meanwhile on the Royalist right! after the recall of the Royalist Rights horse [2] and [3]. Col. Sir William Bridges Horse [2] disobeys orders and pursues O'Grady [2] & [3].
This disorders Inchiquins Left's infantry [3] and [4]. Leading directly to Phase 2.

Sequence of Battle; Phase 2
Lieu. General MacCholla to the sound of Máirseail Alasdroim, launches all of his infantry Reg.'s [4] and is joined by Horse [2], in a deadly silent charge. These annihilate the Forlorn Hope [3], Col. Crispe is captured. They pull up, fire a volley, throw down there muskets, with there swords and axes, they smash a bloody swathe through Grey's foot [4] and left side of Craig's [6] Regiments. Grey's Foot [4] is routed, its officers fall dead, the man are scattered. Craig rallies [6] and falls mortally wounded, as does Col. Alaister MacDonnell of Annagh County Clare.
Col. MacDonagh MacCarthy's Lancers [1] shatter Bridges horse reserve [1] and elements of his horse[2] which did not disobey orders earlier. Gaelic Lances/Javelins used to great effect against Bridges Horsed infantry. The remnants of Grey's foot [4] and left side of Craig's [6] Regiments are relentlessly run down by MacChollas Reg.'s [4a, 4d] and MacCarthy's horse [1].
Col. Sir William Bridge falls dead in the melee and the running horse to horse fighting.
Craig's Reg. [6] becomes rallying point, forms a square and bitter fighting develops as Craig's Reg. [6] attempts to stand. Elements of [4d] capture and use the two cannon [5] against Craigs Reg. [6].
In the general disorder and chaos some elements of the Glengarry's [4b] work there way down and storm Inchiquins CP [9]. Ulster clansmen butcher the civilians and in the sack of the CP most become too drunk to fight. Officers and scattered elements of Col. Butlers Reg. [5] work there way down to fight with the Right. However, many of the Royalist right consider the battle over and a steady stream of men leave the field [4a, 4d] and [1]. On the Royalist right bands of Royalists hunt down and kill fugitives from [1] and [4]. As indeed on the Royalist Left bands of horse and infantry from Temples horse [11], Bridges Horse [2] and Roes infantry [7] root out terrified bands of fugitives.
With no horse to press home the attack on Craig's Reg. [6] a bloody hand-to-hand engagement develops. Repeated charges by MacChollas Regiment's [4b, 4c, 4e and 4 f] are met by sustained musket fire. Pikes are hurled like javelins, stones, axes and muskets are used like clubs. Fighting continues, as does the general rout, MacDonagh MacCarthy's[1] horse chase Bridges horse [1] for miles, running them down and offering no quarter. Critically MacCholla fails to regroup his regiments and they are not ready for what was to unfold.
Sequence of Battle 3
After about 1 hour as light is fading Inchiquin regroups elements of his right not engaged in the rout. The sound of the distant battle on his left is a cause for concern.
Inchiquin orders Col. Edmund Temples Reg. [7] of horse and Roes Reg [7] to sweep the field, and to offer no Quarter to the enemy.
They over run Inchiquins captured CP [9], putting the drunken defenders to the sword. Temples horse [11] charged along the foot of the hill to where the large remnants of Craig's Reg. [6] where standing fast against MacCholla's [4b, 4c, 4d, and 4e].
Temples Horse [11] arrives and surrounds MacCholla. After three hundred of his men fall dead, Temples horsemen cry "Quarter", "Quarter".
To wild cheers the humane Col. Temple agrees. MacCholla for the first time in his life accepts. Fighting stops, most of the Royalist right had already left the field or where pursuing fugitives.
Temple takes MacCholla and about 100 of his men, the rest leave for Kanturk. How he then died is a mystery, he was drinking it is said at the well of his name, and was shot or stabbed by a wounded militia man in the half light. There are plenty of fanciful stories around his death, some say he wore plate armor! and the gap in the palte as he bent over for a drink exposed his back, into which he was stabbed. However, antique plate Armor? on a proud highland Chief? preposterous. In another contemporary account, he was offered quarter, but was subsequently shot/stabbed in the half light by an unknown assassin. MacCholla mortally wounded is carried to Inchiquins new CP at Rathmaher House, he dies in the stable about one hour after he was wounded, wrapped in his highland plaids. His heart broken men are visited by a silent moody Inchiquin, who looks at the body and leaves.
Both sides still have active patrols, both armies are still in the vicinity and pursuing each other, the deadly hide and seek continues into the next day. Taaffe takes up fortified positions in Kanturk, his forces are steadily reinforced by returning units, as well as fresh reinforcements from Limerick City, who arrived to late for the battle.
This was the bloodiest battle ever fought in Munster. The figures of both the size of the armies and the amount of casualties has always been disputed.
About 2,000 to 2,500 on each side where killed. Inchiquin lost a lot of his senior officers, among them, Col. Bridge, Major General Craig, Major Stannard, and Judge advocate Sir Robert Travers. The bulk of Inchiquins casualties where on his left. Col. Crispe was captured and exchanged for the badly wounded Randal Og MacDonnell.
MacCholla's Deputy, also called Col. Alaister MacDonnell of Annagh County Clare was killed.
Most of the Royalist casualties where from from the Munster Reg.s, the Clare and the North Tipperary, also Col. Butlers South Tipperary Reg. and CastleConnells Horse.
About 60 Royalist officers, the most senior being Col. Randal Og MacDonnell of the Highland Reg., Lieut.. Col. Donal MacNamara of the Clare Reg. and Major Sean Phelan of the North Tipperary Reg.
These where the most senior Royalist figures captured. The surviving list of prisoners documented in Inchiquins report is mainly from the Munster Reg.s, the Clare and the North Tipperary, also Col. Butlers South Tipperary Reg. and CastleConnells Horse. There is a notable absense of MacDonnels and Ulster names.
Inchiquin had many men captured notable amongst them being Col. Crispe. However the Irish and Scotch Galloglas regiments where not given to quarter. These prisoners where swapped two days later for Col. Randal Og, the dead body of MacCholla and the other listed prisoners.
Consequences of Battle
This viscous battle decided nothing. Inchiquin was practically disgraced by the Cork plantation, most his casualties where from the Cork Plantation. Inchiquin himself was a Royalist had already switched sides and was despised for being proud of his Gaelic roots, the casualty list amongst the Anglo-Irish was too much. He switched sides 2/3 months later.
Lord Taaffe was practically an outcast, he was run out of Limerick, lost his command, and with Major Purcell had to serve in Prestons Leinster Army.
The Munster Army, largely unscathed was reformed under General Lord Muskerry [who with the very large MacCarthy Clan refused to take part in this battle]. The much depleted Parliamentary forces had to retreat to Cork, 1648 was another bad year for them.

Taaffes desertion is really hard to accept, admittedly he attempted to stop the collapse, and if he had choosing to could have supported Col. Butler. But there is hardly a good word for him from any side. The towns of the South refused his admittance. After Knocknanoss no Gaelic trooper would fight with Taaffe, Preston, Ormonde, or Inchiquin even though they faced a deadly common enemy, they simply would not trust them. The stories of Taaffe and his guards pistolling his own men began to appear like collusion. Folklore in Ireland regards him as a traitor, sadly for the Taaffes the evidence is there as well. It is worth noting that Inchiquin in his reports to Parliment vowed to kill Taaffe for his disgraceful conduct.
MacChollas death is still disputed, it is worth noting that no controversy at the time appeared about his death.

Lastly the wild inaccuracies surrounding this battle will some day be redressed. All of the written sources of this battle are from the victors. The most quoted contemporary account is by Stephenson, he admits to using Inchiquins own figures in his book and saw no reason to dispute them. His account of the battle is rather unfortunate, as it was the first in print for a verylong time it tends to be the most quoted. This has irked many in the locality, the account above is taken from the documents of a local man Dennis O'Donaghue.of Castlemagner Cross. It comes from many local folklore and written documents over the years. Modern historians tend cover their lack of detail and poor lazy research by using freely words like rout, scattered, ran away etc. These words applied to both sides, as well brave, heroic, etc. The silent witnesses of Knocknanoss, the Gaels have a story to tell, and the account above is theirs.

The battle of Knocknanoss if won by the Royalists would have probably changed the course of history in Ireland
However its defeat, meant the real story of Knocknanoss has yet to be told, as the victor Inchiquin joined the losers three months later. Its lessons are more relevant to the Ireland of today, than ironically the Ireland of then..

There is a large Cairn monument erected by the locals at Abraham's Cross roads, to commemorate the 350th anniversary. MacChollas graveyard has been given a clean-up, a plaque marks his grave. The battle-site is listed on the Irish O/S map of the area, and is easily accessible. All would be welcome, ask at O'Donaghues pub Castlemagner and the locals will be fighting to give you a guided tour.

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