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Return to Ireland 1646
Return to Ireland 1646

Lucky to escape back to Ireland in the winter of 1646. His return is still shrouded in a cloud, there is no doubt among the Ulster army there was ill-feeling towards MacColla due to the death of Manus Rua O'Cahan, this is mentioned in a biography of Owen Rua O'Neill by O'Cahan in 1969 from the Oxford University Press. Whether this is real or imagined nothing explains adequately MacColla's presence in the forces of the Ulster Gaelic Irish's opponents the Old English. The Ireland he left was not the same as the one he returned to. While the military forces where much better equipped, trained, and lead, the political situation had changed, the military balance had changed, and there was a huge rift in the Confederacy. The Confederacy was made up of Old English, Gaelic Irish, and the Royalists, however it was politically dominated by the Old English party who in 1646 where militarily in decline. The Old English and Gaelic Ulster Irish hated each other historically, culturally and politically. Added to this was the intense jealousy of General Preston [Old English] of Owen Rua's Spanish and Irish military achievements.

The Gaelic Irish who where forever distrustful of the Old English, who while devoutly Catholic where torn in there loyalty to the King. This was ruthlessly exploited by the Duke of Ormond(James Butler:Royalist Protestant, however the Confederation of Kilkenny's parliament was but 100 yards from his Castle, plus he was related to all the Old English, the head of the Confederation Lord MountGarret was his brother) who succeeded in weaning the Old English parties away from the Gaelic Irish.

The Old English where Catholic Lords based roughly in a vast tract of area around Dublin (except Wicklow, Wexford, or Waterford) and right down through the Southern Plains of Ireland. They where descendants of the Norman March Lords, they where devoutly Catholic in a way the Gaelic Irish never where, they considered themselves to be Royalist. They collaborated with there Protestant Royalist cousins like the Duke of Ormond, Lord Inchiquin etc. Their duty was to the King and there religion. The Gaelic party was made up of their traditional enemies, the Gaelic Irish, these had no allegiance to anyone except there clan, however O'Neill was devoutly Catholic and very much pro King, this all made for a much fragmented alliance.

For example the Gaelic parties had there own armies and commanders, O'Neill, Col. O'Byrne, Lord Iveragh[McGuiness], O'Reilly, MacDonald, Lord Mayo etc. They all led separate armies and in very few circumstances did they co-ordinate their attacks except to support each others advances into enemy territory.

The Gaelic Party was in command of the West of the Country from Donegal to Western Cork, all the Midlands, Central Ulster, and the South East of Ireland.

The tactics of the Old English party where very contemporary, they choose the pitched battle over Gaelic guerrilla/harassing tactics, and it is understandable that the Old English where not very successful against the likes of the New Model Army. There leaders where Lords Taffe, Dillion, Castlehaven, Muskerry, ClanRickard, Preston, MountGarret etc.

Unlike the Gaelic Irish, who wore out Cromwell, his generals[Ireton died of the plague, Jones contracted the Irish 'ague whatever that was, Cromwell himself was quite miserable in the pits of an Irish winter, and practically bankrupted his Parliament , all the key figures of the Parliamentary Party in England tried there hand at dislodgement at some stage or other. None where really successful.

The crushing defeat of the Scottish Covenanter Army(Parliament) under Marshall Monroe by Owen Rua O'Neill at Benburb was the high point of the Confederacy. In 1646 in one of the few pitched battles involving the Gaelic Confederate Party the Ulster/Scotch Army was annihilated, over 5,000 of his professional army was destroyed in the third bloodiest battle ever fought in Ireland, incidently O'Neill lost 75 men). 1646 was one of military success for the Gaelic Irish party in the Confederacy all over Ireland. However there is no doubt that the rift in the Confederacy had become a rupture in 1647 and in many places the Gaelic Irish launched themselves against the Old English.

The Old English in the Confederacy wanted to ally itself with the King, the Gaelic Irish faction wanted none of it, the Papal Nuncio excummunicated any Catholic agreeing to a cessation or abolition of the Confeferation. MacColla unwelcome[or for whatever reson] in the Gaelic party joined the Old English forces under the Spanish Colonel Thomas Preston the Confederate General of Leinster in 1647.

The Royalist's under Ormond where in serious decline, the Parlimentary Party in Ireland was in the ascent. In the quagmire that was the Ireland of the 1647 none could gain an advantage. There where ten armies endlessly chasing each other around Ireland at one stage. Commanders like Lord Inchiquin(Murragh O'Brien) constantly changed sides depending on the more favorable breeze blowing.

Note: The safest place to be in Ireland in 1647 was behind a thick wall (preferablly with artilliery), as no side appeared to have the capacity to reduce the towns or fortifications. Most of the towns outside of Ulster and Dublin where on the side of the Confederacy anyway.

It was into this nightmare that MacColla came along with his military reputation, from Scoland in 1647, unfortunately he allied or was forched by circumstances to side with the declining party.



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