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
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.