ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment


On 30 September 1648 Ormond landed at Cork with arms and ammunition paid for by France and joined forces with Inchiquin. In December 1648 Scotland declared for Charles II and Sir Charles Coote seized Londonderry arresting the governor, Sir Robert Stewart. Stewart escaped to join the, now royalist, settler forces. Londonderry was besieged by a royalist coalition of Laggan, Irish Confederates, Scots and Scots Irish under Lord Montgomery of Ards until April 1649 when the siege was lifted by Owen O’Neil. On 17 Jan 1649 Ormond reached agreement with the Supreme Council offering Catholic toleration in exchange for 18,000 Irish troops for King Charles I but on 30 January 1649 Charles I was executed. In February of 1649 Rinuccini departed Ireland at command of Confederation.

In March 1649 Monck required a loyalty oath of his soldiers and officers. Scottish forces taken into Parliamentary service in Ireland resigned or were cashiered as a result of refusing to serve under the Regicides. In May, a 3 month ceasefire between Monck and O’Neil was arranged as a result of military weakness in both forces. Drogheda was captured by Earl Inchiquin in June 1649 and Monck was captured at the fall of Dundalk and surrendered to Inchiquin.

In August of 1649, Ormond was threatening Dublin with a combined force of royalists and Confederation troops when he was surprised and defeated at Rathmines by Jones, who had been recently reinforced by four English regiments. This defeat set the stage for Cromwell’s arrival with overwhelming force to eliminate all military opposition to the Parliamentarians in Ireland.


Operational Conditions

The conditions in which all the armies in Ireland had a direct, and usually adverse, impact on the conduct of military operations. The inability of the local agriculture and industry to support the arming, massing and movement of large formations forced all armies to rely on support external to Ireland. The intermittent and limited nature of this external support made it difficult if not impossible to follow up tactical victories with pursuits leading to strategic overwhelming victory.

Relations with the populace were strained when efforts were made by armies to rely on local support to sustain themselves, doubtless having an adverse impact on support for their respective causes. The damage caused by such a breakdown in relations cannot have helped further local re-supply efforts, recruiting or intelligence gathering, thus adding to the difficulty in any one of the armies achieving overwhelming victory.

Certain branches of the army, i.e. artillery and horse were unable to operate to maximum effect. The road network in Ireland was poor thus making it difficult to move artillery or to mass and move large formations of horse from one location to another. The limited logistical support experienced by all armies also limited the use of artillery and horse, as both are far more supply intensive that foot formations.

It was not until Cromwell’s campaign that the logistical and movement obstacles to military operations in Ireland were overcome. Cromwell used all the port facilities under his control to rearm, refit and re-supply his forces in Ireland. He also had no need to rely on logistical support from Ireland, as he had control of the sea lines of communication and a steady flow of logistical support from England.


Significance of Army of Ulster

The immediate effect of the arrival of the Scottish army of Ulster was the stabilization of Antrim and Down and the prevention of further rebel action there. The operations of the Army of Ulster also forced rebels to operate elsewhere, increasing pressure on Laggan Army in west Ulster. This forced shift in rebel forces did not result in increased logistical support for the Laggan army from Monro and did not diminish Monro’s expectation that the Laggan Army support his expeditions in Ulster and Leinster.

The Army of Ulster was responsible for reinforcing the already considerable Scottish cultural foothold in Ulster by establishing first Irish Presbytery in 1641. This may perhaps be the greatest legacy of the Army of Ulster along with the number of cashiered soldiers it left behind in Ireland.

The Army of Ulster was a unique force in the War of Three Kingdoms in that it acted as an independent force, making its own decisions about whom it would support, much like those forces fighting on the continent in the 30 Years War and 80 Years War. It was a concern for the Royalist, Parliamentarian and Covenanter political interests during the period of its existence but remained true to its paymaster whoever that might be at the time. The army sent forces back to Scotland to counter Montrose’s campaign of 1644-45 and joined the Engager movement of 1648 demonstrating a limited force projection capability that made it a participant in Scottish events while still in Ireland.


Role of Women

At no time and in none of the cultures present in Ireland were women able to hold elective or appointed office, nor were they permitted to vote in Parliamentary elections. This did not however rule out the possibility of influencing events and people.

The role of women in late 16 th and early 17 th century native Irish society was limited to informal influence by virtue of social position and kinship. Women could and did wield considerable influence with the male members of their family, relationship and personality dependent. Aristocratic Scottish wives brought the added advantage of education, greater familiarity with the English and a dowry in the form of Scottish mercenaries. In Old English society socially prominent women were able to have a greater role in representing their husbands and families if required and were accepted in that role. In the Scots Presbyterian community women and men were viewed as equal in household matters. Women were literate and expected to teach their children to read and wielded considerable influence in social and religious matters.

In the early stages of the rebellion, women rose to prominence as leaders and active participants. However as the rebellion became a war, the role of women changed. During wartime, women occupied a critical logistical role in armies of the 16 th and 17 th century assuming roles in cooking, foraging, washing and medical aid that were almost never considered a priority by commanders. The armies operating in Ireland would have been no different in that regard.


Catholic Confederation Armies

Initially the forces of the Irish rebellion were local levies raised by local nobility or members of recognized prominent families. The ability to raise troops was a function of prestige or position in society. Experience was not necessarily a criteria for command positions other than those associated with training soldiers such as sergeants major. Veteran soldiers were available but only in small numbers, and there was a manpower drain throughout the Confederation period as Spain and France were still taking military aged males off of the island to reinforce their own Irish mercenary formations. In the period 1644-49 Spain received perhaps as many as 4,000 Irishmen and France received as many as 7,000.

Logistics played a critical role in the conduct of Confederation operations. There was a perpetual shortage of black powder preventing effective use or firearms and artillery. The presence of enemy garrisons in rear areas required observation if not siege and tied down forces even when there were insufficient resources to support siege operations. All the military formations in Ireland relied on external support and all lacked sufficient support for decisive operations but the Confederation suffered the most from a lack of sufficient and regular support from Spain and the Papacy, their primary sponsors.

Unity of command in military operations is absolutely critical. This was lacking in the strategic command structure of Confederation forces which was characterized by infighting and dissention at the highest levels all the way down to, and perhaps lower than, the army command level. The absence of unity of command made unity of purpose and action impossible.



Return to Top

©2007-2011 ScotWars All Rights Reserved. [Disclaimer]
Site designed & compiled by....
Rab Taylor
Webmaster of PUBCAT  RomanScotland