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It wu in the month, of December, 1641, that the rebels, encouraged more by the absence of any hostile demonstrations on the government side than by any successes of their own, came before Drogheda. They had neither the necessary materials for a siege, nor even for an encampment; and, therefore, they were compelled to take their quarters in the surrounding villages, and thus became more formidable to private persons living in the surrounding district than to the city; which was not, however, exempt either from danger or suffering. The numbers of the rebel army amounted to nearly twenty thousand, and they were thus enabled to blockade every avenue, and completely to intercept all supplies. Ill provided for a siege, the governor had still nearer ground for apprehension from the traitors who were suspected to be within his walls. On the night of December 20, the rebels attempted to surprise the city by a snddfn and general assault, but were driven back with so much loss that they did not think it advisable to renew lie ai»»pL Tbey were, however, fully aware u£ the unprepared condition of the city, and the wants of the garrison; ausi having every reason to hope that they would meet with no interruption from abroad, they expected to obtain possession by starving the trarrawL
Within, th« condition of affairs was indeed low enough to warrant sttttt "ipintaiiiHiif The English became diseased from the effects of au Hi.ui'u:muMnl and scanty diet, and were daily losing their strength .um ^Mi'tte; tram this state of want and suffering many escaped over '.am -lail- lite officers wrote a letter to the duke of Ormonde, in the ivitM auu iiie e&«rctoa of his influence might extract some relief from UM 'iiiiiiMmw* ot. tow state. About the 11th of January, 1642, the 'vitu^-iUMivw souc a smurv and poor supply of food and ammunition, ,-s^vuiy uiat ciwy were unwilling to send more until it should appear tiuu the prostuu supply could obtain entrance. The way was unuouixeuly dimciut, the entrance to the harbour being narrow, and ohatructitd by the precaution of the rebels, who had sunk a small viwaul in the channel, and drawn a strong chain across from two large shint ou cither side. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the small and >ii«uk>» testis which brought the supply were enabled to pass over the ciuuu, us weil as a bar oi sand, which, h was conceived, must have obsu'Us'teM ihcir euurauee at low water.
t'hw ro» oi the garrison at a relief so seasonable was nearly the im ot their min; indulging in a premature sense of security, their vwUiMMM bjManM relaxed as their fear abated. The governor, who did. '.iot t.'ariiv'ipate in the turgetfulness of the occasion, saw the dan#**> and twxk. strict car* to have the guards visited more frequently during the uigut; but this did not ut'u»cut their sleeping on their
r*s» tor th*y hud occu worn by toil and privation, and were, it may
companies of the rebel army without. The city lay in silence. The garrison and the people were asleep, and the guards, half asleep, did not look beyond their own immediate watches; all things favoured the attempt, and for half an hour Drogheda was in possession of the enemy. But their conduct was not answerable to the occasion, and was such as to indicate clearly the true character of Sir Phelim's army. There was nothing to prevent their seizing on a gate and admitting Sir Phelim and his forces; they could, without resistance, have seized the artillery on Millmount by which the town was commanded; the garrison could have offered but slight resistance while unprepared. But they never seem to have thought of any course of action; they trusted, probably, as all mobs will ever trust, to the fallacious confidence of numerical force, and supposed themselves to be in possession of the town because they had got in. Their triumph was however unsatisfactory, until it should be made known to their enemies within, and their friends abroad: it was evident that something was wanting to their dark and unknown victory. They manifested their possession of the town by a tremendous shout, which carried astonishment and alarm to every quarter of the town: the sentinels started to their posts, and the little garrison was roused from its dangerous slumber. Sir Henry Tichburne, hearing the rebel cheer, rushed out without waiting to arm, and caused a drum to beat to arms. Heading his own company, which chanced to be the main guard, he advanced to meet the rebel force, and falling in with them quickly, a short struggle took place, in which the rebels, though more numerous by six to one, and also picked men, had the disadvantage in arms and discipline, and were soon forced to retreat in confusion: in the mean time the governor had collected a party of musqueteers, and coming up while the rebels were in this state, by a volley of shot converted their disorder into a precipitate flight. They scattered several ways. About two hundred escaped by the concealed breach at which they had entered, many found concealment in private houses, two hundred fell in the streets. Of the English only three fell in the fight; a few were found slain in different quarters where they had been surprised or turned upon by the flying rebels. Another attempt of the same kind was made on the following night. It may be presumed that it was designed to avoid the errors of that which we have here related; but the vigilance of the garrison had been too well alarmed, and the enemy was beaten off with some loss.
The supply was insufficient, and the garrison of Drogheda soon fell into a condition of the utmost distress. Famine, and its sure attendant disease, more formidable than the enemy, took possession of the town; the men were enfeebled, their numbers thinned by fluxes and other complaints, and they were forced to live on horses, dogs, cats, and every loathsome resource of utter extremity. Sir Phelim saw their condition, and reckoned upon it not unreasonably: he saw that if he could collect a sufficient force, and obtain cannon to batter the walls, that the garrison were little likely to offer any effective resistance. With this view, he left his army and hurried away to the north, promising to return in eight days with eight cannon and a strong reinforcement— a. av«p »'m,jt xtam* r. very uiwureic ^i innt great an extent the remissaw vf --1* £v**aim«5n: iait iftnnnw- k maner of calculation.
T'ietiburait- Ul lut pan. vit fuliy aware of his danger, and armed Laufeeif wrj. iiervit rt»tiiinain_ Ht- sent captain Cadogan to Dublin Ur baiter. -ui>t imeahi. rtauforBememi and supplies; and expressed his r«*tiiatiuii v.. Lwd tiit- Wfi Hetohei the enemy while the last morsel rf Lorwr-fiiBhii reniaxned- sue xnet to cut his way to Dublin. In the tuUriau L* man <mt canal] piinai* to endeavour to obtain whatever provistvut cmld bt tiiu* fumid. wn&in a short distance of the town. There were in «oxH*«)nene% numerous skirmishes with the Irish, in which it vu preeemJT a*ewuin«3 that their resistance was so little formidable, that Tiehbunte fck he might take more decided steps to supply the wants of his famishing garrison. He sent captain Trevor to a place four miles </S, where he had been informed that there were eighty cows and two hundred sheep: the party was successful, and drove this fortunate acquisition without any resistance into the town, where they had not had for some weeks known wholesome aliment. They were thus enabled to hold out for several days; when, on the 20th of February, several ships appeared in the river, containing provisions and troops for their relief. The approach had been guarded against by the precautions of the Irish army, who had, in the mean time, strengthened the impediments which had failed to obstruct the form ersupply. But the day before, a storm had broken the chain, and the sunken vessel had drifted away with the force of the impeded current; there was a spring-tide, and the winds, for many days contrary, had shifted in their favour, and blew fair from the south-east. The transport thus carried on by the combined advantage of wind and tide, passed rapidly from the fire which the Irish kept up, and entered the harbour with the loss of two killed and fourteen wounded. They brought a good supply of provision, and four companies of men.
It so fell out that Sir Phelim returned the same day; he brought two guns and seven hundred men. And disregarding every lesson which tho previous incidents of the siege should have taught, he determined upon an assault. It was his plan to carry the walls by escalade, and in this absurd attempt his people were repulsed with such loss as to bring his army into entire contempt. Tichburne, who had hitherto ratod his enemy above their real worth, having been all through deoeivod by numerical disparity, now determined to be no longer the defensive party. After this occurrence, he sallied forth every tiny with ntrong parties and looked for the enemy, whom, when found, 1m ul way M dispersed with ease, so that a few days were sufficient to milixl'v tiu. Irwli that they could only be cut to pieces in detail by remaining any longer, and they collected their force and marched Mw«v on tho rtt.h of March.
'I low ended Sir l'holim's attempt for the capture of Drogheda. We have horo related the incidents of this siege with more detail limn it* nnportmioo may appear to deserve, because they are illustrative of tho comparative character of the forces employed on either aide. It i* ouriou* to notice for how long a time their numerical disparity continued to impose on hrtlhs and "it is evident that the events which terminated the siege might have equally prevented its commencement, had Tichhurne been aware of the true character of the enemy with whom he had to deal.
In the mean time Sir Phelim had been proclaimed a traitor: the ships, of which we have just mentioned the arrival, had brought copies of proclamations offering rewards for his head and that of several others; these were posted in the market-place. . He now turned towards the north, the greater part of his army having scattered, and many of his friends being prisoners. A council of war, held by the duke of Ormonde, agreed in the expediency of following up these favourable occurrences with a considerable force now at their command; but the step was countermanded by the lords-justices, who seem to have thought more of goading the lords of the pale to desperation, than of terminating a rebellion to which they seemed to have entertained no objection, unless at intervals when it appeared to menace the existence of their own authority. The duke of Ormonde sent notice to lord Moore and Sir H. Tichburne of the constraint which had been imposed upon his movements, and these gentlemen expressed their astonishment, and "could not possibly conceive what motives could induce the lords-justices to send such orders." They sent a messenger to Dundalk, towards which town Sir Phelim had sent his cannon. This messenger brought back word, "that Sir Phelim O'Neile, and colonel Plunket, had been the day before at that place, and had got together about five hundred men; that they would fain have led them out towards Drogheda, but the men did not care to march; that with great difficulty, and after hanging two of the. number, they at last got them out of the town, but as soon as the men found themselves out of the place, and at liberty, they threw down their arms and ran all away; that towards night Sir Phelim himself went away with Plunket, and left three field pieces behind him; and that there were not three gentlemen of quality left in the county of Louth."*
. The report of the earl of Ormonde's approach had been sufficient to scatter the rebel force about Atherdee and Dundalk. His recall renewed their courage, and hearing the circumstance, they rallied their forces and resumed the posts they had abandoned. Lord Moore and Tichburne, after reducing the environs of Drogheda as well as their means admitted, directed their march towards Atherdee. About a mile from this town they came in collision with a strong party of nearly two thousand rebels, which they routed without suffering any loss; and, proceeding on their way, occupied the town. Having garrisoned a castle in the vicinity with one hundred and fifty men, to awe the county of Louth, they pursued their march to Dundalk, which Sir Phelim held with a force of eight hundred strong. Sir Henry Tichburne assaulted this town, and carried it by storm with the loss of only eighteen men. Sir Phelim escaped in the dusk of evening. . The state of the Ulster rebels was now become a case of desperation. The town of Newry had been taken by lord Conway, and a
* Carte's Ormonde, I. p. 288.
strong force of Scotch, under Monroe, which had been landed at Carrickfergns. Their encounter* with the English troops had been little calculated to raise their hopes; they had received no assistance from Spain, and their means were reduced to the lowest. In the Month of April, it is mentioned, Sir Phelim had not in his possession more than " one firkin and a half of powder left;"* the people sent in petitions to be taken to merev, and their leaders prepared to fly the country. Sir Phelim fled from Armagh, which he burned, to Dungannon, and from Dungannon to Charlemont, while his followers left him and scattered among the passes of Tyrone.
But Munroe had other news, or was not equal to the occasion. Prompt, stern, and peremptory in the assertion of a military control over all persons and places which were not able to resist, he seems to have been deficient in the most obvious and ordinary operations which his position in the face of an insurgent province required. With an army of two thousand five hundred brave and hardy soldiers he continued inert for two months, until Sir Phelim, who was not deficient in activity, once more contrived to rally his scattered friends and soldiers, and made his reappearance in arms. He was joined by Alexander MacDonell, known by the name of Colkitto, and a numerous force collected from Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Donegal, together with no inconsiderable remains of his former army. Relying upon this formidable body, and encouraged by the inactivity of the enemy, he marched to attack Sir William and Sir Robert Stewart, June 16. The action was better maintained than usual by the Irish, but in spite of their numbers and personal bravery, they were at length routed with a heavy loss.
It was at this period of the rebellion that colonel Owen O'Neile landed in Donegal with a large supply of arms and ammunition, and what was more wanting, officers and soldiers, and thus gave a very important impulse to the subsiding agitation; his arrival was no less efficient in impairing the authority of Sir Phelim, who had till this event been the chief military leader of the insurrection.
From this a detail of the further events in which Sir Phelim was in any way a party, would lead us into notices which can be more appropriately pursued further on. He was excluded from any leading station by the distribution of the provinces to other commanders, but long continued to maintain a doubtful importance in the rebel councils, more from the influence of his father-in-law, general Preston, than from his own personal influence.
In 1652 he was tried for his life before the commission issued in Dublin, by the Commonwealth, for the trial of the offenders during the rebellion, and his end is more to his honour than any action of his previous life. He received an intimation that a pardon should be the reward of his evidence to prove that king Charles I. had authorised him to levy forces against his government in Ireland. Sir Phelim refused to save himself by a declaration so unwarranted and scandalous. He was accordingly tried and executed for the massacres committed by his authority in 1641.
• Carte, from n letter of Lord Slane's to Lord Gormanslowo.