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THE WAR WITH TYRONE.
The league of the north was not a cut-and-dried plot, but a thing of gradual growth. First the Ulster chiefs had combined ; then Connaught was raised; then the discontented in the Pale and Leinster were infected ; and finally, the restless spirits of Munster, who survived the Desmond insurrection, were induced by Tyrone, after his first success, to try one more throw for the independence of their country.
The boundary of Tyrone was the river Blackwater; and the rebel earl commenced hostilities by seizing the English fort which commanded the passage of the river ; while O'Donnel proceeded to overrun Connaught. The Government sent Norris to Newry to face Tyrone ; Bingham was compelled to act on the defensive in the west; and a successful raid by the lord-deputy into Leinster resulted in the capture and death of O'Byrne.
After a good deal of desultory fighting on the frontier in Monaghan and Armagh, in which the English had by no means the best of it, efforts were made at negotiation; and Elizabeth, despairing of an end of Irish troubles, was willing to patch up a peace on almost any decent terms. Tyrone, who was anxiously looking for help
. from Spain, did his best to spin out the correspondence. The demands of the confederates were the withdrawal of all garrisons from territory under Irish jurisdiction, and liberty of conscience. These terms the Government could not agree to; and on the arrival of three Spanish frigates, with arms and ammunition, in Donegal Bay, hostilities were recommenced. Sir William Russell had been succeeded by Lord Burgh; and the latter, after successfully recovering the fort on the Blackwater, was so severely pressed by the Irish that he was compelled to retire to Newry, where he died of his wounds. Archbishop Loftus, and Gardner, the lord chancellor, were then appointed lords justices by the council ; Ormonde was despatched to overawe Leinster; and Sir Henry Bangal was appointed to command the army of the north.
In August, 1598, Bagnal started from Newry with four thousand men, with the intention of relieving the garrison which Lord Burgh had thrown into the Blackwater fort, and which Tyrone was besieging. After leaving Armagh, Bagnal found the Irish army strongly posted on the river Callan. He attacked, and an obstinate battle was fought, which ended in the complete overthrow of the English, Sir Henry Bagnal himself being amongst the slain. Nearly half the English force was annihilated ; their guns, colours, and baggage fell into the hands of the enemy; and a disorderly crowd of fugitives took refuge in Dundalk.
This signal defeat came like a thunderbolt upon the
English Government. The Blackwater fort at once surrendered ; so did the garrisons of Monaghan and Armagh.
; All Ulster, save Carrickfergus, was in the hands of the insurgents, and nothing lay between them and the walls of Dublin except the forts of Dundalk and Drogheda. In Connaught the revolt was general; the whole of Leinster was in rebellion; and Ormonde himself was cooped up in Kilkenny. Tyrrel, who in “Tyrrel's Pass” had just cut off a thousand men despatched under Lord Trimleston to reinforce the army of the north, was master of Meath. He and Sir Piers Lacy and O'Moore of Leix had ravaged Ormonde's palatinate of Tipperary, and having occupied Kilmallock, had forced Sir Thomas Norris, the President of Munster, to take refuge in the city of Cork. The planters of Munster were driven out of their farms. The castles of Desmond were reoccupied by Fitzmaurice of Lixnaw. The White Knight and the Knight of Glyn, with other survivors of the Geraldines, the Roches, the O'Donoghues, the McCarthys, joined the insurgents. A nephew of the late Earl Gerald, the Sugan Earl, or Earl of Straw, as he was called, assumed the title of “ The Desmond,” and agreed to hold his recovered country of “The O'Neil.” All Ireland was in the hands of the rebels (with the exception of Dublin and a few garrison towns), who rioted in all the enormities of revenge, lust, and rapine, in every quarter of the kingdom.
This third native war was the most terrible crisis in Ireland that Elizabeth had had to meet. Not only was
there, almost for the first time in Irish history, an united effort being made on the part of the native population to expel the English, and to re-establish the ancient laws and the ancient faith, but the relative strength of the two parties was comparatively altered. The English forces were depleted by desertion ; their officers drew pay for the nominal strength, and pocketed the overplus. The troops themselves, ill-paid and ill-fed, were utterly demoralized and undisciplined. They were raw levies; many of them were boys of inferior physique to the Irish kerns. They were a greater source of fear to the peaceable inhabitants than to the enemy; and had long been the scourge of the country-people, on whom they billeted themselves indiscriminately. The Irish, on the contrary, could now put a formidable army in the field. They had taken a lesson from their masters ; instead of being as formerly a horde of half-armed savages, they were drilled and disciplined. They were commanded by men who had served with the queen's colours; and Elizabeth herself complains that one-third of her forces had been recruited from natives who had served in the ranks and then deserted to the enemy with their arms. Nor were they less completely supplied with arms and ammunition. A large quantity was imported from Spain, and the English trader was then, as in more modern times, not so scrupulous as to how he turned a dishonest penny.
The ill-paid English soldiers sold their weapons and their powder cheap to the Dublin dealers, who retailed both the one and the other at exorbitant prices to the Irish enemy.
The old queen, on finding herself face to face with this new danger, betook herself sternly to the crushing of it. In the spring of 1599, she sent over 20,000 infantry and 1300 horse, the largest army she had ever despatched to Ireland, and put it under the command of her favourite, Lord Essex, who had recently won golden opinions by his daring surprise of Cadiz, where he burnt the town and sixty Spanish galleons in the harbour. The necessity for prompt measures was urgent, for it was estimated that in Meath and the four provinces the Irish had over 18,000 men under arms.
The plan of the campaign, which had been settled at the council-board in England, was to send round the fleet to Ballyshannon and Lough Foyle, and so occupy strong positions in the rear of the enemy ; while Essex, with the bulk of his army, was to invade Tyrone from the bases of Newry and Dundalk. On arriving at Dublin, Essex seems to have been persuaded by the Irish council, many of whom had a considerable stake in the new plantations in Munster, to defer the campaign in the north and to strike at the rebellion in the south. Accordingly, after reinforcing the four Ulster garrisons, and Naas and Wicklow, he proceeded with 7000 men, accompanied by Ormonde, along the old highway through Kilkenny and Tipperary, and captured the castle of Cahir. From here he advanced to Limerick, where he was joined by Sir Conyers Clifford, the President of Connaught, and the Earls of Thomond and Clanricarde, who of all the Irish alone remained faithful to the Crown. He succeeded in rc