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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 21. Catholic Confederation

The Confederate Catholics resolve to wrest it from the Parliamentarians; Siege of the Castle; Surrender of the place to the Catholics, and the standards found there sent to Limerick by Rinuccini, the Papal Legate; Rejoicings at Limerick

Before this fortress, Muskerry with his army sat down, almost immediately after its occupation by the Puritans. He took at first, upon quarter, a castle which stood at the entrance into the park, and in which the enemy had placed some musqueteers, and he next fixed his camp in the neighbourhood of the outworks. His soldiers supplied themselves with venison, and the woods were preserved to afford fuel for cooking purposes. After some skirmishing, he succeeded in obtaining possession of all the ground on the outer side of the broad deep trench which had been dug round, on the west side of the church, and then settled himself there, in such a position that, being protected by the earthworks of the trench, and by gabions and hurdles set up by himself, he could not be annoyed by the cannon either of the castle or of the platform before it. Equal skill and bravery, in carrying on the siege and in making the defence, were exhibited by both parties. The besieged, being supplied with men from the ships, frequently sallied out, but were as often diven back, and owing to the proximity of the hill and other causes, their sallies did little harm. In one of them, however, on the 1st of April, Captain Magrath, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish horse, was wounded. A rout followed, in which large numbers of the Confederate army were taken prisoners by the Protestants. In the afternoon of the same day, a general attack was made on the Confederate camp at Sixmilebridge, where a hot engagement ensued, terminating in the capture of the camp and in the pursuit for two miles, of its defenders. Two hundred and fifty bags of oatmeal, and some other provisions were found in the camp, a most seasonable relief to the Parliamentarians, whose stores were well nigh exhausted. Captain Magrath and a lieutenant who had also been wounded, died, and both were buried honourably, with three volleys of small shot.

A little before this time, Muskerry had made every exertion to distract the attention of the besieged, so as to lodge a number of his soldiers at a spot from which they might be able to assault the castle. He executed this manœuvre successfully, but his men, hearing a noise which they imagined was the approach of cavalry, fled in terror, their sergeant being the first to take to his heels, relying on the too great indulgence hitherto conceded to acts of cowardice. At last, Lord Muskerry resolved to make a stern example of those poltroons, and the sergeant and ten of his soldiers were executed on the spot. To make up for this partial reverse, Lieut.-Colonel MacAdam, while standing inside one of the windows of the castle, was killed by an accidental shot fired from a field piece placed among some gabions on the hill above the castle. His loss was irreparable, and it soon led to the surrender of the place to the Catholics. During part of the time of the prosecution of the siege, they were stimulated to exertion by the arrival in their camp of Rinuccini, the Papal Legate, on the 1st of July. He lodged outside the rampart, in a hovel built of earth and covered with straw, and he stayed with the Irish till the place was given up, on the 13th day of that month. The victors found in the castle valuable furniture, plate, and other spoils. Munitions of war and standards were also captured. These latter the Nuncio caused to be brought to Limerick, and carried through the town in solemn procession to the Cathedral of St. Mary, where a Te Deum was sung to celebrate his victory over the heretic enemy. The defeated English fled by sea to Cork. Before its investiture by the Irish, the garrison of Bunratty had attacked the castles of Cappagh, Rosmanagher, then styled Captain Hunt’s castle, the castle of Ballintea, then owned by John MacNamara, carried off 200 cows, 250 sheep, 80 garrons, and killed many inoffensive country people, called by Sir William Penn, “rogues.” Several important results followed from the capture of Bunratty. Among others, the Shannon was freed from the blockade caused by the English vessels, and perfect freedom of trade established between the port of Limerick and the sea. [5]