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in County Clare 1534 - 1911
Diary of the Parliamentary Forces in County Clare, 1651
By June of 1651 the army of the Parliament of England under Henry Ireton, son in law of Oliver Cromwell, prepared to lay siege to Limerick. Parliamentarian ships in the Shannon estuary had landed a small force which captured Carrigaholt castle and possibly also the McMahon castle at Clonderalaw. To prevent the Cromwellians from crossing the Shannon the Irish army under Lord Castlehaven was stationed at Killaloe and O’Brien’s Bridge. However, Castlehaven, receiving reports that the English and Scottish army under Charles Coote were marching into east Galway, withdrew suddenly from Killaloe and allowed the Parliamentarian army to cross the river unopposed. Ireton and his men marched unhindered to the outskirts of Limerick and took up positions opposite Thomond bridge on the Clare side of the river. Following the Killaloe debacle, the Irish commanders in Clare, Col. David Roche and Col. Murtagh O’Brien, retook Carrigaholt castle and attempted to join up with the Irish army in Connacht in a forlorn attempt to raise the siege of Limerick. The progress of the siege and the excursions of Ireton and his deputy, Edmund Ludlow, into County Clare are recounted by an anonymous Cromwellian officer who kept a detailed diary of events during the summer and autumn of 1651.
Friday, 18 July 1651. By the last intercepted letters out of Limerick, the enemy in Conaught being invited to a speedy conjunction for relieving of that place; and David Roch and Murtogh O’Brien, with their forces in Thomond, having taken our garrison of Carrigahilt, proceeding to attempt on the rest of our garrisons in the county of Clare, there being no considerable party of ours in that county for opposing them; therefore was it resolved at a council of war this day that a considerable party should be sent speedily into the county of Clare for dispersing those there in a body; and for preventing that conjunction with Ferrall and the rest out of Conaught on which the besieged so much depend and for securing those of our garrisons in that county.
Saturday, 19 July 1651. His excellency [Henry Ireton] with the Lieutenant General [Edmund Ludlow] marched from the leagure with about 2,000 foot and 12 troops of horse and 8 troops of dragoons, into the county of Clare, according to the resolution the day before taken. The Major General commanded here. This day we heard of a party of Ulster men [under Ferrall] coming into the county of Clare for joining with Roch and Bryan. . . .
Tuesday, 22 July 1651. His Excellency returned to head quarters with some horse and foot, leaving the Lord General in Thomond with 7 troops of horse and 8 of dragoons and 1,200 foot, for attending the enemies motions, and for securing our remote garrisons.
Wednesday, 23 July 1651. The enemy in Limerick sallied with some horse and foot, but they were beaten back, ours both horse and foot, readily answering the alarm. Herein by the blessing of God his Excellency escaped narrowly. We heard that the enemy in Thomond had on the Lieutenant General’s advancing burnt Carrigahilt, and that they were gathering their party to engage the Lieutenant General.
Friday, 25 July 1651. The Lieutenant General returned to the head quarters, of whom we had these particulars: that he relieved the garrison of Carrigahilt besieged by the enemy and finding it a place within the land and remote and not easily to be relieved, he drew up the garrison and blew up the castle. That in his return, hearing of the enemy drawing together at a pass near Ennis, he fell into their quarters, killed many, took some prisoners and pursued the rest 3 or 4 miles. Among others was there slain Connor O’Brien of Lymenaugh in the county of Clare, a colonel of horse, the most considerable person in the county, although not acting in chief, he was much lamented in the country, and his cutting off gave a stop to the proceeding of the enemy and did break that regiment of horse commanded by him.
Saturday, 26 July 1651. A woman was taken this night endeavouring to go into Limerick on the Thomond side, she being at the fort there and supposing it belonged to her party. She desired to be admitted to the governor’s presence, Major General O Neal, and being brought into the fort and finding her error, she laboured to recall herself; but fearing torture (there threatened) she confessed she was sent the day before from Quin in the county of Clare by Col. Roch to tell the governor of Limerick that on the 27th a party should be about six-mile-bridge (six miles from Limerick) desiring instruction how to order the relief there attending him, and ordering her if she could not pass into Limerick, to return with what intelligence she observed. (This spy was hanged for fear of giving further intelligence.). . .
Lord’s Day, 27 July 1651. This being the day appointed by Roch and his party for being at six-mile-bridge, his Excellency commanded out a party of sixty horse for discovering them, but there was nothing heard of them. . . .
Tuesday, 29 July 1651. Orders were sent to Sir Theo. Jones that he should hinder all he might Ferrall’s conjunction and his Ulster forces with the forces of the County Clare, that thereby neither his Excellency before Limerick, nor the Lord President before Galloway should be disturbed in their work, and to that end his residence at Loughreagh was thought convenient as answering the enemy’s motions either way, that if Ferrall were passed by already into the county of Clare and if the Lord President could not spare any considerable forces, then Sir Theo. Jones should march to Thomond side of Killaloe and from there to expect further orders from his Excellency.
Friday, 1 August 1651. We heard that Sir Theo. Jones with 12 troops of horse and dragoons was there falling into the county of Clare, following David Roch and his party; that Ferrall was governor of the Ulster army and Philip Mac Hugh O Rely assisted him.
Lord’s Day, 3 August 1651. Some of the inhabitants out of Limerick to escape ferried out on Thomond side; some were slain and the rest back. This day his Excellency by a dispatch to the Lord President of Conaught certified him what by intelligence he understood of the enemy’s designs, that they intended the sending 500 horse to join with the Clare forces, who were about 2,000 foot, that by them intending the relief of Limerick and that the forces of Conaught were principally designed for engaging him the Lord President.
Monday, 4 August 1651. We intercepted letters from Limerick desiring supplies; also some going into Limerick from Col. Roch to the Governor promising within 5 nights to be near with relief. This letter was dated July 31st, and that the same night there should be a sign given by him from Glanne grosse, a mountain in Thomond towards Limerick. We thereupon strengthened our guards towards Foybee passe with more horse and dragoons. . . .
Thursday, 7 August 1651. By some out of Limerick we heard of the sickness there increasing, 24 buried in a morning; that they wanted great shot, and for the supplying of small shot they had untiled the Earl of Thomond’s house. Out of Thomond we heard that on the 5th instant Col. David Roch and Murtough O Bryan with their forces about 2,500, marched from Ennis to Downemoyhill between the two counties of Clare and Galloway. . . .
September 1651. This day a party of horse and dragoons in our new garrison of Clonrone on the other side of Clare Castle appearing before Clare, the enemy sallied in number about 150, ours retiring for advantage, and the enemy pursuing, we charged them and killed and took about 40, among whom was Capt. Lalor, who charged Col. White, (late governor of Clare) for conferring with his Excellency on August 25th. In this the castle of Clare found what they might after expect of those our new garrisons, their neighbours. . . .
Friday, 5 September 1651. In this expedition [into Clare] was our party before Limerick secured from the attempts of the enemy, and the hopes of the besieged at present disappointed as to supplies from theirs on this side; thereby was the enemy in County Clare dispersed, and many persons therein considerable brought under contribution who till then held out, and either would not or durst not by reason of the enemy’s power submit to us; and by it had we the advantage of placing convenient garrisons in that county, where was laid a force of about 500 horse and dragoons, and as many foot, for answering all motions of the enemy there, and for repressing the oppression of the country by those in Clare Castle. . . .
Monday, 8 September 1651. His Excellency went this day to Bunratty, belonging to the Earl of Thomond, which lying on the Shannon was conceived fit to be fortified. There was laid Captain Preston with his troop of horse and foot company. This place was very convenient for baking and making and laying up provisions for the army and other garrisons thereabout. Some labouring to pass out of Limerick were by our guards on Thomond side met withall and put to the sword. . . .
Tuesday, 28 October 1651. Out of the county of Clare was thus certified that Col. Murtough O’Brien and Col. Bourke lay at Balliturry, that their forces were 1600 foot and 250 horse and that we had garrisoned the town of Inchinglin in Thomond. At a council of war it was this day debated and voted that part of the army should march into the county of Clare to fortify the town of Enis, and thence to march to Gallway. . . .
Wednesday, 29 October 1651. [Fall of Limerick] This day the enemy marched out of Limerick about 1200 [men], and, according as their interests led them, some went into the county of Clare, some towards Muskery [in Munster] and others towards their party in the county of Tipperary. . . .
Thursday, 30 October 1651. Col. Warden with 6 troops was sent from us to Enis in the county of Clare there to attend the coming thither of the army and to assay what might be done by treaty for gaining the strong castle of Clare. . . .
Saturday, 1 November 1651. The Lieutenant General marched with the army into the county of Clare.
Lord’s Day, 2 November 1651. Col. Warden (sent before into the county of Clare) this day summoned the castle of Clare. Hereunto was the following answer returned:
Sir, I can hardly believe that the Governor of Limerick was brought to such low conditions as you make mention of in your letter. Howsoever, the officers here desire a respite of time until Monday next, seeing our Governor is not in place, and in the interim we may send him notice of the contents of your letter, and then resolve you; wherein we desire a speedy answer and rest your servant, W. Butler. Clare Castle, 1 November 1651. . . .
Tuesday, 4 November 1651. The Lieutenant General coming before Clare Castle, it was at a council of war debated whether it had been advisable to summon or attempt the strong castle of Clare. The strength of it would make a siege or a storm equally dangerous, considering the time of the year and the strength of the place, not short of any of that we had to deal with, all appearing by description of the place and the map of it before given. A refusal on a summons would be tending to Carigaholt in the county of Clare on the Shannon, which was to be now looked after, and the place had been already summoned by Col. Warden, and the time passed wherein an answer should have been given as if not inclining to surrender. In this difference of opinions it pleased God to incline us to a second summons from the Lieutenant General, which was this day sent, and God thereupon ordered the delivering of the place contrary to our expectation or hopes.
The conditions of surrender are as follows:
Articles of agreement by and between Lt. Gen. Ludlow on the behalf of the lord deputy General of the one part and Capt. William Butler and Capt. Donogh O Connor on the behalf of Col. McEgan of the other, touching the surrender of Clare for the use of the Parliament and Commonwealth of England, dated the 4th November, 1651.
1. That the castle and all places of strength within the same with all the arms, ammunition, stores, and other utensils of war (except hereafter excepted) shall be delivered up to such as shall be appointed to receive the same without embezzlement or spoil by 8 of the clock tomorrow morning, being the 5 of November.
2. In consideration whereof all the officers and soldiers shall have free liberty to march away with their arms, bag and baggage, drum beating, colours flying, muskets loaden, matches lighted, bullets in pouch.
3. That all persons of what degree and quality soever shall have liberty to march away with bag and baggage, chattel of all sorts.
4. That all persons (except Romish priests, Jesuits and friars) who desire to live in protection shall have liberty so to do, submitting themselves to all acts and ordinances of parliament.
5. That convoys and passes shall be allowed to such of them as desire the same.
6. That Col. Stephen White shall have the benefit of these articles in case he accepts of it within twelve days.
7. Each musketeer shall carry with him half a pound of powder with bullet and match proportionable.
8. That none shall suffer for another man’s default in breaking of the articles.
9. That two hostages be forthwith given by the Lieutenant Colonel for the performance of these articles.
In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands the day and year within written.
This day the place was delivered according to the articles and committed to Col. Sadler’s government, and in his absence to Lt. Col. Fowkes of his regiments. There marched away of the enemy about 230. We found there 8 barrels of powder, 70 bundles of match, 2 barrels of bullets, some old unfixed arms, with provision of meal and corn etc. also a small iron piece mounted on the works, and here we recovered our mortar piece and shells (about 23) and our two guns (one a cannon of 7, the other a demi cannon) with their shot, about 60, which had been lost as is before mentioned, July 5.