The twofold operations against Ulster, neglected by Essex, were vigorously pressed forward by the energetic Mountjoy. On the 16th of May, a fleet arrived in Lough Foyle, having on board 4,000 foot and 200 horse, under the command of Sir Henry Dowcra, with abundance of stores, building materials, and ordnance. At the same moment, the Deputy forced the Moira pass, and made a feigned demonstration against Armagh, to draw attention from the fleet in the Foyle. This feint served its purpose; Dowcra was enabled to land and throw up defensive works at Derry, which he made his head-quarters, to fortify Culmore at the entrance to the harbour, where he placed 600 men, under the command of Captain Atford, and to seize the ancient fort of Aileach, at the head of Lough Swilly, where Captain Ellis Flood was stationed with 150 men. The attempt against Ballyshannon was, on a nearer view, found impracticable, and deferred; the Deputy, satisfied that the lodgment had been made upon Lough Foyle, retired to Dublin, after increasing the garrisons at Newry, Carlingford, and Dundalk. The Catholic chieftains immediately turned their attention to the new fort at Deny, appeared suddenly before it with 5,000 men, but failing to draw out its defenders, and being wholly unprovided with a siege train and implements--as they appear to have been throughout-- they withdrew the second day, O'Donnell leaving a party in hopes to starve out the foreigners. This party were under the command of O'Doherty, of Innishowen, and Nial Garve O'Donnell, the most distinguished soldier of his name, after his illustrious cousin and chief. On the 28th of June, a party of the besieged, headed by Sir John Chamberlaine, made a sally from the works, but were driven in with loss, and Chamberlaine killed. On the 29th of July, O'Donnell, who had returned from his annual incursion into Connaught and Thomond, seized the English cavalry horses, and defeated the main force of the besieged, who had issued out to their rescue. From this affair Dowcra was carried back wounded into Deny.
But treason was busy in the Irish camp and country among the discontented members of the neighbouring clans. The election of chiefs for life, always a fruitful source of bickering and envy, supplied the very material upon which "the princely policie" of division, recommended by Bacon to Essex, might be exercised. Dowcra succeeded in the summer in winning over Art O'Neil, son of Turlogh, the early adversary of the great Hugh; before the year was over, by bribes and promises, he seduced Nial Garve, in the absence of his chief in Connaught, and Nial, having once entered on the career of treason, pursued it with all the dogged courage of Ms disposition. Though his wife, sister to Red Hugh, forsook him, though his name was execrated throughout the Province, except by his blindly devoted personal followers, he served the English during the remainder of the war with a zeal and ability to which they acknowledged themselves deeply indebted. By a rapid march, at the head of 1,000 men, supplied by Dowcra, he surprised the town of Lifford, which his new allies promptly fortified with walls of stone, and entrusted to him to defend. Red Hugh, on learning this alarming incident, hastened from the West to invest the place. After sitting before it an entire month, with no other advantage than a sally repulsed, he concluded to go into winter quarters. Arthur O'Neil and Nial Garve had the dignity of knighthood conferred upon them, and were, besides, recognized for the day by the English officials as the future O'Neil and O'Donnell. In like manner, "a Queen's Maguire" had been raised up in Fermanagh, "a Queen's O'Reilly" in Cavan, and other chiefs of smaller districts were provided with occupation enough at their own doors by the "princely policie" of Lord Bacon.
The English interest in Munster during the first year of Mountjoy's administration had recovered much of its lost predominance. The new President, Sir George Carew, afterwards Earl of Totness, was brother to that knightly "undertaker" who claimed the moiety of Desmond, and met his death at Glenmalure. He was a soldier of the new school, who prided himself especially on his "wit and cunning," in the composition of "sham and counterfeit letters." He had an early experience in the Irish wars, first as Governor of Askeaton Castle, and afterwards as Lieutenant General of the Ordnance. Subsequently he was employed in putting England in a state of defence against the Spaniards, and had just returned from an embassy to Poland, when he was ordered to join Mountjoy with the rank of Lord President. He has left us a memoir of his administration, civil and military, edited by his natural son and Secretary, Thomas Stafford--exceedingly interesting to read both as to matter and manner, but the documents embodied in which are about as reliable as the speeches which are read in Livy. Some of them are admitted forgeries; others are at least of doubtful authenticity. After escaping with Lord Thomond from the scene of Ormond's capture, his first act on reaching Cork was to conclude a month's truce with Florence McCarthy. This he did, in order to gain time to perfect a plot for the destruction of O'Neil's other friend, called in derision, by the Anglo-Irish of Munster, the sugane (or straw-rope) Earl of Desmond.
This plot, so characteristic of Carew and of the turn which English history was about to take in the next reign, deserves to be particularly mentioned. There was, in the service of the Earl, one Dermid O'Conor, captain of 1,400 hired troops, who was married to lady Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter to the late, and niece to the new-made Earl of Desmond. This lady, naturally interested in the restoration of her young brother, then the Queen's ward or prisoner at London, to the title and estates, was easily drawn into the scheme of seducing her husband from his patron. To justify and cloak the treachery a letter was written by Carew to the sugane Earl reminding him of his engagement to deliver up O'Conor; this letter, as pre-arranged, was intercepted by the latter, who, watching his opportunity, rushed with it open into the Earl's presence, and arrested him, in the name of O'Neil, as a traitor to the Catholic cause! Anxious to finger his reward--1,000 pounds and a royal commission for himself --before giving up his capture, O'Conor imprisoned the Earl in the keep of Castle-Ishin, but the White Knight, the Knight of Glynn, Fitzmaurice of Kerry, and Pierce Lacy, levying rapidly 2,000 men, speedily delivered him from confinement, while his baffled betrayer, crest-fallen and dishonoured, was compelled to quit the Province. The year following he was attacked while marching through Galway, and remorselessly put to death by Theobald Burke, usually called Theobald of the ships.
Another device employed to destroy the influence of O'Neil's Desmond was the liberation of the young son of the late Earl from the Tower and placing him at the disposal of Carew. The young nobleman, attended by a Captain Price, who was to watch all his movements, landed at Youghal, where he was received by the Lord President, the Clerk of the Council, Mr. Boyle, afterwards Earl of Cork, and Miler Magrath, an apostate ecclesiastic, who had been the Queen's Archbishop of Cashel. By his influence with the warders, Castlemaine, in Kerry, surrendered to the President. On reaching Kilmallock, he was received with such enthusiasm that it required the effort of a guard of soldiers to make way for him through the crowd. According to their custom the people showered down upon him from the windows handfuls of wheat and salt--emblems of plenty and of safety--but the next day, being Sunday, turned all this joy into mourning, not unmingled with anger and shame. The young lord, who had been bred up a Protestant by his keepers, directed his steps to the English Church, to the consternation of the devoted adherents of his house. They clung round him in the street and endeavoured to dissuade him from proceeding, but he continued his course, and on his return was met with hootings and reproaches by those who had hailed him with acclamations the day before. Deserted by the people, and no longer useful to the President, he was recalled to London, where he resumed his quarters in the Tower, and shortly afterwards died. The capture of the strong castle of Glynn from the knight of that name, and the surrender of Carrigafoyle by O'Conor of Kerry, were the other English successes which marked the campaign of 1600 in Munster. On the other hand, O'Donnell had twice exercised his severe supremacy over southern Connaught, burning the Earl of Thomond's new town of Ennis, and sweeping the vales and plains of Clare, and of Clanrickarde, of the animal wealth of their recreant Earls, now actively enlisted against the national confederacy.
The eventful campaign of 1601 was fought out in almost every quarter of the kingdom. To hold the coast line, and prevent the advantages being obtained, which the possession of Derry, and other harbours on Lough Foyle gave them, were the tasks of O'Donnell; while to defend the southern frontier was the peculiar charge of O'Neil. They thus fought, as it were, back to back against the opposite lines of attack. The death of O'Doherty, early in this year, threw the succession to Innishowen into confusion, and while O'Donnell was personally endeavouring to settle conflicting claims, Nial Garve seized on the famous Franciscan monastery which stood at the head of the bay, within sight of the towers of Donegal Castle. Hugh Roe immediately invested the place, which his relative as stoutly defended. Three months, from the end of June till the end of September, the siege was strictly maintained, the garrison being regularly supplied with stores and ammunition from sea. On the night of the 29th of September an explosion of gunpowder occurred, and soon the monastery was wrapped in flames. This was the moment chosen for the final attack. The glare of the burning Abbey reflected over the beautiful bay, the darkness of night all round, the shouts of the assailants, and the shrieks of the fugitives driven by the flames upon the spears of their enemies, must have formed a scene of horrors such as even war rarely combines. Hundreds of the besieged were slain, but Nial Garve himself, with the remainder, covered by the fire of an English ship in the harbour, escaped along the strand to the neighbouring monastery of Magherabeg, which he quickly put into a state of defence. All that was left to O'Donnell of that monastery, the burial place of his ancestors, and the chief school of his kinsmen, was a skeleton of stone, standing amid rubbish and ashes. It was never re-inhabited by the Franciscans. A group of huts upon the shore served them for shelter, and the ruined chapel for a place of worship, while they were still left in the land.
While Hugh Roe was investing Donegal Abbey the war had not paused on the southern frontier. We have said that Mountjoy had made a second and a third demonstration against Armagh the previous year; in one of these journeys he raised a strong fort at the northern outlet of the Moira pass, which he called Mount Norris, in honour of his late master in the art of war. This work, strongly built and manned, gave him the free entree of the field of battle whenever he chose to take it. In June of this year he was in the valley of the Blackwater, menaced O'Neil's castle of Benburb, and left Sir Charles Danvers with 750 foot and 100 horse in possession of Armagh. He further proclaimed a reward of 2,000 pounds for the capture of Tyrone alive, or 1,000 pounds for his head. But no Irishman was found to entertain the thought of that bribe. An English assassin was furnished with passports by Danvers, and actually drew his sword on the Earl in his own tent, but he was seized, disarmed, and on the ground of insanity was permitted to escape. Later in the summer Mountjoy was again on the Blackwater, where he laid the foundation of Charlemont, called after himself, and placed 350 men in the works under the command of Captain Williams, the brave defender of the old fort in the same neighbourhood. There were thus quartered in Ulster at this period the 4,000 foot and 400 horse under Dowcra, chiefly on the Foyle, with whatever companies of Kerne adhered to Arthur O'Neil and Nial Garve; with Chichester in Carrickfergus there were 850 foot and 150 horse; with Danvers in Armagh, 750 foot and 100 horse; in Mount Norris, under Sir Samuel Bagnal, 600 foot and 50 horse; in and about Downpatrick, lately taken by the Deputy, under Moryson, 300 foot; in Newry, under Stafford, 400 foot and 50 horse; in Charlemont, with Williams, 300 foot and 50 horse; or, in all, of English regulars in Ulster alone, 7,000 foot and 800 horse. The position of the garrisons on the map will show how firm a grasp Mountjoy had taken of the Northern Province.
The last scene of this great struggle was now about to shift to the opposite quarter of the kingdom. The long-looked for Spanish fleet was known to have left the Tagus--had been seen off the Scilly Islands. On the 23rd of September the Council, presided over by Mountjoy, was assembled in Kilkenny Castle: there were present Carew, Ormond, Sir Richard Wingfield, Marshal of the Queen's troops, uncle to Carew, and founder of the family of Powerscourt; also Chief Justice Gardiner, and other members less known. While they were still sitting a message arrived from Cork that the Spanish fleet was off that harbour, and soon another that they had anchored in Kinsale, and taken possession of the town without opposition. The course of the Council was promptly taken. Couriers were at once despatched to call in the garrisons far and near which could possibly be dispensed with for service in Munster. Letters were despatched to England for reinforcements, and a winter campaign in the South was decided on.
The Spanish auxiliary force, when it sailed from the Tagus, consisted originally of 6,000 men in fifteen armed vessels and thirty transports. When they reached Kinsale, after suffering severely at sea, and parting company with several of their comrades, the soldiers were reduced to 3,400 men--a number inferior to Dowcra's force on the Foyle. The General, Don Jaun del Aguila, was a brave, but testy, passionate and suspicious officer. He has been severely censured by some Irish writers for landing in the extreme South, within fourteen miles of the English arsenal and head-quarters at Cork, and for his general conduct as a commander. However vulnerable he may be on the general charge, he does not seem fairly to blame for the choice of the point of debarkation. He landed in the old Geraldine country, unaware, of course, of the events of the last few weeks, in which the sugane Earl, and Florence McCarthy, had been entrapped by Carew's "wit and cunning," and shipped for London, from which they never returned. Even the northern chiefs, up to this period, evidently thought their cause much stronger in the South, and Munster much farther restored to vigour and courage than it really was. To the bitter disappointment and disgust of the Spaniards, only O'Sullivan Beare, O'Driscoll, and O'Conor of Kerry, declared openly for them; while they could hear daily of chiefs they had been taught to count as friends, either as prisoners or allies of the English. On the 17th of October--three weeks from their first arrival--they were arrested in Kinsale by a mixed army of English and Anglo-Irish, 15,000 strong, under the command of the Deputy and President, of whom above 5,000 had freshly arrived at Cork from England. With Mountjoy were the Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde, more zealous than the English themselves for the triumph of England. The harbour was blockaded by ten ships of war, under Sir Richard Leviston, and the forts at the entrance, Rincorran and Castlenepark, being taken by cannonade, the investment on all sides was complete. Don Juan's messengers found O'Neil and O'Donnell busily engaged on their own frontiers, but both instantly resolved to muster all their strength for a winter campaign in Munster. O'Donnell rendezvoused at Ballymote, from which he set out, at the head of 2,500 men, of Tyrconnell and Connaught, on the 2nd day of November. O'Neil, with McDonnell of Antrim, McGennis of Down, McMahon of Monaghan, and others, his suffragans, marched at the head of between 3,000 and 4,000 men, through West-Meath towards Ormond. Holy Cross was their appointed place of meeting, where they expected to be joined by such of the neighbouring Catholics as were eager to strike a blow for liberty of worship. O'Donnell reached the neighbourhood first, and encamped in a strongly defensible position, "plashed on every quarter" for greater security. Mountjoy, anxious to engage him before O'Neil should come up, detached a numerically superior force, under Carew, for that purpose: but O'Donnell, evacuating his quarters by night, marched over the mountain of Slieve Felim, casting away much of his heavy baggage, and before calling halt was 32 Irish miles distant from his late encampment. After this extraordinary mountain march, equal to 40 of our present miles, he made a detour to the westward, descended on Castlehaven, in Cork, and formed a junction with 700 Spaniards, who had just arrived to join Del Aguila. A portion of these veterans were detailed to the forts of Castlehaven, Baltimore, and Dunboy, commanding three of the best havens in Munster; the remainder joined O'Donnell's division.
During the whole of November the siege of Kinsale was pressed with the utmost vigour by Mountjoy. The place mounted but three or four effective guns, while 20 great pieces of ordnance were continually playing on the walls. On the 1st of December a breach was found practicable, and an assault made by a party of 2,000 English was bravely repulsed by the Spaniards. The English fleet, ordered round to Castlehaven on the 3rd, were becalmed, and suffered some damage from a battery, manned by Spanish gunners, on the shore. The lines were advanced closer towards the town, and the bombardment became more effective. But the English ranks were considerably thinned by disease and desertion, so that on the last day of December, when the united Irish force took up their position at Belgoley, a mile to the north of their lines, the Lord Deputy's effective force did not, it is thought, exceed 10,000 men. The Catholic army has generally been estimated at 6,000 native foot and 500 horse; to these are to be added 300 Spaniards, under Don Alphonso Ocampo, who joined O'Donnell at Castlehaven.
The prospect for the besiegers was becoming exceedingly critical, but the Spaniards in Kinsale were far from being satisfied with their position. They had been fully three months within walls, in a region wholly unknown to them before their allies appeared. They neither understood nor made allowance for the immense difficulties of a winter campaign in a country trenched with innumerable swollen streams, thick with woods, which, at that season, gave no shelter, and where camping out at nights was enough to chill the hottest blood. They only felt their own inconveniences: they were cut off from escape by sea by a powerful English fleet, and Carew was already practising indirectly on their commander his "wit and cunning," in the fabrication of rumours, and the forging of letters. Don Juan wrote urgent appeals to the northern chiefs to attack the English lines without another day's delay, and a council of war, the third day after their arrival at Belgoley, decided that the attack should be made on the morrow. This decision was come to on the motion of O'Donnell, contrary to the judgment of the more circumspect and far-seeing O'Neil. Overruled, the latter acquiesced in the decision, and cheerfully prepared to discharge his duty.
A story is told by Carew that information was obtained of the intended attack from McMahon, in return for a bottle of aquavitae presented to him by the President. This tale is wholly unworthy of belief, told of a chief of the first rank, encamped in the midst of a friendly country. It is also said--and it seems credible enough --that an intercepted letter of Don Juan's gave the English in good time this valuable piece of information. On the night of the 2nd of January, new style (24th of December, O.S.--in use among the English), the Irish army left their camp in three divisions, the vanguard led by Tyrrell, the centre by O'Neil, and the rear by O'Donnell. The night was stormy and dark, with continuous peals and flashes of thunder and lightning. The guides lost their way, and the march, which, even by the most circuitous route, ought not to have exceeded four or five miles, was protracted through the entire night. At dawn of day, O'Neil, with whom were O'Sullivan and Ocampo, came in sight of the English lines, and, to his infinite surprise, found the men under arms, the cavalry in troop posted in advance of their quarters. O'Donnell's division was still to come up, and the veteran Earl now found himself in the same dilemma into which Bagnal had fallen at the Yellow Ford. His embarrassment was perceived from the English camp; the cavalry were at once ordered to advance. For an hour O'Neil maintained his ground alone; at the end of that time he was forced to retire. Of Ocampo's 300 Spaniards, 40 survivors were, with their gallant leader, taken prisoners; O'Donnell at length arrived, and drove back a wing of the English cavalry; Tyrrell's horsemen also held their ground tenaciously. But the rout of the centre proved irremediable. Fully 1,200 of the Irish were left dead on the field, and every prisoner taken was instantly executed. On the English side fell Sir Richard Graeme; Captains Danvers and Godolphin, with several others, were wounded; their total loss they stated at 200, and the Anglo-Irish, of whom they seldom made count in their reports, must have lost in proportion. The Earls of Thomond and Clanrickarde were actively engaged with their followers, and their loss could hardly have been less than that of the English regulars. On the night following their defeat, the Irish leaders held council together at Innishanon, on the river Bandon, where it was agreed that O'Donnell should instantly take shipping for Spain to lay the true state of the contest before Philip III.; that O'Sullivan should endeavour to hold the Castle of Dunboy, as commanding a most important harbour; that Rory O'Donnell, second brother of Hugh Roe, should act as Chieftain of Tyrconnell, and that O'Neil should return into Ulster to make the best defence in his power. The loss in men was not irreparable; the loss in arms, colours, and reputation, was more painful to bear, and far more difficult to retrieve.
On the 12th of January, nine days after the battle, Don Juan surrendered the town, and agreed to give up at the same time Dunboy, Baltimore, and Castlehaven. He had lost 1,000 men out of his 3,000 during a ten weeks' siege, and was heartily sick of Irish warfare. On his return to Spain he was degraded from his rank, for his too great intimacy with Carew, and confined a prisoner in his own house. He is said to have died of a broken heart occasioned by these indignities.
O'Donnell sailed from Castlehaven in a Spanish ship, on the 6th of January, three clays after the battle, and arrived at Corunna on the 14th. He was received with all the honours due to a crown prince by the Conde de Caracena, Governor of Galicia. Among other objects, he visited the remains of the tower of Betanzos, from which, according to Bardic legends, the sons of Milesius had sailed to seek for the Isle of Destiny among the waves of the west. On the 27th he set out for the Court, accompanied as far as Santa Lucia by the governor, who presented him with 1,000 ducats towards his expenses. At Compostella the Archbishop offered him his own palace, which O'Donnell respectfully declined: he afterwards celebrated a Solemn High Mass for the Irish chief's intention, entertained him magnificently at dinner, and presented him, as the governor had done, with 1,000 ducats. At Zamora he received from Philip III. a most cordial reception, and was assured that in a very short time a more powerful armament than Don Juan's should sail with him from Corunna. He returned to that port, from which he could every day look out across the western waves that lay between him and home, and where he could be kept constantly informed of what was passing in Ireland. Spring was over and gone, and summer, too, had passed away, but still the exigencies of Spanish policy delayed the promised expedition. At length O'Donnell set out on a second visit to the Spanish Court, then at Valladolid, but he reached no further than Simancas, when, fevered in mind and body, he expired on the 10th of September, 1602, in the 29th year of his age. He was attended in his last moments by two Franciscan Fathers who accompanied him, Florence, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam, and Maurice Donlevy, of his own Abbey of Donegal. His body was interred with regal honours in the Cathedral of Valladolid, where a monument was erected to his memory by the King of Spain.
Thus closed the career of one of the brightest and purest characters in any history. His youth, his early captivity, his princely generosity, his daring courage, his sincere piety won the hearts of all who came in contact with him. He was the sword as O'Neil was the brain of the Ulster Confederacy; the Ulysses and Achilles of the war, they fought side by side, without jealousy or envy, for almost as long a period as their prototypes had spent in besieging Troy.