Don Juan D'Aguila

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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D'Aguila, Don Juan, a Spanish general, who "being in prison to answer some actions of his in Brytanny," consented in 1601 to take the command of a large force for the invasion of Ireland. Owing to difficulty in procuring transports, his departure was retarded at the port of embarkation, until the 6,000 men originally composing the armament were diminished to 4,000. On the passage, seven of the ships, conveying a chief part of the artillery and military stores, were, through stress of weather, obliged to put back to Corunna. Don Juan occupied Kinsale and the forts of Rincorran and Castle-ni-Park at the entrance of the harbour, on 23rd September, sent his transports back for further supplies, and communicated with O'Neill, O'Donnell, and the other Irish chieftains in arms against Elizabeth.

Lord Mountjoy and Sir George Carew, with a force of some 3,000 men, 2,000 of whom were Irish, and several war vessels, hastened to blockade Kinsale, and supplies were fast poured in to them from England. The siege was carried on with great activity, and the Spaniards behaved with admirable bravery. On 1st November the besiegers took Rincorran, and on the 20th Castle-ni-Park. The loss of these forts effectually prevented succours arriving by sea to the beleaguered garrison. The Spaniards made several desperate sorties, in which numbers were slain on both sides. The want of artillery wherewith properly to defend the place was severely felt. On the 20th November the investing force had been increased to some 11,800 foot and 857 horse, with 20 pieces of siege ordnance. On 1st December a breach was stormed by a party of 2,000 English, who were repulsed by the Spaniards. On the 3rd the missing portion of the Spanish fleet, under Don Pedro Zubiaur, arrived at Castlehaven, and landed 700 men, who were by the Irish put in possession of O'Driscoll's castle of Baltimore, O'Sullivan Beare's castle of Dunboy, and the fort of Castlehaven.

On 21st December O'Neill and O'Donnell showed themselves on the hill of Belgley, north of Kinaale, about a mile from the English camp. Their forces numbered 6,000 foot and 500 horse, with 300 Spaniards from Castlehaven. Don Juan was urgent that an immediate effort should be made to raise the siege, and on the morning of the 24th December O'Neill and O'Donnell marched to the attack. Their plans had, however, been betrayed, Mountjoy was fully prepared, and a disgraceful rout of the Irish troops ensued, with little loss on the English side. Don Juan's position being now desperate, he demanded a parley, and articles of capitulation were signed by him on the 2nd January 1601-'2. He surrendered the town and other fortresses in the possession of his countrymen on condition that his whole force, "as well Spaniards as other nations whatsoever that are under his command,.. with arms, munition, money, ensigns displayed, and artillery," should be provided with provisions at market prices, and ships for their return to Spain. He bitterly complained of not having been properly supported by the Irish chieftains, and declared that he had found them "not only weak and barbarous, but (as he feared) perfidious friends."

It is right to add that Hugh O'Neill had always advised that a Spanish force, to effect anything, should be landed in Ulster, especially after the end of the Desmond war, and the occupation of Munster by Elizabeth's troops. Numbers of Irish gentlemen, who are named in Pacata Hibernia, took advantage of the terms of the capitulation to retire to Spain, and as fast as transports could be prepared the Spaniards were embarked. Before Don Juan could deliver up Dunboy it was re-occupied by O'Sullivan Beare's retainers, who stood a long siege. [See O'SULLIVAN.] Don Juan felt his honour at stake, and if permitted by Mountjoy would himself have undertaken its reduction and surrender in accordance with the terms of capitulation. Much of his time between the capture of Kinsale and his return to Spain on 8th March 1601-'2, was spent in company with Sir George Carew at Cork. They became friends, and after Don Juan's arrival in Spain he sent Sir George a present of wine and fruits. Sir George in his letter of acknowledgment says: "I am much grieved then to see that this country produces not anything worthy to be presented to your lordship, that I might in some proportion manifest in what esteeme I hold the favour of a man of your qualities, honour, and merit."

No particulars concerning the life of Don Juan d'Aguila before or after his Irish expedition appear available. The name is spelled indifferently D'Aguila, D'Aquila, and D'Aquilla. Full particulars of the siege of Kinsale will be found in Pacata Hibernia and the Carew Papers, and an admirable summary in Haverty's Ireland.

Sources

69. Carew Manuscripts, Calendar. 4 vols. London, 1869-'73.

170a. Ireland, History of: Martin Haverty. Dublin, 1860.

275. Pacata Hibernia: Thomas Stafford. London, 1633.

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