Major-General Robert Munro

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Monro, Robert, Major-General, a Scotch soldier who took a prominent part in the War of 1641-'52. He distinguished himself in Flanders, and afterwards in the Thirty Years' War. Of his services under the Swedish King he published an account, now very scarce — Monro's Expedition... under the Invincible King of Sweden, 1637. On his return to Scotland he zealously espoused the cause of the Covenant, and "appears to have had much real enjoyment in ruthlessly carrying out its behests."[243]

In 1642 he passed over to Ireland to reinforce the Scotch Presbyterians there. The position of the Scotch force in Ireland — opposed alike to the Irish Catholics and the royalists — is as difficult to follow as that of the other parties among whom Ireland was desolated for eleven years. On 15th of April he landed with 2,500 Scotch at Carrickfergus, and being joined on the 28th and 29th by Lord Conway and Colonel Chichester with 1,800 foot, five troops of light horse, and two of dragoons, advanced on 1st May to Newry.

The Irish Confederates almost immediately quitted the town, and the Castle surrendered on 3rd May. Monro put sixty men, eighteen women, and two priests to death, and leaving a garrison of 300 men, set out on the 7th for Carrickfergus, wasting the country and driving off a prey of 4,000 cattle. After a short delay he again marched out into the County of Antrim, burnt Glenarm, and carried off great cattle preys. He was hospitably received at Dunluce by the Earl of Antrim, who proffered his service and assistance in the pacification of the country, and provided for him a great entertainment; but it was no sooner over than Monro made him a prisoner and occupied the castle.

Confining his operations to Ulster, he spoiled the counties of Down and Antrim, and shipped off such numbers of cattle to Scotland that the Lords-Justices felt obliged to interfere, and complained to the English Parliament, in whose interest Monro was acting. In May next year he unsucessfully endeavoured to surprise Owen Roe O'Neill at Charlemont, and was obliged to retreat with the loss of 100 men and a large cattle prey he had taken. On 14th May 1644 he seized Belfast, previously in occupation of an English force. In July of the same year he advanced into the County of Cavan with an army of 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse, and sent parties into Westmeath and Longford, which burnt the houses and crops, and put to the sword all the country people they met. Besides this expedition, he conducted several similar movements during his command in Ulster. He was defeated by Owen Roe O'Neill at the battle of Benburb, in June 1646.

Monro commanded 6,000 foot and 800 horse, whilst O'Neill's army consisted of but 5,000 foot and 500 horse. O'Neill occupied a strong position between two hills, with a wood behind him, and the Blackwater on his right. He was there attacked by Monro, who was routed, it is said with loss of half his army, his artillery, baggage, the greater part of his arms, and thirty-two colours. On 13th September 1647, when in command of Carrickfergus, the town was, through the treachery of his own officers, delivered up to General Monck, and he was sent prisoner to the Tower of London, where he lay for five years. Although a captive he is believed to have had considerable influence with Cromwell.

Excepted from pardon for life and estate in 1649, he was ultimately permitted to return to Ireland and compound for his estates. He married the second Viscountess Montgomery, and resided at Mount Alexander in the County of Down, until her decease in 1670, and afterwards probably at Cherryvalley, near Comber, in the same county. He was alive in 1680. [His brother, Sir George Monro, served with him both under Gustavus Adolphus and in Ireland, and was Commander-in-chief of the King's army in Scotland after the Restoration. He died about 1686. The present Sir Charles Monro, Bart., is his lineal descendant.] The surname is indifferently written "Monro," "Monroe," and "Munro."

Sources

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

243. Montgomery Manuscripts: Edited by Rev. George Hill. Belfast, 1869.

271. Ormond, Duke of, Life 1610-'88: Thomas A. Carte, M.A. 6 vols. Oxford, 1851.

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