Sir Theobald Taaffe

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Taaffe, Sir Theobald, Viscount Taaffe, and Earl of Carlingford, was grandson of preceding, and eldest son of Sir John, who was created Baron of Ballymote and Viscount Taaffe in August 1628, and who died before 1642. Sir Theobald fought for Charles I. against the Parliament in England, and subsequently assisted the Marquis of Ormond in his negotiations with the Confederates for a cessation of arms. On the recommencement of hostilities, he took the command of a force of 9,000 Irish in Munster, but did not attempt to prevent Lord Inchiquin from taking Cahir Castle on the 3rd September 1647. He is reported, however, to have afterwards shot the governor and 100 of his men for their pusillanimous defence. On the 13th of November in the same year, he was defeated by Lord Inchiquin at Knocknanuss, in the County of Cork. Carte gives the following account of the battle: "Taaffe had with him about 7,500 foot, and four regiments of horse, making 1,200 men, and took his post in the left wing, with 4,000 Munster foot and two regiments of his horse. The rest of the foot were posted in the right wing under Lieutenant-General MacDonnell, supported by Colonel Purcell with two regiments of horse. [See MACDONNELL, ALASTER MACCOLL, p. 310.]

When the battles joined, Purcell charged the English horse opposed to him with great bravery; and MacDonnell's Highlanders, after a fire, throwing down their pieces, fell sword in hand into the enemy's left, and drove them two miles before them with considerable slaughter, and, with very little loss on their own side, made themselves masters of the cannon and carriages, keeping possession of them for a full hour. Inchiquin in the meantime broke the left wing of the Irish army, all the Munster regiments, except Lord Castleconnell's, after a single fire, throwing down their pieces and running away; nor could the General stop their night, though he killed several of them with his own hand. Inchiquin did not amuse himself in following the runaways, but turned back to assist his left wing. Purcell, seeing him advance, retired with his horse, and left the Highland foot, drawn up about the cannon which they had seized, without a general to command them; for MacDonnell, after his success, had sent to give notice of it to the other wing, and his messengers not returning, he had moved to an eminence at a little distance from his men, to observe from thence what was doing in the field. As he returned, he was intercepted and killed by a small party of fourteen horse. His men stood their ground till 700 of them were killed, when the rest threw down their arms, and cried for quarter. The Irish lost all their arms, ammunition, and baggage, and about 3,000 men in this action, wherein the flower of the Munster army were cut in pieces." Lord Taaffe commanded Ormond's infantry at the battle of Rathmines, in 1649, and was again defeated.

He was one of the deputies who in 1651 went to the Continent to offer the sovereignty of Ireland to the Duke of Lorraine, and was excepted from pardon for life and estate by Cromwell. After the Restoration he received sundry grants of land, and was created Earl of Carlingford. He died 31st December 1677, and was buried at Ballymote. [His brother, Lucas, was a Major-General in the army of the Confederates, and was Governor of New Ross in 1649. Theobald's eldest son, Nicholas, the 2nd Earl, fell at the Boyne in 1690, in command of a regiment of foot under the banner of King James. The second son, Francis, 3rd Earl, entered the Austrian service, became Chamberlain to the Emperor Ferdinand, a Marshal of the Empire, and Councillor-of-State, and died in August 1704. The title became extinct on the death of Francis's nephew, Theobald, the 4th Earl.]

Sources

54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

80. Clarendon, Earl of: History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars. 8 vols. Oxford,1826.

216. Lodge's Peerage of Ireland, Revised and Enlarged by Mervyn Archdall. 7 vols. Dublin, 1789.

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

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