Irish Soldiers Abroad

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXX

Ludlow now took the command, and marched to assist Coote, who was besieging Galway. This town surrendered on the 12th of May, 1652. The few Irish officers who still held out against the Parliament, made the best terms they could for themselves individually; and there was a brief peace, the precursor of yet more terrible storms.

I have already given such fearful accounts of the miseries to which the Irish were reduced by confiscations, fines, and war, that it seems useless to add fresh details; yet, fearful as are the records given by Spenser of 1580, when neither the lowing of a cow nor the voice of a herdsman could be heard from Dunquin, in Kerry, to Cashel, in Munster, there seems to have been a deeper depth of misery after Cromwell's massacres. In 1653 the English themselves were nearly starving, even in Dublin; and cattle had to be imported from Wales. There was no tillage, and a licence was required to kill lamb.[4] The Irish had fled into the mountains, the only refuge left to them now; and the Parliamentary officers were obliged to issue proclamations inviting their return, and promising them safety and protection. But the grand object of the revolutionary party was still to carry out the wild scheme of unpeopling Ireland of the Irish, and planting it anew with English—a scheme which had been so often attempted, and had so signally failed, that one marvels how it could again have been brought forward. Still there were always adventurers ready to fight for other men's lands, and subjects who might be troublesome at home, whom it was found desirable to occupy in some way abroad. But a grand effort was made now to get rid of as many Irishmen as possible in a peaceable manner. The valour of the Irish soldier was well known abroad;[5] and agents from the King of Spain, the King of Poland, and the Prince de Condé, were contending for those brave fellows, who were treated like slaves in their native land; and then, if they dared resist, branded with the foul name of rebels. If a keen had rung out loud and long when O'Donnell left his native land never to return, well might it ring out now yet more wildly. In May, 1652, Don Ricardo White shipped 7,000 men for the King of Spain; in September, Colonel Mayo collected 3,000 more; Lord Muskerry took 5,000 to Poland; and, in 1654, Colonel Dwyer went to serve the Prince de Condé with 3,500 men. Other officers looked up the men who had served under them, and expatriated themselves in smaller parties; so that, between 1651 and 1654, 34,000 Irishmen had left their native land; and few, indeed, ever returned to its desolate shores.


[4] Lamb.—Cromwellian Settlement, p. 16. See also Petty's Political Anatomy of Ireland.

[5] Abroad.—The Prince of Orange declared they were born soldiers. Sir John Norris said that he "never beheld so few of any country as of Irish that were idiots or cowards." Henry IV. of France said that Hugh O'Neill was the third soldier of the age; and declared that no nation had such resolute, martial men.—Cromwellian Settlement, p. 22.