Hugh O'Neill's Insurrection

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXVII

O'Neill had hitherto acted merely on the defensive; but the memory of the events just related was still fresh in the minds of thousands, and it was generally felt that some effort must be made for freedom of conscience, if not for deliverance from political oppression. A conference was held at Dundalk. Wallop, the Treasurer, whose name has been so recently recorded in connexion with the torture of the Archbishop, and Gardiner, the Chief Justice, received the representatives of the northern chieftains, but no important results followed.

In 1598 another conference was held, the intervening years having been spent in mutual hostilities, in which, on the whole, the Irish had the advantage. O'Neill's tone was proud and independent; he expected assistance from Spain, and he scorned to accept a pardon for what he did not consider a crime. The Government was placed in a difficult position. The prestige of O'Neill and O'Donnell was becoming every day greater. On the 7th of June, 1598, the Earl laid siege to the fort of the Blackwater, then commanded by Captain Williams, and strongly fortified. Reinforcements were sent to the besieged from England, but they were attacked en route by the Irish, and lost 400 men at Dungannon. At last the Earl of Ormonde and Bagnal determined to take up arms—the former marching against the Leinster insurgents; the latter, probably but too willing, set out to encounter his old enemy and brother-in-law. He commanded a fine body of men, and had but little doubt on which side victory should declare itself.