Parliamentary Generals in Ireland

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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Cromwell had been made Lieutenant-General of the English army in Ireland, but as yet he had been unable to take the command in person. His position was precarious; and he wished to secure his influence still more firmly in his own country, before he attempted the conquest of another. He had succeeded so far in the accomplishment of his plans, that his departure and his journey to Bristol were undertaken in royal style. He left the metropolis early in June, in a coach drawn by six gallant Flanders' mares, and concluded his progress at Milford Haven, where he embarked, reaching Ireland on the 14th of August, 1649. He was attended by some of the most famous of the Parliamentary Generals—his son, Henry, the future Lord Deputy; Monk, Blake, Ireton, Waller, Ludlow, and others. He brought with him, for the propagation of the Gospel and the Commonwealth, £200,000 in money, eight regiments of foot, six of horse, several troops of dragoons, a large supply of Bibles,[7] and a corresponding provision of ammunition and scythes. The Bibles were to be distributed amongst his soldiers, and to be given to the poor unfortunate natives, who could not understand a word of their contents. The scythes and sickles were to deprive them of all means of living, and to preach a ghastly commentary on the conduct of the men who wished to convert them to the new Gospel, which certainly was not one of peace. Cromwell now issued two proclamations: one against intemperance, for he knew well the work that was before him, and he could not afford to have a single drunken soldier in his camp. The other proclamation prohibited plundering the country people: it was scarcely less prudent. His soldiers might any day become his masters, if they were not kept under strict control; and there are few things which so effectually lessen military discipline as permission to plunder: he also wished to encourage the country people to bring in provisions. His arrangements all succeeded.

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[7] Bibles.—See The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, by John P. Prendergast, Esq.—a most important work, and one which merits the careful consideration of all who wish to understand this period of Irish history, and one of the many causes of Irish disaffection. The scythes and sickles were to cut down the corn, that the Irish might be starved if they could not be conquered.