Accounts of the Siege and Battle of Kinsale

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Accounts of the Siege and Battle of Kinsale

1601

The Battle of Kinsale (24 December 1601) effectively ended the challenge of Hugh O'Neill and Red Hugh O'Donnell in the Nine Years War (1594–1603). The English commander Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy (1563–1606), besieged a small Spanish naval force which had taken the town in support of the Irish insurgency. The Ulster earls marched south to relieve the siege but were overwhelmed by Mountjoy before they could raise the siege and unite with their foreign allies.

SEE ALSO Annals of the Four Masters;Nine Years War; O'Neill, Hugh, Second Earl of Tyrone

From a Majesty's Soldier's Letter to a Friend in London (1602)

Those of the battle were almost all slain, and there were (of Irish rebels only) found dead in the place, about twelve hundred bodies, and about eight hundred were hurt, whereof many died that night; and the chase continuing almost two miles, was left off, our men being tired with killing. The enemy lost two thousand arms brought to reckoning, besides great numbers embezzled, all their powder, and drums, and eleven ensigns, whereof six Spanish. Those of the Irish that were taken prisoners, being brought to the camp, though they offered ransom, were all hanged. . . . And thus were they utterly overthrown, who but the very night before, were so brave and confident of their own good success, as that they reckoned us already theirs, and as we since have understood, were in contention whose prisoner the Lord Deputy should be, whose the Lord President, and so of the rest. The Early of Clanrickarde carried himself this day very valiantly, and after the retreat sounded, was knighted by the Lord Deputy, in the field amongst the dead bodies. So did all the rest of the captains, officers and soldiers . . . and especially the Lord Deputy himself, who brake, in person, upon the flower of the army [of] the Spaniards, and omitted no duty of a wise diligent conductor and valiant soldier. Upon the fight ended, he presently called together the army, and with prayers gave God thanks for the victory. A victory indeed given by the God of Hosts, and marvellous in our eyes, if all circumstances be duly considered, and of such consequence for the preservation and assurance to her Majesty, of this deeply endangered Kingdom, as I leave to wiser consideration.

From the Annals of the Four Masters (1632–1636)

Manifest was the displeasure of God, and misfortune to the Irish . . . on this occasion; for, previous to this day, a small number of them had more frequently routed many hundreds of the English, than they had fled from them, in the field of battle, in the gap of danger (in every place they had encountered), up to this day. Immense and countless was the loss in that place, although the number slain was trifling, for the prowess and valour, prosperity and affluence, nobleness and chivalry, dignity and renown, hospitality and generosity, bravery and protection, devotion and pure religion, of the Island, were lost in this engagement. The Irish forces returned that night with O'Neill and O'Donnell to Inishannon (Co. Cork). Alas! The condition in which they were that night was not as they had expected to return from that expedition, for there prevailed much reproach on reproach, moaning and dejection, melancholy and anguish, in every quarter throughout the camp. They slept not soundly, and scarcely did they take any refreshment. When they met together their counsel was hasty, unsteady and precipitate, so that what they at length resolved upon was, that O'Neill . . . with subchieftains and the chiefs of Leath-Chuinn in general, should return back to their countries, to defend their territories and lands against foreign tribes, [and] that O'Donnell (and others) should go to Spain to complain of their distress and difficulties to the King of Spain.

From Thomas Stafford's Pacata Hibernia (1633)

Now are we come to the siege of Kinsale, a place ordained, wherein the honour and safety of Queen Elizabeth, the reputation of the English nation, the cause of religion, and the Crown of Ireland must be by arms disputed; for upon the success of this siege, these great and important consequences depended. And here the malice of Rome and Spain (if they had prevailed) would not have ceased, for their purpose did extend itself (Ireland having been conquered), to make it their bridge to have invaded England, the conquest and ruin whereof was the main mark whereat they aimed. . . .Tyrone . . . with the choice force, and, in effect, all the rebels of Ireland, being drawn into Munster, and joined with Spaniards that landed at Castlehaven, who brought to Tyrone's camp six ensigns of Spaniards, and the greatest part of the Irish of Munster . . . resolved to relive the town of Kinsale, and to that purpose sat down, the one-and-twentieth of December, a mile and a half from the town, between the English camp and Cork, and on that side of the army, kept from them all passages and means for forage; the other side, ovver the River of Ownyboy, being wholly at their disposition, by reason of the general revolt of these parts. It seemed they were drawn so far by the importunity of Don Juan Del Aquila, as we perceived by some of his letters intercepted, wherein he did intimate his own necessity, their promise to succour him, and the facility of the enterprise. . . . During the abode of the rebels in that place, we had continual intelligence of their purpose to give alarms from their party, and sallies from the town, but to little other effect than to weary our men, by keeping them continually in arms, the weather being extremely tempestuous, cold, and wet.

Irish History from Contemporary Sources,edited by Constantia Maxwell (1923), pp. 195–197.

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