Cromwell in Ireland: Overview

Oliver Cromwell's notorious campaign against the Royalists and Catholic Irish

Cromwell in Ireland

The signing of the Second Ormond Peace in January 1649 secured an alliance between the Royalists and the Irish Confederates. Alienated by the execution of King Charles I, the Ulster Scots also joined the coalition against the newly-declared English Commonwealth.

In March 1649, Parliament commissioned Oliver Cromwell to lead an army of invasion into Ireland. Colonel Michael Jones' complete victory over the main Royalist field army at the battle of Rathmines enabled Cromwell to land unopposed at Dublin in mid-August 1649.

With no Royalist or Irish army capable of challenging the invasion force, Cromwell moved swiftly to storm and capture the stronghold of Drogheda on the River Boyne. He then marched south to attack the port of Wexford while a detachment under Colonel Venables invaded Ulster. The massacre of defenders at Drogheda and Wexford was a warning to surrender rather than risk a similar fate.

Cromwell's army stormed through Leinster during the autumn of 1649. Protestant forces in southern Munster abandoned the Royalists and came over to the Parliamentarians. Early in 1650, Cromwell advanced into central Leinster and captured the Confederate capital Kilkenny. The only major setback he suffered was at Clonmel where 2,000 English troops were killed in an unsuccessful attack.

Cromwell left Ireland in May 1650 leaving Henry Ireton in command of English forces. Although Ireton mismanaged his campaign against Limerick, most of Leinster, Munster and Ulster were in English hands by the end of 1650. The campaign against the western province of Connacht continued throughout 1651. After Ireton's death, the subjugation of Ireland was completed by Edmund Ludlow and Sir Charles Coote, who accepted the surrender of Galway in May 1652.