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Travels in County Clare 1534 - 1911
(extracts from The Strangers Gaze, edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh)

Edmund Ludlow, The War in County Clare, 1651.

Edmund Ludlow came to Ireland with the army of the commonwealth in 1649. Originally a graduate of Trinity College, Oxford, he represented the county of Wiltshire in parliament. A man of extreme views, he was one of the individuals who signed the death warrant of King Charles I. In Ireland he acted as
Edmund Ludlow
Edmund Ludlow
second in command to Henry Ireton with authority to replace him in case of death or illness. By act of parliament he was appointed one of the four civil governors of Ireland and on Cromwell’s orders commissioned lieutenant general of the horse in Ireland. On the death of Ireton, November 1651, Ludlow assumed command of the army until October 1652. He accepted the surrender of Clare Castle in November 1651 and Galway in April 1652, after which the war was virtually at an end. As commander of the army he presided over some of the worst excesses of the war, as the Cromwellians sought to quieten the countryside following the capture of the urban centres. He thoroughly approved of the policy of transportation of the Irish landowners into Connacht. Even among his own party Ludlow was difficult and uncompromising; he refused to accept Cromwell’s authority as lawful, after he expelled the rump of the Long Parliament in 1653. In 1655 he was removed from office when it was found he was circulating pamphlets hostile to the government. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 he was compelled on fear of his life to flee to the continent. He established himself eventually in Switzerland, being granted an act of protection by the government of Bern in April 1662. Ludlow, while keeping a keen eye on events in England, was to remain in Switzerland for the rest of his life; he compiled his memoirs most probably between the years 1663 and 1673. However, they remained unpublished until 1698, six years after his death. Because of the time lapse involved his writings cannot be accepted as wholly reliable; sometimes the details of incidents are inaccurate and the chronology is confused. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, however, and in the absence of anything better, Ludlow’s memoirs remain a valuable account of the proceedings of the war in County Clare for the autumn and winter of 1651.

During these transactions, the deputy of Ireland [Henry Ireton] labouring with all diligence to carry on the public service, ordered the army to rendezvous at Cashil; from whence he marched by the way of Nenagh to that part of the river Shannon which lies over against Killalo, where the Earl of Castle-haven lay with about two thousand horse and foot, disposed along the side of the river, and defended by breast-works cast up for their security, resolving to endeavour to obstruct our passage into Connaught. The deputy, as if he had intended to divert the course of the river, set the soldiers and pioneers at work to take the ground lower on our side, that the water venting it self into the passage, the river might become fordable; which so alarmed the enemy, that they drew out most of their men to oppose us. Whilst they were thus amused, the deputy taking me with him, and a guard of horse, marched privately by the side of the Shannon, in order to find a convenient place to pass that river. The ways were almost impassable by reason of the bogs, though Col. Reeves and others who commanded in those parts had repaired them with hurdles as well as they could. Being advanced about half way from Killalo to Castle-Conel, we found a place that answered our desires, where a bridge had formerly been, with an old castle still standing at the foot of it on the other side of the river. We took only a short view of the place, lest we should give occasion to the enemy to suspect our design. The way hither from our camp was so full of bogs, that neither horse nor man could pass without great danger, so that we were necessitated to mend them, by laying hurdles and great pieces of timber across in order to bear our carriages: which we did under pretence of making a passable way between our camp and Castle-Conel, a garrison of ours, where provisions were laid up for the army. It was about ten days before all things necessary to this design could be prepared, and then Col. Reeves was commanded to bring three boats which he had to a place appointed for that purpose, by one a clock in the morning. At the beginning of the night three regiments of foot, and one of horse, with four pieces of cannon, marched silently towards the place where the boats were ordered to lie, and arrived there an hour before day. They found but two boats waiting for them, yet they served to carry over three files of musketters and six troopers, who having unsaddled their horses, caused them to swim by the boat, and were safely landed on the other side. Two sentinels of the enemy were in the castle, of whom one was killed by our men, and the other made his escape. Our boats had transported about sixty foot and twenty horse before any enemy appeared; but then some of their horse coming up skirmished with ours, wherein one Mr How, a hopeful daring young gentleman, who had accompanied me into Ireland, distinguished himself. About a thousand of the enemies foot advancing, our horse was commanded to retire, which they did, not without some reluctancy; but the hasty march of their foot was retarded by our guns which we had planted on a hill on our side of the river, from whence we fired so thick upon them, that they were forced to retreat under the shelter of a rising ground; where after they had been a while, and considered what to do, finding ours coming over apace to them, instead of attacking us, they began to think it high time to provide against our falling upon them; and having sent to all their guards along the river to draw off, they retreated farther through the woods into their own quarters. . . .

In the mean time the enemy was endeavouring to draw their forces together to relieve the place [Limerick], well knowing of what importance it was to their affairs. To that end the Lord Muskerry had brought together about five thousand horse and foot in the counties of Cork and Kerry, and David Rock between two or three thousand more in the county of Clare. The Lord Broghil and Major Wallis were sent to oppose the Lord Muskerry, whilst I with another detachment was ordered to look after the other. The Lord Broghil soon met with the Lord Muskerry, and after some dispute entirely defeated him, killing many of the Irish, and taking others prisoners, with little loss on our side. I passed the river at Inchecroghnan [Inchicronan], of which the enemy having advice, drew off their forces from Caricgoholt, a garrison of ours, which they were besieging, whereby Capt. Lucas, who was governor of the place, wanting provisions, took that opportunity to quit it; and being joined by Capt. Taff’s dragoons, came safe to us. Whilst I was endeavouring to find out the enemy, advice was brought to me, that they, to the number of three thousand horse and foot, were marching with all diligence to possess themselves of the pass at Inchecrohgnan, thereby designing to obstruct our return to the army before Limerick: which being confirmed by a letter we intercepted, I drew out two hundred and fifty horse with sixty dragoons, and sent them before, with orders to take possession of the pass, marching after them with the rest of my party. When I was almost come to the pass, I was informed by those sent before, that they had found a small number of the enemies horse there, who immediately retreated upon the advance of our men, some of whom were in pursuit of them. Presently after advice was brought, that the enemy made good a pass leading to some woods and bogs which they used for a retreat; whereupon I went to take a view of their posture, that if it were necessary I might order a greater force to succour our men. Being come up to the place where the dispute was, I found that Connor O‘Brian, deputed by the Lord Inchequin to command in the county of Clare, had been shot from his horse, and carried away by his party. The enemy retreated to a pass, and fired thick upon us; but we advancing within pistol-shot of them, they quitted their ground, and betook themselves to their woods and bogs. Divers of them were killed in the pursuit; yet the ground was so advantageous to them, and their heels so good, that though we pursued them with all possible diligence, and sent out parties several ways, yet we could not take above two or three of them prisoners. Having dispersed this party, and relieved the garrison of Caricgoholt, I returned to the army before Limerick, where I found a considerable progress made in our works on the other side of the town, and a reinforcement from England of between three and four thousand foot, whose arrival was very seasonable and welcome to us, having lost many men by hard service, change of food, and alteration of the climate. The deputy [Henry Ireton] fearing that the plague, which raged fiercely in Limerick, might reach our army; and to the end that care might be taken of our sick and wounded men, caused a hospital to be prepared, and furnished with all things necessary; and whilst the works were finishing against the town, he went to visit the garrison of Killalo, and to order a bridge to be made over the river at that place, for the better communication of the counties of Tipperary and Clare. . . .

Though the news of these successes much discouraged our enemies in Ireland, yet those in Limerick were not without some hopes, that either the plague, or scarcity of provisions, together with the badness of the weather, might constrain us to raise the siege; and therefore refused to accept such conditions as we were willing to grant. The line which we had made about the town, and the forts being in a condition of defence, the deputy resolved to look after the enemy in the county of Clare, and if possible to get some provisions from thence for the relief of the army. He took me with him, knowing I had been in those parts before, and between three and four thousand horse and foot. At our approach to the places where the enemies usually were, we divided our body, the deputy being at the head of one, and I at the head of the other party; hoping by this means so to encompass the enemy, that they should not escape us: but though we sometimes came within sight of them, and used our utmost endeavours to engage them, yet by reason of the advantages they made of the woods, rocks, hills, and bogs, for their retreat, we could do them little hurt, save by seizing their horses and cattle. In the absence of this party from the army, the enemy with two thousand foot made a sally out of Limerick so unexpectedly upon our men, that they had almost surprised our guard of horse; but ours immediately mounting, and being not accustomed to be beaten, charged them, and notwithstanding the inequality of the forces, they being much superior to us in number, put them to a stand, till a party of horse and foot came to their relief, and forced the enemies to retreat under the walls of the town, from whence their men fired so thick upon ours, that their own men had time to get into the town.

When this account was brought from Sir Hardress Waller to the deputy, he was upon his return to the army before Limerick, having left me with about two thousand horse and foot, as well to ease our quarters about the town, not knowing how long we might lie before it, as to endeavour to persuade the garrison of Clare-Castle, a strong place, and situated upon the river, to surrender. To that end being arrived in the army, he sent one Lieutenant Colonel White, who had served the enemy, and now had a commission to raise forces for the king of Spain, with an order to me, to permit him to go the said garrison, that he might inform them of the impossibility of their receiving any relief, and of the necessities to which Limerick was already reduced, and thereby prevail with them to make speedy provision for themselves, and to list under him: but his design proving ineffectual, I found myself obliged to return to the camp before Limerick, where we made provision for a winter-siege. . . .

Whilst the deputy was settling affairs at Limerick, he ordered me with a party to march into the county of Clare to reduce some places in those parts. Accordingly I marched with about two thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse to Inchecroghnan, fifteen miles from Limerick; but it being late before we began our march, and night overtaking us before we could reach that place, as we were passing the bridge, one of my horses that carried my waters and medicines fell into the river, which proved a great loss to me, as things fell out afterwards. The next day I came before Clare-Castle, and summoned it, whereupon they sent out commissioners to treat, though the place was of very great strength; and after three or four hours debate, we came to an agreement, by which the castle was to be delivered to me the next morning, the enemy leaving hostages with us for the performance of their part. That night I lay in my tent upon a hill, where the weather being very tempestuous, and the season far advanced, I took a very dangerous cold. The next morning the enemy marched out of the castle, and received passes from me to return home, according to the articles. After which having appointed Col. Foulk and a garrison to defend it, I marched towards Carickgoholt. That night my cold increased, and the next morning I found myself so much discomposed, that Adjutant General Allen, who was then with us, earnestly pressed me to go aboard one of the vessels that attended our party with ammunition, artillery and provisions, and to appoint a person to command them in my absence. But being unwilling to quit the charge committed to my care, I clothed myself as warm as I could, putting on a fur coat over my buff, and an oiled one over that; by which means I prevented the farther increase of my distemper, and so ordered our quarters that night, that I lay in my own bed set up in an Irish cabin, where about break of day I fell into so violent a sweat, that I was obliged to keep with me two troops of horse for my guard, after I had given orders for the rest of the men to march. In this condition I continued about two hours, and though my sweating had not ceased, I mounted in order to overtake my party, who had a bitter day to march in, the wind and the hail beating so violently in our faces, that the horses being not able to endure it, often turned about. Yet in this extremity of weather the poor foot were necessitated to wade through a branch of the sea, near a quarter of a mile over, up to the waist in water. At night we arrived within view of Carickgoholt, my distemper being but little abated, and my body in a continual sweat. The next day I summoned the garrison to surrender the castle: in answer to which they sent out commissioners to treat, who at first insisted upon very high terms; but finding us resolved not to grant their propositions, they complied with ours, and the next day surrendered the place. Liberty was given by the articles to such as desired it, to go and join the Lord Muskerry’s party in the county of Kerry: the rest to return home, with promise of protection as long as they behaved themselves peaceably, excepting only such who should appear to have been guilty of murder in the first year of the war, or afterwards. Having placed a garrison in Carickgoholt, I returned towards Limerick, and being on my march thither, I was met by an officer of the guard, with orders from the deputy for my return; who thinking it impossible to reduce this garrison by force in such a season, was unwilling that the soldiers should remain longer in the field, exposed to such cruel and sharp weather. The messenger also acquainted me, that the deputy was coming towards us, which he did, as well to view the country, in order to the more equal distribution of winter-quarters and garrisons, as to let us see that he would not command any service, but such as he was willing to take a share of himself. Upon this advice I hastened with a party to meet him, giving orders for the rest to follow as fast as they could conveniently. At our meeting I gave him an account of what I had done, with which he was very well satisfied. After two days march, without anything remarkable but bad quarters, we entered into the barony of Burren, of which it is said, that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him; which last is so scarce, that the inhabitants steal it from one another, and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing. Being in these parts we went to Lemmene, a house of that Connor O’Bryan whom we had killed near Inchecroghnan; and finding it indifferent strong, being built with stone, and having a good wall about it, we put a garrison into it, and furnished it with all things necessary. The next day the deputy with a party of horse went to view some other places where he designed to appoint garrisons, in order to prevent the sending of provisions into Galway, to which this country lies contiguous. I was very desirous to attend him according to my duty, but he having observed my distemper to continue upon me, would not permit it; and when I pressed it more earnestly, he positively commanded me to stay. That day there fell abundance of rain and snow, which was accompanied with a very high wind, whereby the deputy took a very great cold that discovered itself immediately upon his return; but we could not persuade him to go to bed, till he had determined a cause that was before him and the court martial, touching an officer of the army, who was accused of some violence done to the Irish; and as in all cases he carried himself with the utmost impartiality, so he did in this, dismissing the officer, though otherwise a useful man, from his command for the same. The next day we marched towards Clare-Castle, and found the way so rocky, that we rode near three miles together upon one of them, whereby most of our horses cast their shoes; so that though every troop came provided with horse-shoes, which were delivered to them out of the stores, yet before that day’s march was over, a horse-shoe was sold for five shillings.

The next morning the Lady Honoria Obryan, daughter to the late earl of Thomond, being accused of protecting the goods and cattle of the enemy, under pretence that they belonged to her, and thereby abusing the favour of the deputy’s safeguard, which he had granted to her, came to him; and being charged by him with it, and told, that he expected a more ingenious carriage from her; she burst out into tears, and assured him, if he would forgive her, that she would never do the like again, desiring me, after the deputy was withdrawn, to intercede with him for the continuance of his favour to her: which when I acquainted him with, he said, ‘As much a cynic as I am, the tears of this woman moved me’; and thereupon gave order that his protection should be continued to her. From hence I would have attended him to Limerick; but so much more care did he take of me than of himself, that he would not suffer it; desiring me to go that day, being Saturday, and quarter at Bonratto, a house of the earl of Thomond’s, in order to recover my health, and to come to him on Monday morning at Limerick. Accordingly I came, and found the deputy grown worse, having been let blood, and sweating exceedingly, with a burning fever at the same time. Yet for all this he ceased not to apply himself to the public business, settling garrisons and distributing winter-quarters, which was all that remained to be done of the military service for that year. . . I was unwilling to leave him till I saw the event of his distemper; but he supposing my family was by this time come to Dublin, would not permit me to stay, and I finding I could in no way be serviceable to him, submitted to his desires. I found the commissioners of parliament at Dublin, and acquainted them with the state of affairs in those parts from whence I came, and with the resolutions taken by the deputy at Limerick; but soon after my arrival, the sad news of his death was brought to us, which was universally lamented by all good men, more especially because the public was thereby deprived of a most faithful, able and useful servant.

Extracts taken from Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow Esq. (Vivay, Switzerland 1698), i, pp 346-83.

Diary of the Parliamentary Forces, 1651


Description of Thomond, 1669
Fr Anthony MacBrody