The Battle of Kilrush was a battle at the start of the Eleven years war in Ireland, soon after the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
It was fought in April 1642 between a Royalist army under the Earl of Ormonde, and Richard Butler, 3rd Viscount Mountgarret, who led Confederate Irish troops raised during the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
Ormonde and Mountgarret were cousins, both being members of the Butler dynasty.
Ormonde’s troops left Dublin on 2 April and marched on unopposed from Naas to Athy (5 April) and on to Maryborough (now Portlaoise; 8 April), re-supplying the royalist garrisons and sending cavalry forces to support those at Carlow and Birr, before returning to Athy on 13 April. Setting out at 6am on the 15th, and having decided to avoid a battle on their return march to Dublin, the government troops were blocked by Mountgarret’s rebel militias at Kilrush, 2 miles south of Suncroft, between Kilcullen and Moone in south-eastern County Kildare. Though outnumbered, Ormonde managed to defeat the rebels and marched on to Dublin by 17 April.
The Dublin Penny Journal of the 1800s said that:
“The land in the neighbourhood of Inch Castle lies remarkably flat, with the exception of two ridges that run nearly parallel northward from the castle, with a marsh lying between. It was in these heights the armies of Ormond and Mountgarrett, in 1642, marched in sight of each other, the evening previous to the battle of Kilrush; that of Ormond on the high grounds of Ardscull, Fontstown, and Kilrush, whilst the rebel army under Mountgarrett, and attended by the Lords Dunboyne and Ikerrin, Roger O’More, Hugh O’Byrne, and other leaders of Leinster, proceeded in the same direction along the heights of Birtown, Ballyndrum, Glasshealy, and Narraghmore. Mountgarrett, having the advantage in numbers, and anxious for battle, out-marched Ormond’s forces, and posted himself on Bull Hill and Kilrush, completely intercepting Ormond’s further progress to Dublin; a general engagement became unavoidable. The left wing of the Irish was broken by the first charge; the right, animated by their leaders, maintained the contest for some time, but eventually fell back on a neighbouring eminence, since called Battlemount; here they broke, fled, and were pursued with great slaughter, across the grounds they had marched over the day before. This victory was considered of such consequence that Ormond was presented by the Irish Government with a jewel, value £50.”
A contemporary account of the battle was given in the pamphlet: “Captaine Yarner’s Relation of the Battaile fought at Kilrush upon the 15th day of Aprill, by my Lord of Ormond, who with 2500 Foot and 500 Horse, overthrew the Lord Mountgarret’s Army, consisting of 8000 Foot and 400 Horse, all well armed, and the choyce of eight Counties. Together with a Relation of the proceedings of our Army, from the second to the later end of Aprill, 1642.”
The Jacobite historian Thomas Carte’s life of Ormonde (1736) describes the campaign and the battle casualties. “In this battle there were twenty English slain, and about forty wounded … the rebels lost above seven hundred killed outright, among which were several colonels.”
Photo: James Butler, Duke of Ormonde