If any one single battle of Ireland’s Nine Years War was pivotal in nature, it is the Battle of Kinsale. Kinsale is a sleepy little port town in the southeastern portion of the country. Through tactical blunder, it became the focus of a battle that would permanently destroy Ireland’s hopes for independence during this time period.
The Spanish forces arrived in Kinsale, Co Cork in September 1601. However, their army was much smaller than the Irish leaders had hoped for. In spite of this, the Irish were in a good position at the onset of the battle. Red Hugh O’Donnell persuaded a more cautious Hugh O’Neill to attack the assembled English forces, led by Lords Mountjoy and Carew.
The battle was a disaster for the Irish; O’Neill’s forces failed to surprise the English, and were forced to retreat to higher ground, thus losing the advantage. They were mowed down by the English cavalry. On seeing this, O’Donnell’s rear guard forces fled. Everything happened so quickly that the battle was over before the Spanish even rode out into the battlefield.
The Spanish captain, Don Juan del Aguila, quickly gave up hope and nine days later surrendered to Mountjoy. With his armies depleted and with much of the O’Donnell lordship lost to his cousin Niall Garbh, Red Hugh fled to Spain where an English agent later poisoned him. Any further hope of assistance from Spain was now also gone. In his will, written before his death in Simancas, Red Hugh named his younger brother Rory as his successor.
His blackening body
Here to rest
Walking behind it.”
(from Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill by Thomas MacGreevy)
The hopes of the Irish were dashed as they rested mainly with Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Hugh O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnel. These two men were the last of the great Gaelic Chieftains and their strongholds were in the Ulster area of Ireland – the locale of the first English Plantations. The Plantations under the English and the Scots-Irish continued to develop and take over the land that had been held by the Irish people for thousands of years. Ulster itself, home of the modern-day revolt in Northern Ireland, never recovered as its lands remain under English control to this day.