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N the Story of the Irish Massacre we have shown what frightful
atrocities were committed by the Catholics on the Protestant settlers. It is an awful picture of blind bigotry and vindictive
cruelty. But it is equalled in every dark shade, excepting that of treachery, by the acts of the Parliamentary army under the command of Oliver Cromwell—acts which have made the “the Curse o' Cromwell” the bitterest malediction an Irish Catholic peasant can employ.
Charles the First was dead. His statue in the Royal Exchange and in other places was thrown down, and the words were inscribed on the pedestals whereon they had stood—“Exit Tyrannus, Regum Ultimus, Anno Libertatis Angliæ restitutæ primo, A.D. 1648, January 30" (Old Style). A statement, translated into French, Latin, and Dutch, was drawn up by the Council of State, justifying the change of government from a monarchy to a republic. The King's Bench Court was called the Upper Bench or the Commons Bench-all insignia of royalty were abolished. If there had been a patriotic menagerie owner, as there was in the days of the French Revolution, he would have called, as did that wild beast keeper, his Royal
tiger—the National Tiger, or the Tiger of the Commons. Several royalist prisoners lost their heads in Palace Yard—others were imprisoned and heavily fined. There was an outcry from the people as to the heavy taxation which they were ill able to bear; famine and pestilence were decimating the Northern counties ; levelling principles—principles which set forth that all men were free and equal, and consequently should share alike—were being rapidly promulgated; there was the speedy prospect of a People's revolution overturning the Republic of the Commons; but in the midst of it all the condition of Ireland-in a state of open rebellion-was felt to be all-important—a matter that must be settled - and who so fit to settle it as Oliver ? “ Oliver descended on Ireland like the hammer of Thor; smote it, as at one fell stroke, into dust and ruin, never to reunite against him more.”
Cromwell set out on his journey to Ireland in royal state. He rode in
a coach drawn by six Flanders mares from Windsor to Bristol, and was attended by a life guard of eighty men, the meanest of whom was a commander or esquire; many of them were colonels—all in rich uniformwith trumpeters in state liveries sounding fanfares at the entrance into every town or city through which the procession passed. He sailed from Bristol on the 13th of August and arrived in Dublin on the 15th, where he made a speech in the streets, and was received with acclamation.
The only places at that time left to the Parliament in Ireland were Dublin and Derry. The royalist cause was prosperous, and the Marquis of Ormond had even laid siege to Dublin. Advancing on both sides of the Liffey he had cast up works which completely shut in Jones, the governor, and cut off the pasturage for the horses. Ormond lay at Rathmines, and was hastening the work around Dublin with the apparent certainty of reducing the city before many days. No man braver than he, nor more confident of success. Exhausted with fatigue one night, after a hard day's toil, he retired to rest, giving orders to the troops to remain under arms. Hardly, however, had he closed his eyes when he was suddenly awakened with the noise of firing ; and, starting from his bed, saw everything about him in the utmost confusion. Jones, the governor, a brave and experienced officer, had made a sally with the reinforcement lately arrived; and attacking a party of Ormond's men, occupied in repairing an old fort which commanded the city, he totally defeated them ; improving the advantage which he had gained, he came up at Rathmines with the main body of Ormond's army, which he soon threw into disorder, and drove them off the field. All the ammunition was seized, all the baggage and provisions; three thousand men were killed, upwards of two thousand were taken prisoners—and with these a triumphal entry was made into Dublin.
The defeat at Rathmines, which threw a blemish on Ormond's character, gave a heavy blow to the royal cause. The army which with much labour and industry Ormond had been levying for more than a twelvemonth, was entirely dispersed. At the same time Cromwell, with a body of picked troops, was approaching-bent on doing the work he had come to do.
Cromwell on his arrival remained for about a fortnight in Dublin, where he was joined by Ireton. On the 9th of September he began his work at
This town, anciently called Tredagh, since the time of Henry II. had been regarded as a place of great importance. The governor of the place was Sir Anthony Ashton, who had a garrison of select men, three thousand in number, commanded by Sir Edmund Varney, whose father was killed in the fight for the royal standard at the battle of Edge Hill. Ashton, the governor, was so confident of the strength of Drogheda, that he wrote to Ormond saying he need not hurry to their relief as the town “could not be carried by assault.” He therefore complacently enough watched the arrival and settling down of Cromwell's army-satisfied that outside Drogheda they might remain for a long while, but that inside they never could be without the garrison surrendered.
Cromwell made immediate preparation for the siege, but before a shot was fired he sent a formal summons to the governor to surrender both castle and town. This command was haughtily refused, and the attack was commenced by assault on the south side of the town, a point where, although the defences were most formidable, the soldiers would have the largest amount of shelter in mounting the breach. Great annoyance was occasioned by guns placed in a church spire, and the first day was spent in battering down this steeple. On the next, two breaches were made in the east wall, and at five o'clock in the evening some seven hundred men, under Colonel Cossele, marched to the assault. With impetuous fury they mounted and rushed in, but the besieged received them on the point of the pike and hurled them back again with the loss of their leader and a considerable number of officers. Discomfited-shattered—the remnant looked round for help, and help was not distant. With a ringing cheer a thousand men came rushing to their aid, General Cromwell at their head. Another fierce combat at the breach, another intense struggle for life or death, the besieged-feeling their peril—fighting with a superhuman energy and strength; the soldiers of Cromwell steadily advancing -many dropped—the deepening twilight ushered in the night of death to scores; but they neither faltered nor fell back; they had come to conquer, and not all the men in Drogheda thrice told could divert the fate of the town. They secured the breach ; they were nas of the entrenchments; they had forced an entry to the church-church militant from whose “pulpit of stone" so many hurled defiances had been flung. There was an ancient building called Mill Mound, moated and pallisaded; there Ashton and his principal officers had retired; but nothing could resist the impetuous rush of Cromwell's soldiers—the Mill Mound was soon their own--and all within were put to the sword.
The sun had gone down, the dark night had come, but the work which remained for Cromwell's soldiers to perform was labour best done in the black darkness. Two thousand people, at the least, perished that night in Drogheda. There was no sparing-death! it rang out from the clatter