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passed constantly between the government and O'Neil, but they came to nothing. Early in 1596, Norris marched into Connaught, to attack the Irish there, but retired without inflicting any loss upon them, being, indeed, himself harassed all the time by the cautious and skilful manoeuvres of O'Donnell. About December 1596, the government despatched a force against the Leinster chiefs, commanded by O'Neil's ally, MacHugh O'Byrne. But O'Neil retaliated by capturing the English stronghold of Armagh, and plundering the settlements all around. In 1597, the Leinster men were again attacked, beaten, and their chief, MacHugh O'Byrne, was taken prisoner and executed. This success checked the flowing tide in Leinster. But O'Neil was still supreme in Ulster, Munster and Connaught. Lord Borough was now sent as viceroy, in the hope that he would show more energy than had hitherto been displayed in crushing the Ulster insurgents. He, to some extent, justified the expectations which had been formed of him. He took the field with promptness and vigour. His plan of campaign was admirable. He resolved to concentrate all his efforts against O'Neil and O'Donnell, and to move on the arch rebels' territories from three points.
First, he himself determined to march on the right, from Dublin to Portmore, against O'Neil. Sir Conyers Clifford, the governor of Connaught, was directed to march on the left, from Galway to Ballyshannon, against O'Donnell; while a third army, under Barne1597]
well, was ordered to march from Mullingar, northwards, and to join Borough's forces at Portmore. Thus Tyrconnell was to be invaded on the left by Clifford ; Tyrone on the right by Borough ; while the whole country lying between the two main armies was to be swept by young Barnewell, from Meath to the Blackwater. Well might the Ulster chiefs have quailed before this formidable expedition, but they flinched not for an instant. O'Neil made his preparations with characteristic coolness and skill. O'Donnell was ordered to await Clifford on the bank of the River Erne, which formed the southern boundary of his territory. O'Neil was to cross the Blackwater, and, if possible, check Borough's advance at Armagh; while a young Westmeath chief, named Tyrrell
, was despatched with a body of picked men to attack Barnewell, and prevent him from effecting a junction with either of the main English armies.
Borough advanced to Armagh without interruption. But moving from Armagh to the Blackwater he was attacked in a narrow pass by O'Neil. A sharp but fierce encounter ensued. Borough, however, forced his way onwards, crossed the Blackwater, entered Tyrone, and recaptured the old site of Portmore. But he had now the main body of O'Neil's army before him to bar his further progress.
Still he resolved to push forward, having rebuilt, fortified and garrisoned Portmore. O'Neil, in no wise disconcerted by his first defeat, held his main army well in hand for a final struggle. For many days he refused to give battle, but harassed the English army by constant skirmishes, and kept them eternally on the qui vive by skilful and threatening manceuvres.
At length he lulled them into momentary repose by a feint of inactivity, then seizing the opportunity, and taking them unawares, swooped down upon their camp with a suddenness and an impetuosity which were irresistible, routing the whole army, and driving them back over the Blackwater into the Pale once more. Borough was mortally wounded, and many distinguished officers were among the slain. O'Neil, however, failed to take Portmore, which was stoutly held by a little garrison of 300 men, commanded by Captain Williams—the most gallant officer that ever served the English in Ireland.
Meanwhile Clifford had pushed his way from Galway right up to the River Erne on the confines of O'Donnell's territory. O'Donnell had tried to prevent his passage of the river, but without success. Clifford bore down all opposition, planted his guns right under O'Donnell's castle of Ballyshannon, and opened a raking fire on the defences. But the garrison fought gallantly, repelled attack after attack, and, bravely supported by O'Donnell's army in the field, inflicted tremendous losses on the enemy. After three days' fighting Clifford raised the siege, recrossed the Erne and returned to Galway; followed all the way by O'Donnell—who harassed his line of retreat, and captured his guns and stores.
Young Tyrrell was equally successful in his
DEFEAT OF BOROUGH
operations. Taking advantage of his superior knowledge of the country, he boldly attacked the English army in a narrow pass— Tyrrell's Pass,' in the county of Westmeath—and cut them to pieces.
Barnewell was taken prisoner, and sent under safe conduct to O'Neil, thus Borough's expedition was completely defeated, though he had gained one important advantage-the recapture of Portmore.
O'Neil now bent all his efforts to recover that fort. Williams and the little garrison made a gallant defence. O'Neil tried to starve them out. They were reduced to the direst straits, living, we are told, on horseflesh and even grass. But Williams never lowered his flag. At length a relieving force was sent from Dublin, and the place was revictualled, and so the year 1597 closed, leaving Williams insecure in Portmore, and O'Neil and O'Donnell supreme in Ulster.
During the first few months of 1598 there was another truce, and further negotiations were carried on between O'Neil and the government; O'Neil demanding civil rights, and religious freedom, while the government offered the northern chief a free pardon on complete submission. But these negotiations led to no practical results, and war was resumed in the summer of 1598. O'Neil again attacked Portmore, and the garrison were again reduced to the direst straits ; but Williams still gallantly held out. The government now resolved to send a strong expeditionary force to rescue Williams and to destroy O'Neil. This force set out in August under the command of Bagenal, and, after a rapid march, arrived in good order, and without any casualties, at Armagh. Portmore stood on the Blackwater, five miles from Armagh. On the way ran a little river, about two miles from that city, called the Yellow Ford. Here O'Neil had drawn up his whole army, determined to fight a decisive battle. With him were Hugh Roe O'Donnell and Maguire. O'Neil had encumbered Bagenal's line of march with every kind of obstacle, deep trenches were cut along his path; holes were dug in all directions, and brushwood and trees were strewn everywhere around.
O'Neil then placed in ambuscade a small force of 500 men to watch Bagenal's advance, and to fall upon him the moment his march was impeded by those obstacles. On the 14th August the English marched briskly forward from Armagh; but were soon involved in the meshes which O'Neil had spread for them. While struggling to extricate themselves from bog, trench and morass, and to brush aside every barrier that blocked their way, O'Neil's men in ambush suddenly darted upon them, and threw them into utter confusion. But the first division, under Colonel Percy, which bore the brunt of the attack, soon rallied, and pushing forward vigorously, overcame all opposition, and cut their way through all hindrances until they came right up to the main body of the Irish army. O'Neil then gave a general order to advance, and the combatants engaged in a desperate