The Siege of Limerick, October 27th, 1651
During the later portion of the Irish Confederate Wars (1641-1653), Oliver Cromwell, who led the English Parliamentarian army, invaded Ireland. This was known as the Cromwellian War (1649-1653) – essentially a war to conquer all of Ireland – starting with the sieges of Drogheda and Wexford. Cromwell returned to England in 1650, passing command to Henry Ireton. In 1651, Ireton and his army moved towards Limerick, which was one of the last strongly fortified cities in Ireland. Its garrison was led by Irish Confederate Hugh Dubh O’ Neill and by Royalist English allies, who were led by Colonel Fennell. Ireton attached Limerick in June, 1651 but failed to have the city surrender. Given the fortification of the city and unwilling to risk an all-out attack, Ireton moved to a policy of starving the city by cutting off its supply lines. Where other tactics failed, this proved to be successful as the inhabitants of Limerick suffered from hunger as well as disease. By late October, the situation had become so desperate that part of the English Royalists within the city’s garrison mutinied, threatening to fire on O’Neill’s men with cannons if he didn’t surrender.
O’Neill surrendered on October 27, 1651. Colonel Fennell was hanged, and O’Neill was originally sentenced to death but was instead imprisoned in the Tower of London. The Spanish ambassador to England eventually intervened, claiming that O’Neill was a subject of Spain. He was released into Spanish custody on the condition that he could never again take up arms against England. With the restoration of the Stuart monarchy In 1660, O’Neill wrote to King Charles II of England, asking for the ancestral lands of his family be restored. His request was denied; O’Neill died later that year of disease.
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