Battle of Julianstown
|Battle of Julianstown|
|Part of the Irish Confederate Wars|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sir Patrick Wemyss||
|Casualties and losses|
|500 killed or captured||low|
The prelude to the planned Siege of Drogheda 1641, Ulster insurgents led by Sir Phelim O'Neill and supporters from Cavan and Monaghan were en route to lay siege to the strategic garrison, grain store and seaport. In their plan to replace English rule in Ireland, the insurgents had already attacked several towns and villages within the Pale, including the palace of the Protestant Bishop of Meath and the burning of Navan and Athboy.
Either by chance or otherwise the insurgents came upon an untrained and hastily raised force of Government soldiers, largely composed of planter refugees from the northern counties sent against them. The two sides met at the bridge at Julianstown. The royalist commanders, Sergeant-Major Roper and Sir Patrick Wemyss, gave the order to counter-march, which the half-trained recruits misinterpreted as a march to the rear. The royalist army began slowly edging backwards. However, the rebel force believed that the royalists had shouted contúirt bháis! (danger of death). The Irish, upon hearing this and seeing the panic and confusion amongst the royalist force let loose with a war cry and charged with unyielding ferocity. What followed was a simple rout.
The soldiers attempted to hold them off by firing in volleys, but were unable to co-ordinate their actions and panicked when they saw the rebels bearing down on them. Many threw down their muskets and ran away, the remainder being either killed or captured. One disputed source tells that the rebels spared the Irish in the soldier’s ranks, but killed the English and Scots. It is noted from the Cavan depositions that several of those men killed at Julianstown were in fact Irish-resident refugees who had joined the ranks of the army, having previously been robbed and expelled from their homes by the insurgents.
The officer in charge of the Crown's forces at Julianstown was Sir Patrick Wemyss. His account of the battle can be read in his letter to the Earl Ormonde, recorded in the Calendar of State Papers relating to Ireland, 1641.
The consequences of the Julianstown skirmish were out of proportion to its military significance. The victory by the insurgents made them seem much more formidable than they actually were, and helped to spread the rebellion to the rest of Ireland. In the event they failed in the ensuing siege, and withdrew.
Wemyss described the rebel forces as "..not to be undervalued, and are no contemptible men". Roper reached Drogheda with 100 men; the rest of his infantry had been killed or captured.
It was also a rude wake up call for Ormonde and his fellow commanders in Ireland, and showed the determination and support in Ireland for the insurgents led by most of the landed gentry. Ormonde called for reinforcements from England and was to mount a considerable counter-offensive in parts of Leinster in the spring of 1642. This indirectly helped to prolong the English Civil War, as the English royalist forces absent in Ireland would have greatly improved the King's chances at the Battle of Edgehill later in 1642.
- Lenihan, Pádraig (2001). Confederate Catholics at War, 1641-49, Cork University Press, ISBN 1-85918-244-5.
- Perceval-Maxwell, M (1994 Dublin). The Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
- Trinity College Library online 1641 Depositions - Revd George Creighton (Cavan)
- Clarke, Aidan (2000) The Old English in Ireland, 1625-1642 Four Courts Press, pp.176-177.