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The Battle of Rathmines ( ) was fought in and around what is now the Dublinmarker suburb of Rathminesmarker in August 1649, during the Irish Confederate Wars, the Irish theatre of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was fought between an Englishmarker Parliamentarian army under Michael Jones which held Dublin and an army composed of Irish Confederatemarker and English Royalist troops under the command of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. The battle ended in the rout of the Confederate /Royalist army and facilitated the landing in Ireland of Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army several days later, who in the next four years completed the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.


By 1649, Ireland had already been at war for eight years, since the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641. During this time, most of Ireland was ruled by the Irish Confederate Catholicsmarker, a government of Irish Catholics based in Kilkennymarker. The Confederates allied themselves with the English Royalists in the English Civil War, against the English Parliament, which was committed to re-conquering Ireland, suppressing the Catholic religion and destroying the Irish Catholic land-owning class. After much internal in-fighting, the Confederates signed a peace treaty with Charles I, who was soon to be executed by the Rump Parliament, agreeing to accept English Royalist troops into Ireland and put their own armies under the command of Royalist officers, in particular James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. By 1649, the English Parliament held only two small enclaves in Ireland –at Dublinmarker and Derrymarker.

The battle

Baggotsrath Castle in 1792
July 1649, Ormonde marched his coalition forces of 11,000 men to the outskirts of Dublin, to take the city from its Parliamentary garrison, which had landed there in 1647. Ormonde took Rathfarnham Castlemarker and camped at Palmerston Park in Rathgarmarker, about 5 km south of the city. The area from Ormonde’s camp to the city of Dublin is now a heavily urbanised area, but in 1649, it was open countryside. Ormonde began inching his forces closer to Dublin by taking the villages around its perimeter and to this end, sent a detachment of troops to occupy a ruined castle at Baggotsrath, on the site of present-day Baggot Streetmarker bridge.

However, Ormonde was not expecting Michael Jones, the Parliamentary commander, to take the initiative and had not drawn up his troops for battle. Unfortunately for the Royalists, this is exactly what Jones did, launching a surprise attack on 2 August from the direction of Irishtown with 5000 men and sending Ormonde’s men at Baggotsrath reeling backwards towards their camp in confusion.

Too late, Ormonde and his commanders realised what was going on and sent units into action piecemeal to try to hold up the Parliamentarian advance, so that they could form their army into battle formation. However, Jones’ cavalry simply outflanked each force sent against them, sending them too fleeing back south through the townland of Rathminesmarker. The battle became a rout as scores of fleeing Royalist and Confederate soldiers were cut down by the pursuing Roundheads. The fighting finally ended when the English Royalist troops under Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin mounted a disciplined rearguard action, allowing the rest to get away. Ormonde claimed he had lost less than a thousand men. Jones claimed to have killed around 4000 Royalist or Confederate soldiers and taken 2517 prisoners, while losing only a handful himself. Modern historians tend to believe Jones, because in contemporary warfare, if an army was put to flight and pursued, it very often took huge casualties, while the pursuers took very few. Ormonde also lost his entire artillery train and all his baggage and supplies.

In the aftermath of the battle, Ormonde withdrew his remaining troops from around Dublin, allowing Oliver Cromwell to land in the city (at Ringsendmarker) with 15,000 veteran troops on 15 August. Cromwell called the battle "an astonishing mercy", taking it as a sign that God had approved of his conquest of Ireland. Without Jones' victory at Rathmines, the New Model Army would have had no port to land at in Ireland and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland would have been much more difficult. Ormonde's incompetent generalship at Rathmines (and subsequently) disillusioned many Irish Confederates with their alliance with the English Royalists and Ormonde was ousted as commander of the Irish forces in the following year.

Local trivia

The battle gave the names to several local landmarks. 'The Bleeding Horse' public house, which stands at the corner of modern Upper Camden street, was established in 1649, when, after the Battle of Rathmines, a wounded horse wandered into a tavern. This made such an impression on the owner that he named his premises 'The Bleeding Horse'. In addition, an area of Rathgarmarker (now built over) was formerly known as the "Bloody Fields", where it is believed that some of the fleeing Royalist soldiers were overtaken by the Parliamentarian cavalry, killed and subsequently buried.

See also


  1. McKeiver, A New History of Cromwell's Irish Campaign, page 59
  2. History of Dublin online


  • McKeiver,Philip, A New History of Cromwell's Irish Campaign, Advance Press, Manchester, 2007,ISBN ????
  • Hayes-McCoy, G.A. , Irish Battles, Irish Books & Media (June 1989) ISBN 086281250X
  • Scott-Wheeler, James, Cromwell in Ireland, Dublin 1999, ISBN 9780717128846

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