Benburb: Ulster, 1646

Benburb was the most successful battle fought by a native Irish army during the years of the Irish Catholic Confederation. It pitted the Ulster Army of Owen Roe O’Neill against the combined Protestant forces (Scots Covenanter and Scots – Anglo/Irish) commanded by the Scottish general Robert Monro.

Fought near the southern border of County Tyrone on June 5th, 1646, the Irish inflicted a crushing defeat on the Protestant army. As has often been the case in the history of Ireland however, factional intrigue prevented any long term strategic success.

As I continue to blog about my wargaming pursuits I have come to realize that there are many great resources that provide the historic details of each battle so I will now simply reference them to provide the historic background and context. This will allow me to concentrate on demonstrating the historic battle and then playing it (one or more times).

Project BCW and Ireland’s Wars (Never Felt Better blog) each give an essential account of the events leading up to Benburb and the battle itself.

For many of the battles I do I like finding a cultural reference or two, particularly music. Here is the late Tommy Makem and “The Hills of Benburb”:

It’s a reasonable re-telling of the battle but a few historic errors here and there. The most glaring (no pun intended) is the Irish attacking out of the sun. A glance at a map will show that the Irish were facing pretty much into the WEST that afternoon. It is probable that Owen Roe waited until dusk to lead the Irish attack to avoid HIS forces being blinded by the sun. For a ballad however it is simpler and more dramatic to state it the other way round.

In my slow, ambling way I will eventually get to staging the battle. Part of it is set up (the header picture shows the Irish drawing up on a hill just west of the village of Benburb to await Monro’s approach). I am still working on basing and changing out the way I do much of the terrain but maybe I’ll get there before the year is out.