Talk:Siege of Drogheda

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The opening paragraph is more propaganda than history, talking about the "brutal" outcome of the siege. The town was a protestant one, occupied by a hostile catholic army. The citizens were planning ways to throw open the gates and let Cromwell in. No citation or source is given for the "deliberate" civilian massacre, let alone reason why Cromwell would want to massacre protestant settlers he was there to liberate.

The word 'brutal' was POV, is meant to reflect the discussion of the outcome but the phrasing was out of alignment with the wider context. Have removed that specific word, but otherwise details all appear fine. If you have sources that can add detail about the siege please provide them. Koncorde (talk) 20:15, 6 November 2016 (UTC)
Just a thought: The word "deliberate" would seem to be a redundancy in reference to a massacre, since massacres very rarely happen by accident. Mediatech492 (talk) 21:33, 6 November 2016 (UTC)
"Deliberate" is not used within the article. It is mentioned once by one of the sources; and the use of "deliberate" in that case is to indicate that the intent of instructions by Cromwell was to kill non-combatants in their homes, rather than to just massacre the garrison. Koncorde (talk) 22:14, 6 November 2016 (UTC)

Town Garrison at Time of Massacre[edit]

Is there any good source on what the composition of nationalities in the garrison in 1649 was? It is described as being 50:50 English/Irish in the first paragraph of the "Cromwell's siege (1649)" section but "the soldiers were in large part English Royalists rather than native Irish" in the foourth para of the "Debates over Cromwell's actions" section. Neither has a source so it would be good to have it ref'd either way.GiollaUidir (talk) 19:56, 9 September 2008 (UTC)


Are the dates given in the Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar? Autarch (talk) 20:28, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

Good question. No idea to be honest!GiollaUidir (talk) 13:06, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

Influence of 1641 Massacre[edit]

I'm a little concerned that "righteous judgement" quote is categorically stated to refer to the 1641 Irish Massacre; whilst this is the traditional view, the relevant letter is ambiguous. As has been frequently pointed out (including in the article) it is a nonsensical/unconvincing justification for the "no quarter" order at Drogheda; however, Cromwell used similar language to Parliament when urging harsh measures about those who renewed the War in England in 1647-8. It seems equally if not more plausible that the "barbarous wretches" were the Royalist rebels who had defied 'God's judgement' in giving victory to Parliament. Of course, we can't know either way, but I'd be happier if the article acknowledged this ambiguity in some way. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:37, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

Ambiguity and Original Research[edit]

I have a couple of problems with this statement: The contemporary laws of war were clear that if surrender was refused and a garrison was taken by an assault, then the lives of its defenders would be forfeit, as Cromwell's letter strongly implies.

Firstly, were there actually "laws of war" at this time, or just customs and conventions? (The article and talk page for Cromwellian conquest of Ireland suggests the former). In any case, this statement ought to have a citation if it is true.

Secondly, the implication of Cromwell's letter is ambiguous (possible intentionally so), beyond a mere threat/statement that if the town is not surrendured to him, he will take it by force. Reading more into it, while reasonable, would be OR without sources to back it up.

There are also a number of quotes from Cromwell that (a) need sources, and (b) are often given unsourced interpretations as well. For example: Cromwell himself denied that his troops had killed civilians at Drogheda, but only those "in arms".

When did he do this, and who was he talking to. ("Denied" implies he was answering an accusation). Is this statement based on the earlier quote Cromwell, in his own words, "In the heat of the action, forbade them [his soldiers] to spare any that were in arms in the town".? If so, this is definitely OR, and possibly incorrect as well. That is an order to kill anyone who is armed, not to spare everyone who wasn't. After all, all Catholic clergy were also killed.

Another example would be Cromwell's argument that the massacre was "the righteous judgement of God on these barbarous wretches...". Firstly, it would be good to know when, why and in what context he said this. Was he, for example, defending himself against accusations of misconduct, or bragging about his acts, or attempting to intimidate other towns into surrender, or something else?

Secondly, as said above, it's not obvious from the quote what incident he was blaming Drogheda for. Was he incorrectly blaming them from the 1641 massacre? Was he refering to something else specifically? Was this just the way he talked about all his enemies? Have some historians incorrecly assumed he was talking about the 1641 massacre? And are there sources supporting any of these suggestions? Wardog (talk) 12:02, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

Many of the English garrison had been paroled (see Parole#Prisoners_of_war) and were killed because they had broken their word, which was the normal practice at that time. This doesn't come across in the article. Once unarmed prisoners are being killed then mayhem often follows on others nearby. (talk) 10:25, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

NPOV Picture[edit]

Is there a less POV picture available to illustrate this? It doesn't exactly present an unbiased illustration. Jscb (talk) 13:17, 20 May 2010 (UTC)

Quality of the article is poor[edit]

It seems several editors have raised concerns previously, but no action has been taken. As such I have read through the article and found it to be poorly structured, with clear bias and uncited claims. Periodic reference to named historians aside there are very few citations for any claims being made, and the final section is a clear example of POV synthesis.

The lack of clarifying dates also leaves much to be desired, with evidence and sources not given their proper context.

I intend to rework this article, and will cull uncited original research if I am unable to locate a reference for such claims.Koncorde (talk) 01:53, 6 July 2010 (UTC)

With reference of the abysmal level of actual citations and evidence in this article that conclusively synthesises arguments from start to finish without actually providing the background to those actions. Riddled with suppositions, I had hoped by flagging the notable points of issue that someone with access to the texts listed at the bottom might actually reference the article and provide salient citations for the many claims made.
However instead the article seems to be under some form of unofficial protection.
  • no statistics are cited for the forces, sources are completely omitted.
  • The first citation listed from the Duchy of Lancaster is a dead link and itself only referred to Pembroke Castle.
  • The discussion of Cromwells technique, tactic and skill is interesting but entirely without any basis. There is no attempt to qualify "excellent soldier", or provide evidence for his "lot of experiences of siege warfare".
  • The language usage is informal, not in itself an issue, however phrases such as "which in any case was not an option" and "he was not worried about whether supplies would enter the town from the north" make massive assumptions without any attempt to back up the claims being made.
  • The Letter from Cromwell remains uncited for the last year.
  • Levene eventually provides us with our first cited reference point. Unfortunately the paragraph is signed off with "as Cromwell's letter – couched in the terminology of the day – makes clear"....what is clear exactly? Cromwell makes no mention of forfeiting lives even if that was the commonly accepted rule of thumb.
  • The remainder of the first section continues with its uncited, and unhistorical reference to deaths and attacks without qualification. A few footnotes finally add some actually grounding points but otherwise leave the article devoid of any depth and full of unencyclopedic language.
When we reach the final section meanwhile we are treated to a controversy of original research and POV inserts such as "This was not a convincing argument".
This article is poor, and if it continues to be "protected" from flagging as such then it will continue to be a poor article.Koncorde (talk) 21:17, 27 September 2010 (UTC)
Largely agree with your points, but covering everything in tags is not necessarily the best way to go. I'll try to do a (sourced) re-write in the next week or so. Jdorney (talk) 21:05, 28 September 2010 (UTC)
It wasn't like I didn't explain within the cite required what the issue at hand were, or that the article is already pretty much devoid of references and citations for its many claims that border on POV and synthesis. I appreciate your time Jdorney, if I had any historical information I would contribute also as an editor. But at the moment all I'm fit for is to judge as a reader. Koncorde (talk) 22:02, 28 September 2010 (UTC)
I'd just like to point out that I'm not trying to "protect" this article, in fact I agree it needs re-work and further referencing, but I do not think that adding further flags is the way to go. Actually, with regards to references, this article is no worse than many historical articles on Wikipedia. I would have tried to improve it myself but for lack of time. Koncorde has done a good job in pointing out the weaknesses, and I look forward to improvements by Jdorney and will contribute in any way I can with references after that, when I should have a bit more time on my hands. Hohenloh + 12:36, 29 September 2010 (UTC)
OK, I took time out to supply references and add a little further information for background - I didn't have time to re-write, and I'll tidy up the references later. In the paragraphs for which I provided references I did not find anything incorrect. That's all I can manage for the moment, however - I hope someone else will continue. Hohenloh + 15:29, 29 September 2010 (UTC)
Right, for starters I've re-written the intro and shifted around the sections to make future editing easier. I've broken the section on the siege down into background, storming and massacre. The next step is that more difficult one of re-writing these section one by one. I'm going to have a go ath this next. Jdorney (talk) 13:04, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
If you want a hand I'm happy to help out. (Has been ages since I have edited early modern stuff on Wikipedia and it would be nice to get going again). Greycap (talk) 19:36, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Nearly finished now, just have to do the historical debate bit, but would welcome your comments/thoughts for further changes when it's done. Jdorney (talk) 22:13, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
Ok, all finished. would welcome thoughts on how to further improve it (including changing my changes) though. Jdorney (talk) 11:28, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
thanks for the effort guys, I shall read through tonight and give you a run through of any ideas I have.Koncorde (talk) 19:01, 9 October 2010 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. The article reads much better, and appears more conclusively sourced. I have added a couple of citation needed refs for small portions of what appears to be either unsourced historical detail, or the opinion of a particular historian (in which case it should be attributed to them). Nothing severe, but would tidy up a couple of issues.
Thanks again for your guys efforts in improving this rather important article.Koncorde (talk) 14:23, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

Cromwell lacked the technical training[edit]

I am not sure what this means:

However, Cromwell lacked the technical training to systematically construct siege entrenchments and bombard a fortified place into surrender. "The Cromwellian siegework repertoire included only the first and/or last stages; that is assault, or failing that, blockade".

Yes, Cromwell was first and foremost a cavalry officer. But he did not have to have "the technical training to systematically construct siege entrenchments" that would be a job for an engineer. Wellington did not have "the technical training to systematically construct siege entrenchments" but I that did not stop him attacking towns and as far as I know it is not considered necessary for a commanding officer to be so trained. The quote "The Cromwellian siegework repertoire included only the first and/or last stages; that is assault, or failing that, blockade" is not clear if it means Cromwell himself or his army.

One point that has been made is that there were few non coastal forts (with the exception of Berwick) that were modern fortifications with defences capable of withstanding large siege artillery for any length of time (see Peter Harrington (2003). English Civil War Fortifications 1642-51 (illustrated ed.). Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1841766046. ) However in that book Harrington notes in the introduction on page 6 that if necessary the besiegers did construct approach trenches to allow artillery to be positioned closer to the walls. So the techniques were used when needed, but for may places this was not necessary, for example Basing House fell within days of a decent siege train arriving -- as did several other Royalist forts on Cromwell's expedition through the county west of London in the Autumn of 45.

In this case, at the siege of Drogheda, Cromwell's judgement (whether advised by a senior artillery officer or not) was that a practical breach could be made quickly, he was proved right. So I do not understand the point that is being made in the quote above. --PBS (talk) 00:39, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

Hi Phillip, The point is this, drawing mainly from Padraig Lenihan's 'Confederate Catholics at War (p166 to 189)'; Cromwell had never been trained in siege warfare, nor did he (open to correction on this) have engineers who had. People who had served in command of continental armies (such as Thomas Preston for instance) were taught how to systematically construct trenches that would allow siege guns to approach modern defences, no matter how well constructed and to open a breach. This could precede an assault but was usually the occasion for a negotiated surrender. The Parliamentary commanders, who learned thier siege warfare on the job, did not know how to go about this and their sieges in Ireland were either assaults - as at Drogheda, where defences had not been modernised and a breach could be successfully attacked - or blockades - as at Waterford, Limerick and Galway, where the Parliamentarians basically resorted to starving the cities into surrender. Where they -actually Cromwell himself - tried to assault modernised defences as at Clonmel they got a bloody nose. So at Drogheda we see an assault -in this case totally successful - because the only alternative was blockade and that was unacceptable in the circumstances. Anyway, I'd appeal for you not to shoot the messenger here as I was just citing what the recent military studies on the campaign have said! Jdorney (talk) 02:00, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Having read through the piece though, it is kind of unnecessary. Going to do a partial re-write. Jdorney (talk) 23:25, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
The article is much better these days, credit to you Mr Dorney. I have made a few small edits to it that I feel help the pacing / readability of certain sections. There are some repeated / redundant statements still such as pointing out Aston was the "garrison commander" on 3 or 4 occasions in sequential paragraphs. We have a small discrepancy between the numbers of men that fled with Aston (one paragraph states 200, another 250) can this be clarified? Koncorde (talk) 01:06, 4 January 2011 (UTC)
Thanks Koncorde, I'll check it out. Jdorney (talk) 01:32, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

Two towers[edit]

Currently the article says:

The final major concentration of Royalist soldiers was 200 men, who had been stationed in two towers. They stayed in the towers during the sack of the town but surrendered the following day, September 12. All of the officers and one in every ten ordinary soldiers were killed by being clubbed to death The rest were deported to Barbados.(Reilly 1999, p. 78)

But Cromwell wrote:(Wikisource:Cromwell letter to William Lenthall 17 September 1649)

divers of the officers and soldiers being fled over the Bridge into the other part of the Town, where about 100 of them possessed St. Peter's Church-steeple, some the west Gate, and others a strong Round Tower next the Gate called St. Sunday's. [Those in the steeple were burnt to death] ...

The next day, the other two Towers were summoned; in one of which was about six or seven score: but they refused to yield themselves: and we knowing that hunger must compel them, set only good guards to secure them from running away until their stomachs were come down. From one of the said Towers, notwithstanding their condition, they killed and wounded some of our men. When they submitted, their officers were knocked on the head; and every tenth man of the soldiers killed; and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes. The soldiers in the other Tower were all spared, as to their lives only; and shipped likewise for the Barbadoes.

So we know the names of the towers "the west Gate" and a "Round Tower next the Gate called St. Sunday's". They were occupied by officers and soldiers who had "fled over the Bridge" the night before, not by men stationed there.

Six or seven score in one tower is 120 to 140. So where does the 200 come from? The treatment of the men in the two towers was different. Only in one tower were the defenders decimated (because they shot some Roundheads). So the current paragraph is contradicted by Cromwell's letter which is of course a primary source, so could someone quote what Reilly wrote, because I suspect he has been mis-summarised. -- PBS (talk) 01:19, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

The 200 comes from a letter written by Colonel John Hewson published in Perfect Occurrences October 5 1649. He also reports 3,000 dead of which 150 were Roundheads:

The rest fled over the bridge where they were closely pursued and most of them slain. Some got in two towers on the wall and some into the steeple but, they refusing to come down, the steeple was fired and then fifty of them got out at the top of the church, but the enraged soldiers put them all to the sword, and thirty of them were burnt in the fire, some of them cursing and crying out “God Damn them" and cursed their souls as they were burning. Those in the towers, being about 200, did yield to the General's mercy, where most of them have their lives and be sent to Barbados. In this slaughter there was by my observation, at least, 3,000 dead bodies lay in the fort and the streets, whereof there could not be 150 of them of our army, for I lost more than any other regiment and there

was not sixty killed outright of my men.
— Colonel John Hewson, letter, in Perfect Occurrences 5 October 1649 -- copied from Ellis, Peter Berresford (2007). Eyewitness to Irish History (reprint ed.). John Wiley and Sons. p. 114. ISBN 9780470053126. 

Scott Wheeler, James. Cromwell in Ireland, Dublin 1999, on Page 87: snippet snippet 2 snippet 3

The final mass atrocities committed by the attackers took place at St Peter's Church and at the towers on the north wall. ... Cromwell gave the word to pile the church pews under the steeple and set fire to them so as to burn out the fugitives. The scheme worked: '50 of them got out of the church, but the enraged soldiers put them all to the sword, and 30 of them were burned in the fire, some of them cursing and crying out, God damn them ... Those in the towers [on the north wall] being about 200 did yield to the General's mercy.' All the officers were killed, and the great majority of the common soldiers were shipped to Barbados.88

also uses Hewson's letter. -- PBS (talk) 03:18, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

I have added the text of John Hewson's letter to my previous comment. -- PBS (talk) 10:05, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

Aston's breach of parole[edit]

The article doesn't mention that Sir Arthur Aston and his force had been released "on Parole" by the parliamentarian army in England, and had then gone to Ireland and effectively broken their word by rearming and opposing the same army. That kicked off the massacre. Aston could have surrendered the town, and, while he and his men would probably have been executed for breaking their paroles, the local inhabitants would have been occupied (as Dublin was) with no massacre. I know it spoils a good story, but that's what happened. (talk) 10:05, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

I take it on face value you are telling the truth, but do you have an appropriate source that can be used. Koncorde (talk) 21:47, 15 June 2016 (UTC)