An Irish Confederate Army

I suppose it was inevitable. Parliamentarian Army ✓, Royalist Army ✓, Army of the Solemn League and Covenant ✓, Montrose's Royalist Army ✓, all completed. Irish Confederate is missing.

The Wars of the Three Kingdoms is a catch all term that covers a whole host of conflicts that took place (mostly) in the area of the geographical British Isles in the 1640s and 50s. The Irish component was the Eleven Years War, or the Irish Confederacy War.

Not a great deal is known about the Confederate Army (in comparison to say the Royalist and Parliamentarian armies, and let's be brutally honest here and admit that there are massive gaps in our knowledge about those armies) so a fair bit of conjecture will need to be applied.

WargamerFact™ would have you believe that the Irish were unskilled raw men from bottom to top. However, many of the Confederate officers had learnt pike and shot tactics fighting for the Spanish in the 30YW, they demonstrated these skills soundly beating the Covenanter army at Benburb in 1646.

Unfortunately for them the vast majority of the fighting they were involved in wasn't pike and shot, it was siege warfare, and they were up against opposition who were very experienced in the art.

The Confederates were also up against supply problems: in early 1642 gunpowder ranged from 5 shillings to 25 shillings a pound, later in the same year the price had dropped considerably to 1 shilling 7 pence a pound.

In 1642 the Irish had six regional armies, each having a strength of 2000 foot, and 200 horse. Well they did on paper. The reality, however, was a different matter.

But first what 'slogan' will grace their casualty markers? An easy one this, an Irish translation of the text on the Great Seal of Ireland.

Éireannaigh aontaithe le Dia, rí agus tír

Which translates as 'Irishmen united for God, king and country'. But now I'm a bit torn: surely it should be in Latin? I think this needs a good coat of looking at.

The Gaeilge version won

Sadly I haven't got much of a reading list to go at... and those books that are on it are invariably out of print and at unobtanium prices.

One book I do need to source is 'Catholic Confederates At War 1641 – 49' by Pádraig Lenihan. Unfortunately the only copy I can find is £180. He does have a new volume due out in June/July this year 'Raw Generals and Green Soldiers: Catholic Armies in Ireland 1641-43' from Helion Books, at a sensible price too.  Hopefully this new book will confirm, or help me reassess, my decisions.

There are some interesting interviews with Pádraig about the subject online, listen to them here.

The 'if I win the lottery' book is 'History of the Irish Confederation and the War In Ireland 1641-1643' by JT Gilbert. Unfortunately only 25 full sets were printed, a part set (only 5 of the 7 volumes) is currently on the market for £800. Thankfully some of it has been digitised and is available online. Print on demand facsimile copies are available, listed with Richard Bellings as the editor, although it seems to be 'unavailable' at the moment (which surely is an oxymoron for a POD book to be unavailable).

No, I'm not telling you where the physical copy is advertised, as you never know, I might win the lottery* or the BBC offers me silly money for the film rights to the ECWtravelogue.

'The King's Irish' by John Barratt (Helion) has a few good snippets of information in the first chapter, albeit from an English perspective. But if your only interest are the Confederates, there probably isn't enough to get you to part with your cash. It's a very good book, however, its focus is the campaigning of the English troops returned from Ireland fighting for Charles in the First Civil War.

Also from Helion is Malcolm Wanklyn's 'Army of Occupation' which looks at the men sent to Ireland before the outbreak of the Eleven Years War. A few background snippets of information about the men who would become the Confederates, again if you are only interested in the Confederates not really worth buying.

Of course the rather good BCW Project has some good, albeit basic, information. The BCW Regimental Wiki Irish Confederate section is already populated. Hopefully I will be able to add a few snippets of information.

The Never Felt Better blog has an excellent history of War in Ireland, and covers the period with an extensive 80ish posts. Excellent stuff, highly recommended.

Internet searching is long and laborious sadly, as you have to wade through rather a lot of 'hits' for a different civil war, in the former colonies.

I've already investigated Irish clothing colours when researching my Army of Montrose, see here. Please, whatever you do, don't paint them green - as another WargamerFact™ would have you believe. You are not painting leprechauns for the tourist tat market.

On the subject of scarves, I remember reading a reference to Irish men wearing green scarves (or ribbons) outside Dublin Castle. But I've lost it. Or was hallucinating. If anyone knows of it, please let me know. It was in a secondary source, so will need investigating further in 1641 Depositions, but I need the starting point.

Flags: some descriptions of foot colours here, and a comprehensive set of images in Fahnen und Standarten, including a dragoon guidon. A request for six regiments of foot colours and the dragoon guidon have already been sent to Stuart at Maverick Models. 

The project box has been empty for too long.
In case you are wondering the old Minifigs boxes hold my 'spares', the Hinchliffe box painted 'spares'

I'm looking at six regiments of foot, one of dragoons, possibly four horse (although that is definitely far too much cavalry, one would be about right), a medium and a  heavy cannon. Limbers and baggage will round the whole thing out. 

PP's Irish range is very limited (understandable considering how much we don't know) so I think I might do a lot of headswaps, throwing in some cabascets and a few morions too. There are a few Scots and English in my spares box, so they could receive an Irish style hat to give a little more variety.

Lots of headswaps methinks!

I'm also guessing that the PP horse are possibly too well armoured - easy enough to amend with headswaps and paint conversions/a little bit of filing.

Those of you hoping for a quick turnaround of these figures - don't hold your breath. Some silly sod wasn't paying full attention when he placed the order and bought cast on pikes rather than open handed. I think they are nicer poses, than the open handed figures, but they are a bit tricky to drill out.

A sneak preview of the first regiment of foot...

* pretty unlikely as I never buy a ticket 

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  1. A fascinating new project and I will follow with much interest. You would be very welcome to borrow my copy of Lenihan if you’d like? (Bought many years ago from Dave Ryan after an idle inquiry about books on the Irish.).

    1. A very kind offer FoGH, thank you. I may have a copy coming to me by another route. If that falls through I may well be knocking on your door 😉

  2. Where did you get that casualty marker? It's pretty awesome!

    1. Thanks. They are from Warbases. Each of my armies has a different 'slogan'. See

  3. Needless to say, I am looking forward to this project. I'll offer up access to another copy of Lenihan, mine mostly just shelf sits. Have you given much thought to whether your forces represent any particular province or period for the Confederacy? I ask as that may have a bearing on your headswap options? For example, Owen Roe O'Neill's forces might have more bonnets as there was a link to Scotland. I must confess to not being totally happy with the PP Irish hat as I've not found the source inspiration for it.

    1. Hi Dex, thanks for the offer.
      Like all my armies I'm taking the fantasy football league approach to its 'team sheet'.

      Whatever way it goes, rest assured, there will be lots of headswaps.

      If I was a betting man, my money would be on that the PP 'Irish hat' is based on an illustration from Haythornthwaite or an Osprey.

  4. Thanks also for the link to Gilbert. It's been a few years since I perused a physical copy l at the British Library.


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