Raw Generals and Green Soldiers, Catholic Armies in Ireland 1641-1643

KeepYourPowderDry continues in its quest to take over Front Row on Radio 4...

The much anticipated latest from  Pádraig Lenihan has finally arrived. Much anticipated because of the dearth of material available on the Eleven Years War component (of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms) that is available for not-silly-money


I must point out that I was sent this copy, gratis, from Helion Books, courtesy Charles Singleton. Thank you.

Having heard Pádraig speak at the Helion Conference, I was looking forward to getting my hands upon this volume. Not just because I wanted a book that didn't involve selling a kidney, but mostly because I have just started my Catholic Confederate army, and am unsure what to do cavalry-wise.

First a look at the pictures. Let's face it, everyone turns to the colour illustrations when they first get a book like this. Guilty as charged m'lud. There are eight full colour 'soldier' pictures by the very talented Seán Ó Brógain, one of which appears on the cover. Hopefully they will inspire figure sculptors, in the same way that the illustrations in Haythornthwaite have (albeit Seán's pictures appear to be much more rooted in historical fact than those in Haythornthwaite's book). There are also two full colour maps, 20 monochrome  illustrations, and 8 monochrome photographs.

Attention is drawn to the author's note on page vii: having recently started researching the history of Irish regiments of foot, Dr Lenihan eloquently sums up the frustration that I have encountered trying to decipher Irish names, and work out who was who - one individual may have a myriad of names, all used concurrently (not to mention having numerous relatives with exactly the same name).

For all the wargamers out there wondering if this book will tell you what troops you need to buy and how to paint them, I'm afraid this isn't what this volume is about, as it does not have army lists in the way that Old Robin's Foot does (I'm not sure that such records actually exist, other than the broad numbers listed in the book). 

It does tell the narrative of what happened in Ireland in the first three years of the Eleven Years War, and provides an invaluable insight into the storm beginning to erupt for Charles I. A narrative that is mostly glossed over in Anglocentric histories.

TL:DR the Irish were proficient soldiers who were, unfortunately, skilled in the wrong sort of warfare. They were good field armies, but not so great as siege warfare combatants; which was unfortunate as the allied army from England/Scotland were intent upon besieging/holing themselves up in the castles and towns of Ireland. They also struggled with supplies, at the outbreak of war the price of gunpowder was astronomical, which really didn't help matters. All of this was compounded by some rather rubbish army command.

Just in case you are wondering, I am now much clearer in how I am going to represent Irish horse in my army. But now I am faced with the issue of having to create some siege sows. "What's a siege sow?" I hear you ask - sorry no spoilers!

If your Wars of the Three Kingdoms/British Civil Wars interest takes you over the Irish Sea then you really do need this book, and not because it is the only readily available, sensibly priced volume on the subject. Pádraig writes as he speaks, his writing is an enjoyable read. To quote one of his contemporaries  "Pádraig knows his stuff". Recommended.

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