(Original post by engrishdegree)
Cromwell ardently believed in religious freedom, however he believed the prescence of Catholics would make it unsuccessful and they would always be a threat to liberty and peace in the British isles. Whether or not he actually intentionally killed thousands because they were catholic is itself debatable. The casualties of his Ireland campaign were actually quite modest for that era, say compared the obscene amount in 30 years war in Germany. He has been demonised as a murderous, tyrant. However he personally punished soldiers who committed crimes in ireland, and the vast majority of casualties occured after he had left, while the Commonwealth army was under the command of Henry Ireton. The two masscres carried out by soldiers under Cromwell's command at Drogheda and Wexford, the vast majority of the victims were English Royalist soldiers loyal to Charles I, (consisting of protestants and catholics), not Irish civilians, and at Wexford Cromwell's soldiers acted without any orders.
Quite correct englishdegree. When Charles II scurried off to Europe after his debacle at the battle of Worcester, part of his retinue in exile was his tutor who was entrusted for his education when his father was in power, this tutor was Edward Hyde, who after the restoration was ennobled to be the 1st Earl of Claredon. 15 years after the restoration Claredon was given the task of compiling the "official history" of the interregnum, it wasn't until then that the so-called atrocities of the republican period started to appear.
It must be remembered that when Cromwell was sent to Ireland to pursue the Royalists it was at the command of parliament. True,Cromwell was the commanding officer, however he insisted that the army had proper provisions and munitions. He did not want his army to have to live on pillage as was the normal custom of armies of that period. Many an Irish farmer made a lot of money selling
provisions and horses to the army. In fact Cromwell had some of his troops hanged because they had stolen chickens from a farmers wife.
When Cromwell arrived at Drogheda the city was in the power of the Marquess of Ormonde. In 1642 Charles 1st gave Ormonde the task of putting down rebellions by Irish Confederates. Ormonde defeated the Confederates and took command of Drogheda. Then a bizarre situation developed. The Confederates who had been fighting not only the Royalists, but the Parliamentarians as well, decided to take up Ormonde's offer of a form of independence if they joined him. So when Cromwell arrived at the city walls Drogheda the city was populated by not only civilians, but Confederates and Royalists.
In 17th century warfare there was no Geneva Convention but the "rules of war" sometimes were more humane than some appreciated. When an army were laying siege to a fortified city the first demand, before a shot was fired, was for the besieged city to surrender. If they did, the defending army had to lay down their arms and they were allowed to leave the city and the city had to quarter and feed the attacking army and have a garrison of the victors when the army moved on. If this offer was refused the attacking army started the attack on the city walls.
When the cities defences had been breached the attackers then again demanded surrender. If the city did at this time further bloodshed was avoided if the defending soldiers laid down their arms and became prisoners of war. The city had to pay massive retribution for the cost of the siege and compensation for any of the attacking soldiers who had been killed or injured.
When Cromwell had breeched the cities defences and it still did not surrender he have the order for all the defenders and anyone carrying arms to be killed. Royalist in their uniforms were easily distinguished, but the Confederates in civilian clothes were killed if they bore arms, and in the heat of war some innocent civilians suffered the same fate. It was only after the restoration and the Earl of Claredon's "official history' was there any mention of a massacre at Drogheda.
Recent research by Tom Reilly who was born in Drogheda, uncovered council records of the period which show a list of councillors elected a couple of years before the fall of the city to Cromwell. Two years after the so called massacre there was another election for councillors. Over 75% of the new candidates seeking office were the same people who had applied before Cromwell had arrived at the city walls. The first casualties in a purge after a siege would have been the prominent citizens. (Cromwell. An Honourable Enemy)
The real tragedy is that for over 300 years Irish, and English children have been taught Claredon's false "official History"