Michael Jones (soldier)
Lieutenant-General Michael Jones (died December 1649) was an Irish soldier who fought for King Charles I during the Irish Confederate War but joined the English Parliamentary side when the English Civil Warstarted. He is noted for his victories at the Battle of Dungans Hill and the Battle of Rathmines, which facilitated the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.
The son of Lewis Jones (1560–1646), a Welshman who settled in Ireland, becoming Bishop of Killaloe, the young Jones was a student at Lincoln’s Inn when the Civil War began. After fighting for the Crown during the early part of the Irish Rebellion of 1641.
After the cessation of hostilities in Ireland in 1643 the extreme party among the Irish Protestants determined to send Jones and other representatives to press their views on the king during the negotiations for the treaty with the Irish rebels, which were to take place at Oxford in the spring of 1644. Carte prints a speech which Jones addressed to Ormonde on behalf of his fellow-commissioners. Finding, however, that he would be expected to bring over his company to join the Royalis army in England, Jones declined to act, and shortly afterwards entered the service of Parliament.[a]
Jones speedily distinguished himself as a cavalry leader. He took part in the defeats of the royalists at Tarvin (21 August 1644), at Malpas (26 August 1644), and in the repulse of John, Lord Byron’s attempt to relieve Beeston Castle on 18 January 1645. On 18 September 1645 Jones, together with Adjutant-general Lowthian, stormed the suburbs of Chester, and six days later helped Poyntz to gain a victory at the Battle of Rowton Heath. On 1 November 1645 Colonels Jones and Thomas Mytton defeated at Denbigh the troops which Sir William Vaughan had collected for the relief of Chester, and in December Jones routed another relieving force at Holt-bridge, and captured its commander, Sir William Byron. On 6 February 1646 the surrender of Chester, Jones was appointed governor of the city by Parliament.
But his skill and courage, his family connection with Ireland, and his knowledge of the conditions of Irish warfare marked him out for employment in the suppression of the Irish rebellion. On 3 July 1646 it was voted that the horse regiments of Colonels Jones and Sydney should be immediately despatched to Ireland, but he did not actually set out till a year later. Originally it was intended to appoint him deputy-governor of Dublin under Algernon Sydney, but as early as 24 March 1647 he is spoken of as “commander-in-chief of the forces employed in this service of Dublin”, and on 9 April an ordinance was passed appointing him governor. Jones and the other parliamentary commissioners landed at Dublin on 7 June 1647, and concluded a treaty with Earl of Ormonde (His old Royalist commander) for the delivery of Dublin and other places still in his possession on 18 June 1647. Ormonde agreed the terms and surrendered Dublin to him without a fight in June 1647 saying that he “preferred English rebels to Irish ones”.
When Jones landed in Dublin, he brought with him 5,000 English Parliamentarian soldiers. In addition to this, he inherited 3,000 English Royalist soldiers who had been under Ormonde’s command. Jones persuaded these men to switch their allegiance to the Parliamentarians in order to fight the Irish Confederates. He began by reorganising the army and suppressing free quarter.
His first expeditions from Dublin were unsuccessful, but he was obliged to fight not so much for victory, but, as Bellings expresses it, “for bread and elbow-room”.
On 1 August he set out to relieve Trim, and General Thomas Preston seized the opportunity to make a dash at Dublin during his absence. Jones relieved Trim and then overtook Preston, defeating him at Battle of Dungans Hill, by routing his horse, destroying his infantry, and capturing all his artillery and baggage. More than two hundred officers were taken, and over three thousand Irish killed. Borlase terms it “the greatest and most signal victory the English ever had in Ireland”. This was the best trained and best equipped Confederate army and the loss of its manpower and equipment was a body blow to the Confederation.
Want of money and supplies prevented Jones from availing himself of his success to its full extent, but it enabled him considerably to enlarge his area of control. The skilful strategy of Owen Roe O’Neill checked his further progress. In 1648 the outbreak of the Second English Civil War and the return of Ormonde with a new commission from the king caused a revolution in the relations of Irish parties. Jones resorted to diplomacy, sought to play off the extreme catholic party against the Royalists and the Confederates, concluded a temporary cessation of arms with O’Neill, and assisted the ambitious efforts of the Earl of Antrim.He provided against the anticipated desertion of some of his own officers to Ormonde by arresting them and shipping them to England. On the news of the execution of King Charles I Ormonde wrote to Jones, urging him to abandon the cause of the regicides, and join the Irish in asserting the authority of Charles II. “I conceive it”, characteristically answered Jones, “no part of my work and care to take notice of any proceedings of state foreign to my charge and trust here … The intermeddling of governors and parties in this kingdom, with sidings and parties in England, have been the very betraying of this kingdom to the Irish”.
In the summer of 1649 Ormonde marched against the last English garrisons. Drogheda and Dundalk were taken, and on 19 June he laid siege to Dublin with an army of about seven thousand foot and four thousand horse. Jones’s forces were weakened by desertion, his stores of corn spent, his troops paid only by a weekly assessment on Dublin. He could not take the field for fear of mutiny or treachery in his absence. Fortunately between 22 July and 26 July sixteen hundred foot and six hundred horse arrived from England. Ormonde seized the old castle of Baggotrath, intending to erect a work there and cut off the besieged from further reinforcement by sea. On 2 August Jones made a sudden sally, drove the besiegers out of Baggotrath, fell on Ormonde’s camp at Rathmines, and took camp, artillery, baggage, and eighteen hundred prisoners. “There never was any day in Ireland like this”, says Whitelocke, “to the confusion of the Irish, and raising up the spirits of the English, and restoring their interest, which from their first footing in Ireland was never in so low a condition as at that time”. A few days later Ormonde wrote to Jones for a list of his prisoners. “My Lord”, replied Jones, “since I routed your army I cannot have the happiness to know where you are that I may wait upon you”. He tried to use his victory to recover Drogheda, but Ormonde was still strong enough to oblige him to raise the siege (8 August).
On 15 August Oliver Cromwell landed at Dublin, and as commander-in-chief superseded Jones. The latter became his second in command, with the rank of lieutenant-general. He took part in the capture of Wexford and the siege of Waterford, but the fatigues of the campaign proved fatal to him. On 19 December 1649 Cromwell announced his death to the speaker. “The noble lieutenant-general, whose finger, to our knowledge, never ached in all these expeditions, fell sick; we doubt upon a cold taken upon our late wet march and ill accommodation; and went to Dungarvan, where, struggling some four or five days with a fever, he died, having run his course with so much honour, courage, and fidelity, as his actions better speak than my pen. What England lost hereby is above me to speak. I am sure I lost a noble friend and companion in labours”. Jones was buried in St. Mary’s Church at Youghal, in the Earl of Cork’s chapel.
Parliament had voted him lands to the value of £500 a year, after his victory at Dungan Hill, and after Rathmines they increased the gift to £1,000 a year. It is doubtful whether these votes were carried out, for on 5 December 1650 the house voted £300 to “the Lady Dame Mary Culme, widow, late wife of Lieutenant-general Jones, for the relief of her present necessities”.
A poem on Jones’s victory at Rathmines was printed by George Wither.
- Carte, who states that Jones “had ever been puritanically inclined”, attributes his quitting the king’s service to the fact that Sir Robert Byron had been preferred before him to the post of lieutenant-colonel. But C.H. Firth thought it was more probably due to the conviction that protestant ascendency in Ireland could only be restored through the power of Parliament.
- Firth 1892, p. 147 cites: Whitelocke Memorials, iii. 121; SymondsDiary, p. 242.
- Firth 1892, p. 147 cites: Carte, Ormonde, ed. 1851, iii. 96, 104; vi. 23; Coxe, Hibernia Anglicana, ii. 139.
- Firth 1892, p. 147 cites Carte, iii. 425.
- Firth 1892, p. 148.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Phillips, Civil War in Wales, ii. 197, 200, 225.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Phillips, Civil War in Wales, i. 329, 344; Vicars, Burning Bush, pp. 273, 305.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Commons’ Journals, iv. 429, 600.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Sydney Papers, ed. Blencowe, p. 16; Lords’ Journals, ix. 100, 133.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites History of the Irish Confederation (ed. Gilbert), vii. 33.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites History of the Irish Rebellion, ed. 1743, p. 242; An exact and full Relation of the great Victory obtained against the Rebels at Dungan’s Hill, 4to, 1647; Carte, Ormonde, iii. 319, ed. 1851.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Borlase, pp. 243, 253; Aphorismical Discovery, i. 154, 163; Carte, iii. 320, 355.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Carte, iii. 380, 394; Aphorismical Discovery, i. 743–50.
- Firth 1892, p. 148 cites Aphorismical Discovery, ii. 14; Carte, iii. 425; Observations on the Articles of Peace, &c., Milton, Works, ed. Bohn, ii. 139.
- Firth 1892, p. 149 cites Borlase, p. 280; Carte, Original Letters, ii. 407; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 152, 159; Aphorismical Discovery, ii. 43.
- Firth 1892, p. 149.
- de Courcy 1996, p. 468.
- Firth 1892, p. 149 cites Carlyle, Cromwell, Letter cxvii.
- Firth 1892, p. 149 cites Smith, History of Waterford, p. 65.
- Firth 1892, p. 149 cites (Commons’ Journals, vi. 278, 505.
- Firth 1892, p. 149 cites Carmen Eucharisticon, or a Private Thank Oblation, &c., 4to, 1649).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Firth, C.H. (1892). “Jones, Michael“. In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 147–199. Endnotes:
- Authorities already quoted; Lodge’s Peerage of Ireland, iii. 337. Many of the despatches of Jones during his Irish command are printed in the Journals of the House of Lords and in contemporary pamphlets. Others are among the Tanner and Carte MSS. in the Bodleian Library.
- Plant, David. “Biography of Michael Jones”. British Civil Wars website.