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O’Neill, Owen Roe, (c.1590-1649, soldier, victor of the battle of Benburb 1646. Commissioned as an officer in the service of Spain in 1606, Owen Roe became a highly experienced senior officer, eventually taking command of his own regiment on the continent. When the 1641 rebellion broke out in Ireland, Owen Roe endeavoured to return to the land of his birth, which he had left as a child, at the earliest opportunity. A nephew of the earl of Tyrone, Owen Roe’s homecoming was considered highly symbolic. Leading a band of some 200 Irish veterans of the continental wars, he returned to Ulster to take command of the rebel forces which had seized much of the province from the control of protestant settlers. Bringing to bear a highly professional military approach, Owen Roe is credited with transforming the military fortunes of the rebel forces. His biggest military success occurred at the battle of Benburb, 1646, when his army of 5000 men comprehensively defeated a larger settler army commanded by General Robert Monro. Inflicting some 2000 to 3000 casualties on his opponents, with his own dead and wounded numbered at less than 300, Owen Roe temporarily held the fate of Ulster, possibly Ireland, in his grasp. Rather than pursue the expulsion of the protestant settler forces from Ulster, he is widely regarded to have mistakenly directed his army south. Becoming embroiled in the divisive politics of the Irish Confederation based in Kilkenny, Owen Roe’s talents were dissipated by the internecine rivalries between Old English and Gaelic Irish catholics.

 

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