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Benburb, Battle of (1646) Biggest set-piece battle of the Irish wars which raged from 1641-52, Benburb is considered the most spectacular military success of Gaelic Irish arms against British opposition, outshining Hugh O’Neill’s victory at the Yellow Ford in 1598 because the battle of Benburb was fought along conventional European military lines whereas the Yellow Ford relied to a considerable extent on Gaelic style ambuscade tactics. The rebel Gaelic Irish forces in 1646 were led by Owen Roe O’Neill, nephew of Hugh, a highly experienced military commander trained on the continent. Having assembled an army some 5000 strong Owen Roe O’Neill engaged General Robert Monro’s larger force of 6000 men which had been raised to defend the protestant settlers of Ulster. Having strategically positioned himself between three advancing settler columns, O’Neill surprised Monro by opting for a formal engagement instead of opting for a judicious retreat. Having mounted a 15 mile march to cut off O’Neill from retiring to the safety of Charlemont fort, Monro encountered O’Neill’s army deployed for battle in conventional formation. In the ensuing hostilities, the exhaustion of Monro’s forces is considered to have contributed to their defeat. Be that as it may, Monro suffered a catastrophic defeat, his casualties estimated by contemporaries at between 2000 and 3000 and possibly more. Like the Yellow Ford, the battle of Benburb is considered to have been a lost opportunity for the Gaelic Irish of Ulster. Instead of driving the remnants of settler forces from the north, Owen Roe O’Neill diverted his attention south.  

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