Yellow Ford, Battle of (1598)
biggest military defeat of English arms in Irish history, the Yellow Ford
temporarily rendered English hegemony in Ireland vulnerable. The main royal
army, over 4000 strong, commanded by Marshal Bagenal, was engaged at several
points as it marched from Armagh to the River Blackwater at a point known as the
Yellow Ford. Benefiting from the cover of the natural terrain as well as
elaborately manufactured earthworks, the Irish forces rained a deadly fire on
the advancing English columns. A mass charge by Irish forces delivered the coup
de grace. As few as 1500 of the crown army managed to seek sanctuary in the
cathedral in Armagh. Estimates of crown casualties vary widely. What is certain
is that Marshall Bagenal and eighteen English captains lost their lives, Bagenal
being criticized afterwards for taking up his position in the van of the army
rather than the more secure ‘main battle’.
A contemporary depiction of The
Yellow Ford with an alphabetical guide to the key points on the map. The letter
H refers to ‘Cornfields’ demonstrating that Irish agricultural practices,
while predominantly pastoral, also had a tillage dimension despite contemporary
English assertions to the contrary.
Portraying the Irish as nomadic herdsmen conformed to the Elizabethan world
view that the Gaelic Irish were barbarous and that crown policy aimed at
civilising them in English ways was justified.