top of page

The Last Siege

Blood of the Wolf is set during the 1651 siege of Galway. It was the last act of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Galway was the final stronghold of Irish Catholic forces in the country and it fell during this siege, marking the end of organized resistance against the Parliamentarian conquest. It also marked the end of the political power of the Tribes of Galway.

Leading the English Parliamentarians was Charles Coote, an English settler who had previously commanded Parliamentarian forces in the northwest of Ireland during the Irish Confederate Wars. The garrison in Galway consisted of Irish Confederate soldiers under Thomas Preston, many of whom had arrived in the city after an unsuccessful defense of Waterford. For my purposes, I invented Sir William Blake as the main Galway military leader.

During the 1640s, the citizens of Galway invested in extensive modern fortifications, making the city challenging to assault. The splendour of these fortifications is captured in the famous 17th century pictorial map of Galway.

Situated between Galway Bay to the south, Lough Corrib to the northwest, and Lough Atalia to the east, the city’s geographic layout further impeded direct attacks. Any assault would be confined to a narrow corridor to the north, allowing the defenders to concentrate their firepower. Recognising this, Coote chose to blockade the city upon his arrival in August 1651, rather than launching a direct assault. He established siege lines between Lough Atalia and Lough Corrib and stationed a Parliamentary fleet in Galway Bay to cut off supplies and reinforcements from reaching the city. However, Galway remained open to the west, where Irish general Richard Farrell quartered 3,000 additional troops in Connemara.

In November 1651, after the fall of Limerick, Henry Ireton, the Parliamentarian commander in Ireland, prioritized the capture of Galway. He reinforced Coote and intensified the blockade. Soon after, Ireton, Oliver Cromwell’s son-in-law, died of the plague. The siege endured for another seven months before Galway surrendered. Ulick Burke, the 1st Marquess of Clanricarde, who was nominally the supreme commander of the Irish Catholic forces, attempted to gather an army in Jamestown, County Leitrim, to relieve Galway. However, few of the demoralised Irish forces across the country responded to his call. In March, a conference of Irish officers in Galway, including Clanricarde, opted to initiate negotiations for surrender terms.

Eventually, Thomas Preston, the military governor of Galway, agreed to surrender the city on May 12, 1652. Food shortages and an outbreak of bubonic plague had made his position untenable. Coote allowed Preston to leave Ireland with most of his troops and join the Spanish service. The Parliamentarians generally respected the lives and property of the citizens of Galway, but the Catholic merchant families, known as the “Tribes of Galway,” were heavily fined and excluded from the municipal government. It was the end of an era and the city entered a long decline in wealth and importance.


bottom of page