14 October 1318 : The Battle of Faughart, also known as the Battle of Dundalk, was fought on this day. It was between an Anglo-Irish force led by John of Birmingham and Edmund Butler, and a Scots-Irish army commanded by Edward Bruce, claimant to the Crown of Ireland and brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Edward was killed in the battle. The defeat and death of Edward de Bruce at the battle ended the attempt to revive an independent Kingdom of Ireland. It also ended the attempt of King Robert of Scotland to open up a second front against the English in the Anglo-Scottish Wars.
Edward had invaded Ireland with an Army of 6,000 men in May 1315 and initially swept all before him. But his arrival here coincided with the start of a Great Famine that swept Europe that was caused by devastating climatic change. That and the cruelties his followers inflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike won him few converts outside of Ulster. Like Hannibal of old he could win battles and sweep the land, but he could not take the city of Dublin – the Capital of Ireland.
By 1318 his position was desperate as he saw his ambition to be King of Ireland in his own right slip away. He decided on a desperate gamble - to give battle before reinforcements could arrive from Scotland and thus lessen his own glory. Thus the two armies met at Faughart, on rising ground just north of Dundalk. Bruce had placed the few Gaelic forces that stayed with him at the rear. He divided his army into three divisions. This disposition proved disastrous, as the divisions proved to be easy targets for deBirmingham’s forces who simply destroyed them as they met and engaged with them. They were too far away from each other to provide any support to each other.
The English 'Chronicle of Lanercost' recorded:
The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland.
At the beginning of the battle, Edward Bruce refused to wear the sur-coat bearing his coat of arms. This was worn by his man-servant Gib Harper, who fought beside his master. Both master and servant were killed by an English soldier called John Maupas, but not before Maupas himself had sustained a fatal sword thrust. All three were found together after the battle in which many Scottish nobles who had followed Bruce since the beginning of the campaign, were also killed.
After Edward's death his body was quartered and his limbs sent to various places in Ireland, with his head being delivered to Edward II, the King of England. Tradition holds that his torso was then buried in nearby graveyard.
His defeat and destruction at Faughart was as unexpected as it was sudden but the termination of this terrible war was greeted with relief as it brought to an end a bleak and dark chapter in Ireland’s History. One in which the provinces of Ulster and Leinster bore the brunt of the devastation and in which armies of both sides freely indulged at the cost of the inhabitants both Irish and English who suffered greatly in these harshest of years.
Edward Bruce, the destroyer of all Erinn in general,
both Foreigners and Gaeidhel, was slain by the Foreigners of Erinn, and …
no better deed for the men of all Erinn was performed
since the beginning of the world, since the Fomorian race was expelled from Erinn, than this deed
for theft and famine, and destruction of men occurred throughout Erinn during his time
For the space of three years and a half
and people used to eat one another, without doubt throughout Erinn.
Annals of Loch Cé 1318 AD