O’Neill now took the title of “Lord-General of the Catholic army in Ulster.” A proclamation was issued by the Irish Government, declaring he had received no authority from the King; and the ruling powers were often heard to say, “that the more were in rebellion, the more lands should be forfeited to them." A company of adventurers were already formed in London on speculation, and a rich harvest was anticipated. Several engagements took place, in which the insurgents were on the whole successful. It was now confidently stated that a general massacre of the Catholics was intended; and, indeed, the conduct of those engaged in putting down the rising, was very suggestive of such a purpose. In Wicklow, Sir Charles Coote put many innocent persons to the sword, without distinction of age or sex. On one occasion, when he met a soldier carrying an infant on the point of his pike, he was charged with saying that “he liked such frolics." Carte admits that his temper was rather “sour;” but he relates incidents in his career which should make one think “barbarous” would be the more appropriate term. The Lords Justices approved of his proceedings; and Lord Castlehaven gives a fearful account of the conduct of troops sent out by these gentlemen, who “killed men, women, and children promiscuously; which procedure,” he says, “not only exasperated the rebels, and induced them to commit the like cruelties upon the English, but frightened the nobility and gentry about; who, seeing the harmless country people, without respect of age or sex, thus barbarously murdered, and themselves then openly threatened as favourers of the rebellion, for paying the contributions they could not possibly refuse, resolved to stand upon their guard."
Before taking an open step, even in self-defence, the Irish noblemen and gentlemen sent another address to the King; but their unfortunate messenger, Sir John Read, was captured, and cruelly racked by the party in power—their main object being to obtain something from his confessions which should implicate the King and Queen. Patrick Barnwell, an aged man, was also racked for a similar purpose. The Lords Justices now endeavoured to get several gentlemen into their possession, on pretence of holding a conference. Their design was suspected, and the intended victims escaped; but they wrote a courteous letter, stating the ground of their refusal. A meeting of the principal Irish noblemen and gentlemen was now held on the Hill of Crofty, in Meath. Amongst those present were the Earl of Fingall, Lords Gormanstown, Slane, Louth, Dunsany, Trimbleston, and Netterville, Sir Patrick Barnwell and Sir Christopher Bellew; and of the leading country gentlemen, Barnwell, Darcy, Bath, Aylmer, Cusack, Malone, Segrave, &c. After they had been a few hours on the ground, the leaders of the insurgent party came up, and were accosted by Lord Gormanstown, who inquired why they came armed into the Pale. O’More replied that they had “taken up arms for the freedom and liberty of their consciences, the maintenance of his Majesty’s prerogative, in which they understood he was abridged, and the making the subjects of this kingdom as free as those of England.” Lord Gormanstown answered: “Seeing these be your true ends, we will likewise join with you therein.”