The fact was, the Puritan faction in England was every day gaining an increase of power; while every hour that the Confederate Catholics wasted in discussion or division, was weakening their moral strength. Even Ormonde found himself a victim to the party who had long made him their tool, and was ordered out of Dublin unceremoniously, and obliged eventually to take refuge in France. Colonel Jones took possession of Dublin Castle for the rebel forces and defeated Preston in a serious engagement at Dungan Hill soon after his arrival in Ireland. O’Neill now came to the rescue; and even the Ormondists, having lost their leader, admitted that he was their only resource. His admirable knowledge of military tactics enabled him to drive Jones into Dublin Castle, and keep him there for a time almost in a state of siege.
In the mean time Inchiquin was distinguishing himself by his cruel victories in the south of Ireland. The massacre of Cashel followed. When the walls were battered down, the hapless garrison surrendered without resistance, and were butchered without mercy. The people fled to the Cathedral, hoping there, at least, to escape; but the savage General poured volleys of musket-balls through the doors and windows, and his soldiers rushing in afterwards, piked those who were not yet dead. Twenty priests were dragged out as objects of special vengeance; and the total number of those were thus massacred amounted to 3,000.
An engagement took place in November between Inchiquin and Lord Taaffe, in which the Confederates were again beaten and cruelly massacred. Thus two of their generals had lost both their men and their prestige, and O’Neill alone remained as the prop of a falling cause. The Irish now looked for help from foreign sources, and despatched Plunket and French to Rome, and Muskerry and Browne to France; but Ormonde had already commenced negotiations on his own account, and he alone was accredited at the court of St. Germains. Even at this moment Inchiquin had been treating with the Supreme Council for a truce; but Rinuccini, who detested his duplicity, could never be induced to listen to his proposals. A man who had so mercilessly massacred his own countrymen, could scarcely be trusted by them on so sudden a conversion to their cause; but, unhappily, there were individuals who, in the uncertain state of public affairs, were anxious to steer their barks free of the thousand breakers ahead, and in their eagerness forgot that, when the whole coast-line was deluged with storms, their best chance of escape was the bold resolution of true moral courage. The cautious politicians, therefore, made a treaty with Inchiquin, which was signed at Dungarvan, on the 20th of May. On the 27th of that month the Nuncio promulgated a sentence of excommunication against all cities and villages where it should be received, and, at the same time, he withdrew to the camp of Owen Roe O’Neill, against whom Inchiquin and Preston were prepared to march. It was a last and desperate resource, and, as might be expected, it failed signally of its intended effects. Various attempts to obtain a settlement of the question at issue by force of arms, were made by the contending parties; but O’Neill baffled his enemies, and the Nuncio withdrew to Galway.