Cork, Kinsale, and other towns, following the example of New Ross, yielded to Cromwell's generals. Cork is the third city in Ireland, and the most important in the south. The county of Cork, which is the largest in Ireland, is rich and fertile. In the west are mountains, and, sloping to the sea, beautiful valleys. Cork itself is a busy place. Besides being the largest butter market in the United Kingdom, it is the port by which the agricultural and dairy produce of the county finds its way to other lands. It has also breweries and distilleries, woollen, linen, paper, copper and tin factories.
Kinsale has a good harbour. It is a quaint old town with steep and winding streets, not changed very much perhaps since the days of Cromwell. It is a military and naval station, and every year the Royal Naval Reserve hold manœuvres here.
The Old Head of Kinsale is a point which runs out into the sea south-west of Kinsale. It is interesting as the first glimpse of "home" seen by travellers returning from America.
Soon after taking Wexford, Cromwell turned to Waterford, one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It is a seaport, and does great trade in live cattle and agricultural produce with Bristol, being the outlet for the fertile valleys of the county.
And now before the walls of Waterford, Oliver's triumphant course was stopped. The walls were strong, the defenders brave, and they would not give in. Winter was fast coming on. The country round was wasted and deserted. The rain poured in torrents. Food grew scarce. Cold, wet, and hungry, many of Cromwell's men became ill, many died. The Lord-General himself fell ill. Still he hoped when his heavy guns arrived to take the town. But the guns stuck fast in roads knee-deep in mud, and could not be brought to bear upon the town.
So at last Cromwell was forced to leave Waterford untaken, and march his sick and weary soldiers away to more comfortable winter quarters. On the 2nd of December they went, "it being so terrible a day as ever I marched in all my life," says Cromwell. Thus, worn and fever-stricken, the Ironsides scattered to Cork, Kinsale, Youghal, Wexford, Bandonbridge and other towns, for rest and shelter.
But in less than two months, Cromwell and his men, rested and refreshed, were again in the field. This time they marched inland. Town after town, castle after castle, yielded to the terror of Oliver's dreadful name, or if they would not yield, were taken with fearful slaughter.
Cashel, a little town which lies huddled at the foot of a rock rising sheer out of the fertile plain around, was taken. It was once the city of the kings of Munster. The stone upon which they sat to be crowned may still be seen, with other ancient relics upon the top of the rock.
Caher, on the Suir, one of the strongest fortresses in all Ireland, fell too. Fethard, where still many of the walls and gateways may be seen as they then were, was taken, and many another town of the rich wheat-lands of Tipperary.
In Kilkenny county, too, many a town fell. But at Kilkenny itself, the largest inland town in Ireland, Cromwell met with stout resistance. Kilkenny has grown to be a large town because it lies near one of the few coal fields in Ireland. It has also quarries of black marble, and is full of interest because of its old buildings, among which is a round tower.
There are many of these round towers in Ireland. For a long time people did not know for what they had been used. Now most people think that they were meant for bell towers to the monasteries and the churches. They were also used as watch-towers, and, in times of danger, as fortresses. There are still about seventy of them left in Ireland, some of them at least as old as the ninth century.
When Oliver arrived before Kilkenny he ordered the town to surrender as usual. "I am commanded to maintain this city for His Majesty, which, by the power of God, I am resolved to do," replied the governor. He would not give in, and the fight began. But a terrible sickness was raging within the walls, cutting down far more of the brave defenders than Cromwell's bullets. So at length the garrison was forced to yield. Cromwell allowed them to march out with colours flying and all the honours of war. It was only an empty honour, however, as two miles beyond the town they were obliged to lay down their arms.