The ‘peace’ didn’t last, because in 1594 the Ulster chieftains rebelled against the English, in what came to be known as the Nine Years War or Tyrone’s Rebellion after Irish chieftain Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone. This war was incredibly attritional. The end for the rebels really started in 1600, when English forces, under the overall command of Lord Mountjoy, managed to penetrate the interior of Ulster by sea-borne landings, at Derry under Henry Dowcra, and Carrickfergus under Arthur Chichester. Dowcra and Chichester, helped by Niall Garbh O’Donnell, a rival of Irish chieftain Red Hugh O’Donnell, devastated the countryside in an effort to provoke a famine and killed the civilian population at random. Their military assumption was that without crops and people, the rebels could neither feed themselves nor raise new fighters. This attrition quickly began to bite, and it also meant that the Ulster chiefs were tied down in Ulster to defend their own territories.

In 1601, a Spanish expedition arrived in the form of 3500 soldiers at Kinsale, Cork. Mountjoy immediately besieged them with 7000 men. The Irish chieftains marched their armies south to sandwich Mountjoy, whose men were starving and wracked by disease. During the march south, the chieftains devastated the lands of those who would not support them. On the 5-6th January 1602, the chieftains decided to make a surprise attack upon the English. Somehow the Irish lost the element of surprise and events were reduced to a series of pitched battles in which the Irish forces were routed in what became known as the battle of Kinsale.