Colonel Richard Hamilton Changes Sides

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER II....concluded

While the North was lulled to rest by these assurances, the crafty Lord-Deputy was all the while preparing for war, raising troops throughout the South and West, and taking care to occupy with garrisons Newry and all the leading passes to the North. Thus it was, that when the time came to move and strike, he was able to take Ulster by surprise.[28]

Mountjoy allowed himself to be completely hoodwinked by Tyrconnel. No sooner had he reached France, than he discovered that, instead of coming to persuade his master to make terms with the Prince, he was sent to be put out of the way. The Chief Baron had secret instructions to tell the King that Mountjoy was a traitor; that the Protestants regarded him as their friend and leader; that all Ireland was true to James; and that, so soon as he landed with a French army at his back, the Irish were prepared to take up arms in his favour; but, in case he was neither able nor willing to make an effort for regaining his crown, that the whole country was willing to put itself under the protection of France, rather than submit to the rule of the Prince of Orange. The consequence was, that Lord Mountjoy, when he reached Paris, was immediately seized, and imprisoned in the Bastile. When tidings of this treachery were known in Ireland, it was a new demonstration to the Protestants of the amount of confidence that they were to place in the good faith and honour of Tyrconnel and his master. It was not known till long afterwards that James was not accountable for this treatment of Mountjoy. It was done, however, in his interest, by order of Louis, as a precautionary measure, and the exiled monarch, who was supposed to enjoy the advantage, had to bear the blame.[29]

At first it was supposed in England, that when the King had fled to France, the Lord-Deputy of Ireland would shrink from engaging in a hopeless struggle, and would be disposed to make terms with the Prince; and Colonel Richard Hamilton, who, though sent over from Ireland to aid the King, had, with his troops, followed the example of the English army, and submitted to the Prince, was now sent back to Dublin on behalf of William, to make proposals to His Excellency. But Tyrconnel had already gone too far in the way of stirring up Catholic against Protestant to be able then to turn back: and, had he attempted so to do, he could not have succeeded. The populace, disappointed of the grand hopes they had been cherishing for months, would, in their fury, have burned the castle over his head, and torn him limb from limb.[30] The die, he felt, was cast, and he must peril all upon the consequences. He steadily resisted the overtures which were made to him. He even had the address to persuade Hamilton, who had brought over the proposals from the Prince, to return to his old allegiance, and to enter once more into the service of James. Both of them hoped for a reaction in the public feeling of England, of which some symptoms were already appearing, and fancied that a vigorous stand made in Ireland would turn the tide once more in favour of the King. Of this, they of course expected to have the credit and the reward.

To gain time for the necessary preparations, the Lord-Deputy sent Mountjoy, as we have seen, on that wild-goose chase to France, and this removed out of the way a man who was not likely to enter very warmly into his plans.[31] No sooner had the nobleman whom he duped left the kingdom, than he denied most positively that he had ever promised any such concessions as those enclosed in Mountjoy's letter to the gentlemen of the North. Forthwith he issued commissions for raising soldiers over the kingdom, and induced many of the Irish gentry to accept them, on his assurance that King James would soon come to their assistance with men and money from France.[32] Should the attempt to restore the King fail, he preferred Louis to William, and was determined, if he could, to make Ireland a province of France.[33]

The Government of King James thus broke faith with Derry: it is not very wonderful, therefore, if Derry sat a little loose in its allegiance to King James.

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[28] True and Impartial Acc., p. 10.

[29] Avaux to Louis, from Charlemont, April 23/13, 1689.

[30] "Le peuple . . . declaroit hautement que s'il songeoit à entrer dans quelque traitté il iroit le bruler dans son palais."—Avaux to Louis, from Dublin, 25th March/4th April, 1689.

[31] Mountjoy was not released from prison till 1692, and soon afterwards fell, fighting in the ranks of King William's army, in the battle of Steenkirk. In October 1689, there was an agreement on the part of King James and of King William to exchange him for Mountcashel, captured at Newtownbutler; but before it was carried out, Mountcashel had obtained his liberty in another way.—Avaux to Louis, October 31/21st, 1689.

[32] Mackenzie, chap. i.; King, chap, iii., section vii. 13, 14; Macaulay, Hist. of England, ch. xii.

[33] "If it was a Frenchman who is Viceroy of Ireland, he could not be more zealous for the interests of Your Majesty."—Avaux to Louis, May 17/7th, 1689.

William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research into identifying participants at the siege which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry, tracing, where possible, the family lineage; and the second part includes 352 entries on the Jacobite side. Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.