General Rosen

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IV....continued

GENERAL ROSEN.—Thursday, 20th June.

On the 20th of June, General Rosen, an officer of high rank in King James's army, and who subsequently rose to be a marshal of France, arrived from Dublin. He brought with him a strong reinforcement of ill-armed troops,[27] and had hurried on to reach the camp in consequence of the news coming to Dublin, that the besiegers had been worsted at the Windmill, and that Kirke with his fleet had been seen in the Lough. The receipt of this news induced him to pass by Enniskillen, which it had been his original design to attack.

Rosen was by birth a Livonian, who had become a soldier of fortune, and who through his whole career never entirely lost those coarse and savage manners then so characteristic of his native country. He was a man of fierce and violent temper as well as of barbarous speech. He swore a great oath that he would demolish the town, and bury its defenders in the ashes; and it is certain that after his arrival the siege was carried on with greater activity than before. Before he arrived, Hamilton, intimidated by the presence of the fleet in the Lough, had already begun to despair, and was on the point of disbanding his army; but the presence of Rosen revived their hopes and incited them to new efforts. In consequence of this, the lines of the enemy came nearer to the walls and the city was more closely invested. The three mortars which up to this time bombarded the city from the Waterside, as well as two culverins throwing balls of twenty pounds weight, were removed to the other side of the water, and placed on the hill above the Bog, opposite to Butcher's Gate. By his orders, also, a trench was run up within ten perches of the half-bastion near Butcher's Gate, in order to prepare matters for laying and springing a mine. By sinking a trench above the meadows, opposite to the Windmill Hill, he made it dangerous for the garrison either to relieve their outguards or to draw water from St. Columb's Well. Notwithstanding this show of vigour, the difficulties under which the Jacobite army laboured were very great indeed. They may be best understood from what Avaux writes to Louis under date the 1st of July:—"The besiegers are in want of everything; they have at present but thirty picks for working at the trenches, no cannon, the few which they have being employed to guard the river; most of their soldiers have deserted for want of money, and many of them possess neither swords nor swordbelts; meanwhile Kirke is within reach of the cannon of Culmore without having attempted to afford succour to the city, though he has had wind and tide in his favour."[28]

The renewed vigour of the besiegers stimulated the town to devise new expedients. They sank a trench at Butcher's Gate in order to countermine the enemy, and when their ammunition grew scarce, they husbanded their resources by making cannon balls of brick, encased in a surrounding of lead. From this time the blockade was so close that none could pass with safety outside the walls.

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[27] Avaux to Louis, from Dublin, June 26/16th.

[28] Avaux, p. 255.

Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689

Thomas Witherow's thoroughly researched and well-annotated work is a classic account of the Siege of Derry, from the shutting of the gates against the Jacobite forces by the thirteen apprentice boys to the relief of the city by Major-General Kirke's fleet in July 1689. The defence of Enniskillen and the counteroffensive actions of the Enniskilleners is also ably documented.

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Fighters of Derry

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.

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The Actions of the Enniskillen-men

While the epic siege of Derry is usually accorded its proper place in history, the contemporaneous exploits of the Enniskillen men are often overlooked. This is manifestly unjust because the Enniskilleners demonstrated bravery and heroism in battle at least equal to that of the defenders of Londonderry. Some, of course, rate the actions of the Enniskillen men more highly. As far as Revd Andrew Hamilton, the Rector of Kilskeery and author of A True Relation of the Actions of the Inniskilling Men (1690), was concerned ‘The Derry men saved a city but the Enniskilleners saved a kingdom.’

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