Rosen's Stratagem

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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ROSEN'S STRATAGEM.—Tuesday, 2nd July.

On the 26th of June, Colonel O'Neill, at his own request, had a conference with Colonel Lance and Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell on the part of the garrison. They met on the Upper Strand. O'Neill, by order of King James, offered that if the city would surrender, all those who chose to go to their respective dwellings should have liberty to do so, and have their losses made up; that those who would take the oath of allegiance and enter his army should be received without distinction of religion; and that those who wished to go to England or Scotland should have free permission. One night was given the garrison to deliberate. Next morning the answer was returned by Colonels Lance and Campbell, that the conditions would not be accepted.

It would appear that the notion was prevalent in the camp of the besiegers that the populace of Derry were inclined to surrender, but were prevented by the officers from making any move in that direction. The very reverse was the case. Any talk of surrender was among the officers, who knew the weakness of the position, and the imperfect means of defence; among the populace, who knew little about the comparative strength of the position and of the forces, it was at the hazard of a man's life if he spoke of surrender. To encourage the people to express the wishes which they were supposed to conceal, General Hamilton, towards the end of the month of June, enclosed a paper of proposals in a dead bomb, and this bomb he ordered to be thrown into the city with the view of making known to the people that he was willing, in case of surrender, to grant them honourable terms—a fact which, as he supposed, was kept from them by their officers.

"Lieutenant-General Hamilton's Proposals.

"1. That Colonel O'Neill has a power to discourse with the Governor of Derry from General-Hamilton, as appears by his sending this.

"2. That the General has full power does appear by his commission.

"3. That General Rosen has no power from the King to intermeddle with what Lieutenant-General Hamilton does as to the siege, being only sent to oppose the English succours, and that all conditions and parleys are left to the said Lieutenant-General Hamilton, that as to what articles shall be agreed on, they may see by the King's warrant he has full power to confirm them. Notwithstanding, if they do not think this sufficient, he will give what other reasonable security they can demand. As to the English landing, such as had commissions from the Prince of Orange need not be apprehensive, since it will be the King's interest to take as much care of his Protestant subjects as of any other, he making no distinction of religion.

"4. As to what concerns the Enniskillen people, they shall have the same terms as those of Derry on their submission—the King being willing to show mercy to all his subjects, and quiet his kingdom.

"5. That the Lieutenant-General desires no better than having it communicated to all the garrison—he being willing to employ such as will freely swear to serve His Majesty faithfully; and all such as have a desire to live in town shall have protection, and free liberty of goods and religion.

"As to the last point, such as have a mind to return to their homes shall have a necessary guard with them to their respective habitations, and victuals to supply them, where they shall be restored to all they possessed formerly, not only by the sheriffs and justices of the peace, but also by governors and officers of the army, who from time to time will do them right and give them reprisals of cattle from such as have taken them to the mountains.

"June 27th, 1689."

While these proposals were under consideration, General Rosen saw that something effective must be done without delay. Precious time was passing. His army was melting away. Kirke was in the river. Should the English land, even those to whom protections were granted would rise against him, and he would be attacked on all sides. Taking all these things into account, he sent a letter to the garrison, intimating that in case they would not surrender immediately he would collect all the non-combatant Protestant population for miles around Derry, and drive them in before his soldiery, that they might starve around the walls.

"CONRAD DE ROSEN, Marshal-General of all His Majesty's forces,[36]
"Declares by these presents, to the Commanders, Officers, Soldiers, and Inhabitants of the City of Londonderry, that in case they do not betwixt this and Monday next, at six of the clock in the afternoon, being the first day of July, in the year of our Lord 1689, agree to surrender the said place of Londonderry unto the King, upon such conditions as may be granted them, according to the instructions and power Lieutenant-General Hamilton formerly received from His Majesty, that he will forthwith issue out his orders from the Barony of Innishowen, and the sea-coast round about as far as Charlemont, for the gathering together of those of their faction, whether protected or not, and cause them immediately to be brought to the walls of Londonderry, where it shall be lawful for those in the same (in case they have any pity on them) to open the gates and receive them into the city, otherwise they will be forced to see their friends and nearest relations all starved for want of food, he having resolved not to leave any of them at home, nor anything to maintain them. He further declares, that in case they refuse to submit, he will forthwith cause all the said country to be immediately destroyed, that if any succour should be hereafter sent them from England, they may perish with them for want of sustenance; besides which, he hath a very considerable army, as well for the opposing of them in all places that shall be judged necessary, as for the protection of all the rest of His Majesty's dutiful subjects, whose goods and chattels he promises to secure, destroying all the rest that cannot conveniently be brought into such places as he shall judge fit to be preserved, and burning the houses and mills, not only of those that are in actual rebellion, but also of their friends and adherents, that no hopes of escaping may be left for any man—beginning this very day to send his necessary orders [37] to all Governors and other commanders of His Majesty's forces at Coleraine, Antrim, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Dungannon, Charlemont, Belturbet, Sligo, and to Colonel Sarsfield, commanding a flying army beyond Ballyshannon; Colonel Sutherland, commanding another towards Enniskillen: and the Duke of Berwick another on the Finn-water, to cause all the men, women, and children, who are anywise related to those in Londonderry, or anywhere else in open rebellion, to be forthwith brought to this place, without hopes of withdrawing further into the kingdom, Moreover he declares, that in case before the said Monday, the first day of July, in the year of our Lord 1689, be expired, they do not send us hostages, and other deputies with a full and sufficient power to treat with us for the surrender of the said city of Londonderry, on reasonable conditions, they shall not, after that time, be admitted into any treaty whatsoever; and the army which shall continue the siege, and will, wth the assistance of God, soon reduce it, shall have order to give no quarter, or spare either age or sex, in case it is taken by force. But, if they return to the obedience due to their natural Prince, he promises them that the conditions granted to them in His Majesty's name shall be inviolably observed by all His Majesty's subjects, and that he himself will have a care to protect them on all occasions, even to take their part if any injury contrary to agreement should be done them, making himself responsible for the performance of the conditions on which they shall agree to surrender the said place of Londonderry to the King. Given under my hand, this 30th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1689.

"Per Monseigneur Fetart."[38]

At the time this terrible threat was received, the daily allowance from the provision stores to each man in the garrison was a pound of meal, a pound of tallow, and half-a-pound of beef; salted hides were in request, and living dogs, cats, and rats were in imminent danger. Yet, in face of hunger within and Rosen without, no man spoke of surrender. The answer of the city, dated 2nd of July, to the proposals of Hamilton, was as follows:—

"That we having received and read the said paper, and considering of it, with other offers made to us by the said Lieutenant-General, in our council and with others here that we might the better give him a fitting answer; but before we could get the said matter fully considered and brought about, which was much hindered by the death of one of our Governors, and by disturbance given us from the camp, we had sent us a paper sealed and signed by the Mareschal de Rosen, dated 1st instant, by which he declares, that in case we do not, betwixt that time and Monday following, by six of the clock in the afternoon, agree to surrender the city unto the King, upon such conditions as should be granted us by Lieutenant-General Hamilton, according to His Majesty's instructions; that the said Marshal would forthwith issue forth his order from the barony of Innis Owen and the sea-coasts round about as far as Charlemont, for gathering together those of our faction as he calls them whether protected or not, and cause them immediately to be brought to our walls, where we may receive them into the town, if we have any pity; otherwise we will be forced to see our friends and nearest relations all starved for want of food, he having resolved not to leave one of them at home, nor any thing to maintain them on; and that all hopes of succours may be taken away by landing of any troops in these parts from England, he further declares, that if we do not by that time submit, he will forthwith cause all the said country to be destroyed, by burning the houses, mills, etc., and carry all provisions of the said country to such places as he shall think fit, and the rest he will destroy; so that our relations, country people, men, women, and children, must starve, though protected; with other cruel threatenings in the said paper held forth; which paper of the said Marshal we had openly read in our families. It gave great offence to the people here, and caused many of them to believe that no articles or capitulation that should be made with us, should ever be performed or kept, when they find and believe that the said Marshal hath, or pretends to have, a power of command in the army above the said Lieutenant-General, and that he threatens to break the protections already given to the Protestants and use them in manner aforesaid; and that though we should have sufficient articles from the said Lieutenant-General to save our lives, religion, liberties, and estates, yet on landing of any army from England to invade Ireland, our articles should be broken, ourselves imprisoned or driven from home, and our goods, chattels, and provisions taken from us, and we forced to starve. That though we expect favour from His Majesty and the said Lieutenant-General, and other with them; yet we expect no mercy, nor favour, or keeping of conditions with us, from the said Marshal or his countrymen with him, if he and they shall have power, they having cruel designs as their countrymen have, against the laws, the liberty, and the religion of all men of our church and persuasion.

"That on viewing and considering the copy of the Commission granted by the King to the said Lieutenant-General to treat with us, we find it bears date the 1st of May last; since which time, to wit, on the 14th of the said month, there sat a Parliament in Dublin, by act whereof our lives and estates were forfeited. Wherefor we conceive that the said Commission, granted to the said Lieutenant-General, hath not sufficient authority for him to treat with us, nor can we, by articles to be made with him, be safe. We therefore desire the said Lieutenant-General will (considering this matter is so dear and near to us, it being all the security we have for our lives, religion, liberty, and estates) not construe this any delay in our treaty; but that he would be pleased to procure from His Majesty a new fuller Commission to treat with us; and that His Majesty may assure us we shall have performance of what articles we make with the said Lieutenant-General; so that it may not be in the power of the said Marshal, or the said Frenchmen with him or any other, to break what articles shall be made for our advantage, or that we shall be oppressed by them.


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[36] This title was bestowed by James upon Rosen, on his leaving Dublin for Londonderry.—Avaux, 12/2 May.

[37] Copy of these orders dated 1st July, 1689, in Macpherson Papers, vol. i., p. 205.

[38] See Rosen's letter to King James justifying his orders, in the Macpherson Papers, vol. i., p. 205.

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.