Battle of Belturbet

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued

BATTLE OF BELTURBET.—Wednesday, 19th June.

They were scarcely home till, on the 16th June, news was sent them by Colonel Crichton of Crom, and Captain Wishart who commanded at one of their outposts, that a strong party of the enemy, which, as it appeared, was under command of Brigadier Sutherland, had advanced as far as Belturbet, and was hourly increasing in number. He was at the head of two regiments of foot and a regiment of dragoons, and was provided with a great store of ammunition and of provisions, sufficient, it was supposed, to enable him to besiege and to take Enniskillen. That very night Colonel Lloyd, with all the men that could be spared, marched out against him, and on the next day reached Maguiresbridge. Notice was soon given to Sutherland that the Enniskilleners were on their way to meet him to the number of 15,000 men—rumour as usual magnifying their strength to ten times more than the reality. Sutherland immediately retreated with the main body of his forces into Monaghan, leaving Colonel Scot with eighty dragoons and two hundred foot to hold the church and the churchyard,—the only place of strength in the village.

Tuesday proved to be a day of incessant rain, so that all military operations were for the time suspended; but a Council of War was held by the Enniskilleners, and, as it was in vain to think of overtaking Sutherland, it was resolved to attack the party in Belturbet. Next day, Wednesday the 19th of June, they marched forward, and when within two miles of the town, the dragoons of both parties came in sight of each other. After an exchange of shots, the horse of the enemy were driven back and pursued into Belturbet, and the Enniskillen horse surrounding the church and churchyard, kept them there till the foot came forward and secured possession of the adjoining buildings. Having taken up their position in the houses overtopping the churchyard, they so galled the garrison with their shot that at the end of two hours it consented to surrender. The conditions were that all the prisoners should have their lives, and that the officers, in addition, should be allowed to retain their clothes and money. The result was that nearly three hundred prisoners and a great booty fell to the victors, consisting of two barrels of powder, seven hundred muskets, fifty-three dragoon horses, and as many red coats as served for two companies. In addition, a great quantity of provisions amounting to twenty tons of bread, flour, wheat, and malt, was sent to Enniskillen by water. Thirteen commissioned officers were detained as prisoners, but the two hundred common soldiers were taken to Enniskillen, and were employed in erecting the fort, which was then approaching completion.[36]

Of the Enniskillen dragoons, who took such a prominent part in this attack on the town, we have the following description from a contemporary who saw them at Loughbrickland, little more than two months after the battle at Belturbet:—

"I wondered much to see their horses and equipage, hearing before what feats had been done by them. They were three regiments in all, and most of the troopers and dragoons had their waiting men, mounted on garrons (these are small Irish horses, but very hardy); some of them had holsters, and others their pistols hung at their swordbelts. They showed me the enemy's scouts upon a hill before us; I wished them to go and beat them off, and they answered, 'With all their hearts, but they had orders to go no farther than where they saw the enemy's scouts,' though they seemed dissatisfied with it, and added, 'they should never thrive so long as they were under orders.'"[37]

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[36] Hamilton, pp. 25-27; MacCarmick, pp. 48-50.

[37] Story's Impartial History, p. 12.

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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