From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued

LISNASKEA.—Wednesday, 31st July.

The English officers did not arrive a moment too soon. The very night of their arrival, an express came from Colonel Crichton, at Crom, to say that General Macarthy had marched his men from Belturbet, and was battering the castle with cannon, and that he and his people had no means of responding except by the discharge of small shot from the walls. Next day another message came, beseeching them to send instant relief. The Governnor was at the time ill of fever; but Colonel Wolseley, who now took the chief command, sent to say that he would gather his forces together, and attempt to relieve them on Wednesday. He immediately sent to Ballyshannon for as many men as could be spared; and, considering that Sarsfield lay at only four or five miles' distance along the sea-coast towards Sligo, it was venturous in the little garrison to send forward several troops of horse and four or five hundred men. After a twenty miles' march, they reached Enniskillen on Tuesday evening, and, instead of being fatigued, they declared themselves willing to go out that very night and meet the enemy.

On Monday evening intelligence had come to town, that Macarthy intended to station a garrison in the castle of Lisnaskea, ten miles from Enniskillen. To counteract this movement, Lieutenant-Colonel Berry was sent with seven or eight troops of horse, three foot companies, and two troops of dragoons, with orders from Wolseley, to occupy the castle of Lisnaskea, and, if he found it tenable, to garrison it; but, if not, to destroy it rather than let it be useful to the enemy. He was also instructed to discover their strength, and to ascertain how they were posted, and he was assured that the main body of the army would soon follow to his relief.

When Berry reached Lisnaskea he found the castle so much out of order, and a place altogether of so little importance, that he neither occupied nor burned it, but encamped all night in the open fields. Next day being Wednesday, he marched his men from Lisnaskea towards the enemy, who had meanwhile raised the siege of Crom, and were now lying at some six miles' distance.[45] Scouts were sent in advance, with orders to retreat should they meet the enemy, and if possible to discover their numbers. They had not marched more than two miles, until, at a place called Donagh, the scouts gave warning that Macarthy's men were in sight. Berry immediately retired in the direction of Lisnaskea, but before he reached it, he obtained from a rising ground a full view of the opposite force, and found that its numbers were very nearly double those of his own. He sent off an express immediately to acquaint Colonel Wolseley with the position of affairs, and he himself slowly fell back to some post where he could await their attack with more advantage to himself. Seeing him retire, the enemy pressed forward with greater speed, but Berry so covered the foot with a party of horse, that they failed in their endeavour to turn his retreat into a flight.

There were then two roads leading from Lisnaskea to Enniskillen, The new road lay nearer to Lough Erne than the old; it was made through bogs and fenny ground, and had several passes upon it which could be defended with ease. The new road turned from the old near the town; and this is the road that was taken by Berry, marching his men in good order, but with the enemy still advancing upon him. About a mile from the town, the road ran through a bog, and was at that part so narrow that two horsemen could scarcely ride over it abreast; and at the remote end of this narrow pass Berry halted, determined to keep his ground till relief would reach him from Enniskillen. In a thicket of bushes on the enemy's flank, and on the opposite side of the river which skirted the bog, he planted an ambush of eighteen or twenty men, with directions not to fire till the critical moment. Among the brushwood at the end of the causeway next to Enniskillen, he stationed his foot and dragoons, with instructions to keep their ground at all hazards; while at some little distance he planted the horse, with orders to act as a reserve, and, if necessary, to relieve the foot and dragoons.

He had scarcely time thus to dispose of his forces, when the officer in command of the opposing party, Colonel Anthony Hamilton,—"the most brilliant and accomplished," says Macaulay, "of all who bore the name of Hamilton,"—arrived with his men at the end of the causeway next to Lisnaskea. When he observed that Berry and his men were drawn up at the other end, he determined to force his way across. Alighting from his horse, he ordered his soldiers to do the same, and advanced with courage upon the narrow path, that was only a gun-shot in length. The two parties began immediately to fire at each other across the bog; the result of which was, that, as the Jacobites were but poor marksmen, the Enniskilleners had the advantage, and, with no great loss to themselves, shot several of the enemy. Colonel Hamilton was wounded in the leg; the officer second in command, who stepped forward to take his place, was shot dead; and, amid the confusion that this event produced, the little party in ambush opened fire on the flank. The dragoons were then ordered to retire from the causeway beyond musket-range; but the moment that they turned their backs they fled in good earnest. The Enniskilleners no sooner observed this movement, than they gave a huzza, and shouted out, "The rogues are running." Instantly the Enniskillen horse dashed over the causeway in Indian file, and converted their retreat into a disorderly flight. They charged in among the foot, hacking and hewing in all directions, and chasing the fugitives through the town of Lisnaskea, and for a mile beyond it. The pursuit only ended when Berry was informed that Macarthy was advancing with the main body, whereupon he sounded a retreat, and brought back his men to the spot where the battle first began. In this encounter they slew two hundred men and took thirty prisoners. This occurred about nine o'clock in the morning.[46]

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[45] In the attack of Crom, says Avaux, Mountcashel had "lost fifteen or twenty men, and had about sixty wounded, among whom were his lieut.-colonel and several other officers of his regiment,"—To Louvois, 14/4th Aug., 1689.

[46] MacCarmick, pp. 60, 61; Hamilton, pp. 34-38.

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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