Cavan in Retreat

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued


In pursuance of what seems to have been his policy, to collect all the Protestant forces in Ulster to one spot, and then to hand all over in a wholesale surrender to King James, Lundy wrote also to the men of Enniskillen and of Cavan to fall back on Derry. Most fortunately, both for itself and for the cause, Enniskillen determined to keep its ground, and as the people there expected that somewhere they would have to fight for life and liberty, they thought it better to fight at their own doors. They rightly judged that the most efficient help which they could render to Derry was to defend their own town, and thus divide the forces of the enemy. But their astonishment may be imagined, when on the 20th of March, in stormy weather, and when the roads were almost impassable, all the better class of the Protestant population of Cavan, three or four troops of horse, as many companies of foot, and behind them a vast mass of men, women, and children, covered to the middle with mud, poured into Enniskillen, bringing with them no provisions, and filling the streets with the most piteous lamentations. Those among them who acted as officers, said that they were retreating to Derry by orders of Colonel Lundy, and they earnestly urged the Governor of Enniskillen and the people there to follow their example.

It soon became known, that, while they alleged the orders of Lundy as the reason of their going to Derry, the real cause was the presence of Lord Galmoy, at the head of a section of the Jacobite army, in their part of the country. Having been ordered to hover about on the confines of Ulster and Leinster, to prevent communication between the Protestants of the North and of the South, he had suddenly made a descent on Cavan, and had captured Captain Dixie, son of the Dean of Kilmore, Lieutenant Charleton, and eight or ten troopers; whereupon the whole country was so alarmed, that the bulk of the Protestant inhabitants, without any attempt at resistance or even at discovering the numbers of the enemy, deserted their houses and property, and fled in the direction of Derry. This was the true reason that brought into Enniskillen such a vast multitude of men, women, and children, taxing the capacity of the church, the session-house, and the schoolroom, as well as of every private dwelling, in order to find them lodging-room. They remained three days to rest.

Galmoy was meanwhile drawing near, and when he reached Lisnaskea, a village ten miles off, he sent forward a summons calling on Enniskillen to surrender.

The Enniskilleners of course meant to fight; it never occurred to them that they could do otherwise; and they used every argument they could think of to induce the Cavan men to stay and assist. But it was in vain; they would, and they did, march on to Derry. Seeing that they were bent upon this, the Governor proclaimed that all the men from Cavan on the way to Derry must take their wives and children with them, else, if left behind, they would be turned immediately out of town. This had a good effect. Some three or four companies of foot, who could not conveniently take their wives and children with them, fortunately for themselves, were obliged to stay; but all the rest, both horse and foot, and even the officers of some of the companies that remained, pushed on to Derry. They would have persuaded the people of Enniskillen to go with them; but the Enniskilleners, to a man, determined to stay and to defend a position which they rightly regarded as the Key of Ulster on the side of Connaught, and which if they were to lose, Derry itself could not be maintained against the accession of strength thus brought to its assailants. They turned away alike from the entreaties of Cavan, the orders of Lundy, and the summons of Galmoy. The latter they answered by sending a letter to say, that they held their town in the interests of King William and Queen Mary, and would defend it to the last.[22] Their attitude always was, in the words of their gallant Governor: "We stand upon our guard, and do resolve by the blessing of God rather to meet our danger than expect it."

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[22] Hamilton, pp. 9-11; MacCarmick, pp. 29-31.

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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