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Battle of Enniskillen

Most Ulster folk can tell the inquirer about the Boyne and the Siege of Derry, but fewer are able to relate the events which took place at Enniskillen and Aughrim. The sterling qualities of the Derry men were manifested in their fortitude while passing through severe trials, and in their patient endurance of conditions involving hunger and suffering and death.

The virtues of the Enniskilleners were cast in a different mould and displayed in different forms. The basis of the force was composed of inhabitants of the town who took up arms for self defence. They were joined by a large number of the yeomen of County Fermanagh. Subsequently reinforcements came from Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo; but the force was essentially local and exclusively Protestant, and all were known by the general name of the Enniskillen Men.

A copy of the anonymous letter to Lord Mount-Alexander, announcing the intended massacre of the Protestants, reached them on the day Derry closed its gates against the Redshanks (7th December 1688). On the 11th December, a letter was received from the Government authorities in Dublin, directing them to make arrangements for having two companies of infantry quartered in their town. It was an unusual thing to have a garrison planted among them, and the probability, as they believed, was, that the day for cutting their throats was only postponed until everything was ready.

While the town was in a state of uncertainty as to what ought to be done, three men, William Browning, Robert Clarke, and William MacCarmick, to whom were soon afterwards added James Ewart and Allen Cathcart, came together. They resolved to refuse admittance to the soldiers, whatever consequences might ensue. The Prince of Orange, as they knew, had landed in England some five weeks before. Civil war was imminent in Ireland. North and South most likely would be pitted against each other; and it appeared to them that, by refusing to admit the troops, they might be able, not only to protect themselves, but to hold the most important town between Connaught and Ulster, it was nevertheless a mad resolve, in the face of the facts. Arrayed against them was the whole power of the Irish Government, and that all the means of resistance Enniskillen had was ten pounds of powder, twenty firelocks, and eighty men. The five men, however, did resolve, sent notice of their determination to the surrounding country, craved its assistance, set carpenters at work on the drawbridge, in connection with the stone bridge latterly erected at the east end of the town, and, like men in earnest, took every step that they could think of to increase their power of resistance.

On the 16th, the news came that the two foot companies sent by Tyrconnell, had reach Lismella, only four miles from the town. The townsmen, took up arms, and put themselves in array. Notwithstanding all the help sent them by the country, their whole strength did not exceed two hundred foot, and one hundred and fifty horse, ill-armed, and with no military training or experience. They left town with the intention of persuading, if possible, the soldiers to return, but prepared, if necessary, to resist their entrance. No sooner did the soldiers come in view of the Enniskilleners than, without waiting for their approach, they turned and fled.

During the remaining part of 1688 little was done at Enniskillen except to break the ice around the town, which during that winter was so thick as to permit men on horseback to cross Lough Erne in safety and which to some extent imperiled the safety of the little garrison that was protected by no walls save walls of water.

Early in 1689 Hamilton, now the Governor of Enniskillen, formed his men into regiments and fortified the town as best he could, laying in stores of food, forage and ammunition.

The Enniskilleners resolved "To stand upon our guard and by the blessing of God, rather to meet our danger than to expect it."

Crom Castle an outpost of Enniskillen was besieged by a force of Jacobites under Lord Galmoy. Crom Castle was under the command of Colonel Crichton. The position of the castle made it difficult to defend. One saving grace was the marshy ground, which meant that no heavy siege guns could be brought near enough to bombard the stronghold. Colonel Crighton sent a dispatch for help to Governor Hamilton requesting immediate action so that this outpost could be saved. In the night Hamilton sent a detachment of 200 of his best armed men, some by land, some by water, hoping they might enter Crom Castle under cover of darkness. The reinforcement having joined those within the walls, they sallied out together, drove the besiegers from their trenches, and killed about forty of them. Galmoy at once raised the siege, and retreated.

Flushed with their success at Crom Castle, Hamilton and Lloyd decided to act as they had resolved to, and went on the offensive.

Intelligence reached Enniskillen that the Irish had placed a garrison at Trillick, nine miles distant. On the 24th April, Colonel Lloyd marched against that place. Early intimation, however, of his approach had been received at Trillick, and the post was evacuated. Lloyd followed in rapid pursuit, and after a disorderly retreat of six hours the party dispersed and took to the bogs. Their baggage and a large number of cattle were captured. The Castle of Augher, eighteen miles distant, had been recently occupied by James' party. Early on the morning of the 28th of April, Lloyd tried to surprise it, but again the garrison abandoned the post, taking away with them everything portable. Lloyd, having swept part of Monaghan and Cavan, returned on the 2nd of May to Enniskillen with great abundance of sheep, cattle and provisions.

On the 4th May, Ffolliott, the Governor of Ballyshannon, sent a despatch to Enniskillen, informing Hamilton that a large body of Jacobites had advanced from Connaught to besiege his post and begged to be speedily relieved. On the 7th may, Lloyd proceeded towards Ballyshannon. The besiegers, leaving a small force to watch the town, advanced three miles to Beleek to met him. Here they drew up, in a very advantageous position, their flanks protected on the one side by the lough, and on the other by a bog of great extent. A narrow causeway formed the only apparent approach. This they entrenched, and destroyed the bridge. At a critical moment, a countryman offered to guide them through the bog. The horse under Captain Acheson passed in safety, and moved towards their left to turn the enemy's right flank, and thus cut off their retreat to the mountains. Before the opposing armies came within shot, the Irish foot broke and fled to the hills. Their horse, drawn up to the left of their foot, and between them and the lake, stood their ground, until charged by the Enniskillen horse, when, without awaiting the shock, they turned and fled. They were followed for a great distance, and night alone put an end to the pursuit. In this encounter the Jacobites lost 190 killed and 60 captured. The victors plundered the enemy camp and brought all arms, ammunition and two small cannon back to their island home without losing a man.

When at the end of May there were reports that the Jacobites had garrisoned Redhill and Ballinacarrig in County Cavan, Lloyd marched out with 1,600 men to confront the enemy. They proceeded to drive the enemy out of their strongholds without firing a shot, using the ploy that they were the vanguard of a much larger force. They then marched into County Meath and captured 3,000 head of cattle, 2,000 sheep and 500 horses and drove them back to Enniskillen.

This sortie of Lloyd's stopped 25 miles from Dublin and caused a great panic in that city.

While Lloyd's raid was taking place, Hamilton captured the horses belonging to the garrison at Omagh. Cornagrade, which lies about two miles north-east of Enniskillen was the only place where Enniskilleners were to taste defeat in the campaign. The Duke of Berwick roved the country with a flying column of horse, and his force approached Enniskillen while Lloyd was meeting Major General Kirke at Lough Swilly to request help for the newly raised regiments at Enniskillen. Hamilton sent out insufficent troops to fight and Berwick's men gained a victory. However, Berwick did not follow up his success.

On the night of the 28th July, a few hours after Colonel William Wolseley, Lieutenant-Colonel William Berry, Major Stone, Colonel James Winn, Colonel Tiffan, and other offices sent by Major-General Kirke, had arrived in Enniskillen, an express came from Colonel Crighton announcing that Lieutenant-Colonel MacCarthy (created Lord Mountcashel) had formed a camp at Crom, with the intention of besieging the castle. Colonel Wolseley replied that he would provide relief; and he called in the forces at Ballyshannon, left there by Lloyd, who had returned to Enniskillen. The Colonel sent Berry to place a garrison in Lisnaskea; but the castle was in ruins, and he camped out that night. Next morning he marched his men two miles nearer the enemy, and, having met a party of Jacobite soldiers at Conagh, a sharp conflict ensued. The enemy was completely beaten and pursued for three miles. Berry retired to the Moat at Lisnaskea, and was joined there by Wolseley and the rest of the Enniskillen forces.

In the afternoon of the 30th July, Wolseley held a council of war, and explained to the officers that whatever they resolved to do should be done quickly, his men having made such haste to relieve their comrades that they had not brought food with them. Accordingly, early next morning Wolseley formed his forces, which numbered two thousand, into three battalions, heading the main body himself. Lloyd commanded the right and Tiffan the left wing and marched towards Newtownbutler. Lord Mountcashel, retreated from Crom to a place between Newtownbutler and Wattlebridge, where he took up a good position. The foot occupied a bog, with only one narrow pass, protected by two cannon. This put the Enniskillen Men at a disadvantage and the foot regiments of Lloyd and Tiffin were forced to march through the bog on either side of the path. Presently a man belonging to Lord Kingston's corps seized a hatchet and killed seven or eight of those who were guarding the cannon. Wolseley's horse immediately charged through the Pass; and the Jacobite horse fled towards Wattlebridge, but were hemmed in by the Enniskillen horse. The Jacobite foot betook themselves to the bogs, throwing away their arms, and were pursued all that night by Enniskilleners, who kept beating the bushes for the fugitives. Of the Jacobites, 2,000 were killed, 500 jumped into Lough Erne, and every man except one was drowned. 500 were carried prisoners to Enniskillen, including General Lord Mountcashel, and a great many officers. Of the 3,600 men who marched out of Dublin with Mountcashel at their head only 600 returned to the city. The joy of this victory was made all the sweet when the news of the relief of Derry reached Enniskillen.

The north was held for King Wiliam and the fate of the Williamite campaign was determined.

 

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