Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The History of Ulster

Character of James II—William, Prince of Orange, King of England—The Inniskillings apply for Aid to Kirke—He supplies them with Officers—Colonels Wolseley and Berry—The Jacobite General, Justin MacCarthy (Viscount Mount-cashel), lays Siege to Crom Castle—Sarsfield threatens Ballyshannon—A Concerted Attack on Enniskillen determined on by the Jacobite Army—Mountcashel lays Siege to Lisnaskea—The Duke of Berwick defeats a Detachment of Inniskillings—Defeat of the Jacobites at Donagh—Anthony Hamilton wounded — Wolseley joins Berry with Reinforcements—They decided to advance.

Having relieved Londonderry, let us pause to consider for a moment the protagonists in this great and moving drama of which one of the most impressive scenes has just closed. Ere long the "moving shadow-shapes" upon the stage will have so greatly increased in numbers and variety that the parts they play and their motives will not be readily comprehended unless we first gain a clear impression of their leading characteristics, and learn the lines of action laid down for them by the "Master of the Show".

James, as the representative of Roman Catholicism, and as a most zealous supporter of that form of faith, has had many apologists; but these, while they accept him as a royal adherent to their creed, and as such defend his actions with ardour, display nevertheless little loyalty to either the monarch or the man. James, indeed, had the misfortune to be neither lovable nor likeable. Apart from the cause of which he was perforce the representative, he was nothing! Even the hatred with which he was regarded was more on account of the creed he professed, and the cruelty he displayed in supporting it, than because of any personal animosity he excited. "He makes no friend who never made a foe." James was held in contempt, he was looked upon with aversion, but he never rose to the height of being regarded with hostility. In a word, by his contemporaries, with the exception of Lewis XIV (whose tool he was, and who had his own ends to serve in befriending him), he was held to be "not worth damning, nor saving, nor raising from the dead". He was dominated by a single thought: how best to save his own skin, though through sheer obstinacy he, on more than one occasion, ran perilously near endangering the policy which was his pet ideal. The horror of his father's fate never made him falter. His brother Charles, more "avid of earth's bliss", avoided any untoward action which might bear fruit in the renewal of unpleasant experiences. He had ever before his mental vision the irritating and awkward consequences of his cross-examination by the Covenanters, and the sybarite had no wish to renew the sensations which were his when, after Cromwell's "crowning mercy " at Worcester, scarcely daring to breathe, he clung to the branches of a friendly oak—

Till all the paths were dim,
And far below the Roundhead rode,
And humm'd a surly hymn.

He had no desire to win, by such methods as those adopted by his sire, the title of "the martyr". He gave James the benefit of his worldly wisdom, telling him that he, for one, had no desire to set out on his travels again, and even hinted at his brother's unpopularity by saying: "No one will kill me, James, to make you King". Blind to his own interests, James was, in modern parlance, pig-headed in a superlative degree. Possessed of no power of imagination, he blundered on, no visions of the scene enacted at Whitehall rising to deflect his footsteps from the fatal downward path. The Restoration, in his opinion, had once for all obliterated that gross insult to blood royal. Never again would that dread "two-handed engine", which strikes once and strikes no more, have the power to curtail the right of Kings to govern wrong. Destined to be the last representative in England of absolute monarchy, he proceeded to act like an absolute ass. Asinine in his pachydermatous indifference to public opinion, asinine in his purblind preference for antiquated modes of procedure, asinine in his callous disregard for everyone's interest save his own, and asinine in his domestic relationships and in his refusal to recognize the call of blood. Dead to all the sanctities of human relationships, he flaunted his mistress under the eyes of his wife; cross-questioned but did not spare his nephew condemned to death; and let the innocent Alice Lisle, whom a word from him could have saved, perish on the scaffold. But James was not wholly villainous; no "son of Adam" is. We all possess a redeeming feature. The devil, doubtless, is as black as he is painted, but even Mephistopheles sports a scarlet feather as an adjunct to his suit of sable. To his credit be it said, when approached by Avaux with the suggestion that a general massacre of the Protestants of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught would be advisable, James refused to sanction an Irish St. Bartholomew. "These people", he said, "are my subjects: and I cannot be so cruel as to cut their throats while they live peaceably under my government." Avaux persisted, but James was firm. His subjects in Ireland were not to be butchered to make an alien's holiday.

The features of William Prince of Orange have been so frequently reproduced in bronze and stone and limned on canvas that his lineaments are more readily recognized than nose of any of his contemporaries; they are indeed as familiar as those of an old friend. The broad and lofty forehead; the big, curved nose; the keen eyes which lit up a somewhat cadaverous face, giving to a countenance otherwise weak an air of command; the firm mouth and grave aspect strike the most apathetic, and it needs no Lavater to inform us that they are indicative of inflexibility of will and moral steadfastness. Of physical strength William was not a possessor. The triumph of mind over bodily weakness has rarely been better exemplified than in his case. He was asthmatic and consumptive and a martyr to severe headaches. His fragile frame was frequently shaken by a chronic cough. He never completely recovered from an attack of smallpox which had assailed him in early manhood. He suffered from breathlessness, in consequence of which he was easily fatigued. But in spite of all these maladies the force of his mind never on any great occasion failed to uphold his languid body. That strength of mind he derived from his firm belief in the doctrine of predestination. "He often declared", says Macaulay, whose portrait of William is admirable, alike for its force and its fidelity, "that, if he were to abandon that tenet, he must abandon with it all belief in a superintending Providence, and must become a mere Epicurean." Of William's courage in the field there is ample evidence. He led his troops sword in hand, and exposed himself so frequently, and with such temerity, as to draw forth the expostulations of his friends. Both friend and foe he inspired with respect. As time went on, and the austere King became better known to his British subjects, their loyalty gradually developed into almost a personal love, for courage and candour combined always win their enthusiastic admiration and support.

Such were the leaders of the opposing forces which fought for supremacy in Ireland.

Shortly after the expeditionary forces under Kirke arrived at Lough Foyle, that commander dispatched the frigate Bonad-•venture to Ballyshannon to ascertain the requirements of Enniskillen and to supply, if possible, its wants. The chief need proved to be gunpowder, and for this the main body of the forces at Enniskillen were immediately sent to Ballyshannon. Advantage was taken of their absence by James's natural son, the Duke of Berwick, who attacked a detachment of Inniskillings and killed or took more than fifty of them. It was therefore determined on the return of the garrison, who arrived with thirty barrels of gunpowder, to send a deputation to Kirke asking for assistance.

As the enemy lay between them by land, it was decided to proceed by sea from Ballyshannon. "We had then", says one of the members of the deputation, "about seventeen troops, thirty foot companies, and some few troops of dragoons ; our foot were indifferently well armed, but our horse and dragoons not so well. The major-general [Kirke] had few or no arms fit for horsemen; but he gave us six hundred firelocks for dragoons, a thousand muskets to raise more foot with, twenty barrels of powder, besides the thirty we received out of the Bonadventure, with bullets and match proportionable, eight small cannon, and some few hand grenades. He gave us commissions for a regiment of horse, consisting of twelve troops, another like number of private men in each troop: and for three regiments of foot, and an independent troop of horse to every regiment, each regiment of foot to consist of eighteen companies, whereof two companies to be grenadiers, and sixty private men in each company.

"The Major-General told us he could spare none of his private men, but gave us some very good officers, viz.: Colonel William Wolseley, to be our commander-in-chief and colonel of horse; Captain William Berry, to be lieutenant-colonel to our horse; Captain Charles Stone, to be major to our horse; Captain James Winn . . . then a Captain in Colonel Stewart's regiment, to be Colonel of our dragoons; and for our three regiments of foot, Gustavus Hamilton, governor of Enniskillen, was made eldest Colonel, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lloyd and Major Tiffin were the other two colonels. He gave us Captain Thomas Price (who has a troop of horse with us) to be our aid-major-general, and one captain Johnston, who has a foot company, to be our engineer." These officers returned with the members of the deputation to Enniskillen, arriving on the 28th of July, 1689. They received a very warm welcome, which was all the more cordial inasmuch as the Inniskillings had just heard that the Jacobite General Justin MacCarthy (Viscount Mountcashel) had not long arrived at Belturbet with a large army. News also came from Crom to the effect that MacCarthy was laying siege to that stronghold. Under these circumstances, such of the troops from Enniskillen as had remained at Ballyshannon were recalled, only as many being left as were absolutely necessary for the defence of the town, which was threatened by that gallant Jacobite, General Patrick Sarsfield, who lay near it with a very strong body of troops.

It was now determined at Dublin that a concerted attack should be made on Enniskillen. Mountcashel was to march from the east towards Lough Erne with three regiments of foot, two regiments of dragoons, and some troops of cavalry. A large force under Sarsfield, which lay encamped near the mouth of the River Drowes, was to march from the west, and the Duke of Berwick was to arrive from the north with such horse and dragoons as he could supply.

Late at night, on Monday the 29th of July, news arrived at Enniskillen that Mountcashel had detached part of his army to seize Lisnaskea, a town of some strength only a few miles distant, and this design the Inniskillings determined at all risks to frustrate, and accordingly Berry next morning set out for Lisnaskea with seven or eight troops of horse, two troops of dragoons, and about three companies of foot. Arriving at Lisnaskea before the Jacobites, he found the castle in so dilapidated a condition that it was untenable; he therefore encamped outside the town, and on the day following marched in quest of their opponents, who were reported to be encamped some six miles away. He had not proceeded more than a couple of miles when, at Donagh, he found himself confronted by a force so far superior in number, that he deemed it advisable to make good his retreat upon Lisnaskea and send an express to Enniskillen for reinforcements.

"There are", says the chronicler of Actions of the Innis-killing Men, "two ways leading from Lisnaskea to Enniskillen, the one lately made through some bogs and low fenny grounds, nearer Lough Erne than the old way; and this road lieutenant-colonel Berry resolved to take, as being more secure, and several passes on it much easier to defend than the other. He had not stayed long at Lisnaskea but the enemy came near him, and then with his men he retreats by this new road (which turns off the old at the end of the town of Lisnaskea), and marched in good order, the enemy still advancing upon him, till he came about a mile distant from Lisnaskea, to a bog with a narrow causeway through it, that two horsemen could scarcely ride in abreast upon, and at the end of this causeway (which is an easy musket-shot over), Berry halted, resolving to make good that pass against the enemy until he had relief from Colonel Wolseley. There was a thicket of underwood at the end of the causeway, where Berry placed his foot and dragoons, ordering them to make good their ground; the horse he drew a little further off, promising that they should relieve the foot and dragoons, and gave the word 'Oxford '.

"They made but a very short stay there, when Colonel Anthony Hamilton (who was major-general to MacCarthy), came in view with a considerable body of men, who, alighting from his horse, ordered his dragoons to do so too, and very bravely advanced near the end of the causeway, his men firing briskly at ours, but with no great success; for it pleased God that, after a great many vollies of shot which they made at us, not one of our men was killed, and but about a dozen or fourteen of them wounded. Our men were better marksmen ; they shot about a dozen of the enemy dead at the end of the causeway, and wounded Colonel Anthony Hamilton, their leader, in the leg. He being hurt retreated a little, and mounted his horse, ordering another officer to lead on the men, who very soon was likewise killed, with some more of their men."

The Hamilton here mentioned was the brilliant author of Zeneyde, a man far more famous as a courtier, a lover, and a writer than as a soldier. His brother Richard, as we have already seen, was commander-in-chief of the forces besieging Londonderry.

"The enemy," continues our chronicler, "seeing their men thus drop by our shot, and their general, Colonel Hamilton, being gone a little way back, and no chief officer there to lead them on, began to retreat from the end of the causeway, which our men seeing, gave a huzza, and called out 'the rogues are running' and immediately our foot and dragoons took the bog on each hand, and our horse advanced on the causeway towards them, which the enemy perceiving, began at first to retreat a little faster from us, but their retreat soon turned to a most disorderly flight, without offering to face about, or fire any more at us. Our horse soon overtook them, and fell in among their foot, and such dragoons as were on foot, and made a very great slaughter of them, having the chase of them through the town of Lisnaskea, and near a mile further. And the execution had been greater but notice was brought to Berry that lieutenant-general Macarthy, with the body of his army, was advancing towards him; upon this he sounds a retreat, and brings back his men to the place where the fight first began, having killed about two hundred, and taken about thirty prisoners, which he sent immediately to Enniskillen, with several horse-loads of arms which he had taken from the enemy; and this action happened about nine o'clock in the forenoon."

These quaint descriptions of the fighting of that day give a better idea of what actually happened than any accounts, however graphic, could be written years—in this case hundreds of years—after the event. The writer of the Actions referred to, Andrew Hamilton, was not only an eye-witness of the events he describes, but was actively engaged in several of the engagements which took place. It may here be mentioned that at this period the advanced guard was popularly known as "the forlorn hope".

Berry's men had scarcely rested themselves after this encounter, when a messenger came to say that Wolseley had arrived with reinforcements and directing him to join him. "Now Colonel Wolseley", says our historian, "had marched his men the old road from Enniskillen to Lisnaskea, leaving the new road, where Berry and his men were, about a mile on the right hand. As soon as this express came Berry marched, and both he and Colonel Wolseley, with their men, met at the same time [sic] near the moat, above the town of Lisnaskea, and after some kind words had passed between both parties at their meeting, Colonel Wolseley acquainted the officers that the party under his command had made so great haste to relieve the other party that few or none of them had brought a meal of meat with them, and therefore, they must speedily consider what they had to do, for either they must advance towards the enemy, and resolve to fight them that very day, or return back again to Enniskillen for want of provisions. But after the thing was debated among the officers, it was agreed on to consult the soldiers themselves, and to know their mind in the matter."

"This determination," Macaulay rightly observes, "which, in ordinary circumstances, would have been most unworthy of a general, was fully justified by the peculiar composition and temper of the little army, an army made up of gentlemen and yeomen fighting, not for pay, but for their lands, their wives, their children, and their God."

"The men", says Andrew Hamilton, "were called to their close order, and the question was asked, whether they would advance and fight the enemy that day, or fall back upon Enniskillen. They, who had never before turned their back to the enemy, thought it dishonourable now to begin, especially after so remarkable a victory obtained that morning, and upon so unequal terms, which they took for a presage of what they might expect in the afternoon; all of them, therefore, with one acclamation, called out to advance. Colonel Wolseley and the other colonels drew up all the men in battalion, and gave them the word, 'No Popery', which was very acceptable to all our party; and then he drew out four men out of every troop, with an officer to command them, for our forlorn. Our whole number, when all were joined together, did consist of about sixteen troops of horse, three troops of dragoons, and twenty-one companies of foot, besides some that were not under command; so that in the whole party, we reckoned ourselves some more than two thousand."

The question of advance or retreat having been settled in favour of the former, Wolseley at once made his dispositions for an attack. Meanwhile Mountcashel, informed of his movements, raised the siege of Crom, and marched forward with the bulk of his army to support the division which had been so signally defeated in the morning.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus