The Resistance of the Enniskillen Men



Many Protestants also fled west, to Enniskillen, hoping to find safety from Hamilton's marauding Jacobite troops. The town, built on an island in Lough Erne, consisted of around eighty houses, clustered about an old castle. 

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 and by reinforcements from Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo. However, the force was essentially local and exclusively Protestant - all were known by the general name of, Enniskillen Men.


       
 
                                                                     Enniskillen Castle


A copy of the anonymous Comber letter, announcing the intended massacre of Protestants, reached them on the same day Derry closed its gates. On the 11th December, a letter was received from the Government authorities in Dublin, directing them to make arrangements to have 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 fear and uncertainty, as to what ought to be done, three men, William Browning, Robert Clarke, and William MacCarmick, came together and were soon joined by two others, James Ewart and Allen Cathcart. They resolved, no matter the consequences, to refuse admittance to the soldiers.
The Prince of Orange had landed in England some five weeks before and Civil war was imminent in Ireland. 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 seemed a desperate resolve, for they would have to face the whole power of the Jacobite force. The only means of resistance Enniskillen had was ten pounds of powder, twenty firelocks, and eighty men. The five men immediately sent notice of their determination to the surrounding countryside, craving the assistance of their fellow Protestants. Carpenters started work on the drawbridge, connected to the stone bridge erected at the east end of the town.

                                              


                         Gustavus Hamilton and the First Offensive


On the 15th, the Enniskilleners chose a local gentleman, Gustavus Hamilton as their Governor. Conscious of holding the only passage from Ulster into Connaught and determined to admit "no Popish garrison",  he made his declaration: "We stand upon our guard and do resolve by the blessing of God rather to meet our danger than expect it."

Hamilton's words were soon to be put to the test, for 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 took to their defensive positions. Despite all the help sent them by the country, their whole defensive number did not exceed two hundred foot, and one hundred and fifty horse. Added to that they were poorly armed with no military training or experience.
They left town with the intention of persuading 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.

  

Early in 1689, Hamilton 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 under the command of Colonel Crighton, was an outpost of Enniskillen. It was under siege by a force of Jacobites under Lord Galmoy. Although the castle's position made it difficult to defend, the surrounding marshy ground 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. During 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 reinforcements, having joined those within the walls, charged the besiegers from their trenches, killing about forty of them. Immediately, Lord Galmoy raised the siege, and retreated.


       

                                    Crom Castle, built in 1610 but destroyed by fire in 1764

The Enniskilleners were now flushed with success and decided to go on the offensive. Intelligence reached them that the Irish had placed a garrison at Trillick, nine miles away. On the 24th April, a company of Enniskillen men under the command of Colonel Lloyd, marched against Trillick. The garrison at Trillick were forewarned of his approach and immediately evacuated the post. Lloyd followed in rapid pursuit, and after a disorderly retreat of six hours, the Irish garrison dispersed and took to the bogs. Their baggage and a large number of cattle were captured by Lloyd's men.
The Castle of Augher, eighteen miles to the east, 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 through part of Monaghan and Cavan, returned on the 2nd of May to Enniskillen with great abundance of sheep, cattle and provisions.



                                  Belleek, Redhill  and Ballincarrig


On the 4th May, Captain Foliot, the Governor of Ballyshannon, sent a letter 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's men advanced towards Ballyshannon. The besiegers, leaving a small force to watch the town, advanced three miles to Belleek 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 substantial bog. A narrow causeway formed the only apparent approach. This they entrenched, and destroyed the bridge. A native of the area guided Lloyd's men through the bog. The company of horse under Captain Acheson's command, passed in safety, and moved towards their left and cut off the Irish 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, 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 nightfall 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.

Towards the end of May, reports reached the Enniskilleners that the Jacobites had garrisoned Redhill and Ballinacarrig in County Cavan. Lloyd again marched out with 1,600 men to confront the enemy. They proceeded to drive the Jacobites from 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.


                

                                                                 Enniskillen in the early 1700's

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 whole 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.



                                             Newtownbutler


On the night of the 28th July, further reinforcements came to Enniskillen. Colonel William Wolseley, Lieutenant-Colonel William Berry, Major Stone, Colonel James Winn, Colonel Tiffan and other officers had been sent by Major-General Kirke. A letter 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 immediately called in the forces at Ballyshannon, left there by Lloyd, who had returned to Enniskillen. Colonel Berry was sent to place a garrison in Lisnaskea, but finding the castle in ruins, he marched his men two miles nearer to the enemy. On route they encountered  a party of Jacobite soldiers at Conagh, where 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.



   

                                           The Resistance of the Enniskillen Men


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, had 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 fled to the bogs, throwing away their arms, and were pursued all that night by Enniskilleners, who kept beating the bushes and turf banks 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.

Enniskillen was then, as it is now, the gateway to the west and if the watchword of Londonderry was defence, then for Enniskillen, it was defiance. The Enniskilleners had played a major role in the relief of Derry, for it was their campaign of guerilla warfare which delayed Jacobite troops from strengthening the force at Derry - indeed forces were diverted away from Derry to counter the campaign of the Enniskillen men. The Castle on the Erne became a powerhouse, radiating energy to it's garrison and encouragement to its northern neighbours under siege on the Foyle.

As a result of Enniskillen and Derry, the land West of the River Bann was held for King William. Ulster's own people had secured the victories at Derry and Enniskillen, for the victory was their's, and their's alone, shared not by English, Dutch or Huguenot.