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The History of Ulster
The Siege of Londonderry (Cont)


Daily Life in Londonderry - Sallies and Skirmishes - Activity of the Jacobites - Duties performed inside the Walls of the City - Brigadier-General Ramsay killed - Pusignan, shot through the body, dies in consequence of inattention - Ballyshannon relieved by the Inniskillings - Redhills surrenders to Gustavus Hamilton - Ballynacarrig plundered and fired - Inniskillings dismount the Jacobite Horse - An Extract from Mackenzie's Account of the Siege.

The dangers of the siege did not entirely put an end to religious disputes and jealousies among the citizens. Within a day or two after the commencement of hostilities the Governor was obliged to interfere in order to settle a dispute between the Episcopalians and the Nonconformists, arising out of their rival claims to the possession of the Cathedral, the matter being adjusted by the members of the Anglican Church having the use of the building in the morning and the Dissenters in the evening. The aspect of the Cathedral was remarkable. Cannon were planted on the summit of a broad tower which has since given place to one of different proportions, and ammunition was stored in the vaults.

On the 24th of April, Ash tells us, the Jacobites began to throw bombs into the city, a practice which in a short time rendered the citizens familiar with these missiles. On the day following, James arrived in Drogheda, from which he proceeded after a night's rest to Dublin. Lord Mountcashel was appointed muster-master of artillery, and James decided to send several pieces of cannon to Londonderry by sea. This project, however, was frustrated by the appearance of some English vessels in the channel.

On the 25th, Colonel Murray, with some cavalry and a strong body of foot, which it was his custom to support with dragoons, sallied out of the city and drove the Jacobites from the trenches into which they had descended. Some of the foot having followed the retreating forces too far, a party of Jacobite horse suddenly forced them to fall back upon the main body, who formed themselves in line behind a ditch on the roadside, and fired with such effect upon the pursuers that they were thrown into confusion and were obliged to retreat. The Londonderry men then pursued them to Pennyburn Mill, and pressed so hard upon them that their dragoons, who themselves had just been beaten out of an old mill about a mile higher up, found it necessary to abandon their horses and relieve their distressed comrades at Penny burn. A party of the besieged which went out at the close of the day to cover the retreat of those who were engaged at Penny burn were repulsed, but without loss, by a body of horse which had been dispatched from the Jacobite camp, each horseman carrying a foot-soldier behind him. Those who distinguished themselves on this occasion were Major Bull and Captains Obrey, John Kennedy, Archibald Sanderson, Michael Cunningham, William Beatty, and William Moore. The fight, both at the old and the new mill, was very severe, and lasted for a long time. Mackenzie says the loss on the Londonderry side was but two men killed and eight or ten wounded; Ash asserts that Cornet Brown and three men were killed. The loss on the Jacobite side is not stated. John Parker was accused of behaving treacherously in this engagement, and was threatened with a court martial, upon which he left the city at night and went over to the Jacobites.

Hostilities were carried on thus with unabated vigour on both sides and with varying success during the month. Each sunrise brought its hours of weal or woe for the besieged.

Cannon-balls and bombs dropped in strange places, some spreading death around them as they fell, some rolling aside to burst where they did little injury, making men marvel at the ways of Providence. Trenches were made and batteries erected as part of life's daily duties, and the work was done with the same exactitude and precision as if each of the defenders of the city had been born and bred a soldier. The citizens became inured to hardship, a full meal was a forgotten luxury, sleep a perpetual nightmare, loss of life or limb commonplace occurrences. But life's realities remained, and for these they fought freedom of thought and liberty of action and while these were to be enjoyed they held life was worth living, and without them death was a deliverance.

In the night of the 5th of May the besiegers drew a trench across Windmill Hill from the bog to the river, and there began to erect a battery merely to annoy the citizens, for the walls were too strong for the guns trained on them. The besieged, in merry mood, advised their adversaries at work in trench and battery to save themselves time, labour, and expense, inviting them at the same time to come in through the gates and try conclusions with them. A little after midnight, no doubt provoked by this banter, Brigadier-General Ramsay, presenting himself before the windmill, dislodged the guards there, and, occupying the place, completed before sunrise the works there begun. The guard driven from the mill retired to the Bishopsgate, and those who had driven them in entrenched themselves on the ground they had gained by making a double ditch across the high road. This ditch was levelled upon fifteen of their dead bodies next day.

At dawn on Monday, the 6th of May, the besieged, fearing that the battery erected near the windmill might injure that portion of the city nearest it, determined to demolish it, and on seeing a large number of the Jacobites approaching, fired at the guards, thereby alarming the garrison. Walker, fearing an escalade, which had frequently been threatened, at once drew out a detachment of ten men from each company in the city, and, having put them hastily in as good order as their impatience for action would permit, sallied out of the Ferrygate at their head. Another body, animated with the same desire, sallied forth from the Bishopsgate, and the two advanced impetuously on the battery. Some drove the Jacobite dragoons from their positions, while others took possession of their trenches. The Londonderry men pursued their besiegers so closely that they beat them down with the butt-end of their muskets. The dragoons and infantry took flight in great confusion. Ramsay, in vainly endeavouring to rally them, was killed on the spot, and the pursuit was continued to the top of the hill. The ground contended for was gained by the Londonderry men, who secured the colours, with several drums, fire-arms, ammunition, and all the spoils of war. Pusignan, who fought gallantly, was shot through the body. The wound was one which a skilful surgeon might have cured; but there was no surgeon in the Jacobite camp, and communication with Dublin was slow and irregular. The French commander died, complaining bitterly of the ignorance and negligence which had shortened his days. Other officers killed were Captains Fleming, Fox, and Barnwell, with Lieutenants Kelly and Welsh, and Ensigns Barnwell and Cadell. The prisoners included Lord Netterville, Sir Garret Aylmer, Lieutenant-Colonel Talbot, Lieutenant and Adjutant Newcomen. Colonel Gordon O'Neill was wounded in the thigh. Lord Netterville and Sir Garret Aylmer were badly wounded; they were treated with kindness and the respect due to their rank, being confined in the residence of Mr. Thomas Moore, where a guard was placed over them.

In this skirmish the Jacobites had about 200 men killed, many of them shot in the face, forehead, and chest, over their own lines, as they fired, with little or no effect, upon their more steady and skilful opponents. Walker says that no less than 500 of them were wounded, 300 of whom died. On the other side some few were wounded, and but three or four privates killed. Towards the finish of the fight some of the garrison left the city and posted themselves judiciously between the windmill and the strand, fearing that the Jacobites, who were in great numbers on the top of the hill above the river-side, might rally and get between their pursuers and the city. Several of these men lined the ditches close to the enemy to prevent them coming down, but they showed no disposition to do so. The whole affair was over at noon, and in the evening the Governors sent a drum to General Hamilton, desiring that he should bury his dead. This was done the next day in a very negligent manner, the soldiers who were sent to perform this duty scarcely covering the bodies with earth. General Ramsay was interred at the Long Tower. He was reckoned the most efficient officer in the Jacobite army, for Hamilton, the commander, had no pretensions to be a general, and had never before been present at a siege.

On the night of the defeat of the Jacobites at Windmill Hill, the Governor of Enniskillen sent to all the garrisons under his command, ordering them to send him speedily all the armed men they could spare ; and the next day, May the 7th, he sent Colonel Lloyd with about twelve companies of infantry and some troops of horse towards Ballyshannon. They encountered the Jacobite horse near Belleek, where they soon routed them, killing about 120 of them, and taking about half that number prisoners. All the Jacobite foot fled towards Sligo and escaped, except a few who were taken in the Fish Island, near Ballyshannon, with their Captain, one MacDonagh, a lawyer, popularly known as Blind MacDonagh. The victors secured two small pieces of cannon, several serviceable horses, and some good arms. Thus was Ballyshannon relieved by the Inniskillings, who on this occasion took the field for the first time. The success of this their initial undertaking greatly encouraged them, especially as they returned to their quarters without losing a man.

Towards the end of May the Governor of Enniskillen, hearing that there was a garrison of the Jacobite army at Redhills, in County Cavan, who harassed Protestants stationed near them, and that another at Ballynacarrig, in the same county, was equally troublesome, dispatched Colonel Lloyd, with 1500 men, to reduce them. The report of his coming, adorned by exaggeration, greatly affected the Jacobites, who fled at his approach, and on his arrival at Redhills the garrison surrendered upon quarter. As the house in which they had posted themselves belonged to Colonel White, a Protestant, and at the time in arms for King William, it was not injured, and Lloyd proceeded with his army to Ballynacarrig, taking his prisoners along with him. The castle at Ballynacarrig was one of the strongest in Ulster, and had even held Cromwell's army at bay, surrendering only when the whole kingdom was subdued. It had at this time, however, but a small garrison and little ammunition, and the news of the taking of Redhills caused so much consternation that it immediately surrendered, on favourable terms for the garrison, leaving the castle and all that it contained in the hands of Lloyd's men. Some pikes, about thirty muskets, a few cases of pistols, and a little gunpowder were discovered. After the soldiers had rifled its contents, the castle was fired, and in a few hours was a heap of ruins. It was deemed politic to destroy this fortress, as it could not be garrisoned.

On the 4th of June, hearing that the Jacobites besieging Londonderry had sent a great many of their horses to graze near Omagh, the Governor of Enniskillen (Gustavus Hamilton) dispatched two troops of dragoons, under the command of Captains Francis Gore and Arnold Crosby, into the parish of Kilskeery, ordering them to keep garrison at Trillick, a house belonging to Captain Audley Mervyn, and about halfway between Enniskillen and Omagh. "They had not staid there above two days, when taking with them another troop of horse and two companies of foot that quartered in the parish of Kinskerry, they went in the evening about sun-set towards Omagh, and before eight the next morning they returned to Trillick with about eighty good horses, taken from the enemy, and nearly as many more of smaller and inferior horses fit for labour, and about three hundred cows." By this action they dismounted about three troops of the Jacobite horse, and might have surprised Omagh, had not news of their coming preceded them, "which gave them time to secure their position, but not to save their cattle".

Some conception of the kind of warfare which was consuming James's army before Londonderry may be gathered from the account given of the action which took place on Tuesday, the 4th of June, as given by Mackenzie, an eyewitness of these great events in the history of Ireland. [In Mackenzie's account the followers of King James are designated "the Irish", and in this he has been followed by all historians of Ireland; but inasmuch as the gallant defenders of Londonderry were also Irish, there being Irish inside the walls as well as without, I have preferred to use the term "Jacobites" to distinguish those who adhered to King James. I have also eschewed the word "enemy " as inapplicable when referring to the relations of one body of Irishmen with another.]

"June the fourth, being Tuesday," says Mackenzie, "the enemy approached to our works at the windmill, with a great body of foot and horse. Our men ordered themselves so, that in each redoubt there were four, and in some five reliefs, so that they were in a posture of firing continually. The Irish divided their horse in three parties, and their foot in two. The first party of horse was commanded by Captain Butler (the lord Mountgarret's son), and consisted most of gentle- men, who, 'tis said, had sworn to top our line. They attack our lines at the water-side, and the other parties of horse were to follow the first. The one party of the foot attacks the lines betwixt the windmill and the water, and the other (being grenadiers) the lines at the bog-side, betwixt the windmill and the town. Captains James and John Gladstanes, Captain Andrew Adams, Captain Francis Boyd, Captain Robert Wallace, Captain John Maghlin, and Captain William Beattie, with their men, had taken their ground next the water.

"The first party of horse charged furiously, having faggots of wood carried before them; they came on with a huzza, seconded with a huge shout from the Irish camp. They came by the end of the line (it being low water) notwithstanding our firing constantly on them. Our men, viz., Captain James Gladstanes, Captain John Gladstanes, with others next to them, left their redoubts, and took to the strand with their muskets, pikes, and scythes, and fell on them with that vigour that soon spoilt the tune of their huzzas, for few of that party escaped. Many of them were driven into the river, and Captain Butler himself taken prisoner by Captain John Gladstanes. The rest of the horse, seeing the first party so warmly received, had no great stomach to come on.

"In the meantime the foot (who had also faggots of wood carried before them,) attack the line betwixt the windmill and the water. They were as warmly received as the horse; and whereas they imagined our men would fire all together, finding that they fired successively, they soon wheeled about and drew off; only a few came furiously to the back of our works, and were either killed or hawled over by the hair of their heads. In the meantime the other party of foot, being grenadiers, attack our forts by the bog-side, and came on fiercely, but were as vigorously repulsed by our men there.

"Colonel Munro did there acquit himself very well; Captain Michael Cunningham (one of the citizens that had been always very active and zealous for the defence of the town,) was at the bog-side with his company, kept our men to their posts, and opposed the grenadiers with great courage. He narrowly escaped with his life, a cannon bullet tearing up the ground about him, and he had a small bullet cut out of his back. Lieutenant James Ker, Lieutenant Josias Abernethy, and Lieutenant Clark did good service, the latter being wounded. Mr. Thomas Maxwell was killed about the same time on the walls.

"This day governor Baker showed both his conduct and courage in ordering and bringing out frequent reliefs, where the greatest danger appeared. Our women also did good service, carrying ammunition, match, bread, and drink to our men ; and assisted to very good purpose at the bog-side in beating off the grenadiers with stones, who came so near to our lines. The enemy lost a considerable number of men. Most of their officers were either killed or taken prisoners. When they retreated they carried away on their backs many of their dead and mortally wounded with them (as was supposed) to shelter themselves the better from the storm of our shot.

"Those of note killed on the enemy's side were: Lieutenant-Colonel Farrell, two French captains, Captain Graham, Lieutenant Burke, Quarter-master Kelly, Adjutant Fahey, Ensign Norris, Ensign Arthur. The prisoners were: Captain Butler, son to the Lord Mountgarret, Captain Macdonnell, Cornet Macdanaghy, Captain Watson, a French lieutenant, Lieutenant Eustace, Sergeant Peggot. We lost five or six private men, and one Captain Maxwell had his arm broke with a cannon bullet, whereof he died within three weeks after; he had that day behaved himself with great courage. And one Thomas Gow had all the flesh shot off the calf of his leg by a cannon bullet; but the bone not being broken he recovered. There were three of our Colonels out that day, Murray, Munro, and Hamil; the last got a hurt on the cheek with a small bullet."

Such were the daily events which characterized this memorable siege of Londonderry. The "faggots of wood" which Mackenzie mentions were carried "for a defence against the shots of their adversaries".


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