31st July 1689

31st July 1689

From Captain Ash’s Diary:


“31 [July 1689]. This night the enemy decamped, left the Siege, and burned a great many houses in the County of Derry and elsewhere.”

From ‘Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689’:


“If we take into account the numbers that perished in the siege of Derry, in the camp as well as in the city, it was one of the most disastrous struggles of modern times. In the town, after making allowance for all who retired before Hamilton sat down in front of it, there were perhaps 20,000 persons, of whom over 7000 were fighting men. Of these, only eighty were killed in battle; but so much were the numbers thinned by wounds, exposure, hunger, and disease, that at the close of the siege the 7000 were reduced to 4300, and one-fourth of the survivors were unfit for any service. The mortality among the non-combatants must have been still greater. On the whole we cannot be far from the truth when we estimate that, in the 105 days during which the siege lasted, there perished in the city ten thousand persons.


The numbers of the besiegers who perished must have been very great also. The 3000 sent at first to Ulster under Hamilton, were joined by 14,000 more sent from Dublin after the King’s arrival from France. Repeated reinforcements were forwarded from the capital, and at no time during the siege did the numbers of the enemy fall under 10,000.They had the advantage of provisions, the open country, and liberty; yet from fatigue and exposure, they too suffered much from sickness, and numbers of them died. More of them than of the garrison were killed in actual fight. We have no means of ascertaining exactly the amount of the loss; but it was at the time estimated at one hundred officers, and eight or nine thousand men. This most probably is no great exaggeration; and the loss was all the greater when it is considered that those who perished were, perhaps, the best trained men that were in the service of Tyrconnel and his master.


The result of the successful defence of Derry, as stated by King James’s friends, was that he was not able to send an army into Scotland to reinforce Dundee, who was about to raise the Highland clans in his favour, and still less to carry the war into England. The immediate effect was that Scotland and England were protected from invasion, and what remained of the struggle between the two kings was localized in Ireland. The fall of Derry was waited for during the summer months of 1689 by the King at Dublin with great impatience, for he knew well the interests at stake; and it seems that the long delay did not raise his Irish and French soldiers in his estimation. He is reported to have said rather petulantly and ungenerously, in regard to men who were doing their best to serve him, “If I had as many Englishmen in my army as I have of others, they would have brought me Derry stone by stone ere this.”But it was not so to be. The defeat of his army gave a new turn to the history of the nation. England and Scotland did not rise in defence of a king, whose whole power was not sufficient to reduce a small provincial town. The civil war did not cross the Channel. As the flower of the Jacobite army was now cut off, the end of the campaign was made more easy and certain; the rising hopes of King James received a shock under the walls of Derry which they never recovered; and it only remained for the Boyne and Aghrim to complete the work which sent the Royal Family into exile, and in the end secured religious and civil freedom for all classes of the people.”