THE BATTLE OF THE BOYLE

20th September 1689
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The Battle of the Boyle (which preceded the Battle of the Boyne by 10 months) was a battle that took place in 1689, when the Williamite forces of Enniskillen attacked the Jacobite forces of Connaught. The battle took place, on 20 September 1689, near the town of Boyle in the west of Ireland (the Williamites having previously taken Sligo). The Williamite victory in Boyle was a temporary one. All was not lost until the tides turned at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

From “The history of Enniskillen” by W.C. Trimble (page 616)

NOTE: The following extract is written from the viewpoint of the ultimate victors of the Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland (1688-1691).

(WILLIAMITE) VICTORY AT BOYLE

The arrival of the Inniskilling Dragoons in Sligo was soon followed by more important additions. Its own countryman, Colonel Thomas Lloyd (1657-1689) arrived from Ballyshannon, on the 10th September, bringing with him three troops of horse, six companies of Hamilton's foot, and the remainder of Sir Albert Conyngham’s dragoons; and these with the three troops of horse, 150 of foot, and the rest of the Inniskilling dragoons, formed the whole garrison. As the Irish had great faith— and, deservedly, great faith, in General Patrick Sarsfield, rumour became frequent that Sarsfield would return from Boyle to re-take Sligo; and Colonel Lloyd determined to follow his usual plan of choosing the time and place of battle.

On the 19th of September he set out, following his usual tactics in the dark, from Sligo with a force consisting of 100 of the Inniskilling dragoons, 200 horse, and his whole 150 foot. The Curlew mountains intervened between him and Boyle, so he rested for a few hours near Ballinafad, before the upward march. Sending out a "forlorn" or advance guard of 20 men, supported by a troop of Inniskilling Dragoons, Lloyd felt his way in the darkness, crossed the mountain passes, and fell on the Boyle outposts before they realized the presence of an enemy. One sentry was killed and three others captured. With the dawn of day the advance of Lloyd's troops was seen, and soon Boyle began to discharge its force under Colonel Kelly. Sarsfield was not there, he had proceeded to Dundalk; and Kelly had disposed of his troops prudently. While he sent 500 foot to the main attack towards Lloyd, he placed another force in shelter behind the wall of a deer park alongside the road by which Lloyd must approach, if he came that far; while lower down at the foot of the rising ground five troops of Horse, said to be composed principally of Roman Catholic gentlemen, were formed across a lane, one side protected by a wall, and the other by a ditch.

Lloyd surveyed the enemy's position and quietly made up his mind as to what he should do. Conyngham was ordered with his Inniskilling dragoons to drive the party, which had taken shelter by the park wall, and quickly that officer discharged his commission, driving his enemy back so that they had to retreat to the main body.

Lloyd then recognized what he could do. He placed 40 foot armed with muskets on the right wing under Capt. George Cooper, and on the left wing of the same strength under Captain Archibald Hamilton, who were to attack the Irish at the same time, Cooper to be supported by Lloyd's horse, and Hamilton by another body of the dragoons. To Major Wood was entrusted the command of the main body, chiefly armed with pikes; and the general advance was ordered.

Fear of the Inniskillings appears again to have predominated, as although the Irish had the advantage of shelter, while their opponents were in the open, they had scarcely fired 20 shots when they broke and fled. Notwithstanding the fact that Captain Archibald Hamilton was retarded by the nature of the ground on the left wing and therefore unable to keep pace with the right wing, the two columns advanced and easily drove the Irish across the bog, to the level ground beyond it, where the Inniskilling horse charged them, committing great slaughter, for the ground was open as far as the confines of a wood, and here some crawled to the shelter of thickets to "lie down or die."

 

THE PRISONERS.

When the Irish foot gave way the Irish horse followed the example without striking a blow. Galloping through the town of Boyle at top speed they divided into three parties, and the Inniskillings followed in the same manner, taking about 50 in the pursuit, notwithstanding the fatigue of the Inniskilling horse after their long march from Sligo.

Whilst this pursuit was proceeding Major Wood brought his main body into Boyle, and he had some difficulty in preventing them breaking out to pursue the foe, as he feared there might be Irish troops in the vicinity. But there were none of the enemy. The Irish had all fled. It was subsequently found that

Lieutenant–Colonel Lloyd had taken as prisoners, four captains, four lieutenants, three ensigns, one sergeant, and 69 of rank and file. The Inniskillings had enjoyed their usual luck — only one killed and a few wounded. It was then ascertained that the great army at Boyle had been, as usual, exaggerated in numbers by the Irish, and that instead of the thousands spoken of there were only 300 horse and from 500 to 600 foot, not including the garrison left by Colonel O'Kelly in Boyle. In a valise of the Colonel, who got away with three other Colonels in the early part of the rout, some dispatches were found from Sarsfield, giving a bad description of the Jacobite forces in the province of Connaught, and declaring that he would not give up the cause but fight to the last. Thus did his usual good fortune crown the efforts of that prudent Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Lloyd.

On Friday, the 27th September, we had news that two days before, Colonel Loyd with about 1,000 Inniskilleners, had defeated a body of the Irish that were going towards Sligo (consisting of about 5,000) and had killed 700 of them, taking O'Kelly, their commander, and 40 more officers prisoners, with a great booty of about 8,000 cattle, with the loss only of 14 men; upon which news General Schomberg ordered the Inniskillen horse and foot that were in the camp to draw out, and complimented them so far as to ride all along their line with his hat off; then he ordered the Dutch Guards and the Inniskillen foot to draw into a line to the right of our works, at the west end of town, where they had three running fires, which were answered by the Inniskillen horse from their camp, and by the great guns upon our works, as also from our ships that lay in the mouth of the river. The enemy inquired what all this rejoicing was for, and were in some trouble at first, suspecting we had got some extraordinary news from England; or that there was an army landed in the west of Ireland (which they themselves must have known before us); but when they understood the occasion, they were not much concerned.

In D' Alton's Annals of Boyle it is recorded that “chalice-shaped drinking glasses with long shanks” were made at this time to commemorate the victory bearing the words round the rim: — “The Battle of the Boyle, September the 20th, 1689."

Colonel Lloyd left a small garrison in Boyle under the command of Captain Weir, consisting of his own and Captain Mayo's troops of horse, and a company of foot; and moved towards Jamestown, which he was ordered to take. Knowing that his force was small and in danger of becoming attenuated, with Sarsfield having strong foraging parties in the counties of Roscommon, Leitrim, and Mayo, he applied to General Schomberg for fresh instructions and on the 1st of October (1689) he received them. He was to take Jamestown, and he took it, with an ably fortified house belonging to Colonel McDonald at Drumsna. Only 80 men were found there. Lloyd seized a number of horses, sheep, and black cattle, 'with all the growth of the country," and returned to Boyle, from where he made various incursions into the surrounding district, even the town of Galway far away being afraid of a visit from the Inniskilling leader. Colonel Russell, formerly governor of Galway city, was left in Jamestown with a small force.

 

(WILLIAMITE)  RETREAT FROM BOYLE

Lloyd, with a soldier's keen prescience, recognised the weakness of his position in Boyle with a small force and in the enemy's country. He, therefore, applied to General Schomberg for reinforcements; but

Schomberg's camp was wasted with fever and prostrated with malaria, owing to the swamps and rain; so that he was unable to assist Lloyd to any extent, but he did yield to Lloyd's pressing requests at last so far as to detach some more Inniskillings, some English grenadiers, and some of the Huguenots to assist him — with the ''positive command not to lose one Foot of Ground."

King James learned of the appeal from Lloyd and of the force to be sent to his assistance, and promptly sent instructions to Brigadier-General Sarsfield to clear the English out of Connaught. Taking Luttrell's Horse, Sir Neil O'Neil's Dragoons, and O'Bryan's, Moore's and O'Hara's Regiments of foot, Sarsfield proceeded towards Connaught, obtaining the aid of 2,000 Connaught troops on his way. Colonel Russell heard of the advance of this large force at Jamestown, and was rather late in his evacuation of the place, as he lost a good many men in his retreat towards Sligo, which he reached on the 15th October, 1689, with a few stragglers following him next day.

Captain Weir, with the Inniskillings, followed later. He had no force to grapple with the vastly superior numbers of Sarsfield, and when the latter had got within about four miles of Boyle, Weir slipped out in the darkness of the 15th. But he found that the Irish had been out before him and cut off his retreat from the Curlews by entrenchments across the road. Gallantly Weir stormed the entrenchments, and he fell wounded by a ball at the head of his men, while Lieutenant Cathcart was wounded. Still the party forced their way through, closely followed by the advance guard of Sarsfield, and reached Sligo.

Lloyd on hearing the news, and learning what had occurred, did not delay. For him to think was to act. He took counsel with Colonel Russell, and next morning, in the darkness, about five o'clock, they led out a force, headed by Conyngham's Inniskilling dragoons, and fell on Colonel Luttrell who had some horse and dragoons holding a pass near the town. It was a fierce hand-to-hand fight. Luttrell was a good soldier, and turned his troops both front and rear to meet a double attack. When Lloyd's reserves came up the attack increased in fury until the Irish were steadily driven back. The Inniskillings were now meeting with their usual success until Sarsfield came up with reinforcements, and sent a body of horse to attack Lloyd in the rear. Lloyd was thus between two dangers, and might have been annihilated but that Colonel Russell came up with his horse, and, charging the Irish, gave his leader time to reform his men. Colonel Wood-Martin mentions from authorities, which he quotes, that Saint-Sauvent, a French captain of grenadiers, who commanded a company of Huguenots, greatly distinguished himself during that retreat. Heading his men, musket in hand, he killed many of the Irish; and, when the ammunition was expended, encouraged his men by his example to use the bayonet in defence. It was another case of Schomberg at the Boyne : — “Allons, messieurs voila vos persecuteurs."

Driven back, Lloyd had to consider his position. Sarsfield outnumbered him five to one. Colonel

Russell advised a retreat to Ballyshannon, and Lloyd considered that Russell should take the horse and the majority of the foot to Ballyshannon; and that he would hold Sligo castle with some of the Inniskillings and the Huguenots. But Lloyd ascertained that he had no provisions to withstand a siege, and that he could not successfully resist the numbers of Sarsfield, and therefore left the fort during the night for Ballyshannon, being attacked by the Irish in the rear, and losing some of his men on the way.

It was thus that Sarsfield recaptured Sligo with a lapse of little more than two months. He had advanced against it with almost as much rapidity as his troops fled from it before Gore.

….

Later, in the winter of that year, Col. Thomas Lloyd died, at the early age of 32. Although married, he had no issue and so, his brother became the  successor to the Lloyd of Croghan estate. The Lloyds of Croghan House, Co Roscommon, were one of the principal lessors in the parishes of Estersnow, Killukin and Killummod (barony of Boyle) County Roscommon, and in the parish of Cloone (barony of Mohill) Co Leitrim. They also let land in the parish of Ardcarn Creeve, and Kilmacumsy (barony of Frenchpark/ Moycarn). By the 1870s, their estate in county Roscommon, alone, amounted to over 7,300 acres. The Lloyds of Croghan were, for the most part, absentee landlords, save for the period in and around the Great Irish Famine.

See also: The Battle of Enniskillen <http://www.libraryireland.com/Derry1689/Contents.php>