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A contemporary account of the battle of Lisnegarvey
over 350 years ago in 1641

A BRIEF relation of the miraculous Victory gained there that day over the first formed Army of the Irish, soon after their Rebellion, which broke out the 23rd of October 1641.

Sir Phelemy O'Neille, and Sir Conn Maginnis, their General then in Ulster, and Major-General Plunket (who has been a soldier in foreign kingdoms), having enlisted and drawn together, out of the counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Antrim and Downe, and other counties in Ulster, eight or nine thousand men, which were formed into eight regiments, and a troop of horse, with two field-pieces.

They did rendezvous on the 27th of November, at and about a house belonging to Sir John Rawdon, at Brook‑hill, three miles distant from Lisnegarvey, in which they knew there was a garrison of five companies newly raised, and the Lord Conway's troop of horse. And their principal design being to march unto, and besiege Carrickfergus, they judged it unsafe to pass by Lisnegarvey, and therefore resolved to attack it next morning, making little account of the opposition that could be given them by so small a number, not half armed, and so slenderly provided of ammunition (which they had perfect intelligence of by several Irish, that left our party and stole away to them), for that they were so numerous, and well provided of ammunition by the fifty barrels of powder they found in his Majesty's store in the castle of Newry, which they surprised the very first night of the rebellion; also, they had got into their hands the arms of all the soldiers they had murdered in Ulster, and such other arms as they found in the castles and houses, which they had plundered and burned, in the whole Province.


Yet, is so pleased God to disappoint their confidence; and the small garrison they so much slighted, was much encouraged by the seasonable arrival of Sir George Rawdon, who, being in London on the 23rd of October, hasted over by the way of Scotland, and, being landed at Bangor, and got to Lisnegarvey, though late on the 27th of November, where those new-raised men, and the Lord Conway's troop, were drawn up in the market-place, expecting hourly to be assaulted by the rebels, and thus stood in that posture all the night; and before sun‑rise sent out some horse to discover their numerous enemy, who were at Mass (it being Sunday); but immediately upon sight of our scouts, they quitted their devotion, and beat drums, and marched directly to Lisnegarvey, and before ten of the clock, appeared drawn up in battalia, in the warren not above a musket‑shot from the town, and sent out two divisions, of about six or seven hundred apiece, to compass the town, and plant their field‑pieces on the highway, before their body, and with them and their long fowling-pieces killed and wounded some of our men, as they stood in their ranks in the market place; and some of our musketeers were placed in endeavouring to make the like returns of shot to the enemy. And Sir Arthur Terringharn (governor of Newry), who commanded the garrison, and Sir George Rawdon, and the officers, foreseeing, if their two divisions on both sides of the town shall fall in together, that they would overpower our small number.


After which expedition, the horse, returning to the market-place, found the enemy had forced in our small party on the north side, and had entered the town, and was marching down Castle Street, which our horse so well charged there, that at least 300 were slain of the rebels in the street, and in the meadows behind the houses, through which they did run away to their main body; whereby they were so much discouraged, that, in almost two hours after, their officers could not get out any more parties to adventure a second assault upon us; but, in the main space, they entertained us with continued shot from their main body, and their fieldpieces, till about one of the clock, that fresh parties were issued out, and beaten back as before, with the loss of many of their men, which they supplied with others till night, and in the dark they fired all the town, which was in a few hours turned into ashes; and in that confusion, and heat of the fire, the enemy made a fierce assault.

But it so pleased God, that we were better provided for them than they expected, by the relief, that came to us at night-fall, from Belfast, of the Earl of Donegall's troop, and a company of foot, commanded by Captain Boyd, who was unhappily slain presently after his first entrance into the town. And, after the houses were on fire, about six of the clock till about ten or eleven, it is not easy to give any certain account or relation of the several encounters in divers places of the town, between small parties or our horse and those of the enemy, whom they charged as they advanced, and hewed them down, so that every corner was filled with carcasses, and the slain were found to be more than thrice the number of those that fought against them, as appeared next day when the constables and inhabitants, employed to bury them, gave up their accounts. About ten or eleven o'clock their two generals quitted their station, and marched away in the dark, and had not above 200 of their men with them. as we were informed next morning by several English prisoners that escaped from them who told us that the rest of their men were either run away before them, or slain; and that their field-pieces were thrown into the river, or in some moss pit, which we could never find after; and in this their retreat, or rather their flight, they fired Brookhill house, and the Lord Conway's library in it, and other goods, to the value of five or six thousand pounds, their fear and haste not at all allowing them to carry any thing away, except some plate and some linen; and this they did in revenge to the owner, whom they heard was landed the day before, and had been active in the service against them, and was shot that day, and also had his horse shot under him, but mounted presently upon another, and Captain St. John And Captain Burley were also wounded, and about 30 men more of our party, most of whom recovered, and not above 25 or 26 more slain.

And if it be well considered, how meanly our men were armed, and our ammunition spent before night, and that if we had not been supplied with men, by the timely care and providence of the Earl of Donegall and other commanders, from his Majesty's store of Carrickfergus (who sent us powder post in mails on horseback, one after another) and that most of our new-raised companies were of poor script men than had made their escape from the rebels, of whom they had such a dread, but they thought them not easily to be beaten, and that all our horse (that did the most execution) were not above 120, viz., the Lord Conway's troop. and a squadron of the Lord Grandison's troop (the rest of them having been murdered in their quarters in Tandragee) and about 40 of a country troop and company from Belfast came to us at night.


It must be confessed, that the Lord of Hosts did signally appear for us, who can save with or without any means, and did by very small means give us the victory over his and our enemies, and enough of their arms to supply the defects of our new companies, and about 50 of their colours and drums. But it is to be remembered with regret, that this loss and overthrow did so enrage the rebels, that for several days and weeks after they murdered many hundreds of the Protestants, whom they had kept prisoners in the counties of Armagh and weeks and other parts of Ulster, and tormented them by several manners of death.

And it is a circumstance very observable, that much snow had fallen in the week before this action, and on the day before, it was a little thaw, and a frost thereupon it in the night, so that the streets were covered with ice, which proved greatly to our advantage; for that all the smiths had been employed that whole night to frost our horses, so that they stood firm, while the brogues slipt and fell down to our feet. For which, and our miraculous deliverance from a cruel and bloody army, how great cause have we to rejoice, and praise the name of our God, and say with that kingly prophet, 'If it had not been the Lord himself who was on our side, when men rose up against us, they had swallowed us up quick, when they were so wrothfully displeased at us.

Yea, the waters of the deep had drown us, and the stream had gone over our soul; but , praised be the Lord, who has not given us over a prey unto their teeth; our soul is escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler, the snare is broken, and we are safe. Our hope standeth in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. "Amen!"