Battle of Newtownbutler

Sunday, 31 July, 1689
Current map of battle areas locations and the old ruins of the original Crom Castle

Elements of James II’s Jacobite Army had laid siege to Crom Castle just outside Enniskillen. It was owned by Colonel Abraham Creighton, an ancestor of Earl Erne of the current Crom Castle (the original having been destroyed in a fire in 1764). The first Jacobite siege in early 1689 against the castle was led by Lord Galmoy and then defeated by a relieving force commanded by Enniskillen’s Governor, Gustavus Hamilton.

The second siege, in July of that year, was under command of the Jacobite Lieutenant General the MacCarthy Mor (Lord Mountcashel). Colonel Wolseley was in overall command of the Inniskillener-men as Hamilton was indisposed through illness. Wolseley immediately sent for some 400-500 reinforcements from the garrison at Bundoran. Before they had been sent for, his subordinate, Lieutenant Colonel Berry, had deployed with a small force to garrison Lisnaskea and later advanced to do battle with the MacCarthy Mor’s force.

Berry encountered a force from the besiegers at Donagh and, as he assessed the Jacobite numbers to be double his force’s strength, he withdrew and sent for assistance from Wolseley. Berry withdrew about one mile back through Lisnaskea until he found himself at the remote end of a narrow pass which ran through a bog. He chose this ground to deploy his force and await the enemy force led by the Jacobite Colonel Hamilton. But the enemy arrived on the morning of 31 July before reinforcements from Wolseley could arrive. Berry’s force had to open fire on the advancing enemy and his choice of location and careful deployment of crossfire and ambush groups soon defeated the attack. Hamilton was wounded and his second in command killed. The Jacobite force then retreated at a cost of 200 killed and 30 taken prisoner.

The MacCarthy Mor’s main force then abandoned the siege of Crom and, later that day, advanced to meet Wolseley’s Inniskilling force, eventually taking up a position at the end of a narrow causeway running through a bog near Newtownbutler. The Inniskilleners advanced with the foot regiments taking the bog. The Jacobite cannon prevented the Inniskilleners’ horse from advancing along the road until the foot regiments seized the enemy cannon. The enemy horse then abandoned their foot regiments as they galloped off towards Wattlebridge. Soon, the latter fled and the Battle of Newtownbutler was over.

The Jacobite force’s casualties amounted to 2,000 killed, 500 perished in Lough Erne and 400 taken prisoner, most of whom were officers, including the Jacobite commander, Lieutenant General the MacCarthy Mor. It was the most significant defeat yet imposed on King James’ army and his commander, General Patrick Sarsfield, withdrew to Sligo - and King James’ force abandoned the siege of Derry.

It was this battle that is the origin of the 'Castle' worn by The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, their successors The Royal Irish Rangers and today, The Royal Irish Regiment. For more information, please click on the article in Traditions titled Castles on Collars.