The Battle of Lisburn (1641) - A Brief Outline

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Lisburn has a long history, and an interesting one but one particular event stands out in my mind; a battle on 23rd October 1641. This battle resulted in a fire which consumed and destroyed Lisburn, then known as Lisnegarvey. (This is a name which anyone living in the city will recognise as it is still used within the area.)
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During the uprising of 1641 a rebel army of around 9000 soldiers marched towards Carrickfergus which was the main port for the Northern part of Ireland. Rather than pass by the smallish garrison at Lisburn and leave an annoyance at their flank they made camp three miles from Lisburn in an area called Brookhill.

The rebel army was led by Sir Phelemy O'Neille, and Sir Conn Maginnis, their General then in Ulster, and Major-General Plunket (who had been a soldier in foreign kingdoms.

Lisburn held five newly raised companies of raw recruits, and Lord Conway's troop of horse.
The Conways were somewhat, absentee land-lords and had sent Sir George Rawdon in the early 1630's to managing the estate and plantation.

Sir George Rawdon heard of the uprising while in London on October 23rd and travelled swiftly to arrive late on the 27th November much to the encouragement of the soldiers in Market square. He, along with Sir Arthur Terringharn led the defence.

Captain Boyd and the Earl of Donegall's troop had arrived the night before the battle, bringing relief forces. Unfortunately Captain Boyd was killed shortly after his arrival, but the reinforcements brought by him undoubtedly played a huge role in the outcome of the battle.


When the rebels marched on Lisburn they stopped their main body in 'the warren' before sending two divisions to encompass the town and set up 2 field guns.
Sir Arthur Terringharn and Sir George Rawdon were concerned that if these two divisions joined ranks they would over run the companies formed up in the square. Thus they sent out musketeers to help prevent this and to deal with the field guns, these men seem to have valiantly succeeded in the task assigned to them.

Conways troop of Horse charged the oncoming rebels in Castle street and killed many of their numbers driving them backward.
On fine details of the battle we cannot be sure, but this charge was perhaps the defining moment in the battle, one that defeated the rebels.

Lisnegarvey was burned to the ground by the rebels as they retreated after a second attack. This attack seems to have been somewhat half-hearted and was easily beaten back. A number of smaller skirmishes took place but as with the second attack they were pushed back.

The people of Lisburn fought the fire from around 6pm through to 10 or 11pm, but in vain.
Although victorious in battle, Lisburn had been destroyed.

Considering the formidable force they faced the defenders suffered low casualties having 26 fatalities and 30 wounded.

The Rebel army was destroyed, and the morning after the fire many prisoners made their way into Lisburn to tell reports of desertion. Many from the rebel force had fled leaving their generals with an army reduced from 9000 men to only 200.

At some point in the day Sir Rawdon had his horse shot from underneath him, he was not a man to get discouraged or to be cowardly, and continued to lead and inspire the people of Lisburn in his day. He was instrumental in rebuilding what had been destroyed by fire and had much influence upon the area we now call Lisburn.

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