Surrender of Culmore

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IV....continued

SURRENDER OF CULMORE.—Tuesday, 23rd April.

On Tuesday the 23rd, the detachment of the enemy stationed at the Waterside brought down two cannon to Strong's Orchard, exactly opposite the Ship-quay Gate, and from that side of the river played so incessantly on the north side of the town, that it was neither safe to walk in the streets nor to visit the garrets. The besieged, with a broad river in front of them, and deprived of their boats, could make no sortie in that direction; but from the ramparts they responded with their cannon, and not without effect.

That day, however, a serious disaster befell the garrison, although it was not known to them for some time after—namely, the surrender of Culmore, a small fortress situated four miles north of the city, where the river empties itself into the Lough. It was occupied by three hundred men; but it had no means of resistance adequate to meet the forces which the Jacobites could bring against it. With Derry blockaded on the one side, and no help from England, it would have been madness in the garrison to have provoked a siege; they accordingly accepted General Hamilton's proposals, and gave up possession, on condition that their lives and liberty, their property and arms, should be allowed them. The following were the terms agreed upon:—

"Capitulation between the Hon. Richard Hamilton, Lieutenant-General of all His Majesty's force in Ulster, on one part; and William Adair, of the town of Ballymena, now Governor of the Castle of Culmore, of the other part, the 23rd day of April, 1689.

"Imprimis. That His Majesty's subjects at present at Culmore shall, by his most sacred Majesty's gracious and free pardon, enjoy their lives, religion, and estates, goods and chattels whatsoever, wherever they find them, and command all His Majesty's officers, civil, military, and otherwise, to be aiding and assisting to them for recovery of the same: and that His Majesty shall, upon application, order the said several pardon or pardons to be issued without any expense or charge.

"2ndly. That the said officers and soldiers in the said garrison, on their submission, shall depart the said garrison, with all their goods and chattels, to their several abodes or dwellings, with guards from garrison to garrison, and on demand receive passes to transport themselves beyond seas without imposition of oaths, together with the full enjoyment, as formerly, of all their estates, goods, and chattels whatsoever, with a full and general pardon of all offences whatsoever committed since their taking up of arms.

"3rdly. That the said officers and soldiers in Culmore shall be allowed to carry out their swords, and that the officers shall be allowed to have their own horses and mares, pistols, and each of them a gun, for their own pleasures, behaving themselves as becometh His Majesty's loyal subjects.

"4thly. And if the gentlemen officers and soldiers of the city of Londonderry, and other His Majesty's subjects in the Province of Ulster, or elsewhere in the Kingdom of Ireland, will accept of the like favour of his most sacred Majesty's gracious and free pardon, that they may enjoy the same, if they accept of it within three days after the date of these presents and surrender up the said garrison; and have full freedom and liberty after the said three days as they can most conveniently take away their goods and chattels, excepting their serviceable horses and arms, which are in like manner to be surrendered up for His Majesty's service.

"5thly. That the great gate of the Castle of Culmore shall immediately be surrendered up to His Grace the Duke of Berwick, to put such guard thereon as he shall think fit, all the soldiers of the said garrison having before carried their firearms into such room of the said castle as shall be most convenient, where they are to be kept under lock and key, which said key, as also the keys of all the ammunition and powder, shall be delivered up unto His Grace the Duke of Berwick at his arrival at the gate.


The conditions were faithfully performed so far as Hamilton was concerned, but when the prisoners reached Coleraine, Ballymena, and Antrim, they were deprived of their swords and hats. When complaint was made to Hamilton, he said that he would punish the soldiers if they could be identified, but that he could not restrain the rabble.[5]

The surrender of Culmore was among the first news which followed James to Dublin, for intelligence of it reached him there at six o'clock on the evening of Friday the 26th of April When it became known at a later date to the defenders of Derry, it caused them much vexation, inasmuch as it made their relief by sea much more difficult than it was before, and they were disposed to impute to the occupants of the castle motives of cowardice and treachery;[6] but it does not appear possible in their desperate circumstances to have done otherwise. To have held out for a few hours longer at the cost of a great expenditure of life, and with the certainty that they must yield at the last, would have been a useless piece of folly.

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[4] Ordnance Memoir of Derry, p. 239.

[5] True and Impartial Acc., p. 23. Leslie, p. 161, attempts to deny, but rather evades this charge.

[6] Ash, July 1st.

William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research into identifying participants at the siege which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry, tracing, where possible, the family lineage; and the second part includes 352 entries on the Jacobite side. Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.