Battle of the Diamond
Battle of the Diamond was a planned confrontation between the
Catholic Defenders and the Protestant
Peep o' Day Boys that took place
on 21 September 1795 near Loughgall, County Armagh, Ireland.
Peep o' Day Boys were the victors, killing some 30 Defenders, with
no casualties in return. It led to the foundation of the Orange
Order and the onset of "the Armagh outrages".
2 Planned confrontation
3 The days before the battle
4 The battle
See also: Peep_o'_Day_Boys § Origins, and Peep_o'_Day_Boys
§ Sectarian conflict
In the 1780s,
County Armagh was the most populous county in Ireland,
and the centre of its linen industry. Its population was equally split
between Protestants, who were dominant north of the county, and
Catholics, who were dominant in the south. Sectarian tensions had been
increasing throughout the decade and were exacerbated by the relaxing
of some of the Penal Laws, failure to enforce others, and the entry of
Catholics into the linen industry at a time when land was scarce and
wages were decreasing due to pressure from the mechanised cotton
industry. This led to fierce competition to rent patches of land near
By 1784, sectarian fighting had broken out between gangs of
Protestants and Catholics. The Protestants re-organised themselves as
the Peep o' Day Boys, with the Catholics forming the Defenders. The
next decade would see an escalation in the violence between the two
and the local population as homes were raided and wrecked.
The Diamond, which was a predominantly Protestant area, is a minor
crossroads in County Armagh, lying almost half-way between Loughgall
and Portadown. For several days groups from both sides had been
arriving at the crossroads. The Defenders had made their base on
Faughart Hill in the townland of Tullymore, less than a quarter of a
mile south-west of The Diamond. The Peep o' Day Boys, which historian
Connolly states were of the "Orange Boys" faction, encamped on a
hill in the townland of Grange More to the north-east.
Word of a planned confrontation appears to have been widespread well
before it took place, even being gossiped about by militia-men
Dublin and Westport. Catholic Bernard Coile, from Lurgan,
County Armagh, who had rose to become a merchant in the linen
industry, called upon the local two parishes to agree to a
non-aggression pact. This appears to have succeeded in regards to
Lurgan area, were no
Lurgan men were amongst the combatants.
There would also seem to have been adequate time for preparations,
County Tyrone militia-man sending home a guinea to purchase a
musket for the Defenders, and
Peep o' Day Boys scouring Moy, County
Tyrone for gunpowder.
The fact word seems to have been so widespread meant that the
government could not have been unaware that trouble was stirring.
Peep o' Day Boys are cited in three accounts of the battle as
possessing Volunteer muskets, with additional weapons provided by
local squires. One account, by Charles Teeling, who had given up
hopes of being a mediator, stated that on his return to Lisburn,
County Down, he saw re-formed Volunteer corps with all of their
equipment heading for The Diamond. The Defenders on the other hand
may not all have been armed and possessing lesser quality firearms.
The days before the battle
The numbers had increased so much that by Friday 18 September 1795, a
local magistrate, Captain Joseph Atkinson, who lived about a mile
north of The Diamond, called for a peace conference between four
Protestant landowners and three Catholic priests. A priest
accompanying the Defenders persuaded them to seek a truce after a
group called the "Bleary Boys" came from
County Down to reinforce the
Peep o' Day Boys.
At some point large numbers of Defender reinforcements from counties
Londonderry and Tyrone are claimed to have been prevented from
crossing the River Blackwater by James Verner and his sons who led a
detachment of the North-Mayo militia, based in Dungannon, northwards
to seize the boats by the river. The Defenders failed to await
substantial reinforcements from
Ballygawley, County Tyrone
Ballygawley, County Tyrone and Keady,
County Armagh, and were starting to become panicked by the situation,
being on enemy soil and winter not far away.
The landowners summoned by Atkinson were: Robert Camden Cope, of the
Loughgall Manor, MP for
County Armagh and Lieutenant Colonel of
the Armagh Militia; Nicholas Richard Cope and his son Arthur Walter
Cope, proprietors of the much smaller Drumilly estate; and James
Hardy, the squire of Drumart. The priests were father's: Taggart,
possibly Arthur Taggart, parish priest of Cookstown, County Tyrone,
who was notoriously erratic; McParland, future parish priest of
Loughgall from 1799, possibly Arthur McParland; and Trainor.
William Blacker claims a leader of the Defenders, "Switcher Donnelly",
was also present. According to Patrick Tohall, there is reason to
doubt the sincerity of all the delegates at this peace conference. He
claims some may have used it to blindside the genuine peace-makers,
with the two armed sides seeing the clash as inevitable.
On Saturday 19 September, the priests who had stayed the night in
Atkinson's house, left apparently satisfied at the outcome. There
are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Tohall,
writing in 1953, the local Catholics had obeyed the priests, and this
is evidenced by none of them being counted amongst the eventual
combatants. He goes on to state that the priests seemingly failed to
go to Faughart Hill and persuade the Defenders. Blacker, who was
there on the day of the battle on the Protestant side, however said
when he was being questioned by a government Select Committee meeting
Orange Order on 4 August 1835, that the Defenders had agreed to
disperse and that the
Peep o' Day Boys would do likewise. Later
that day there was sporadic shooting, which didn't trouble Atkinson,
and this was followed on Sunday 20 September by overall quietness.
Some Defender reinforcements from
County Tyrone however made it to The
Diamond and appear to have encouraged their comrades to become
"determined to fight", and a decision seems to have been taken that
night to advance the next day. Blacker claims "a large body of
'Defenders' not belonging to the County of Armagh, but assembled from
Monaghan, Louth and I believe Cavan and Tyrone came down and were
disappointed at finding a truce of this kind made, were determined not
to go home without something to repay them for the trouble of their
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant
discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this
article by introducing citations to additional sources. (March 2018)
On the morning of 21 September, the Defenders, numbering around 300,
made their way downhill from their base, occupying Dan Winter's
homestead, which lay to the north-west of The Diamond and directly in
their line of advance. News of this advance reached the departing
Peep o' Day Boys who quickly reformed at the brow of the hill where
they had made their camp. From this position, they gained three
crucial advantages: the ability to comfortably rest their muskets,
allowing for more accurate shooting; and a steep up-hill location
which made it hard for attackers to scale; and a direct line-of-sight
to Winter's cottage which the Defenders made their rallying point.
This has been claimed as showing that the
Peep o' Day Boys had more
The shooting began again in earnest, and after Atkinson gave his
weapon and powder to the Peep o' Day Boys, he rode to Charlemont
Garrison for troops to quell the trouble. There was no effective
unit stationed in the garrison at the time, despite the fact a
detachment of the North-Mayo Militia was stationed in Dungannon and a
detachment of the Queen's County Militia was at Portadown.
The battle according to Blacker, was short and the Defenders suffered
"not less than thirty" deaths. James Verner, whose account of the
battle is based on hearsay, gives the total as being nearly thirty,
whilst other reports give the figure as being forty-eight, however
this may be taking into account those that died afterwards from their
wounds. A large amount of Defenders are also claimed to have been
wounded. One of those claimed to have been killed was "McGarry of
Whiterock", the leader of the Defenders. The
Peep o' Day Boys on
the other hand in the safety of the well-defended hilltop position
suffered no casualties. Blacker praised the Bleary Boys for their
prowess in the fight.
Orange Order and
Peep o' Day Boys § The Armagh
In the aftermath of the battle, the
Peep o' Day Boys retired to James
Sloans inn in Loughgall, and it was here that James Wilson, Dan
Winter, and James Sloan would found the Orange Order, a defensive
association pledged to defend "the King and his heirs so long as he or
they support the Protestant Ascendancy". The first Orange lodge
of this new organisation was established in Dyan, County Tyrone,
founding place of the Orange Boys.
One historian claims that the victors saw the battle as "a Godly
conquest, construed as a sanction for the spoliation of the homes of
the Philistines". This saw violence directed firstly at the
Catholics in the vicinity of The Diamond who had refrained the
participating in the battle, before spreading throughout the county
and further afield.
The winter of 1795–6, immediately following the battle, saw
Protestants drive around 7,000 Catholics out of
County Armagh in what
became known as "the Armagh outrages". In a sign that tension
over the linen trade was still a burning issue, 'Wreckers' continued
Peep o' Day Boys strategy of smashing looms and tearing webs in
Catholic homes to eliminate competition. This resulted in a
reduction in the hotly competitive linen trade which had been in a
brief slump. A consequence of this scattering of highly-political
Catholics however was a spread of Defenderism throughout Ireland.
^ a b c d e S. J. Connolly (2007). Oxford Companion to Irish History.
Oxford University Press. p. 434.
^ a b c d e f g Bardon, James (2005). A History of Ulster: New Updated
Edition (2 ed.). Blackstaff Press. ISBN 0-85640-764-X.
^ a b Mervyn Jess. The Orange Order, page 20. The O'Brian Press Ltd.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae
af ag ah ai aj Tohall, Patrick, The Diamond Fight of 1795 and the
Resultant Expulsions, pgs 19–22. Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha/Armagh
Diocesan Historical Society
^ a b c d e Jackson, Steven: The Irish Ancestry of Stonewall Jackson,
^ a b c d e f g Bardon, James (2005). A History of Ulster: New Updated
Edition (2 ed.). Blackstaff Press. p. 226.
^ a b c d "Dan Winter's Cottage – Battle of the Diamond". Archived
from the original on 9 December 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
^ a b A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800, D.J. Hickey &
J.E. Doherty, Gill & Macmillan,
ISBN 0-7171-2520-3 pg375
^ History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time
(2 Vol), John Mitchel