SLIGO (County of), a maritime county of the province of CONNAUGHT, bounded on the east by Leitrim, on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west and south by Mayo, and on the south-east by Roscommon. It extends from 53° 53' to 54° 26' (N. Lat.), and from 8° 3' to 9° 1' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 434,188 statute acres, of which 257,217 are cultivated land, 168,711 are unimproved mountain and bog, and 8260 are under water. The population, in 1821, amounted to 146,229; and in 1831, to 171,508.
This county was included in the territory of the Nagnatæ in the time of Ptolemy, the chief city of which tribe, Nagnata, is supposed by some to have been somewhere near the site of the town of Sligo. It was afterwards possessed by a branch of the O'Conors, called for the sake of distinction O'Conor Sligo. The families of O'Hara, O'Dowd, Mac Donagh, and Mac Ferbis, were also heads of septs in different districts. After the landing of the English under Hen. II., it gradually fell, together with the rest of Connaught, into the hands of the great English leaders, of whom the Burghs or De Burgos were the most powerful in these parts. Yet this revolution was not effected without a protracted struggle, in the course of which a great battle was fought at Assadar, now Ballysadere, where O'Nial, dynast of Tyrone, was defeated with great slaughter in an attempt to restore Cathal Croobhderg to the throne of Connaught, from which he had been driven by Charles Carragh, aided by William De Burgo. Not many years after, the site of the present town of Sligo being deemed a suitable position for defence, a castle was erected there in 1245, by Maurice Fitz-Gerald, then lord-deputy, which was destroyed in 1271, by O'Donel, but rebuilt in the beginning of the ensuing century by Richard, Earl of Ulster. The county was regarded as part of Connaught, which, with the exception of Roscommon, was then also considered by the English as a single county, until the 11th of Elizabeth, when the province was divided into seven counties, of which Sligo made one. About the same time O'Conor Sligo had tendered his submission to Sir Henry Sidney, lord- deputy, and had obtained a grant of his lands under the crown of England at a rent of £100 per annum, with a covenant to pay five horses and 130 beeves every Michaelmas, in lieu of cess, and to bring twenty horsemen and forty foot-soldiers into the field whenever summoned to attend a general hosting. During the disturbances by which the north and west of Ireland were distracted at the close of Elizabeth's reign, several actions took place in the county, in one of which the monastery of Ballymote was burned by the Irish. But the most remarkable incident connected with the county at that period was the defeat and death of Sir Conyers Clifford, who had succeeded Sir Rich. Bingham in the presidency of Connaught; he had been sent by the Earl of Essex to Belleek, at the head of 1400 foot, and a body of horse, consisting of 100 English and a number of Irish auxiliaries: in proceeding through the Curlew mountains, he pushed forward with his infantry through a defile, where he was suddenly attacked by O'Rourk, chieftain of Breffoy, at the head of about 200 men, with such impetuosity that he was killed on the spot, together with several of his officers and 120 men, and the rest were driven back upon the cavalry, whose appearance checked the pursuit, and gave the fugitives an opportunity of escaping without further loss. On the breaking out of the war of 1641, the county was overrun by the De Burgos; and though Sligo was taken from them the year after, by Sir Frederic Hamilton, it fell into their hands again, and remained in their possession until finally subdued by Ireton and Sir Charles Coote. In the war of 1688, Sligo was in the possession of the troops of Jas. II., but they vacated it after raising the siege of Derry, through a stratagem contrived by Lieut.-Col. Gore: the forces of Wm. III. were, however, too much exhausted to follow up their advantage, so that the country fell again into the possession of the Irish, and the town surrendered the following year to Lord Granard. During the French invasion, in 1798, General Humbert, after the battle of Castlebar, instead of proceeding towards Dublin, turned northwards through this county in the hope of being able to co-operate with a larger force destined to act upon the north of Ireland: he was stopped at Collooney by the city of Limerick militia, commanded by Col. Vereker, afterwards Lord Gort, who, though much inferior in numbers, gave him such a check as induced him to turn towards Longford, where he was surrounded by the whole of the army under the Marquess Cornwallis, and forced to surrender at discretion.
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