#OTD in 1795 the Battle of the Diamond between Protestant Peep o' Day Boys & Catholic Defenders near Loughgall, Co. Armagh left 30 Defenders dead & led to the foundation of the Loyal Orange Institution, later the Orange Order.
In the 1780s, Co. Armagh was the most populated county in Ireland & the center of the country’s linen industry. The population was equally split between Catholics who were dominant in the South & Protestants who were dominant in the North. Tensions between the 2 groups were rising, & relaxing of some Penal Laws, failure to enforce other laws & competition for jobs & business did not help. Land was scarce & wages were low, causing fierce competition in the cotton industry & to rent patches of land near markets. By 1784, actual fighting broke out between the gangs of Protestant & Catholics.
In the days leading up to the battle, both groups were spending time in the Diamond area, collecting weaponry & setting up camp. The day before the offense, Catholic priests & Protestant landowners were called together for a peace conference. There are mixed accounts of what went wrong, but the efforts of those at the conference were unsuccessful. On the morning of September 21, about 300 Defenders made their way away from their base, advancing towards the Peep o’ Day Boys’ territory. The Peep o’ Boys ultimately won the battle due to three crucial advantages: ground to place their muskets on in order to shoot more accurately, a steep uphill location, & a direct line of sight to the Defenders main base. By the end of it, the Defenders had about 30 casualties, & the Peep o’ Day Boys had none.
After this battle, the Orange Order was established by Peep o’ Day Boys’ leaders James Wilson, Dan Winter & James Sloan at Dan Winter’s cottage. They were a defensive association that pledged to “defend the King & his heirs so long as he or they support the Protestant Ascendancy”.
The winter of 1795- 1796 saw the Protestants drive around 7,000 Catholics out of Co. Armagh, which became known as the Armagh outrages. The exiling of the Catholics brought about a spread of Defenderism through Ireland.