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Project Gutenberg Australia
Title: Life of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan
Author: John Todhunter
eBook No.: 2301151h.html
Date first posted: October 2023
Most recent update: October 2023
This eBook was produced by: Colin Choat
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I. Ancestry and Early Life
II. The War in Ireland
III. The Campaign of Schomberg.—The Prince of Orange Takes the Field.—Sarsfield's First Important Command
IV. The Battle of the Boyne
V. The Retreat upon Limerick
VI. The First Siege of Limerick, 1690
VII. Sarsfield and Tyrconnell
VIII. The Campaign of 1691.—Taking of Ballymore.—Arrival of St. Ruth.—Siege of Athlone
IX. The Battle of Aughrim
X. After Aughrim.—Galway Capitulates.—The Last Siege and Surrender of Limerick.—The Articles
Epilogue. The Flight of the "Wild Geese."—Sarsfield on The Continent.—His Death at Landen
THE present volume of the New Irish Library is the first published since I succeeded Mr. Rolleston as Assistant Editor. The responsibility of seeing it through the press is increased by the fact that, for the first time since the series began, the Editor, owing to absence from home on urgent private business, has been obliged to leave this task almost entirely to me.
Since it was announced, some time ago, that Dr. Todhunter had undertaken to write a popular Life of Sarsfield, this volume has been awaited with much interest.
The name of Sarsfield is not only a household word in every Irish home, but his memory is revered wherever his deeds are known, and patriotism and valour are prized. Struggling under immense difficulties, and thwarted at every turn by incompetent superiors, he redeemed the honour of his country, and vindicated the gallantry of his race.
The story of his life has now been told with the single purpose of doing him justice, and of placing a truthful and impartial narrative of the events in which he played so distinguished a part, before the youth of the nation to whose fortunes he was devoted and true.
In carrying out his work, Dr. Todhunter has treated Sarsfield's personal history as a part of the general history of the time. He has pieced together every biographical fragment he has been able to collect, and given it a fit setting in his short narrative of the principal events of the Jacobite War in Ireland. He has endeavoured to get at some clear conception of the succession of events in the various battles and sieges; and, not content with studying the somewhat conflicting contemporary accounts, has visited the principal battle-fields, towns besieged, and other places mentioned in the narrative, including Limerick, Athlone, Aughrim, and the Boyne.
R. BARRY O'BRIEN.
September 1st, 1895.
IF to be sung, like the Cid, in popular ballads, marks a man as a national hero, that honourable title belongs unquestionably to Sarsfield. Ballads in Irish, ballads in English, together with many little scraps of local tradition, live on in the memory of his countrymen: sure evidence of the hold he has upon the heart and imagination of the Irish people.
In this case, at least, the Irish have chosen their hero well. Sarsfield stands out from among the men of his time as a true lover of his country. He fought for Ireland, the land of many dreams, of many sorrows; not for his own glory or advantage. His contemporary detractors, and notably that somewhat priggish military pedant, James Fitzjames, Duke of Berwick, may insinuate that he was no general but merely a dashing cavalry officer; a handsome fellow if you like, a fine, good-natured, generous, irascible Irish giant, exceeding even his own dragoons, so much admired by the French, in strength and stature, "brave but without brains." His countrymen, especially those who served under him, knew that he had a true Irish heart, and loved him for it. Scanty as are the records of what he thought and felt, and even did, it is abundantly evident that he was a man of magnetic personality, a born leader of Ireland's long forlorn hope. He knew the country well as a practical campaigning-ground, and had an instinct for the tactics of enthusiasm and dash, the only possible tactics with the half-drilled peasantry under his command. He knew how to wait patiently, watch his opportunity, strike suddenly and boldly, accept reverses undauntedly, and recover rapidly. Above all, he loved Ireland and the "mere Irish," as no other captain of his day did. It was that true Irish heart in him that made him "the darling of the army" while he lived, the legendary hero of popular imagination after his death.
The testimony of his enemies is uniformly favourable to him. They recognised him as a brave and honourable adversary, singularly humane and courteous to the vanquished. They also had a very just apprehension of the sureness of his judgment, the rapidity and boldness of his attacks. It is noteworthy how frequently the mention of his name is accompanied by expressions which show that they felt he was constantly on the alert, and well informed as to their own movements; and that there was cause for anxiety whenever he menaced an important point, even where the force under his command was small.
He was, indeed, as no other soldier of King James was, an animating spirit, a flame of genuine unselfish valour and enthusiasm. He never despaired of his country. This is his claim to immortality in the hearts of his countrymen.
Patrick Sarsfield, created by James II., in February, 1691, Earl of Lucan, Viscount Tully and Baron of Rosberry, came of the best Irish blood on both sides; his father's family being Norman, his mother's of the old Irish stock.
The Sarsfields, or De Saresfelds, came over in the reign of Henry II., and settled in Ireland as Anglo-Norman gentry of the pale, a Thomas De Saresfeld being standard-bearer to King Henry in 1172. In 1302 they fought under Edward I. against Wallace; and again in 1335 they served in the expedition sent by Edward III. against the Scots, in revolt from Edward Baliol. In Tudor times they gave mayors to Dublin, in 1531, 1554, and 1566.
In the reign of James I. there were two branches of the family. The first had for its head Sir Dominic Sarsfield, the first baronet created in Ireland. He was subsequently ennobled as Viscount Kinsale; a title changed in the reign of Charles I. to that of Viscount Kilmallock, the De Courceys, as Barons of Kinsale, having a prior claim to it. His descendant, Dominic, Lord Kilmallock, who married Sarsfield's sister, came from France to fight for James II. in Ireland, served as colonel of infantry there, and afterwards with the Irish Brigade on the Continent, where he died after the Peace of Ryswick.
The head of the other branch was Sir William. Sarsfield, who held the manor of Lucan in the County of Dublin. His grandson, Patrick, married Anne O'Moore, and had by her three children: William, who succeeded to the title, Patrick, the subject of this memoir, and Mary, who married Colonel Rossiter, of Rathmacnee Castle, County Wexford.[*]
[* This is the received account of Sarsfield's family, but see Colonel Drake's mention of two sisters, quoted in the Epilogue.]
Sarsfield's elder brother, William, having no son by his marriage with Mary, a natural daughter of Charles II. by Lucy Walters, and sister to the Duke of Monmouth, left the estates, worth about £2,000 a year, to his brother Patrick. This William had, however, one daughter, Anne, who married Agmondesham Vesey, of whom (or of someone of the same name) it was said:—
"Sir Agmondesham Vesey out of his great bounty,
Built this bridge, at the expense of the county."
It appears that out of the rents of the estate, Sarsfield was to pay an annual allowance of £300 to his niece. This gave rise to litigation after some time, as there is on record a claim for arrears on the part of Anne; Sarsfield, like other Catholic gentlemen, having impoverished himself by raising forces to fight for King James. Anne's daughter, Anne Vesey, married Sir John Bingham, and her son Charles was created Baron Bingham in 1776, and Earl of Lucan in 1795.
So much for Sarsfield's paternal ancestry: that of his mother, Anne O'Moore, is more ancient and more racy of the soil of old Ireland. The stream of her descent touches many a "shore of old romance."
Her great ancestor was Conall Cearnach (the victorious), of the race of Rury, and claiming descent from Ir, the son of Milith, from whom Ireland takes its name: Conall, that Red Branch champion, whose two terrible eyes, "the blue eye and the black," are celebrated in the Bardic Tales. His descendent, Lugad Laighis, repelled an invasion of the men of Munster, for which he obtained a grant of land from Cucorb, King of Leinster; and in direct line from him (twenty-fifth in descent, say the genealogists) came Mordha (the majestic) from whom sprang the family of O'Mordha (O'Moore).
These O'Moores were driven from their estates in Leix (anglicised from Laighis) by a "plantation of the stranger" in Queen's County, about the middle of the sixteenth century; and in the reign of Charles I. Rory and Lewis, sons of Calvagh O'Moore, were colonels in that Catholic Army raised by Strafford for Charles, who intended to employ it in Scotland, and afterwards was about to send it to serve the King of Spain in Flanders. This led to a resolution in Parliament against "the transporting of troops out of His Majesty's dominions"; and Strafford's "8,000 Papists" were disbanded after his fall. The disbanded soldiers became a leaven of disaffection amongst the already discontented Catholic population; and Rory O'Moore, on the principle that "England's extremity is Ireland's opportunity," stirred up the insurrection of 1641, in which Sir Phelim O'Neil and some other Irish chieftains banded together to drive the "foreigners" out of Ireland. He thus became a popular hero, and "For God and our Lady and Rory O'Moore!" was the watchword of a formidable party. This Rory (or Roger) O'Moore was the father of Anne O'Moore, the mother of Sarsfield.
No record of the place or date of Patrick Sarsfield's birth has so far come to light. In all probability he was born at his father's residence at Lucan, about 1650, the date of William III.'s birth, and of Marlborough's.
He was educated in a French military college, and his first commission was, it is said, in the regiment of Monmouth, under whom he served as ensign in France and Flanders, carrying the golden Fleur de Lys of France, and no doubt, as Macaulay says, "fighting gallantly" for his first master, Louis XIV. He may have taken part in that great campaign against the Dutch, in 1672, in which they opened their dykes and let in the sea, to dear their swamped country of its invaders.
In Dalton's Army List Sarsfield's name first occurs, with the rank of lieutenant in Monmouth's Regiment of Foot, in 1678. In the same year he appears in the list as captain in Sir Thomas Dongan's (or Dangan's) Regiment of Foot.
Sarsfield thus learnt his first lesson in the art of war under William's most redoubtable adversary, Luxembourg, under whose command he long afterwards fought at Landen, his last battle.
After his first campaigns on the Continent, he came to England, and is said to have obtained a commission as Lieutenant in Charles II.'s Regiment of Guards. At that time there was no standing army in England, unless this, the King's Body Guard, composed of men of good family, paid (or left unpaid) out of the King's privy purse, may be so regarded. Even the privates of this aristocratic regiment were styled "the Gentlemen of the Guard," and their discipline was by no means strict.
The exact time at which Sarsfield became a Gentleman of the Guard is uncertain, as this commission does not appear in Dalton's imperfect List; and we have but few scraps of authentic information respecting his life at the Court of King Charles. He seems to have been again in France in 1678, as in the Records of the Corporation of Chester we find a deposition on his part before the mayor, that—"In May, June, or July last" he had come from France to London, lodging at the house of the King's saddler at Charing Cross, and receiving pay during that time from Mr. Trant (probably Sir Patrick Trant, afterwards James II.'s Commissioner of the Revenue). "About three or four weeks ago," he received a Commission as Captain in Colonel Dangan's regiment, dated 9th of February last, which Commission was delivered to him by Lieutenant Colonel Dempsy, or Mr. Trant, "they being then together at the Crown and Scepter Tavern in Pick-a-dilly." The occasion of this deposition was that the mayor had arrested and detained certain persons about to go over to Ireland without passports; and in a letter from Whitehall, dated November 9th, Mr. Secretary Williamson praises the mayor for his "zeal and circumspection" in so doing, but informs him that certain persons, whose names are given, "being Irishmen dismissed from his Majesty's service, have leave to retire to their own country." He adds that besides those named "a considerable number more of that country" have a similar permission granted them. Sarsfield, just promoted to a captaincy in an Irish regiment, can scarcely have been one of these dismissed soldiers. His deposition is probably the result of the worthy mayor's anxiety to maintain his reputation for zeal and circumspection.
We next hear of Sarsfield in the diary of Narcissus Luttrell, which extends from 1678 to 1714, and contains many interesting items.
His first appearance upon the stage of contemporary history is eminently characteristic of the man. He challenges a nobleman for an insulting speech about a fellow-countryman, who was certainly "not in society." He is now somewhere about thirty years of age, but evidently not prominently before the public in any way.
Here is the entry, on September 9th, 1681:—
"There has been a tall Irishman to be seen in Bartholomew fair, and the Lord Gray being to see him, was pleased to say he would make a swinging evidence; on which one Captain Sarsfield, an Irishman, sent his lordship a challenge, taking it as an affront on his countrymen."
The sting of this, no doubt, lay in its insinuation of perjury against Catholic witnesses in connection with the "Popish Plot." Oates was still posing as a Saviour of Society. Under the same date in Luttrell's diary is the entry:—
"Dr. Oates hath taken a home in Broad-street, London, where he now resides."
A few days later, September 14th, we read:—
"Captain Sarsfield, who challenged the Lord Gray, was taken into custody, but hath since made his escape out of the messenger's hands."
Nothing more seems to have come of this business; but a few months later Sarsfield did, as was then customary, fight as second in a duel.
"There was a duel fought the 6th, between the lord Newburgh and the lord Kinsale, as principals (two striplings under twenty), and Mr. Kirk and Captain Sarsfield, seconds: the principals had no hurt; but Captain Sarsfield was run through the body, near the shoulder, very dangerously."
Lord Kinsale was, of course, an Irishman, a member of the De Courcey family.
The accession of James, and the troubles which followed, soon brought Sarsfield into active service. The breath was scarcely out of Charles's body, when James, an avowed Catholic, who had already suffered much obloquy and narrowly escaped being ousted from the succession, for his creed's sake, found himself obliged by the duties of his office, as head of the heretic Church, to declare that he would maintain the Protestant religion, as by law established. This he did in a speech which gave great satisfaction to the Lords and gentlemen of the Privy Council who had come to see Charles die. He afterwards naively explained in his Memoirs that he did not really mean what he said.
"Not doubting but the world would understand it in the meaning he intended, and which would be agreeable to the circumstances he was in."
The irony of his fate was thus made manifest from the beginning! Charles, the idealist martyr of divine right, Charles the cynical voluptuary, with more shrewd common sense than his father and brother had, were now succeeded by James the blunderer—Shemus of the opprobrious epithet in the Irish vernacular. Charles II., as Buckingham sarcastically said, "could see things if he would, James would see things if he could." He inherited the dregs of the Stuart nature, its arrogance, its meanness, its shifty futility. He began well, he ended badly, shattered by the force of circumstances. "He was naturally candid and sincere, and a firm friend," says Burnet. There is truth in this. He meant to be upright, but he tottered; and there is a curious candour in his apologetic pieces of self-revelation. He lied, of course, even debased the currency of lies; but everyone around him lied, and he went with the current, not on principle, or because he loved lies, but because he was in a false position. As to his friends, he had the art of choosing them badly, and trusting the wrong men.
His meanness was shown in his allowing "lying Dick Talbot" (afterwards Earl of Tyrconnell) to bring the most gross and unfounded charges against his first wife, Anne Hyde, whom he wished to repudiate. Charles bluntly told him "He had married the lady, and must live with her." He kept his wife and his friend Talbot too.
It was this "king of shreds and patches" that Sarsfield had the misfortune to serve. The Army Lists of the time are very imperfect and puzzling; officers holding commissions in two or more regiments at the same time, and often with a different rank in each. In Dalton's Lists, Sarsfield appears as captain in Sir Richard Hamilton's Dragoons in June, 1685; major in Lord Dover's Horse in July; and lieut.-colonel in that regiment in October of the same year. His effective service was probably with Hamilton's Dragoons, who were sent to Ireland in the autumn of 1685, returned to England November, 1687, and were disbanded by William in 1689. Yet we next hear of him at the battle of Sedgemoor, where Monmouth was defeated. Sarsfield's elder brother had, as we have seen, married Monmouth's sister, and he himself had served in Monmouth's regiment. He now fought against him in the army of James, serving, it is said, with the Horse Guards, though no commission in that regiment is noted by Dalton until 1686.
It was in 1685, the year of James's accession, that Monmouth made his ill-advised attempt to depose him and mount the throne as a Protestant king; opening by his failure a way for his astute cousin, William of Orange.
After many purposeless marches and counter-marches, abandoning his intended attack on Bristol, Monmouth was about to fly the country in despair, when he heard from a farmer named Godfrey that the Royal army, under Feversham, was encamped at Sedgemoor, and determined to make a night attack upon it.
On the night of July 5th, about eleven o'clock, guided by Godfrey, he marched out of Bridgewater, Lord Gray leading with the Horse, Monmouth himself following with the Foot, and by two o'clock in the morning of the 6th his half-armed force of miners, weavers and peasants had come within a mile of Feversham's lines. They had crossed one deep ditch, the Black Ditch, and were crossing another, the Longmoor Rhine, when a pistol went off, accidentally, of treacherous purpose, or fired by one of Feversham's vedettes, and gave the alarm. The king's drums beat to arms, and in an instant all was bustle and confusion in the camp; the men rumbling into order, from drunken sleep, as best they could.
Monmouth ordered Gray to press forward with the cavalry round the east side of the camp, burn the village of Weston which lay behind, and attack in the rear, as already planned. Gray advanced; found his way stopped by a third wider and deeper ditch, the Bussex Rhine, of which Godfrey, whom he had sent away, had said nothing. He turned westward by mistake, and came right upon the infantry camp. Gray, with all his cavalry of undrilled rustics, mounted on plough-horses and unbroken colts, fled in hopeless panic at the first volley of the foot-guards, carrying with them the ammunition waggons left in the rear.
Then Monmouth came up with his infantry, who stood their ground well, exchanging volleys with the regulars until their powder failed, and King Monmouth himself ran away. Yet still his poor followers fought gallantly with scythes and clubbed muskets against Sarsfield and his cavalry of the Life Guards, who had got across the ditch and charged on their right flank. Sarsfield himself was dangerously wounded, and left for dead on the field, and his men were severely handled and repulsed.
Churchill (afterwards Duke of Marlborough), who was Feversham's second in command, now brought up the artillery, drawn by the Bishop of Winchester's coach-horses, opportunely lent for the occasion. This was that Dr. Mews, who "fought and prayed for the peace of the kingdom and the Church," and was nicknamed "Old Patch," from a wound in the cheek received in the Low Countries, where, like many other clergymen of the period, he had served as a soldier before taking holy orders.
Churchill's advance with the Foot, who managed to scramble across the ditch, put an end to the business, and the rout was complete. Feversham came Late into the field, and simply looked on. "He won the battle in bed," as Buckingham phrased it, and was made a Knight of the Garter for his prowess.
Two days after his defeat Monmouth was taken, concealed in a ditch on the borders of Hampshire. A week after, on July 14th, he was beheaded on Tower Hill; James playing the part of Joab to this "Absalom" of Dryden's poem.
Next year, 1686, we find a grant of lands in the Barony of Offaly, county of Kildare, to a Patrick Sarsfield, probably our hero. It is in the Record Office in Dublin, and bears date 8th day of June, "Anno Secondo Regis Jacobi." In the same year Sarsfield appears in Dalton's List as lieutenant, and lieutenant-colonel, in the fourth troop of the Horse Guards. Next year, 1687, he is entered merely as lieutenant in the same troop. In one of the earlier Lists he is noted as a Catholic not conformed under the Test Act.
There is no need to go particularly into the events of James's reign in England. The dread of "Popery," which his ill-judged zeal had intensified in that country, became a panic among the Protestants of Ireland, who had good cause for alarm. Tyrconnell was his agent here. As general of the forces he defied the Lords Lieutenant, Ormond and Clarendon; and when he succeeded Clarendon he directed his whole policy against the "Protestant garrison." He had already purged the army of Protestants. He now attacked the civil population, revoking the charters of cities and towns, Dublin among the rest, and avowedly aiming at the repeal of the "Act of Settlement" by which Charles II. had confirmed the English settlers, Cromwell's soldiers and others, in the possession of lands confiscated from the older Irish inhabitants.
It was, in fact, a bold attempt to make Ireland too hot for the "foreigners." He acted on the principle that "All Protestants were rebels, because they were not of the King's religion." On his coming in as Lord Lieutenant there was a Protestant exodus. They "flocked to the Isle of Man," and I,500 families are said to have removed to England from Dublin when Clarendon went away.
There was a rough justice in all this. The invading English Protestants, Royalists and Cromwellians, had treated the native Catholics about as badly as possible. "Black Tom" Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, and Cromwell and his "Saints" have left unpleasant memories behind them. Tyrconnell's persecution of the Protestants was a very mild affair in comparison, chiefly because, bold as he was, he did not dare to go farther.
The immediate results of Tyrconnell's policy were beneficial to the cause of James in Ireland. He turned the tables on the Protestants, arrayed and organised the Catholics in his favour, and gave him the one opportunity he had for making a fight for his crown. The result was, however, unfortunate for the Catholics, and Tyrconnell's attempt only exacerbated the religious hatred on both sides. It partly accounts for the scandalous treatment of Catholics during the subsequent "Protestant ascendancy" in Ireland. This was the policy of panic, as well as of religious bigotry. Persecution breeds counter persecution, and the Protestants of Ireland, as of England, had vividly in their imaginations the tortures of the Inquisition, the horrors of St. Bartholomew, and the fires of Smithfield; while the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was a recent event. The Nonconformists of Ireland preferred the milder tyranny of the Church "as by law established," and would have made common cause with it against the Catholics, as their brethren in England did under Charles and James.
When William determined to invade England, James had alienated both Church and State, and the army as well. He could not remodel the English army as thoroughly as Tyrconnell had the Irish. He put in many Catholics as officers, but the bulk of the forces remained Protestant; and when Tyrconnell sent over some of his Irish levies to England, it caused great dissatisfaction in the army, as well as among the civil population. These poor "Papist cut-throats," who were supposed to sup upon Protestant babies, had a bad time of it, and did no good to James and his cause.
William had succeeded in obtaining the sanction of Innocent XI. for his expedition, though His Holiness probably did not contemplate the actual dethronement of James, when the Dutch fleet sailed from Holland, wafted on their way by Catholic Te Deums. "James," Prince Vaudemont, William's envoy, told the Pope, "could do nothing for the Church while openly a Catholic. William, though a Protestant, was in favour of toleration, and would procure toleration for Catholics in England, if now helped by the Pope." The Pope trusted William, he did not trust James. How far William kept his promise we shall see.
James, though repeatedly warned of his danger by Louis XIV., remained supine, refusing to believe an invasion possible. He was lulled into security by Sunderland, the most corrupt politician of that corrupt time, always ready to sell James to William, and William to Louis. When Louis offered James an army of 30,000 men, Sunderland persuaded him to refuse, on the ground that it was unnecessary, and would create bad feeling in England. Louis then offered to beleaguer Maestricht, and so prevent the sailing of William's expedition. This offer James also scornfully refused. Louis then made his first grand mistake, sent the army elsewhere, and allowed William to sail.
On Monday, November 15th, 1688, he landed at Torbay, entered Exeter, and soon advanced to Axminster; James's head-quarters being then at Salisbury.
In the first skirmish between the outposts of the two armies, which occurred at Wincanton, Sarsfield was engaged. He had now succeeded to the family estates at Lucan, and had about this time married the Lady Honor de Burgho, daughter of the Earl of Clanricarde. While in Ireland he had assisted Tyrconnell in organising the army, had been given his colonelcy, and was now sent over with a body of Irish troops. He was soon ordered with his dragoons on outpost duty; the advanced guards of the two armies having approached each other. Mackay, who commanded an English or Scotch regiment in William's service, had sent forward a Lieutenant Campbell, with fifty men, to obtain baggage horses. He was just leaving Wincanton with the horses when Sarsfield, always vigilant, came up with a troop of 120 Irish dragoons. The gallant Scotch-man, nothing daunted by superior numbers, promptly lined the hedges by the road and prepared to receive them, giving the usual challenge: "Stand! For whom are you?" "For King James!" was the answer. "And I'm for the Prince of Orange," said Campbell. "We'll prince you!" shouted the Irish, and charged, but were met by a sharp fire which emptied many saddles, one officer being shot through the head. They carried one of the hedges, and were attacking the other, when a country fellow came up and told Sarsfield that the Prince was entering the village in force, whereupon he prudently drew off his men, and allowed Campbell to retire. It was a false alarm, but it served its purpose.
James's army had already begun to melt away, going over to William, officers and men; first in small numbers, then by squadrons and battalions. Churchill and Grafton (a natural son of Charles II.) now deserted, Churchill leaving behind him a note of polite apology. His Protestant conscience carried him to William, but he left his kindest regards with his benefactor, James. Next Kirke and his "Lambs" became aware that they too had Protestant consciences, and refused to obey orders. The King broke up his camp and retired to Andover. There Prince George of Denmark, the Princess Anne's husband, took many sympathetic pinches of snuff, exclaiming as each new tale of desertion came in: "Est il possible!" Thence he and the Duke of Ormond, having supped with the King, rode quietly away to pay their respects to William. "Ah!" said James, when he heard this latest news, "is Est il possible! gone too?"
At Andover the King received a letter from Sarsfield giving an account of the desertions, and the unavailing efforts of the officers who remained faithful, to stop them; and from Andover he gave orders for the confiscation of Churchill's estates. Then he hurried up to London, find the Princess Anne herself missing—smuggled out of the palace by Lady Churchill, and driven off to Nottingham by way of Epping Forest; her old tutor, Compton, the Bishop of London, formerly a cornet in the Blues, and now once more a gallant cavalier, riding by her coach in full military attire, buff-coat, jack-boots, sword, and pistols all complete.
In about a month after William's landing, on Monday, November 15th, he was established in London and the king a fugitive; the Queen and the young Prince having been got safely out of the country in charge of De Lauzun, afterwards James's general at the Boyne, but better adapted for this kind of service than for commanding an army. Dartmouth, the admiral, had refused to convey them, and handed over the fleet to William, with the apparent approbation of the king, who publicly defended him when charged with treachery.
James had, in fact, accepted the situation, and ordered Feversham to disband his army, to the great disgust of the Duke of Berwick, then a boy of eighteen, who, resolved to fight to the last for his father's crown, held Portsmouth, and obeyed Feversham's orders reluctantly after remonstrance.
James' first attempt at escape was frustrated. On December 12th he writes to Lord Feversham:—
"I had the misfortune to be stopped at Skelness by a rabble of seamen, fishermen and others, who still detain me here although they know me."
He asks for servants, linen, clothes, and money—all his own being stolen.
He was taken back to London, and requested by William to retire to Ham, but was allowed to go to Rochester instead. It was "a matter of indifference" to the Prince of Orange, Bentinck writes. On hearing of his escape to France, William's indifference changed to satisfaction. The game was now in his own hands. The nation "abdicated" James, and crowned William and Mary.
It is said that, when the disbanded Irish in London were disarmed and sent back across the Channel, William offered to confirm Sarsfield in his estates and rank in the army, and endeavoured to secure his services in negotiations with Tyrconnell, and that Sarsfield indignantly refused to be his agent. However this may be, it is certain that he followed his fallen king to France, and that William employed Richard Hamilton instead.
Hamilton proved an indifferent agent, as he strongly advised Tyrconnell not to negotiate with William at all, but to stick by James, and raise as large an army as he could for the defence of Ireland. He was himself active in organising this army. He was made a lieutenant-general, and, as we shall see, did good service at the Boyne.
THE Jacobite war in Ireland, though mainly a struggle between nationalities, was partly also, as James said, a "religious war." It was a phase of the grand struggle of creed with creed which was still agitating Europe. James cared absolutely nothing for the Irish as Irish, he cared something for them as Catholics; but his main object was to make use of them as weapons to regain his lost crown. They had little cause to love him. They had suffered many things from the Stuarts already; and James had himself absorbed most of the lands which had been taken by the Crown from those English settlers whose titles were not confirmed by the Act of Settlement, and which should rightly have reverted to the original Irish possessors. It was the hope of obtaining a Catholic Ireland or at least a removal of Catholic disabilities, that turned the scale in his favour.
This is well put in "A Light to the Blind," a contemporary Jacobite narrative of the events of the war.
"The Catholics of Ireland do undertake a war for the reinthroning their banished king. Why should they do this, since they had been oppressed by the precedent monarch, for whom they did that which no subjects had ever done, viz.: they maintained war on their own cost for several years against their common enemy, Oliver Cromwell and other regicides and usurpers, till at last they were totally subdued and deprived of all they had in the world. The sad remembrance of the aforesaid oppression (never was the like since the creation) should make the Irish Catholic nobility to rejoice rather (according to the dictates of flesh and blood) at the misfortunes of an ensuing king of England, especially of the immediate successor and brother of their oppressor...But Catholick religion is one thing, and heresy is another. Wherefore Catholicks will still be Catholicks, and so the Irish must lay aside all resentments that thwart their allegiance."
The most obvious, though not, perhaps, the most vital, division of the people of Ireland, at that time, was into Catholics and Protestants; and, roughly speaking, the Catholics were the most ancient possessors of the soil, and the Protestants late-comers and invaders. But, of the Catholics, some were lords and settlers of the Pale, and thus under the direct protection of the Crown; the main body of the Catholic population being outside the Pale, and in a sense outlaws; and whether Old Irish or Norman-Irish, since Elizabeth's days constantly changing sides as their passions or interests dictated, now in allegiance to the Lord Deputy, and anon in open or covert hostility. Of the Protestants, some were of Old Irish or Norman stock; but most were descendants of "strangers" of the plantations, Cromwellians, or persons who had come from England and Scotland and purchased land in Ireland. Self-preservation, as well as religion, kept them in dependence upon Protestant England.
Tyrconnell deserves credit for the rapid and energetic action he took on hearing of William's invasion. Before James had left England, the Lord Deputy had issued a call to arms, in which all good Catholics and loyal subjects were summoned to defend the cause of their religion and their rightful king. The call was responded to.
"Here," says the author of 'Light to the Blind,' "you may judge of the greatness of the affection which the poor people showed to the royal cause by this, that in the space of two mouths above fifty thousand enlisted themselves for the war, and each company and troop of the whole number was subsisted upon the cost of every captain for three months."
He sums up the objects which they hoped to attain by thus supporting James, viz.:—
"Restoration of their estates, for forty years in the possession of Protestant usurpers. Acts passed by the Irish Parliament, and sanctioned by the Lord Deputy to be absolutely valid, without having to send over previously prepared bills, for the king's approbation. Causes to be determined by the Irish judicature, without appeal to English tribunals. Full liberty to be given to Irish merchants to import and export, without being compelled to send their ships to English ports (thus avoiding iniquitous dock dues, etc.) Studies of Law to be founded in Dublin. The Viceroyalty to be given to Catholics. A mint to be set up in Dublin. The chief State appointments to be conferred on Catholics. A standing army of 8,000 Catholics, a Catholic militia, and a fleet of 24 war ships of the Fourth rate, to be maintained. Half the ecclesiastical livings to be given to Catholics during the lifetime of the present Protestant incumbents, and after their death all to Catholics. Works to be set on foot to make the great rivers navigable, to deepen and defend the ports, and to drain the bogs."
Good Protestants have been greatly shocked that the Catholics should make such monstrous demands as these: a practically independent Ireland, the restoration of estates taken from their hereditary possessors within the memory of the existing generation, and above all the establishment of the religion which the vast majority of the inhabitants professed. But would not Protestants, under the same conditions, have claimed and fought for just the same things? Both sides had much the same one-sided views as to civil and religious liberty; and toleration was not really regarded as a duty by either.
Tyrconnell's energy in raising an army for James still further alarmed the Protestants, who felt that they had suddenly changed places with the Catholics, and had to choose between a very questionable toleration under James, or a bold stroke for their possessions and religious liberty under William.
They hesitated a little before declaring for the Prince of Orange, as it must be some time before they could hope for succour from England, and they had but a small force to oppose to the levies of Tyrconnell; but the Lord Deputy himself brought about an open revolt by sending a Catholic regiment under Lord Antrim, in December, 1688, to garrison Londonderry, from which the former garrison had been withdrawn and sent into England.
"The British of those parts," as George Walker naively calls them, were thrown into great consternation by the news that Antrim was coming, and feared "a general insurrection of the Irish, intended on the 9th of December," and "some damnable design against them." He says that—
"Alderman Norman and the rest of the graver citizens were under great disorder and consternation, and knew not what to resolve upon. One of the companies was already in view of the town, and two of the officers within it, but the younger sort (the 'Prentice Boys), who are seldom so dilatory in their resolutions, got together, run in all haste to the main guard, snatcht up the keys, and immediately shut up all the Four Gates and the Magazines."
This was on the 7th of December.
Tyrconnell, hearing of this revolt, sent Lord Mountjoy with Colonel Lundy, to recall the men of Derry to their allegiance. They were received under certain conditions, and Lundy made Governor.
Meanwhile, the Enniskilleners had followed the example of the men of Derry and refused entrance to the King's garrison. Culmore, Sligo, Coleraine, Dundalk, and other northern towns followed suit, and in the south, Bandon revolted from James. The new levies, "Tyrconnell's blackguards," are thus described by a virulent Williamite:—
"Some had wisps of hay or straw bands about their heads, instead of hats. Others tattered coats or blankets cast over them without any breeches. Stockings and shoes were strange things. As for shirts, three proved a miracle. However, they were mustered."
At any rate they were badly armed, and before Tyrconnell could take any decided action, the Protestants had seized the arsenals all through Ulster, and in Longford, Meath, and the County of Dublin.
Tyrconnell, finding that Lord Mountjoy, whom he had sent to Derry with Lundy, was now becoming one of the most active of the Protestant leaders, managed to get him out of the way by a diplomatic stratagem. Flattering his sense of importance, he sent him as his envoy to James, ostensibly "to demonstrate to his Majesty the necessity of yielding Ireland to the Prince of Orange"; but, that both parties might be fairly represented, he joined with him the Catholic Chief Baron, Rice, who was in high favour with the King. He had orders to denounce Mountjoy as a traitor, which he did so effectively that Mountjoy was clapped into the Bastille, where he remained until exchanged for Richard Hamilton after the war. He was also instructed to beseech James to come to Ireland; and, if he did not accede to this request, Rice was to make overtures to Louis, to whom Ireland was to be handed over as a province of France. Tyrconnell was nothing if not audacious in his policy.
He promptly organised three army corps to attack the Protestant rebels in Ulster and Munster. In Munster, Justin M'Carthy (afterwards Lord Mountcashel) was rapidly successful, obtaining the capitulation of Bandon, the walls of which he demolished, and driving Lord Inchiquin, the Protestant leader, into the County Clare.
In Ulster, Richard. Hamilton, with 3,000 men, attacked a large body under Lord Mount Alexander, at Dromore Iveagh, on the north side of the River Laggan, and completely routed them, killing about 400 and capturing their camp. This flight of the "Leaguers" is known as "the Breach of Dromore." It was the Protestant "Bull's Run," and was afterwards amply revenged. Hamilton soon forced the Williamites to evacuate Dungannon, Belfast, Antrim, and Ballymena, and retire upon Coleraine.
Lord Galmoy also obtained a temporary success in several skirmishes with Lord Blayney and Gustavus Hamilton, Governor of Enniskillen. The hatred on both sides was intense; no quarter was given, and both Galmoy and Blayney were accused of having perpetrated "massacres in cold blood." Galmoy's treacherous hanging of two young officers, Dixy and Charleton, after accepting an exchange, gave him an infamous notoriety, and led to bloody reprisals on the part of the Enniskilleners, who fought well, and slaughtered almost as mercilessly as if they had been "Saints."
James now determined to come to Ireland, and solicited assistance from Louis, who, as we have seen, had offered him an army of 30,000 men, when William was about to sail. James blundered then in refusing to accept an army, Louis now again blundered in refusing to give one. Why did he let slip this opportunity of embarrassing William and the Leaguers, and possibly of reinstating James on the throne? At this time the French were masters of the Channel, and the difficulties which prevented a subsequent invasion of England did not exist. It would have been comparatively easy to have thrown an army into Ireland, and to have prevented William from sending troops to resist it. Why did he not do so?
The main reason was that, like William himself, he under-estimated the importance of the war in Ireland. England was the great stronghold of Protestantism in Europe, and Ireland was the key to England, as James had now begun to see. But Louis distrusted James, and had a low estimate of his practical capacity. This, in addition to the prejudice which prevented him from seeing that England, not Holland, was the point against which his most vigorous attack should be directed, kept him occupied in futile campaigning on the Continent, until it was too late to strike an effective blow at England.
There were also court intrigues in the background, and James's propensity to trust the wrong people damaged his cause from the beginning. He was now in the hands of that audacious Gascon, De Lauzun, who had earned his gratitude by conveying the Queen and new-born Prince to France, and also had made himself agreeable at St. Germain. James had conferred upon him the Order of the Garter, and is said to have decorated him "with that very George which Charles I. had on the scaffold put into the hands of Juxon."
Lauzun now manoeuvred to obtain the refusal of the command of the proposed expedition to Ireland, which it seems their Britannic Majesties had promised him. He had made himself hateful to Louvois, Louis's Minister for War, who had proposed his own son as general commanding; and James's impolitic support of Lauzun's claims probably had something to do with Louvois' unwillingness to give him the assistance he so sorely needed. At the last moment Lauzun refused to go to Ireland, unless Louis would confer a dukedom upon him; and even this did not open James's eyes to the arrogant incompetence of this vain little bantam, whom Berwick graphically describes as a kind of licensed jester, turning everything into ridicule, but managing to worm his way into everybody's confidence. "He loved high play, and played most like a gentleman," and was better fitted for the intrigues of a Court than for hard campaigning. Finally he received his dukedom through the influence of the Queen of England, and consented to expatriate himself.
For the present, after some hesitation, James was graciously refused an army; but the Brest Fleet was placed at his disposition, with arms and ammunition for 10,000 men, and 500,000 crowns in gold (about £112,000). He took with him also about 400 officers and gunners, to aid in organising the Irish army. De Rosen, a hot-tempered Livonian, had the chief command, with De Maumont as lieutenant-general, De Pusignan and Lery as major-generals, Boisseleau as adjutant-general, and L'Estrade as quarter-master-general of cavalry.
Louis seems to have had some personal regard for James, and compassion for his misfortunes, and always treated him with the ceremonious respect due to his rank. On February 15th James paid his farewell visit at Versailles, and was most graciously received by Louis. There was, however, a certain polite irony in his reported words: "I hope that we are about to part, never to meet again in this world. That is the best wish I can form for you. But if any evil chance should force you to return, be assured that you will find me to the last such as you have found me hitherto." When, on Louis's return visit to St. Germain, they were actually parting, the Grand Monarque presented James with his own cuirass: "as Achilles lent his Vulcanian panopoly to Patroclus," said the court wits.
The Duke of Berwick and Sarsfield accompanied James to Ireland. Count d'Avaux went also, as Louis's Ambassador, to watch over James in the interests of France. Lord Melfort, James's old Secretary of State, who had recently become a Catholic, came over about the same time, and was at first James's most trusted counsellor. Before embarking at Brest, d'Avaux wrote confidentially to Louis, complaining of James's propensity to blab the most important secrets on the most inopportune occasions. As Macaulay picturesquely expresses it:—
"The very foremast men of the St. Michael (the ship in which he sailed) had already heard him say things which ought to have been reserved for the ears of his confidential advisers."
They landed at Kinsale on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day) says the Duke of Berwick, on March 12th, according to other contemporary authorities.
In Kinsale James was enthusiastically received by the Catholics, and even the Protestants expressed a timid allegiance, graciously accepted. In a day or two he entered Cork, where he was received by McCarthy. Thither Tyrconnell came from Dublin to meet him, and was created a duke. Thence, by bad roads, he made a slow but triumphal progress to Dublin.
"All along on the road the country came to meet his majesty with staunch loyalty, profound respect, and tender hove, as if he had been an angel from heaven. All degrees of people, of both sexes, were of the number, old and young; orations of welcome being made unto him at the entrance of each considerable town, and the young rural maids weaving of dances before him as he travelled. In a word, from Kinsale to Dublin the way was like a great fair, such crowds poured forth from their habitations to wait upon his Majesty, so that hew could not but take comfort amidst his misfortunes at the sight of such excessive fidelity and tenderness for his person in his Catholic people of Ireland."
In many places the long frieze coats of the peasantry were laid in the mire for his horses' feet to trample as they passed. In some the ladies insisted on kissing him, but were, after one or two salutations had been accepted, most ungallantly repulsed by his Britannic Majesty, who bade his escort keep them all at a distance.
He entered Dublin on Palm Sunday, March 24th, and was welcomed with all the magnificence the capital could afford. The streets were gravelled with sea-shingle, and strewn with flowers and green branches. Tapestries and rich stuffs were hung from the balconies. Bells rang, cannon pealed. There were processions, both civil and religious; and bands of Irish harps and bagpipes, "on stages erected in the streets, harmoniously played," making a joyful noise with loyal music. As the king approached the Castle, the Lord Deputy bearing before him the Sword of State, he was met by four bishops with a great cross, and the Host borne under a canopy. He paused devoutly before it, making a genuflexion, and was then conducted to the Chapel Royal, where a Te Deum was sung.
The next day he held a Council, and summoned a Parliament to meet in Dublin on the 7th of May.
It has been said that "in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." In James's case the multitude of his counsellors, next to his own ineptitude, was his greatest danger. Among those who now surrounded him, there was probably scarcely one who did not regard his sacred person as a puppet which he desired to manage dexterously for his own benefit, or that of his party.
There were two great parties frankly opposed: those who desired to make use of James for the sake of Ireland, and those who desired to make use of Ireland for the sake of James. These were, the old Irish party who desired to drive out the English settlers, and the English party who regarded Ireland as a province of England, and feared to interfere too much with the English garrison, even though they were heretics.
Of the Irish party, Sarsfield was the noblest representative; while James himself, at the head of the English party, despised the Irish, even as tools, and always regarded himself as King of England. In this he was encouraged by Melfort, who, being a Scotchman, desired that the king's restoration should come about by means of his own countrymen.
Besides these two parties there was a third, that of D'Avaux and the French, who, whatever happened, desired to increase the power of Louis in Europe, and to humble William. D'Avaux looked upon James as a mere chess-board king. He hoped nothing from the English Jacobites, and played for the establishment of a Catholic Ireland, separated from England, and protected by France. These views were shared by Louvois, who wrote to him:
"We must forget that he (James) was once King of England and Scotland, and think only of what may benefit Ireland and improve the means of subsistence there."
This was also at that time the policy of Tyrconnell, of whom D'Avaux wrote:—
"If he were born a Frenchman, he could not be more zealous for the interests of France."
Of Melfort he said:—
"He is neither a good Irishman nor a good Frenchman. All his affections are set on his own country."
Tyrconnell was really an opportunist, with a vision of his own estates and his personal aggrandisement in the background of his policy.
Melfort's desire was that James should leave half his army before Derry, while he should in person go over to Scotland with the other half, and thence make a descent upon the north of England. The author of Light to the Blind regrets that the king's delay in "the expugnation of Derry" caused the abandonment of this Scotch project.
The Duke of Berwick had been ordered to join Richard Hamilton in the north. They occupied Coleraine, and attacked and routed the enemy at Cladybridge, although they had to pass the river, the Foot on planks, the Horse swimming, in a place where there was no ford, in the face of a superior force. De Rosen soon coming up, also crossed the river, and drove the Protestants into Deny. Lundy, the Governor, was in command here, and is accused of having set the example of flight.
The king and D'Avaux, who had come from Dublin, tramping through horrible roads in a tempest of Protestant rain, now joined De Rosen and advanced upon Derry. The garrison, instigated by Lundy, were already in treaty with Hamilton for surrender on honourable conditions, Hamilton, during the negotiations, agreeing to remain with his army at Johnstown, four miles from Derry. De Rosen disregarded this condition, and told the king he had only to show himself in force before the town, summon it, and it would surrender.
This advice appealed to James's sense of his royal dignity, and he accordingly made his appearance with drums beating and colours dying, but was received with cries of "No surrender!" and his advance being taken as a breach of faith, a shot was fired from the walls, which killed an officer of his staff. He retreated to Johnstown, deeply grieved by the ingratitude of his Protestant subjects, whom he persuaded himself he had come to the North to protect; and soon afterwards returned to Dublin to raise fresh troops, taking with him De Rosen, and leaving Maumont, Hamilton, Pusignan, and Berwick to conduct the siege.
It is unnecessary to tell again the often-told story of the Siege of Derry, and the gallant defence made by the besieged, as Sarsfield does not seem to have been there. It lasted from April 20th to July 31st, 1689, and kept the greater part of James's army engaged during that time. Within a few days Maumont and Pusignan were killed in skirmishes before the walls. This evoked an angry remonstrance from Louvois to D'Avaux:—
"The bad conduct of affairs before Londonderry has cost the lives of M. de Maumont, and M. de Pusignan. His Brittanic Majesty must not think we can supply him with general officers to be killed like common soldiers. Such people are rare in all countries, and should be taken care of."
Other skirmishes followed, and on June 4th a general assault was made, and gallantly repulsed by the besieged. After this De Rosen resumed the command, and endeavoured to starve out the garrison, who were reduced to great extremities, when on July 30th the boom was burst by the "Mountjoy," the town relieved, and the besieging army drawn off.
In Dublin James had met his Parliament, the proceedings of which have been described and defended by Davis in his "Patriot Parliament," republished in the present series; and, therefore, need not be further noticed here.
Sarsfield sat in this Parliament as one of the members for the County of Dublin, but cannot have done much as a legislator, as he was soon sent with a body of 500 Life Guards to patrol the country about Lough Erne. On June 1st Narcissus Luttrell writes:—
"A great body of Protestants were got together at Enniskillen and Ballyshannon, and had defeated a detachment under the command of Colonel Sarsfield."
This defeat cannot have been very serious, as on June 10th Harris mentions that Sarsfield had marched to besiege Ballyshannon with a force of 500 or 600 men. It does not appear that he was successful in this attempt, as shortly afterwards reinforcements and stores were thrown into this important place from the sea.
The Jacobite attack was now concentrated upon Enniskillen, which was to be attacked simultaneously by McCarthy (now Lord Mountcashel), from Dublin; by the Duke of Berwick from the main body under De Rosen; and by Sarsfield from the Connaught side. The operations were mismanaged, and the bold Enniskilleners more than held their own. The Duke of Berwick was successful in some skirmishes, repulsing a force sent out from Enniskillen with considerable loss; but was recalled by De Rosen before he could effect a junction with Mountcashel. Sarsfield, left without reinforcements for which he had asked, had been defeated, as we have seen, and Mountcashel himself fared even worse.
Colonel Berry was sent from Enniskillen to raise the siege of Crom Castle, which Mountcashel was attacking, and met the advanced-guard of the Irish under Anthony Hamilton, whom he defeated at Lisnaskea. But, hearing that the main body under Mountcashel was advancing, he sent for reinforcements. Colonel Wolseley having come to his support, but having no provisions, a council of war was held, and it was put to the soldiers whether they would fight on empty stomachs or go back to Enniskillen. They answered with loud cheers, and vowed they would never turn their backs on the enemy. Thereupon their leaders formed them in order of battle, and advanced with the war-cry of "No Popery!" Mountcashel retreated, burnt Newtown-Butler, and took up a strong position behind it. But, being vigorously attacked by the Enniskilleners, his cavalry and dragoons took to flight, and the Foot, left unsupported, were soon completely routed and pursued with pitiless slaughter to the shores of Lough Erne, where many were shot in the water or drowned. The Enniskilleners are said to have been enraged by the cruelties practised by Lord Galmoy, and thus avenged them. Mountcashel, endeavouring to rally his men, was dangerously wounded, and carried prisoner to Enniskillen, whence he escaped by bribing his guards, and went over to France.
The raising of the Siege of Derry, and the crushing defeat at Newtown-Butler, gave the death-blow to James's hopes of mastering the sturdy rebels of Ulster. The death of Dundee at Killiecrankie, and the victory of the Cameronians at Dunkeld put an end to his chances in Scotland. His invasion of England was made impracticable, and he was himself invaded in Ireland. On the 12th of August, 1689, the Duke of Schomberg sailed from Highlake with some 20,000 men, entering Belfast Lough on August 13th.
Thus, in a few months, James's affairs, which looked promising on his arrival, had seriously changed for the worse.
THE REVERSES in Ulster and in Scotland disheartened James; they did not dishearten the Irish People. The news that Schomberg had invaded Ireland aroused all the patriotism of the country. Tyrconnell again worked splendidly in raising troops; the priests of the persecuted Catholic Church called upon their flocks to strike a last blow for their liberties and their religion, and the call was responded to with the utmost enthusiasm. All the manhood of Ireland was ready to enlist, if only arms, not to be had in sufficient numbers, could be obtained. If not, they were eager to do their best with scythes, pitchforks, and the native pike, the weapon consecrated in Shelley's verse as—
Of those who war but on their native ground
For natural rights."
The Ireland for which two rival kings were about to contend was now, after nearly half a century of peace, singularly prosperous. Contemporary writers on both sides are unanimous as to this. It was "a land worth fighting for," as William said, when he was approaching the Boyne Water—a land abounding in rich cornfields, wheat, and other kinds of grain; abounding, too, in flocks and herds, mountain sheep, and hardy Irish cows, ranging the riverside inches, or the upland pastures, in thousands; a land, also, of good horses, from the great horse of the trooper to the small but enduring little Irish "garron," whose praises Ginkel sings in his letters. It was a land capable of supporting the appalling ravages of this three years' war, in which the destruction of property was unprecedented even in Ireland. Never was such reckless waste. When a Rapparee wanted a new pair of brogues, he killed the first cow he came across, wrapping his feet in strips of her fresh hide, and leaving the carcase to rot. This was a type of what went on perpetually—waste, wanton waste, in great things and in small. Yet a general famine did not occur.
The nominal strength of James's new army was enormous. The gaps which a year of ill-conducted struggle had made in the ranks were filled over and over again. The small bodies of cavalry under Hamilton, Sarsfield, Lord Galmoy, and other captains, were well-mounted and tolerably well-appointed, and formed the flower of the army. The dragoons were inferior, yet still serviceable; but the infantry were little better than half-armed and half-drilled Rapparees, living as best they could on plunder; useful for guerilla warfare, but not always to be depended on in the field against regular troops. They were stalwart, brave, full of enthusiasm; and under a leader like Sarsfield, whom they loved and trusted, capable of doing all that men in their circumstances could do. And now they were full of hope that Schomberg might be driven out of the country before William himself arrived.
Schomberg, meanwhile, attacked Carrickfergus, the governor of which, Charles MacCarthy Mor, capitulated after a week's vigorous siege, the garrison being allowed to march out with drums beating, colours flying, lighted matches, and "ball in mouth," to join the Duke of Berwick at Newry. In spite of this warlike show, they narrowly escaped massacre by the Protestant inhabitants of the district, and had to be protected by the victorious army. Schoenberg himself, who "sate an horse the best of any man," active still, though about eighty years of age, rode up and down, pistol in hand, threatening to shoot any one who offered them violence. Story tells how the Irish of the town were maltreated by the "Irish Scots," the women stripped, and their arms forced from the men.
"The poor Irish were forced to fly to the soldiers for protection, else the country people would certainly have used them severely; so angry were they one at another, tho' all live in a country."
Of the governor he says:—
"The articles were scarce agreed to, till Mackarty Moor was in the Duke's Kitchen in the Camp, which the Duke smiled at, and did not invite him to dinner, saying: If he had staid like a Soldier with his Men, he would have sent to him; but if he would go and eat with Servants in a Kitchen, let him be doing."
Schomberg then advanced to Loughbrickland, where he was joined by the Enniskilliners, raising the army to about 20,000 men. Thence he went on to Carlingford, which he found deserted and burnt. Newry was still held by the Duke of Berwick with a small force. He made a show of defending it with new works, but on Schomberg's approach, burned it and retired to Drogheda, where James, with the main body, had hoisted his standard on the castle.
While James was in Dublin, Dr. King (afterwards Archbishop), was confined in the castle, where he kept a diary, in which he complains of rude treatment by his gaoler, whose exorbitant fees he would not pay; and also of insults to the Protestants of Dublin. He was, however, allowed to preach every Sunday, a wonderful leniency for "Popish bigots."
On August 26th, 1689, he writes:—
"The king went away about 11 of the clock; his guards appeared to us to be very ill-mounted."
James, with little money and scant credit, had been obliged to issue brass tokens for currency, and on August 28th, King says:—"Brass monie was 3 shillings in the pound for exchange." Later, in June, 1690, the guinea fetched £3 10s., £4, and at last £5 in this coinage. From its first minting to the Battle of the Boyne, from a million to a million and a half was issued.
Brass itself grew scarce. On September 29th, King has the significant entry:—
"The great gun which lay in the Castle yard was taken away in order to be melted and coined."
James, as a gentle hint to the Most Christian King, of his pecuniary difficulties, wrote to him respecting this dearth of brass. Louis very courteously sent him a couple of damaged guns in reply.
In the Memoirs we are told that the king was all for fighting Schomberg:—
"He was resolved not to be tamely walked out of Ireland, but to have one blow for it at least."
De Rosen and the French officers are accused of having advised him to abandon Dublin and retreat to the Shannon. D'Avaux and Tyrconnell supported him in his resolution that:—
"He would not doe so irrational a thing, and make so shameful a retreat unless he was forced to it."
Accordingly he went boldly to meet Schomberg, who entrenched himself at Dundalk, and waited on events. De Rosen occupied Ardee, "Schomberg wants something," he surmised. This was true; that cautious veteran was without his guns, not yet landed at Carlingford. The Jacobite army advanced to Affan Bridge, on the Fane river, about three miles from Dundalk, cutting off a portion of Schomberg's foraging ground. An ineffectual attempt was made to occupy the pass of Newry, and take him in the rear, but the detachment sent was too weak, and was promptly driven back by the enemy's cavalry.
About this time a conspiracy among some Catholic refugees, who had crept in among the Huguenots, with the object of betraying the weak point of the camp to James, was discovered. It was organised by Du Plessis, a French officer; but some of his accomplices, being suspected, were searched, and letters to D'Avaux found upon them. Du Plessis was arrested, confessed, and was hanged with five others; and about 250 Catholics were disarmed and sent prisoners to England.
James now made a reconnaissance in force, but could not tempt Schoenberg from his lines. "Let them alone, we will see what they will do," he said, when pressed by his officers to attack the Jacobite army. De Rosen advised James to storm the entrenchments; but when it came to the point, the king feared to hazard an engagement, and drew off his army to Ardee, where he remained idle for some weeks. It may be that with such troops as he had, his caution was not unwise, but he might have done more to annoy Schomberg, and force him to quit his camp, than he did. Had De Rosen's advice been taken, the attack might possibly have been successful, if made at night upon Schomberg's right flank, while a feint was made in front, as his army was badly disciplined, and was already suffering much from malarious fever. But this would have been a difficult operation, requiring a combination of skill and audacity, and failure would have been fatal.
De Rosen, "subject to passion, even to a degree of madness," as Berwick says, enraged by the king's want of spirit, threw up his command and went back to France in the spring of 1690. D'Avaux also was recalled. He had offended James by constantly volunteering advice. It is much to James's credit that he rejected with indignation one abominable suggestion of the unscrupulous French ambassador, who proposed a general massacre of the Protestant population—an Irish St. Bartholomew, in fact.
During the month of September, Schomberg occupied himself in further fortifying his camp and disciplining his army, especially in the use of their firelocks, and in sending out parties of the Enniskilliners as skirmishers. Their "little Cromwell," Colonel Lloyd, who had defeated Sarsfield on his way from Sligo in July, now in September came over the Curlew Mountains from Sligo, and falling on a detachment of the Connaught Militia sent by Sarsfield under Colonels O'Kelly, Dillon, and Burke, to join the king's army, completely routed them, O'Kelly (author of Macariae Excidium), favoured by a fog, escaped with the cavalry; but many prisoners were taken, and O'Kelly's papers and a booty of cattle fell into the hands of the Enniskilliners.
"Schomberg," says Harris, "was so pleased with the news, that he ordered extraordinary rejoicings in the camp by firing all the canon planted around it, which was also done from the ships of war lying in the bay of Carlingford." The Irish at first thought a new army had landed; "but when they understood the occasion, they put the best countenance they could on the matter by not appearing much concerned at the loss."
Sarsfield, hitherto only entrusted with small bodies of men, was now given his first important command. He was sent into Connaught, with a strong detachment, to check the successes of the enemy there. James, from his own intellectual pinnacle, regarded him as "a brave fellow, but very scantily supplied with brains." D'Avaux had a much higher opinion of him.
"Sarsfield," he writes to Lonvois, October 21st, 1689, "is not a man of the birth of my Lord Galloway (Galmoy ) nor of Makarty (Mountcashel), but he is a man distinguished by his merit, who has more influence in this kingdom than any man I know. He has valour, but above all, honour and probity which is proof against any assault. I had all the trouble in the world to get him made a brigadier, although my Lord Tyrconnell strongly opposed this, saying he was a very brave man, but that he had no head. Nevertheless, my Lord Tyrconnell sent him into the province of Connaught with a handful of men; he raised 2,000 more on his own credit, and with these troops he preserved the whole province for the king."
With five regiments, Sarsfield marched into Connaught. The garrison of Jamestown fled at his approach to Sligo; and Sarsfield, making a forced march, appeared before that town the same night. Colonel Russell retired with the horse to Ballyshannon, advising Lloyd, who commanded the Enniskillen Foot, and St. Sauveur, with his French grenadiers, to follow. They, however, determined to hold the two forts; but Lloyd, not having provisions, managed to escape in the night, leaving St. Sauveur, who, after burning a wooden machine called a "sow," under cover of which Sarsfield's men were advancing to the walls, made a gallant sally, but, finding the Irish too strong for them, capitulated, and was allowed to march out. Sarsfield stood on a bridge over which they had to pass, offering five guineas to any man who would serve King James. They all scornfully refused "to fight for Papishes," except one, who took the guineas, but salved his conscience by deserting. After this, Sarsfield garrisoned Galway, and by his unwearied vigilance in Connaught "preserved the province for his Majesty."
As the season advanced, Schomberg's camp became an unwholesome swamp—flooded by the autumn rains. A pestilence had broken out, which raged like the sword of the angel that smote Sennacherib, as Sir Richard Nagle expresses it, in a pamphlet meant to be circulated among Schomberg's men. Soon some 3,000 men were dead, and still the plague went on. The troops, in spite of their general's increasing exertions, became demoralized by inaction, and fell into reckless despair, which took the form of ghastly revelry. They made seats of the corpses of their dead comrades, sang ribald songs, and drank "healths to the devil!"—grumbling when the patrols came to carry the dead to burial, because they were then forced to sit on the damp ground.
On October 12th, Schomberg writes to William to excuse his inactivity:
"If your Majesty were well informed of the state of our Army and that of our enemy, the nature of the Country and the Situation of the two camps, I do not believe you would wish me to risk an attack. If we did not succeed, your Majesty's Army would be without resource. I make use of the time; for I do not believe, if it was once put in disorder, that it could be re-established."
James's army suffered also, though not to anything like the same extent; and, at last, without striking a blow, they decamped, the king returning to Dublin. Schomberg lost altogether 6,000 men before he went into winter quarters, and 2,000 to 3,000 more subsequently. If he had been attacked when forced to move with his demoralized army, encumbered with waggon-loads of sick, he might have sustained a severe defeat. He was suffered to decamp unmolested, and was soon hard at work reorganizing his army, who all were billeted upon the inhabitants about Belfast. James, meanwhile, amused himself in Dublin with disgraceful amours, leaving his army to take care of itself.
"There were two frightfully ugly creatures," says the Duchess of Orleans, "with whom he was on the most intimate terms."
They were no doubt taken "as a penance," as Charles said of his former mistresses.
In December, William had determined to conduct the war in person, and urged on his preparations with his usual vigour. Early in March, Schomberg was reinforced by a body of 7,000 Danes, and new regiments were being raised in Scotland, Cheshire, Lancashire, and Cumberland.
Rowland Davies (chaplain in Lord Cavendish's English regiment of Horse) writes in his diary, April 2nd:—
"The Danes are almost all in Ireland, which so disheartened the Irish that King James issued a proclamation that no man should report they were landed on pain of death."
The proclamation seems apocryphal, but the Danes were still a bugbear in the Irish imagination.
On the 14th March, 1690, Lauzun, having obtained his dukedom, landed at Kinsale with 7,290 French troops sent by Louis. Louvois still strongly objected to giving Lauzun the command, but James and his queen would hear of no one else. Louvois's last instructions to him were:—
"Do not, for God's sake, suffer yourself to be hurried away by your desire of fighting. Put all your glory in tiring the English out; and, above all things, maintain strict discipline."
Lauzun certainly heroically repressed whatever "desire of fighting" he may have had.
For these French troops, James was to send Louis some 4,000 to 5,000 picked men of the Irish. He actually sent 4,898 men and 259 officers. Marshall d'Estrées, who saw this nucleus of the famous Irish Brigade on their arrival at Brest, thus describes them:—
"Badly shod, badly clad, nothing in the shape of uniform in their clothes, except that they are all vilainously apparelled."
But uniforms were then a recent innovation, even in the armies of the Grand Monarque.
These troops were to be placed under the command of Lord Mountcashel, then under arrest in Paris for an alleged breach of parole at Enniskillen, of which he was subsequently acquitted. In the letter before quoted, D'Avaux further tells Louvois he was most anxious to obtain Sarsfield's services for Louis. But James had now begun to suspect that he was not altogether worthless.
"I asked the King of England," says D'Avaux, "for a man named Sarsfield for one of the colonels, to go into France and command the corps. The king was so pleased (with his services in Connaught) that when I asked for Sarsfield he told me that I wanted to take all his officers, that he would not give him to me, and that I was unreasonable, and walked three times round the room in great anger. I bore all this meekly; and meanwhile I had a notion of my own, a very good one, as to Sarsfield; I obtained a promise from him that he would not go to France except to command this corps under the orders of Makarty; so that if Makarty got out of prison he should still have the chief command, with Sarsfield under him, while, if he remained a prisoner, Sarsfield should have the sole command...Sarsfield will, I believe, be extremely useful, as he is a man who will always be at the head of his troops, and will take great care of them. If Makarty should not get out of prison, you will in any case have in Sarsfield a good commander, whom other first-class colonels will obey well, which they will not do with another."
In the same letter D'Avaux says that Tyrconnell, fearing that the intrigues of Lauzun will ruin Ireland, has tendered his resignation. If he resigns, the majority of the Irish will join Schomberg. D'Avaux has persuaded him to reconsider the matter.
The fleet which brought Lauzun and the French troops took the Irish Brigade to France, and with them went De Rosen, and D'Avaux.
Lauzun, on arriving at Kinsale, found no preparations to receive him, no sheds for his stores, no transport horses, no carriages, no waggons; owing to Lord Dover's mismanagement, it was said. He had to march by bad roads, through a desolated country, to Dublin. There the men were quartered on the Protestants, their pay being threepence a day, three times the nominal pay of the Irish, Lauzun had quarters in Dublin Castle. His salary as Commander-in-Chief was fixed at £10,000 a year, the same as that of the Lord Deputy. It was to be paid, not in base coin, but in good French gold. Finding, however, the treasury nearly exhausted, he generously refused to draw it. He gave Louvois a terrible account of the mismanagement of James's affairs in Ireland.
The first important event of the campaign of 1690 was the taking of Charlemont Castle on the Black-water, on the north-eastern border of Armagnac. This castle had been built in 1602 by the Lord Deputy Mountjoy to keep the Earl of Tyrone, who had a strong fort at Dungannon, in order. It stood in a well-chosen position, in a narrow angle at the confluence of the Callan and Blackwater, was well defended by bogs on the east and south, and by the Blackwater, 36 ft. wide and 16 ft. deep, on the north and west. It had a double rampart, in front of a massive wall, with flanking-towers and bastions. It was held for James by a tough old soldier, Teague O'Regan.
Schomberg, well supplied from the sea, was able to take the field before the Irish, whose commissariat was in a bad way. He had sent Caillemote and Cambon, with two regiments of Huguenots, to invest it, and the garrison were soon reduced to extremities, Melfort having sent them no supplies. On May and James sent Colonel MacMahon, with 500 men and a scanty supply of ammunition and provisions, to relieve it. Schomberg gave orders that they should be allowed to pass in with a slight show of resistance; but when, provisions being exhausted, they attempted to cut their way out again, they were repeatedly repulsed. O'Regan, enraged at this, swore that "if they could not make; their way, they should have no entertainment within." They had to remain outside the castle, in tents on the counterscarp!
Teague was now summoned to surrender, but roared a high defiance to Schomberg's messenger. "Tell your master," said he, "that he's an old knave, and by St. Patrick he shall not have the place."
Schomberg replied that "Teague should have greater cause for anger before long," sent for reinforcements, and soon starved out the garrison of 800 men.
On May 3rd they capitulated, and were allowed to march out with arms and baggage, women and children.
"Old Teague, the Governor," says Story, "was mounted upon an old horse, and he very lamp with the scratches, spavin, ring-bones, and other infirmities; but withal so vicious that he would fall a-kicking and squealing if anybody came near him. Teague himself had a great bunch upon his back, a plain red coat, an old weather-beaten wig hanging down at full length, a little narrow white beaver cocked up, a yellow cravat-string, but that all one aide, his boots with a thousand wrinkles in them; and though it was a very hot day, yet he had a great muff hanging about him, and to crown all, he was almost tipsy with brandy...The Duke, seeing so many women and children, ask'd THE REASON OF KEEPING SUCH A NUMBER IN THE GARRISON, WHICH, NO DOUBT, DESTROYED THEIR PROVISIONS? He was answered that the Irish WERE NATURALLY VERY HOSPITABLE, AND THAT THEY ALL FARED ALIKE, but that the greatest reason was THAT THE SOLDIERS WOULD NOT STAY IN THE GARRISON WITHOUT THEIR WIVES AND MISTRESSES. The Duke replied that there was more love than policy in it."
William, meanwhile, had been delayed in England by a Jacobite conspiracy, of which Lord Preston was the head. Lord Dartmouth also, who had given up the fleet to William, was now said to be plotting to destroy the English ships and arsenals, and was sent to the Tower.
On June 14th, 1690, having settled his affairs in England, William landed at Carrickfergus, where he was soon in command of an army of at least 36,000 men—English, Dutch, Danes, French, Brandenburghers, Scotch Presbyterians, and Irish Protestants, most of them veteran troops. Story says:—
"The Army was in all respects as well provided as any kingdom in the world had one, for the number of men."
At Loughbrickland the energetic Dutchman reviewed his troops in full muster. It was a dry day, with a high wind which filled men's eyes and mouths with dust.
Story thought:—"This might be uneasy to a king. But He (Story, in speaking of William, affects the capital II) was no sooner come than He was in amongst the throng of them, and observed every regiment very critically; this pleased the soldiers mightily, and every one was ready to give what demonstrations it was possible, both of his courage and duty."
William usually slept in the camp, in a portable wooden hut.
The first skirmish was won by the Irish, who took a Captain Farlow and "ten men" in an ambush, says Davies. He was sent to Dublin Castle, where, after the Battle of the Boyne, he did William good service.
James now began a hasty and ill-managed retreat, abandoning pass after pass, and his advanced post at Newry, burning Dundalk, and retiring to Drogheda, closely pursued by William, whose fleet sailed along the coast as the army advanced. On June 27th William marched from Newry through the abandoned pass of Moira, "where," says Davies, "the enemy, if they had any spirit, might easily have stopped us for a time." About ten o'clock that day he encamped at Dundalk, near Schomberg's old camp. Next day he pushed on with a detachment of dragoons to Ardee, which James had just quitted. On the 29th the entire army, decamping at two o'clock in the morning, came to Ardee. William was determined to preserve discipline and repress plundering. But, in spite of frequent hangings,. this was difficult. An incident related by Story, without out note or comment, exemplifies the murderous wantonness of men with arms in their hands:—
"As the army were marching through Ardee, a French soldier happened to be very sick with drinking water, and despairing to live, plucked out his beads and fell to his prayers which one of the Danes seeing, shot the Frenchman dead and took away his musket without any further ceremony."
On Monday, the 30th of June, William marched from Ardee to the Boyne, where he found James at last awaiting him.
"I am glad to see you, gentlemen," said he, "if you escape now it will be my own fault."
WHEN it was known that William was about to invade Ireland, a Council of War, marked by some division of opinion, was held in Dublin. One proposal was that James, being much inferior in strength, should avoid a pitched battle, and, abandoning the North and Dublin, should retreat beyond the Shannon, defend the passes into Connaught, and make a last stand at Limerick, until reinforced from France. Louis, meanwhile, it was hoped, would sweep the Channel with his fleet, destroy William's transports, and so keep him imprisoned in Ireland, where be might be gradually wearied out by a guerilla warfare. Of this policy Harris says:—
"This scheme would have proved fatal had it taken effect, and the execution seemed easy and certain."
The alternative scheme was the defence of Dublin, which had no fortifications of any kind, by blocking the passes out of Ulster, and thus preventing William's advance. James halted between two opinions, and carried out neither scheme effectively.
Now, at the Boyne, he drifted into an engagement, having apparently resolved not to fight. In the Journal kept in Dublin by a Protestant "Person of Quality" we are told:—
"We know King James's design was to avoid a Mattel as much as he could, and to have walked the English army along the Boys river, and so across the country to Limerick."
This is confirmed by James's own Memoirs, in which he is said to have come to a "resolution of avoiding a battle all he could." When he came to the Boyne,
"Finding that position an indifferent good one (and, indeed, the country afforded no better), he set up his rest there, and resolved to expect the enemy, though he had not above twenty thousand men, and the others between forty and fifty thousand."
He hazarded a battle because he was loath to abandon Dublin and all Leinster. He seems, however, to have despaired of his chances at the Boyne, and to have contemplated a retreat upon Dublin, an absurd piece of strategy, the place not being tenable.
"On Sunday," (June 29th), says the Person of Quality, "the Irish came to this side the Boyne; and King James, as it should seem, distrusting the issue, Sir Pat Trent, First Commissioner of the Revenue, and another gentleman, were ordered to go from hence on Monday morning to Waterford, to prepare ships."
He was thus already preparing for his flight to France.
As William approached the Boyne, he saw, from a hill at some distance from the northern or Louth bank, the whole extent of James's encampment on the Hill of Donore, at the Meath side of the river. His army mustered, at most, twenty-six thousand men, William outnumbering him, even by Story's computation, by some ten thousand. Other authorities make the superiority still greater, giving him an army of forty-five to fifty thousand men.
James's position was not ill-chosen. The main direction of the Boyne in its course from Slane to Drogheda, about eight miles as the crow flies, is from west to east; but around the Hill of Donore it bends abruptly to the north, and then, making a semicircular curve, turns again to the south-east and runs straight to Drogheda. On the tongue of land between Donore and the curving river lies the battle-field. The Hill of Don ore, more or less steep on its western slope, sinks away on the north in gradual undulations to the Boyne. On the low ground, close to the water's edge, a little below the present bridge, which spans the river near the obelisk, stood the little village of Oldbridge, of which there are now few traces. Here the river is easily fordable at low-water, the tide coming up a little further than the shallows below the bridge, which was not then built. At Rosnaree, between Oldbridge and Slane, but nearer to Slane, there was a ford where cavalry could cross, and at Slane there was then, as now, a bridge.
Between Rosnaree and Oldbridge the river curves round a great plain, in which lie the ancient tumuli, known as Knowth, New Grange, and Dowth, which tradition hallows as the burial places of the Kings of the Tuath De Danann, conquered by the invading sons of Milith. Many centuries looked down on William's fight for Ireland, as they did on Napoleon's for Egypt.
James's wretched little train of artillery, twelve small pieces belonging to the French, divided into two batteries, and placed, the one on a rising ground a little to the south of Oldbridge, the other opposite to the "Yellow Island" commanded the fords. Some slight breastworks had been hastily thrown up, one close to the river, the other behind the village, to protect Tyrconnell's dragoons, who defended Oldbridge.
William's camp was pitched behind the heights of Tullyallen, a hill of considerable extent, and rising boldly from the fiat land on the Louth side of the river. This hill was intersected by two defiles, on which the extremities of William's lines rested. On his right was a deep gorge, "King William's Glen," through which the road to the bridge now runs, but then opening about two hundred yards from the river banks, and blocked from view of the enemy's camp. His whole army might have been concealed here, screened from cannon-shot. On his left was the other narrower and shallower ravine.
By these two defiles the river could be reached in a few minutes. In order to understand the events of the battle, it must be borne in mind that while James's movements were distinctly visible from William's position, William was enabled to conceal his from James until the moment of attack.
While his army was coming into camp, William, accompanied by Schomberg, De Solmes, Ormond, Prince George of Hesse, and others, rode down to the river, to look at the fords by Oldbridge, and discover the best place for attempting the passage of the river. Having made his observation, he sat down on a rising-ground to take some refreshment, and while he was there Tyrconnell, Sarsfield, Parker, and some other Jacobite officers, were seen to ride along the opposite bank, observing the Williamite troops as they marched into camp, over the heights behind Tullyallen.
"Whilst his Majesty sat an the grass (being about an hour)," says Story, "there came some of the Irish with long guns and shot at our dragoons, who went down to the river to drink, and some of ours went down to return the favour; then a party of about fifty horse advanced very slowly and stood upon a plowed field over against us for near half an hour. This small party brought two field pieces amongst them, dropping them by an hedge in the plowed land, undiscovered; they did not offer to fire them till his Majesty was mounted, and then, he and the rest riding softly the same way back, their gunner fires a piece which killed us two horses and a man, about a hundred yards above where the king was, but immediately came a second which had almost been a fatal one, for it grained upon the bank of the river, and in the rising slanted upon the king's right shoulder, took out a piece of his coat, and tore the skin and flesh, and afterwards broke the head of a gentleman's pistol."
Mr. Coningsby, afterwards one of the Lords Justices for Ireland, bound up the wound with his handkerchief, and William after a while retired to have it properly dressed. His torn buff coat was given to Colonel Thompson, and is still in the possession of his family at Ravensdale.
When William was struck, he leaned for a moment on his horse's neck, and the Irish, thinking he was killed, raised "a prodigious shout." The news of his death soon reached Paris, and was the occasion of illuminations and bonfires.
The guns came up at three o'clock. William, stronger in the numbers, discipline and appointments of his men, was immensely stronger in artillery. He had, as against James's twelve six-pounders, 30 guns, some heavy, and some mortars. The guns were planted on two hillocks near the mouths of the two defiles, just opposite the two small Irish batteries. Colonel Bellingham, who attended William as guide, says in his Journal:—
"The cannon fir'd at caste (? point blank) all the afternoon, and our cannon dismounted two of the enemy's batteries."
He apparently means two guns. Story says one gun, and tells how the mortars threw their bombs into a portion of James's camp near the river, which caused the removal of the tents to a position higher up on the hill of Donore. The cannonade on both sides continued till near nightfall.
In the evening, June 30th, James held a council of war, in which Hamilton, who seems to have been the only general who anticipated William's attack on the Irish left flank and the Dublin road, by Slane, advised James to send eight regiments to defend this important point. James, with his usual stupid obstinacy, proposed to send but fifty dragoons. He was thinking chiefly of his retreat to Dublin, and detached six of his twelve guns to guard his baggage, which was sent off early next morning.
That same evening Schomberg, always cautious, endeavoured to dissuade William from attacking the Irish in such a strong position, but, as Light to the Blind expresses it, "he was overruled by the temerariousness of Orange." He then strongly advised him to make the flank attack by Slane foreseen by Hamilton, and to make it that very night. This was too good a stroke of generalship to have originated with anyone save the king himself. Schomberg was, therefore, judiciously snubbed, and retired to his tent, feeling that he had been treated as a superannuated veteran whose services were no longer required. When the order of battle was sent him he received it with indifference, merely saying: "It was the first that ever was sent him."
At midnight William rode by torchlight through all his camp, inspecting everything and giving his last orders; a striking figure with plumed hat, flowing wig, and long jack-boots, the flare of the torches accentuating his emphatic nose; his sallow face pale from fatigue, but his eyes bright and penetrating. He gave "Westminster" as his watchword, and ordered his men to wear green sprigs in their hats to distinguish them from the Irish, who, in compliment to their French allies, wore the white cockade. Thus did the great Orangeman take seizin of the future Irish colour* in this remarkable "wearing of the green." His day's work done, having been nineteen hours in the saddle he turned in, "with eager expectation of the glorious approaching day," as his "Royal Diary" tells us. How James felt he has not particularly recorded.
* Green does not seem to have been adopted as the national colour until the days of the United Irishmen.
The fateful day, Tuesday, July 1st, was splendid.
"A joyful day, excessive hot," says Bellingham. "The day was very clear," says Story, "as if the sun itself had a mind to see what would happen."
James had so far taken Hamilton's advice as to send Sir Neal O'Neale with his regiment of dragoons, six squadrons, or some 800 men, to the ford of Rosnaree below Slane. It proved to be a miserably insufficient force, as William now showed himself a great general by himself planning that flank attack by Slane, which Schomberg had so impertinently anticipated. True, he had lost some hours in making this movement, but he made it, and this movement decided the battle, though not the campaign, as it might have done but for Schomberg's want of tact in dealing with his royal master.
Shortly after sunrise the English guns began to thunder on the Irish lines, and shortly after sunrise William detached his right wing under Portland and Overkirk, with Count Meinhart Schomberg commanding the Horse, and Lieutenant-General Douglas the Scotch and English Foot guards, to pass the river by Slane and turn James's left flank. The detachment consisted of twenty-four squadrons of Horse and six regiments of Foot, or some 5,000 Horse and 8,000 Foot.
This movement of the English right wing cannot have been perceived from James's camp for some time, as they would naturally pass behind a hill now in Townley Park demesne, crossing the Mattock River at Monk-Newton, some distance above its junction with the Boyne near Oldbridge. They would not come into view until they debouched upon the Boyne. The Horse, under Portland and Count Schomberg, came down by Knowth and crossed at Rosnaree, the Foot, under Douglas, passed by the Bridge of Slane. As the Williamite cavalry came down to the ford at Rosnaree they were gallantly opposed by O'Neale with his 800 dragoons, who held them in check for about an hour, until their park of artillery, three small field pieces, which probably crossed with the Foot at Slane, came up, and O'Neale was mortally wounded. The Irish then retreated in the direction of Duleek, pursued by the united force of the enemy's Horse and Foot.
Lauzun, seeing that William's right wing had crossed the river and were outflanking him, now did hastily what he ought to have done at his leisure before. He marched by his Left with the whole of his left wing, consisting chiefly of the French troops, the best disciplined and equipped portion of the army. As they began their march they were exposed to a heavy fire from William's guns, which, Story tells us, "did not disorder their ranks."
William, meanwhile, attacking with his right, refused his main body, commanded by Schoenberg, and kept it well under cover. He himself directed the fire of his batteries, one of which played upon the stone houses of the village of Oldbridge and the low breast-works near it. To this constant artillery fire the Irish could not reply, as now the six small guns, not sent to Dublin, were drawn off by Lauzun and accompanied the left wing, thus leaving the fords undefended, except by the matchlocks of the Irish infantry and dragoons, who formed the advanced guard of the main body. The right wing, composed of cavalry, was stationed about half-way between Oldbridge and Drogheda.
James, it is evident from his Memoirs, thought that William's whole army was about to pass at Slane. H is one idea, therefore, was to bring up as large a force as possible to meet him there.
"The king went to the right, to hasten up the troops to follow Lauzun, believing the main body of the enemy's army was following their right."
He would have drawn away the whole of his own main body, left to guard the fords at Oldbridge, if Tyrconnell, or somebody else, had not persuaded him to leave a portion of it behind. His reason for leaving even Tyrconnell's dragoons and two brigades of his first line, "drawn up before Oldbridge," is very characteristic.
"He did not see fit to draw them" from this post, "the cannon and baggage not, being far enough advanced on their way to Dublin."
That is to say, this poor futile creature, who afterwards had the impudence to accuse the Irish of cowardice, was still thinking only of his retreat to Dublin, and, as he tells us himself, took with him the whole of his reserve, both Horse and Foot, posted on the Hill of Donore, leaving his much-weakened centre and right wing to defend the fords against the greater part of William's army, some 30,000 men. Let it be distinctly understood that the raw Irish levies, badly disciplined, half-armed, without artillery, and with no general in supreme command, were left to face some of the best troops in Europe, by whom they were outnumbered by about three to one. Their defence of the fords, was, under the circumstances, heroic.
In coming up with Lauzun, the king found him drawn up in line of battle, facing the enemy, who had now advanced some distance on their way to Duleek. These two detachments, the English right and the Irish left wing, were now separated from their respective centres by an interval of some two or three miles. Divided by a bog, they remained watching each other for a considerable time, without firing a shot. Portland waited for William to make his attack at Oldbridge; James waited for the troops he had left at Oldbridge to come up. The flank movement had succeeded, inasmuch as it had divided the Irish army; it had failed otherwise, as Portland did nothing. At half past ten in the morning, William, having heard that his right wing had passed the river, gave the word for the attack at Oldbridge. The Irish had been thrown into some confusion by James's withdrawal of troops from the centre. Left without further orders, ignorant of what was taking place on the left, and probably not expecting that William's main attack would be made at the fords, they were taken by surprise when it was made. Tyrconnell's dragoons occupied Oldbridge, and lined the hedges and breastworks near the river, and some seven battalions of Foot had been moved down from Donore to support them, and had taken up a position behind the rising ground which afforded some shelter from the incessant artillery fire, which they had no means of returning.
Schoenberg was in command of the main body, chiefly infantry, which was to cross at Oldbridge, taking the water in four divisions at four different places. William himself led the left wing, chiefly cavalry, which was to go over by a deep ford, only passable for mounted men, near Drogheda. This place, locally known as "Pass," is just below Yellow Island.
Suddenly the bugles rang out, and from the mouth of William's Glen appeared the Blue Dutch Guards. Down they came, at the double, in the hot July sunshine, straight down to the Boyne, marching in column, drums heating, colours flying, and fifes, they say, screaming out the insulting tune of "Lillibullero," followed by the French and Enniskillen Foot. The Dutch took the river highest up the stream, the French and Enniskilliners dashing into the water by Grove Island, through the reeds and osiers of which they struggled. Then came Sir John Hanmer and Count Nassau with their regiments; and lastly the Danes and Germans, who had probably come down by the eastern defile, entered between the two islands, where the water was up to their arm-pits. In a few minutes the river was full of men, fighting the sullied stream in the excitement of their first reckless onset.
As the Dutch plunged in, holding high their newfangled flint-lock "snap-haunces," their drums suddenly stopped, as they found themselves waist-deep in the water.
"For they stopped the current by their sudden motion, and thus made it deeper than usual."
The Rubicon of the Pale fought against the foreign invaders; and had they been opposed by anything like an equal force on the Meath bank, their passage would have been well-nigh impossible.
The Irish reserved their fire until the Dutch were halfway across, and then, says Story, "a whole peal of shot came from the hedges, breastworks and houses." But, like all raw troops, Tyrconnell's men fired hastily and high. Their badly-directed fire was ineffectual, and the Dutch, wet as they were, formed up gallantly on the bank, returned it briskly, and soon drove the dragoons, left for a while unsupported, from their breastworks. Many of these bold dragoons simply turned tail and ran away, never stopping, it is said, until they got to Dublin. This is the one scrap of fact at the bottom of the French legend of Irish cowardice. They were, at any rate, driven back, scattered, into the next field; but before the Dutch, who sent a volley after them, could pursue, they were themselves "charged very bravely by a squadron of the Irish Horse," who were, however, soon beaten off.
Then began that confused melée, skirmish after skirmish, without much generalship on either side, which has been dignified with the name of the Battle of the Boyne. The seven battalions of Irish Foot started from their ambush behind the sheltering hillock, and soon the cavalry of the right wing came up to their support.
"One would have thought," Story goes on, "that men and horses had risen out of the earth, for now there appeared a great many battalions and squadrons of the enemy, all on a sudden, who had stood behind the little hills."
Richard Hamilton, who, for his promptness of action and gallant leadership that day, deserves to be called the hero of the Boyne, did all that a brave man could do to hold his own against long odds. He led a body of Foot down to the bank of the Boyne, and attacked the two regiments of Huguenots under Caillemote and Cambon while still crossing, dashing into the water himself to encourage his men. He had ordered Lord Antrim to make, at the same time, a flank attack upon Sir John Hanmer and Count Nassau, who were crossing some 200 yards further down. But the regiment of Antrim behaved badly, refusing to advance, and his own men did little better. A panic had fallen upon the undisciplined Irish Foot, who deserted their gallant leader, broke and scattered, some of them possibly following the bad example of the dragoons, and leaving the field altogether.
Hamilton, however, managed to escape from his perilous position with his life; and a squadron of Horse fortunately coming up, he placed himself at their head and led them to the charge. Under his leadership they behaved splendidly, sabring the men of Hanmer's and Nassau's regiments in the very bed of the river. Forced at length to retreat, they speedily recovered, and charged the French as they formed on the bank, "about forty of them" dashing right through the regiments of Caillemote and Cambon. Not being able to cut their way back, this gallant little band retreated to the right to pass through the village, but only about six or eight of them escaped the fire of the Dutch and Enniski1leners, and their horses were seen "straggling up and down the Field."
In this encounter Caillemote was mortally wounded. As he was being carried back to the Louth bank, he encouraged his men, who were still crossing, with the words, "A la gloire, mes enfants!"
Again Hamilton charged the regiments of Hanmer and Nassau, who had now got across, and this time with such fury that they were forced back into the river, and many of them even to the opposite shore. Meanwhile the Irish Foot, relieved by their cavalry, had rallied behind a hedge, from which they were dislodged by the Dutch and Enniskilleners; but Hamilton's Horse coming to their support, they boldly charged the Dutch in the open, but were again forced to retire; the Dutch, though they lost many men by the Irish pikes, keeping their formation, and firing with steady precision by platoons.
The French, Enniskilleners, and Sir John Hanmer's men who had rallied and recrossed, were now charged by Lord Galmoy and the Duke of Berwick, but stood their ground. The Danish Horse, who had just got across and were forming up, were also vigorously attacked by a troop of sixty Irish Horse sent against them by Hamilton, always vigilant.
"They charged the Danes so home," says Story, "that they came faster back again than they went, some of them never looking behind them till they had crossed the river again. Much about this time," he tells us, "there was nothing to be seen but smoke and dust, nor anything to be heard but one continued fire for nigh half an hour."
The repeated charges of the Irish cavalry had caused a good deal of confusion among the enemy's troops, preventing their acting in concert. In fact, with the exception of the Dutch Blues and the sturdy Enniskilleners, every regiment had been broken and driven back more than once. The Duke of Schomberg, who had remained with his reserve upon the Louth bank, seeing his favourite French Huguenots left leaderless by the fall of Caillemote, and the battle still uncertain, now pushed hastily across the river, without even waiting to put on his armour. On arriving at Oldbridge he put himself at the head of the Huguenots, and "pointing," it is said, "to the French, cried out: 'Come on, gentlemen, there are your persecutors!'" As it happened, their persecutors were miles away, as we have seen. The Irish Catholics, to whom he must have pointed, if he pointed at anyone, were much in the position of the Huguenots themselves, as regards persecution.
A few minutes after he is said to have made this speech Schomberg was killed. A small body of Irish cavalry charged the Huguenots again, and "the Irish troopers as they rid by struck at him with their swords." He received two sabre-cuts on the head, but his death-wound was from a pistol bullet in the neck. The Williamite historians, curiously enough, claim the honour of this pistol shot for a bad marksman of Cambon's regiment; the Jacobites for a certain Sir Cathal O'Toole, who recognised him, and resolving to kill him at the expense of his own life, came close up to him, shot him, and was slain himself. George Walker, created by William, Bishop of Derry, for his brave defence of that town, had chosen to serve with the Enniskilleners as a sort of non-commissioned officer, and was here also slain, going to Schomberg's defence, as some report. William, who strongly objected to militant churchmen, on hearing of his death by the Boyne, remarked drily, "What took him there?"
These skirmishes by the fords had lasted nearly an hour.
"The action began at a quarter past ten," says the veracious Story, "and was so hot till past eleven, that a great many old soldiers said they never saw brisker work."
After this the Irish retreated to the Hill of Donore, where they drew up, Horse and Foot in good order, determined to resist to the last. This retreat was no doubt rendered necessary, not only by the passage of the fords at Oldbridge by a much superior force, but by the crossing of the English left wing under William, who would have taken Hamilton in flank, had he not so retreated. William came late into the field with the left wing, which crossed in two divisions below the islands. It was a difficult passage, and most fortunately for the "temerarious" Orange, he met with absolutely no opposition; the Duke of Berwick, with the Irish right wing, having previously come to the support of the centre. William with his Dutch and Danish cavalry and Wolseley's Enniskillen Horse and dragoons, passed by the lowest ford near Drogheda "at a very difficult and unusual place;" while the Danish Foot with Colonel Cutts got over a little higher up. William himself got bogged on the Meath side, and he was forced to alight amid the press of scrambling troopers, until a gentleman helped him to extricate his charger.
Once fairly on the bank, "he drew his sword (which as yet was troublesome to him)" and advanced towards the Irish position on the slopes of Donore. There Hamilton again made a gallant and well-conducted defence.
"The Irish," says Story, "were coming on again in good order upon our Foot" (possibly Cutts and the Danes), "that had got over the pass."
They had got within pistol shot, when they saw William with his cavalry, all asteam from their passage of the river, pushing up the hill upon their flank. Back up the hill they spurred, themselves, to gain the advantage of the ground; then wheeling about, dashed with an Irish cheer at the Danish Horse, led by William in person; charging them so hotly that they broke, and William himself was for the moment in considerable danger. Turning to the Enniskillen Horse as they came up, he cried, "What will you do for me?" They did not know him as he loomed through the smoke, and more than one carbine was levelled at him; but Wolseley, their colonel, called out, "It is the king!" Then they cheered him lustily. "Gentlemen," said he, "you shall be my guards to-day. I have heard much of you. Let me see something of you!" He led them up the hill, and was received with a hot fire, which emptied many saddles. He was himself struck by two balls, one of which grazed the cap of his pistol, and the other carried off the heel of his boot. The Enniskilliners, mistaking a movement of the king, were taken at a disadvantage and driven down the hill, and, as Davies says, "carried with them a Dutch regiment" moving up to their support. William, again left alone, betook himself to his Dutch Blues, and with them advanced once more against Hamilton.
The whole English attack was now concentrated upon Don ore, from which the Irish were not driven without some very hard fighting. Pressed by superior numbers, they at last made an orderly retreat, the Horse protecting the Foot, in the direction of Duleek. At a place called Plotin Castle, about a mile and a half south of Oldbridge, Hamilton, finding that the enemy were pressing him, made his last splendid charge, in which he again routed the Enniskilleners with considerable slaughter; but, pursuing too far, he was met by the main body under William, and was himself severely wounded and taken prisoner.
"When he was brought before the king," says Story, "his Majesty asked him whether the Irish would fight any more. 'Yes (said he), an't please your Majesty, upon my honour I believe they will, for they have a good body of Horse still!' The king looked a little aside at him when he named his honour, and repeated it once or twice: 'Your honour?' intimating (as he always says a great deal in a few words) that what the other affirmed upon his honour, was not to be believed, since he had forfeited that before in his siding with my Lord Tyrconnell; and this was all the rebuke the king gave him for his breach of trust."
Thus ended the defence of the Boyne, in which it is evident that the Irish, so far from being the cowards that Lauzun, who saw nothing of the action, proclaimed them in his despatches to Louvois, fought against long odds with splendid determination and valour.
The orderly retreat was continued under the Duke of Berwick and Galmoy until they rejoined James at Duleek.
Meanwhile James, having brought up his reserves on the left, waited on events until, hearing the English had passed the fords at Oldbridge, he ordered Lauzun to attack the enemy. Here, fortunately, his orders were not carried out, as the result would have been disastrous. Sarsfield, with James's bodyguard, condemned to forced inaction all that day, did at least one good piece of service in checking the king's rash movement in time. Before the proposed charge took place he had been sent to reconnoitre the ground, and now reported:—
"It was impossible for the horse to charge the enemy, by reason of two double ditches with high banks, and a little brook betwixt them, that run along the small valley that divided the two arrays."
As it happened, there was also, beyond this valley, "such a Bogg as few of our men ever saw before," as Story graphically expresses it, into which a body of the English Foot had inadvertently floundered, and "found it as great hardship as fighting itself." The English drawing off out of sight, James, fearing they might get on the Dublin road, began his retreat on Duleek. He had scarcely done so when, as he tells us:—
"The right wing's being broken was no longer a mystery, for several of the scattered and wounded horsemen got in amongst them before they wrought Duleek."
Lauzun now counselled James to seek his own safety, regretting that he could not accompany his Majesty, as his duty forced him to remain and die on the field, if necessary. It was fortunately not necessary. James took his advice, and fled in hot haste to Dublin, taking with him Sarsfield and his bodyguard.
The retreat to Duleek was well conducted by Lauzun, who was at first hotly pursued by the English right wing, some smart skirmishing taking place between the two armies.
At Duleek the Irish right, under Tyrconnell and Berwick, came up, having marched from Donore by the hill of Cruizrath. Having crossed the Nanney Water, the Irish made a last stand, and a smart artillery duel between the two armies was maintained until, William coming up, Lauzun and Tyrconnell retreated, still in good order, except for the stragglers from various regiments who had thrown away their arms and were mercilessly shot down "like hares among the corn," as they tried to conceal themselves.
William left his Foot to encamp at Duleek, and pursued with his Horse as far as a deep defile called the Naul, about six miles beyond Duleek. At ten o'clock, night coming on, he left a body of Horse under arms at the Naul and rode back with the rest to the camp at Duleek, where he slept in his carriage, the troops lying that night without tents.
The Irish loss is said to have been from 800 to 1500, chiefly, no doubt, in the retreat; the English at from 300 to 500.
Thus ended the famous Battle of the Boyne, by no means the magnificent victory for the "glorious, pious and immortal" William it has been represented. It was really Little more than a drawn battle, James effecting his purpose, such as it was, of a retreat to Dublin, without irretrievable damage.
JAMES, who had left the field between five and six o'clock, reached Dublin about ten that night, just when William halted at the Naul.
The Protestants in Dublin had remained in a state of intense anxiety, tormented by various rumours: that the Prince of Orange was killed or taken prisoner, his army totally defeated, etc., until about five in the afternoon some men, escaping on tired horses, probably some of Tyrconnell's dragoons, told how the Irish were "much worsted," and others, coming later, that they were beaten:—
"Dusty, wounded and tired soldiers, and carriages coming in till one o'clock—several of James's guards straggling in without pistols or swords, and could not tell what has become of himself," says the Person of Quality. "Near ten that night," he continues, "he came in with about 200 horse, all in disorder; we concluded now that it was a total rout, and that the enemy were just ready to come into town; but were greatly surprised when, an hour or two after, we heard the whole body of the Irish Horse coming in, in very good order, with kettle drums, hautboys, and trumpets; and early the next morning, the French, and a great party of Irish Foot, These being a little rested, marched out again to meet the enemy, which were supposed to draw nigh."
This shows that even the much-maligned Irish Foot had still some fight left in them.
James was received at the castle gate by Lady Tyrconnell,
"And after he was upstairs," as Story quaintly relates, "her ladyship ask't him what he would have for supper? Who then gave her an account of what a breakfast he had got, which made him have little stomach for his supper."
One hopes the tale is true that, on James's complaining that the Irish had run away, her Ladyship drily replied: "But your Majesty won the race."
The king stayed that night at the castle, and next morning sent for the Lord Mayor and the Council and told them that:—
"Though the Irish army did not desert him as they did in England, yet, when it came to the trial, they basely fled the field, and left it a spoil to his enemies, nor could they be prevailed upon to rally, though the loss in the whole defeat was but inconsiderable, so that henceforward he determined never to head an Irish army, and now resolved to shift for himself, as they themselves must do."
He advised them not to burn the town, but to submit to the Prince of Orange, who was a merciful man; and to set the prisoners at liberty. Having thus, in his finest Royal Stuart manner, thrown all the blame of his defeat upon the poor loyal Irish, who had fought so gallantly all that disastrous day, the wretched man went off post-haste to Waterford, put to sea in the "Count de Lauzun," and made for Kinsale, where, finding a French squadron, he re-embarked on board a frigate, and was conveyed to Brest. Having heard of De Tourville's victory over the English and Dutch fleets, off Beachy Head, on the 30th of June, he arrived there "in good spirits," and soon reached St. Germain.
William did not arrive in Dublin until Friday, the 4th of July. The Protestants still feared that the Irish troops who had left on Wednesday, on the march to Limerick, might return and burn the town. They, however, had behaved quietly, and committed no acts of violence whatever. The "Villare Hibernicum," under the date of July 3rd, reports that:—
"At eight this night, one troop of Dragoons (Williamite) came as guard to an officer, that came to take charge of the stores. It was impossible that the king himself, coming after this, could be welcom'd with equal joy, as this one troop; the Protestants hung about the horses, and were ready to pull the men off them, as they marched up to the castle."
At the castle they found Captain Farlow, who had been taken in the first skirmish near Newry and confined in the castle, now its self-constituted governor, having taken possession in King William's name, William encamped at Finglas, and heard a sermon by the redoubtable Dr. King, at St. Patrick's, on Sunday.
Then was a time of jubilation for the Protestants. They came forth into the sun, like creatures that had been hibernating; arrogant and dominant once more, as was their wont. The Person of Quality remarks that it was,
"A wonderful thing that so small a loss should disperse the whole Irish army; who seemed to be blown away only by a wind of God."
The Irish were less disheartened by the event of the battle than might be supposed. They also had heard of De Tourville's victory; and it was given out that James was gone to France to obtain an army, which, the seas being now open, would soon arrive. This, as Story tells us, put thorn in heart to defend their towns—Limerick, Athlone, and Galway, the Irish "being of all living the soonest discouraged, but up again with the least hope."
Away then went the army, discomfited but not subdued, to defend the capital city of their diminished kingdom, the passes of the Shannon, and Connaught, their Last stronghold.
"As if," says O'Kelly, "they were guided to Limerick by some secret instinct of nature."
And now Sarsfield became the life and soul of the Irish party, whose only interest was the defence of their country against the invader. Lauzun and the French were anxious to get back to France, and cared little what terms might be made with William, since they regarded James's cause as lost. Tyrconnell took the same view, made common cause with Lauzun, and followed James in calumniating the "mere Irish," whom, as a Lord of the Pale, he affected to despise. He sent his wife, Frances Jennings, sister of the Duchess of Marlborough, to Paris, where she is accused of intriguing to prevent Louvois from sending any valid assistance to the Irish. It is certain that Louis himself was less than ever disposed to treat James's pretensions seriously. He received him with courtesy, but promised nothing; and, after a first interview, refused to see him for a considerable time, on the plea of indisposition. His Britannic Majesty was permitted to wait in ante-rooms in vain, amid a crowd of contemptuous courtiers, to the great annoyance of his queen, who keenly felt the slights to which his want of self-respect exposed him.
The false stories circulated in Paris respecting the behaviour of the Irish at the Boyne so affected the Parisians that, to quote Colonel O'Kelly:—
"The Irish merchants who lived there since the conquest of Oliver Cromwell, durst not walk abroad, nor appear in the streets, the people were so exasperated against them."
The day that William entered Dublin, he received an account of De Tourville's victory, which must have caused him some uneasiness, as it might have resulted in the supremacy of the French at sea, the cutting off of his communication with England, and even an invasion of England itself.
He had much to do before he could leave Dublin, which he did on July, 9th, having appointed a council to conduct civil affairs in his absence. He despatched Douglas with three regiments of Horse, two of dragoons, and ten of Foot, with some artillery, for an attack upon Athlone.
William himself; with the main body, marched southwards, via Carlow and Carrick-on-Suir; his first objective point being Waterford, which, with the strong fort of Duncannon, he was anxious to secure, as a convenient station for his transports. From Carlow, Ormond was despatched with a body of Horse to take possession of Kilkenny, left imperfectly garrisoned by Tyrconnell. On July 21st, the army, which had marched slowly, encamped at Carrick-on-Suir; whence Kirke was sent to summon Waterford, which surrendered, the garrison being allowed to march out with the honours of war. Captain Michael Bourke, in command at Duncannon, at first made some show of holding the place; but on the arrival of Sir Cloudesley Shovel with sixteen frigates, capitulated on the same terms.
From Carrick, William, who had received bad accounts from England of reverses on the Continent, returned to Chapelizod, intending to re-cross the Channel; but having heard of De Tourville's abortive invasion of England, in which, by stupidly burning the village of Teignmouth, he had raised the whole country against the Jacobites and their French allies, be returned to the army, then encamped near Cashel.
On his first marching from Dublin he had been very stern in maintaining discipline, and repressing the plundering tendencies of his composite army. Our two clerical troopers, Story and Rowland Davies, the saga-men of the last great English invasion, are full of casual reports of summary punishment. On July 13th, Davies tells how:—
"Being Sunday, our whole army halted, and by yesterday's pillage were full of beef and mutton. I preached in the field against swearing." Several men had been hung for plundering the previous day, and now, as he was preaching, seven prisoners were led by to execution, One of them, of his own regiment, was got off by the Major; "the rest threw dice to save their lives, and three of them were executed." On the march to Carlow "two of the Enniskillen dragoons hung by the wayside, with papers on their breasts exposing their crime."
Story also tells how, near Naas, William caught a man robbing a poor woman,
"Which enraged his Majesty so much that he beat him with his cane."
He was afterwards hanged.
At Chapelizod William had several complaints of outrages committed by the troops under Douglas, who, on his march to Athlone, did not keep anything like the same discipline, and, in fact, acted in the spirit of a Scotch free-hooter. He did indeed issue protections to such inhabitants as made submission; but many, finding them worthless, joined the Rapparees, who hung about the detachment on its march, and cut off many small parties of the marauders.
On arriving at Athlone, Douglas sent a drummer to summon the town; but the veteran governor, Colonel Richard Grace, firing his pistol, answered:—"These are my terms, and before I surrender, I'll eat my boots." Grace had already burnt that part of the town situated on the east bank of the Shannon (for the third time during the war), and breaking down the bridge, retreated to the part lying in Roscommon, which was well fortified. The English, attempting to cross the Shannon, were beaten back, and after ten days of ineffectual siege, in which he lost many by shot and sickness, Douglas, hearing that Sarsfield was coming to the relief of the town, decamped and joined William at Cahirconlish, about seven miles from Limerick. To avoid Sarsfield, who was reported to be at Banagher, he returned by a circuitous route, passing by Mallymore, Ballyboy and Roscrea, and crossing the Devil's Bit mountain. Near Moneygall a foraging party of twelve men was cut off by a detachment sent from Nenagh by Anthony O'Carroll, and all slain, at a place still called "The bloody Togher (bog)." Thence he proceeded to Thurles, which he sacked and burnt, passing through Cullen on his way to Cahircoolish. In this expedition he is said to have lost between 300 and 400 men, chiefly by sickness.
Meanwhile a council had been held in Limerick. Tyrconnell and Lauzun, now both of one mind, were for making terms with William; Sarsfield and the Irish officers of his party, for defending Limerick to the last. Lauzun, glad of any excuse to get out of Ireland, laughed at the idea of attempting to defend such a place. "Why should the English," he asked, "bring cannon against fortifications that could be battered down with roasted apple?'"
But Sarsfield stood firm, and it was resolved that two "persons of quality" should be sent to France to acquaint James and Louis with the present state of affairs, and the determination of the Irish to defend their country to the last. One day when Tyrconnell, now grown corpulent and lethargic, was absent, a further resolution was passed "that Sarsfield, the darling of the army," should command in chief, next to the Captain General, Tyrconnell.
Neither of these patriotic resolutions pleased the Captain General, who, after Sarsfield had raised the siege at Athlone, recalled him to Limerick. Finding, however, that his popularity was troublesome, he sent him again, with a mere handful of men, to watch the movements of the enemy. In his absence, Tyrconnell and Lauzun did all in their power to persuade the other officers that an immediate capitulation was the only sound policy. Most of the members of the council, many of whom had estates to lose, were gained over; but on William's approach Sarsfield came back, and the army enthusiastically supported him, and vowed that they would defend the town at all hazards. The fortifications were strengthened by means of outworks, everyone working with a will to complete such defensive operations as could be hastily carried out.
The French and the Irish were never on good terms, the French despising the Irish, and the Irish hating the French; and this feeling of animosity was now at its highest pitch. Lauzun taking a considerable quantity of ammunition, and eight guns, withdrew to Galway with all the French troops under his command, and encamped outside the town. The people of Galway refused him admittance, because, it was said, he had shut the gates of Limerick against some of the Irish troops arriving late from the Boyne. Limerick was thus left to be defended by the Irish Foot, of which three regiments were detached to guard the fords near the town, supported by the dragoons and light Horse, who were encamped on the Clare side of the Shannon.
On the 8th of August, William sent forward Lord Portland with a detachment, who drove in the Irish outposts and advanced within cannon-shot of Limerick.
On the 9th, just forty days after the passage of the Boyne, William himself appeared before the town; and the next day Tyrconnell, "without consulting the rest of his captains," drew off the regiments guarding the fords, and ordered them to Galway, whither he now followed Lauzun. He left Boisseleau as Governor of Limerick, with the Duke of Berwick, Major Generals Sarsfield and Dorrington, and Brigadiers Henry Luttrell, Wauchope, and Maxwell, as his assistants. Wauchope and Maxwell were Scotch Catholics.
Before Portland returned, William joined him with a guard of 200 horse. When they came within two miles of the town,
"The enemy," says the author of 'Villare Hibernicum', "came so near with some of their out-guards that we could hear them talking with their damned Irish brogue on their tongues, but they were separated by a bog, which was very deep, and so situated that we could not possibly attack them."
On the evening of August 8th, Douglas came into camp at Cahirconlish, and the next day the whole army moved forward. About two miles from the city a considerable body of the Irish were posted in a lane. The English advanced slowly, the pioneers cutting down the hedges that the order of the ranks might be maintained; and William rode up and down everywhere, "to order matters, as his custom always was." The Irish retreated to a strong position about half a mile from the town, from which they were not driven until William had brought up some guns. They retreated slowly from hedge to hedge, until they had drawn the enemy within a short distance of the walls, from which the guns opened with deadly effect, covering their entry into the town.
To reply to this cannonade from the city, four field pieces were placed in an old fort, now abandoned by the Irish. This fort, constructed by Ireton, when he besieged Limerick, but usually called "Cromwell's Fort," was not upon King's Island, as erroneously shown in most maps, but upon what was called the Munster Bank of the river, Clare being still regarded as in Connaught. The guns planted here played upon the walls and outworks of the Irish town.
By five o'clock the army had marched in, the greater part of their encampment being within cannon-shot. That evening William sent a trumpeter to summon the city. Some of Tyrconnell's party were still for submission; but Boisseleau, Berwick, and especially Sarsfield vehemently opposed them.
"The trumpeter was sent back from Monsieur Boisseleau," says Story, "with a letter directed to Sir Robert Southwell, Secretary of State (not sending it directly to the Ring, became he would avoid, I suppose, giving him the title of Majesty), that he was surprised at the summon', and that he thought the best way to gain the Prince of Orange's good opinion, was by a vigorous defence of that town, which his master had entrusted him withal."
After thus summoning the town, a party of dragoons was sent to attempt the passage of the Shannon by the ford at Annaghbeg, three miles above the town. This ford they found guarded by a detachment under the Duke of Berwick. They were well posted behind hedges and brick walls surrounding a new house, and fired upon the English, but with small effect: good marksmanship being still a very rare accomplishment in the Irish army. That night the cavalry were drawn off towards Galway by Tyrconnell, and the Foot seem also to have been withdrawn, as next morning a strong force of Horse, Foot and dragoons, under Ginkel and Kirke, passed the river, which, though lower than usual, was rapid and dangerous, without opposition. The story of the betrayal of the ford by a treacherous guide seems apocryphal; if there were any treachery in the matter it was Tyrconnell's. William himself crossed over later, and on his return to the camp left Kirke to guard the ford.
To understand the events which occurred during the siege of Limerick, it is necessary to know something of the actual condition of the city at that time. It was then the second city of Ireland in extent and importance, Dublin only exceeding it in size; and, unlike Dublin, it was tolerably well fortified with complete walls, bastions and outworks. The houses also were strongly built of stone, "being made most of them Castleways, with battlements." The river Shannon was navigable, then as now, for ships of considerable burthen up to the town itself, the smaller craft coming right up to Ball's Bridge, which connected the two parts of the city, Englishtown and Irishtown.
At some distance above the city, the Shannon divides into two arms which re unite below it, forming the large island, some two miles in circumference, "King's Island," upon which the older portion of the city, founded by King John, and known as "the English town" stands. The newer "Irish town" is on the eastern or Munster bank. The reach of the Shannon on which Limerick stands runs almost directly from north to south, King's Island, in its longer dimension, lying also north and south. Ball's Bridge, which L spans the narrow eastern arm of the river, where it bends to the west round the lower end of King's Island, connected, as now, the two towns.
The English town, containing the principal buildings, the Cathedral of St. Mary and King John's Castle, occupied the southern end of King's Island, the lower end, as regards the direction of the stream, the higher end in point of elevation above the water. It was built on the only portion of it, about a third of its whole extent, high enough to escape frequent flooding, the remainder being low grass-land and marsh. The strong town wall, defended by fortifications with salient angles, ran diagonally across this southern end of the island, looking to the north-east over the lower ground. On the other sides, where the river ran, the walls were lower and not so strong.
The castle stood at the west side of the English town, on the bank of the Shannon, immediately to the south of Thomond Bridge, which crosses the broad western arm of the river, connecting the town with the County Clare.
The star-shaped "New Irish Fort," shewn in Story's map, and in some modern maps erroneously called "Cromwell's Fort," probably did not exist at the time of the first siege, as its guns would have enfiladed William's camp and trenches. Across the northern end of King's Island the Irish had pitched a camp, and all around the Island there was a line of circumvallation.
The Irish town being on the mainland, on the Munster bank, and not protected by the river, was more completely fortified. It was a fortress with five bastions, a double wall, and some towers. In front of the walls on the north-east side, just opposite William's camp, the Irish had hastily constructed some outworks, consisting of a sort of spur or hornwork, and redoubts, while a covered way ran round just under the town walls, from the south gate to St. John's gate. Near St. John's Gate there were two small forts, one of which the English called "the Two Chimneys." There was also a citadel in the south-western quarter of the town, "whereon," says Story, "they had several guns which plagued us till we killed that gunner." There was a spur at the south gate, where the heaviest guns were planted; and at a small gate, towards the north-east, there was a sally-port. Near this was a battery of three guns, called from its colour, the Black Battery. Against the north-eastern part of the Irish town the chief attack was directed.
The fortifications of Limerick were, as compared with the modern works of Vauban on the Continent, very primitive, and naturally excited the contempt of Lauzun. The Duke of Berwick says of them:—
"The place had no fortifications hut a wall without ramparts, and some miserable little towers without ditches. We had made a sort of covered way all round, and a kind of hornwork, pallisaded, before the great gate, but the enemy did not attack on that side."
The entire Jacobite army, in and about Limerick or west of the Shannon, consisted of about 20,000 infantry, at least one half not properly armed, and some 3,500 Horse. William's army, when Douglas rejoined him, is estimated by O'Callaghan at about 38,000 men.
William's camp was pitched nearly due east of the English town, on the Munster side of the Shannon, in a district called Singland (Soil Angel), where St. Patrick saw the vision of an angel, and where his holy well, stone bed, and altar are still to be seen. Here the saint baptized one of his early converts, Prince Carthen, the son of Blod. In this sacred spot, now in the parish of St. Patrick, is still shewn the "standard pillar" of the heretical King, William of Orange. Upon this pillar his royal standard was hoisted, that of King James floating from the tower of the Cathedral in the English town. About too yards from the pillar is "King William's Well," and at some distance to the north of the pillar is Newcastle House, said to have been occupied or used as a post of observation by William, during the siege.
The camp was situated a little below the separation of the river into the two streams, which make King's Island, It extended from just behind a large house which stood near the parting of the river, to a point behind Ireton's Fort. The King's camp was towards the right, or nearest the river, in the second line; then came the Horse Guards and Blue Dutch, then some English and Dutch regiments, the French and Danes, who were just behind Ireton's Fort; and behind was the cavalry camp "though after some time," says Story, "we rather encamped conveniently than regularly."
LIKE James when he came before Derry, William seems to have thought he had only to show himself before the Walls of Limerick, and the city would surrender. He counted on the vacillation of Tyrconnell, and the dissentions among the Irish leaders. He did not count upon the vigour and resolution of Sarsfield, and the determination of the "mere Irish" to fight to the last. He had not even brought his battering train, though it was on its way from Dublin. Boisseleau's firm answer to his summons undeceived him, and he prepared to press the siege with his accustomed energy.
The Irish guns were well served, and the day after the English encamped made such good practice at their artillery train and the king's camp, that both had to be removed further to the rear.
The battering train, consisting of 6 twenty-four pounders, 2 eighteen pounders, 5 mortars, 153 waggons of ammunition for the artillery, and 18 tin boats or pontoons, with 12 casks of biscuit, and 400 fine draught horses, was coming under convoy of a body of musketeers, and two troops (about 100) men) of Villier's dragoons, commanded by Captain Pulteney, besides artillerymen, drivers, etc.
A French gunner had deserted from the besieging army the night they encamped, and besides helping to direct the fire of the Irish guns, had given information about the coming of this battering train. Sarsfield at once volunteered to intercept it on its way. With a select body of four hundred Horse and two hundred dragoons, he left Limerick on Sunday, August 20th, taking as his guide a hard-riding hero known as "Galloping Hogan." This Hogan had attained some celebrity among his countrymen as a dashing Rapparee leader, and knew every road, lane, bridle-path, mountain pass, and bog of the wild West Country.
The guns were on their way from Cashel; but to intercept them it was necessary to make a long détour. O'Brien's Bridge was guarded by a detachment of the enemy; Sarsfield therefore determined to pass the Shannon higher up, at Killaloe, at the lower end of Lough Derg.
Tradition has preserved many picturesque details of this expedition.
The harvest moon lit the detachment on their way, as they passed the friendly fort which guarded Thomond Bridge on the Clare bank of the Shannon; and still keeping the Clare side, they rode on at some distance from the river, by Harold's Cross on the little Black-water, through Bridgetown and Ballycorney. At Ballycorney, tradition tells us that they took a Protestant youth named Cecil from his father's house, and forced him to accompany them, probably that he might give them information respecting the position of the enemy's outposts. At Killaloe, passing round by the back of the town, they went on above the bridge, which was guarded by the Williamites, and crossed the river at the ford of Ballyvalley. Leaving the village of Ballina behind them, they struck the Boher road near Labadhy Bridge. There they were startled by suddenly coming on a party of men, whom at first sight they took for a patrol of the enemy. Sarsfield for a moment feared treachery on Hogan's part, and ordered his men to halt; but was soon re-assured, as they proved to be a gang of Rapparees who had a hiding place for their plunder in the neighbourhood.
They encamped for the night on the side of Keeper Mountain, and were visited by many of the country people; one of the O'Ryans offering Sarsfield whatever small hospitality he could afford. Next morning Sarsfield sent out scouts, who brought him word that the guns were within a short distance of Limerick, and that the convoy would encamp that night near Ballyneety.
Meanwhile an Irish Protestant, "a substantial Country Gentleman," Manus O'Brien by name, had seen the detachment as it passed the river at Killaloe, and suspecting some mischief, had hastened to William's camp with the news. At first he was treated as a dreamer: no one would believe him.
"A great officer called him aside, and after some indifferent questions, asked him about a prey of Cattel in such a place, which the gentleman complained of afterwards, saying he was sorry to see general officers mind Cattel inure than the king's honour."
A friend, however, brought him to William, who at once held a council. Count Schomberg advised that a squadron of cavalry should be sent to look after Sarsfield. Portland ridiculed the notion that the guns, at any rate, were in any danger: such an audacious attack was impossible. But O'Brien persisted in his story that Sarsfield had passed the river. A Maréchal de Logis, sent to ascertain the truth, reported that he had seen the enemy on the Munster side. William then ordered Sir John Lanier to march with 1500 Horse, at nine o'clock that night, to meet and protect the convoy. Had he done so, the guns might have been saved; but for some reason he did not start until about two o'clock in the morning.
All day Sarsfield lay among the mountains, and had the most exact information as to the enemy's movements. When they were passing under the southern spurs of the range, he was probably able to observe them with his Geld-glass. He sent three of his officers in disguise, to fall in with them and tell them that Colonel Villiers was within four miles of them with 1,200 horse, and that they were perfectly safe from the Irish, who were all driven across the Shannon.
That night they encamped close under the ruined Castle of Ballyneety, about seven miles from Limerick.
"They encamped," Story tells us, "on a small piece of plain ground, there being several earthen fences on one side, and the old castle on the other. If they had feared the least danger, it had been easy to draw the guns, and everything else within the ruins of that old castle, and then it had been difficult for an army, much more a party, to have touched them; nay, it was easier to place them and the carriages in such a figure upon the very spot where they stood, that it had been certain death to have come nigh them; but thinking themselves at home, so nigh the camp, and not fearing an enemy in such a place, especially since they had no notice sent them of it, they turned most of their horses out to grass, as being wearied with marching before, and the guard they left was but a slender one, the rest most of them going to sleep; but some of them awoke in the next world."
When night fell, Sarsfield came down from the mountains and halted near Ballyneety. To avoid prematurely disturbing the convoy, he wished to obtain their watch-word for the night. This he is said to have discovered by a fortunate accident. One of his troopers, whose horse was lame, had fallen behind the party, and happened to meet the wife of one of the Williamites. She also had lagged behind, and had lost her way. The Irishman good-naturedly acted as her guide, and found out the password, either directly from her, or by hearing her give it as she passed a sentry. The word was "Sarsfield."
It was a night of moonlight with passing clouds, Watching his opportunity when the moon was obscured, Sarsfield, guided by Galloping Hogan, advanced cautiously. As they approached the camp, they were challenged by an outpost, gave the word "Sarsfield," and were allowed to pass. They were again challenged close to the camp. Again the reply was "Sarsfield! Sarsfield is the word and Sarsfield is the man!" The unfortunate sentry was at once killed, and the troop burst like a thunder-bolt upon the sleeping enemy.
Then followed one of those terrible scenes of slaughter incidental to a night attack. The commanding officer sprang up, and the bugles sounded "To Horse!" But it was too late for effectual resistance. The men were sabred or shot as they started from sleep, or, running hastily to where their horses were picketed, were killed or driven back. Those who escaped with their lives saved themselves as best they could by flight.
Sarsfield then had the guns loaded with as much powder as they could hold, and sunk muzzles downward in the ground. His men smashed the pontoons to pieces, and collecting all the carriages, ammunition-waggons, and stores of all kinds, they heaped powder round them, laying a train which they fired as they went off. Everything was done with the utmost expedition and effectiveness, under Sarsfield's direction; and the result was a tremendous explosion, which was heard in William's camp, and indeed for fifteen miles around. The guns leaped into the air, burst or seriously damaged,' only two escaping uninjured; and everything that could burn burnt furiously, and was reduced to ashes.
Sarsfield's well-planned and skilfully executed piece of strategy was completely successful, and the success greatly enhanced his military reputation. Oldmixon (a staunch Williamite) says truly that,
"He did his master more service by that enterprise than all the other Irish or French generals did him in the course of the war."
And Story tells how depressing the news was to everyone in the camp,
"The very private men showing a greater concern at the loss than one could expect from such kind of people; the loss of the guns was not so great as that of the horses and ammunition."
Unfortunately, in the confusion, some of the waggoners and country-people who were bringing provisions to the camp were slain, and even, it is said, some women. It is gratifying to find that Colonel Parker, one of William's own officers, exonerates Sarsfield from blame in the matter.
"We cannot suppose that so gallant a man as Sarsfield certainly was, could be guilty of giving such orders; it is rather to be presumed that in such a juncture he could not restrain the natural barbarity of his men."
But even without any special "barbarity" such incidents were almost inevitable in the hurry of the moment, and at night, when combatants and non-combatants could not have been easily distinguished. Still it is much to be regretted that they did occur on this occasion.
The Irish killed about sixty of the enemy, but took no prisoners except a lieutenant of Earle's regiment, who lay sick in a house near the castle. Sarsfield treated him very courteously, and told him, it is said, that "if he had not succeeded in that enterprise, he had then gone to France."
It is not easy to ascertain the exact place where Sarsfield blew up the guns. Mr. Maurice Lenihan in his History of Limerick, follows the popular tradition and lays the scene near Cullen, at a place called "Ballyneety or Whites town, about fourteen miles from Limerick." All the contemporary authorities say that the guns had come from Cullen to within seven miles of Limerick, just the distance of the small village of Ballyneety which lies to the south-east of Limerick, and due west of Cahirconlish. Near this village is the old Castle of Rockstown. It stands on a rising ground, south of Ballyneety, at a little distance from the road, and may possibly be the castle mentioned by Story. If this be the place, the camp must have been just under the little hillock on which the castle stands, and the explosion would have occurred at some distance from the castle, which is splendidly built, and bears no trace of it.
Having blown up the guns, Sarsfield retreated with four hundred draught horses, and one hundred troop-horses of Villier's regiment, which were found saddled and bridled, with pistols at the saddle bow.
Lanier came up just in time to see the great flash of the explosion, and catch a glimpse of the rear of Sarsfield's detachment as it went off. He hurried to O'Brien's bridge to intercept them; but they passed the river at Banagher, at the head of Lough Derg, and got safely back with the loss of a major and a few men, killed in a skirmish with Cunningham's dragoons. On his return to Limerick, Sarsfield was received with great joy by Boisseleau, who illuminated the city, and treated the besiegers to a hot fire from his guns. The encouraging effect of this achievement upon the Irish was enormous. To William it was a severe blow, as he had to wait for several days for a new battering train to come up from Waterford. In fact it delayed his siege operations for a week, during which no important attack was made. The loss of the pontoons prevented his following up his passage of the Shannon at Annaghbeg, by making an attack from the Clare side. Castleconnell was, however, taken, by a detachment under Brigadier Stuart, and afterwards blown up.
About this time Baldearg O'Donnell came to Limerick with a great following of Rapparees. He had come from Spain, where he had thrown up the Austrian service, returning to Ireland by way of Turkey. He was received with great enthusiasm, owing to a prophecy that an O'Donnell with a red spot (baldearg) upon him would come to set his country free.
"There was another prophecy," says Story, "that we should come to the field above Cromwell's fort, where stands an old church, where on a stone hard by we should pitch our utmost colours, and afterwards be undone, with a thousand such like fopperies not worth the naming."
As it happened, this prophecy was better fulfilled than most "such like fopperies." William did pitch his colours there and was afterwards "undone."
The besiegers were For some days employed in cutting down orchards and hedges to make fascines, and it was not until Sunday August 17th that the trenches were opened by Cambon, and the first attack made upon the redoubts.
William, "thinking to raise an emulation in his soldiers," ordered seven battalions, with contingents from the English, French, Dutch, and Danish regiments, to work in the trenches under their respective commanders. By night the trenches had been advanced so far that an attack was made upon the "Two Chimneys" redoubt, which was still unfinished, the walls being so low that the grenadiers who attacked it were able to scale them easily after throwing in their grenades, and the fort was taken after a brisk cannonade on both sides. The Irish were thrown into disorder by the grenades, which they had never encountered before, possibly never even heard of, as they had only recently been introduced. Each grenadier carried three of these little shells, weighing some three pounds each, in a pooch, and thing them in with a lighted fine, so timed that they rapidly exploded. Men do not at once get accustomed to new ways of being killed, elan when they are well-drilled soldiers, and the defenders of Limerick may be excused for their first trepidation. The dress of the grenadiers was also strange, being,
"Pyebald yellow and red,' as Evelyn describes it. They wore furred caps, with coped crowns like janizaries, which made them look very fierce, and had some long hoods hanging down behind, as we picture fools."
In Ireland they also had bells attached to their belts, to frighten the horses of the enemy's cavalry. The outlandish warriors soon cleared the redoubt.
"Those that stayed," remarks the philosophic Story, "were knocked on the head." No quarter was given, except what Rowland Davies facetiously calls "artillery quarter, in so much that their COURABO was heard into the camp."
A second redoubt was also taken; and then three battalions advanced to the covered way, but were received with such a hot fire that they retired to their trenches. Boisseleau followed up this success by a dashing sally, in which one of the redoubts was recaptured, with considerable loss to the enemy.
On August 18th William's new battering train came from Waterford. He had now some forty pieces of artillery, including some 36-pounders, a battery of 24-pounders, twelve guns which threw red-hot shot into the city, and four mortars, throwing shells eighteen inches in diameter and weighing 200 lbs., one of which was in the possession of Mr. Lenihan when he wrote his History of Limerick. That very day, a tremendous fire of shot, shell, and red-hot balls was opened upon the city, and continued without inter-. mission until the end of the siege. A single day's fire pierced through the covered way, which the Irish stilt obstinately held. The sufferings of the citizens, whose houses were exposed to this terrible bombardment, shells and red-hot balls being deliberately aimed at them, must have been very great; but encouraged by Boisseleau and Sarsfield, they bore everything with the utmost resolution.
That same night Douglas's and Stuart's regiments again attacked the re-taken redoubt, which, being still unfinished, was difficult to hold; but were driven back by Lord Kilmallock (Dominic Sarsfield), sent by Boisseleau to defend it, with considerable loss.
Next day a brisk fire was maintained on both sides, William having another narrow escape from a round shot. A battery of four 24-pounders was planted, to commence the breach in the walls.
On August 20th an attack in force was made upon the redoubt. This, owing to the determined resistance made by the Irish, proved to be a very bloody business for the besiegers.
The redoubt had been battered for two days by William's guns, and was almost in ruins when he ordered the attack. Cutts's grenadiers dashed out of the trenches and went straight at the fort, which they attempted to scale. They were received with a heavy fire from the fort itself, and from two towers on the city walls. The first attack was repulsed, Captain Foxon, of Cutts's, who led the escalade, being hurled back from the ramparts. The second succeeded, but only after a desperate fight on both sides. Sarsfield is said to have put the Devil's Tower into a state of complete defence before the siege, and its guns must now have fired at the assailants of the redoubt, at a short range, with deadly effect.
But that day's fighting was not over yet. Boisseleau ordered Purcell, with 300 fusileers, and Luttrell, with 150 of his troopers, to make a sally from St. John's Gate, and attempt to retake the redoubt. The Williamites had notice of this from "some friend in the town," and were not taken by surprise; so that when the Irish came dashing out, right up to the fort, they were hotly received. A body of William's Horse now charged them, and were charged in their turn by Luttrell's, who then, feigning a retreat, drew them within fire of the guns of the walls; by which they lost Colonel Needham and Captain Lucy, killed, and several other officers and men killed and wounded. The Rawdon correspondent estimates their total loss at 300 in the taking of the redoubt, and 100 more in repulsing the sally.
Story, who took a genial interest in the humourous side of the grim events in which he took part, here introduces the following little bit of comic relief:—
"I cannot omit a pleasant adventure that fell out at the taking of the fort between a chaplain in the army and a trooper. This chaplain happened to go down after the fort was taken, and seeing a trooper mortally wounded to all appearance, he fancy'd himself obliged to give him his best advice: the other was very thankful for it, and whilst they were about the matter comes the sally. Our Horse came thundering down, at which the clergyman making haste to get out of their way, he stumbled and fell down. The wounded trooper seeing him fall, judg'd ho had been kill'd, and stept to him immediately to strip him, and in a trice had got his coat off on one side; the other call'd out to him to hold, and ask'd him what he meant. Sir (says the other), I beg your pardon; for I believed you were kill'd, and therefore I thought myself obliged to take care of your clothes as well as you did of my soul."
We may hope that this Autolycus of Troopers got over his mortal wound, and that the chaplain, when he had got fairly back into his cassock, was content to leave his soul in its fleshly tabernacle.
For several days a tremendous cannonade of shot, shell, and red-hot balls was directed against the town; the heaviest guns playing against the walls near St. John's Gate, and coming nearer and nearer as the trenches were pushed forward. On Sunday, August 24th, the breach began to appear, and the trenches were pushed to within twenty paces of the counter-scarp, woolsacks being used to protect the men working in the trenches By Monday the breach was considerable, the Irish also using woolsacks for defence.
"This," says Story, "was like Josephus defending his towns in Gallilee, who filled large sacks full of chaff, and hung then' over the walls, to defend them from the battering rams of the Romans." William sent his gunners some drink; "and for all the woolsacks the wall began to fly again." Ball's Bridge was now attacked by a battery, in order to cut off the communication between the two towns; but the Irish planted some guns on King's Island, which silenced this battery and saved the bridge. That day, August 25th, heavy rain began to fall, filling the trenches, so that the men were almost up to their knees in water. A council of war was held, and it was determined to spend all the next day, Tuesday, in making the breach practicable, and to make a general assault on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the shells and red-hot balls had been making havoc of the houses in both towns, On Saturday, August 23rd, three several fires had occurred, the last being so furious that it was only got under by blowing up the neighbouring houses. The Irish had a great quantity of hay in the town, protected by raw hides; but an this occasion a magazine of hay was burnt. Upon these fires the philosophic Story thus moralises:—
"I remember we were all as well pleased to see the town flaming as could be, which made one reflect upon our profession of soldiery, not to be over-charg'd with good nature."
How the peaceable inhabitants must have suffered from this bombardment of their houses, which lasted for near ten days, may be inferred from a single incident told by a Colonel Peter Drake of Drakestown:—
"There was between our house and the town wall a large magazine. The besiegers ordered two pieces of ordnance to be levelled at this building, and several shots passed through, and hit on the gable end, within which was the apartment whore I slept with one Captain Plunkett. This gentleman was to mount the guard that day, and going out very early, left me abed. About two hours after, I went out to speak to one of the servants to get me a clean shirt, and before I had time to return, a ball had beat down the wall, a great part of which had fallen on, and demolished the bed. It then passed through my father's bed-chamber, broke the posts of the bed where he and my mother were asleep, but, thank heaven, had no worse effect than putting the family in a consternation."
Family life in Limerick must have had its excitement in those days. Many went to live in huts on King's Island and on the Clare side,.beyond Thomond Bridge.
All Tuesday, August 26th, a continuous fire of some of the heaviest guns, disposed in several batteries was directed against the breach, which was extended sufficiently to admit about forty men abreast, some thirty-six feet of the wall being actually beaten down, while a much wider portion was very much damaged. Behind the breach Boisseleau had constructed a retirade, defended by woolsacks and whatever else could be hastily procured. Here he planted a battery of three guns, with other guns disposed on either side, so as to take the enemy on both flanks as they came through the breach. It is curious that none of the contemporary accounts mention Sarsfield in connection with this last defence of Limerick; but we must remember he was in small favour with James and the Duke of Berwick, who pass him over in silence as often as they decently can. It is quite impossible that he can have been idle at such a time, and some credit may fairly be given to the popular tradition which represents him as taking an active part, both in superintending the preparations for defending the breach, especially in the construction of mines, and in encouraging the Irish to make the desperate resistance they did make, when the breach was entered and the town almost taken.
At length, on Wednesday, August 27th, the attack was made. William, having effected the breach, again summoned the town; but Boisseleau and Sarsfield, having made their preparations, and the blood of the Irish being now thoroughly up, they would hear of no terms whatever, and William gave orders for the assault. His intention was, at first, merely to attack the counter-scarp, and possess himself of the covered way immediately under the walls. The attacking party numbered about 10,000 men. The first attack was to be made by the Grenadiers, 500 strong, each company led by its captain. They were supported by the Blue Dutch, with a reserve of the regiments of General Douglas, Brigadier Stuart, Lord Meath, and Lord Lisburn, and lastly the Black Brandenburghers.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon when the signal for the attack was given by the firing of three guns.
"The day," Story tells us, "was excessive hot to the bystanders, and much more sure in all respects to those upon action."
The trenches had been advanced to within about four yards of the counterscarp, which was not defended by a trench. The palisades which protected it had been beaten down for a considerable distance by the enemy's fire, and there seem to have been but few men in the covered way, which had been terribly mauled by the heavy battering guns. The Irish were taken by surprise by the first sudden dash of the Grenadiers, who leaped out of their trenches and instantly attacked the counterscarp, firing their pieces and throwing in their hand grenades.
"This," says Story, "gave the alarm to the Irish, who had their guns all ready, and discharged great and small shot upon us as fast as was possible; our men were not behind them in either; so that in less than two minutes the noise was so terrible that one would have thought the very skies ready to rent in sunder. This was seconded with dust, smoke, and all the terrors the art of man could invent, to ruin and undo one another."
Before they could enter the covered way, the attacking force had lost many officers and men; Captain Farlow of Stuart's regiment, who had taken possession of Dublin Castle after the Battle of the Boyne, Captain Carlisle of Lord Drogheda's Grenadiers, and others being killed here. The Irish in the covered way fought well; but were speedily overpowered, and retreated by the breach into the town, closely followed by the grenadiers, who, in their excitement neglecting their orders merely to hold the counterscarp, made a dash at the breach. They were left unsupported, and paid dearly for their rashness. Some were cut down by a storm of cannister and chain shot from Boisseleau's battery. Others, pursuing the Irish through side streets, John Street, and Broad Street, towards Ball's Bridge, were killed, as the Irish rallied and drove them back. Not many of the gallant so can have got safely home to their trenches.
But now an attack on the breach was made in force; and for three hours both sides were engaged in a desperate and bloody struggle. The Irish obstinately defended the breach in the face of a heavy fire, which they stood unflinchingly, shoulder to shoulder, the gaps in their ranks being resolutely closed as they occurred; but at last they were gradually driven back by the besiegers, who pushed on, regiment after regiment, in spite of severe loss, and finally forced their way once more into the town itself. Then Boisseleau brought up his reserves, and the Irish made a splendid rally, fighting now, as Forman, a Williamite eye-witness, says, "for their lives and fortunes and all that was dear to them."
The vanguard of the English began to waver were hurled back upon their supports, and at last driven pelt melt out of the streets to the breach, which they still endeavoured to hold. Then came a pause in the hand to hand conflict; both sides gathering strength for the final struggle. The firing, however, went on incessantly. The regiments who defended the breach were that of Henry Fitzjames, a natural son of James by Arabella Churchill, and brother to the Duke of Berwick, that of Colonel Fitzgerald, that of Boisseleau, and another. Two regiments of Jacobite Ulstermen under MacMahon, also distinguished themselves here, though without arms, and fighting only with stones. Even the women of Limerick, like the Irish queens of the heroic period, fought for their hearths and homes, and like them proved themselves more valiant than the men. Story tells how severely the assailants were handled by bullets, stones, and "broken bottles from the very women who boldly stood upon the breach, and were nearer our men than their own." Tradition says that several of these brave women were killed in this gallant defence of the breach.
While William's troops were endeavouring to hold their position here, a well-timed sally was made from the Spur or Hornwork at St. John's Gate. The Irish Dragoons under Brigadier Talbot, a natural son of Tyrconnell, dashed along the covered way to the breach. They were met by two regiments of the enemy, one of Danes under Cutts, and, after a sharp encounter, in which Cutts was wounded, they forced their way through them, re-entering the town by the breach, and taking the stormers in the rear. This brilliant exploit decided the day. The English were thrown into confusion, being taken between two fires. They were further discouraged by the fate of their reserve, and especially of the Brandenburghers, who had just entered the Black Battery, when it was blown up with a terrified explosion, which destroyed half the regiment.
Boisseleau seized the moment and charged with his whole force, who, with wild Irish cheers, drove the besiegers with sword and pike down the breach, over the counterscarp, back to their trenches, then out of their trenches; drove them indeed to their very camp. The victory was complete. The English beaten at all points, were in no humour for further work that day.
The great explosion which blew up the Black Battery is spoken of as accidental by most of the Williamite writers; but it seems much more likely that the tradition (supported by Rowland Davies) which ascribes it to the timely springing of a mine, is correct, as the Irish do not seem to have suffered by it. That the English attacked with their full force is proved by the fact that Cutts's cavalry and the Brandenburgh regiment of Foot, both belonging to reserve, were engaged.
This last fierce battle for the possession of the city lasted some three or four hours.
"From half an hour after three," says Story, "till after seven, there was one continual fire of both great and small shot, without intermission; insomuch that the smoke that went up from the town reached in one continued cloud to the top of a mountain at least six miles off."
This was Keeper Mountain. Those who have seen he dense smoke of Vesuvius floating for miles over the villages, "in one continued cloud," will appreciate the fidelity of Story's description of the smoke of this final assault.
He gives a dismal picture of the men as they came back beaten into camp.
"When our men drew off some were brought up dead, and some without a leg; others without arms, and some were blind with powder; especially a great many of the poor Branderburghers looked like Furies, with the misfortune of the powder."
The stones of the regiment of MacMahon and the broken bottles of the women also left their marks. Davies mentions several officers thus wounded.
It is impossible to reconcile the various accounts of the loss on both sides. Story says the English lost 1,500 killed and wounded. O'Callagan estimates it at over 2,000, which is probably nearer the mark. The Irish loss must also have been considerable.
To William this reverse was a severe one.
"The King," Story tells us, "stood nigh Cromwell's fort all the time, and the business being over, he went to the camp very much concerned, as indeed was the whole army; for you might have seen a mixture of anger and sorrow in everybody's countenance!"
The next day, August 20th, William sent a drummer to Boisseleau, to request a truce for the purpose of burying the dead. Boisseleau replied that the Irish had none left upon the counterscarp or the glacis; but he would allow the English an hour, from four to five in the afternoon, to withdraw their own dead, on condition that they came not within twenty paces of the covered way. Their dead should be conveyed to them. He further told the drummer that he might inform the Prince of Orange "that they were prepared to give him a good reception in a second assault—still better, he hoped, than at the first."
All that day and night the bombardment was continued; both sides anticipating a second attack. Letters were sent to England announcing that this was intended; and great care was taken to prevent the real state of affairs being known there. In the Melfort correspondence it is said:—
"There is more care taken now than ever there has been seen, to seize all letters from Ireland, and they are all sent to Whitehall and burnt."
William had, in fact, decided to raise the siege, alleging as a reason the heavy rains, the rising of the Shannon, sickness in the army, and difficulties of making another attack under these disadvantages.
On Saturday, August 30th, just three weeks after his arrival, and three days after the assault, he drew off his army, and marched to Cahirconlish, on his way to Waterford and England. Several waggons were loaded with sick and wounded men. The ammunition and stores, which could not be taken away, were blown up, and the camp set fire to. There were still some 5,500 men, sick and wounded, left in the camp. The fire spread to the hospital where they were, and in spite of the exertions of the Irish, some 500 poor fellows were burnt. This shows at least culpable negligence on William's part, even if we cannot credit the story told by De Burgho in his Hibernia Dominicana, that on being asked what was to be done with these men, William, furious at his defeat, replied: "Let them be burnt, let them be set fire to!"
On the departure of the English, Boisseleau promptly demolished their works, and Tyrconnell and Lauzun sent a convoy of 1,200 fusiliers and dragoons into Limerick, with a supply of ammunition from the stores they had taken away before the siege. It was much wanted, as only so barrels of powder were left in the town.
With William's army went a host of poor Protestants who joined them on the march through the country. Story, always ready with his historical parallels, likens them to the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt.
HAVING raised the siege of Limerick, William made all haste to get out of the country. By a warrant, dated September 2nd, 1690, he appointed Henry Sydney (Viscount Sheppey) and Thomas Coningsby, Esq., Lords justices of Ireland, with full civil powers; leaving Baron de Solmes as Commander-in-Chief of the army. He then sailed from Duncannon for Bristol on September 4th, and arrived at Windsor on September 9th. In about a fortnight Solmes was recalled to England, Ginkel succeeding him as Commander-in-Chief; and in December Sir Charles Porter was appointed Lord Justice in place of Sydney, who had been made Secretary of State.
Tyrconnell had returned to Limerick, apparently encouraged by the result of the siege and determined to continue the war. But the French troops under Lauzun, still at Galway, were now recalled to France, the ships for their transport being in Galway roads. Had Lauzun cared to remain in Ireland, there is little doubt that he might have done so; for the order for his recall was sent before the news of the raising of of the siege had reached Paris. But not only Lauzun himself, but the officers and men under his command, lukewarm in James's cause from the first, were now much discontented with the results of the campaign, in which they had practically remained inactive. There is an official letter from France in the Stuart Papers (quoted by O'Callaghan), in which the writer mentions a conversation with Lauzun before he came over, in which he said:—
"If there were a man to whom ha wished the greatest plague he could invent, it should be in his circumstances to be sent into Ireland." He said it was "a desperate business, only fit for somebody who had neither reputation nor interest, nor quiet, nor anything else to lose."
That the French officers shared this sentiment is evident from a passage in Montesquieu's "Éloge," prefixed to the Memoirs of the Duke of Berwick. In this war in Ireland, he says, "valour was never wanting, but conduct always."
The war was regarded in England as of the utmost importance, but in France as a mere piece of good-nature on Louis's part. The French officers looked on it in this light, and had but three things in their heads, "to go over, to fight" (which they did not do), "and to go back again" (which they did). He afterwards admits that this was a foolish estimate of the importance to France of the war in Ireland; and in this he is quite right.
Louis and his advisers bungled in this matter of the Irish War.
The French soldiers disliked the country and climate, and, unlike the Irish who could live on a handful of oatmeal, could not do without bread, which was often either not to be had, or of bad quality. Neither officers nor men could rough it in this barbarous country, though they were not so delicate as the Normans, who did manage to remain. Of them Giraldus says:—
"They could not feed but upon dainties, neither could their meat digest without wine at each meal."
In the Irish camp, in spite of the triumphant defence of Limerick, the dissentions between the party of "No surrender" and the Tyrconnellite opportunists ran as high as before. On one point, however, both were agreed: that now, if ever, was the time to demand some more effectual assistance from France. They wanted troops, they wanted arms and ammunition—above all, they wanted a general in whom they could have some confidence, to replace the incompetent Lauzun. They were also in danger of a dearth of provisions; for a great multitude of poor Catholics had been driven over the Shannon into Connaught by William's proclamations, which pronounced a sentence of banishment upon all who refused to submit. James's "gun-money" was now almost worthless, and the trade with France could only be maintained by means of barter; corn, cattle, butter, tallow, and bides being exchanged for other commodities and munitions of war. It is curious to find that all through the war this trade continued pretty brisk. But now, owing to the new influx of a destitute population, it was necessary to obtain a supply of provisions also from France, to keep the garrison of Connaught in fighting condition.
Tyrconnell resolved to accompany Lauzun to France, and lay the state of affairs before James and Louis. The opportunity was favourable, as Louis was beginning to feel better disposed towards the Irish. Leaving the chief authority in the hands of the Duke of Berwick, then little more than twenty, but already a more capable man than his father, and appointing Dorrington Governor of Limerick in place Boisseleau, who was recalled to France, he went back to Galway; and thence sailed with Lauzun and the French troops. They took back to France their "excellent field train" which James had drawn off the field at the Battle of the Boyne; twelve la-pounders, minus that one gun "lost in a bog" which the king mentions in his Memoirs.
Tyrconnell and Lauzun, apparently the fastest of friends, arrived safely at Brest. They had been of one mind since the Battle of the Boyne. They had counselled James's flight from the field, they had abandoned Limerick on William's approach, taking with them the French troops with stores and ammunition. They had withdrawn the cavalry from the Shannon, allowing William to cross unopposed; and Tyrconnell is still further accused of having served out beans and oats to the garrison of Limerick while he had abundance of wheat in his own commissariat. Besides all this, they had agreed in slandering the Irish in every possible way at the French Court, It was not wonderful that they were hated and despised by the war party in Ireland.
Now, however, Tyrconnell, having heard from his agents in France that the gallant defence of Limerick had caused a reaction in favour of the Irish, determined by a bold stroke of policy to regain his popularity, at the expense of Lauzun. He represented to him that it was necessary they should support each other in justifying their conduct in Ireland. Feigning illness, he remained in Brest, and allowed Lauzun to precede him to the French Court, where he told the story concocted between them to both James and Louis.
"Ireland," he said, "was lost. The people, tired of war, were ready to make terms with William. But for the energy of Tyrconnell, who was devoted o the interests of his master, Limerick itself would have been surrendered."
In a few days comes my Lord Tyrconnell himself, so full of zeal in the cause of his master, that instead of backing up his friend, he is compelled to denounce him, swearing with many a good mouth-filling oath, that, desperate as the condition of the country might be, the cause was by no means hopeless, if only he could have persuaded Lauzun and the French to defend Limerick, or even to stay in Ireland. But they had no zeal, no devotion in the cause of either James or Louis. He had come himself to demand, in the name of all that was sacred, fresh supplies of troops and money. Even now, this was all that was necessary to drive the heretics into the sea. Poor Lauzun, quite taken aback by this dashing piece of opportunism, narrowly escaped the Bastille, by the intercession of the English Queen.
The Irish, meanwhile, were not idle. A council, or senate, of twelve officers had been appointed to assist the Duke of Berwick with their advice. Among these the majority were "new men," creatures of Tyrconnell, with estates to lose. Sarsfield, it is true, was himself a member, but he had been placed last on the list, and would probably not have been nominated at all, had Tyrconnell dared to pass him over.
The war-party, headed by Sarsfield and Brigadier Henry Luttrell, looked with suspicion upon Tyrconnell. Luttrell from the first had played an important, though secret, part in the intrigues which proved so fatal to the Jacobite cause in Ireland. He had induced Tyrconnell to get rid of Melfort, the Scotch Secretary of State, who was extremely unpopular with the Irish, After James had returned to France, Tyrconnell had requested him to dismiss Melfort, who was recalled and sent on a mission to the Pope; Sir Richard Nagle, the Irish Attorney-General, being appointed in his place. Nagle was, according to the Duke of Berwick:—
"A very honest man, sensible in his own profession, but not in the least conversant with affairs of state. Luttrell had been one of the chief instigators of this business."
Nagle accompanied Tyrconnell to Paris, Lord Riverston, a Tyrconnellite, acting as Secretary of State in his absence.
Now that Tyrconnell had gone to France, Luttrell attached himself to Sarsfield, and went about everywhere, stirring up the people against the Lord Deputy, whom he accused of treachery. He had previously endeavoured to obtain the co-operation of the Duke of Berwick against him. The duke says:—
"He continued to incense the principal people of the nation to such a degree that one day Sarsfield came to me from them, and after engaging me to secrecy, told me that being convinced of the treachery of Tyrconnell, they had resolved to put him in arrest; and therefore he was to propose to me from them that I should take upon me the command of the kingdom."
This Berwick refused to do, on the ground that acting against the Viceroy was high treason; and he threatened to acquaint the King and Tyrconnell of the plot if it were carried further, which, he says, "prevented the execution of the design."
A grand council was, however, held in Limerick, after the deposition of Tyrconnell, in which the clergy joined with the officers of Sarsfield's party in denouncing Tyrconnell. Sarsfield, Simon Luttrell (a brother of Henry) and Torrington, the Governor, were appointed to wait upon the Duke of Berwick, which they did on September 30th, representing to him that the authority given him by Tyrconnell was illegal; but that they were willing in the name of the Irish nation, to confirm him in this, if he would consent to the election of a new council of officers to act as his military advisers, with two deputies from each province to attend to all civil business. They further declared that Tyrconnell would not represent the real views of the nation at the Court of France, and requested that he would send deputies of their own party, whom they could trust. This latter request the duke thought it best to grant, and nominated Henry and Simon Luttrell, Dr. Creagh, the Bishop of Cork, and Colonel Purcell, all of whom were accepted. With them he joined, as his own representative, the Scotch Catholic, Brigadier Maxwell, giving him secret instructions that Henry Luttrell and Colonel Purcell, "two dangerous incendiaries," should be detained in France.
The deputies accordingly sailed from Limerick some time after Tyrconnell had sailed from Galway. On the voyage, suspecting that Maxwell carried secret instructions, Henry Luttrell and Purcell determined to throw him overboard, but were prevented by the Bishop and Simon Luttrell.
Tyrconnell still had a difficult game to play in Paris; but his bold stratagem against Lauzun must have recommended him to the great bourgeois, Louvois, Lauzun's direst enemy at court; and might have proved of great service to James, as he himself declares, had Louvois lived. His death occurred not long after this incident, on May 16th, 1691.
The deputies had barely got to sea, when a courier arrived from France with an order from James to the Duke of Berwick, that "no such persons should be permitted to go out of Ireland." They were delayed by adverse winds, and only reached St. Malo when Tyrconnell, having made his peace at court, was at Brest on his way back to Ireland. At first James looked coldly upon them, and might perhaps have detained Luttrell and Purcell, had they not boldly declared that any insult to their persons would be resented by the Irish, who in their despair might be induced to make terms with William, and even to retaliate upon the Duke of Berwick. James yielded to these threats, only requesting them not to disparage Tyrconnell to the French King.
They asked for assistance in men, arms, and money, and above all for a French general in whom the Irish might have confidence; declaring that, if properly armed and led, they were determined to hold on to the last.
They pleaded their cause so well, that although they did not obtain all the support they asked for, St. Ruth was appointed commander-in-chief of the Irish forces. St. Ruth had already seen how valiantly the Irish, when properly disciplined and led, could fight. The Irish Brigade of Lord Mountcashel had served under him in Piedmont, carried an entrenched position in the Isère valley in splendid style, routed the Piedmontese in a still stronger position between the Mont Cenis and St. Bernard, and helped to make the whole campaign a brilliant success. He was, therefore, eminently qualified for the present command, and unlike the other French officers, went to Ireland with a respect for the Irish. He did not, however, come over until the summer of the next year, 1691.
During Tyrconnell's absence, the Duke of Berwick had attempted some military operations, but without much success. With Sarsfield as second in command, he had crossed the Shannon, and had laid siege to the Castle of Birr. He complains that he was obliged to raise the siege because of the unskilfulness of his gunners, who could never manage to hit the castle. But a local writer, who in 1826, gave a description of the place, says that it "still exhibits the marks" of his unsuccessful cannonading. A retreat was, in any case, rendered necessary by the approach of a greatly superior force under Douglas, Kirke, and Lanier. Their object was to drive Sarsfield back across the Shannon, and to break down the bridge at Banagher. The Irish, although forced to retreat, took up a strong position on the Connaught side, and saved the bridge. That the enemy wished to break it down shows that they dreaded Sarsfield's incursions; their great fear being that he might make an attack upon Dublin, which both he and Berwick wished to do.
After the battle of Beachy Head, De Tourville, having made his paltry attempt at invasion, retired to Brest, allowing the English fleet time to refit. Louis thus lost the one favourable moment for an invasion of England, though James urged this upon him strongly, and both parties in England expected it, the apprehension of it even causing a panic in London.
While William was still in Ireland, Churchill, now Earl of Marlborough, suggested to Queen Mary that a portion of the fleet should be sent round, to convey a force of 5,000 men, for the purpose of attacking Cork and Kinsale, the most important ports in the hands of the Irish. She forwarded the suggestion to William, who approved of the plan, and gave the command to Marlborough.
On September 16th, after many vexatious delays, the fleet sailed, arriving in Cork roads on September 21st. The events of this well-planned expedition have been so recently narrated by Lord Wolseley, in his Life of Marlborough, that it is not necessary here to enter into particulars, especially as Sarsfield was not engaged in the defence of either of the important places attacked. The expedition was completely successful, all the operations being conducted with rare skill and despatch by Marlborough. On September 73rd he arrived before Cork, where he was soon joined by Tettau and the Duke of Wurtemberg. They invested the city, and after a siege of a few days, just as they were about to storm the breach which had been made, the governor, Colonel Macgillicuddy (or Mac Elligot, as he signs himself) surrendered. While leading a storming party to the breach, the Duke of Grafton, a natural son of Charles II. by the Duchess of Cleveland, was mortally wounded by a musket ball.
Cork being taken, Marlborough marched against Kinsale. On October 1st he invested the New Fort, which was of considerable strength, sending Tettau with a detachment across the harbour in boats, to storm the Old Fort, which he did. After a vigorous siege, the New Fort was surrendered by Sir Edward Scott, the governor, on October 9th.
The Duke of Berwick, who had made an attempt to prevent the junction of the Duke of Wurtemberg with Marlborough, was eagerly expected by Scott. He excuses his not coming to Scott's relief on the ground that he had but 7,000 to 8,000 men with him, a very inferior force to that under his uncle. This does not seem to have been the case, as they were about equal as to numbers, though no doubt Marlborough's men were much better equipped.
Having thus expeditiously finished the business, Marlborough returned to the Court of Kensington, having been absent but some five weeks. He was most graciously received by William, who condescended to say that: "No officer who has seen so little service as my Lord of Marlborough is so fit for great commands."
The loss of Cork and Kinsale was the most crushing blow yet struck in the cause of William, and did much to make the gallant defence of Limerick a barren triumph.
The Irish were now shut up in Connaught; and the two ports most convenient for the landing of French troops, should an army at last be sent, were in the hands of the enemy. Even the leisurely bungling of William's Dutch generals could but delay the final catastrophe. The war, so badly conducted on both sides, was now approaching its end.
The taking of the forts of Kinsale closed the campaign of 1690; some unimportant skirmishes with the indomitable Rapparees being all that Story has to chronicle until next spring. He describes the manner in which they concealed themselves in the bogs. After one of these skirmishes, some of the English,
"Loitering about among the dead, found one Dun, a sergeant of the enemies, who was lying like the otter, all under water in a running brook (except the top of his nose and his mouth)." He then tells how this poor fellow was taken and hanged, though he had offered forty shillings in English money to save his life, "a great ransom as he believed."
This was the frequent fate of these poor Rapparees who fought for their country as best they could, when they had the misfortune to fall into the hands of their enemies.
"When the Rapparees have no mind to show themselves," he continues, "they commonly sink down between two or three little hills, grown over with long grass, so that you may as soon find a hair as one of them; they conceal their arms thus, they take off the lock and put it in their pocket, or hide it in some dry place; they stop the mussle (muzzle) close with a cork, and the tutch-hole with a small quil (quill), and then throw the piece itself into a running water or a pond."
Thus, though apparently without arms, they could come together as an armed band at any appointed place at an hour's notice. Properly organised, the cunning, bravery, and endurance, of these men might have been used for definitely planned military operations. As it was, their lives were wasted by hundreds in mere marauding.
While the Duke of Berwick was making his ineffectual demonstration against Marlborough in the south, Sarsfield was not idle. The defence of the passes of the Shannon was left in his hands, and he showed his accustomed vigilance and activity in defending them. There is a very interesting letter in the French archives which, taken in connection with O'Kelly's narrative, enables us to understand the position of affairs during Tyrconnell's absence. It is written from Galway, by the Abbé Gravel, dated December 28th, 1690, and is addressed to Louvois. It is full of the praises of Sarsfield, who—
"Keeps our troops always on the alert." The Irish have made an incursion into West Meath and burned Mullingar. He speaks of the marvellous way in which Sarsfield obtains intelligence of the enemy's movements, so that he can annoy them with frequent skirmishes.
O'Kelly, on the other hand, though usually favourable to Sarsfield, gives a dismal picture of the state of the country which—
"Was most lamentably governed between the Duke of Berwick, Sarsfield and the new Senate...The Duke of Berwick minded his youthful pleasure more than the conduct of his troops. The commissioners left for civil affairs pretended they had no power to regulate the soldiery."
Sarsfield also, he says "gave out many orders" interfering with civil affairs. The troops, without pay or commissariat, lived by plunder and without discipline. Sarsfield is accused by O'Kelly of having connived at these disorders by giving the fraudulent army agents an escort of soldiers when on their plundering expedition:
"For he was so easy that he would not deny signing any paper that was laid before him."
This gives us an insight into the weaker side of the popular hero's character. O'Kelly admits, however, that things were no worse than they had always been.
It is only just to Sarsfield to say that he was in a most difficult position, which would have taxed all the energy of Marlborough himself to grapple with. He had to contend single-handed with mismanagement, hike-warmness, and even treachery on all sides; constantly hampered by interference from incapable superiors, yet always fighting gallantly against adverse fortune. Whatever energy, valour, and military skill were shown in the war, were conspicuous in him. The difficulties of maintaining an army in anything like fighting condition, which he was determined to do, and which he did, were immensely increased by the incursion into Connaught of the starving Catholic population, driven by the persecutions of William's agents across the Shannon. This the Abbé Gravel lays great stress upon, in urging upon Louvois the necessity of sending supplies of provisions.
He praises the condition of the cavalry, the most effective arm of the service, and under Sarsfield's special care. The Catholics are now in despair, but determined to conquer or die. The party of Sarsfield is "the true party of the king," and they are ready loyally to serve under a competent general if one be sent. Only Riverston and Colonel Macdonell, his brother-in-law, dissented when he proposed this, saying that Tyrconnell must still be supreme in civil matters at least.
Early in November, according to O'Kelly, Sarsfield discovered a conspiracy, on the part of certain members of the council, to allow the English to pass the Shannon, and to deliver up Limerick and Galway. He gave Berwick a list of these conspirators; and though Berwick had received a similar list, obtained by James from London, he refused to secure them, because they were Tyrconnell's friends. He was however, at length prevailed on to dismiss Riverston from the secretaryship and to supersede Macdonnell as Governor of Galway, putting Sarsfield in his place, and making him in addition Governor of Connaught.
There are several interesting particulars given in the Abbey's letter, which confirm O'Kelly's account of the existence of this conspiracy, and show that Sarsfield had good ground for suspecting Macdonnell, who, on the fall of Kinsale, is reported to have said, "that it was the best to think of some decent composition."
He speaks with enthusiasm of Sarsfield's "wisdom and penetration," and says that he "made the Duke of Berwick understand the true interests of the king, his father," and that it was a masterstroke on Berwick's part to subordinate Macdonnell to Sarsfield, "whose fidelity and zeal for the service of the king were perfectly well known to him."
Sarsfield's first act on being made governor was to send 300 men from Galway to Sligo, which was to have been attacked from the sea. The Abbé says the enemy would never have thought of such an expedition so late in the year, but that they had been given hopes of an easy conquest. He tells of the steps taken by Sarsfield to obtain the deposition of Riverston and Macdonnell, whom he urged Berwick to place under arrest. This he had promised to do, but had not yet done.
Sarsfield had left Galway to watch the enemy, who, as a deserter had told Berwick, were discouraged, being left without pay, harassed by Rapparees, and ready to desert if a safe passage home could be procured for them.
The Abbé continues to sing the praises of Sarsfield, who, he says, is full of gratitude to Louis (no doubt for favours to come). He entreats Louvois to send succour to the Irish, who are now under a chief in whom they have such confidence that they are ready to march wherever he leads them. He contrasts his loyalty and resolution with the weakness of the defenders of Cork and Kinsale. "His indomitable courage in the most desperate situations and the love of the people who call him the father of his country," should recommend him to a man of superhuman genius, like Louvois.
Before sending off his letter in December, he describes the fortifications which the French engineers are constructing at Limerick, which,
"Will make this city harder of digestion to the Prince of Orange, should he again attack it." At Galway, Sarsfield in raising several new forts and horn-works, and greatly strengthening the place. He is also about to visit Sligo and Athlone, and will omit nothing in the way of defence against the enemy.
It is very pleasant to come across this tribute to Sarsfield, and to know that the praise is thoroughly well-deserved.
The correspondence between the disaffected members of the council and the Williamites, but half-checked by the Duke of Berwick, still went on; the "new men" wishing to put an end to the war by any means. In the middle of winter, with snow on the ground, an attempt was made to pass the Shannon at two places, Lanesborough and Jamestown; but the vigilance of Sarsfield, who kept these points well defended, frustrated it, and the English were forced to retire with some loss.
About the middle of January, 1691, Tyrconnell came back. Sir Richard Nagle was reinstated in his office as secretary of state, and Riverston restored to his place in the council.
Tyrconnell brought no troops with him, but some provisions and arms, and 24,000 Louis d'Ors; 10,000 of which he left at Brest, "to buy meal, etc.," say James's Memoirs. Of the rest he distributed 13,000 among the officers, but 10,000 being left for other provisions and munitions of war. The Memoirs give a dismal account of the destitution of both officers and men.
Sarsfield was now created by James, by a patent of nobility entrusted to Tyrconnell, Earl of Lucan, Viscount of Tully, and Baron of Rosberry.
"It put him into good temper enough, and he being really jealous for the king's service, engaged for the quiet comportment of the other mutineers, and acted heartily in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant."
This extract from James's Memoirs, in which h graciously designates him a "mutineer," proves that Sarsfield was ready to act in concert with his opponents, when he felt that his loyalty was recognised, and that there was an apparent prospect that Tyrconnell would no longer adopt the policy of despair. In a very interesting letter to Louvois, written from Limerick, and dated February 4th, 1691, Sarsfield defends his party from the aspersions of the Tyrconnellites, and says that the only crimes of which they can be accused are the suspecting those who desire to treat with the Prince of Orange for giving the whole of Ireland into his hands, and the resolution to die a thousand times rather than betray the interests of their master, and submit to a usurper.
During the month of January, little was done on either side, and in February, Berwick, with some other great officers of the Irish army, went to France, "being discontented, as 'twas said, at my Lord Tyrconnell's way of Proceeding with the Government."
Tyrconnell was received in Limerick with all outward demonstrations of welcome, though his first care was to prevent, as far as lay in his power, all communication with France on the part of Sarsfield and his friends. He had arranged with the chief magistrate at Brest, that all couriers from Paris should be stopped, and their letters seized and forwarded to himself. Sarsfield, however, managed to obtain a letter from the Deputies, through a French officer, who landed in Galway, and found him there. This letter, which told of the appointment of St. Ruth, he caused to be publicly read at a great assembly of the chief officers and citizens; and this did much to raise the hopes of the majority. Many of the citizens were, however, men with estates, and strong Tyrconnellites; and when the Lord Deputy arrived, he was received by them with great joy.
In Galway he stayed some time,
"And," says O'Kelly, "nothing was seen during his abode there, but balls and banquets, bonfires and public rejoicings, as if the English were quite driven out of Ireland, and a glorious peace established in the Nation. But what is more remarkable is that Tyrconnell and his friends lived at this rate when the soldiers of the army wanted bread, the common sort of people ready to starve, and indeed, the whole nation reduced under the greatest hardships that mortals could suffer."
The pay of the common soldiers was then but a penny a day, and that probably not paid regularly, so that they had to live as best they might. The base money had now grown practically valueless, and was called in by Tyrconnell.
AFTER William left Ireland, his agents, the Lords Justices, organised the civil administration, while the army patrolled the country hanging Rapparees, held the principal towns east of the Shannon, and prepared for the new campaign. Coningsby (who as paymaster-general and head of the Commissariat, had given William great satisfaction) still had, as Lord Justice, the finances of the Army in his special care. The revenues these officials managed to get in were considerable. An official account, dated July 1691, and including the two years from August, 1689, to Midsummer, 1691, gives a total amount of £142,014 11s. 3d.—about a quarter of the average in times of peace. The war, however, according to Story's estimates, cost some £10,000,000 for provisions, transport, and officers' and men's pay alone.
In December, 1691, the English army had been divided into four separate corps. Douglas was to act against Sligo; Kirke and Lanier to attack the fords of the Shannon at Lanesborough; Tettau to enter Kerry; Ginkel and Scravemore to operate around Limerick.
Ginkel and Tettau, worried by Rapparees, did nothing. In spite of the prosperous state of William's finances, as compared with James's, his army in Ireland was in a chronic state of discontent. Ginkel's letters to Coningsby are full of complaints about the difficulties of his position. He is always asking for money. His mercenaries are always clamouring for arrears of pay, and ready to desert They should have 1s. a day (the Irish standard was 1d.). Forage is scarce, destroyed by the Rapparees. The Irish have plenty of corn, but they have buried it, and it is hard to find. The men are sick and mutinous.
If the English were in difficulties, one may well wonder, with James, how the poor Irish "brought it as far as they did."
Meanwhile, Sarsfield, always well-informed as to the enemy's movements, always prompt in decision and action, had visited all the important posts along the Shannon, entrenching some, and strengthening the guard in all. He proved himself more than a match for Douglas, Kirke, and Lanier, though almost without artillery, either for defensive or offensive operations. He had fixed his head-quarters at Athlone. Those of the English, in the West, were at Mullingar, which he would doubtless have attacked, if he had had artillery. It was now too well-fortified and garrisoned to give him a chance of success without a regular siege. He was, however, always on the watch for an opportunity of assuming the offensive, and still held several small posts on the Leinster side of the Shannon. He had sent Clifford to defend the passage at Lanesborough, and Colonel O'Hara to defend Jamestown.
Hearing that Kirke was moving upon Lanesborough, having left Lanier sick at Mullingar, with half their force as garrison of that important place, Sarsfield determined to pass the Shannon and attack him in the rear, while Clifford received him in front. This well-planned piece of strategy was unfortunately frustrated; for, just as he was about to leave Athlone, he heard from O'Hara that Douglas was marching to attack Jamestown, and that the river being lower than usual, several fords were now open. Fearing that Douglas might force a passage and advance upon Sligo, which was but ill-defended, he went at once to support O'Hara; but found that Douglas had already made his attack, had been repulsed with heavy loss, and had retreated. Hurrying back to Athlone, to execute his first project, he heard that Kirke also, badly beaten, had retired in disorder to Mullingar, losing his camp and baggage.
These events are narrated by Sarsfield himself in his letter to Louvois, and his account is confirmed by Ginkel's letters and by documents in the French' archives.
In the same letter he complains of Clifford's disaffection, which he attributes to his not having been made a major-general. Sarsfield had fortified Ballymore, which he regarded as the key to Athlone, and had ordered Clifford to throw 300 men into it. This he had not done. He had twice asked to be allowed to throw up his commission. Sarsfield fears he may abandon Bally-more, the centre of a country which supports 20,000 peasants with their cattle, besides several regiments, if he does not himself get there in time. Clifford has burnt a castle near Mullingar, taken by Sarsfield, and containing a quantity of provisions and property pillaged from the Catholics of those parts. He gave orders for its destruction without having aeon it, although Sara-field wished to hold it.
This is confirmed by Ginkel, who says the occupation of this place by the Irish menaced the garrisons of Streamstown and Mearescourt.
Ginkel saw the importance of Ballymore, and resolved to make it his first point of attack. In February he writes that he is about to march against it with all the troops he can muster. The rendezvous was at Tycroghan, a house where Vanhomrigh (the father of Swift's Vanessa) wished to establish a magazine.
The attack was postponed, as Ballymore was too strong to attack without opening trenches; and until St. Ruth landed in May little was done on either side, though the Rapparees remained active even in those parts of the country that were patrolled by the Williamites. It was not until June that the cautious Ginkel advanced to the Shannon with a real determination to take Athlone.
There is another interesting letter from Sarsfield in the French archives. It is written from Galway to Lord Mountcashel, and dated March 23rd, 1691.
In it he denounces Tyrconnell at great length, accusing him of having intercepted or pretended to intercept a letter from Mountcashel to himself, containing expressions very disrespectful to their master, James. Tyrconnell is very polite ("me fait milles caresses"), but Sarsfield knows him and does not trust him. He says that in Limerick the army would have seized Tyrconnell, and made Sarsfield. Commander-in-Chief, but that he opposed their design from respect to the King's Deputy. He says further that Mountcashel's old friend Clifford is of Tyrconnell's party. He is as mad as ever, and has misconducted himself in the face of the enemy.
The Irish cavalry are well mounted at the expense of the enemy, from whom the Rapparees have taken 1,000 horses during the winter. He has got 37 horses from Lanier's quarters, 22 of them from his own stable. They await St. Ruth's arrival with impatience, but hope he may be independent of Tyrconnell; who, if he has the least authority, is capable of spoiling the designs of the best captain in Europe.
* * *
On June 1st, Ginkel came to Mullingar. His first idea was to make a feint attack on Athlone with one division, while another should attempt to pass the Shannon at Banagher and Mellick. It was, however, deemed imprudent to divide the army, lest Sarsfield might pass over from Athlone and get between the English and Dublin, or even march upon that city. Unfortunately, Sarsfield had not a sufficient force at his command to do more than guard the Shannon. Even when Ginkel advanced to attack Ballymore, though Sarsfield had concentrated his troops at Athlone he seems to have made absolutely no attempt to relieve that place, no doubt feeling himself too weak to do so without risking too much. It would have been a mistake to defend it at all, except that it delayed Ginkel, and allowed St. Ruth time to come up to Athlone.
The fort of Ballymore stood upon a promontory running out into a little lake, which surrounded it on three sides. It was well defended against troops without artillery, but incapable of standing a regular bombardment. There were two lines of fortification, both with bastions. The outer ran across the thick neck of the promontory; the inner surrounded "the Mount," a rising ground, with a Danish Fort upon it, in which this peninsula terminated. There were also some breastworks to defend the place on the southeast, where the lake became very narrow. Some 1,100 men, under Colonel Ulick Burke, occupied the fort, in which a number of women and children had taken refuge. To feed the garrison, a stock of sheep and cattle had been driven on to the peninsula before the English came.
Ginkel arrived on Sunday, June 7th, and summoned the place in due form; the Governor refused his terms in due form, and the bombardment began. Four field pieces were at once brought up, "which played three or four hours upon the Island;" the Irish replying as best they might with their "two small Turkish pieces mounted on cart wheels," which were all they had to reply with, except their matchlocks.
A sergeant and fifteen men, in a small castle at some distance, were cut off by a detachment sent for that purpose. They at first made some resistance, some of the enemy being killed by their fire; but being forced to surrender, the sergeant was hanged by Ginkel on a little hill in full sight of the fort.
By Monday morning, June 8th, four batteries, one of Si; two of four guns each, some of them eighteen and twenty-four pounders, began to play on the Irish works; and after some time Ginkel sent a verbal message to the Governor, that if the fort were not surrendered within two hours he should be hanged as his sergeant was. Burke, to mark his sense of this insult, asked to have the message in writing, affecting to think the messenger must have delivered it wrongly. Ginkel, in a letter "Given at our Camp the 8th day of June, 1691, at 8 a clock in the morning," repeated his threat, adding that the garrison should have no quarter if they did not surrender as prisoners of war. The women and children might leave the place, if they chose to do so, within two hours.
Burke, however, gallantly demanded to be allowed to march out with the honours of war.
"Upon which," says Story, "the General ordered all our guns and mortars to fall to work, the bombs tearing up the sandy banks, and the Irish running like conies from one hole to another; whilst the guns were battering the works and making a breach, the Irish in the meantime did what they could with their two guns and small shot, but Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, their Engineer, had his hand shot off from one of our batteries, and their works went down apace, which made the Irish very uneasy. This siege, however, was very delightful to our whole party, who had a view of it from the adjoining hill. My Lord Justice Conningsby also, who was now in the camp, and stay'd here for some time, having the satisfaction of being an eye-witness to the forwardness of our soldiers."
From this description it is evident that the worthy cleric thoroughly enjoyed this "delightful" siege. If he had given a thought to the possible sufferings of the women and children, he might again have been led to "reflect upon our Profession of Soldiery, not to be overcharged with Good nature."
At 12 o'clock, noon, the Irish, who had exhausted their small stock of powder, beat a parley and hung out a white flag, of which Ginkel took no notice, the batteries firing continually until both the inner and outer works were battered into rubbish. Four tin boats were then launched upon the lough, and filled with soldiers in preparation for storming the place when resistance was no longer possible. The Irish, seeing this, again beat a parley and asked for quarter, which Ginkel, "being in his own temper a very merciful man," granted. The garrison surrendered at discretion, and the victorious General abstained from the threatened massacre. He did not even hang Ulick Burke: the soldier was stern, but the man relented.
A letter from Ginkel, dated June 16th, says he has sent the garrison 55 or 56 officers, about 800o soldiers, and 200 Rapparees ("most of them armed," says Story) to Dublin.
"There were also nigh 400 women and children all crowded up in this sad place, who were set at liberty."
One wonders what became of them. Colonel Parker, who was with Ginkel at Athlone and Aughrim, gives a terrible picture of the sufferings of the peasantry, who were driven from side to side of the Shannon by the opposing armies.
"These wretches," he says, "came flocking in great numbers about our camp (at Ballymore) devouring all the filth they could meet with. Our dead horses crawling with vermin, as the sun had parched them, were delicious food to them; while their infants sucked those carcases with as much eagerness as if they were their mother's breasts."
The garrison of Ballymore were sent from Dublin to Lambay Island, where most of them died of sickness and starvation, their friends not being allowed to send them provisions or clothing.
Ginkel, having repaired and garrisoned Ballymore, prepared to march upon Athlone. Major-General Mackay, the hero of Killiecrankie, just come from Scotland with his Scotch Puritans, now joined him.
It is evident, from a letter written by Mackay to William, in execrable French, that he considered Ginkel a weak general, anxious to avoid responsibility by conducting his operations according to the rules of war, but without initiative, and in practical difficulties leaning upon his subordinates, and wavering between opposing counsels.
He blames him for not having better information respecting the enemy's movements, and for leaving his rear so ill-defended that his communications with Dublin might easily have been cut off. He was always in fear lest Sarsfield might send a detachment across the river and "raise the country behind him." His commissariat was in the hands of a certain Pareira (probably a Jew) with whom he had made a foolish contract, which only bound the contractor to have supplies of provisions at certain places, Ginkel being obliged to provide for their transport to his camp. Pareira cheated him, fleeced him; and yet he implicitly trusted him, though often proved untrustworthy. Mackay ascribes it to "the Providence of God" that Sarsfield was prevented from attacking his rear.
He did not know how weak Sarsfield was in artillery and even in small arms.
St. Ruth, meanwhile, had arrived in Limerick, on. May 8th, with some money, arms, and provisions, but no men. He probably brought with him the grenades used by the Irish for the first time during the siege of Athlone.
Tyrconnell now again became active in making preparations for war. He summoned the Rapparees to come to Limerick, and from them he raised an army of some 20,000 men to serve under St. Ruth, with whatever small train of artillery he could scrape together. To mount his cavalry he was forced to seize the horses of the gentry of the surrounding county.
"By paying tradesmen and workmen," says James, "part money, part little necessarys of apparel, part fair words and part promises, of which they were liberal enough" he "got to gather" 170 caissons, 400 "small cartes," with carriages for "10 field pieces."
A miserable supply as compared with Ginkel's formidable batteries!
Finding that, borrow and requisition as he might, there was "no remedy against this consumption of the purse," as Falstaff had discovered before, Tyrconnell now wrote to James, asking for money, and in the letter "he took the freedom to tell him he ought to sell his shirt from his back rather than fail." This James himself mentions, but explains that willing as he was to make every possible sacrifice, he had nothing left to sacrifice.
When St. Ruth came over, he took care to let Tyrconnell feel that he would brook no interference in things military. The Lord Deputy "had not power to make even a Colonel." St. Ruth had come over in the company of the Luttrells, and was glad to make use of their party as a check upon Tyrconnell, whose presence in the camp at Athlone was looked upon with extreme jealousy by Sarsfield and his followers. According to the author of Light to the Blind, a message was sent him, with the connivance of St. Ruth, threatening that, if he refused to return to Limerick, the cords of his tent would be cut. Upon this, "making a noble conquest of himself," he returned.
This is confirmed by a letter dated July 4th, written by Tyrconnell, apparently to Louis, or for his eye. In exchange for the services of St. Ruth, Louvois had demanded 1,200 more men to serve in the Irish Brigade.
Tyrconnell in this letter complains that the "seditious party of my Lord Lucan, Purcell and Luttrell" accused him of having sold these men, for money paid to himself. He says he is about to leave for Limerick to raise this contingent, which he must do by force or stratagem, "such is the repugnance they have to quitting this miserable country." A document requesting him to retire from the camp has been sent round for signature by Lucan and his friends. St. Ruth being supreme in military matters, he has spoken to him about it; St. Ruth professed ignorance; but he is is the hands of this party. The loss of Athlone has made the King's cause hopeless, and on account of his health he must ask for his recall.
The new recruits for the Irish Brigade were sent from Limerick after the Battle of Aughrim, when the ships which had brought over St. Ruth returned without him.
On June 18th, Ginkel, who had heard that St. Ruth, with a great drove of cattle, collected by Maxwell for the support of his army, was marching upon Athlone, advanced from Ballymore to Ballyburn Pass, where his entire force was to assemble. It amounted, all told, to some 25,000 men. From Ballyburn he reconnoitred Athlone, and saw some of the Irish Horse on the hills near the town, the camp being about two miles beyond the river, on a narrow neck of land between two bogs. The camp which Story here speaks of must have been that occupied by the cavalry of the garrison, St. Ruth not coming up until the third day of the siege, when he occupied much the same ground. From his camp to the town "the only avenue" is described as "a causeway made in a morass." Where the causeway entered the town, a wall, or "curtain," faced the camp; and it is said that Tyrconnell was the first to propose that this should be levelled, to admit of easy access from the camp.
Athlone, like Limerick, was compounded of two separate towns, divided by the Shannon and connected by a stone bridge—the English town on the Leinster, and the Irish town on the Connaught bank. Both were, for Irish places of the period, fairly well fortified, and in the Irish town there was, almost opposite the bridge, a small castle or citadel.
When Colonel Grace was besieged in the previous year by Douglas, he had abandoned and burnt the English town, confining his defence to the Roscommon side of the river. Colonel Fitzgerald, who had succeeded him as Governor, now determined to defend both towns, the fortifications of the English town having been as far as possible repaired by Sarsfield's orders. Within these repaired fortifications a garrison of some 400 or 500 men had been placed, and on the approach of the enemy, Fitzgerald sent out a party of dragoons, to occupy the passes leading to the town, and as much as possible check the advance of the enemy. This they did so effectually that, while gradually retiring from cover to cover, they managed considerably to retard the progress of Ginkel's advanced guard, and by taking advantage of every defile "cost the enemy many men."
Once arrived before the place, Ginkel lost no time in getting to work. It was about three o'clock, on that Fine summer morning of June 19th, when he began his march. It was about nine when he came before the town, having advanced at the rate of about a mile an hour, against the resistance of Fitzgerald's Dragoons.
By eight next morning, he had some of his heavy guns in position, in two batteries; one of eight twenty-four pounders being directed against the wall of the English town, near the Dublin Gate. Here a breach was made by twelve o'clock, and at five o'clock a storming party of 4,000 men—Dutch, Danes, and English—made the assault under Mackay, who himself describes it.
Two hundred grenadiers, picked from all the regiments engaged, led the van; Stuart with his Scots supported them; and the Danes and Dutch brought up the rear. Mackay ordered the grenadiers to advance along a road running diagonally across an open space 300 yards wide, between the English battery and the town wall, to the Dublin Gate, which lay at some distance to the right of the breach. They were to avail themselves of whatever cover the road afforded until they came opposite the breach, and then to dash across the open.
Mackay, watching the attack from the battery, soon saw that the first company had kept the road too far, and had gone past the breach. He saw them scramble out into the open, waver, get into confusion, and remain exposed to the Irish fire from the walls. The Huguenot Lieutenant who led them was killed as they left the cover; the Colonel who commanded the detachment badly wounded. The following companies had got blocked upon the road, and for a moment it looked as if the attack must fail. Mackay then ran along the road and gave the right direction to the last company, who got to the breach first. Then Stuart: coming up, led his men to the attack, entering the breach pell-mell with the grenadiers.
The Irish, outnumbered by ten to one, fought gallantly, disputing every inch of ground, but at last broke and fled to the bridge, where many were killed, and some drowned in the struggle to get across. They, however, managed to destroy two arches of the bridge, probably by blasts already laid, which they exploded before crossing the drawbridge. This they were no doubt enabled to do in the face of a victorious enemy,' owing to the check given to the English by the loss of their commander, Stuart, who was so seriously wounded, as he led his men to the bridge, that he was unfit for service during the rest of the campaign.
That same evening, shortly after the taking of the English town, St. Ruth arrived with his army, and encamped within a couple of miles of the town, on the Connaught side, His first care was to occupy the higher ground near the Irish town, and to finish, an entrenchment already begun along the banks of the river, to prevent the enemy passing by means of pontoons. This was a good piece of generalship, as Mackay says it commanded the only part of the river in the neighbourhood where such an attempt could safely be made.
Ginkel, on his side, now occupied the English town, which he made a magazine for his artillery train and stores, as well as a point of vantage from which he could conduct his attack upon the Irish town.
Strong entrenchments were made along the river in the English town both above and below the bridge.
"In order to carry out their design," says Parker, "they caused these entrenchments on the river side to be raised very high, and made very strong with embrasures for fifty battering cannon, and platforms for eight mortars."
On the 22nd, the batteries being all in position, a tremendous fire of shot and shell was opened upon the Castle, of which Brigadier Wauchope was Governor. It was a very important point, as it was the key to the Irish town, its walls being very strong and surrounded by fifteen feet of earth, its guns defending the bridge. With the continuous fire from the English batteries, Parker says:—
"We soon battered down that face of the Castle which lay next us, and from which they had annoyed us with small arms and a couple of drakes."
By seven that evening a large breach appeared in the north-east wall, and all that night the cannonade continued, with such effect that at five next morning "the whole side of the Castle was beaten down," and the garrison had to make a new entrance at the back, by which to pass in and out.
On the afternoon of the 23rd, Ginkel's pontoons came up; but many of them were so old and unserviceable that a strong body of men had to be told off for repairs. This prevented any immediate attempt to throw them across the river in the face of St. Ruth's entrenchment. A mill upon the bridge, held by a party of sixty-four men of the Irish, was set fire to by grenades, and the men burnt, except a few who escaped by leaping into the river.
In spite of the tremendous cannonade, the Irish resistance was so obstinate that Ginkel despaired of taking the city by storm, and held a council to consider whether it might be possible to pass the river at some other point. After much discussion it was decided to attempt the passage at Lanesborough "whilst our Cannon amused the Enemy at the Town." A lieutenant was therefore sent to survey the ford. He succeeded in passing the river, Story says, but disobeyed orders in not returning at once, being attracted by "the powerful charms of Black cattle," and "scampering after them, by which means our design was discovered." O'Callaghan says, however, that Wauchope heard of the proposed attack, and gave notice to Edmund Bui O'Reilly, Governor of Lanes-borough, who immediately threw up entrenchments on the Connaught side, and thus spoilt Ginkel's game.
That night the Irish raised two batteries above the Castle, one of three six-pounders close to the river, and another, also of three six-pounders, further off on an eminence; and next day these batteries did good service in annoying the enemy in the English town, driving one regiment from the entrenchments near the river.
Ginkel, foiled in his attempt upon Lanesborough, now resolved to force a passage by the bridge. By the 26th the fire from his seven batteries working day and night, had driven the Irish from their trenches by the river, and "also ruined most of the houses that were as yet Left standing." He had just received thirty waggon-loads of powder and 100 cart loads of cannon-balls from Dublin, and was not sparing of either powder or shot. But, as an old Irish bard would have put it, "good as was the attack, better was the defence." The Irish worked splendidly to repair damages; resolved at all costs to recover and maintain their position on the river bank.
"We dismounted all the enemy's cannon, and can now stand almost at the water's edge and look over," writes Daniel McNeal, who was in the ranks of the besiegers, "yet the enemy work like horses in carrying fascines to fill the trenches."
This was done under a fire so furious that to quote another eye-witness from the opposite side of the river,
"A cat could scarce appear without being knocked on the head by great or small shot."
So writes Colonel Felix O'Neill, who served under St. Ruth in the French army; adding that the French generals were surprised and delighted at the valour of the Irish, whose only fault was that they exposed themselves too recklessly.
All the 26th and 27th a fierce fight for the bridge was maintained, the English endeavouring to repair the broken arches, the Irish obstinately striving to prevent this. After two days, little advantage had been gained by the English:—
"What we got here," Story admits, "was inch by inch as it were, the enemy sticking very close to it, though great numbers of them were slain by our guns."
One arch on their own side they had succeeded in repairing; but they were unable to lay beams across that on the Connaught side, until the Irish were forced to quit their breastwork, which was fired by a grenade, and being constructed of fascines, extremely dry by reason of the hot weather, burnt furiously.
On Sunday morning, June 28th, the besieged were in a perilous case. Beams had been laid across the last broken arch, planks were being laid across the beams; and the Irish, driven from their last shelter, could do little to prevent this. The town was on the point of being entered.
But out of this peril came the most heroic action of the siege; not sung, indeed, nor even mentioned, by the omniscient author of Lays of Ancient Rome; though it may be held to have rivalled in heroism the noble deed of that Horatius "who kept the bridge so well," before the days of powder and lead. A certain sergeant of Maxwell's Dragoons, whose name as given in James's Memoirs was Custume, getting together a party of ten other stout fellows, volunteered to pull up the planks laid down by the enemy. Donning their breast and back pieces, that they might as long as possible keep their lives, they rushed boldly out upon the bridge, drove back the carpenters, "and with a courage and strength beyond what men were thought capable of," say the Memoirs, "began to pull up the planks, break down the beams, and fling them into the water. A tremendous fire from the whole English line was opened on them, and man after man fell; but plank after plank was torn up and hurled into the stream. Then the beams were attacked with saw and axe; but the eleven were all killed before their task was finished. Then eleven more sprang out, and again the beams began to yield, though the men dropped one by one, as before. Two got back alive to the town; the other nine were left dead on the bridge. But the last beam was floating down the uncrossable Shannon."
The English then began to construct a covered way on the bridge, from which they might lay new beams across the broken arches; while a heavy fire was maintained against the Irish works, especially the Connaught Tower, the strongest part of the Citadel; the town being battered "as I believe never town was," says McNeal. The walls in front of the Irish town were now demolished, the houses burnt or battered down; the Citadel itself almost a ruin. But the Irish still worked desperately, repairing their old trenches and making new ones, though most of their guns had been dismounted. Ginkel had constructed a battery to enfilade the narrow passage through the bog from the Irish camp to the town. The Irish now made trenches and a breast work opposite this on the Connaught side, working under cover of a herd of cows which they drove down to the river bank. As the cows fell under the fire to which they were exposed, a breastwork was made of their bodies, over which earth was thrown.
On the 28th, Ginkel held a Council of War, at which it was decided to attempt the storming of the I town next morning. Three Danes, under sentence of death, were offered a pardon if they would try to ford the river below the bridge. They put on armour and entered it at three places, being ostensibly fired at as if they were deserters, to deceive the Irish. They got across easily, the water being much lower than usual even in summer, and only up to their waists.
The attack, which is said to have been planned by Talmash, was to be made simultaneously by the bridge, the ford, and a bridge of pontoons which was to be thrown across still lower down the river. The men who were to pass by the ford were to carry fifteen rounds each, and to wear green boughs in their hats. Mackay was to command.
All was ready by six o'clock next morning, the 29th, except the pontoons; but by 10 o'clock, before these were fairly on their way to the river, St. Ruth had heard of the intended assault, had thrown reinforcements into the town, and come down to the river with his army. Only at the bridge was any attack made; and here it was made by the Irish, who burnt the enemy's covered way, and thus again stopped their advance.
By this time it was 12 o'clock, and Ginkel being discouraged, the attack was postponed. St. Ruth returned to his camp, and gave an entertainment to the gentry of the neighbourhood that evening, in honour of the occasion.
Next day, June 30th, another Council of War was held. Ginkel was still in low spirits. By all the rules of war Athlone should have been taken long ago; but the Irish are a stupid people and never know when they are beaten. He would have retired, if his generals, Mackay, Talmash, Ruvigny and Tettau, had not persuaded him that this would be the most dangerous thing he could do, and that pass the river he must, at all hazards. While the matter was in debate, there came a couple of deserters, who told him that now was his time to do so, as St. Ruth, thinking the siege was over, had left the defence of the town to his rawest levies. This decided him. A new attack, on the old lines, was planned for six o'clock that afternoon.
Unfortunately the deserters told the truth. St. Ruth proved himself an excellent tactician at Aughrim; but his conduct at Athlone showed him to be also an egregious fool—dull with the worst form of dullness, the supercilious arrogance of the vain man. He boasted that it was impossible to take Athlone while he was there with an army, that Ginkel deserved to be hanged for making the attempt, and that he would himself deserve hanging if he succeeded. On his own showing no man better deserved hanging than he.
Sarsfield, who had commanded the army in Connaught before St. Ruth's arrival, must have felt some soreness at being subordinated to him, especially as the French commander soon showed that his hatred of Tyrconnell did not prevent his disliking Sarsfield. But Sarsfield kept his promise to the Abbé Gravel, and loyally accepted the situation. In fact there is not a shade of evidence that he did anything to excite the suspicious jealousy with which St. Ruth regarded him.
Shortly before the attack, Maxwell, a Tyrconnellite, who was on duty that day, suspecting that something was on foot, sent an express to St. Ruth to ask for reinforcements. St. Ruth returned the insulting message that "if Brigadier Maxwell were afraid, another general should be sent there."
There had been a difference of opinion between St. Ruth, who wanted to throw down the wall or "curtain" on the side of the town which faced the camp, and D'Usson, who said that "his business was to defend, not to destroy fortifications." St. Ruth's object was to render the entrance of his army into the city easy in case of an attack, as he wished to season his new recruits by making them serve in the trenches. D'Ilsson, though like St. Ruth, "confident that the English would never attempt so bold an action," thought it most prudent to keep veterans in the post of danger. Finally the raw troops were sent in, and the curtain was not thrown down, contrary, it is said, to St. Ruth's express orders.
Two newly enlisted regiments were sent in, without more than a round or two of ammunition, and no bayonets. After three applications they were sent some powder, but no ball. Their Colonel, Cormac O'Neill then sent to Maxwell, requesting that some might be sent at once; Maxwell jestingly asked: "whether they wanted to shoot laverocks?" He took no further trouble about the matter. The last defence of Athlone was entrusted to raw recruits, without bullets in their pouches.
The principal attack was made by the ford, where some 1,500 grenadiers, led by Mackay himself, were to cross first. The signal was given by the tolling of a church bell. Mackay had formed his grenadiers in column twenty abreast; he and his officers taking the stream above them, that they might not get mixed up with their men, in any disorder produced by the current. The signal was given. Prince George of Hesse was the first to take the water. The Duke of Wurtemberg who with other officers of high rank had volunteered for this dangerous service, was then lifted upon the shoulders of a couple of stout grenadiers, and the column plunged with loud cheers into the stream. The Irish, taken by surprise, as so often happened by the mismanagement of their officers, and left without sufficient ammunition, fired a volley or two, and retreated into the town. By the time Mackay got over, his men were swarming over the slippery earthworks in pursuit, and as he entered the breach he met Maxwell, a prisoner.
The rout was soon complete; for the English, laying planks across the undefended bridge, and crossing also by the pontoons, soon drove the Irish from their last entrenchments in the town. Athlone, so stoutly defended for some ten days, was taken in half-an-hour.
On the first alarm an urgent message was sent to St. Ruth to say that the attack was being made. He was "signing articles against Tyrconnell" and about to go on a shooting expedition, and made light of the message.
"Such a thing," he said, "was impossible." Sarsfield, who was present at the time, insisted on the necessity of at once succouring the garrison; but St. Ruth treated him with such scorn that he lost his temper, and a violent quarrel occurred. At last Major-General John Hamilton was sent with two brigades of infantry "to drive out the enemy." It was too late, the "impossible" was accomplished. D'Usson, who had been dining outside the town, had come in only in time to be trampled nearly to death by the fugitives. He was carried into the camp half unconscious, and had to be "blooded."
That night St. Ruth decamped, and retreated to Ballinasloe, "in which," says Berwick, "he again committed a great fault," the enemy now being caged up in Athlone, and surrounded by bogs.
The Castle was soon taken, Wauchope surrendering at discretion with 500 men.
The Irish are said by O'Callaghan to have had but 6 brass six-pounders, and a mortars, against Ginkel's 29 guns, including 11 twenty-four pounders, 9 eighteen pounders, and 6 mortars.
As to killed and wounded on each side, the accounts are as usual untrustworthy.
ST. RUTH, having retired to Ballinasloe, crossed the River Suck, and took up a position behind it; but while waiting for Ginkel to come up, he occupied the time in prospecting over the neighbourhood. Finding a strong position at Aughrim, he decamped from the bank of the Suck, and occupied this new position.
The trampled D'Usson, having recovered consciousness, was conveyed to Galway, where he soon recovered strength among his friends of the Tyrconnellite party, which was strong there. Tyrconnell himself, in the letter before quoted, actually praises D'Usson's conduct at Athlone; for which, James says, St. Ruth, had he lived, would have called him to account.
St. Ruth bitterly repented his own folly at Athlone, as well he might; and having now got rid of Tyrconnell, decided to make common cause with the Irish party. His severity had caused so much discontent in the army that he now saw that a change of policy was necessary. After his reverse at Athlone he had lost many men, by desertion, during his retreat.
"And now," says Story, "he begins to be very kind to, and familiar with the Irish officers, whom formerly he had treated with disrespect and contempt; and to caress the soldiers, tho' a little before, he would hang a dozen of them in a morning, for very slender faults, as they thought."
The Irish responded to his advances, and a much better spirit began to prevail in the army. Unfortunately the breach between him and Sarsfield was not healed. St. Ruth did not take the Irish general into his confidence, though they appear to have been outwardly reconciled.
Some of St. Ruth's officers advised him to cross the Shannon at Banagher and cut off Ginkel's communication with Dublin, thus shutting him up in Connaught, Others said this would leave Galway exposed. He himself was anxious to bring Ginkel into the field, fight him, and drive him out of Connaught, if possible. He had already rejected the third alternative of shutting him up in Athlone. He seems to have despaired of retaking the place by immediate assault, as he might have done had the curtain been thrown down as proposed. Mackay admits that but for this curtain they would have poured in a force,
"Which would easily have driven us back quicker than we came, because they would have met us in confusion."
The Irish had no siege train, and to have starved Ginkel out would have taken time, and besides, he might have cut his way through the Irish lines at some point. St. Ruth was impatient to retrieve his honour by some brilliant stroke, before the news of the fall of Athlone had reached Paris, and all things considered, his final decision to fight at Aughrim was not unwise.
Ginkel spent several days in repairing the fortifications at Athlone, repressing disorders among his troops, sending Maxwell and his other prisoners to Dublin, and offering rewards to deserters, officers or soldiers, from the Irish army.
On Friday, July 10th, he began his march, leaving Lloyd, the "Enniskillen Cromwell," as Governor of Athlone. Next day, having ascertained that St. Ruth had passed the Suck, leaving the fords undefended, he advanced to Ballinasloe.
St. Ruth had retired to Aughrim, about four miles to the south-west of Ballinasloe, on the Galway side of the Suck. He had chosen his ground admirably. His camp was on the side of the Hill of Kilcommodon, some 400 feet high, and sloping up from a boggy valley.
On the 11th Ginkel advanced to the hills opposite Kilcommodon, whence he could view St. Ruth's position, the strength of which so impressed him that he hesitated about attacking him. He had advanced cautiously from hill to hill, driving in the Irish outposts, and now he encamped for the night, intending to make a reconnaissance in force the next day.
The respective strength of the two armies is estimated by O'Callaghan, whose delight it was to examine and strike a balance between all the conflicting accounts, at 11,500 Foot and 3,530 Horse, or 15,000 men in all on the Irish side, and 25,000 of all arms on the English. Macaulay, who also seems to have consulted every available authority, says—
"the English and their allies were under 20,000; the Irish above 25,000."
We may perhaps assume that the numbers were about equal. St. Ruth had the advantage of position, while Ginkel was very much stronger in artillery, and in the arming and discipline of his men; though it is evident that St. Ruth had done much to train his infantry, who stood well, and fired with more steadiness and precision than was the rule with the Irish in these wars.
Early on the 12th of July Ginkel again advanced, driving in the outposts. A fog hung over the boggy valley between him and the enemy; but lifted about 12 o'clock, giving him a view of St. Ruth's position.
St. Ruth had the previous day been informed by his scouts of Ginkel's approach, and is said to have made a spirited speech to the army, calling on them now or never to show how Irishmen could fight for their religion, their country, and their king. On the morning of the 12th, Mass was celebrated, and prayers for victory offered up; the priests endeavouring by every means in their power to excite the enthusiasm of the soldiers. St. Ruth then drew up his army in order of battle, and riding through the lines in his splendid uniform ablaze with decorations, gave his last orders. He was in high spirits and confident of victory, speaking words of encouragement and sympathy to the men as he passed along. His one fear was that Ginkel would decline the attack.
The Battle of the Boyne was, as we have seen, not much of a battle; certainly not a decisive battle, but a mere opening of the campaign which ended disastrously for William at Limerick, though his reverse there was more than compensated by the taking of Cork and Kinsale. Aughrim was the one great battle of the war. There the game of war was played with fine skill by St. Ruth, and with spirit and obstinacy by the troops on both sides. The loss of Aughrim was practically the loss of Ireland for James.
The Irish lines extended for about a mile and a half, or two miles, along the slope of the hill, which was almost surrounded by bogs impassable by cavalry, and through which infantry could only scramble with difficulty. In front of the hill a small river ran through the marshy ground, making an attack still more difficult. The Irish right extended beyond the hill, to where there was a broad extent of firm ground on both sides of the river which defended their front. Their left rested on the Castle of Aughrim, beyond which was a vast bog. There were but two points along their whole line where Ginkel's Horse could pass the bog. One, the Pass of Aughrim, was a narrow neck running up to the Castle from a broad circular patch of firm ground between two bogs, connected with the low land beyond the bogs at Ginkel's side of the valley by another narrow neck about a mile long. The other, the Pass of Urrachree, named from a small hamlet on the slope of the valley facing Kilcommodon, was at the right of the Irish position.
St. Ruth had entrenched his camp and made skilful use of every existing defensive feature of the ground. On the hill there were two Danish forts, besides a great number of "gardens," as the tillage fields are called by the peasantry. There were "Hedges and Ditches," as Story says, "to the very edge of the bog." The whole side of the hill was in fact divided up into fields surrounded by ditches with stout hawthorn hedges. Through these hedges and ditches St. Ruth cut broad lanes, opening up communication between field and field, so that his troops, both Horse and Foot, could be easily moved from end to end of his lines as occasion required. Special care was taken to facilitate the movements of his cavalry, on whom he depend for the support of his Foot, by the removal of obstacles. This was most necessary on his flank especially the right, where he was most open to attack.
He had little artillery, nine or ten small brass field pieces in all; but disposed of it to the best advantage. Two guns were placed in the Castle; which defended his left flank, and was held by Colonel Walter Burke with a regiment of Foot. Another body of Foot was posted under cover near the Castle, with a large body of cavalry in their rear to support them. He had ordered his pioneers to cut a broad way around the Castle, that the Horse might charge from behind it, and take an attacking force in flank as they emerged from the narrow neck before described. This order, as we shall see, was imperfectly executed.
A battery of three pieces was planted on the slope of the hill, at the left flank of the second line of his main body, so as to fire over the bog, sweep the broad patch of firm ground between the bogs, and flank the narrow neck which led up to the Castle. The rest of his guns, in a second battery, defended the pass of Urrachree.
The hedges, from the base to the middle height of the hill, were lined with infantry, with cavalry to support them; a strong body of cavalry and dragoons protecting his right flank.
Lieutenant-General de Tessé, not Sarsfield, as has been incorrectly stated, ranked next to St. Ruth; Sarsfield apparently serving only as Major-General. De Tessé was in command of the right wing, where were stationed the cavalry regiments of Tyrconnell, Abercorn, Prendergast, and Sutherland; Major-General Sheldon, of the left, where Henry Luttrell was in charge of the first line, supported by John Parker with his cavalry, and Nicholas Purcell with his dragoons. Majors-General Dorrington, and John Hamilton were responsible for the infantry, Lord Galmoy with his cavalry being posted just under the camp, behind the second line, to support the centre.
The reserve of cavalry under Sarsfield, now Lord Lucan, was placed on the left of the camp, behind the hill and the village of Aughrim, which lay at some distance above the castle. Shortly before the battle, it is said, another altercation had taken place between St. Ruth and Sarsfield, to whom St. Ruth refused to communicate his designs. This seems extremely probable, as St. Ruth now posted him out of sight of the field, with strict orders that he was on no account to stir from this somewhat humiliating position until ordered to advance. There was, it may be, some pique in the absolutely passive obedience with which Sarsfield waited for orders to the very last.
When the fog lifted, Ginkel advanced in force to reconnoitre, still hesitating to attack. The Duke of Wurtemberg was his second in command. Mackay, supported by Talmash, led the right centre. Tettau and La Mellonière, supported by Count Nassau and the Prince of Hesse, with their French, Dutch, and Danes, the left. The cavalry were on the wings: the right wing being led by Scravemore and Villiers, supported by Ruvigny; the left by La Forrest and Eppinger, supported by Holstaple and Schack. The Duke of Portland came up with his horse just before the battle, and acted with the left wing.
St. Ruth, who seems to have divined Ginkel's cautious and hesitating temperament, was determined if possible to draw him gradually into a general engagement. He knew that a simultaneous attack along the whole of his own line was, from the difficult nature of the ground, almost impossible; and having arranged for the easy concentration of his force at any given point, he hoped to be able to defeat each section the attacking army as it got across the bog, at the few points where this was possible, before it could be supported. He therefore ordered his first line of Foot to reserve their fire until the first columns of the enemy had got across the bog, and then, having delivered a couple of volleys, to tempt them up the hill, by retiring hedge by hedge. He had carefully arranged that as the enemy hastily followed in pursuit they should be met by a flanking fire from both sides; while the cavalry was held in reserve to charge them when checked by this fire and that of the second line.
Ginkel and Mackay anticipated this danger, and their policy was therefore to keep the different divisions well in hand, and prevent them from pushing up the hill, until the first line had crossed the bog, and were supported by their reserves.
St. Ruth's right wing was in the weakest position, as the pass of Urrachree was comparatively easy for both Horse and Foot, and the line had to be extended for some distance along the bank of the river to prevent the enemy from taking it in flank if they got across. It was here, however, that he thought Ginkel might be tempted to attack him. For this purpose he had posted two small bodies of troops in the pass at the further side of the river, one as an outpost nearest the enemy's lines, the other close to the ford.
Ginkel, while waiting for his main body and artillery to come up, accepted this challenge by sending "a Danish captain with sixteen troopers" to drive in the outpost. This they did not succeed in doing, as the men ran away from a less number than themselves, tho' the officer behaved himself very well. Then 200 of Cunningham's dragoons were sent forward, to pass the ford and take possession of the ditches beyond. The Irish fell back on their supports, who were behind a hill below their camp, and the English dragoons were driven back in disorder, St. Ruth sending up small bodies of fresh troops as needed. Then Eppinger's dragoons were sent to cut them off from their camp. This St. Ruth could not of course permit, and they also were driven back, though Portland's horse came up to their support. A hot fight ensued, which lasted for an hour, the Irish, who had crossed the stream, were forced back over the ford, but at last recovered their first position, and the English dragoons were drawn off.
It was now two o'clock, and Ginkel's army was getting into position. From three o'clock to half-past four Ginkel held a Council of War. He was still hesitating as to the prudence of attacking. This Mackay strongly advised him to do, recommending him to attack the enemy's strongest position at Aughrim first, and then endeavour to force a passage across the bog and fall upon their centre.
This advice was taken, and the battle began in earnest at five o'clock. Ginkel, however, first made a feint attack on the Irish right, to induce St. Ruth to weaken his left, where the main attack was to be made, by drawing off troops to reinforce his menaced flank.
Wishing to concentrate his own forces, Ginkel now threw his two lines into a single formation, some regiments of his second line being ordered to attack first. He himself directed the attack on the Irish right, while Mackay commanded that by Aughrim; the Duke of Wurtemberg reserving the centre until the wings were engaged.
A party of Danes was first sent forward, to outflank the Irish right, but to remain on their own side of the brook without attacking. This was done to keep the Irish line extended as far as possible on that flank, The French Huguenots then attacked the hedge beyond the pass of Urrachree; but were so severely handled that, to prevent a complete repulse, Ginkel was forced to press the attack and support them. The Huguenots fought with the utmost gallantry, and "the Irish," as Story insultingly puts it, "like men of another nation." They carried out St. Ruth's orders with great coolness, defending the first hedges until the French "snaphaunces" were thrust through the hawthorn stumps from which their own firelocks were still blazing away. Then they retired from cover to cover, until the Huguenots, surprised by a flanking fire, and charged by the Irish Horse, were driven back to the bog-side. The Foot then resumed their position behind the hedges as before.
"Never," says James, "was assault made with greater fury, or sustained with greater obstinacy, especially the Foot."
Mackay, who was waiting for a favourable opportunity for beginning his own attack, and who practically planned and fought this battle, now advised Ginkel to withdraw some troops, both Horse and Foot, from his right, and push the attack on his left; hoping that St. Ruth, seeing this movement, would weaken his left by a similar transference of troops to his right. In this he was not disappointed. St. Ruth, seeing that Ginkel was moving several battalions from his right centre and wing, immediately ordered the second line of his own left centre to oppose them on the right. Unfortunately, owing to some mistake in the transmission of his orders, both lines moved to the right; thus leaving a weak point on the left.
This did not escape Mackay's vigilant eye, and he at once ordered Talmash, with the right wing, to begin the attack by the Pass of Aughrim; while he himself, having had the bog in front of him sounded and pronounced passable for infantry, prepared to lead the right centre across it.
He had got two batteries of field-pieces into position on the firm ground between the bogs on the right, while two more, of heavier metal, were planted on the hill-side opposite to the Irish centre, upon which they maintained a heavy and continuous fire.
While the detachment from the Irish left centre was passing to the right, Mackay ordered his Foot to begin the passage of the bog. This they did in two divisions; Mackay himself commanding that on the right, which passed nearest to Aughrim, while four regiments under Colonels Earl, Herbert, Creighton, and Brewer, crossed opposite the Irish centre, where the hog was narrowest, protected by the fire of their own batteries.
This last division numbered some 3,000 men. They were ordered to advance to the lowest of the ditches, and hold it until Mackay had got over the bog where it was broader, and the Horse could get round by Aughrim and come to their support. They were "most of them up to their middles in mud and water" as they crossed the stream.
The Irish reserved their fire until they were close upon them, and then pursued their former policy, firing and retreating from hedge to hedge, to lure the English on. Thus they drew them up the hill, for about half a mile, to where the reserves were stationed. Here they faced about, and stopped the enemy's advance; the cavalry failing upon them from both flanks. The English fought gallantly, but were forced down the hill, broken and in complete disorder. Colonel Earle, who had been twice taken and retaken, did his best to rally them, telling them "There was no way to come off but to be brave." The Irish, however, charged in force, took Colonel Herbert and two captains prisoners, and drove the enemy back to the bog with great slaughter.
While this attack upon the Irish centre was being made, Mackay, with the regiments of Lord George Hamilton, Colonel St. John, Colonel Tiffin, Colonel Foulkes, and Brigadier Stewart (who having been wounded at Athlone was not himself in the battle), was struggling across the bog, nearer Aughrim. He had ordered Prince George of Hesse, whose regiment seems also to have been engaged, to lead the van and occupy a cornfield beyond the bog, without advancing, until he should himself come up. Prince George gained the cornfield, but being young and inexperienced, could not restrain his men from dashing forward in pursuit, when the Irish fired and retreated. The usual result followed; they were drawn into an ambush, and driven with heavy loss back to the bog. Even Mackay himself, or some of the other regiments under his command, fared little better. They were allowed to cross the bog, without having a shot fired at them; so that "several were doubtful whether they (the Irish) had any men in that place or not." They were soon convinced that they had; for when they came within twenty yards of the first ditch, the Irish poured in a volley with deadly effect. Then a struggle, as obstinate as that on the Irish right, began. Mackay brought over regiment after regiment, even sending to Talmash to ask him to come to his support, when he had got across the pass by Aughrim, by attacking the Irish in flank, instead of attacking the Castle. The Irish stood their ground manfully, and after an encounter which 'lasted a considerable time, in which the musketry fire on both sides was tremendous, and they "could scarce see each other for smoke," the English were driven back, until "they were got almost in a line with some of our great guns, planted near the Bogg." These were probably the guns in the batteries planted at the Pass of Aughrim. These guns were now for a time useless, both armies being mixed together in their line of fire.
Meanwhile the Huguenots had been fighting desperately, first to carry the hedges on the Irish right, and afterwards, when repeatedly repulsed, merely to hold their ground beyond the stream. They had fought splendidly, both officers and men, but had been charged by the cavalry and driven down from the ditches with great slaughter. The old peasant farmer, John Leonard, who took Macaulay over the field near half a century ago, and who coached O'Callaghan in the local traditions about the battle, still points out the scene of this struggle to the enquiring visitor. It lies below the Danish fort near the village of Kilcommodon, and is known as "The Bloody Hollow."
These brave Huguenots, who had rallied behind the chevaux de frise their sappers carried with them as a portable defence in the field, were now furiously attacked in their turn by the Irish Foot, and, as their own account of the battle acknowledges, thought only of selling their lives as dearly as possible. To save them from utter rout, Ginkel was forced to bring up some troops of Ruvigny's and Lanier's Horse, whose station was on the right.
St. Ruth was delighted at the behaviour of his Foots. When he saw Mackay's attack upon his centre, made with the full strength of both lines of the English army, repulsed for the third time, he flung up his plumed hat and cried: "I shall now beat them back to the gates of Dublin."
His only reverse was the lodgment of a small body of English Foot on his left centre. From this point, as we have seen, both lines instead of the first only, had been withdrawn. This weak point Mackay had at once attacked.
The enemy, as dames tells us, "who had stood in awe of that battalion which faced them, took courage after it was gone, and by the help of hurdles made shift to get over the bog."
This successful detachment was probably the two regiments, Lanier's Foot and Gustavus Hamilton's Enniskilleners, who, Story says,
"Marched under the walls of the castle, and lodged themselves in a dry ditch, in the throng of the enemies shot from the castle, and some other old walls and hedges adjoining."
This they were enabled to do by reason of one of those mistakes, or pieces of treachery, which so frequently occurred. Walter Burke with his two regiments of Foot, and two guns, in the castle, should, as St. Ruth expected, have made the pass of Aughrim almost impregnable. He had plenty of powder, four barrels; but on opening his ammunition chests he had found no bullets, but only cannon-balls, and these, according to Light to the Blind, too big for his guns. The men had to do what they could with chopped ramrods and buttons from their coats, and they had no bayonets to serve them in a sally.
By this time Mackay was making his last attack with the cavalry of his right wing, who under the protection of the artillery, of which three guns had been pushed up the narrow way leading to the castle, were gallantly struggling over by a "boggy trench" where they could only advance one or two abreast.
The Irish cavalry posted behind the castle now endeavoured to sweep round it by the left, as they had been ordered to do, in case of such an attack. They found, however, that the way was blocked; either because St, Ruth's commands for the clearing of the way had not been obeyed, or from obstacles placed there by Lanier's and Hamilton's men. They had to return, and pass the other way, to charge these two regiments, whom they drove back to the bog after a severe struggle. It was probably the advanced battery in the Pass of Aughrim which Light to the Blind says was now taken by Colonel Gordon O'Neill, who was left for dead on the field, but afterwards recovered.
St, Ruth was surprised to find that the only success of the English was gained at the very point of his lines that he considered the strongest. Seeing the cavalry coming over at Aughrim, and not knowing that Burke was short of ammunition, he asked "What do they mean by it?" "They are attacking your left," he was told. "They are brave fellows," said he, "it is a pity they should be so exposed." Even here Story confesses "All was at hazard, by reason of the difficulty of the pass."
And now St. Ruth prepared for the final stroke, for which he had played so well, and which he confidently believed would give him the victory. He ordered up half his reserve of cavalry, whom he had kept fresh for a last great charge. But instead of gracefully allowing Sarsfield to lead it, he left him still behind the hill with the other half, repeating his direction that he was on no account to stir without his express orders. This treatment, which Sarsfield must have regarded as a direct insult, was worse than any neglect even he had ever before experienced. He must have felt it keenly.
Forming his cavalry just under his camp, St. Ruth put himself at its head, and rode slowly down the hill, turning aside to give some directions to the gunners in one of his batteries. He must have been a conspicuous figure, in the rich uniform of a French General, splendidly accoutred, and with all his honours on his breast, as he turned in high spirits to his troops and cried: "The day is ours, boys! They are broken, let us beat them to some purpose!"
Meanwhile he was being watched intently from one of the batteries on the English right. Here, according to a North of Ireland tradition, an exciting conversation was taking place. The day before the battle, some sheep had been taken from an Irish squireen named O'Kelly. He went with his shepherd to demand redress from St. Ruth, who at first appealed to his patriotism, telling him he might well spare a few sheep to the soldiers who were fighting to protect him and his lands, and Ireland itself. The man persisting, St. Ruth threatened to hang him, whereupon, turning to his shepherd, he said to him in Irish, "Mark the General!" "I will so, sir," said the shepherd. "He's robbed you, master; but ask him for the skins." St. Ruth, hearing that the soldiers were using these skins to sleep on, refused to restore them, and told him to begone and be thankful he was not hanged, as he ought to be, The pair then went over to the enemy's lines, gave themselves up, and were brought before Ginkel, to whom they told their story. Ginkel sent for an Irish artillery officer named Trench, and told him these men might be able to show him a mark worth shooting at.
Trench was now in one of the batteries on the Aughrim side, with the two men beside him. As St. Ruth rode down the slope, the shepherd called out, "Master, I see the Frenchman!" O'Kelly interpreted his words to Trench, who asked, "Where is he?" "There," replied the shepherd, "as fine as a bandsman in front of those Horse." Trench then himself directed the laying of the gun. When sighted, it was found to be too low, the front wheels of the carriage having got sunk in the mud; so Trench took off his long jack-boots, to serve as a hurdle for the wheels to rest on, and this time sighted St. Ruth. The gun was fired, and as the smoke blew away Trench cried out: "Is the Frenchman hit?" "He's on his horse yet," said the shepherd, "you've only blown the hat off him. No! Begorra, but the head's in it too, for I see them rolling down the hill!"
This story, if not true, is at least picturesque; and it is certain that, just as St. Ruth was about to lead the last charge, he was struck by a cannon ball, or chain-shot, from a battery on the English right, which took off his head. His horse is said to have swerved round, carrying his headless trunk, which still clung to the saddle for a few strides, falling at the spot where the stump of a hawthorn, planted to commemorate the event, still remains.
His body was at once carried to the rear, his splendid uniform and decorations hidden under a trooper's cloak, that his fall might be concealed from the army.
That St. Ruth's sudden fall should have created some consternation among the cavalry he was about to lead to the charge was only natural. But the subsequent behaviour of their officers is simply explicable. It is difficult to find words to characterise it. It does not seem that anything like a panic took place; but everyone seemed paralysed. The charge was not made; nothing was done; and the cavalry simply threw up the game they were bound to win, and began ignominiously to quit the field; allowing Mackay's Horse to get across almost unopposed. The accounts of the loss of this battle by the Irish, in the moment of victory, read like that Bardic Tale which tells how the Druids of Queen Meave's army laid strange wizardry upon the Red Branch Champions, and caused the weakness of a woman in childbirth to fall upon them, so that they made no defence.
Mackay is said to have been told, by a deserter, of St. Ruth's fall. At any rate he lost no time in taking advantage of the opportunity given him. Leaving the Castle of Aughrim unassailed, he pushed forward with his cavalry, drove back Tyrconnell's regiment of Foot and a body of Irish dragoons under Luttrell; thus turning the left flank, which St. Ruth rightly considered much the strongest. This done, the defeat of the Irish was merely a matter of time. Lord Galmoy is exempted by the author of Light to the Blind, from the suspicion of treachery which he insinuates the other cavalry leaders incurred. He seems to have led his men to a last charge, but could not prevent the advance of Mackay's Foot, the chief strength of the English army. The Foot of the Irish left centre and wing still fought obstinately, but were caught between Ginkel in front and Mackay on their flank. Most of their officers were killed or taken, and soon the rout was complete.
The most extraordinary part of the whole story is that Sarsfield, upon whom it is incorrect to say that the command devolved upon St. Ruth's death, was left in ignorance of this, until it was too late to retrieve the day. His worst enemies never dared to bring a charge of treason against him. It is impossible that he can have known what had taken place; and the tradition must be true that, although he cannot have been more than half a mile or so away from the spot where St. Ruth fell, it was only when the broken Foot came flying over the hill that he knew of the success of the English. All he could do then was to organise and conduct the retreat, which he did admirably. In a document in the French Archives, which may be the translation of a London news-letter, as it is dated London, 23rd July,/2nd August, 1691, after speaking of the extraordinary resistance made by the Irish, it is said that,
"Colonel Sarsfield who commanded the enemy in their retreat, performed miracles, and if he was not killed or taken it was not from any fault of his."
The fact that, after such a defeat, he was able to retreat upon Limerick with a considerable army, is in itself greatly to his credit as a commander. Around him, not De Tessé, who now drops out of the story, the Irish rallied.
TERRIBLE was the slaughter made of the Irish when they broke at Aughrim. For here there was no orderly retreat of a whole army, as at the Boyne. Sarsfield led off a detachment, fighting as they retreated; but most of the infantry fled to the bogs in rout and confusion, leaving their best men strewing the field like autumn leaves. Even Sarsfield himself seems to have lost heart after that fatal day.
Ginkel remained on the field to bury his dead, leaving most of the Irish unburied. Story, who went over the field three days after the battle, says:—
"I reckoned in some small inclosures 150, in others, 120, etc., lying most of them by the ditches where they were shot; and the rest, from the top of the hill where the camp had been, looked like a great flock of sheep, scattered up and down the country, for almost four miles round."
He further tells of the fidelity of a dog, which he calls a greyhound, but which was more probably an Irish Wolfhound. His master, an Irish officer, had been killed in the battle and left unburied; but the dog would not quit his body, which he defended against the other dogs that came in troops to feast upon the corpses.
"When all the corps were consumed, the other dogs departed, but this used to go in the night to the adjacent villages for food, and presently to return to the place where his master's bones were only then left: and thus he continued till January following, when one of Colonel Foulk's soldiers being quartered nigh hand, and going that way by chance, the dog fearing he came to disturb his master's bones, flew upon the soldier: who being surprised at the suddenness of the thing, unslung his piece, then upon his back, and killed the poor dog."
The Irish retreated to Limerick, "whither they went in no kind of order, but rather like people going to a fair"; and Ginkel sent detachments to take possession of the passes of the Shannon, and of Loughrea, which they found burnt and abandoned.
On July 16th he marched with his main body to Loughrea, on his way to Galway, which he did not wish to leave in his rear. Galway was not strongly garrisoned, and the troops were badly armed and worse clothed. There were landed gentry there solicitous for their estates, and many rich merchants, the town being the chief port of trade with France and Spain. Lord Dillon was Governor, and D'Usson Commander of the Forces.
D'Usson complains, in a letter dated August 15th, 1691, that he wrote repeatedly to Tyrconnell and Sarsfield,
"Who thinks he has much more authority than the Viceroy, and has not much regard for my character,"
asking for a reinforcement of 1,600 men; but they did nothing, Sarsfield leaving his letters unanswered for several days. They seem to have been on bad terms.
The garrison of Galway were disappointed by the non-arrival of Baldearg O'Donnell, with his Rapparees. He had promised to come to their relief, as he had promised to join St. Ruth at Aughrim, and had done neither. He was already in treaty with Ginkel to bring over as many of his men as he could persuade, bargaining for a reward in money, a pension, and the Earldom of Tyrconnell, claimed by his family.
On July 19th Ginkel came before Galway, without his artillery, and summoned the town. Dillon replied that he and D'Usson would defend it to the last: a bold defiance, supported by the voices of his big guns all the afternoon, while the English army was getting into position. It was a waste of ammunition, as the enemy were well sheltered; but it at least showed he had guns, forty-six of them it seems; nearly eight times as many as the wretched little field-pieces that defended Athlone, and throwing about eighteen times the weight of metal. But the spirit of the men of Athlone was not behind them.
That night Ginkel sent Mackay with a detachment across the river, two miles above the town, thus cutting off Baldearg O'Donnell, if he had had any intention of coming. Next morning, hearing from a deserter that a fort which defended a narrow ridge of land, and so blocked the only approach to the town, was nearly finished, and should be attacked at once, he ordered Count Nassau to attack it; and the Irish evacuated it after a slight resistance. That afternoon a parley was beaten, and Dillon entered into negotiations for a capitulation.
Lord Clanricarde, into whose family Sarsfield had married, was the man whose family interest was strongest in Galway; and upon him James lays the chief blame of the prompt surrender of the town.
"My Lord Clanricarde and others, considering nothing but their security made such haste to surrender it, that they would not wait for the coining up of the cannon, which was yet at Athlone."
Thus vicariously, in the person of his faithful Ginkel, did the immortal William play the part of Caesar before Galway. There must surely be somewhere extant a medal in which the conqueror figures in classical armour and laurels, with Galway and its guns in the background, and the appropriate "Veni, vidi, vici," curving round the circumference.
The Articles were signed on July 21st, 1691, and ratified by William on February 17th, 1692. The garrison were allowed to march out with all the honours of war; with six pieces of cannon, drawn by horses furnished by Ginkel. The garrison and inhabitants were confirmed in the possession of their estates, real and personal, and both clergy and laity of the town were to have "the private exercise of their religion, without being prosecuted on any penal laws for the same."
The Articles being signed, Dillon and D'Usson marched out with colours flying, etc.; their guns, drawn by Ginkel's sturdy teams, leaping over the rough ground like the car of Cuchullin. They marched straight to Limerick, to help Sarsfield in his last extremity. They might have helped him more by holding Galway a little longer; but capitulation was now the order of the day.
On July 28th Ginkel sent Captain Coal, who had appeared in Galway Bay with nine men-of-war and eighteen other ships, round to the Shannon, and marched himself for Limerick, which he was in no hurry to approach, hoping that it would surrender without a siege.
While Ginkel was taking Galway, the Irish had again concentrated their forces in Limerick, where Tyrconnell still remained. D'Usson, on his arrival, assumed the chief command, with the Chevalier de Tessé as his subordinate; D'Usson was also made Governor of Limerick.
The Foot were ordered into the town; the cavalry and dragoons under Sarsfield sent to the Clare side of the river. Their duty was to defend the passes of the Shannon, their head-quarters being near Killaloe.
The fortifications of Limerick had been much strengthened by the French engineers after the first siege: the Irish town especially, with new outworks, a strong wall with bastions around the southern and south-eastern quarters, and bastions to defend St. John's Gate. A moat running completely round the Irish town is shown on Speed's map; but as it is not mentioned in contemporary accounts of either siege, it probably did not then exist. A moat running across King's Island, and defending the north-western face of the English town, also shown by Speed, is mentioned by Story in his account of the second siege.
William found the war in Ireland much more costly than that on the Continent, and had warned Ginkel that he must not expect further assistance from England next spring. After Aughrim, therefore, Ginkel, as his letters to Coningsby show, felt that he must, if possible, finish the war in this campaign. He told the Irish officers taken at Aughrim that he was authorised to grant good terms, and induced them to write to Sarsfield, urging him to negotiate before the army came to besiege Limerick.
It is said that the French and many of the Irish officers in Limerick, were in favour of capitulation; but Sarsfield, supported by the higher clergy, who had no faith in English promises, was resolved to hold out to the last. Tyrconnell had information from Paris that the assistance, absolutely necessary, as he had told James, if Limerick was to be held, was at last granted, and a French expedition just about to come to its relief. He, therefore, threw the weight of his authority into the popular scale, and publicly renewed his oath of allegiance to James, inducing the majority of the Irish to do the same, and further to swear not to surrender the town without the king's permission.
But there was treachery in the Irish camp; and this time the traitor was Sarsfield's old friend and supporter, Henry Luttrell. Sarsfield himself, intercepting a letter, discovered that he was in correspondence with Ginkel, and denounced him to Tyrconnell.
"My Lord Lucan, whose intentions were always right," as the Memoirs say, "and he jealous for the king's service, was the first to oppose his own friends when he found they went beyond the limits of their duty and allegiance to the king, and it was by his means that Luttrell's secret correspondence was discovered. After this my Lord Lucan's credit began to be as low as Tyrconnell's."
Luttrell was tried by court-martial and condemned to death; but was merely kept in prison, the execution of his sentence being deferred, chiefly, no doubt, from fear that Ginkel would carry out his threat of reprisals on the Irish officers in his power. On hearing of Luttrell's arrest, he had promptly sent a trumpet to say, "That if they put any man to death for having a mind to come over to us, he would revenge it on the Irish."
Luttrell was rewarded by William with the confiscated estates of his elder brother Simon, who remained faithful to James, and with a pension of £500 a year. He was, many years after, assassinated in his sedan chair in the streets of Dublin, and after he had lain some eighty years in his grave, his body was dug up, and his skull broken with a pick-axe, as a mark of infamy.
As Ginkel slowly approached Limerick he was kept well informed of the condition of things within the city, by numerous deserters, both officers and men. Finding that surrender without a siege was very doubtful, he ordered up his heavy artillery, which he had left at Athlone.
A detachment sent against "long" Anthony O'Carroll, who had mauled Douglas's dragoons a year ago, now drove him out of Nenagh, capturing his baggage near Limerick, "amongst which were two rich Coats, one valued at Eighty pounds, the other at Forty guineas." Long Anthony lived handsomely in Nenagh.
On August 15th, Ginkel had news of Tyrconnell's serious illness, and in a few days afterwards of his death. On the 10th he was present at a banquet given by D'Usson, was taken ill that night, and died on the 14th. He was buried by night in the cathedral; "not with that pomp his merits exacted, but with that decency which the present state of affairs admitted." His tomb cannot now be identified.
On August 25th, the army marched upon Limerick, Mackay taking Ireton's Fort and another, and Count Nassau "Cromwell's Fort," without much resistance. Next day the siege train came up; a line of contravallation between these forts was begun, and batteries of guns and mortars planted for the chief attack, made this time upon the eastern side of the English town, across King's Island. A second attack was made from the east and south-east upon the Irish town, the chief fire being directed against the bastions by St. John's Gate. A third attack was made upon the Irish town from the south-west, where there was a longer line of contravallation. At some distance behind this, to the south-west of the town, were Ginkel's headquarters, and here also Wurtemberg's camp was pitched.
The chief station of Coal's Fleet was at the mouth of the river Maigue, some miles down the Shannon. The war-ships had at first come higher up, firing into the cavalry camp at Cratloe as they passed. Some light frigates came within sight of the town.
"The Irish upon the first appearance of them, ex-premed a mighty joy, believing them to be French, and were as much troubled when they found their mistake."
The second siege of Limerick was uneventful, as compared with the first. It was distinctly a dull affair, carried on by both sides without enthusiasm, audacity, or ingenuity, merely as a matter of duty. Ginkel, as in duty bound, steadily and remorselessly battered the walls with his big guns, sparing neither powder nor shot, and blasted down and burnt the houses with bombshells and "carcasses"—infernal machines filled with curiously mingled combustibles, and sent hissing and flaming like pestilent comets into the miserable place. The Irish, as in duty bound, bore with patient fortitude this horrible bombardment, which soon made worse havoc of the houses than William's had made; and waited day by day for the tardy French.
The bombardment began on the evening of August 30th, the cannon roaring on all sides; and before morning the mortars, kept hard at work all night, had thrown over a hundred bombs into the English town. The first shell, a deserter reported, killed Lady Dillon,* wife of the Ex-Governor of Galway, and wounded several others. Destruction walked that night, and every night, as well as every day, with frequent fires, and many explosions of magazines pointed out by deserters, for nearly a month, in that patient city of Limerick; and still the French did not come. The Irish leaders had a hard task to keep the patriotism of their followers up to its old obstinate pitch. Many officers had deserted, many that remained were halfhearted, and some were worse. The Rapparees, pent up in a besieged city, began to show signs of impatience, until D'Usson, who really seems to have wished to hold out, checked their discontent by distributing 50,000 livres among them.
[* This may be a mistake for Lord Dillon, as in a clause of an Act of Parliament, referring to officers included in the capitulation, he is mentioned as dead when they were signed.]
It was a game of endurance on both sides. "It was presumed," say the Memoirs, "Ginkel would not opiniatre the matter." He was embarrassed by the lateness of the season, the rainy weather, and want of forage. Two huge breaches had been made in the walls, the one in those of the English town between St. Francis's Abbey and Ball's Bridge, the other probably in those of the Irish town near St. John's Gate; but he did not dare to attack them.
A proposal to storm the breath in the English town, by crossing the river to King's Island, was abandoned, because of the moat in front of the walls, which Ginkel heard was strongly pallisaded. A council of war was held, and it was determined to send a detachment across the river to the Clare side, with a vague idea of blockading the town before going into winter quarters. "This," says Story, "was but melancholy news to both officers and soldiers," But Ginkel was at his wit's end, and if the French had come would probably have raised the siege.
On September 16th he prepared to pass the river at St. Thomas's Island, a large island in the Shannon about two miles above King's Island.
Why Sarsfield should have selected Clifford, whose loyalty he had good reason to suspect, to guard this important point, is one of those mysteries which puzzle the student of the strange story of these wars. He had done so, however; posting him with a body of dragoons, on the Clare side, to defend the passage by the island, with Sheldon, encamped with his main body of Horse and dragoons at some distance beyond the river, in his rear, to support him.
Colonel O'Kelly, who had come to Limerick from the north, just before the siege, says that Wauchope was the only general that Sarsfield could trust; Sheldon and Clifford being Tyrconnellites, and Sheldon especially objectionable, as:
"The very man who by Tyrconnell's private orders, marched the Horse into Connaught when William raised the siege from Limerick, which rendered at that time Sarsfield's design to pursue the enemy ineffectual." The very morning of Ginkel's passage, O'Kelly begged Sarsfield either to come from the town, and take the command of the detachment at the river himself, or to send Wauchope. "But it looked as if there had been some fatality in the matter."
The most curious point in the whole business is that the Irish actually had a small garrison upon St. Thomas's Island; yet Ginkel was allowed to construct the bridge of pontoons at his leisure, 200 grenadiers being sent over in four tin boats to the island, where "they lay undiscovered till morning." O'Kelly says that Clifford, who seems to have been at some distance from the river with his dragoons, whose horses were "at grass at a place about two miles off," quite out of reach when they were wanted, was repeatedly warned by his outposts that the enemy were at work on the bridge. But, like St. Ruth, he as often declared that the thing was impossible! At last, early in the morning, the bridge being finished, over came the whole detachment, Royal Dragoons, grenadiers, and fusiliers, supported by four battalions of Foot and several squadrons of Horse. Then the alarm was given, and a few of Clifford's dragoons straggled down without their horses, fired a few shots, and ran before the grenadiers, leaving their saddles, tents and baggage behind them, with two small brass guns and Maxwell's standard. The place where they crossed was called by the Williamites "Clifford's Bridge."
The English then advanced to attack Sheldon's camp, reconnoitred a few day's previously. Many of the wretched townspeople had left the city, to escape the bombardment, and were encamped beside the soldiers, in tents made of their sheets and blankets, Sheldon was alarmed in time to strike his tents and carry off his baggage; covering his retreat with his cavalry, which held the enemy at bay. He was soon safe among the hills, and afterwards retired to Six-mile-bridge.
Meanwhile our old friend Sir Teague O'Regan had surrendered Sligo to the Earl of Granard, sent to support Colonel Mitchelbourne in reducing the garrison of the north. Teague had boldly marched forth to stop his advance, counting on the assistance of Baldearg O'Donnell, who, having pocketed £100 as earnest money from Ginkel, wished to force his hand, and get a second instalment, by feigning a new access of patriotism. Teague was at the last moment left in the lurch, and driven back to Sligo.
In Sligo there were sixteen guns, and Lord Granard when he came up was without artillery. He therefore put a bold face on it, raised huge batteries, and threatened a terrific bombardment, if the town were not at once surrendered, on the same terms as Galway had obtained. These were good enough for any gentleman to accept, and Teague, thinking discretion the better part of valour, surrendered accordingly, on September 16th, and marched out with all the honours of war. Lord Granard took possession of his sixteen guns, and Left Mitchelbourne as Governor; and Teague with his gallant 600 came to Limerick. Whether he rode that famous charger of his, is not now ascertainable. On that point, as on many others one wishes to know, history is silent.
On the 22nd, Ginkel passed the river in force by the bridge of boats, now lengthened and brought nearer to the town; taking with him most of his Horse and dragoons, ten regiments of Foot, and fourteen guns; and leaving Mackay and Talmash to continue the bombardment from the Munster side.
The English advanced-guard was attacked and driven back by a sally from the town of some 600 men under Colonel Lacy. Supports coming up on both sides, a sharp skirmish took place; but the Irish were, after an hour's hard fighting, forced to retire before the enemy as they came steadily across, regiment after regiment. They fell back upon the outworks defending Thomond Bridge: two small forts, with some stone quarries and gravel pits in front, where about 800 men were posted.
The guns of King John's Castle opened upon the enemy, as they advanced and drew up in force before the town; but they were almost out of range, and the fire was ineffectual. Ginkel, pleased with his success, now ordered several regiments to attack the forts. The Grenadiers carried the gravel pits, and the Irish skirmishers fell back; but now a new detachment came dashing across Thomond Bridge from the town, and charged gallantly, stopping for a while the dense columns of the enemy's Foot; but after a furious fight, the forts were stormed, and the Irish forced to retreat across the bridge. The rear guard, in striving to cover this retreat, were so hard pressed, that the French major in command of the gate, fearing the enemy would pour in after them, ordered the drawbridge to be raised. Those on the bridge, pent into a narrow space, and closely pursued by a greatly superior force, could make no resistance, and,
"Cried out for quarter, holding up their handkerchiefs and whatever else they could get."
No quarter was given, and the English, filled with murderous fury, did not stay their hands until some 600 of them had been forced into the river or slaughtered like sheep upon the bridge; so that,
"Before the killing was over they were laid on heaps upon the bridge higher than the ledges of it."
About 100 officers and men were taken prisoners, and the forts, with three brass guns, remained in the hands of the besiegers.
The action of the French officer who had caused this fearful mishap, threw the townspeople into a fury. He had been killed by a ball from the enemy, or they would have torn him to pieces; and the old suspicion of French treachery blazed up once more.
The passage of the river, and taking of the forts, cut off the cavalry from communication with the town. The Irish were demoralised, and Sarsfield must have keenly felt the misconduct or treachery of Clifford, whom he arrested and confined in the castle. He now seems to have despaired of assistance from France, and decided it was best to make terms, before the garrison were reduced to extremity. He probably feared further treachery, if the breaches were attacked. After some discussion, a capitulation was decided upon; the bishops absolving those who had taken the oath not to surrender without James's permission. Next evening, the 23rd, the drums beat a parley round the walls of both towns, and a white flag was hung out.
Several days were spent in preliminary negotiations. On the 24th, Sarsfield and Wauchope had a conference with Ginkel, who agreed to a three days' truce, to admit of deputies from the cavalry camp coming in to join in the capitulation. Next day their deputies came in, and dined with Ginkel On the 26th hostages were exchanged, and on the 27th the Irish sent in their proposals, which were as follows:—
(1) An Act of Indemnity for all past crimes and offences to be passed. (2) All Catholics to be restored to their estates possessed before the late Revolution. (3) Free liberty of worship to be allowed them, with one priest for every parish in town or country. (4) Catholics to be capable of all employments and professions, civil, and military. (5) The Irish army to be kept on foot and paid, etc., as the rest of their Majesties' forces, if willing to servo against the French and other enemies. (6) Catholics to be allowed to live in all towns and cities, and to be members of corporations, and exercise all trades, etc., with all privileges enjoyed by Protestants. (7) An Act of Parliament to be passed ratifying and confirming these conditions.
Ginkel replied that these propositions were contrary to the British Constitution, and "dishonourable to himself, and he would not grant any such terms." To prove he was in earnest, he ordered a new battery to be raised, and threatened to recommence hostilities. The Irish asked what terms he was willing to grant. Articles were accordingly drafted and sent to Sarsfield, who next morning, September 28th, came out with Wauchope and other officers, the Archbishop of Cashel, and several "Counsellors at law." These Articles, after much debate, were accepted in their general tenor; prisoners were exchanged, and a cessation of hostilities by sea and land agreed on. The Irish very properly insisted that the Articles should signed by the Lords Justices, who were sent for, and arrived at the camp on October 1st. After further debate, the Articles were finally settled and engrossed; and on October 3rd the Irish officers dined with the Duke of Wurtemberg, and afterwards went to Ginkel's tent, where the Articles were duly signed on both parts.
Ginkel seems to have been reduced to extremities. Even after the taking of the forts by Thomond Bridge, he wrote to Coningsby that the storming of the breaches was impracticable, and when asking the Lords Justices to come to the camp, he presses them to come at once, because bread and forage will be wanting in a short time, and then he must "starve or begone." The Lords Justices themselves were about to publish a proclamation offering better terms than the Irish actually received; but on hearing of their overtures they suppressed this, and came to Limerick, determined to hold the Irish to as hard terms as the king's affairs would admit. Two days after the articles were signed the French fleet came into Dingle Bay.
The Articles were two-fold, Military and Civil; the former signed by D'Usson, De Tessé, Lucan, Wauchope, and other Irish officers, the latter by Ginkel, and the Lords justices Coningsby and Porter. The Military Articles, allowing "all persons without exception" to leave Ireland and settle anywhere abroad, except in England or Scotland, with their families and property, and providing for the free transport to France of such Irish officers and soldiers as desired to enter the French service, have only a temporary interest, and need not be particularly described. The Civil Articles were of more permanent importance and need to be set out fully.
The Civil Articles were made "on behalf of the Irish inhabitants in the city and county of Limerick, the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Sligo, and Mayo;" Galway having separate Articles of its own, and the rest of the kingdom being already in the hands of the Williamites. They may be briefly epitomised as follows, the first, ninth, and twelfth being quoted in extenso:—
1. That the Roman Catholics of this Kingdom
she enjoy such Privileges in the Exercise of their Religion are
consistent with the Laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the
Reign of King Charles the Second; and their Majesties (as soon as
their affairs will permit them to summon a Parliament in this
Kingdom) will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such
further Security in that particular as may preserve them from any
disturbance upon the account of their said Religion.
II. All inhabitants of Limerick, and other garrisons unsubmitted, and all officers and soldiers under James's commission in the Counties specified, not prisoners of war, now submitting to "Their Majesties' Obedience," shall hold their Estates, etc., as entitled under Charles II. or at any time since, and exercise all Professions, Trades, and Callings as in the reign of James II., on taking oath of allegiance to William and Mary.
III. All absent Merchants returning within sigh months to have the benefit of Article II.
IV. Absent Officers also.
V. General amnesty and pardon of offences fa persona comprised in Articles II. and III.
VI. No person so comprised to be sued for damages, etc., committed or for rent of Lands or Houses occupied, during the war. This Article to be reciprocal, on both sides.
VII. Noblemen and Gentlemen comprised, to allowed to bear arms for sport or self defence.
VIII. Residents of Limerick, etc., to remove their goods and chattels without search or duty.
IX. "The oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as submit to their Majesties' Government, shall be the Oath aforesaid and no other."
X. Persons breaking Articles shall not by such breach, cause loss of privilege to any other person.
XI. The Lords Justices promise to endeavour to protect persons comprehended in Articles from arrests and executions for debt and damage for the apace of eight months next ensuing.
XII. "The Lords Justices and the General do undertake that their Majesties will ratify these articles within the space of three months or sooner, and use their utmost Endeavours that the same shall be ratified and confirmed in the Parliament."
XIII. Lord Lucan makes himself responsible for a debt to John Browne for goods seized for the use of the army, this debt to be paid out of a tax on estates secured to Catholics under the Articles.
The Articles were ratified by William and Mary on February 24th, 1692, the words: "and all such as are under their protection in the said counties," omitted by the engrosser after the words Limerick, etc., in the second Article, being restored.
Although William was personally in favour of toleration; he did absolutely nothing to redeem his pledge of obtaining "further security" for the Irish Catholics, who might have bitterly used against him his own reproachful words to Richard Hamilton, "Your honour?" and with much more reason. In his reign many of those abominable penal acts against Catholics, which have excited the indignation of even Irish Protestants, were passed; and to these he seems to have given his assent without a protest.
In his reign the Irish Catholics gradually lost their rights, civil and religious. A Catholic could hold no public office, could not be a trustee, executor, guardian, legatee, or even a schoolmaster; could not be taught at home, except as a Protestant, nor sent abroad to be educated in a Catholic school or college; could not own a horse of greater value than £5. Anyone informing against him for this latter offence, could break into his stable, seize the horse, bring him before a magistrate, and claim the horse, on payment of £5, "as if bought in open market."
NOW that the Articles were signed, the English took possession of the Irish town, while the Irish still occupied the English town, each party having a guard at their own end of Ball's Bridge.
While the Articles were under discussion, there was some relaxation of discipline on both sides; the officers and men of both armies visiting each other perfectly freely, and fighting their battles over again in quite a friendly and convivial spirit. It seems most likely that the following anecdote belongs to this period, and not to the day of the Boyne, as sometimes asserted. Sarsfield is said to have asked some of the enemy's officers "What they now thought of the Irish?" They said that their opinion of them was "What it had always been." Sarsfield appears to have taken this in an uncomplimentary sense, and replied: "Change kings, and we'll fight you again."
This free intercourse afterwards gave rise to difficulties, and had to be restrained. By the Military Articles, the Irish officers and soldiers who desired to enter the French service had liberty to do so; and it was further stipulated that Ginkel should provide at his own cost, ships for their transport, and that of their families, hostages being taken for the safe return of these ships when the work was done. Sarsfield was naturally desirous of taking with him to France as large a number of men as possible.
"On the other hand, the Lords Justices," as frankly admits, "were not wanting in their duties countermine the design, and to render the effects of the Articles of as little force as possible."
Every effort was made by them and by Ginkel t thwart Sarsfield, and induce the Irish either to take service under William, or to go back to their homes. Each side accused the other of attempting to break the Articles. Sarsfield, in order to prevent his men from deserting, is said to have kept them practically imprisoned in the Irish town, the gates of which were shut and guarded; many escaping by scaling the walls and swimming across from King's Island. On one occasion a sharp dispute took place between Sarsfield and Ginkel, respecting a lieutenant-colonel, who had written to Ginkel, complaining that he ha been imprisoned for refusing to go to France. Ginkel at once ordered four guns to be planted on Ball's Bridge,
"Saying with some heat, that he would teach them to play tricks with him, which my Lord Lucan hearing of (for so we may venture to call Lieutenant General Sarsfield now, since the articles do it), he came out to our camp, and several sharp words passed, my Lord Lucan saying at last that HE WAS THEN IN THE GENERAL'S POWER. NOT SO (replies the other) BUT YOU SHALL GO IN, AND THEN DO THE BEST YOU CAN."
Sarsfield explained that some prisoners of State, who had been set at liberty, had afterwards come from the English camp and spoken disrespectfully of the Irish officers, and that it was for this misdemeanour that the colonel had been imprisoned. He was probably an agent of Ginkel's, as Harris suggests when commenting upon this.
"And indeed it is not impossible that several of those Irish officers who resorted the camp, were tempted by rewards and promises to draw off as many of the Irish as they could from the French voyage."
The colonel was set at liberty, and the matter dropped.
As soon as the Articles were signed, the Lords Justices wrote to Mr. Francis Cuffe, their agent in Dublin, to go at once to Lambay, where the Bally-more garrison were still confined. By the Treaty of Limerick they were already free, and at liberty to leave the country if they so desired; but Cuffe, without letting them know of this, was to promise that on taking the oath of allegiance (which they were not bound to take, if going abroad), and agreeing to remain quietly at home, they should be discharged, and given provisions for their journey. This Harris admits to have been a trick.
"Another LESS JUSTAFIABLE STEP," he says, "was taken to discourage the embarkation of such numbers of soldiers to France," but this was done "solely by directions of the General and the officiousness of Co Nassau, who would not suffer the wives and children the soldiers intended for France to be shipped with t men, not doubting that it would hinder a great man from going. This was certainly an infraction of the first of the Military Articles, which provided for the passage of all persons willing to go to France, together with their families."
Sarsfield, in a very polite letter to Ginkel, prates against this, hoping, he said,
"That as hitherto they had proceeded on both sides with sincerity, so, relying on his Excellency's honour and the public faith, they expected to be dealt withal, without wresting or extorting any meaning out of the articles contrary to agreement, and the genuine sense of them, which candid manner of proceeding will add to the reputation of your arms, that of your justice."
Instead of yielding at once, Ginkel consulted the Lords Justices as to how he could avoid complying with Sarsfield's just demands. They, however, told him plainly he was bound by the obligations of the Articles, This was politic as well as just, with the Irish still under arms, and the French fleet in the background. Ginkel, who really had some difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of transports, made the most of his difficulties; and it was not until after a good deal of correspondence between him and Sarsfield that everything was satisfactorily arranged.
On October 5th Sarsfield and Wauchope made speeches to the soldiers, holding out to them hopes of good pay and active service in France, and telling them that next year they might have a chance of redeeming the fortunes of Ireland by an invasion.
"And a great many other advantages," says Story, "were laid before them, which would have seemed improbable to any but Irish Men, who easily believe what they would have, but are as soon dejected at any frivolous misfortune."
Early next morning, October 6th, the Irish clergy preached sermons at the head of each regiment, exerting all their eloquence to induce the soldiers to take service in France, rather than join the ranks of a heretic prince. This done, the bishops gave them their blessing, and the whole force of the Irish Foot was drawn up either on the Clare side of the river or on King's Island to the number of 14,000 men.
The appearance of these Irish troops, many of whom afterwards fought so gallantly in the armies of France, as they mustered after the siege in their tattered garments, was so wretched as to excite the ridicule of the French officers, who amused themselves with many jests at their expense, as they marched past. Those who accepted service under William, or wished to return to their homes, were to file off at a certain point; those who volunteered for France were to march straight forward. The event was anxiously watched by Sarsfield and Wauchope on the one side, and by Ginkel and his officers on the other. The result is thus described by Story:
"That which they called the Royal Regiment, being then fourteen hundred men, seemed to go off all entire except seven men, which the General was much concerned at; then my Lord Ivaeghe's Regiment of Ulster Irish, came off entire to our side, as did also Co Wilson's and about half of my Lord Louth's, and a many out of most other Regiments, Brigadier Clifford, Colonel Henry Lutterell, and Colonel Purcell, all appeared averse to the going for France."
About 2,000 of the Irish went home, 1,046 mustered at Ginkel's quarters, and the rest, some 11,000, followed Sarsfield, to Ginkel's great disgust. Not all of these, however, were shipped to France. There were many delays before sufficient transports could be obtained; and when it came to the point many refused to leave the country that they knew and loved, for service in foreign parts, which they did not know. When the first transports, which had sailed from Limerick, returned to Cork to take on board a second detachment, news began to get about that the Irish had been badly treated in France, and that the officers instead of keeping the rank they had had in Ireland, were each moved down a step by order of Louis, but contrary to the wishes and promises of James. In a contemporary letter quoted by Story, the writer says:—
"Never people that had left their all, to come hither to serve were so meanly treated...When they are landed they lye in the field, a night or two at least, before they are sent into their quarters, and then they get, neither money nor deaths, and but little of any thing else. As I pass along the streets, the soldiers wish they had died in Ireland before they came here, and many of the Officers express themselves to the same purpose, and are extremely dejected and melancholy."
On the other hand, on November 19th, 1691, the Lords Justices state in a letter that they had,
"Received complaints from all parts of Ireland of the ill-treatment of the Irish who had submitted, had their Majesties' protection, or were included in articles." This caused a revulsion of feeling, an that "some thousands of those who had quitted the Irish army and gone home with a resolution not to go to France, were then come back again and pressed earnestly to go thither, rather than stay in Ireland, where, contrary to the Catholic faith, as well as law and justice, they were robbed of their substance and abused in their persons."
Whether it was that many women and children, not included in the Articles, presented themselves for shipment at the last moment, or whether there was gross mismanagement on the part of the Irish agents responsible for the shipment, it is hard to decide. But when the last transports were about to sail from Cork, there was a terrible scene. The shipment took place on the 8th of December, on which very day Sarsfield gave Ginkel a release to the effect that:
"As he has provided ships for as many as are willing to go," he is now free "from any obligations he lay under to provide vessels for that purpose."
Ginkel, therefore, was not in fault; unless he sue-ceded in overreaching Sarsfield at the last moment, of which there is no evidence.
Wauchope seems to have superintended the embarkation, and on him Story lays the chief blame; though he says that the overcrowding was due to a proclamation issued by Sarsfield and him:
"That as many of the Irish as had a mind to it,
should have liberty to transport their families along with
"Accordingly," he continues, "a vast rabble of all sorts were brought to the water-side, when the Major-General (Wauchope), pretending to ship the soldiers in order, according to their lists, they first carried the men on board; and many of the women, at the second return of the boat for the officers, catching hold to be carried on board, were dragged off and through fearfulness, losing their hold, were drowned; but others who held faster, had their fingers cut off, and so perished in the sight of their husbands or relations."
This terrible catastrophe was not apparently due to the deficiency of accommodation in the ships; as a great number of women and children were afterwards got safely on board, and taken to France. The immediate cause was evidently a panic among the women, who, fearing they would be left behind, crowded into a boat not intended for them. The rough usage they received was disgraceful to those immediately concerned in it, and no proper care for their orderly embarkation can have been taken.
Thus inauspiciously began that flight of the "Wild Geese," which went on through the reigns of Anne and the first Georges; filling the ranks of the armies of Europe with the flower of the youth of Ireland. It cost England dear, in more ways than one, and caused an English king to curse the unjust laws which deprived him of such soldiers.
Story estimates the total number of persons taken to France from Limerick and Cork at 12,000. This seems to be a pretty correct estimate, as Fumeron, the French Commissary in Limerick, writes from Brest, December 10th, 1691, that 8,000 Irish troops had disembarked there up to that date.
The capitulation of Limerick and conclusion of the Irish war, caused great rejoicing in London. In a news-letter in the Earl of Denbigh's collection, William is described as watching the Lord Mayor's Procession from the balcony at Whitehall. The most popular item in this was "a group of Orange Trees, with a number of Irish Rapparees hung in effigy from the branches."
Space does not permit of anything but the briefest chronicle of Sarsfield's subsequent life on the Continent.
In the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris there is an interesting letter from an octogenarian Irish officer to his son, giving an account of his own services in Ireland and on the Continent. In this he complains bitterly of James's treatment of his faithful Irish followers. On their arrival, he says, James made an arrangement with Louis,
"By which we were placed upon the French establishment, reserving for himself our extra pay for his own maintenance, and that of Ins household. We gladly consented to this bargain, though made at our expense; as it made him free of all obligation to the French king, except the honour of his alliance." In spite of this, however, the Fling showered his favours upon the English and Scotch Jacobites, who formed his court at St. Germain, and when tho Irish presented themselves they were received with scant courtesy, the Sing scarcely daring to speak to them, and only upon the most commonplace subjects. Melfort and his brother, Lord Perth, wore high in his favour. Sir Richard Nagle, who had been his Secretary of State for Ireland, was now left in the background; and the officers were degraded, some even to the ranks.
The Irish were formed into four regiments, as we find from Narcissus Lutterell, whose diary briefly mentions the principal events of Sarsfield's subsequent career. The first of these was called the Prince of Wales's Regiment; the second and third were commanded by the Duke of Berwick and his brother, Henry Fitzjames; the fourth by Lord Lucan, upon whom Louis conferred the order of the Holy Ghost, promising him a good post in the French army. He was afterwards, Luttrell says, given command of the Irish in Italy, but he never went there; for now, at last, there was a plan on foot for the invasion of England. Louvois had died suddenly, after an angry interview with Louis. He had always looked with disfavour upon such an attempt, even when it had every chance of success. Now, when he was dead, Louis resolved upon it. A camp was formed on the Norman coast, where all the Irish regiments were mustered, the command being given to Sarsfield. There had been some disaffection on the part of the Irish, who were discontented with the treatment they had received; "so that Sarsfield was posted away to appease the said discord."
A great fleet was assembled at Brest, 80 ships of the line and some 300 transports. Bellefonds was commander-in-chief, and De Tourville, admiral. James himself, with the Duke of Berwick, was to embark with the expedition. He counted on the English admiral, Russell, and other captains, and hoped that the fleet would declare for him. Russell, disgusted by a stupid proclamation of Tames, frankly told his agent that he would fight the French if he met them, even if the king, himself were on board; and fight them he did, defeating and destroying the French fleet off La Hogue, after several days' engagement, on May 24th, 1692.
This was a severe blow to James, who proposed to retire to a monastery; and to Sarsfield it must have been among the great disappointments of his life. In June, Luttrell says, it was rumoured he had been "clapt up in the Bastille for holding correspondence with the king's enemies," having been but badly used. This seems to have been a false rumour, for in July he was in high command at Steenkirk.
In this great battle, William endeavoured to surprise the French under Luxembourg; but was defeated after much slaughter on both sides. The English regiments suffered severely, losing several officers who had distinguished themselves in Ireland. Mackay, Douglas, Lanier, all fell here; as did Mountjoy, who had been exchanged for Richard Hamilton at the end of the war; and Hamilton himself, who, on being exchanged, accepted service under William in Flanders. In this battle Sarsfield greatly distinguished himself, and was mentioned by Luxembourg in his despatches of August 4th, 1692, as having shown,
"That valour of which he had given such proofs in Ireland." He adds: "I can assure your Majesty that he is a very good and capable officer."
After the battle, finding he had several prisoners and wounded men in his hands, he wrote to Auverkerke to let him know they would be well treated and exchanged as soon as possible. Narcissus Luttrell's diary says that several French surgeons were sent from Brussels to attend to the wounded,
"Whom Sarsfield had taken much care of, praising their courage, promising that they should want for nothing, and so soon as recovered, they should be exchanged."
On Luxembourg's recommendation Sarsfield was raised to the rank of lieutenant-general in the French army.
Shortly after this, in September, 1692, Ginkel, now Earl of Athlone, writes from the camp in Flanders that Sarsfield has written him "obliging letters" and with the king's permission he (Ginkel) has sent him a present of two English horses. This gave him an opportunity of writing to Sarsfield about some of the transports which had been seized by the French and not returned.
In April, 1693, Sarsfield received his marshal's baton; the Duke of Berwick to whom he had so long been subordinated, only then being made a lieutenant-general, if Luttrell's diary be correct. He did not long enjoy his new honours, receiving a mortal wound at the battle of Landon, fought in July that same year.
At Landen, Luxembourg was again opposed to William, whom he attacked this time. He had made a feint of besieging Liège, inducing William to leave his position at Louvain, and advance to Neer-Hespen, having detached a body of 20,000 men to cover Lieège. Luxembourg then turned back from Liège, and advanced with some 80,000 men to attack William, who was left with but 50,000 to guard his frontier. Instead of retreating behind the river Gheet or Gette, which was in his rear, William resolved to await the enemy where he was. He had occupied several moated villages, upon which his lines rested, Walcowen and Neer-Landen being on his left, Neer-Winden and Later on his right, his centre extending from Neer-Landen to Neer-Winden. In an incredibly short time he had strongly fortified these villages, and entrenched his whole line between village and village. He was strong in artillery, having 100 guns in position, with which he was able to annoy the French as they came up, for some hours before their own batteries could reply.
The village of Neer-Winden was the key to William's position, and was furiously attacked several times by Luxembourg, and several times taken and re-taken before it was finally held by the French. In the first attack, the Duke of Berwick, in endeavouring to rally his men, was taken prisoner by his uncle, Brigadier Churchill, who recognised him, as he attempted to escape by passing for an English officer. He was at once taken to the rear, where he had a short interview with William, which he thus describes:—
"The Prince made me a very polite compliment, to which I only replied by a low bow: after looking steadfastly at me for an instant, he put on his hat, and I mine; then he ordered me to be carried to Lewe."
He was afterwards exchanged for the Duke of Ormond, who had been wounded, and taken by the French.
William, when he found that the day was going against him, did all that a brave general could do to avert the utter rout of his army. When they were driven from their entrenchments, he covered the retreat, and was almost the last to leave the field. He had a narrow escape in passing the bridge across the Gheet, amid the press of his broken troops, many of whom were drowned in the river. He conducted his retreat in a masterly manner, and Luxembourg gained little by his victory.
It was in the last charge that Sarsfield, at the head of the flower of the French cavalry (no Irish regiment being engaged), as he drove the enemy down to the river, was struck by a musket ball in the breast, and fell. As he lay on the ground he is said to have put his hand to his wound, and, seeing it covered with blood, exclaimed: "Would to God this were shed for Ireland!"
He was carried from the field to the village of Huy, where he died in a few days, of the fever induced by his wound. He was, no doubt, buried there, but no stone marks his grave.
He left one son and one daughter. His son, James Francis Edward, was brought up by the Duke of Berwick (who married Lady Lucan in 1695), and served under him in Spain. He was afterwards employed to organise a movement of the oppressed Catholics in Ireland, in favour of James III., which came to nothing. He died, without issue, at St. Omer, May 12th, 1719. He had been decorated and pensioned by Philip V., for gallantry at the Siege of Barcelona.
The daughter married Baron de Neuburg, styled King of Corsica.
Sarsfield's mother survived him, as appears from the following extract from the diary of Colonel Peter Drake, of Drakesrath, under date 1694:—
"From Paris I went to St. German, where I met with Mrs. Sarsfield, mother of Lord Lucan, and her two daughters, Ladies Kilmallock and Mount Leinster; the eldest of whom was my god-mother. These ladies, though supported by small pensions, received me with great generosity, and treated me with much good nature."
Eugene Davies, in his Irish Foot-prints on the Continent, gives a romantic account of Lady Lucan's courtship by the Duke of Berwick, who visited her at Huy, where she lived for some time after her husband's death.
"She was still quite young, and even girlish in her manners, despite her widow's weeds, and was remarkably prepossessing in appearance. Her own relatives as well as those of her late husband, had so completely abandoned her, that she was in almost absolute poverty in Huy. Berwick's heart grew full of pity for the desolate beauty, and as pity is akin to love in such cases, he soon became so enamoured that he offered her his hand, which was graciously accepted."
The marriage took place immediately, and Berwick became the guardian of Sarsfield's son. This was in 1695. In 1696 the lady, now Duchess of Berwick, was outlawed by William; in 1698 she died; and on Berwick's second marriage next year, with Miss Bulkeley, Davies says he "abandoned" the young Earl of Lucan.
Little as we know of Sarsfield's private life, his personality makes a very vivid impression upon the student of his career. The big man, dreaded as a swordsman as he charged at the head of his cavalry, had a big heart in his breast, brave, loyal, generous, and affectionate. Possibly he lacked the organising and business qualities which go to make a first-rate general; possibly he could not have done what St. Ruth did in training a raw army, and handling it as at Aughrim. But it is unfair to assume that, with St. Ruth's opportunities, he could not have cone. He never was in supreme command of an army. He undoubtedly possessed many of the qualities which go to the making of a commander; the power of inspiring those under him with confidence and enthusiasm, an instinctive sense of the value of a bold attack in defensive warfare, a dauntlessness and fertility of resource in defeat, a power of making his presence felt and dreaded even by a victorious enemy. He was, in many respects, unfortunate; but he "never did to fortune bend the knee," As one looks at that best-known portrait of him, taken from the Bingham picture, the face seems to wear a somewhat melancholy expression. The eyes, that gaze out from under the great wig with its flowing curls, are sad; but the mouth, with its firm-set lips, is full of resolution. It is the face of a chivalrous gentleman, courteous, kindly, honourable, easily irascible, no doubt, but easily appeased; and there does not seem to be a trace of that swelling vanity of which he has been accused. One thinks of Hamlet's speech to Horatio:—
"Thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Has ta'en with equal thanks: are bless'd are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please."
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