Page images
PDF
EPUB

1689]

SIEGE OF LONDONDERRY

161

been saved by his courage and self-devotion from the most frightful form of destruction. The night had closed in before the conflict at the boom began, but the flash of the guns was seen and the noise heard by the lean and ghastly multitude which covered the walls of the city. When the Mountjoy grounded, and when the shout of triumph rose from the Irish on both sides of the river, the hearts of the besieged died within them. One who endured the unutterable anguish of that moment has told us that they looked fearfully livid in each other's eyes. Even after the barricade had been passed, there was a terrible half-hour of suspense. It was ten o'clock before the ships arrived at the quay.

The whole population was there to welcome them. A screen made of casks filled with earth was hastily thrown up to protect the landing-place from the batteries on the other side of the river, and then the work of unloading began. First were rolled on shore barrels containing six thousand bushels of meal. Then came great cheeses, casks of beef, Alitches of bacon, kegs of butter, sacks of peas and biscuits, ankers of brandy. Not many hours before, half a pound of tallow and three-quarters of a pound of salted hide had been weighed out with niggardly care to every fighting man. The ration which each now received was three pounds of flour, two pounds of beef, and a pint of peas.

It is easy to imagine with what tears grace was said over the suppers of that

L

evening. There was little sleep on either side of the wall. The bonfires shone bright along the whole circuit of the ramparts. The Irish guns continued to roar all night; and all night the bells of the rescued city made answer to the Irish guns with a peal of joyous defiance. Through the whole of the thirty-first July the batteries of the enemy continued to play. But, soon after the sun had again gone down, flames were seen arising from the camp; and when the first of August dawned, a line of smoking ruins marked the site lately occupied by the huts of the besiegers; and the citizens saw, far off, the long columns of pikes and standards retreating up the left bank of the Foyle towards Strabane.'1

Such was the end of the memorable siege of Londonderry. The English Protestant colonists had fought bravely for their religion and mother country, and fortune had crowned their efforts with signal success. On the day of the relief of Londonderry, the colonists of Enniskillen also gained a brilliant victory. Sallying from the town, they attacked the Irish at Newtown Butler, and completely defeated them. Thus was Ulster held for England.

William now sent more reinforcements to Ireland. In August 1689 an army of about 10,000 men, under the Duke of Schombergreputed to be one of the most skilful captains of his time — landed in Bangor Bay. The

[blocks in formation]

1689]

SCHOMBERG

163

duke led his troops at once against Carrickfergus, and after a sharp struggle succeeded in capturing it. With the Enniskillens, a body of volunteers more conspicuous for bravery than discipline, he advanced along the coast as far as Dundalk, where lack of supplies compelled him to halt and entrench himself. James's army of about 26,000 men drew near, but Schomberg did not accept battle. The Irish paraded before him in order of battle, with banners flying and trumpets sounding defiance ; his own soldiers burned to cross swords with the foe, but Schomberg was not to be moved, and set to work very vigorously to drill and train the recruits who formed so large a part of his force. But insufficient provisions and malaria rapidly thinned his ranks, proving destructive than

disastrous defeat would have been. The number of the sick exceeded that of the healthy ; there were not enough of spare men to bury the dead, and the putrifying bodies soon increased the fury of the pestilence. It was well that the arrival of some post regiments enabled Schomberg to recover his camp, or he might have lost his army without losing a battle. He suffered greatly in the retreat, but arrived at length within the frontiers of Ulster, and fixed his headquarters at Lisburn. This ended a curiously abortive campaign, of which it was said, not without justice, that ‘Schomberg did nothing, and James helped him.'

During the winter, Schomberg received

more

even

a

6

large supplies of stores and provisions, and made such considerable improvements that in the spring he was able to muster a force of 30,000 men. On the other side, James's army

was strengthened by 7000 veteran French soldiers under the Count Lauzun. Perceiving the importance of bringing affairs in Ireland to a decisive issue, William himself crossed St George's Channel, and landing at Carrickfergus on the 14th of June 1690, assumed the command in chief. There were now practically three contending forces in Ireland—the Williamites, who desired to rule the country in English Protestant interests ; the Jacobites, who desired to rule it in English Catholic interests; and the Irish, who desired to be rid of both, but who were obliged to unite with the latter in order to overthrow what was the real English power in the island. The Williamites were, of course, represented by William, and the Jacobites by James. The Irish were represented by the brilliant and chivalrous soldier who now steps upon the scene.

CHAPTER XVII

SARSFIELD

[graphic]

JATRICK SARSFIELD—whose

family came to Ireland with the first Norman settlers—was born probably at Lucan, in County Dublin, about 1650. His ancestral estates had been forfeited by Cromwell, but were

restored by Charles II. Young Sarsfield was educated at a French military school, and first served in the French army under Luxembourg. Subsequently, he served in the English army under Charles II. and James II. He fought against Monmouth at Sedgemoor in 1685, and was severely wounded. Throughout the reign of James he spent most of his time in England, and does not seem to have been actively employed. About 1688

« PreviousContinue »