Page images
PDF
EPUB

1690]

THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE

171

head of his own fellow-countrymen-a company of Dutch dragoons—furiously charged the Irish. This was the final struggle. Left without reinforcements, abandoned by Lauzun and James, and overwhelmed on all sides by the rapidly increasing English regiments, Hamilton was borne down and taken prisoner. Still the Irish horse fought on.

• Is this business over, or will your horse make more fight ?' said William to Hamilton, when the Irish commander was brought into his presence. "On my honour, sir,' said Hamilton, 'I believe they will.' But the Irish horse were at length beaten. "Whole troops,' says Macaulay, had been cut to pieces. One fine regiment had only thirty unwounded men left. It was enough that these gallant soldiers had disputed the field till they were left without support, or hope, or guidance, till their bravest leader was a captive, and till their king had fled.'

The battle was now over, and the Irish army, retreating in good order, fell back on Dublin, and finally on Limerick. James had fled early in the day, taking Sarsfield's horse with him as a body-guard, and did not draw rein until he reached Dublin Castle. There, as the story goes, he was met by Lady Tyrconnell. He threw all the blame on the Irish. "The Irish ran away,' he said. 'Your majesty,' said Lady Tyrconnell, ‘seems to have won the race.' The fact was, the Irish were fighting whilst James was running. In his early career James appears to have had the reputation of a brave man; but to have left the Boyne at

was

the crisis of the battle, and to have withdrawn Sarsfield's horse for his own protection, thus depriving the Irish army, in the hour of its need, of its ablest commander and of one of its choicest regiments, was the act of a poltroon and a coward. Early in July this king of shreds and patches' retired to France, to the immense joy of everyone. William, to use his own words, did not let the 'grass grow under his feet' after the battle of the Boyne. He pushed forward rapidly to Dublin, and thence

-the garrisons on the way having fallen into his hands - to Limerick, where the whole Irish army was now gathered under Lauzun, Boisseleau, Tyrconnell and Sarsfield.

On his approach, a council of war called. Lauzun declared at once that Limerick could not be defended. It is unnecessary,' he said contemptuously, 'for the English to bring cannon against such a place. What you call your ramparts might be battered down with roasted apples !' Tyrconnell shared Lauzun's view. But Sarsfield said the town could be defended and should be defended. The ramparts might be contemptible, but the men who stood behind them were not. He knew his fellow-countrymen, and he felt that, ramparts or no ramparts, they would give a good account of themselves, and of the enemy. At all events, honour bade him stay, and stay he would.

Boisseleau gallantly supported the brave Irishman. But Lauzun and Tyrconnell would not give way.

A compromise was at length agreed on. Lauzun and Tyrconnell, with the

[ocr errors]

1690]

FIRST SIEGE OF LIMERICK

173

French troops, might retire to Galway. Sarsfield and Boisseleau would remain with the Irish regiments and defend the town.

Then Lauzun, Tyrconnell, and the French departed. Sarsfield, Boisseleau, and the Irish held their ground. Thus' was Limerick, in August 1690, put in the position in which Londonderry had been placed in April 1689 The English colonists had gathered to the one city to make a last stand. The Irish now gathered to the other for the same heroic purpose. Lundy and the English officers had declared that Londonderry could not be defended, and withdrew with the English regiments which were on board ship in the harbour. Lauzun declared that Limerick could not be defended, and marched off with his French troops. What Londonderry did when abandoned by those whose duty it was to stand in the breach, we have seen. What Limerick did when left to its fate, we have now to see. Boisseleau, an experienced engineer officer, was at once chosen governor of the town. Sarsfield held his old position

commander of the horse. Boisseleau set energetically to work to strengthen the fortifications. Sarsfield placed the troops and guarded the outposts.

On August 9, William sat down before the town with an army of 28,000 men. The defenders numbered an effective force of 10,000 infantry and 4000 horse. William at once sent a message to Boisseleau to surrender. Boisseleau sent back a courteous reply. 'Tell the English king,' he said, 'that I

[ocr errors]

hope I shall merit his opinion more by a vigorous defence than by a shameful surrender of a fortress which has been entrusted to me.' William was not prepared for this reply. He nad heard that Lauzun and the French had departed. He did not believe that the town, thus abandoned, would attempt to hold out. He was resolved to await the arrival of a siege train, which was coming up from Waterford, with guns, ammunition and stores. On August 11 this siege train arrived at the little village of Ballyneety, within ten miles of William's camp.

The day before the news of its approach had reached Limerick. Sarsfield saw at a glance that the fate of the town might depend on the arrival of the siege train, and he resolved that arrive it never should. On the night of August 10, he issued from the city, with a force of 500 horse, and under the direction of a faithful guide, moved, by a circuitous route, in the direction of Ballyneety, whither he had learned the convoy, guarding the siege train, were bending their way. During the day of the 11th, he remained concealed in the Keeper Mountain. In the evening, the seige train arrived at Ballyneety. That night, Sarsfield resolved to surprise the convoy and destroy the train. His first step was to learn the password of the enemy. Here fortune favoured him. The wife of a soldier attached to the convoy had lagged behind in the march. One of Sarsfield's troopers came up with her, and was struck by her forlorn position, friendless,

1690]

FIRST SIEGE OF LIMERICK

175

tired, deserted. He dismounted and placed her on his horse. He learned who she was, and she told him that the password of the convoy was • Sarsfield. At two o'clock on the morning of the 12th, Sarsfield's horse approached the lines of the enemy. The English sentinels challenged, and the password was given-'Sarsfield.' The Irish horse passed on, and drawing nearer, and nearer, until at length they came within striking distance of the foe.

The sentinels again challenged, when the leader of the foremost troop, placing himself at the head of his men, and drawing his sword, answered Sarsfield,—Sarsfield is the word, and Sarsfield is the man.' The Irish horse charged, the English outposts were driven in, the camp was surprised ; 6o Englishmen were killed, one officer was taken prisoner, the rest fled, leaving waggons, guns, ammunition, stores, all behind. Then the victorious Irish made a huge pile of waggons and pieces of cannon. Every gun

was stuffed with powder, and fixed with its mouth in the ground, and the whole mass was blown up.' The solitary prisoner was treated with great civility by Sarsfield. 'If I had failed in this attempt,' said the Irish general, 'I should have been off to France.' Intelligence had been carried to William's headquarters that Sarsfield had stolen out of Limerick, and was ranging the country. "The king guessed the design of his brave enemy, and sent 500 horse to protect the guns. ... At one in the morning the detachment

6

« PreviousContinue »