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set out, but had scarcely left, when a blaze like lightning, and a crash like thunder, announced to the wide plain of the Shannon that all was
Sarsfield had long been the favourite of his countrymen, and this most seasonable exploit, judiciously planned and vigorously executed, raised him still higher in their estimation. Their spirits rose, and the besiegers began to lose heart. William did his best to repair his loss. Two of the guns which had been blown up were found to be still serviceable. Two more were sent for from Waterford. Batteries were constructed of small field pieces, which, though they might have been useless against one of the fortresses of Hainault or Brabant, made some impression on the feeble defences of Limerick. Several outworks were carried by storm, and a breach in the rampart of the city began to appear.'1
On the 27th August William ordered an assault on the city. At three o'clock in the afternoon the storming party advanced. The grenadiers led the way.
Firing their matchlocks and throwing their grenades, they sprang into the breach. The defenders, confused and dismayed by the explosion of the grenades a new experience to them - gave way all along the line and fell back rapidly. On came the English, flushed by success, and accustomed to victory, and back went the Irish before them. Within a short distance of
FIRST SIEGE OF LIMERICK
the breach they rallied and faced the foe, but the charge of the assailants was irresistible and bore down all opposition. The English had now penetrated well into the town, and their victory seemed assured. But the Irish, driven to bay, rallied once more, and this time made a determined stand. A fierce hand-to-hand street fight, which lasted for four hours, now began. The citizens of Limerick joined the soldiers, and, seizing whatever weapons lay ready to their hands, rushed into the fray. The very women mingled in the contest, flinging stones, bottles and other missiles at the assailants, and being, as the Williamite historian who was at the siege, says, nearer to our men than their own.' Hour after hour passed, but still the fight went on. Backwards and forwards, to and fro, the surging mass of combatants swayed, till, towards sunset, the English slowly and sullenly, but steadly and surely, commenced to give way. A splendid German regiment, the Brandenburgers, had entered the town, and were working around to the rear of the Irish, when a mine exploded beneath their feet and blew them into the air. Then amid the ruin and carnage the Irish redoubled their efforts and beat the English back to the breach. There the enemy made a last stand, but in vain. They were hurled from the city, and driven pell-mell to their entrenchments. William, who had witnessed the fight from an old ruin called Cromwell's Fort, now saw his retreating army flying from the victorious Irish. He quickly hastened to his tent and summoned
a council of war. But it was decided that the attack should not be renewed. A few days afterwards William sailed for England, leaving General Ginkel in command of the army, and on 31st August General Ginkel marched away from Limerick. About the same time Lauzun and Tyrconnell retired to France, while Sarsfield and Boisseleau remained among the people whom they had so well and gloriously defended.
In September a fresh force was sent from England under John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough. Churchill captured Cork and Kinsale, but did not march on Limerick, and so the campaign of 1690 ended.
On the opening of the new year the contending parties stood thus : the English held the whole of Ulster, the greater part of Leinster, and about one-third of Munster; the Irish, the whole of Connaught, the greater part of Munster, and two three counties in Leinster.
In January 1691, Tyrconnell, unfortunately, returned. He came with plenary powers from James, who was at the Court of France. He was lord-lieutenant, and as such head of the state. He was not nominally commander-inchief of the forces; but he considered himself, nevertheless, entitled to interfere in the management of the campaign.
No greater calamity could have befallen the Irish cause than the return of Tyrconnell with these powers. He was feeble in mind and body,
THE NEW CAMPAIGN
the mere partisan of a worthless king, and utterly incapable of guiding the destinies of any country.
In May two French generals arrived-St Ruth and D’Usson. St Ruth was made commander-in-chief, and D’Usson appointed second in command. Those two generals represented the interests of the French king. They came to crush his great rival, William III. As for Ireland, save as a means of carrying out their master's policy, it was nothing to them.
In these distributions of favours the one man to whom Ireland was everything, the one man who had shown capacity and patriotism, was almost utterly ignored. Patrick Sarsfield was left out in the cold ; but he did not complain. He took command of his own troops in Connaught, served loyally under St Ruth, took part in no intrigues, held his tongue and fought for his country. Between Tyrconnell and St Ruth there was a bitter feud; they hated each other cordially. But on one point they agreed ; they both hated Sarsfield. Thus, amid dissensions and rivalries, plots, intrigues and cabals, the Irish army took the field.
Far different was the state of affairs in the army of the enemy. Ginkel commanded, and under him served Mackay, Talmash and Ruvigny, and all worked together as one man.
Towards the end of May the English army took the field, and Ginkel marched straight for Connaught. He first attacked Ballyinore, and took it without difficulty, He then advanced on Athlone, and there the Irish were resolved to make a stand.
Athlone is the border town between Leinster and Connaught. It consists of two parts : one part called the English town in Leinster; the other called the Irish town in Connaught. The Shannon runs between both, and both were connected by a bridge over the river. The fortifications of the English town were worthless; but there was a castle in the Irish town, extending some two hundred feet along the river, and rising to a height of about seventy feet, and this stronghold admitted of a stout defence.
On the 19th of June, Ginkel planted his cannon before the English town. St Ruth was then in Limerick. Sarsfield was stationed with his forces near Athlone, but awaiting orders from his chief, who ought to have been upon the spot. The town was garrisoned by 600 men, under the command of a capable officer named Maxwell.
At eight o'clock on the morning of the 20th, Ginkel opened fire on the English town. By twelve noon he had made a breach in the walls, and before evening the Irish were in full retreat over the bridge (blowing up two of the arches) to the Irish town. That night St Ruth arrived from Limerick, and encamped on the Connaught side of the river. Next day he threw up entrenchments where the river was fordable, to prevent the English from crossing there. On the 22d, Ginkel