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. 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 the royal cause by this, that in the space of two months 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 with in 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. Munster, Justin McCarthy (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 newborn 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 every body’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 in fluence 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 love, 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 he 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 subsistance 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 Derry. 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 flying, 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 in gratitude 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.