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 corn fields, 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 guerrilla 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. Schomberg 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 anyone 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 Schomberg 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 scantilly supplied with brains.” D’Avaux had a much higher opinion of him.
“Sarsfield,” he writes to Louvois, 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 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 villainously 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 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 Armagh. 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 2nd 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 lame with the scratches, spavin, ring-bones, and other infirmities; but withal so vicious that he would fall a-kicking and squeeling 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 side, 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 80 many women and children, ask’d 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 SOULDIERS 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, Branden burghers, 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 uneasie to a king. But He (Story, in speaking of William, affects the capital H) 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 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, pluckt 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.”