James, who had left the field between five and six o’clock, reached Dublin about ten that night, just when William halted at the Naul. The Protestants in Dublin had remained in a state of intense anxiety, tormented by various rumours: that the Prince of Orange was killed or taken prisoner, his army totally defeated, etc., until about five in the afternoon some men, escaping on tired horses, probably some of Tyrconnell’s dragoons, told how the Irish were “much worsted,” and others, coming later, that they were beaten: –
“Dusty, wounded and tired soldiers, and carriages coming in till one o’clock – several of James’s guards straggling in without pistols or swords, and could not tell what has become of himself,” says the Person of Quality. “Near ten that night,” he continues, “he came in with about 200 horse, all in disorder; we concluded now that it was a total rout, and that the enemy were just ready to come into town; but were greatly surprised when, an hour or two after, we heard the whole body of the Irish Horse coming in, in very good order, with kettle drums, hautboys, and trumpets; and early the next morning, the French, and a great party of Irish Foot. These being a little rested, marched out again to meet the enemy, which were supposed to draw nigh.”
This shows that even the much-maligned Irish Foot had still some fight left in them.
James was received at the castle gate by Lady Tyrconnell,
“And after he was upstairs,” as Story quaintly relates, “her ladyship ask’t him what he would have for supper? Who then gave her an account of what a breakfast he had got, which made him have little stomach for his supper.”
One hopes the tale is true that, on James’s complaining that the Irish had run away, her Ladyship drily replied: “But your Majesty won the race.”
The king stayed that night at the castle, and next morning sent for the Lord Mayor and the Council and told them that: –
“Though the Irish army did not desert him as they did in England, yet, when it came to the trial, they basely fled the field, and left it a spoil to his enemies, nor could they be prevailed upon to rally, though the loss in the whole defeat was but inconsiderable, so that henceforward he determined never to head an Irish army, and now resolved to shift for himself, as they themselves must do.”
He advised them not to burn the town, but to submit to the Prince of Orange, who was a merciful man; and to set the prisoners at liberty. Having thus, in his finest Royal Stuart manner, thrown all the blame of his defeat upon the poor loyal Irish, who had fought so gallantly all that disastrous day, the wretched man went off post-haste to Waterford, put to sea in the “Count de Lauzun,” and made for Kinsale, where, finding a French squadron, he re-embarked on board a frigate, and was conveyed to Brest. Having heard of De Tourville’s victory over the English and Dutch fleets, off Beachy Head, on the 30th of June, he arrived there “in good spirits,” and soon reached St. Germain. William did not arrive in Dublin until Friday, the 4th of July. The Protestants still feared that the Irish troops who had left on Wednesday, on the march to Limerick, might return and burn the town. They, however, had behaved quietly, and committed no acts of violence whatever. The “Villare Hibernicum,” under the date of July 3rd, reports that: –
“At eight this night, troop of Dragoons (Williamite) came as guard to an officer, that came to take charge of the stores. It was impossible that the king himself, coming after this, could be welcom’d with equal joy, as this one troop; the Protestants hung about the horses, and were ready to pull the men off them, as they marched up to the castle.”
At the castle they found Captain Farlow, who had been taken in the first skirmish near Newry and confined in the castle, now its self-constituted governor, having taken possession in King William’s name, William encamped at Finglas, and heard a sermon by the redoubtable Dr. King, at St. Patrick’s, on Sunday. Then was a time of jubilation for the Protestants. They came forth into the sun, like creatures that had been hibernating; arrogant and dominant once more, as was their wont. The Person of Quality remarks that it was: –
“A wonderful thing that so small a loss should disperse the whole Irish army; who seemed to be blown away only by a wind of God.”
The Irish were less disheartened by the event of the battle than might be supposed. They also had heard of De Tourville’s victory; and it was given out that James was gone to France to obtain an army, which, the seas being now open, would soon arrive. This, as Story tells us, put them in heart to defend their towns — Limerick, Athlone, and Galway, the Irish “being of all living the soonest discouraged, but up again with the least hope.” Away then went the army, discomfited but not subdued, to defend the capital city of their diminished kingdom, the passes of the Shannon, and Connaught, their last stronghold.
“As if,” says O’Kelly, “they were guided to Limerick by some secret instinct of nature.”
And now Sarsfield became the life and soul of the Irish party, whose only interest was the defence of their country against the invader. Lauzun and the French were anxious to get back to France, and cared little what terms might be made with William, since they regarded James’s cause as lost. Tyrconnell took the same view, made common cause with Lauzun, and followed James in calumniating the “mere Irish,” whom, as a Lord of the Pale, he affected to despise. He sent his wife, Frances Jennings, sister of the Duchess of Marlborough, to Paris, where she is accused of intriguing to prevent Louvois from sending any valid assistance to the Irish. It is certain that Louis himself was less than ever disposed to treat James’s pretensions seriously. He received him with courtesy, but promised nothing; and, after a first interview, refused to see him for a considerable time, on the plea of indisposition. His Britannic Majesty was permitted to wait in ante-rooms in vain, amid a crowd of contemptuous courtiers, to the great annoyance of his queen, who keenly felt the slights to which his want of self-respect exposed him.
The false stories circulated in Paris respecting the behaviour of the Irish at the Boyne so affected the Parisians that, to quote Colonel O’Kelly: –
“The Irish merchants who lived there since the conquest of Oliver Cromwell, durst not walk abroad, nor appear in the streets, the people were so exasperated against them.”
The day that William entered Dublin, he received an account of De Tourville’s victory, which must have caused him some uneasiness, as it might have resulted in the supremacy of the French at sea, the cutting off of his communication with England, and even an invasion of England itself. He had much to do before he could leave Dublin, which he did on July, 9th, having appointed a council to conduct civil affairs in his absence. He despatched Douglas with three regiments of Horse, two of dragoons, and ten of Foot, with some artillery, for an attack upon Athlone.
William, himself with the main body, marched southwards, via Carlow and Carrick-on-Suir; his first objective point being Waterford, which, with the strong fort of Duncannon, he was anxious to secure, as a convenient station for his transports. From Carlow, Ormond was despatched with a body of Horse to take possession of Kilkenny, left imperfectly garrisoned by Tyrconnell. On July 21st, the army, which had marched slowly, encamped at Carrick-on-Suir; whence Kirke was sent to summon Waterford, which surrendered, the garrison being allowed to march out with the honours of war. Captain Michael Bourke, in command at Duncannon, at first made some show of holding the place; but on the arrival of Sir Cloudesley Shovel with sixteen frigates, capitulated on the same terms.
From Carrick, William, who had received bad accounts from England of reverses on the Continent, returned to Chapelizod, intending to re-cross the Channel; but having heard of De Tourville’s abortive invasion of England, in which, by stupidly burning the village of Teignmouth, he had raised the whole country against the Jacobites and their French allies, he returned to the army, then encamped near Cashel.
On his first marching from Dublin he had been very stern in maintaining discipline, and repressing the plundering tendencies of his composite army. Our two clerical troopers, Story and Rowland Davies, the saga-men of the last great English invasion, are full of casual reports of summary punishment. On July 13th, Davies tell how: –
“Being Sunday, our whole army halted, and by yester day’s pillage were full of beef and mutton. I preached in the field against swearing. Several men had been hung for plundering the previous day, and now, as he was preaching, seven prisoners were led by to execution. One of them, of his own regiment, was got off by the Major; ‘the rest threw dice to save their lives, and three of them were executed.’ On the march to Carlow “two of the Enniskillen dragoons hung by the wayside, with papers on their breasts exposing their crime.”
Story also tells how, near Naas, William caught a man robbing a poor woman,
“Which inraged his Majesty so much that he beat him with his cane.”
He was afterwards hanged.
At Chapelizod William had several complaints of outrages committed by the troops under Douglas, who, on his march to Athlone, did not keep anything like the same discipline, and, in fact, acted in the spirit of a Scotch free-booter. He did indeed issue protections to such inhabitants as made submission; but many, finding them worthless, joined the Rapparees, who hung about the detachment on its march, and cut off many small parties of the marauders. On arriving at Athlone, Douglas sent a drummer to summon the town; but the veteran governor, Colonel Richard Grace, firing his pistol, answered: – “These are my terms, and before I surrender, I’ll eat my boots.” Grace had already burnt that part of the town situated on the east bank of the Shannon (for the third time during the war), and breaking down the bridge, retreated to the part lying in Roscommon, which was well fortified. The English, attempting to cross the Shannon, were beaten back, and after ten days of ineffectual siege, in which he lost many by shot and sickness, Douglas, hearing that Sarsfield was coming to the relief of the town, decamped and joined William at Cahirconlish, about seven miles from Limerick. To avoid Sarsfield, who was reported to be at Banagher, he returned by a circuitious route, passing by Ballymore, Ballyboy and Roscrea, and crossing the Devil’s Bit mountain. Near Moneygall a foraging party of twelve men was cut off by a detachment sent from Nenagh by Anthony O’Carroll, and all slain, at a place still called “The bloody Togher (bog).” Thence he proceeded to Thurles, which he sacked and burnt, passing through Cullen on his way to Cahirconlish. In this expedition he is said to have lost between 300 and 400 men, chiefly by sickness.
Meanwhile a council had been held in Limerick. Tyrconnell and Lauzun, now both of one mind, were for making terms with William; Sarsfield and the Irish officers of his party, for defending Limerick to the last. Lauzun, glad of any excuse to get out of Ireland, laughed at the idea of attempting to defend such a place. “Why should the English,” he asked, “bring cannon against fortifications that could be battered down with roasted apples?”
But Sarsfield stood firm, and it was resolved that two “persons of quality” should be sent to France to acquaint James and Louis with the present state of affairs, and the determination of the Irish to defend their country to the last. One day when Tyrconnell, now grown corpulent and lethargic, was absent, a further resolution was passed “that Sarsfield, the darling of the army,” should command in chief, next to the Captain General, Tyrconnell.
Neither of these patriotic resolutions pleased the Captain General, who, after Sarsfield had raised the siege at Athlone, recalled him to Limerick. Finding, however, that his popularity was troublesome, he sent him again, with a mere handful of men, to watch the movements of the enemy. In his absence, Tyrconnell and Lauzun did all in their power to persuade the other officers that an immediate capitulation was the only sound policy. Most of the members of the council, many of whom had estates to lose, were gained over; but on William’s approach Sarsfield came back, and the army enthusiastically supported him, and vowed that they would defend the town at all hazards. The fortifications were strengthened by means of outworks, everyone working with a will to complete such defensive operations as could be hastily carried out.
The French and the Irish were never on good terms, the French despising the Irish, and the Irish hating the French; and this feeling of animosity was now at its highest pitch. Lauzun taking a considerable quantity of ammunition, and eight guns, withdrew to Galway with all the French troops under his command, and encamped outside the town. The people of Galway refused him admittance, because, it was said, he had shut the gates of Limerick against some of the Irish troops arriving late from the Boyne. Limerick was thus left to be defended by the Irish Foot, of which three regiments were detached to guard the fords near the town, supported by the dragoons and light Horse, who were encamped on the Clare side of the Shannon. On the 8th of August, William sent forward Lord Portland with a detachment, who drove in the Irish outposts and advanced within cannon-shot of Limerick. On the 9th, just forty days after the passage of the Boyne, William himself appeared before the town; and the next day Tyrconnell, “without consulting the rest of his captains,” drew off the regiments guarding the fords, and ordered them to Galway, whither he now followed Lauzun. He left Boisseleau as Governor of Limerick, with the Duke of Berwick, Major Generals Sarsfield and Dorrington, and Brigadiers Henry Luttrell, Wauchope, and Maxwell, as his assistants. Wauchope and Maxwell were Scotch Catholics.
Before Portland returned, William joined him with a guard of 200 horse. When they came within two miles of the town: –
“The enemy,” says the author of VILLARE HIBERNICUM, “came so near with some of their out-guards that we could hear them talking with their damned Irish brogue on their tongues, but they were separated by a bog, which was very deep, and so situated that we could not possibly attack them.”
On the evening of August 8th, Douglas came into camp at Cahirconlish, and the next day the whole army moved forward. About two miles from the city a considerable body of the Irish were posted in a lane. The English advanced slowly, the pioneers cutting down the hedges that the order of the ranks might be maintained; and William rode up and down everywhere, “to order matters, as his custom always was.” The Irish retreated to a strong position about half a mile from the town, from which they were not driven until William had brought up some guns. They retreated slowly from hedge to hedge, until they had drawn the enemy within a short distance of the walls, from which the guns opened with deadly effect, covering their entry into the town.
To reply to this cannonade from the city, four field pieces were placed in an old fort, now abandoned by the Irish. This fort, constructed by Ireton, when he besieged Limerick, but usually called “Cromwell’s Fort,” was not upon King’s Island, as erroneously shown in most maps, but upon what was called the Munster Bank of the river, Clare being still regarded as in Connaught. The guns planted here played upon the walls and outworks of the Irish town. By five o’clock the army had marched in, the greater part of their encampment being within cannon shot. That evening William sent a trumpeter to summon the city. Some of Tyrconnell’s party were still for submission; but Boisseleau, Berwick, and especially Sarsfield vehemently opposed them.
“The trumpeter was sent back from Monsieur Boisseleau,” says Story, “with a letter directed to Sir Robert Southwell, Secretary of State (not sending it directly to the King, because he would avoid, I suppose, giving him the title of Majesty), that he was surprised at the summons, and that he thought the best way to gain the Prince of Orange’s good opinion, was by a vigorous defence of that town, which his master had entrusted him withal.”
After thus summoning the town, a party of dragoons was sent to attempt the passage of the Shannon by the ford at Annaghbeg, three miles above the town. This ford they found guarded by a detachment under the Duke of Berwick. They were well posted behind hedges and brick walls surrounding a new house, and fired upon the English, but with small effect: good marksmanship being still a very rare accomplishment in the Irish army. That night the cavalry were drawn off towards Galway by Tyrconnell, and the Foot seem also to have been withdrawn, as next morning a strong force of Horse, Foot and dragoons, under Ginkel and Kirke, passed the river, which, though lower than usual, was rapid and dangerous, without opposition. The story of the betrayal of the ford by a treacherous guide seems apocryphal; if there were any treachery in the matter it was Tyrconnell’s. William himself crossed over later, and on his return to the camp left Kirke to guard the ford.
To understand the events which occurred during the siege of Limerick, it is necessary to know something of the actual condition of the city at that time. It was then the second city of Ireland in extent and importance, Dublin only exceeding it in size; and, unlike Dublin, it was tolerably well fortified with complete walls, bastions and outworks. The houses also were strongly built of stone, “being made most of them Castleways, with battlements.” The river Shannon was navigable, then as now, for ships of considerable burthen up to the town itself, the smaller craft coming right up to Ball’s Bridge, which connected the two parts of the city, Englishtown and Irishtown. At some distance above the city, the Shannon divides into two arms which re-unite below it, forming the large island, some two miles in circumference, “King’s Island,” upon which the older portion of the city, founded by King John, and known as “the English town stands. The newer “Irish town” is on the eastern or Munster bank. The reach of the Shannon on which Limerick stands runs almost directly from north to south, King’s Island, in its longer dimension, lying also north and south. Ball’s Bridge, which spans the narrow eastern arm of the river, where it bends to the west round the lower end of King’s Island, connected, as now, the two towns.
The English town, containing the principal buildings, the Cathedral of St. Mary and King John’s Castle, occupied the southern end of King’s Island, the lower end, as regards the direction of the stream, the higher end in point of elevation above the water. It was built on the only portion of it, about a third of its whole extent, high enough to escape frequent flooding, the remainder being low grass-land and marsh. The strong town wall, defended by fortifications with salient angles, ran diagonally across this southern end of the island, looking to the north-east over the lower ground. On the other sides, where the river ran, the walls were lower and not so strong.
The castle stood at the west side of the English town, on the bank of the Shannon, immediately to the south of Thomond Bridge, which crosses the broad western arm of the river, connecting the town with the County Clare.
The star-shaped “New Irish Fort,” shewn in Story’s map, and in some modern maps erroneously called “Cromwell’s Fort,” probably did not exist at the time of the first siege, as its guns would have enfiladed William’s camp and trenches. Across the northern end of King’s Island the Irish had pitched a camp, and all around the Island there was a line of circumvallation.
The Irish town being on the mainland, on the Munster bank, and not protected by the river, was more completely fortified. It was a fortress with five bastions, a double wall, and some towers. In front of the walls on the north-east side, just opposite William’s camp, the Irish had hastily constructed some outworks, consisting of a sort of spur or hornwork, and redoubts, while a covered way ran round just under the town walls, from the south gate to St. John’s gate. Near St. John’s Gate there were two small forts, one of which the English called “the Two Chimneys.” There was also a citadel in the south-western quarter of the town, “whereon,” says Story, “they had several guns which plagued us till we killed that gunner.” There was a spur at the south gate, where the heaviest guns were planted; and at a small gate, towards the north-east, there was a sally-port. Near this was a battery of three guns, called from its colour, the Black Battery. Against the north-eastern part of the Irish town the chief attack was directed.
The fortifications of Limerick were, as compared with the modern works of Vauban on the Continent, very primitive, and naturally excited the contempt of Lauzun. The Duke of Berwick says of them: –
“The place had no fortifications but a wall without ramparts, and some miserable little towers without ditches. We had made a sort of covered way all round, and a kind of hornwork, pallisaded, before the great gate, but the enemy did not attack on that side.”
The entire Jacobite army, in and about Limerick or west of the Shannon, consisted of about 20,000 infantry, at least one half not properly armed, and some 3,500 Horse. William’s army, when Douglas rejoined him, is estimated by O’Callaghan at about 38,000 men.
William’s camp was pitched nearly due east of the English town, on the Munster side of the Shannon, in a district called Singland (Sois Angel), where St. Patrick saw the vision of an angel, and where his holy well, stone bed, and altar are still to be seen. Here the saint baptized one of his early converts, Prince Carthen, the son of Blod. In this sacred spot, now in the parish of St. Patrick, is still shewn the “standard pillar” of the heretical King, William of Orange. Upon this pillar his royal standard was hoisted, that of King James floating from the tower of the Cathedral in the English town. About 100 yards from the pillar is “King William’s Well,” and at some distance to the north of the pillar is Newcastle House, said to have been occupied or used as a post of observation by William, during the siege.
The camp was situated a little below the separation of the river into the two streams, which make King’s Island. It extended from just behind a large house which stood near the parting of the river, to a point behind Ireton’s Fort. The King’s camp was towards the right, or nearest the river, in the second line; then came the Horse Guards and Blue Dutch, then some English and Dutch regiments, the French and Danes, who were just behind Ireton’s Fort; and behind was the cavalry camp “though after some time,” says Story, “we rather encamped conveniently than regularly.”