Now that the Articles were signed, the English took possession of the Irish town, while the Irish still occupied the English town, each party having a guard at their own end of Ball’s Bridge. While the Articles were under discussion, there was some relaxation of discipline on both sides; the officers and men of both armies visiting each other perfectly freely, and fighting their battles over again in quite a friendly and convivial spirit. It seems most likely that the following anecdote belongs to this period, and not to the day of the Boyne, as sometimes asserted, Sarsfield is said to have asked some of the enemy’s officers “What they now thought of the Irish?”
They said that their opinion of them was “What it had always been.”
Sarsfield appears to have taken this in an uncomplimentary sense, and replied: “Change kings, and we’ll fight you again.”
This free intercourse afterwards gave rise to difficulties, and had to be restrained. By the Military Articles, the Irish officers and soldiers who desired to enter the French service had liberty to do so; and it was further stipulated that Ginkel should provide, at his own cost, ships for their transport, and that of their families, hostages being taken for the safe return of these ships when the work was done. Sarsfield was naturally desirous of taking with him to France as large a number of men as possible.
“On the other hand, the Lords Justices,” as Harris frankly admits, “were not wanting in their duties to countermine the design, and to render the effects of the Articles of as little force as possible.”
Every effort was made by them and by Ginkel to thwart Sarsfield, and induce the Irish either to take service under William, or to go back to their homes. Each side accused the other of attempting to break the Articles. Sarsfield, in order to prevent his men from deserting, is said to have kept them practically imprisoned in the Irish town, the gates of which were shut and guarded; many escaping by scaling the walls and swimming across from King’s Island. On one occasion a sharp dispute took place between Sarsfield and Ginkel, respecting a lieutenant-colonel, who had written to Ginkel, complaining that he had been imprisoned for refusing to go to France. Ginkel at once ordered four guns to be planted on Ball’s Bridge,
“Saying with some heat, that he would teach them to play tricks with him, which my Lord Lucan hearing of (for so we may venture to call Lieutenant General Sarsfield now, since the articles do it), he came out to our camp, and several sharp words passed, my Lord Lucan saying at last that HE WAS THEN IN THE GENERAL’S POWER. Not so (replies the other) BUT YOU SHALL GO IN, AND THEN DO THE BEST YOU CAN.”
Sarsfield explained that some prisoners of State, who had been set at liberty, had afterwards come from the English camp and spoken disrespectfully of the Irish officers, and that it was for this misdemeanour that the colonel had been imprisoned. He was probably an agent of Ginkel’s, as Harris suggests when commenting upon this.
“And indeed it is not impossible that several of those Irish officers who resorted the camp, were tempted by rewards and promises to draw off as many of the Irish as they could from the French voyage.”
The colonel was set at liberty, and the matter dropped. As soon as the Articles were signed, the Lords Justices wrote to Mr. Francis Cuffe, their agent in Dublin, to go at once to Lambay, where the Bally more garrison were still confined. By the Treaty of Limerick they were already free, and at liberty to leave the country if they so desired; but Cuffe, without letting them know of this, was to promise that on taking the oath of allegiance (which they were not bound to take, if going abroad), and agreeing to remain quietly at home, they should be discharged, and given provisions for their journey. This Harris admits to have been a trick.
“Another LESS JUSTIFIABLE STEP,” he says, “was taken to discourage the embarcation of such numbers of soldiers to France, “but this was done solely by the directions of the General and the officiousness of Count Nassau, who would not suffer the wives and children of the soldiers intended for France to be shipped with the men, not doubting that it would hinder a great many from going. This was certainly an infraction of the first of the Military Articles, which provided for the passage of all persons willing to go to France, together with their families.”
Sarsfield, in a very polite letter to Ginkel, protested against this, hoping, he said: –
“That as hitherto they had proceeded on both sides with sincerity, so, relying on his Excellency’s honour, and the publick faith, they expected to be dealt withal, without wresting or extorting any meaning out of the articles contrary to agreement, and the genuine sense of them, which candid manner of proceeding will add to the reputation of your arms, that of your justice.”
Instead of yielding at once, Ginkel consulted the Lords Justices as to how he could avoid complying with Sarsfield’s just demands. They, however, told him plainly he was bound by the obligations of the Articles. This was politic as well as just, with the Irish still under arms, and the French fleet in the background. Ginkel, who really had some difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of transports, made the most of his difficulties; and it was not until after a good deal of correspondence between him and Sarsfield that everything was satisfactorily arranged.
On October 5th Sarsfield and Wauchope made speeches to the soldiers, holding out to them hopes of good pay and active service in France, and telling them that next year they might have a chance of redeeming the fortunes of Ireland by an invasion.
“And a great many other advantages,” says Story, “were laid before them, which would have seemed improbable to any but Irish Men, who easily believe what they would have, but are as soon dejected at any frivolous misfortune.”
Early next morning, October 6th, the Irish clergy preached sermons at the head of each regiment, exerting all their eloquence to induce the soldiers to take service in France, rather than join the ranks of a heretic prince. This done, the bishops gave them their blessing, and the whole force of the Irish Foot was drawn up either on the Clare side of the river or on King’s Island to the number of 14,000 men.
The appearance of these Irish troops, many of whom afterwards fought so gallantly in the armies of France, as they mustered after the siege in their tattered garments, was so wretched as to excite the ridicule of the French officers, who amused themselves with many jests at their expense, as they marched past. Those who accepted service under William, or wished to return to their homes, were to file off at a certain point; those who volunteered for France were to march straight forward. The event was anxiously watched by Sarsfield and Wauchope on the one side, and by Ginkel and his officers on the other. The result is thus described by Story:
“That which they called the Royal Regiment, being then fourteen hundred men, seem’d to go off all entire except seven men, which the General was much concerned at; then my Lord Ivaeghe’s Regiment of Ulster Irish, came off entire to our side, as did also Colonel Wilson’s and about half of my Lord Louth’s, and a great many out of most other Regiments, Brigadier Clifford, Colonel Henry Lutterel, and Colonel Purcell, all appeared averse to the going for France.”
About 2,000 of the Irish went home, 1,046 mustered at Ginkel’s quarters, and the rest, some 11,000, followed Sarsfield, to Ginkel’s great disgust. Not all of these, however, were shipped to France. There were many delays before sufficient transports could be obtained; and when it came to the point many refused to leave the country that they knew and loved, for service in foreign parts, which they did not know. When the first transports, which had sailed from Limerick, returned to Cork to take on board a second detachment, news began to get about that the Irish had been badly treated in France, and that the officers instead of keeping the rank they had had in Ireland, were each moved down a step by order of Louis, but contrary to the wishes and promises of James. In a contemporary letter quoted by Story, the writer says –
“Never people that had left their all, to come hither to serve were so meanly treated… When they are landed they lye in the field, a night or two at least, before they are sent into their quarters, and then they get neither money nor cloaths, and but little of anything else. As I pass along the streets, the souldiers wish they had died in Ireland before they came here, and many of the Officers express themselves to the same purpose, and are extremely dejected and melancholy.”
On the other hand, on November 19th, 1691, the Lords Justices state in aa letter that they had: –
“Received complaints from all parts of Ireland of the ill-treatment of the Irish who had submitted, had their Majesties’ protection, or were included in articles.”
This caused a revulsion of feeling, so that: –
“Some thousands of those who had quitted the Irish army and gone home with a resolution not to go to France, were then come back again and pressed earnestly to go thither, rather than stay in Ireland, where, contrary to the Catholic faith, as well as law and justice, they were robbed of their substance and abused in their persons.”
Whether it was that many women and children, not included in the Articles, presented themselves for shipment at the last moment, or whether there was gross mismanagement on the part of the Irish agents responsible for the shipment, it is hard to decide. But when the last transports were about to sail from Cork, there was a terrible scene. The shipment took place on the 8th of December, on which very day Sarsfield gave Ginkel a release to the effect that:
“As he has provided ships for as many as are willing to go,” he is now free “from any obligations he lay under to provide vessels for that purpose.”
Ginkel, therefore, was not in fault; unless he succeeded in overreaching Sarsfield at the last moment, of which there is no evidence. Wauchope seems to have superintended the embarkation, and on him Story lays the chief blame; though he says that the overcrowding was due to a proclamation issued by Sarsfield and him:
“That as many of the Irish as had a mind to’t, should have liberty to transport their families along with themselves.”
“Accordingly,” he continues, “a vast rabble of all sorts were brought to the water-side, when the Major. General (Wauchope), pretending to ship the souldiers in order, according to their lists, they first carried the men on board; and many of the women, at the second return of the boat for the officers, catching hold to be carried on board, were dragged off and through fearfulness, losing their hold, were drowned; but others who held faster, had their fingers cut off, and so perished in the sight of their husbands or relations.”
This terrible catastrophe was not apparently due to the deficiency of accommodation in the ships; as a great number of women and children were afterwards got safely on board, and taken to France. The immediate cause was evidently a panic among the women, who, fearing they would be left behind, crowded into a boat not intended for them. The rough usage they received was disgraceful to those immediately concerned in it, and no proper care for their orderly embarkation can have been taken.
Thus inauspiciously began that flight of the “Wild Geese,” which went on through the reigns of Anne and the first Georges; filling the ranks of the armies of Europe with the flower of the youth of Ireland. It cost England dear, in more ways than one, and caused an English king to curse the unjust laws which deprived him of such soldiers.
Story estimates the total number of persons taken to France from Limerick and Cork at 12,000. This seems to be a pretty correct estimate, as Fumeron, the French Commissary in Limerick, writes from Brest, December 10th, 1691, that 8,000 Irish troops had disembarked there up to that date.
The capitulation of Limerick and conclusion of the Irish war, caused great rejoicing in London. In a news-letter in the Earl of Denbigh’s collection, William is described as watching the Lord Mayor’s Procession from the balcony at Whitehall, The most popular item in this was “a group of Orange Trees, with aa number of Irish Rapparees hung in effigy from the branches.”
Space does not permit of anything but the briefest chronicle of Sarsfield’s subsequent life on the Continent.
In the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris there is an interesting letter from an octogenarian Irish officer to his son, giving an account of his own services in Ireland and on the Continent. In this he complains bitterly of James’s treatment of his faithful Irish followers. On their arrival, he says, James made an arrangement with Louis,
“By which we were placed upon the French establishment, reserving for himself our extra pay for his own maintenance, and that of his household. We gladly consented to this bargain, though made at our expense; as it made him free of all obligation to the French king, except the honour of his alliance.”
In spite of this, however, the King showered his favours upon the English and Scotch Jacobites, who formed his court at St. Germain, and when the Irish presented themselves they were received with scant courtesy, the King scarcely daring to speak to them, and only upon the most commonplace subjects. Melfort and his brother, Lord Perth, were high in his favour. Sir Richard Nagle, who had been his Secretary of State for Ireland, was now left in the background; and the officers were degraded, some even to the ranks.
The Irish were formed into four regiments, as we find from Narcissus Lutterell, whose diary briefly mentions the principal events of Sarsfield’s subsequent career. The first of these was called the Prince of Wales’s Regiment; the second and third were commanded by the Duke of Berwick and his brother, Henry Fitzjames; the fourth by Lord Lucan, upon whom Louis conferred the order of the Holy Ghost, promising him a good post in the French army. He was afterwards, Luttrell says, given command of the Irish in Italy, but he never went there; for now, at last, there was a plan on foot for the invasion of England. Louvois had died suddenly, after an angry interview with Louis. He had always looked with disfavour upon such an attempt, even when it had every chance of success. Now, when he was dead, Louis resolved upon it. A camp was formed on the Norman coast, where all the Irish regiments were mustered, the command being given to Sarsfield. There had been some disaffection on the part of the Irish, who were discontented with the treatment they had received; “so that Sarsfield was posted away to appease the said discord.”
A great fleet was assembled at Brest, 80 ships of the line and some 300 transports. Bellefonds was commander-in-chief, and De Tourville, admiral. James himself, with the Duke of Berwick, was to embark with the expedition. He counted on the English admiral, Russell, and other captains, and hoped that the fleet would declare for him. Russell, disgusted by a stupid proclamation of James, frankly told his agent that he would fight the French if he met them, even if the king himself were on board; and fight them he did, defeating and destroying the French fleet off La Hogue, after several days’ engagement, on May 24th, 1692.
This was a severe blow to James, who proposed to retire to a monastery; and to Sarsfield it must have been among the great disappointments of his life. In June, Luttrell says, it was rumoured he had been “clapt up in the Bastille for holding correspondence with the king’s enemyes,” having been but badly used. This seems to have been a false rumour, for in July he was in high command at Steenkirk. In this great battle, William endeavoured to surprise the French under Luxembourg; but was defeated after much slaughter on both sides. The English regiments suffered severely, losing several officers who had distinguished themselves in Ireland. Mackay, Douglas, Lanier, all fell here; as did Mountjoy, who had been exchanged for Richard Hamilton at the end of the war; and Hamilton himself, who, on being exchanged, accepted service under William in Flanders. In this battle Sarsfield greatly distinguished himself, and was mentioned by Luxembourg in his despatches of August 4th, 1692, as having shown: –
“That valour of which he had given such proofs in Ireland.”
“I can assure your Majesty that he is a very good and capable officer.”
After the battle, finding he had several prisoners and wounded men in his hands, he wrote to Auverkerke to let him know they would be well treated and exchanged as soon as possible. Narcissus Luttrell’s diary says that several French surgeons were sent from Brussels to attend to the wounded,
“Whom Sarsfield had taken much care of, praising their courage, promising that they should want for nothing, and so soon as recovered, they should be exchanged.”
On Luxembourg’s recommendation Sarsfield was raised to the rank of lieutenant-general in the French army. Shortly after this, in September, 1692, Ginkel, now Earl of Athlone, writes from the camp in Flanders, that Sarsfield has written him “obliging letters” and with the king’s permission he (Ginkel) has sent him a present of two English horses. This gave him an opportunity of writing to Sarsfield about some of the transports which had been seized by the French and not returned.
In April, 1693, Sarsfield received his marshal’s baton; the Duke of Berwick to whom he had so long been subordinated, only then being made a lieutenant-general, if Luttrell’s diary be correct. He did not long enjoy his new honours, receiving a mortal wound at the battle of Landen, fought in July that same year.
At Landen, Luxembourg was again opposed to William, whom he attacked this time. He had made a feint of besieging Liège, inducing William to leave his position at Louvain, and advance to Neer-Hespen, having detached a body of 20,000 men to cover Liège. Luxembourg then turned back from Liège, and advanced with some 80,000 men to attack William, who was left with but 50,000 to guard his frontier. Instead of retreating behind the river Gheet or Gette, which was in his rear, William resolved to await the enemy where he was. He had occupied several moated villages, upon which his lines rested, Walcowen and Neer-Landen being on his left, Neer-Winden and Laer on his right, his centre extending from Neer-Landen to Neer-Winden. In an incredibly short time he had strongly fortified these villages, and entrenched his whole line between village and village. He was strong in artillery, having 100 guns in position, with which he was able to annoy the French as they came up, for some hours before their own batteries could reply.
The village of Neer-Winden was the key to William’s position, and was furiously attacked several times by Luxembourg, and several times taken and re-taken before it was finally held by the French. In the first attack, the Duke of Berwick, in endeavouring to rally his men, was taken prisoner by his uncle, Brigadier Churchill, who recognised him, as he attempted to escape by passing for an English officer. He was at once taken to the rear, where he had a short interview with William, which he thus describes:
“The Prince made me a very polite compliment, to which I only replied by a low bow: after looking steadfastly at me for an instant, he put on his hat, and I mine; then he ordered me to be carried to Lowe.”
He was afterwards exchanged for the Duke of Ormond, who had been wounded, and taken by the French William, when he found that the day was going against him, did all that a brave general could do to avert the utter rout of his army. When they were driven from their entrenchments, he covered the retreat, and was almost the last to leave the field. He had a narrow escape in passing the bridge across the Gheet, amid the press of his broken troops, many of whom were drowned in the river. He conducted his retreat in a masterly manner, and Luxembourg gained little by his victory.
It was in the last charge that Sarsfield, at the head of the flower of the French cavalry (no Irish regiment being engaged), as he drove the enemy down to the river, was struck by a musket ball in the breast, and fell. As he lay on the ground he is said to have put his hand to his wound, and, seeing it covered with blood, exclaimed: “Would to God this were shed for Ireland!”
He was carried from the field to the village of Huy, where he died in a few days, of the fever induced by his wound. He was, no doubt, buried there, but no stone marks his grave.
He left one son and one daughter. His son, James Francis Edward, was brought up by the Duke of Berwick (who married Lady Lucan in 1695), and served under him in Spain. He was afterwards employed to organise a movement of the oppressed Catholics in Ireland, in favour of James III, which came to nothing. He died, without issue, at St. Omer, May 12th, 1719. He had been decorated and pensioned by Philip V., for gallantry at the Siege of Barcelona.
The daughter married Baron de Neuburg, styled King of Corsica.
Sarsfield’s mother survived him, as appears from the following extract from the diary of Colonel Peter Drake, of Drakesrath, under date 1694: –
“From Paris I went to St. Germain, where I met with Mrs. Sarsfield, mother of Lord Lucan, and her two daughters, Ladies Kilmallock and Mount Leinster; the eldest of whom was my god-mother. These ladies, though supported by small pensions, received me with great generosity, and treated me with much good nature.”
Eugene Davies, in his Irish Foot-prints on the Continent, gives a romantic account of Lady Lucan’s courtship by the Duke of Berwick, who visited her at Huy, where she lived for some time after her husband’s death.
“She was still quite young, and even girlish in her manners, despite her widow’s weeds, and was remarkably prepossessing in appearance. Her own relatives as well as those of her late husband, had so completely abandoned her, that she was in almost absolute poverty in Huy. Berwick’s heart grew full of pity for the desolate beauty, and as pity is akin to love in such cases, he soon became so enamoured that he offered her his hand, which was graciously accepted.”
The marriage took place immediately, and Berwick became the guardian of Sarsfield’s son. This was in 1695. In 1696 the lady, now Duchess of Berwick, was outlawed by William; in 1698 she died; and on Berwick’s second marriage next year, with Miss Bulkeley, Davies says he “abandoned” the young Earl of Lucan.
Little as we know of Sarsfield’s private life, his personality makes a very vivid impression upon the student of his career. The big man, dreaded as a swordsman as he charged at the head of his cavalry, had a big heart in his breast, brave, loyal, generous, and affectionate. Possibly he lacked the organizing and business qualities which go to make a first-rate general; possibly he could not have done what St. Ruth did in training a raw army, and handling it as at Aughrim. But it is unfair to assume that, with St. Ruth’s opportunities, he could not have done so. He never was in supreme command of an army. He undoubtedly possessed many of the qualities which go to the making of a commander; the power of inspiring those under him with confidence and enthusiasm, an instinctive sense of the value of a bold attack in defensive warfare, a dauntlessness and fertility of resource in defeat, a power of making his presence felt and dreaded even by a victorious enemy. He was, in many respects, unfortunate; but he “never did to fortune bend the knee.” As one looks at that best-known portrait of him, taken from the Bingham picture, the face seems to wear a somewhat melancholy expression. The eyes, that gaze out from under the great wig with its flowing curls, are sad; but the mouth, with its firm-set lips, is full of resolution. It is the face of a chivalrous gentleman, courteous, kindly, honourable, easily irascible, no doubt, but easily appeased; and there does not seem to be a trace of that swelling vanity of which he has been accused. One thinks of Hamlet’s speech to Horatio:
“Thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards
Has ta’en with equal thanks: are bless’d are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune’s finger
To sound what stop, she please.