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The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 16180

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

James's appearance in Ireland was hailed with a little deserved burst of enthusiasm. As a king, as a Catholic, and as a man in deep misfortune, he had a triple claim upon the kindly feeling of a race never slow to respond to such appeals. All along the road from Cork to Dublin the people ran out out in crowds to greet him with tears, blessings, and cries of welcome. Women thronged the banks along the roadsides, and held up their children to see him go by. Flowers--as to the poor quality of which it was hardly worth Lord Macaulay's while, by the way, to speak so disparagingly--were offered for his acceptance, or strewn under his feet. Every mark of devotion which a desperately poor country could show was shown without stint. Accompanied by the French ambassador, amid a group of English exiles, and advancing under a waving roof of flags and festoons, hastily improvised in his honour, the least worthy of the Stuarts arrived in Dublin, and took up his residence at the castle.

His sojourn there was certainly no royal bed of roses! The dissensions between his English and his Irish followers were not only deep, but ineffaceable. By each the situation was regarded solely from the standpoint of his own country. Was James to remain in Ireland and to be an Irish king? or was he merely to use Ireland as a stepping-stone to England? Between two such utterly diverse views no point of union was discoverable.

In the interests of his own master, D'Avaux, the French envoy, strongly supported Tyrconnel and the Irish leaders. The game of France was less to replace James on the English throne than to make of Ireland a permanent thorn in the side of England. With this view he urged James to remain in Dublin, where he would necessarily be more under the direct control of the parliament. James, however declined this advice, and persisted in going north, where he would be within a few hours' sail of Great Britain. Once Londonderry had fallen (and it was agreed upon all hands that Londonderry could not hold out much longer), he could at any moment cross to Scotland, where it was believed that his friends would at once rally around him.

But Londonderry showed no symptoms of yielding. In April, 1689, James appeared before its walls, believing that he had only to do so to receive its submission. He soon found his mistake. Lundy, its governor, was ready indeed to surrender it into his hands, but the townsfolk declined the bargain, and shut their gates resolutely in the king's face. Lundy escaped for his life over the walls, and James, in disgust, returned to Dublin, leaving the conduct of the siege in the hands of Richard Hamilton, who was afterwards superseded in the command by De Rosen, a Muscovite in the pay of France, who prosecuted it with a barbarity unknown to the annals of civilized warfare.

The tale of that heroic defence has been so told that it need assuredly never, while the world lasts, be told again. Suffice it then that despite the falseness of its governor, the weakness of its walls, the lack of any military training on the part of its defenders; despite the treacherous dismissal of the first ships sent to its assistance; despite the long agony of seeing other ships containing provisions hanging inertly at the mouth of the bay; despite shot and shell without, and famine in its most grisly forms within--despite all this the little garrison held gallantly on to the "last ounce of horse-flesh and the last pinch of corn." At length, upon the 105th day of the siege, three ships, under Kirke's command, broke through the boom in the channel, and brought their freights in safety to the starved and ghastly defenders, gathered like ghosts, rather than human beings, upon the quay. Three days later De Rosen broke up his camp, and moved off in disgust, leaving behind him the little city, exhausted but triumphant, having saved the honour of its walls, and won itself imperishable fame.

While all this was going on in the north, James, in Dublin, had been busily employed in deluging the country with base money to supply his own necessities, with the natural result of ruining all who were forced to accept it. At the same time the Parliament under his nominal superintendence had settled down to the congenial task of reversing most of the earlier Acts, and putting everything upon an entirely new footing. It was a Parliament composed, as was natural, almost wholly of Roman Catholics, only six Protestants having been returned. Its first task was to repeal Poynings Act, the Act, which, it will be remembered, was passed in Henry VII.'s reign, binding it independence upon the English Parliament. Its next to establish freedom of worship, giving the Roman Catholic tithes to the priests. So far no objections could reasonably be raised. Next, however, followed the question of forfeitures. The hated Act of Settlement, upon which all property in Ireland was now based, was set aside, and it was setted that all lands should revert to their former proprietors. Then followed the punishment of the political adversaries. "The hugest Bill of attainder," says Mr. Green, "the world has seen," was hastily drawn up and passed. By its provisions over 2,240 persons were attained, and everything that they possessed vested in the king. Many so attained were either women or young children, indeed a large proportion of the names seem to have been inserted at haphazard or from some merely momentary feeling of anger or vindictiveness.

These Acts were perhaps only what is called natural, but it must be owned that they were also terribly unfortunate. Up to that date those directly penal laws against Catholics which afterwards disfigured the statute book were practically unknown. A Catholic could sit in either Irish House of Parliament; he could inherit lands, and bequeath them to whom he would; he could educate his children how and where he liked. The terror planted in the breast of the Protestant colony by that inoperative piece of legislation found its voice in the equally violent, but unfortunately not equally inoperative, passed Acts by them in the hour of their triumph. Acts, by means of which it was fondly hoped that their enemies would be thrown into such a position of dependence and humiliation that they could never again rise up to be a peril.

In the north a brilliant little victory had meanwhile been won by the Enniskillen troops under Colonel Wolseley, at Newtown Butler, where they attacked a much larger force of the enemy and defeated them, killing a large number and driving the rest back in confusion. William was still detained in England, but had despatched the Duke of Schomberg with a considerable force. Schomberg's men, were mostly raw recruits, and the climate tried them severely. He arrived in the autumn, but not venturing to take the field, established himself at Dundalk, where his men misbehaved and all but mutinied, and where, a pestilence shortly afterwards breaking out, swept them away in multitudes.

On both sides, indeed, the disorganization of the armies was great. Fresh reinforcements had arrived for James, under the Comte de Lauzan, in return for which an equal number of Irish soldiers under Colonel Macarthy had been drafted for service to France. In June, 1690, William himself landed at Carrickfergus with an army of 35,000 men, composed of nearly every nationality in Europe--Swedes, Dutch, Swiss, Batavians, French Huguenots, Finns, with about 15,000 English soldiers. He came up to James's army upon the banks of the Boyne, about twenty miles from Dublin, and here it was that the turning battle of the campaign was fought.

This battle James watched at a discreet distance from the hill of Donore. The Irish foot, upon whom the brunt of the action fell, were untrained, indifferently armed, and had never before been in action; their opponents were veterans trained in European wars. They were driven back, fled, and a considerable number of them slaughtered. The Irish cavalry stood firm, but their valour was powerless to turn the day. Schomberg was killed,

but William remained absolute and undisputed master of the field.

At the first shock of reverse James flew down the hill and betook himself to Dublin. He arrived there foaming and almost convulsed with rage. "Madam, your countrymen have run away!" was his gracious address to Lady Tyrconnel. "If they have, sire, your Majesty seems to have won the race," was that lady's ready retort.

The king's flight was without reason or measure. As before in England, so now, he seemed to pass in a moment from insane self-confidence to an equally insane panic. He fled south, ordering the bridges to be broken down behind him; took boat at Waterford, and never rested until he found himself once more safe upon French soil.

His flight at least left the field clear for better men. Patrick Sarsfield now took the principal command, and prosecuted the campaign with a vigour of which it had hitherto shown no symptoms. Sarsfield is the one redeeming figure upon the Jacobite side. His gallant presence sheds a ray of chivalric light upon this otherwise gloomiest and least attractive of campaigns. He could not turn defeat to victory, but he could, and did succeed in snatching honour out of that pit into which the other leaders, and especially his master, had let it drop. Brave, honourable, upright, "a gentleman of eminent merit," is praise which even those least inclined to favour his side of the quarrel bestow upon him without stint.

William, now established in Dublin, issued a proclamation offering full and free pardon to all who would lay down their arms. He was genuinely anxious to avoid pushing the struggle to the bitter end, and to hinder further bloodshed. Though deserted by their king, and fresh from overwhelming defeat, the Irish troops showed no disposition, however, of yielding. Athlone, Galway, Cork, Kinsale, and Limerick still held out, and behind the walls of the last named the remains of James's broken army was now chiefly collected. Those walls, however, were miserably weak, and the French generals utterly scouted the possibility of their being held. Tyrconnel, too, advised a capitulation, but Sarsfield insisted upon holding the town, and the Irish soldiers--burning to wipe out the shame of the Boyne--supported him like one man. William was known, to be moving south to the attack, and accordingly Lauzan and Tyrconnel, with the rest of the French troops moved hastily away to Galway, leaving Sarsfield to defend Limerick as he could.

They had hardly left before William's army appeared in sight with the king himself at their head, and drew up before the walls. A formidable siege train, sent after him from Dublin, was to follow in a day or two. Had it arrived it would have finished the siege at once. Sarsfield accordingly slipped out of the town under cover of night, fell upon it while it was on its way through the Silvermine Hills in Tipperary, killed some sixty of the men who were in charge, and filling the cannons with powder, burst them with an explosion which startled the country round for miles, and the roar of which is said to have reached William in his camp before Limerick.

This brilliant little feat delayed the siege. Nevertheless it was pressed on with great vigour. Two more guns were obtained, several of the outworks carried, and a breach began to show in the ramparts. It was now autumn, the rainy season was setting in, and William's presence was urgently wanted in England. After another violent attempt, therefore, to take the town, which was resisted with the most desperate valour, the very women joining in the fight, and remaining under the hottest fire, the besiegers drew off, and William shortly afterwards sailed for England, leaving the command in the hands of Ginkel, the ablest of his Dutch generals.

This first siege of Limerick is in many respects a very remarkable one, and bears a close analogy to the yet more famous siege of Londonderry. To give the parallel in Lord Macaulay's words--"The southern city," he says "was, like the northern city, the last asylum of a Church and of a nation. Both places were crowded by fugitives from all parts of Ireland. Both places appeared to men who had made a regular study of the art of war incapable of resisting an enemy.... In both cases, religious and patriotic enthusiasm struggled unassisted against great odds; in both cases, religious and patriotic enthusiasm did what veteran warriors had pronounced it absurd to attempt."

In Galway, meanwhile, violent quarrels had broken out. The French troops were sick, naturally enough, of the campaign, and not long afterwards sailed for France. Their places were taken later on by another body of French soldiers under General St. Ruth. St. Ruth was a man of cold, disdainful temperament, but a good officer. He at once set to work at the task of restoring order and getting the army into a condition to take the field. Early in the spring Ginkel had collected his army in Mullingar ready to march to the assault of Athlone, the ancient Norman fortress, upon the bank of the Shannon, which was here spanned by a single bridge. Upon Ginkel's advance this bridge was broken down, and the besieged and besiegers were separated therefore by the breadth of the river. After an unsuccessful attempt to repair the breach the Dutch general resolved to ford the latter. As it happened the water was unusually low, and although St. Ruth with a large force was at the time only a mile away, he, unaccountably, made no attempt to defend the ford. A party of Ginkel's men waded or swam across in the dark, caught the broken end of the bridge, and held it till it was repaired. This done, the whole English army poured across the river.

The struggle was now narrowing fast. Leaving Athlone Ginkel advanced to Ballinasloe, so well-known now from its annual sheep fairs. The country here is all but a dead flat, but the French general took advantage of some rising ground on the slope of which stood the ruined castle of Aughrim. Here the Irish were posted by him in force, one of those deep brown bogs which cover so much of the surface of Galway lying at their feet and surrounding them upon two sides.

The battle which broke at five o'clock the next morning was a desperate one. Roused at last from his coldness St. Ruth appealed in the most moving terms to the officers and men to fight for their religion, their liberties, their honour. His appeal was gallantly responded to. A low stone breast-work had been raised upon the hillside in front of the Irish, and against this Ginkel's veterans again and again advanced to the attack, and again and again were beaten back, broken and, in one instance, chased down the hill on to the plain. St. Ruth broke into vehement enthusiasm. "The day," he cried, waving his hat in the air, "is ours, gentlemen!" A party of Huguenot cavalry, however, were presently seen to be advancing across the bog so as to turn the flank of the Irish army. It seemed to be impossible that they could get through, but the ground was firmer than at first appeared, and some hurdles thrown down in front of them formed a sort of rude causeway. St. Ruth flew to the point of danger. On his way he was struck by a cannon ball which carried off his head, and the army was thus left without a general. Sarsfield was at some distance with the reserve. There was no one to give any orders. The breast-work was carried. The Irish fought doggedly, retreating slowly from enclosure to enclosure. At last, left to themselves, with no one to direct or support them, they broke and fled down the hill. Then followed a hideous butchery. Few or no prisoners were taken, and the number of the slain is stated to have been "in proportion to the number engaged greater than in any other battle of that age." An eye-witness who looked from the hill the next day said that the country for miles around was whitened with the naked bodies of the slain. It looked, he remarked with grim vividness, like an immense pasture covered with flocks of sheep!


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