G. A. (George Alfred) Henty.

Orange and green : a tale of the Boyne and Limerick online

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the enemy's communication, finding that the Irish
general was unmoved by his arguments, several times
endeavoured to carry out his ideas as far as could be
done with his own small force.

The inactivity of the Irish horse throughout the long
sieges of Athlone and Limerick, except only upon the
occasion of the raid upon the siege-train, is almost inex-
plicable. They had nothing to fear from the enemy's
cavalry, to whom they proved themselves immensely
superior whenever they met during the war, and they
had it in their power for months to cut the British com-
munications and so oblige them either to detach so large


a force to keep the roads open that they would have
been unable to push on the siege, and would indeed
have been in danger of being attacked and destroyed
by the Irish infantry, or to raise the siege and fall
back upon their bases, Dublin and Waterford.

The only possible explanations that can be offered
are first, that Sarsfield, although a dashing com-
mander in action, was possessed of no military genius
whatever; second, that he was prevented from moving
by the jealousy of the French commanders-in-chief,
who did not wish to see the credit of compelling the
enemy to fall back monopolized by the Irish cavalry;
or, third, that Sarsfield saw the advantages which
could be obtained by throwing himself, with his
cavalry, in the rear of the enemy, but deliberately
remained inactive rather than leave the French generals
to act unchecked by his presence at head-quarters. It
can never be decided to which of these alternatives it
was due that the Irish cavalry remained for so long a
time inactive, and that William, and after him Ginckle,
were permitted unmolested, save by a few detached
bodies of horse, to maintain their long line of com-
munications to their base unchecked

Upon one of his excursions in the rear of the Eng-
lish army Captain Davenant's troops dashed down
upon a convoy of waggons. The dragoons who were
escorting them were killed or driven off. The
drivers were collected in a group, for Captain Dave-
nant always ordered that these men should not be
injured, as they were not combatants, and were in
most cases obliged to accompany their teams, which


had been requisitioned for the service. The men were
collecting the waggons together preparatory to setting
them on fire, when Walter, on riding near the group
of drivers, heard himself called by name. Turning
round he leapt from his horse and ran up to one of
the prisoners.

"My dear John!" he exclaimed, "I am glad indeed
to see you. Why, what brings you here?"

After exchanging hearty greetings Walter led him
away from the group, and the two sat down together
on a bank.

"What brings you here?" Walter repeated.

" All the waggons within miles round Dublin have
been requisitioned," John said; "and as our three were
called for, my father suggested that I should accom-
pany them to see that the horses were fed and cared for."

"Which are your waggons?" Walter asked.

" The three last in the column."

Walter immediately ran to his father, told him what
had happened, and begged that the three waggons
should be exempted from the general destruction. Cap-
tain Davenant at once rode up to the men and ordered
the waggons to be unloaded and their contents added
to the pyre which Was being prepared, but that the
waggons themselves should be taken back a quarter of
a mile along the road, and left there under the charge
of their drivers, who were not to move until joined
by their owner. He then rode back and shook hands
with John.

" I am glad to see you," he said. " All are well, I
hope, at both our homes?"


" Quite well, sir."

"Thank God for that! Now I must leave you to
see that our work is thoroughly carried out. You will
find your waggons safe a quarter of a mile along the
road. I will leave you to tell all the home news to
Walter, who will retell it to me afterwards."

" Now tell me all the news," Walter said when they
were together again.

" The news is not altogether pleasant," John replied.
"The whole of the country round Dublin is being
harried by the cavalry in garrison there. They pay
no attention whatever to papers of protection, and care
but little whether those they plunder are Protestant or
Catholic, friend or foe. They go about in small parties
like bands of brigands through the country; and those
who go to Dublin to obtain redress for their exactions
are received with indifference, and sometimes with
insult, by the authorities. Then, too, we have had
trouble at home.

"My grandfather became more bigoted than ever,
and would, if he had the power, have annihilated every
Catholic in Ireland. My father and he had frequent
quarrels, and I was in daily expectation of an open
breach between them, and of my father giving up his
share of the property and taking us to England. He
was a backslider in my grandfather's eyes. The tales
of battle, plunder, and murder seemed to have taken
the latter back to his own fighting days; and he was
rather inclined to consider the generals as lukewarm
than to join in the general indignation at their atro-
cious conduct.


"Even the sufferings of the Protestants did not seem
to affect him. The Lord's work, he said, cannot be
carried on without victims. It horrified me to hear
him talk. If this was the religion of our fathers, I was
fast coming to the conclusion that it was little better
than no religion at all.

" I think my father and mother saw it in the same
light, and the breach between them and my grandfather
daily widened. But I have not told you the worst yet.
A party of cavalry rode up the other day, and were
about, as usual, to seize upon some cattle. My father
was out, and my grandfather stepped forward and
asked them 'how they could lay it to their con-
sciences to plunder Protestants when, a mile or two
away, there were Catholics lording it over the soil
Catholics whose husbands and sons were fighting in
the ranks of the army of James Stuart ?'

" I was in the house with my mother, but we heard
what was said ; and she whispered to me to slip out
behind and find my father and tell him what was
being done. I made off; but before I had gone a
quarter of a mile I saw the soldiers riding off towards
the castle, with my grandfather riding at their head.
I was not long in finding my father, who at once called
the men off from their work and sent them off in all
directions to raise the country; and in an hour two
hundred men, armed with any weapon they could
snatch up, were marching towards the castle, my
father at their head. There were Catholics and Pro-
testants among them the latter had come at my
father's bidding, the former of their own free-will.


"We hurried along, anxiously fearing every moment
to see flames rise from the castle. Fortunately the
soldiers were too busy in plundering to notice our
approach, and we pounced down upon them and seized
them unawares. They were stripping the place of
everything worth carrying away before setting it on
fire. We burst into the hall, and there was a sight
which filled my father and myself with anger and
shame. Your grandmother was standing erect looking
with dignity mingled with disdain at my grandfather;
while your mother, holding your brother's hands, stood
beside her. My grandfather was standing upon a
chair; in his hand he held a Bible, and was pouring
out a string of denouncing texts at the ladies, and was
at the moment we entered comparing them to the
wicked who had fallen into a net.

"I don't think, Walter, his senses are quite right
now. He is crazed with religion and hate, and I be-
lieve at the time he fancied himself in the meeting-
house. Anyhow there he was, while two sergeants
who were supposed to be in command of the troop
were sitting on a table, with a flagon of wine between
them, looking on with amusement. Their expression
changed pretty quickly when we rushed in.

''It needed all my father's efforts to prevent the
whole party being hung, so furious were all the
rescuers at the outrage upon the good ladies of the
castle. But my father pointed out to them that al-
though such a punishment was well deserved, it would
do harm rather than good to the ladies. They had
orders of protection from the lords-justices; and he


should proceed at once, with four or five witnesses, to
lay the matter before the general at Dublin and de-
mand the punishment of the offenders. But if the
party took the law into their own hands and meted
out the punishment the fellows deserved, the facts of
the case would be lost sight of; there would be a cry
of vengeance for the murder, as it would be called, of
a party of soldiers, and it would serve as an excuse for
harrying the whole district with fire and sword.

"Having at last persuaded the angry tenants and
peasantry to lay aside their project of vengeance, my
father went to the soldiers, who, tied hand and foot,
were expecting nothing short of death. He ordered
all their pistols and ammunition to be taken away and
their bonds to be loosed; then told them that their
escape had been a narrow one, and that with great
difficulty he had persuaded those who had captured
them while engaged in deeds of outrage and plunder
to spare them; but that a complaint would at once be
made before the military authorities, and the law
would deal with them. Finally they were permitted
to mount and ride off, after having been closely ex-
amined to see that they were taking with them none
of the plunder of the house.

"Everything was then carefully replaced as they had
found it ; and my father at once rode off with six of
the leading tenants three Protestants and three Ca-
tholics and laid a complaint before the general. The
latter professed himself much shocked, and lamented
the impossibility of keeping strict discipline among
the various regiments stationed in the towns. How-


ever, he went down with them at once to the barracks
of the regiment, ordered them to be formed up, and
asked my father if he could identify the culprits.

" My father and those with him picked out fifteen,
including the two sergeants, as having formed part of
the body of plunderers; and the general had the whole
tied up and flogged severely then and there, and de-
clared that the next time an outrage upon persons who
had received letters of protection came to his ears, he
would shoot every man who was proved to have been
concerned in it. He also gave orders that a well-
conducted non-commissioned officer and four men
should be sent at once to Davenant Castle, and should
there take up their quarters as a guard against any
party of marauders, with the strictest orders to cause
no annoyance or inconvenience to the inhabitants of
the castle.

" I learned afterwards that Mr. Conyers, who had
been interesting himself greatly on behalf of the ladies
of the castle, is a great friend of the lords-justices and
other members of the council, and is also acquainted
with the general, which will account for the prompt
measures taken to punish the marauders a very rare
and exceptional matter, I can tell you."

" I am sure we are greatly indebted to your father
and you for so promptly taking measures to assist my
mother," Walter said. "I have no doubt the castle
would have been burned as well as plundered if it had
not been for your rescue of them."

" It is not worth thinking about, Walter. We are
heavily your debtors still for the kindness of your


father and yourself to me at Deny, and indeed on all
other occasions; besides, it was the least we could do,
seeing that it was my grandfather's hatred of your
family which brought the matter about."

" What became of your grandfather," Walter asked,
"when you interrupted his sermon?"

" He fell down in a fit," John replied ; " and perhaps
it was the best thing he could do, for I don't know
what my father and he would have said to each other
had it not been so. He was carried home, and he has
not been the same man since. I don't think the sub-
ject was ever alluded to between my father and him;
but I think that, being balked just at the moment
when he thought he had obtained the object of his
hopes and prayers for the last forty years, has almost
broken his heart.

" He goes about the house scarce speaking a word,
and seems to have lost almost all his energy. He has
ceased to read the family prayers and to hold forth
morning and night. I do think he considers that the
Lord has cheated him out of his lawful vengeance.
It is awfully sad, Walter, though it is strange, to see
such a travesty of religion as the tenets of my grand-
father and some of the old men who, like him, represent
the views of Cromwell's soldiers.

"Their religion cannot be called true Christianity.
It is the Judaism of the times when the Jews were
among the most ignorant of peoples. To me it is
most shocking, and I would infinitely rather be a Mo-
hammedan than hold such a faith as theirs. I thank
God that my father and mother have shaken off such


a yoke, and brought me up according to the teaching
of the New Testament rather than that of the Old."

By this time the waggons, with the exception of
those under John Whitefoot's charge, had been col-
lected in a mass, and fire had been applied to them.
They were now a pile of flame. A few of the best
and fastest-looking of the horses were set aside to be
carried off by the troop. The rest were shot, as the
great object of the raids was to deprive the English
army of its means of transport. The troop then
mounted. Captain Davenant and Walter took a hearty
farewell of John, and intrusted him with hastily-
written letters for home; and as the smoke of the
burning train would soon bring down any parties of
the enemy who happened to be in the neighbourhood,
the troop then rode off" at full speed, and arrived
safely at Athlone without meeting with any further

After the fall of the city Ginckle remained inactive
some time, but finding that his proclamation had no
effect in inducing the Irish to lay down their arms he
reluctantly prepared to advance against them. In the
interval he occupied himself in repairing the western
wall of the city, and as he had been joined by several
regiments sent out to reinforce him, he resumed his
advance with a force larger than that with which he
had commenced the siege of Athlone. Before starting


he issued the most peremptory orders against a repe-
tition of the acts which had so disgraced his army, and
had done so much harm to the cause by banding the
whole peasantry against them.


St. Ruth chose his position with great skill. His
camp extended more than two miles along a range of
hills called the heights of Kilcomeden; his right was
protected by a rivulet and by hills and marshes, on
his left was a deep glen; beyond this, along his whole
front, a vast bog extended, in most places impassable
for horse or foot. On the borders of the bog on the
left stood the ruins of the little castle of Aughrim,
occupying the only spot of firm ground which led to
the camp.

To pass the bog at this point it was necessary to go
close by the castle wall, where there was a broken
path only wide enough for two men to pass abreast.
The passage on the right of the bog was more open,
but it was marshy and unsafe. This position was much
stronger than that which the Irish had held at the
battle of the Boyne, and whereas on that occasion
they had been very inferior in numbers to their assail-
ants, they were now superior by some regiments in
number. In the point of artillery the English had here,
as at the Boyne, an overwhelming superiority.

Ginckle moved forward slowly and with caution,
halting on the river Suck until he had been joined by
every available soldier in Ireland.

On the morning of the 12th of July the British
army halted on the edge of the bog, that like a great
belt encircled the Irish within it. The morning was
foggy, and the mist did not clear off until towards
noon. The Irish prepared for battle by having divine
service performed at the head of their regiments, and
Dr. Stafford, chaplain to the royal regiment of foot,


and some other priests, passed through the ranks,
urging upon the men their duty and obligation as
soldiers and Irishmen to make every effort they could
to rescue their country from the oppression of the
Prince of Orange and his army of foreigners.

Ginckle, on his part, as at Athlone, distributed
money among the troops, and promised them the plun-
der of the enemy's camp. As the day cleared up the
British army was put in motion, and a strong column
advanced against the enemy's right, where stood the
house and grounds of Urachree, occupied by some
Irish horse A strong detachment of Danish cavalry
headed the British column. They moved forward
boldly, quickening their pace as they approached the
Irish; but on the latter charging them at full gallop
they wheeled about and rode off at once in disorder.

Ginckle immediately ordered two hundred of Cun-
ningham's dragoons, who were considered the best
cavalry in the army, to advance and drive back the
Irish horse. The dragoons advanced at a trot, but
seeing that the Irish quietly awaited their coming
they halted behind a hedge and awaited the arrival
of the infantry. When these came up the cavalry
again moved forward. The Irish horse now fell back
on a little hill in their rear, where a body of infantry
were posted. They then faced to the front and charged
and broke the English dragoons, who retreated as the
Danes had done, in confusion.

Eppinger's dragoons were ordered up to support
Cunningham's, but the Irish horse had also received
reinforcements before they arrived, and after a fierce


fight the two English regiments were routed and
driven off the field. Ginckle rallied them, added Lord
Portland's horse to their numbers, and again sent them
against the Irish. These, however, had fallen back from
Urachree, and had taken up a new position upon the
rivulet behind it, in front of the solid ground by which
alone the right wing of the Irish army could be ap-
proached. Here they remained waiting the onset of
the British cavalry; but these, perceiving that the
ground was becoming more and more difficult, soon
came to a halt, and then wheeling about fell back upon
the infantry.

Seeing the successful stand which was made by a
small body of Irish horse to the advance of the left
wing, and that the spirit with which his troops were
behaving was greatly inferior to that of the Irish,
Ginckle called a council of war. Opinions were greatly
at variance. It was now nearly four o'clock, and it
was at first decided to postpone the battle till the
morning, and a messenger was sent to the baggage
column in the rear to bring up the tents; but other
counsels finally prevailed. The order for the tents
was countermanded, and at half-past four the British
infantry were ordered to advance.

They pressed forward in solid masses across the
ground where the cavalry fight had taken place, and
the Irish horse fell back behind their infantry, who
were posted behind the substantial hedges which inter-
sected the ground beyond the rivulet. A heavy mus-
ketry fire was opened upon the British infantry as
they advanced, but they pressed forward in unbroken


order till they reached the hedges. These were long
and obstinately contested.

The Irish had cut openings through the hedges by
which they could retire, and as they fell back from
hedge to hedge the advancing British were received
by a fire from hedges on both flanks as well as from
the front. As the British poured regiment after regi-
ment to the attack, St. Ruth moved some bodies of
horse and foot from his left to the support of his right
wing. This movement had been foreseen by Ginckle,
who now gave orders for several battalions of infantry
to cross the bog and attack the Irish centre.

At this point there was a path across the bog, or
rather a place where the mud and water were not so
deep as at other points, and where it was possible for
it to be forded. Ginckle had found a peasant, who,
for a large sum of money, disclosed the passage. It
traversed the bog at its narrowest point, the hill of
Kilcomeden here running out a shoulder far into it.
Four regiments entered the morass, with orders to
cross it and make their way to the nearest hedges
on the sloping ground, where they were to post them-
selves till the cavalry, who were to attempt the pas-
sage by Aughrim Castle, could come round to their

The first part of the passage was unopposed, but
the difficulty of passing was great, for the men were
frequently up to their waists in mud, too soft to afford
any firm footing, but solid enough to render it ex-
tremely difficult for the feet to be disengaged from it.
At length, as they approached firmer ground, the Irish

( 377 ) 17


infantry advanced towards the edge of the bog and
received them with a steady fire.

The English, although suffering heavily, pressed for-
ward without firing a shot, till the ground became
solid under their feet, when the Irish withdrew, and,
as upon the right, took post behind the hedges which
everywhere intersected, the slopes. The English, seeing
the Irish retire, pressed forward, and another fierce
contest raged in the inclosures; the Irish, according
to their preconceived plan, falling gradually back.
The British in their ardour forgot their orders to halt
at the first hedge, and continued to press forward
until the constantly increasing numbers of the enemy
recalled to their leaders the danger of the position.

Before them were the heights of Kilcomeden with a
strong force drawn up to receive them, while on both
flanks the enemy were crowding down to intercept
their retreat. Colonel Earl, who was the senior officer,
looked anxiously towards the right, from which quarter
he expected the British cavalry to arrive to his assis-
tance; but no sound reached him from that quarter,
while on the left the sound of the conflict, instead of
advancing, appeared to recede, as if the British column
was being forced back.

Advancing before his own regiment he called upon
the soldiers to stand firm, for retreat would be destruc-
tion, and the only hope was to maintain their position
till assistance arrived. When the Irish saw that the
enemy had halted and could not be tempted to ad-
vance further they poured down to the attack through
the passages in the hedges. The British might have


defended these hedges as the Irish had done, but the
soldiers saw that they would be taken in the flank and
rear, and observing a large body of cavalry ascending
the hill they were seized with a panic.

On the first shock of the Irish infantry the four
regiments broke and fled. They were hotly pursued and
slaughtered in great numbers, the Irish cavalry pouring
through the openings in the hedges which had been
prepared for them. At length the fugitives reached
the edge of the bog, where they gathered in a confused
mass, which the officers in vain attempted to form into
order. The cavalry charged down upon them, broke
and scattered them, and drove them into the morass,
followed by the Irish infantry, who were better ac-
quainted with the ground and more accustomed to
traversing bogs. The soldiers were driven into the
deepest and most difficult portion of the morass and
a great slaughter took place.

The British artillery were planted on the edge of
the morass, but so mingled were the two parties that
they were unable to fire. Great numbers of the English
were killed, Colonels Earl and Herbert with many
officers and men were taken prisoners, and the remnant
of the British were driven completely across the bog
to the shelter of their own cannon.

While this was passing in the centre another division
of Ginckle's army, consisting of English and French
infantry, had crossed the bog by a passage more to the
right. They also had met with no opposition in passing,
and it was only when they reached the hedges on the
firm ground that the Irish showed themselves, fired,


and retreated. This division, more cautious than that
of Earl, could not be tempted to pursue, but contented
themselves with maintaining their ground under a

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Online LibraryG. A. (George Alfred) HentyOrange and green : a tale of the Boyne and Limerick → online text (page 19 of 25)