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Forum » ..:: History ::.. » General history discussion » The Great Victory (Taken from the Western Protestant Army)
The Great Victory
RSAUBDate: Tuesday, 2011-11-01, 0:17 AM | Message # 1
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The Great Victory

On the 1 July, 1690, William III led his army in a successful battle against James II. It was at the River Boyne where the two kings confronted each other. The award for the winner was the British monarchy and British influence in European and world affairs. Both kings could not be unaware of the consequences of this battle. It was therefore, in Ireland, that the future of the British Isles was decided. Many historical commentators make little of his salient fact.

Both armies were almost equally balanced but the leadership and determination of the protagonists were not. Schomberg, William’s Huguenot general, lost his life at the battle of the Boyne. Much heroism was displayed on both sides but the Huguenot fervour and determination of the “ 27th Inniskillings,“ who were personally led by King William, gave eventual success to “. . . the Protestant Religion and Liberties for Ireland.” This defeat marked the end of the possibility of James II recovering the throne he had so foolishly abandoned on the 18 December, 1688.

The success for William III meant that the constitutional arrangements agreed with Parliament, the new impetus given to the commercial and financial life of the City of London, the strategy for the establishment of a new Navy and a different succession line for the throne, all contributed to the greatness of Britain for the following centuries. The present monarchy would not be on the throne, the “mother of Parliaments” would not have emerged, the City of London would not have led the financial world and a permanent navy establishment would not have been created. Louis XIV could no longer dominate the European scene. Ireland could no longer be used as the pawn to advance French ambition. The Protestant cause in Europe was enhanced by the defeat of the Jacobite Roman Catholic armies in Ireland.

However, the large remnant of Jacobite forces composed of Irish and French Regiments who had lost at the Battle of the Boyne, felt compelled to continue to fight for Ireland. A year later the conditions were different. William III had returned to London to continue with his European interests and James had gone into exile. While the mainly Protestant northern half of Ireland felt a little more secure , they were fully aware that the greater half of Ireland was predominately Roman Catholic. Those leading Roman Catholics had enjoyed, from 1685 under Tyrconnell, a period of power and dominance., particularly as many officers and in administration of the councils, judiciary, magistracy, etc. James II, in 1689, held an Irish Parliament where the Roman Catholic representatives made every effort to expatriate the Protestant community. It took less than a year for the Jacobite forces and Roman Catholic leaders to realise that their cause in Ireland was worth making a determined effort to maintain. The future of the Williamite cause in Ireland was still in doubt as the Western Protestant Army had only secured the Province of Ulster. The Eastern coastline and seaboard, including Dublin, was secure, but the rest of Ireland was still firmly under Jacobite control. The Province of Connaught, always a Roman Catholic stronghold, provided the opportunity, a tenable defensive area in which to recover, regroup, with additional French help, again challenge the growing Williamite forces. The generals left by William III to carry on the conquest in Ireland were conscious of their situation and sought to stabilize their newly-won areas. They also regrouped, re-armed and built up sufficient strength to enable them to continue the challenge and assault the Jacobite strongholds of Galway and Limerick. The Jacobite Irish gentry increasingly realised that this may be their last opportunity. Men facing this dilemma always tend to make a very determined effort.

On the 30 June 1691, the Jacobite forces holding the main pass into Connaught at Athlone, were defeated. The brilliant French general, St.Ruth, decided that the best strategy for his forces was to hold the coastal strongholds of Galway and Limerick. These most westerly ports were capable of withstanding a prolonged siege, being supplied by sea from France and stretching the Williamite supply route all the way across Ireland. St. Ruth deliberately selected a very favourable battle site adjacent to Aughrim Castle. This was five miles west of Athlone, and the hill is adjacent to the Ballinasloe Road.

The Battle of Aughrim was the most evenly-matched conflict of the Williamite Wars. No monarch was involved.. The definitive battle for Ireland took place on Sunday 12 July, 1691, with approximately 20, 000 troops on each side. General Ginkel, the Williamite leader, had an army composed of Dutch, Danish, Huguenot and English regiments, as well as the north Irish colonists, now officially regimented as the “ Inniskillings.” The Jacobite forces were mainly Roman Catholic Irish regiments with a contingent of French, and these troops were fresh and well-rested. Ginkel’s troops were tired and somewhat exhausted. The main attack did not commence until 5.00 p.m.

The battle was a dogged, dour struggle, with advance and retreat on both sides. The “Inniskillings” fought with their renowned determination to take the southern pass near Aughrim Castle. Both armies were fighting with great ferocity. St. Ruth went personally to supervise his own regiments with some cavalry support at this pitched battle. At that moment in time either side could have won. Unfortunately for the Jacobite cause, St. Ruth was decapitated with a cannon ball. This was the turning point in a battle which could have easily gone either way.

An attempt was made to conceal his death, because the Jacobite forces had fought with a fervour not evidenced in the earlier wars. The tragic news could not be long withheld and panic attended the spread of St. Ruth’s death. Sarsfield, the much-respected Irish general, may have rallied the deteriorating situation but he was at the rear of the main Jacobite army with the cavalry. Aughrim soon became a series of uncoordinated battles and disorderly retreat, by the Jacobite forces. It was turned into a rout as panic spread.

Propaganda did have an effect on this battle. St.Ruth had on Saturday told all his troops that he viewed the forthcoming battle as part of a holy Roman Catholic war against Protestant heresy. The Huguenot regiments were all too aware of the Roman Catholic atrocities committed against Protestants on the Continent and the “Inniskillings” were also too ware of Roman Catholic massacre of 100,000 Protestants in the 1641 rebellion. Aughrim was a religious battle fought on a Sunday evening after morning services. The Bishop of Cork, who was present, counted eighty of his crucifix-carrying priests killed.

Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite Wars and finally consolidated the Glorious Revolution in Ireland. Ginkel had succeeded better than he had anticipated. His main aim was to keep the Jacobite army from consolidating a coastline town or port position for a prolonged siege, but now both Galway and Limerick were at his mercy.

Aughrim left a lasting mark on the Roman Catholic memory. “ It isn’t the loss of Aughrim” became a proverb of mitigation to the whole Irish nation. It’s memory was forever indelibly printed on the Gaelic mind. “ Aughrim Day,” as the 12th July was called for years, became telescoped with the Boyne anniversary, due to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, 1752. Strictly speaking, Aughrim Day should be celebrated on the 25 July.

This major defeat of the Jacobite cause was the last great battle of the ‘Glorious Revolution” in Ireland; hence the often-used Protestant slogan, still current- “Derry, Enniskillen, Boyne and Aughrim.” The joint monarchy of William III and his wife, Queen Mary, was secure. The successful defence of Derry and the spirited actions of the Western Protestant Army made all this possible. For over fourteen months the Western Protestant Army had succeeded in holding a part of Ireland which was to enable William to come to Ulster in June 1690. His leadership ensured the successful and final completion of the Glorious Revolution on Irish soil. James II still had some hope of regaining his crown if he could have subdued all Ireland and bottled the Protestant resistance behind Derry walls in 1689. The Western Protestant Army made very sure that he did not succeed.

History has so far denied this Western Protestant Army its rightful place in making the Glorious Revolution possible, a “Revolution” so vitally important to British and world history. Perhaps academics and serious commentators will not feel they have to shelter behind the political prejudices currently so popular during this the tercentenary year. At last, due tribute will, it is hoped, be paid to those Protestants determined “… We stand upon our guard, and do resolve by the blessing of God, rather to meet our danger than expect it.”
 
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Forum » ..:: History ::.. » General history discussion » The Great Victory (Taken from the Western Protestant Army)
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