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The History of Ulster
An Inactive Army


Activities of the Inniskillings—Schomberg's Soldiers attacked by Influenza —Devastations of the Disease—The Jacobites also suffer—Heavy Losses on both Sides—Removal of the Army—Schomberg fixes his Head-quarters at Lisburn—The Battle of Cavan—Victory of the Inniskillings—7000 Danish Mercenaries arrive commanded by the Duke of Wurtemberg—Charlemont, after a Brave Defence, surrenders to Schomberg—Walker of Londonderry visits London—His Great Popularity—Received by King William —Presented with £5000—Petitions Parliament on Behalf of the Families of those who fell in the Defence of Londonderry—Grant of £10,000 for the Purpose—The Arrival of William expected in Ulster.

The energetic volunteers at Enniskillen were not idle while their comrades remained entrenched in Schomberg's camp. Sligo, the key to Connaught, was taken from the Jacobites by surprise; and about a thousand Inniskillings subsequently attacked a superior force, which was marching with a view to recover the town, and defeated them. Later, Sligo as well as Jamestown were retaken by Sarsfield. These reverses added to the gloom which hung over the camp at Dundalk when the distress of the army increased daily. The arrival of the fleet at Carlingford with provisions did little towards raising the spirits of the soldiers, who, forced to remain in a state of inactivity, and camp on marshy ground, sickened and died in great numbers. The autumnal rains of Ireland are usually heavy, and this year they proved to be heavier than usual. The whole country was deluged, and the camp became a quagmire. The bad provisions supplied by the commissariat aggravated the condition of things. The sickness which attacked the soldiers appears, from many of its symptoms, to have closely resembled what is now known as influenza, a disease which, on its earliest appearance in Russia, devastated that and other European countries, attacking even horses with fatal results. That influenza has lost its terrible strength of late years is due to the fact that its attacks have been met by a better-equipped medical science and the inoculation resulting from successive epidemics. The soldiers in Schomberg's camp sickened and died by hundreds. All the symptoms, as we have stated, point to influenza. "Even those", says Macaulay, "who were not stricken by the pestilence were unnerved and dejected, and instead of putting forth the energy which is the heritage of our race, awaited their fate with the helpless apathy of Asiatics. . . . Exertion had become more dreadful to them than death. . . . Nobody asked and nobody showed compassion. . . . When the corpses were taken away to be buried the survivors grumbled. A dead man, they said, was a good screen and a good stool. Why, when there was so abundant a supply of such useful articles of furniture, were people to be exposed to the cold air and forced to crouch on the moist ground."

Schomberg, in the hope of alleviating the condition of his men, sent innumerable messengers to the coast to inform him as early as possible of the arrival of assistance, and he wrote many of his admirably pithy dispatches to England to press his claims to attention, and, indeed, so great was his anxiety that he on one occasion went himself to Carlingford. At last some regiments arrived from England and Scotland, but they were not numerically strong enough to supply his losses, to conceal which from the Jacobite camp, as well as not to damp the spirits of the new arrivals, the General ordered the usual honours of firing at the burial of officers to be discontinued. His troops, however, became more and more despondent, and for this very reason caught the infection more rapidly, When at length Schomberg gave orders to erect huts as a shelter against the inclemency of the weather, and to cover the wet earthen floors with a thick carpet of bracken, they had hardly the energy required to carry out his directions. Many of the sick were sent by the vessels which lay off the coast to Belfast, where a huge hospital had been prepared. But hardly half of them lived to get there. More than one ship lay in Carrickfergus Bay without a living soul on board, its sole freight consisting of dead bodies, "unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown", but which had but lately been the living forms of some of Schomberg's soldiers.

Meanwhile the Jacobites, finding it impossible to draw their opponents from their strong entrenchments, sat down to watch them, and became themselves the victims of influenza. Thus the two camps presented the same picture of misery and distress, until in November the rains became so intolerable that both armies were compelled to retire to better quarters. The Jacobites, being masters of the country to the south, sent away their sick gradually in small parties, and thus the extent of their losses was less apparent than those of William's following. The movements of the latter now proved how great had been the devastation wrought by disease and death. As the huts and tents were taken down, the whole camp presented the appearance of an open-air hospital, the army appearing to consist solely of the sick and those attendant upon them. The commissariat had so neglected their duties that the number of wagons was inadequate to the demand. Many men had to struggle along on foot supported by their companions; others reeled on their way like drunkards. Many were left behind, as there was no ambulance in which to convey them. Others refused to be moved, declaring that they would rather face death than be carried to encounter the dangers and difficulties of a long journey. Those who were sent by sea complained that they were called upon to leave ills they knew of to meet those as yet unknown.

Stern warrior though he was, and familiar with all the horrors of war, Schomberg was touched by the sad condition of his men. He ordered his superior officers to attend like corporals and sergeants upon the ambulance-wagons; and in order to see that his commands were carried out in the spirit in which he meant that they should be, the veteran commander, although suffering himself from ague, stood for hours exposed to rain and cold on the bridge of Dundalk, watching the long line of wagons pass in sight of the army, all the while personally thanking the sick for their services, cheering and encouraging them under their sufferings, and reprimanding any officer who paid less attention or exhibited less compassion than he did himself.

The soldiers, sick as they were, readily responded to this practical sympathy of their General, and forgot the cause of their discontent. A small body of Jacobite horse being seen, and a report being spread that their lines were threatened, those still in health hastened to the rear to defend the camp, whilst even the sick, forgetting their condition, called for arms, shouting: "The rogues shall pay before we leave the wet quarters in which they have kept us so long!"

The alarm, however, proved to be false, and despondency returned as the soldiers continued their march, stopping at intervals to lift the corpse of one of their comrades from a wagon to leave it by the roadside, the vacant place of the dead man being filled by one about to die. Some of the soldiers, unable to endure the jolting of the springless wagons, threw themselves out, imploring those about them to carry them on stretchers or put them out of their misery. It was computed that of 15,000 men, who at different times entered the camp at Dundalk, no fewer than 8000 perished from exposure or disease; and it is said that the loss of the Jacobites in this campaign of disease was not much less. 1 he survivors of Schomberg's army were quartered for the winter in the towns and villages of Ulster, the General fixing his head-quarters at Lisburn, and devoting his attention entirely to the provisioning and comfort of his men.

Towards the close of January, 1690, Schomberg was informed that the Jacobites were collecting about Dundalk with the object of disturbing his frontier garrisons. The General collected a section of his forces and marched to the district threatened, only to discover that the movement was in another direction. It appeared that a large force had assembled at Cavan in order to drive Wolseley from Belturbet, which he had taken on the 12th of December, and which had been fortified by the Inniskillings, and by them made a strong advanced garrison.

On the 12th of February, in the evening, 300 horse and dragoons and 700 foot, under the command of Wolseley, marched out of Belturbet to surprise, before morning, the Jacobites in Cavan; but accidents and other causes so delayed them that it was daylight before they reached their destination. Thus it happened that Wolseley was surprised; for the Inniskillings, who had miscalculated the numbers of their opponents, found themselves confronted by an army of 2000, under the Duke of Berwick, drawn up in battle array, and eager to fight.

The battle of Cavan, which has been but slightly noticed by historians, is minutely described in the Plunket MS. From this it would appear that Berwick, on Wolseley's arrival, "being alarmed and not well prepared, drew his men out of the town to an open ground, by which he gave an advantage to the enemy, who, seeing their position, placed their foot between the hedges of the avenues of the town, and took the defensive. The [Jacobite] forces being divided into two wings, assaulted the [Inniskillings] within their fences. The charge being given and maintained smartly, a party of the [Jacobite] horse broke another of the enemy's; but the left wing of the royalists being so overcome with fighting that they were forced to retire into a fort that was near them,

the right, fighting at the like disadvantage, retreated also thither, by which the rebels gained the field. Of the royal party there were about 200 killed, amongst whom was brigadier Nugent, much regretted for his bravery. So were adjutant Geoghegan and Captain Stritch, and a few other officers. There were ten officers made prisoners, of which were Captain Netterville, Captain Daniel O'Neill, Captain O'Brien, and Captain George M'Gee. Of the enemy there were slain Trahem, Captain Armstrong, Captain Mayo, and near fifty private men, and about sixty wounded. Brigadier Wolseley returned to his own quarters, having first burnt the town of Cavan, not being able to keep it because the castle was in the possession of the Irish."

This account differs somewhat from another, which states that Wolseley's victorious forces rushed into the town of Cavan, and were engaged in plundering it when the Jacobites, who had fled to the fort as stated, sallied out to renew the engagement. Wolseley could only recall his men by setting fire to the town, but they completed their victory by defeating the Jacobites with considerable slaughter. With Cavan were burnt the provisions with which it was stored. A day or two later a party of Schomberg's men made a successful incursion into the Jacobite quarters in the vicinity of Dundalk, doing much mischief and returning laden with plunder. These successes served to raise the spirits of their comrades considerably.

Early in March, 1690, 7000 Danish mercenaries landed at Belfast under the command of Charles Frederick, Duke of Wurtemberg, to augment Schomberg's forces, while about a fortnight later the Count de Lauzan landed at Kinsale with 5000 French foot, sent to aid King James.

Schomberg's attention was now drawn to Charlemont, one of the strongest Jacobite fortresses in Ulster, which was held by Teige O'Regan with a resolute garrison. The fort appeared so strong and well provided that the General did not venture to attack it, but it was closely watched by Caillemote, who commanded the Huguenot regiments posted near it on the Blackwater. As the spring opened, the fort was more closely invested. O'Regan defended it with obstinate bravery, and, when called upon to surrender, declared that "the old knave Schomberg shall never get this castle!"

On the 2nd of May a detachment of 500 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel MacMahon, sent to the relief of Charlemont, were permitted to enter the fort with a small quantity of ammunition and provisions. It was soon found that this addition to the garrison only served to hasten the famine which threatened it, and MacMahon and his men attempted to leave, but were repeatedly driven back with slaughter. O'Regan, angered at their failure, swore that if they could not find their way out he would not provide for them inside, and they were therefore obliged to take up their quarters on the counterscarp and dry ditch within the palisades. The distress of these men and of the garrison soon became so acute that O'Regan, driven to the last extremity by starvation, was forced to parley. At length, on the 14th of May, the fort was surrendered on honourable terms, the garrison, consisting of 800 men, being allowed to march out with arms and baggage, and with them about 200 women and children. As an instance of the extremities to which they were reduced, we are told by Story that only a few fragments of decayed food were found in the fort, and that some of the men as they marched out "were chawing pieces of dry hide with the hair on". Schomberg humanely directed that at Armagh a loaf of bread should be given to each man. On entering Charlemont, the last important fort which the Jacobites occupied in Ulster, it was found to be well stored with arms and ammunition.

Intense popular interest in Irish affairs was excited in England by a visit paid at this time to London by George Walker, the clerical governor of Londonderry. He was the hero of the moment with a nation which does not as a rule become enthusiastic over Irishmen. Although the Society paper was then a thing unknown, news-letters describing his personal appearance and his walk and conversation were circulated all over the country. His features were to be seen in every print-shop. Broadsides of prose and verse written in his praise were cried in the streets of London. He could not move without being followed by a crowd of admirers. Both Cambridge and Oxford offered him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was graciously received at Hampton Court by the King, who, when presenting him with an order for £5000, observed: "Do not think, Doctor, that I offer you this sum as payment for your services. I assure you that I consider your claims on me as not at all diminished." He received the thanks of the House of Commons by the mouth of the Speaker, who charged him to tell those who had fought under him that their fidelity and valour would always be held in grateful remembrance; and when he further petitioned the House for some relief for the families of those who had perished during the siege, and for the clergy of Londonderry, the House without delay resolved to present an address to the King requesting that ,£10,000 might be granted for the purpose.

It had been well known for some time that William intended to conduct the campaign in Ireland in person, and his advent was now impatiently awaited by his army and adherents in Ulster. The announcement, therefore, on the 4th of June, that the King had set out on his journey, was received with signs of unusual rejoicing.


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