Sunday, 13 November 2011

Battle of The Boyne 1690

Battle of The Boyne 1690

Battle of The Boyne 1690
The Battle of the Boyne is a significant and yet again often misunderstood part of Irish history and of Northern Ireland in particular.

The battle at Derry had only been the beginning of the struggle.  King William now sent an 80 year old Dutch General called Schomberg who landed in the town of Bangor in the North of Ireland. He had brought with him some 15,000 men and captured Carrickfergus and then made his base in Dundalk.

He did suffer heavy losses and was forced to seek reinforcements and his army was also badly affected by sickness.  A year later on the 14th June 1690 Prince William landed at Carrickfergus with an assorted bunch of troops from Germany, Denmark and some French Huguenots.  The key thing was that there were 35,000-40,000 in total, all of whom were well armed and very well equipped.

James did have 25,000 that included some still loyal English regiments, some Irish and the French troops sent by Louis XIV.  James had advanced from Dublin to Dundalk and was now on the south bank of the river Boyne.
Probably the most significant fact was that the Irish army was mainly recruits who were poorly armed and drilled and with a leader who was not that skilful or indeed resolute.  William was however recognised as one of the best generals of all time and under his command he had a larger army who were well trained and well armed.

Prince William of Orange (King Billy)

Prince William of Orange
William was injured from a cannon shot and many on the Irish side believed him to be dead.  The two sides went into battle at the River Boyne in County Meath on 1st July 1690, when William’s army started to cross the river. William had sent 10,000 men under the command of General Douglas to cross some five miles up the river, an area which although James had been warned had decided to leave unguarded.

The rest of the army attacked at four different places.  The Blue Dutch guards under the leadership of General Schomberg attacked at the centre of James’a army and Schomberg was killed when shot in the neck by a bullet fired from a musket.  The battle now raged up and down the river for about a mile with William fighting lower down at Drogheda.

Although the Irish army offered resistance they were no match for William’s army and a decisive victory was won by William.  The Irish army retreated back towards Dublin and James fled at the first signs of defeat.  It caused Sarsfield to announce, “Change kings and we will fight you over again.”

James made his retreat when he reached Kinsale and headed back to Brest in France leaving Tirconnell to do what he could.

This battle is still celebrated today on the 12th July by what are known as Orangemen so called after Prince William.  The reason for the latter date is due to the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregory Calendar in 1752.

You should also read about the Siege of Limerick.