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Battle of Aughrim

Battle of Aughrim

Overview
The Battle of Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite War in Ireland
Williamite war in Ireland
The Williamite War in Ireland—also called the Jacobite War in Ireland, the Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland and in Irish as Cogadh an Dá Rí —was a conflict between Catholic King James II and Protestant King William of Orange over who would be King of England, Scotland and Ireland...

. It was fought between the Jacobites
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 and the forces of William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 on 12 July 1691 (old style
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

, equivalent to 22 July new style), near the village of Aughrim
Aughrim, County Galway
Aughrim is a small village in County Galway, Ireland. It is located in the west of Ireland, between the towns of Loughrea and Ballinasloe, along the N6 national primary road that connects Galway and Dublin....

 in County Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

.

The battle was one of the more bloody recorded fought on Irish soil – over 7,000 people were killed. It meant the effective end of Jacobitism
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, although the city of Limerick
Limerick
Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and the principal city of County Limerick and Ireland's Mid-West Region. It is the fifth most populous city in all of Ireland. When taking the extra-municipal suburbs into account, Limerick is the third largest conurbation in the...

 held out until the autumn of 1691.

The Jacobite position in the summer of 1691 was a defensive one.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite War in Ireland
Williamite war in Ireland
The Williamite War in Ireland—also called the Jacobite War in Ireland, the Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland and in Irish as Cogadh an Dá Rí —was a conflict between Catholic King James II and Protestant King William of Orange over who would be King of England, Scotland and Ireland...

. It was fought between the Jacobites
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 and the forces of William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 on 12 July 1691 (old style
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

, equivalent to 22 July new style), near the village of Aughrim
Aughrim, County Galway
Aughrim is a small village in County Galway, Ireland. It is located in the west of Ireland, between the towns of Loughrea and Ballinasloe, along the N6 national primary road that connects Galway and Dublin....

 in County Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

.

The battle was one of the more bloody recorded fought on Irish soil – over 7,000 people were killed. It meant the effective end of Jacobitism
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, although the city of Limerick
Limerick
Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and the principal city of County Limerick and Ireland's Mid-West Region. It is the fifth most populous city in all of Ireland. When taking the extra-municipal suburbs into account, Limerick is the third largest conurbation in the...

 held out until the autumn of 1691.

The campaign


The Jacobite position in the summer of 1691 was a defensive one. In the previous year, they had retreated behind the River Shannon
River Shannon
The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland at . It divides the west of Ireland from the east and south . County Clare, being west of the Shannon but part of the province of Munster, is the major exception...

, which acted as an enormous moat around the province of Connacht
Connacht
Connacht , formerly anglicised as Connaught, is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for...

, with strongholds at Sligo
Sligo
Sligo is the county town of County Sligo in Ireland. The town is a borough and has a charter and a town mayor. It is sometimes referred to as a city, and sometimes as a town, and is the second largest urban area in Connacht...

, Athlone and Limerick
Limerick
Limerick is the third largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and the principal city of County Limerick and Ireland's Mid-West Region. It is the fifth most populous city in all of Ireland. When taking the extra-municipal suburbs into account, Limerick is the third largest conurbation in the...

 guarding the routes into Connacht. From this position, the Jacobites hoped to receive military aid from Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 via the port towns and eventually be in a position to re-take the rest of Ireland.

Godert de Ginkell
Godert de Ginkell, 1st Earl of Athlone
Godert de Ginkell, 1st Earl of Athlone, or in his own country of the Netherlands born Baron Godard van Reede was a Dutch general in the service of England....

, the Williamites' Dutch general, had breached this line of defence by crossing the Shannon at Athlone - taking the town after a bloody siege. The Marquis de St Ruth
Marquis de St Ruth
Charles Chalmont Marquis of St Ruth was a French general. Early in his military career, he fought against Protestants in France...

 (General Charles Chalmont), the French Jacobite general, moved too slowly to save Athlone, as he had to gather his troops from their quarters and raise new ones from rapparee bands and the levies of Irish landowners. Ginkel marched through Ballinasloe, on the main road towards Limerick and Galway, before he found his way blocked by St Ruth’s army at Aughrim
Aughrim, County Galway
Aughrim is a small village in County Galway, Ireland. It is located in the west of Ireland, between the towns of Loughrea and Ballinasloe, along the N6 national primary road that connects Galway and Dublin....

 on the 12th of July 1691. Both armies were about 20,000 men strong. The soldiers of St Ruth’s army were mostly Irish Catholic, while Ginkel's were English, Scottish, Danish, Dutch and French Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 (members of William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

’s League of Augsburg) and Ulster
Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

 Protestants.

The Jacobite position at Aughrim was quite strong. St Ruth had drawn up his infantry along the crest of a ridge known as Kilcommadan Hill. The hill was lined with small stone walls and hedgerows which marked the boundaries of farmers' fields, but which could also be improved and then used as earthworks for the Jacobite infantry to shelter behind. The left of the position was bounded by a bog, through which there was only one causeway, overlooked by Aughrim village and a ruined castle. On the other, open, flank, St Ruth placed his best infantry under his second-in-command, the chevalier de Tessé
Philibert-Emmanuel de Froulay, chevalier de Tessé
Philibert-Emmanuel de Froulay, chevalier de Tessé , was baron d'Ambrières and a French army commander, fighting in the Williamite War in Ireland....

, and most of his cavalry under Patrick Sarsfield.

The battle


The battle started with Ginkel trying to assault the open flank of the Jacobite position with cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 and infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. This attack ground to a halt after determined Jacobite counter-attacks and the Williamites halted and dug in behind stakes driven into the ground to protect against cavalry. The French Huguenot forces committed here found themselves in low ground exposed to Jacobite fire and took a great number of casualties. Contemporaneous accounts speak of the grass being slippery with blood. To this day, this area on the south flank of the battle is known locally as the "Bloody Hollow". In the centre, the Williamite infantry under Hugh Mackay
Hugh Mackay
Hugh Mackay was a Scottish general best known for his service in the Revolution of 1688.- Early military career :...

 tried a frontal assault on the Jacobite infantry on Kilcommadan Hill. The Williamite troops, mainly English and Scots, had to take each line of trenches, only to find that the Irish had fallen back and were firing at them from the next line. The Williamite infantry attempted three assaults, the first of which penetrated furthest. Eventually, the final Williamite assault was driven back with heavy losses by cavalry and pursued into the bog, where more of them were killed or drowned. In the rout, the pursuing Jacobites manage to spike a battery of Williamite guns.

This left Ginkel with only one option, to try to force a way through the causeway on the Jacobite left. This should have been an impregnable position, with the attackers concentrated into a narrow lane and covered by the defenders of the castle there. However, the Irish troops there were short on ammunition. Mackay directed this fourth assault, consisting mainly of cavalry, in two groups - one along the causeway and one parallel to the south. The Jacobites stalled this attack with heavy fire from the castle, but then found that their reserve ammunition, which was British-made, would not fit into the muzzles of their French-supplied muskets. The Williamites then charged again with a reasonably fresh regiment of Anglo-Dutch cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 under Henri de Massue
Henri de Massue, 1st Earl of Galway
Henri de Massue, Marquis de Ruvigny, afterward Earl of Galway PC was a French Huguenot soldier and diplomat who was influential in the English service in the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession.-Biography:...

. Faced with only weak musket fire, they crossed the causeway and reached Aughrim village with few casualties. A force of Jacobite cavalry under Henry Luttrell had been held in reserve to cover this flank. However, rather than counterattacking at this point, their commander ordered them to withdraw, following a route now known locally as "Luttrell's Pass". Henry Luttrell was alleged to have been in the pay of the Williamites and was assassinated in Dublin after the war. The castle quickly fell and its Jacobite garrison surrendered.
"[The] fire from the castle on the right. . . was insignificant for it slew but a few in the passage. The reason of it was given because the men had French pieces, the bore of which was small and had English ball which was too large."


The Jacobite general Marquis de St Ruth
Marquis de St Ruth
Charles Chalmont Marquis of St Ruth was a French general. Early in his military career, he fought against Protestants in France...

, after the third infantry rush on the Williamite position up to their cannons, appeared to believe that the battle could be won and was heard to shout, "they are running, we will chase them back to the gates of Dublin". However, as he tried to rally his cavalry on the left to counter-attack and drive the Williamite horse back, he was decapitated
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 by a cannon ball. At this point, the Jacobite position collapsed very quickly. Their horsemen, demoralised by the death of their commander, fled the battlefield, leaving the left flank open for the Williamites to funnel more troops into and envelope the Jacobite line. The Jacobites on the right, seeing the situation was hopeless, also began to melt away, although Sarsfield did try to organise a rearguard action. This left the Jacobite infantry on Killcommadan Hill completely exposed and surrounded. They were slaughtered by the Williamite cavalry as they tried to get away, many of them having thrown away their weapons in order to run faster. One eyewitness, George Storey, said that bodies covered the hill and looked from a distance like a flock of sheep.

Aftermath


Estimates of the two armies' losses vary. It is generally agreed that about 7,000 men were killed at the battle. Some recent studies put the Williamite dead as high as 3,000, but they are more generally given as between 1-2,000, with 4,000 Jacobites killed. However the Williamite death toll released by them at the time was only 600 and they claimed to have killed fully 7,000 Jacobites. Many of the Jacobite dead were officers, who were very difficult to replace. On top of that, another 4,000 Jacobites either deserted or were taken prisoner. What was more, they had lost the better part of their equipment and supplies.

For these reasons, Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite war in Ireland. The city of Galway
Galway
Galway or City of Galway is a city in County Galway, Republic of Ireland. It is the sixth largest and the fastest-growing city in Ireland. It is also the third largest city within the Republic and the only city in the Province of Connacht. Located on the west coast of Ireland, it sits on the...

 surrendered without a fight after the battle, on advantageous terms, and the Jacobites' main army surrendered shortly afterward at Limerick after a short siege
Siege of Limerick (1691)
Limerick in western Ireland was besieged twice during the Williamite War in Ireland . The city, held by Jacobite forces was able to beat off a Williamite assault in 1690. However, after a second siege in August-October 1691, it surrendered on terms....

. The battle, according to one author, "seared into Irish consciousness", and became known in the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 tradition as Eachdhroim an áir - "Aughrim of the slaughter". The contemporary Gaelic
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 poet Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta
Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta
Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta was a central figure in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Airgíalla school of poets and songwriters in the Irish language...

 wrote of the Irish dead, "It is at Aughrim of the slaughter where they are to be found, their damp bones lying uncoffined". Another poet wrote, "Our friends in vast numbers and languishing forms, left lifeless in the mountains and corroded by worms".

Since it marked the end of the Irish Catholic Jacobite resistance, Aughrim was the focus of Loyalist
Loyalist
In general, a loyalist is someone who maintains loyalty to an established government, political party, or sovereign, especially during war or revolutionary change. In modern English usage, the most common application is to loyalty to the British Crown....

 (particularly Orange Order
Orange Institution
The Orange Institution is a Protestant fraternal organisation based mainly in Northern Ireland and Scotland, though it has lodges throughout the Commonwealth and United States. The Institution was founded in 1796 near the village of Loughgall in County Armagh, Ireland...

) celebrations in Ireland on 12 July up until the early 19th century. Thereafter, it was superseded by the Battle of the Boyne
Battle of the Boyne
The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish and Irish thronesthe Catholic King James and the Protestant King William across the River Boyne near Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland...

 in commemorations on "the Twelfth
The Twelfth
The Twelfth is a yearly Protestant celebration held on 12 July. It originated in Ireland during the 18th century. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne...

" due to the switch to the Gregorian calendar
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 (in which 1 July OS
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

became 11 July NS and 12 July OS became 22 July NS). It has also been suggested that the Boyne was preferred because the Irish troops there were more easily presented as cowardly than at Aughrim, where they generally fought bravely.

The Aughrim battlefield site became the subject of controversy in Ireland over plans to build the new M6 motorway
M6 motorway (Ireland)
The M6 motorway is a motorway in Ireland, which runs from Dublin to Galway. The M6 extends from its junction with the M4 at Kinnegad all the way west to the outskirts of Galway City, but the Athlone bypass and the approach to Galway city - while of dual carriageway standard - have not been...

 through the former battlefield. Historians, environmentalists and members of the Orange Order objected to the destruction of the 1691 battlefield. The motorway opened in 2009.

Sources

  • Boulger, Demetrius C. The Battle of the Boyne, Together with an Account Based on French & Other Unpublished Records of the War in Ireland 1688-1691 Martin Secker, London, 1911 (Available as pdf)
  • Piers Waudchope, Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War, Dublin 1992.
  • J.G. Simms, Jacobite Ireland, London 1969.
  • G.A., Hayes McCoy, Irish Battles, Belfast 1990.
  • Eamonn O Ciardha, Ireland and the Jacobite cause - a Fatal Attachment, Dublin 2002.
  • Padraig Lenihan, 1690, Battle of the Boyne, Tempus, 2003.

External links