In the Irish Brigade: A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain By G. A. Henty.
Preface. Chapter 1: Fresh from Ireland. Chapter 2: A Valiant Band. Chapter 3: A Strange Adventure. Chapter 4: At Versailles. Chapter 5: A New Friend. Chapter 6: An Ambuscade. Chapter 7: In Paris Again. Chapter 8: To Scotland. Chapter 9: An Escape From Newgate. Chapter 10: Kidnapping A Minister. Chapter 11: On the Frontier. Chapter 12: Oudenarde. Chapter 13: Convalescent. Chapter 14: A Mission. Chapter 15: Treachery. Chapter 16: Captured. Chapter 17: An Old Friend. Chapter 18: War. Chapter 19: In Search of a Family. Chapter 20: Gerald O'Carroll.
The evils arising from religious persecution, sectarian hatred, ill government, and oppression were never more strongly illustrated than by the fact that, for a century, Ireland, which has since that time furnished us with a large proportion of our best soldiers, should have been among our bitterest and most formidable foes, and her sons fought in the ranks of our greatest continental enemy. It was not because they were adherents of the house of Stuart that Irishmen left their native country to take service abroad, but because life in Ireland was rendered well-nigh intolerable for Catholics, on account of the nature and severity of the laws against them, and the bitterness with which those laws were carried into effect.
An Irish Catholic had no prospects of employment or advancement at home. He could hold no civil appointment of any kind. He could not serve as an officer, nor even enlist as a private, in the army. He could not hold land. He was subject to imprisonment, and even death, on the most trifling and frivolous accusations brought against him by the satellites of the Irish Government. Not only could he not sit in the parliament of Dublin, but he could not even vote at elections. It was because they believed that the return of the Stuarts would mean relief, from at least some of their disabilities, and liberty to carry out the offices of their religion openly, and to dwell in peace, free from denunciation and persecution, that the Irish remained so long faithful to the Jacobite cause.
It was not, indeed, until 1774 that the Catholics in Ireland were admitted to qualify themselves as subjects of the crown, and not until the following year that they were permitted to enlist in the army. Irish regiments had enlisted in France, previous to the Convention of Limerick; but it was the Irish army that defended that town, and, having been defeated, passed over to France, that raised the Irish Brigade to the position of an important factor in the French army, which it held for nearly a hundred years, bearing a prominent part in every siege and battle in Flanders, Germany, Italy, and Spain. A long succession of French marshals and generals have testified to the extraordinary bravery of these troops, and to their good conduct under all circumstances. Not only in France did Irishmen play a prominent part in military matters, but they were conspicuous in every continental army, and their descendants are still to be found bearing honoured names throughout Europe.
Happily, those days are past, and for over a hundred years the courage and military capacity of Irishmen have been employed in the service of Great Britain. For records of the doings of some of the regiments of the Irish Brigade, during the years 1706-1710, I am indebted to the painstaking account of the Irish Brigade in the service of France, by J. C. O'Callaghan; while the accounts of the war in Spain are drawn from the official report, given in Boyer's Annals of the Reign of Queen Anne, which contains a mine of information of the military and civil events of the time.
G. A. Henty.
Chapter 1: Fresh from Ireland.
A number of officers of O'Brien's regiment of foot, forming a part of the Irish Brigade in the service of France, were gathered in a handsome apartment in the Rue des Fosses, on the 20th of June, 1701, when the door opened, and their colonel entered with a young officer in the uniform of the regiment.
"I have asked you here, gentlemen all," he said, "to present to you a new comrade, Desmond Kennedy, who, through the good offices of the Marshal de Noailles, has been appointed, by His Gracious Majesty, to a cornetcy in our regiment.
"Now, gentlemen, I have known, and doubtless you can all of you recall, instances where the harmony of a regiment has been grievously disturbed, and bad blood caused, owing to the want of a clear understanding upon matters connected with a family; which might have been avoided, had proper explanations been given at the commencement. I have spoken frankly to Mr. Kennedy, and he has stated to me certain particulars, and has not only authorized me, but requested me to repeat them to you, feeling that you had a right to know who it was that had come among you, and so to avoid questioning on matters that are, of all others, prone to lead to trouble among gentlemen.
"Beyond the fact that he is a Kennedy, and that his father had to fly from Ireland, two years after the siege of Limerick, owing to a participation in some plot to bring about a fresh rising in favour of King James, he is unacquainted with his family history. He has never heard from his father, and only knows that he made for France after throwing the usurper's spies off his track, and there can be little doubt that it was his intention to take service in this brigade. There have been several Kennedys in the service, and I have little doubt that this young gentleman's father was the Murroch Kennedy who joined the third regiment, about that time, and was killed a few months afterwards at the battle of Breda. His death would account for the fact that his son never received a letter from him. At the time when he left Ireland, the child was some two years old, and, as communication was difficult, and the boy so young, Murroch might very well have put off writing until the boy grew older, not thinking that death might intervene, as it did, to prevent his doing so.
"This is all simple and straightforward enough, and you will, I am sure, have no hesitation in extending the hand of friendship to the son of a gallant Irishman, who died fighting in the ranks of the Irish Brigade, exiled, like the rest of us, for loyalty to our king.
"Still, gentlemen, you might, perhaps, wonder how it is that he knows no more of his family, and it was that this question might be disposed of, once for all, that I am making this statement to you on his behalf. He was not brought up, as you might expect, with some of his father's connections. Whether the family were so scattered that there was no one to whom he could safely entrust the child, I know not, but, in point of fact, he sent him to one of the last houses where a loyal gentleman would wish his son to be brought up. We all know by name and reputation—I and your majors knew him personally—the gallant James O'Carroll, who died, fighting bravely, at the siege of Limerick. He was succeeded in his estate by his brother John, one of the few Irishmen of good family who turned traitor to his king, and who secured the succession to his brother's possessions by becoming an ardent supporter of the usurper, and by changing his religion.
"Why Murroch Kennedy should have chosen such a man as the guardian of his son is a mystery. Whether they had been great friends in earlier times, when John O'Carroll professed as warm an attachment to the Stuart cause as did his brother James, or whether Kennedy possessed such knowledge of O'Carroll's traitorous dealings with the Dutchman as would, if generally known, have rendered him so hateful to all loyal men that he could no longer have remained in the country, and so had a hold over him, Mr. Kennedy can tell us nothing. He was brought by his nurse to Castle Kilkargan, and was left with John O'Carroll. It is clear that the latter accepted the charge unwillingly, for he sent the child to a farm, where he remained until he was eight years old, and then placed him with the parish priest, who educated him. The lad visited at the houses of the neighbouring gentry, shot and rowed and fished with their sons. O'Carroll, however, beyond paying for his maintenance, all but ignored his existence, showing no interest whatever in him, up to the time when he furnished him with a letter of introduction to de Noailles, except that he made him a present of a gun, as soon as he became of an age to use one. He never attempted to tamper with his loyalty to King James, and in fact, until he sent for him to ask what profession he would choose, he never exchanged ten words with him, from the time that he was brought to the castle.
"We can each form our own theory as to the cause of such strange conduct. He may have given a pledge, to Murroch, that the boy should be brought up a loyalist, and a true son of the church. It may have been that the loyalty of the boy's father formed so unpleasant a contrast to his own disloyalty, and apostasy, that he disliked the sight of him. However, these theories can make no difference in our reception of Desmond Kennedy, as a gentleman of a good family, and as the son of a loyal adherent of the king; and as such, I think that I can, from what I have already seen of him, assert that he is one who will be a good comrade, a pleasant companion, and a credit to the regiment."
The subject of these remarks was a tall and handsome young fellow, some sixteen years of age. He was already broad at the shoulders, and promised to become an exceedingly powerful man. He had stood somewhat behind the colonel, watching calmly the effect of his words on those whose comrade he was to be, for he knew how punctilious were his countrymen, on the subject of family, placing as much or even more value than did the Scots, on points of genealogy, and of descent from the old families. His frank open face, his bearing and manner, did as much to smooth his way as did the speech of his colonel, who, when he had been introduced to him, two days before, had questioned him very closely on the subject of his family. It had almost been a matter of satisfaction to Desmond when he heard, from the colonel, that the officer who had fallen at Breda was probably the father of whom he had no remembrance; for, from the time he attained the age of boyhood, it had been a grief and pain that he should never have heard from his father, who, it now appeared, had been prevented by death from ever communicating with him.
The officers received him cordially. They had little doubt that he was the son of the Murroch Kennedy, of Dillon's regiment, although, after they separated, some wonder was expressed as to the reason why the latter had committed his son to the care of so notorious a traitor as John O'Carroll.
Desmond had been specially introduced to two of the young lieutenants, Patrick O'Neil and Phelim O'Sullivan, and these took him off with them to their quarters.
"And what is the last news from Ireland? I suppose that the confiscations have ceased, for the excellent reason that they have seized the estates of every loyal gentleman in the country?"
"That was done long ago, in the neighbourhood of Kilkargan, and, so far as I know, everywhere the feeling is as bitter as ever, among those who have been dispossessed, and also among the tenants and peasantry, who have found themselves handed over to the mercies of Dutchmen, or other followers of William. At Kilkargan there was not that grievance; but, although they had still one of the old family as their master, they could not forgive him for deserting to the side of the usurper, nor for changing his religion in order to do pleasure to William. Certainly, he can have derived but little satisfaction from the estates. He seldom showed himself out of doors, never without two or three armed servants, all of whom were strangers from the north, and he was often away, for months together, at Dublin."
"And what did you do with yourself?"
"I fished, shot, and rode. I had many friends among the gentry of the neighbourhood, who would, doubtless, have shown less kindness than they did, had it not been for the neglect with which O'Carroll treated me. His unpopularity was all in my favour.
"However, I have one good reason for being obliged to him, since it was through him that I obtained my commission. He told me that, in his young days, he had been at a French college with the duke. They had been great friends there, and he thought that, in memory of this, de Noailles would procure me a commission."
"I suppose the real fact was, Kennedy, that he was glad to get rid of you altogether?"
"I think that is likely enough. He certainly raised no objection, whatever, to my going abroad, and seemed to think it natural that I should choose the Irish Brigade, here, in preference to the British service. He said something unpleasant about its not being singular that I should be a rebel, when I always associated with rebels, to which I replied that it seemed to me that I could hardly be blamed for that, seeing that my father had been what he called a rebel, and that I had little choice in the matter of my associates; and that if I had been educated at a school in England, instead of by good Father O'Leary, I might have had other sentiments. He replied that my sentiments were nothing to him, one way or the other. He was glad to wash his hands of me altogether; and, at any rate, if I went to France, I could drink the health of King James every day without his being involved in my treason."
"It almost looked as if he wished you to grow up a rebel, Kennedy, or he would hardly have placed you in the charge of a priest. He may have reckoned that if there was another rising, you might join it, and so be taken off his hands, altogether."
"Whatever the reason was, I have certainly cause for satisfaction that he removed me from the care of the farmer's wife, with whom he at first placed me, and arranged with the priest to take charge of me altogether. O'Leary himself had been educated at Saint Omer, and was a splendid fellow. He was very popular on the countryside, and it was owing to my being with him that I was admitted to the houses of the gentry around, whereas, had I remained in the farmhouse in which O'Carroll first placed me, I should only have associated with the sons of other tenants."
"It looked, at any rate, as if he wished to make a gentleman of you, Kennedy."
"Yes, I suppose my father had asked him to do so. At any rate, I was infinitely better off than I should have been if he had taken me in at Kilkargan, for in that case I should have had no associates, whatever. As it was, I scarcely ever exchanged a word with him, until that last meeting. He sent down, by one of his servants, the letter to the Duc de Noailles, and a bag containing money for my outfit here, and for the purchase of a horse, together with a line saying that he had done his duty by me, and had no desire to hear from me in the future. I was inclined to send the money back to him, but Father O'Leary persuaded me not to do so, saying that I must be in a position to buy these things, if I obtained a commission; and that, no doubt, the money had been given me, not for my own sake, but because he felt that he owed it to me, for some service rendered to him by my father."
"It was an ungracious way of doing it," O'Sullivan said, "but, in your circumstances, I should have taken the money had it come from the old one himself. It is, perhaps, as well that it should have been done in such a manner that you may well feel you owe no great gratitude towards such a man."
"And how did you get over here?"
"There was no great difficulty about that. In spite of the activity of the English cruisers, constant communication is kept up between Ireland and France, and fortunately I had, a short time before, made the acquaintance of one of your officers, who was over there, in disguise, gathering recruits for the Brigade."
"Yes, there are a good many agents in Ireland engaged in that work. There is no difficulty in obtaining recruits, for there is scarcely a young Irishman who does not long to be with his countrymen, who have won such credit out here, and many abstain from joining only because they do not know how to set about it. The work of the agents, then, is principally to arrange means for their crossing the channel. It is well that the supply is steadily kept up, for, I can assure you, every battle fought makes very heavy gaps in our ranks; but in spite of that, three fresh regiments have been raised, in the last year, partly by fresh comers from Ireland, and partly by Irish deserters from Marlborough's regiments.
"But I am interrupting your story."
"Well, after leaving Mr. O'Carroll, and making my preparations, I paid a visit to the cottage where the officer was staying, in disguise, and told him that I wanted to cross. He gave instructions as to how to proceed. I was to go to a certain street in Cork, and knock at a certain door. When it was opened, I was to say, 'The sea is calm and the sky is bright'.
"'Then', he said, 'you will be taken in hand, and put on board one of the craft engaged in the work of carrying our recruits across the water. You will be landed at Saint Malo, where there is an agent of the Brigade, who gives instructions to the recruits as to how they are to proceed, supplies them with money enough for the journey, and a man to accompany each party, and act as interpreter on the way.
"I carried out his instructions, crossed the channel in a lugger with thirty young peasants, bound also for Paris, and, on landing at Saint Malo, took my place in the diligence for Paris; having, fortunately, no need for an interpreter. On my presenting my letter to the Marquis de Noailles, he received me with great kindness, and treated me as a guest, until he had obtained me a commission in your regiment.
"Now, when are we likely to go on active service?"
"Soon, I expect," O'Neil said; "but whether we shall be sent to the Peninsula, or to Flanders, no one knows. In fact, it is likely enough that we shall, for the present, remain here; until it is seen how matters go, and where reinforcements will be most required. It is but ten months since we came into garrison, in Paris, and we may therefore expect to be one of the last regiments ordered off.
"For my part, I am in no particular hurry to exchange comfortable quarters, and good living, and such adventures as may fall to the lot of a humble subaltern, for roughing it in the field; where, as has been the case ever since the Brigade was formed, we get a good deal more than our fair share of hard work and fighting."
"I should have thought that you would all have liked that," Desmond said, in some surprise.
"Enough is as good as a feast," the other said; "and when you have done a few weeks' work in trenches, before a town you are besieging; stood knee deep for hours in mud, soaked to the skin with rain, and with the enemy's shot coming through the parapet every half minute or so; you will see that it is not all fun and glory.
"Then, too, you see, we have no particular interest in the quarrels between France and Germany. When we fight, we fight rather for the honour of the Irish Brigade, than for the glory of France. We have a grudge against the Dutch, and fight them as interested parties, seeing that it was by his Dutch troops that William conquered Ireland. As to the English troops, we have no particular enmity against them. Cromwell's business is an old story, and I don't suppose that the English soldier feels any particular love for Queen Anne, or any animosity against us. And after all, we are nearer in blood to them than we are to the Germans, Austrians, or Spaniards, for there are few, even of our oldest families, who have not, many times since the days of Strongbow, intermarried with the English settlers. At any rate, there are still plenty of adherents of King James in England and Scotland. We speak the same language, and form part of the same nation, and I own that I would rather fight against any foreign foe than against them."
"So would I," Desmond said heartily. "Our only point of difference is that we don't agree as to who should be king. We want a Catholic king, and the majority of the English want a Protestant king. We have fought on the subject, and been beaten. Next time, we hope that we may succeed. If the king were to land in England again, I would fight heart and soul in his cause; but whether the French beat the English, in the present war, or the English beat the French, will not, as far as I can see, make much difference to King James; who, Father O'Leary tells me, is, in his opinion, supported here by the French king from no great love for himself, but because, so long as James has adherents in Ireland, Scotland, and England, he is able to play him off against the English Government."
The other young men laughed.
"For heaven's sake, Kennedy, keep such sentiments as these to yourself. It is a matter of faith, in our brigade, that we are fighting in the cause of King James, as against the English usurper. Now that William is dead, and James's daughter on the throne, matters are complicated somewhat; and if the Parliament had settled the succession, after Anne, on her brother, there might have been an end of the quarrel altogether. But now that they have settled it on Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of James the 1st, and her descendants, subject to the restriction that they shall be Protestants, the quarrel does not seem likely to be healed."
"This priest of yours must be a dangerous man," O'Sullivan said.
"Not at all. I can assure you, he is devoted to the king; but, as he told me, there is no use in Irishmen always closing their eyes to the true state of things. He says that we must rely upon ourselves, and our loyal friends in Scotland and England, but that he is sure the king will never be placed on his throne by French bayonets. A small auxiliary force may be sent over, but, in all these years, Louis has made no real effort to assist him; and even if, for his own purposes, he sent a great army to England, and placed him on the throne, he would not be able to maintain himself there for a month after the French had withdrawn, for even a rightful king would be hated by the people upon whom he had been forced, by a foreign power, especially a power that had, for centuries, been regarded as their chief enemy. If he had been in earnest, Louis would have sent over a great army, instead of a few thousand men, to Ireland, when such a diversion would have turned the scale in our favour. As he did not do so then, he is not likely to do so in the future. The king is useful to him, here, by keeping up an agitation that must, to some extent, cripple the strength of England; but, were a Stuart on the throne, he would have to listen to the wishes of the majority of his people, and France would gain nothing by placing him there. Moreover, she would lose the services of twenty thousand of her best soldiers, for naturally the exiles would all return home, and what is now the most valuable force in the French service, might then become an equally important one in the service of Britain."
"I am glad that this priest of yours remains quietly in Kilkargan, for, if he were to come here, and expound his views among our regiments, he might cause quite a defection among them. At any rate, Kennedy, I should advise you not to take to propagating his views in the regiment. It would not add to your comfort, or ours, and there are a good many hot-headed men who would take up the idea that you had been infected by O'Carroll's principles."
"It would not be well for anyone to say as much to my face," Desmond said. "Father O'Leary is loyal to the backbone, although he has his own ideas as to the hopelessness of our obtaining any efficient help from Louis. He thinks that it will be far better to trust to our friends at home, and that, even did Louis carry out his promises, it would in the long run harm rather than benefit King James."
"I am not saying that his view may not be correct, Kennedy. I am only saying that the view would be a very unpopular one, among the Brigade. We are fighting for France because we believe that France, in turn, will aid in placing our rightful king on the throne, and if we once entertained the notion that Louis was deceiving us, that he had no intention of helping us, and that, if he did place James on the throne, he would alienate all his sympathizers at home, we should ask ourselves of what use was it, spending our blood in fighting the battles of France."
"At any rate, I will take your advice, O'Sullivan, and will keep my lips sealed, as to Father O'Leary's views. As you see, by my presence here, he has not convinced me, and as long as there is a hope that, by the aid of a French army, we may yet see our king come to his own again, I shall do my best to prove myself a faithful soldier of France. I have chosen my career with my eyes open. A loyal Irishman cannot obtain employment, still less military employment, in his own country, and accordingly, we are to be found fighting as soldiers of fortune in every country in Europe. At least there is some chance that we may be benefiting the royal cause by fighting for the country that gave King James shelter, and rendered him armed assistance in his struggle with the usurper, and will probably give aid, more or less efficient, when the next attempt is made. In other countries we are but soldiers of fortune. In France we may regard ourselves as serving our own king by serving King Louis."
"Do you speak French well, Kennedy?" O'Neil said, changing the conversation abruptly.
"Yes. Father O'Leary took care of that, for I always said that I should take service abroad, as there was clearly nothing else to do for a living, and, consequently, he generally talked to me in that language, and I speak it as well as I do English or Irish."
"You have not had much practice with the sword, I suppose?"
"Not so much as I could wish, though I never lost an opportunity of practising. There were several of the tenants who served in the regiment James O'Carroll raised. I used to practise with them, but I shall lose no time in getting the best instruction I can, here."
"You may want it, Kennedy. We are not particularly liked by the French officers, because we are generally chosen to lead an assault, or for other desperate service. Duelling is, of course, forbidden, but that in no way prevents duels from being frequent. As for fighting in action, as far as I have seen or heard, swordsmanship does not go for a great deal. If you press on hard enough, and there are men following you, the enemy give way, generally, before it comes to hand-to-hand fighting. If, on the other hand, they are the more numerous, and hold their position in the breach, it is the musketry that settles it. It is only when two officers happen to meet, in a fierce fight, that swordsmanship becomes of importance.
"We have a good school in the regiment, and there are several famous masters of fence in the town, so I should advise you to give a couple of hours a day, for a time, to making yourself a first-rate swordsman. I have just left off. Our maitre d'armes tells me I am too hotheaded ever to make a fine blade; but I should fancy, from the way you have been arguing, that you are likely to be cooler than most of us in a fencing bout. It is the fault with us all that we are apt to lose our tempers, and indeed Maitre Maupert, who is the best teacher here, declines absolutely to take any of us as pupils, saying that, while we may do excellently well in battle, he can never hope to make first-class fencers of men who cannot be relied upon to keep their heads cool, and to fight with pointed weapons as calmly as they might fence with a friend in a saloon."
"Well, I shall work hard to become a fair swordsman," Desmond said, with a laugh. "I suppose there is plenty of time to spare."
"Plenty. We have a couple of hours' drill in the morning, and after that, except when you are officer of the day, you can spend your time as you like. The colonel and two of his officers attend at the king's levees, when he is in Paris, but, as he spends the greater portion of his time at Versailles, we are seldom called upon for that duty."
A few days after Desmond's arrival, the colonel took him with him to Saint Germain, where James the 3rd, as his supporters called him, held a miniature court. The colonel presented Desmond as a loyal subject of His Majesty, and a newly-joined cornet in his regiment.
The young prince was a lad of eighteen. He was surrounded by a group of courtiers, who had accompanied or followed his father into exile, and whose insistence upon treating him with the respect due to a monarch was in no slight degree galling to him, for, as he often declared to the few friends he had about his own age, he had all the disadvantages of being a king, without any of the advantages.
He was at once taken with the appearance of Desmond Kennedy.
"Ah, Monsieur Kennedy," he said, after the ceremony of presentation had been completed; "I wish that I had all my faithful subjects, of the Irish Brigade, across the water with me; and that I could put on a uniform like yours, and fight at their head for my rights."
"I would that you had, Sire. It would be a good day for us all; and believe me, that either in Ireland or Scotland you would soon find yourself at the head of an army, many times more numerous than our brigade."
"They all tell me that I must wait," the young prince said, with a sigh, "but I have been waiting a long time now, and it seems no nearer than when I was a child. However, the King of France has promised me that it cannot be much longer; and that, when Marlborough is defeated, and his army driven back across the sea, he will send a fleet and an army to place me on my throne."
"We shall all rejoice, indeed, when that time comes, Sire; and I am sure there is not a man in the Irish Brigade who will not follow you to the death, and serve you as faithfully as many of them did your royal father."
"I hope you will come here often, Monsieur Kennedy. I am sure that I shall like you very much, and I think that you would always say what you thought, and tell me the real truth about things."
"Sire!" one of the older men exclaimed, reproachfully.
"I mean no reflection on anyone, Dillon. You all say what I am sure you feel, but you have grown accustomed to waiting, and all think of what is politic, and complain that I speak too frankly. Monsieur Kennedy comes straight from Ireland, and he is not old enough, yet, to have learned to measure his words, and will not be always afraid that anything he may say will be carried to the king.
"How I wish that the king would send me with Marshal Tallard!"
"That would never do, Sire. The English are your subjects, and they would never forgive you, if you were to appear in the field with a French army, fighting against them."
"But the Irish Brigade fight, Dillon?"
"Yes, Your Majesty, but they are in the service of France, and, by the terms of the treaty of Limerick, were allowed to expatriate themselves, and to enter the French service. We have, in fact, renounced our nationality, with the consent of the English, and, if taken prisoners, could only be treated as captured foes, and not as traitors. Of course, when Your Majesty ascends the throne, we shall again become British subjects."
"I trust that that may come soon, Dillon, and for your sake, rather than my own. When the time comes, you will not find me backward, but this weary waiting tries me sorely, and, were it not for those who have remained faithful to our cause, I would gladly resign such chances as I have of succeeding to the throne of England, and take a commission in the Irish Brigade."
Dillon and some of the elder men shook their heads.
"Can you wonder?" the young prince said, passionately. "Here is Master Kennedy, who is younger than myself, though a free life and exercise have made him a man, in comparison to me. He has his life before him. He will bear his part in many a pitched battle, and, doubtless, in many a private adventure. He is his own master, and, as long as he does his duty, there are none to say, 'you must not do that; you must not say that; you must preserve your dignity; you must speak softly and discreetly; you must wait patiently.'
"I envy you, Master Kennedy. I envy you, from the bottom of my heart! Come often to see me. You will always be welcome;" and, turning abruptly away, he left the chamber hurriedly, to conceal the tears which filled his eyes.
His counsellors shook their heads solemnly, but Colonel O'Brien said, warmly:
"What the king says is natural, for a man of his age; and, for my part, it has increased my respect for him. I say it without offence, but what could be duller than the life this lad leads here? He has been brought up, literally, without a pleasure. His late Majesty, heaven rest his soul! was absorbed in his religious exercises, and nothing could have been more trying, to a boy, than a court in which the priests and confessors were practically supreme. Since his father's death, things have been but little better, and now I see that, at heart, the young king has plenty of spirit and energy, I can feel that his life has been that of a caged hawk, and I am not surprised that he occasionally breaks out into revolt against it. It would, methinks, do him a world of good, had he a few companions about his own age, like Ensign Kennedy. I would even say that, although I can quite understand that, as King of England, he could not well take a commission in one of our regiments, he might at least be placed with one of our most experienced and honoured colonels, in order to learn military exercises, and to mix with the officers as any other nobleman might do, when attached to the regiment."
Murmurs of dissent arose among the counsellors.
"Well, gentlemen," the colonel went on, "I have no desire to interfere with your functions, but, in my opinion, it is good that a king should also be a general. Did anyone think any the worse of Dutch William, that he was able to command his army, personally? None of us can believe that King James will ever succeed to the inheritance of his fathers, without fighting; and it would be well, indeed, that he should not appear as a puppet, but as one qualified to command. It was the fault, or rather the misfortune, of his father, that he was unfit to lead his troops in the field. Had he been able to do so, he would, in all probability, have died King of England, instead of as a fugitive and a pensioner of King Louis. In one way, it grieves me to see that the young king feels his position acutely; but, on the other hand, I am rejoiced to see that he is in no way lacking in spirit, and that he longs to be out of his cage, and to try his wings for himself.
"Well, gentlemen, having had my say, I will take my leave of you, as duty calls me back to my regiment. I trust that the frankness with which I have spoken will not be misunderstood."
So saying, with a bow to the courtiers he left the room, followed by Kennedy.
"They mean well," he said, after they had mounted, and ridden off at a gallop; "but it is a pity that these gentlemen, all loyal and honourable men as they are, should surround the young king. They suited, well enough, to the mood of his father, who was always wanting in spirit, and was broken down, not only by the loss of his kingdom, but by the conduct of his daughters; and, what with that, and his devotion to religion, he was rather a monk than a monarch. He believed—but most mistakenly—that he had a genius for politics, and was constantly intriguing with his adherents at home, notably Marlborough and other lords, from whom he obtained fair words and promises of support, but nothing else. But though he could plan, he did not possess a spark of energy, and was one of the most undecided of men, though, like most undecided men, he could be extremely obstinate; and, unfortunately, the more wrong he was, the more obstinately he held to his course.
"However, all this can make no difference in our devotion to the Stuart cause. But I hail, with satisfaction, the prospect that, in his son, we may have one to whom we may feel personally loyal; for there can be no doubt that men will fight with more vigour, for a person to whom they are attached, than for an abstract idea."
"I have heard Father O'Leary say the same, sir. His opinion was that, had the late king possessed the qualities that commanded the personal admiration and fidelity of his followers, and excited something like enthusiasm among the people at large, he would never have lost his throne; nor, could he have led his armies, as did Gustavus or Charles the 12th of Sweden, would William of Orange ever have ventured to cross to England."
"It was a bad business, altogether, lad. His cause was practically lost, from the day that William set foot upon English soil. He had, in reality, no personal friends; and those who would have remained faithful to the cause, were paralysed by his indecision and feebleness. Charles the Martyr made many mistakes, but he had the passionate adherence of his followers. His personality, and his noble appearance, did as much for him as the goodness of his cause; while his son, James, repelled rather than attracted personal devotion. I trust that his grandson will inherit some of his qualities. His outburst, today, gave me hope that he will do so; but one must not build too much on that. It may have been only the pettishness of a young man, sick of the constant tutelage to which he is subjected, and the ennui of the life he leads, rather than the earnestness of a noble spirit.
"Of course, Kennedy, I need not tell you that it would be well to make no mention, to anyone, of the scene that you have witnessed."
"I shall certainly make no mention of it to anyone, sir. I am sorry, indeed, for the young king. His life must be a dreadful one, conscious of the impossibility of breaking the bonds in which he is held, and knowing that his every word and action will be reported, by spies, to the King of France."
For three months, Desmond Kennedy worked hard at drill and sword exercise. He became a general favourite in the regiment, owing to his good temper, high spirits, and readiness to join in everything that was going on.
He went over, several times, to Saint Germain. At first, the king's counsellors looked but coldly upon him, and he would have ceased to come there, had it not been for the unaffected pleasure shown by the king at his visits. In time, however, two of the principal men at the little court requested him to have a conversation with them, before going into the king's chamber.
"You will understand, Mr. Kennedy," one of them said, when they had seated themselves in a quiet spot in the garden; "that we, standing in the position of His Majesty's counsellors, are in a position of great responsibility. His Majesty, as we admit is but natural, chafes over the inaction to which he is condemned by circumstances; and is apt, at times, to express his desire for action in terms which, if they came to the ears of King Louis, as we have every reason to believe is sometimes the case, would do him and the cause serious injury. Naturally, we should be glad for him to have companions of his own age, but it behoves us to be most careful that such companionship should not add to our difficulties in this direction; and we should view with satisfaction a friendship between the young king and one who, like yourself, is nearly of his own age and, as we can see, full of spirit and energy. In these matters the king is deficient; but it would be better that he should, for the present, remain as he is, rather than that he should, in acquiring more manly habits, grow still more impatient and discontented with his position.
"We have naturally taken some little trouble in finding out how you stand in your regiment, and we hear nothing but good of you. You are much liked by your comrades, pay the greatest attention to your military exercises, and are regarded as one who will, some day, do much credit to the regiment; and we feel that, in most respects, your influence could not but be advantageous to the young king; but the good that this might do him would be more than balanced, were you to render him still more impatient than he is for action. You may well suppose that we, exiles as we have been for so many years from our country, are not less impatient than he for the day of action; but we know that such action must depend upon the King of France, and not upon ourselves. We would gladly risk all, in an effort to place him on the throne of England, to repair past injustices and cruel wrongs; but, were we to move without the assistance of Louis, instead of achieving that object we might only bring fresh ruin, confiscations, and death upon the royalists of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Are you of our opinion?"
"Completely so, sir. Of course, I know but little of what is passing, save in the neighbourhood where I have been brought up; but I know that there, even among the king's most devoted adherents, there is a feeling that nothing can possibly be done until France lends her aid, in earnest. The English army is far stronger than it was when we were last in arms, and when William had to rely, almost entirely, upon his Dutch troops and Dutch generals; while the friends of the Stuarts are almost without arms, without leaders, and without organization."
"That is good, Mr. Kennedy; and, if we were to sanction King James's forming an intimacy with you, can I understand that we could rely upon your not using your influence to add to his impatience for action, and discontent with his present position?"
"Certainly, sir. Being so recently from Ireland, I could assure him that even his most devoted adherents, there, are of opinion that no rising could be attended with success, unless backed by French arms, and especially by the aid of the Irish Brigade, which has already won such renown for itself, and whose appearance would excite the greatest enthusiasm among all Irishmen."
"In that case, Mr. Kennedy, so far from throwing any difficulties in the way of His Majesty seeking your companionship, we shall encourage him, and shall be glad to see you here, as often as your military duties will permit."
Chapter 2: A Valiant Band.
The permission was not attended with the result that the young prince's counsellors had hoped. For a time, James showed a lively pleasure when Desmond rode over to Saint Germain, walked with him in the gardens, and talked to him alone in his private apartments, and professed a warm friendship for him; but Desmond was not long in discovering that his first estimate of the prince's character had been wholly erroneous, and that his outburst at their first meeting had been the result of pique and irritation, rather than any real desire to lead a more active life. Upon the contrary, he was constitutionally indolent and lethargic. There were horses at his command, but it was seldom, indeed, that he would take the trouble to cross the saddle, although walking was distasteful to him. Even when speaking of his hopes of ascending the throne of England, he spoke without enthusiasm, and said one day:
"It is a pity that it cannot be managed without fuss and trouble. I hate trouble."
"Nothing can be done worth doing, without trouble, Your Majesty," Desmond said sturdily. "It almost seems to me that, if everything could be had without trouble, it would not be worth having."
"How do you mean, Mr. Kennedy?"
"I may illustrate it by saying, Sire, that no true fisherman would care about angling in a pond, close to his house, and so full of fish, that he had but to drop a baited hook into the water to bring up one immediately. The pleasure of fishing consists largely in the hard work that it demands. It is, perhaps, miles to a stream across the hills, and a long day's work may produce but a half dozen fish; but these the angler prizes in proportion to the trouble he has had to get them. I think that, were I born heir to a throne, I would rather that it should cost me hardship, toil, and danger to obtain it, than walk into a cathedral, a few days after my father's death, and there be crowned."
"I do not agree with you, at all," James said, shortly. "If anything could not be had without toil, hardship, and danger, as you say, I would willingly go without it."
"Then, Sire, I can only hope that the toil and danger may be borne by your devoted followers, and that you may be spared them, personally."
James looked sharply up at his companion, to gather whether the words were spoken sarcastically, but Desmond's face, though flushed, was calm and serious. Nevertheless, indolent as he was, James felt that the words were a reproof; that, although he had at first liked him, there was in reality little in common between him and this energetic young fellow; and the next time he came, he received him with much less cordiality than before; while Desmond, who was beginning to tire of the companionship of one who lacked, alike, the fun and humour, and the restless activity of his comrades, Patrick and Phelim; and who saw that the professions of James's friendship were but short lived, came over to Saint Germain less frequently, until, at last, he only rode over with his colonel, or when some duty called him there.
"So you have been a failure, Master Kennedy," the counsellor who had first spoken to him said, one day, when the change in the king's manner became evident to them all.
"I am afraid so, sir," Desmond replied with a smile. "I have no doubt that it was my fault. Perhaps I was not patient enough with him; but, indeed, my efforts to rouse him to take exercise, to practise in arms, and so on, were so ill received, that I felt I was doing more harm than good."
"I was afraid that it would be so," the other said, regretfully. "You see, during his later years, his father gave up his time almost entirely to religious observances; and, consequently, the lad's life was very dull and monotonous. Constitutionally, he undoubtedly takes after his father, who, with all his virtues, was at once indolent and undecided. We have observed, with regret, his disinclination to bestir himself in any way. Seeing that we, who were his father's companions, are too old, or too much disheartened, to be lively companions for him, we had hoped that the talk of one of spirit, and of his own age, might have roused him to make some exertions to overcome his disinclination for anything like active exercise. I think now, however, that we were wrong; that the tonic was too strong; that he could not but feel that your abundance of spirits, and life, were too much for him; and that the companion he needs is one who could, to some extent, sympathize with him, and who could, perhaps, make more allowance for the manner in which he has been brought up.
"We do not blame you at all. I am sure that you have done your best. But it is evident that the contrast between you and himself has been too strong a one; and that, feeling he cannot hope to emulate your soldierly activity, he has come to resent it, as a sort of reflection upon himself."
Desmond was, by no means, sorry at being relieved of the necessity of paying frequent visits to Saint Germain. In the first place, he begrudged the time that was taken from his fencing lessons, at which he had worked enthusiastically; and in the next, he had felt, after two or three visits, that between himself and the young king there was really nothing in common. Full of life and spirits himself, it seemed to him nothing short of disgraceful that one, who aspired to rule, should take no pains whatever to fit himself for a throne, or to cultivate qualities that would render himself popular among a high-spirited people. And, as he came to understand James more thoroughly, he had found his visits increasingly irksome, all the more so, as he felt their inutility.
"Thank goodness," he said, to his two friends, when he went home that day, "I have done with Saint Germain. I am as warm an adherent as ever of the cause of the Stuarts, and should be perfectly ready, when the time comes, to fight my hardest for them; but I would vastly rather fight for the king, than converse with him."
"I suppose, by what I have seen of him, that he must be somewhat wearisome," Phelim O'Sullivan said, with a laugh. "Fortunately, wit and gaiety are not essential qualities on the part of a monarch; but I must own that, treasonable as it may sound, I fear His Majesty is lacking in other qualities, far more essential in a monarch. I should say that he is kindly and well disposed, he wishes to be fair and just, and may turn out a wise ruler; but he is altogether deficient in energy. I suppose there is no occasion for a king, safely seated upon a throne, to be energetic; but a prince in exile should possess the qualities that excite enthusiasm, and bind men to him. Possibly, the qualities King James possesses would be highly valued by the Scotch, but they would certainly fail to inspire our people."
"Yes," Patrick O'Neil agreed. "His father did more to ruin his cause, in Ireland, than all William's Dutch generals and troops, together. It was disheartening to be risking life and possessions for a man who would do nothing for himself, whose indecision paralysed our leaders, and who, the moment a reverse came, sought safety in flight, instead of taking his place among the men who were devoted to his cause. I can understand that, in England, where the majority of those who professed to be devoted to him were betraying him, and were in secret communication with William, he should be by turns obstinate and vacillating; but in Ireland, where every man who surrounded him was risking his life in his cause, he should have shown absolute confidence in them, listened to their advice, set an example of personal gallantry and courage, and, at least, remained among them until all was definitely lost. It was the desertion of James, rather than the loss of the battle of the Boyne, that ruined his cause.
"Well, I am glad you are out of it, for it was a pity that you should be going without your work at the salle d'armes, when you were making such progress that, the master reported, in a few months you would become one of the best swordsmen in the regiment."
There were, in Paris, many Irish officers besides those belonging to Colonel O'Brien's regiment. These were, for the most part, men who had been severely wounded in the preceding campaign, and who now remained in the capital with the depots of their regiments. These were constantly recruited by fresh arrivals from Ireland, by which means the Irish Brigade was not only kept up to their original strength, in spite of the heavy losses they suffered, in the engagements in which they had taken part, but largely increased its force, new regiments being constantly formed. Naturally, O'Brien's corps, being the only complete regiment in Paris, at the time, was regarded as the headquarters and general meeting place of all the Irish officers there; and, as some of these had campaigned in Flanders, in Italy, and in Spain, Desmond learned, from their talk and anecdotes, far more of the doings of the Brigade than he had hitherto known. From the first they had, by their reckless bravery, in almost every engagement that had taken place, so distinguished themselves that they received the highest commendation from the French generals, and were almost invariably selected for specially dangerous service.
"I think the hottest affair I was ever engaged in," a major, who had served in Burke's regiment, said one evening, when some ten or twelve of his companions had gathered, at the room which was the general meeting place of the officers of the corps, "was at the attack on Cremona by Eugene. You have all heard how our regiment, and that of Dillon, distinguished themselves there, but you may not have heard particulars. The place was a strong one, and it was garrisoned by some 4000 men—all French, with the exception of our two regiments. Marshal Villeroy was himself in command; an excellent officer, but, as is often the case in the French army, very badly served by his subordinates.
"Here, as you know, almost everything goes by influence; and the generals are surrounded by men who have been forced upon them by powerful persons, whom they cannot afford to disoblige. The consequence was that, relying upon the strength of the place, no proper watch was set. There were guards, indeed, at the gates, but with no communication with each other; no soldiers on the ramparts; no patrols were sent out beyond the town, or maintained in the streets.
"No harm might have come of this, had it not been that treachery was at work. There was a scoundrel, who was brother of the priest of one of the parishes near the wall, and both were in favour of the enemy. The priest's residence was near a sewer, which communicated with the moat outside the walls. The entrance was closed by an iron grating. Were this removed, troops could enter, by the sewer, into the priest's wine cellar.
"The priest, being promised a large sum of money, set to work. First, he laid a complaint before the governor that the sewer was choked with filth, which might be a source of disease to the town unless removed; and to do this, it was necessary that the grating should be taken down. Being altogether unsuspicious of evil, the governor granted his request.
"As soon as the grating was removed, Eugene despatched eight miners, who crossed the moat at night, made their way up the sewer, and opened a communication between it and the priest's house. When all was ready, four or five hundred picked grenadiers entered, and were concealed in the house of the priest, and other adherents of the emperor.
"Eugene set two strong bodies of picked troops in motion. The one was to enter by the Saint Margaret gate, which would be seized by the force already in the city. This column consisted of five thousand men. The second force, of two thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry, under the Prince de Vaudemont, was to cross the river by a bridge of boats.
"We slept like stupid dogs. Such watchmen as there were on the walls gave no alarm. The gate of All Saints was seized, its guard being instantly overpowered, and a party of engineers broke down the gate of Saint Margaret, which had been walled up; and at daylight Eugene rode into the town, followed by his troops and one thousand cavalry; while another mounted force watched the gate, and the country round, to prevent the escape of fugitives.
"Before any alarm was given, Eugene had established himself at the Hotel de Ville, was master of the great street that separated half the garrison from the other half, had taken possession of the cathedral; and, in fact, the place was captured without a shot being fired.
"Then the uproar began. Parties of troops, led by natives of the town, seized a large number of officers at their lodgings; and as the alarm spread, the troops seized their muskets and rushed out, only to be sabred and trodden down by the enemy's cavalry. I was asleep, and dreaming, when my servant rushed into my room, and said:
"'The Germans are in possession of the town, Captain.'
"'You are a blathering idiot,' I said.
"'It's true, your honour. Get up and listen.'
"Very unwillingly, I got out of bed and opened the window, and, by the holy poker, I found that Pat was right. There was a sound of firing, shouting, and screaming, and I heard the gallop of a heavy body of horsemen, and, directly afterwards, a squadron of German cuirassiers came galloping down the street.
"'It is time for us to be out of this, Pat,' I said, and jumped into my clothes, quicker than I had ever done before.
"We went downstairs, and I borrowed two overcoats that we found hanging there, and put them on over our uniforms. Then we went out, by the back door, and ran as hard as we could, keeping through narrow lanes, to the barracks.
"On my way, I had to pass a barrier near a toll gate. Here there were thirty-six of our men under a sergeant. Not knowing where the enemy were, or whether they were between me and the barracks, I thought it best to stay there, and of course took the command. Just as I had done so, I heard the tramping of cavalry, and had the gate shut. We were just in time, for two hundred and fifty cuirassiers came galloping along.
"Their leader, Baron de Mercy, as soon as the troops began to enter Saint Margaret's gate, was ordered to dash round and capture the Po gate, through which Vaudemont's corps would, after crossing the bridge, enter the town. He shouted to me to surrender, promising us our lives. I told him that if he wanted the place, he would have to come and take it. He used language which I need not repeat, but he did not attack us, waiting for the arrival of four hundred infantry, who had been ordered to follow him. They were some time in coming up, having lost their way, owing to the rascally native who was their guide being killed by a shot from a window.
"I was not sorry for the delay, for it gave us time to look at matters quietly, and prepare for defence. Another six hundred cavalry now came up, and Mercy placed them so as to cut off, altogether, the French cavalry, who were quartered away to the right; then he ordered the infantry to attack us.
"Our position was a good one. The barricade was formed of square piles, driven into the ground with small narrow openings between them. I ordered the men to keep behind the timbers until the enemy came up. The Germans opened a murdering fire as they approached, but, though the bullets pattered like rain against the palisades, and whistled in between them, not a man was touched. I waited till they were within two paces, and then gave the word, and you may well guess that there was not a bullet thrown away, and the Germans, mightily astonished, drew back, leaving nigh forty of their men behind them. Then, falling back a bit, they opened fire upon us, but it was a game that two could play at. We could see them, but they could not see us; and while we loaded our muskets in shelter, they were exposed, and we picked them off by dozens.
"The firing had, of course, given the alarm to our two regiments, who turned out just as they were, in their nightshirts. Major O'Mahony, who was in command of Dillon's regiment, as Lally was away on leave, luckily made his way in safety from his lodgings to the barracks, got his own men in order, while Colonel Wauchop, who commanded our regiment, took the command of the two battalions. Fortunately, a portion of the regiment had been ordered to fall in early for inspection, and this gave time for the rest to get into their uniforms; and, as soon as they were ready, Wauchop led them out and fell suddenly upon a portion of Mercy's force, poured in a volley, and then charged them.
"Horse and foot fell back before the attack. Then they turned the cannon on the ramparts, and thus secured possession of the Po gate, and, pushing on, the guns helping them, drove the Austrians from the houses they occupied, and so opened communications with the French cavalry.
"A brigadier now came up, and ordered the battalions to barricade all the streets they had won, with barrels and carts. A French regiment arrived, and occupied the church of Saint Salvador, and the battery which commanded the bridge, across which Vaudemont's corps could now be seen approaching. The redoubt on the other side of the bridge was only held by fifty men, and they were now strengthened by a hundred of the French soldiers. The Austrians approached, making sure that the town had already been taken, and looking out for a signal that was to be hoisted. Their astonishment was great, when a heavy musketry fire was opened upon them by the garrison of the outpost, while the guns of the battery on the wall plunged their shot in among them.
"The column was at once halted. Eugene had regarded the struggle as over, when news was brought to him of the defeat of Mercy's corps by the Irish. Everywhere else things had gone most favourably. Marshal Villeroy had been wounded and made prisoner. His marechal de camp shared the same fate. The Chevalier D'Entregues, who advanced to meet the enemy, was defeated and killed, as was Lieutenant General de Trenan, and the Spanish Governor of the town mortally wounded.
"On receiving the news, Eugene at once sent an officer to inspect the Irish position; but his report was that they were too well placed to be driven from it. He then sent Captain MacDonnell, an officer in his service, to offer, if the Irish would leave their position, to enrol them in the Austrian service, with higher pay than they now received. You may guess the sort of answer he received, and he was at once arrested for bringing such a message to them. Eugene then endeavoured to engage Marshal Villeroy to order the Irish to lay down their arms, as further resistance would only end in their slaughter. Villeroy simply replied that, as a prisoner, he could no longer give orders.
"During this pause, the Count de Revel and the Marquis de Queslin succeeded in gathering together a considerable number of the scattered French infantry, and with these they marched to endeavour to recover the gates that had been lost, and, having occupied the church of Santa Maria, and a bastion near the gate of All Saints, ordered the Irish to leave a hundred men at the barricades, and with the rest to push forward to the gate of Mantua. So I found myself in command of a full company.
"O'Mahony was now in command of the two regiments, as Wauchop had been wounded. It was pretty hard work they had of it, and they suffered heavily in carrying the guardhouse, held by two hundred Austrians. Eugene now launched a great force against our people, and attacked them on all sides; but O'Mahony faced them each way, and received the charge of the cuirassiers with so heavy a fire that they fled in disorder. Another corps of cuirassiers came up, and these charged with such fury that their leader, Monsieur de Freiberg, pushed his way into the middle of Dillon's regiment, where he was surrounded, and, refusing quarter, was killed; and his men, disheartened by the fall of their leader, fled, carrying with them the infantry who were ranged in their rear.
"But our men were now exhausted by their exertions, and suffered heavily; and O'Mahony, seeing that he was likely to be attacked by fresh troops, and that my post guarding the approach of the Po gate would then be left altogether unsupported, returned to it. I was glad enough when I saw them coming, for it was mighty trying work being left there, and hearing the storm of battle going on all round, and knowing that at any moment we might be attacked.
"They did not stop long, for orders came from Revel, who had captured the gate of All Saints, and was preparing to attack Saint Margaret's, to march again to the gate of Mantua. It seemed a hopeless enterprise. Captain Dillon, of Dillon's regiment, marched out and, after hard fighting, drove the Austrians from house to house; but, on reaching a spot where the ground was open, he was attacked on all sides, and for a time the enemy and our men were mixed up together in a melee.
"I could hear by the sound of the firing that our men were returning, and posted my fellows so as to cover their retreat; and as they came back, hotly pressed by the enemy, we opened so warm a fire that they passed in through the gate of the barrier in safety, but only half as strong as they had gone out.
"As soon as they were in, they aided us in strengthening the position. Seeing that Vaudemont's corps was on the point of attacking the redoubt, the Marquis de Queslin sent orders to the little garrison there to withdraw across the bridge, and destroy the boats. This they effected, in spite of the heavy fire kept up by the enemy.
"In the meantime, fighting had been going on all over the town. The gate of Mantua had been held by Captain Lynch, of Dillon's battalion, and thirty-five men. As soon as he heard the din of battle in the town, he collected a few fugitives, entrenched his position at the guardhouse, and maintained it for the whole day; not only that, but, finding that his position was commanded by a party of Austrians, who had taken post in the church of Saint Marie, close by, he sallied out, drove them from the church, and maintained possession of that as well; until, late in the afternoon, he was reinforced by two companies of our regiment, who made their way this time without opposition.
"The enemy fell back, but not unmolested, as, sallying out, we pressed hotly upon them. There now remained only the gate of Saint Margaret in the hands of the Austrians. Here a large body of troops had been stationed, and succeeded in repulsing the repeated attacks made upon them by Revel's force.
"The fight had now lasted for eleven hours, and the position of the Austrians had become critical. The desperate resistance of our men had entirely changed the position. They had repulsed every attack upon them, had given time for the scattered French to gather, and the one gate remaining in Eugene's possession was seriously threatened. Vaudemont's corps was helpless on the other side of the river, and could render no assistance, and Eugene gave the order for his troops to retire, which they did in good order.
"It had been a hot day, indeed, for us, and we were only too glad to see them go. We had lost three hundred and fifty men, out of the six hundred with which we began the fight; altogether, the garrison had lost, in killed, wounded, and in prisoners, fourteen hundred men and officers, while Eugene's loss was between fifteen and sixteen hundred.
"Personally, I have had hotter fighting, but taking the day altogether, it was the most terrible through which I have ever passed. Throughout the day we were in total ignorance of what was going on elsewhere, though we knew, by the firing in other parts of the town, that the French there had not been overpowered, and, each time the regiments left us, I was expecting every moment to be attacked by an overwhelming force. Faith, it was enough to make one's hair white! However, I have no reason to grumble. I obtained great praise for the defence of the barrier, and was given my majority; and, if it had not been for the wound I received, two years ago, which incapacitated me from active service, I might now be in command of the regiment."
"Yes, indeed," another officer said. "It was truly a gallant affair; and, although our men had fought equally as well in many another engagement, it was their conduct at Cremona that attracted the greatest attention, and showed the French the value of the Brigade. I would we had always been employed in actions on which we could look back, with the same pride and pleasure, as we can upon Cremona and a long list of battles where we bore the brunt of the fighting; and never failed to be specially mentioned with praise by the general.
"The most unpleasant work that I ever did was when under Marshal de Catinat. Eight Irish battalions were sent up, in 1694, from Pignerolle into the valley of La Perouse, to oppose the Vaudois, who had always offered a vigorous resistance to the passage of our troops through their passes. They were wild mountaineers, and Huguenots to a man, who had, I believe, generations ago been forced to fly from France and take refuge in the mountains, and maintained themselves sturdily against various expeditions sent against them.
"I own the business was not at all to my taste, and many others of our officers shared my opinions. It was too much like what we remembered so bitterly at home, when William's troopers pursued our fugitives to the hills, burning, destroying, and killing, and, above all, hunting down the priests. This was the other way, but was as cruel and barbarous. The poor people had given no offence, save that they held to their own religion. An Irishman should be the last to blame another for that, and, seeing they had successfully opposed the efforts of the French to root them out, it was much against my will that I marched with my regiment. I hope that, when it comes to fighting against regular troops, of whatever nationality, I am ready to do my work; but to carry fire and sword among a quiet people, in little mountain villages, went against the grain.
"It seemed to us that it was to be a massacre rather than fighting, but there we were mistaken. It was the hardest work that I ever went through. It was impossible in such a country to move in large bodies, and we were broken up into small parties, which advanced into the hills, each under its own commander, without any fixed plans save to destroy every habitation, to capture or kill the flocks of goats, which afforded the inhabitants their chief means of subsistence, and to give no quarter wherever they resisted.
"Even now, I shudder at the thought of the work we had to do; climbing over pathless hills, wading waist deep through mountain torrents, clambering along on the face of precipices where a false step meant death, and always exposed to a dropping fire from invisible foes, who, when we arrived at the spot from which they had fired, had vanished and taken up a fresh position, so that the whole work had to be done over again. Sometimes we were two or even more days without food, for, as you may imagine, it was impossible to transport provisions, and we had nothing save what we carried in our haversacks at starting. We had to sleep on the soaked ground, in pitiless storms. Many men were carried away and drowned in crossing the swollen torrents. Our clothes were never dry. And the worst of it was, after six weeks of such work, we felt that we were no nearer to the object for which we had been sent up than we were when we started.
"It was true that we had destroyed many of their little villages, but as these generally consisted of but a few houses, only rough buildings that could be rebuilt in a few days, the gain was not a substantial one. We had, of course, killed some of the Vaudois, but our loss had been much heavier than theirs, for, active as our men were, they were no match in speed for these mountaineers, who were as nimble as their own goats, knew everything of the country, and could appear or disappear, as it seemed to us, almost by magic. It was a wretched business, and once or twice, when our parties were caught in the narrow ravines, they were overwhelmed by rocks thrown down from above; so that, on the whole, we lost almost as many men as we should have done in a pitched battle, gaining no credit, nor having the satisfaction that we were doing good service to France.
"I hope I may never be employed in a business like that again. It was not only the Vaudois that we had to fight, for, seeing that at first we were pushing forward steadily, the Duke of Savoy, under whose protection they lived, sent six hundred regular troops to assist them, and these, who were well commanded, adopted the same tactics as the peasants, avoiding all our attempts to bring on an engagement, and never fighting except when they had us to great advantage.
"As a rule, our men were always dissatisfied when they received orders to fall back, but I think that there was not a man among us but was heartily glad, when we were recalled to rejoin Catinat at Pignerolle."
The expedition, however, although altogether unsuccessful in rooting out the Vaudois, created such terrible devastation in the mountains and valleys that the Irish name and nation will long remain odious to the Vaudois. Six generations have since passed away, but neither time nor subsequent calamities have obliterated the impression made by the waste and desolation of this military incursion.
"You were at Blenheim, were you not, Captain O'Donovan?"
"Yes. A tough fight it was, and a mismanaged one. I was in the Earl of Clare's regiment, which, with Lee and Dorrington's battalions, was stationed with the force in Oberglau in the centre of our position. It seemed to us, and to our generals, that our position was almost impregnable. It lay along a ridge, at the foot of which was a rivulet and deep swampy ground. On the right of the position was the village of Blenheim, held by twenty-seven battalions of good French infantry, twelve squadrons, and twenty-four pieces of cannon. Strong entrenchments had been thrown up round our position, but these were not altogether completed. Blenheim, moreover, had been surrounded by very heavy and strong palisades, altogether impassable by infantry, and, as the allies could not hope to get cannon across the stream and swamps, it seemed to defy any attack. From Oberglau the army of Marshal de Marcin and the Elector stretched to the village of Lutzingen. We had some five-and-twenty cannon at Oberglau.
"The weak point, as it afterwards turned out to be, was the crest between us and Blenheim. Considering that both the artillery and musketry fire from both villages swept the slope, and as in numbers we equalled the enemy, it was thought well-nigh impossible for him to cross the swamps and advance to the attack; and almost the whole of the French cavalry were massed on the crest, in order to charge them, should they succeed in crossing and try to ascend the slope.
"At first the battle went altogether favourably. We had opposite to us the English, Dutch, Hanoverians, and Danish troops under Marlborough, while facing our left were Prussians, Imperialists, and other German troops under Eugene. Marlborough's Danish and Hanoverian cavalry first crossed, but were at once charged and driven back. Then they tried again, supported by English infantry. Then Marlborough led up a still stronger force, drove back our light cavalry, and began to ascend the hill. We were attacked by ten battalions—Hanoverians, Danes, and Prussians, while the English bore against Blenheim. The fighting at both places was desperate, and I must do the Germans the justice to say that nothing could have exceeded the gallantry they showed, and that, in spite of the heavy fire we maintained, they pressed up the slope.
"We remained in our entrenchments, till it could be seen that the English were falling back from Blenheim, whose palisade, manned by twenty-seven battalions of infantry, offered an obstacle that would have defied the best troops in the world to penetrate.
"Immediately this was seen, nine battalions, headed by our three regiments, leapt from the trenches and poured down on the Germans. The enemy could not withstand our onslaught. Two of their regiments were utterly destroyed, the rest suffered terribly, and were driven back. On the left, Marcin held his ground against all the attacks of Eugene, and it seemed to us that the battle was won.
"However, it was not over yet. While the fierce fighting had been going on in front of Oberglau and Blenheim, Marlborough had passed the whole of his cavalry and the rest of his infantry across the rivulet, and, in spite of artillery and musketry fire, these moved up in grand order, the infantry inclining towards the two villages as before, the cavalry bearing straight up the slope, and, when they reached the crest, charging furiously upon our horse stationed there. They were superior in numbers, but on this head accounts differ. At any rate, they overthrew our cavalry, who fled in the greatest disorder, pursued by the allied horse.
"The infantry poured into the gap thus made, Blenheim was entirely isolated, and we were exposed to assault both in front and rear. Nevertheless, we repulsed all attacks, until Marcin sent orders for us to retire; then we sallied out, after setting fire to the village, flung ourselves upon the enemy, and succeeded in cutting our way through, our regiment forming the rear guard. The whole of Marcin's army were now in full retreat, harassed by the allied cavalry; but whenever their squadrons approached us, we faced about and gave them so warm a reception that they attacked less formidable foes. As for the garrison in Blenheim, you know they were at last surrounded by Marlborough's whole force, with artillery; and with the Danube in their rear, and no prospect of succour, they were forced to surrender.
"It was a disastrous day, and I have not yet recovered from the wound I received there. Wad five thousand infantry been posted in a redoubt, halfway between Blenheim and Oberglau, so as to give support to our cavalry, the result of the battle would have been very different. Still, I suppose that most battles are lost by some unlooked-for accident—some mistake in posting the troops. We can only say that, had the allied forces been all composed of such troops as those Eugene commanded, they would have been beaten decisively; and that had, on the contrary, Eugene commanded such troops as those under Marlborough, Marcin would never have held his ground."
"How many British troops were there in the battle, Captain O'Donovan?"
"Somewhere about twelve thousand, while the Continental troops were forty-seven or forty-eight thousand. There is no doubt that they were the backbone of the force, just as we flatter ourselves that our three regiments were the backbone of the defence of Oberglau."
Chapter 3: A Strange Adventure.
When the party broke up, O'Neil and O'Sullivan, as usual, came in for a quiet chat to Desmond's room.
"As we may be possibly ordered to Spain," Kennedy said, "I should like to know a little about what we are going to fight about; for, although I know a good deal about the war in Flanders, no news about that in Spain ever reached Kilkargan."
"Well, you know, of course," O'Neil said, "that Philip the Fifth is a grandson of Louis; and is naturally supported by France against the Archduke Charles of Austria, who is competitor for the throne, and who is, of course, supported by England. Six thousand English and Dutch troops were sent to aid the Archduke Charles in his attempt to invade Spain and dethrone Philip. The King of Portugal, who is a member of the allied confederacy, promised to have everything ready to cooperate with them. They found, however, on their arrival, that no preparations had been made, and they were accordingly distributed, for a time, among the garrisons on the frontier.
"Philip, on his part, had not been so inactive, and two armies—the one commanded by the Duke of Berwick, and the other by General Villadarias—invaded Portugal. Berwick surprised and captured two Dutch battalions, and then captured Portalagre, and compelled the garrison, including an English regiment of infantry, to surrender.
"The allies, to make a diversion, sent General Das Minas into Spain, with fifteen thousand men, who captured one or two towns and defeated a body of French and Spanish troops. The hot weather now set in, and put a stop to hostilities, and the troops on both sides went into quarters. The general—I forget his name—who commanded the English and Dutch contingent, was so disgusted with the proceedings of the Portuguese that he resigned his command, and the Earl of Galway was appointed in his place. The next year he crossed the frontier, captured several towns, without much fighting, and invested Badajos. Here, however, a stern resistance was met with. Galway's hand was carried off by a shot, and the French general (Tesse) coming up in force to the relief of the town, and the Portuguese not arriving at all, the allies were obliged to fall back upon Portugal. But Philip was threatened from a fresh quarter.
"In June, the Earl of Peterborough sailed from Portsmouth with five thousand men, and at Lisbon took on board the Archduke Charles. At Gibraltar some more troops were embarked, and Peterborough set sail for the coast of Valencia. Peterborough himself, one of the most daring of men, and possessed of extraordinary military talent, was in favour of a march upon Madrid; but, fortunately for us, he was overruled, and commenced the siege of Barcelona—a strong town garrisoned by five thousand good troops, while he himself had but a thousand more under his command. Nevertheless, by a sudden and daring attack he captured the strong castle of Montjuich, which commanded the town, which was in consequence obliged to surrender four days later, and the whole of Catalonia was then captured. Saint Matteo, ninety miles from Barcelona, which had declared for Charles and was besieged by a large force, was relieved; and so brilliant were the exploits accomplished by Peterborough, with most inadequate means, that the Spaniards came to the conclusion that he was possessed by an evil spirit.
"Large reinforcements were sent from France, and King Philip advanced upon Barcelona, and invested it by land, while a French fleet bombarded it by sea. Peterborough hurried, with a small force from Valencia, to aid the besieged, the matter being all the more important since Charles himself was in the city. Before his arrival, however, an English fleet appeared, and our fleet retired.
"Philip at once raised the siege, and retired to Madrid. His position was indeed serious. Lord Galway was advancing from the frontier, and Peterborough had gathered a force to cooperate with him. Upon the approach of Galway, Philip and the Duke of Berwick retreated to the frontier. There they received great reinforcements, and advanced against Madrid, which was evacuated by Galway, who marched away to form a junction with Lord Peterborough.
"Owing to the dilatory habits and hesitation of the Austrian prince, the junction was not effected for some time, and then, in spite of the entreaties of the two English generals, he could not be persuaded to make a movement towards Madrid. Peterborough, whose temper was extremely fiery, at last lost all patience, abused Charles openly, and then, mounting his horse, rode down to the coast, embarked upon an English ship of war, and sailed away to assist the Duke of Savoy. After his departure, the ill feeling between the English force, the Portuguese, and the leaders of the Spanish adherents of Charles increased, and they spent their time in quarrelling among themselves. They were without money, magazines, and almost without provisions. Berwick was near them with a superior force, and they took the only step open, of retreating towards Valencia, which they reached, after suffering great hardships, before Berwick could overtake them.
"French troops were poured into Spain, while no reinforcements were sent from England. Galway and the Portuguese advanced to meet the Duke of Berwick, who was marching with a large army to occupy Catalonia.
"The two forces met, on the plain of Almanza, on the 24th of April. We and the Spaniards were superior in number to the English, Dutch, and Portuguese. The battle was maintained for six hours. The Portuguese infantry did little, but the English and Dutch repulsed charge after charge, even after the Portuguese and Spanish allies on both wings were defeated. But, in the end, victory remained with us. Galway and Das Minas, the Portuguese general, were both wounded, and five thousand of their men killed, and yet the Dutch and English infantry held together.
"But on the following day, being absolutely without supplies, some effected their escape and succeeded in reaching Portugal, while the main body surrendered. Valencia, Saragossa, and other towns opened their gates to us, and, for a time, the cause of the Archduke Charles seemed lost.
"Our success was, however, balanced by the loss, in the same year, of the whole of the Spanish possessions in Italy. As yet, in spite of the disasters that had befallen him, the cause of Charles was not altogether lost, for he received fresh promises of support from England, whose interest it was to continue the war in Spain, and thus compel France to keep a considerable body of troops there, instead of employing them against Marlborough in Flanders.
"Galway and Das Minas were taken back to Portugal, in an English fleet, after their disaster, and General Stanhope, who, they say, is an officer of great military experience and talent, has been sent out to take the command; and as a portion of Catalonia is still held for Charles, there may yet be a good deal of hard fighting, before the matter can be considered finally settled."