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THE RETREAT FROM LIMERICK, AND SIEGE
There could not be a more melancholy train than now began to make their way through the mud and marshes which surround Limerick. It rained heavily, and the roads were deep and broken. The Shannon rose suddenly, and began to overflow its banks, and flood the surrounding country, as if to annoy the retreating enemy. This river, like the great streams of America, flows, for a great part of its course, through a flat country, and in the rainy season converts the low grounds into a marsh.
There was a scarcity of waggons and horses, in consequence of the loss sustained by Sarsefield's successful enterprise. The few that remained were not enough to convey the wounded men. Great part of the stores were, therefore, obliged to be abandoned for want of any means of transport; some were buried, and some blown up and destroyed. Many of the wounded were obliged to walk; for only those who were wholly unable to travel could be furnished with means of transport.
As the whole moved slowly along in the mud, they were joined by a still more dismal train, consisting of the entire Protestant inhabitants of the neighbourhood of Limerick and the surrounding country, with their wives, children, servants, and household goods, as far as they were able to find means of bearing them along. These unfortunate people, in their zeal for the protestant cause, had followed the same course in every respect as the Protestants of Athlone had so lately done, and with the same melancholy consequences. As soon as William had appeared before the walls of Limerick, they had renounced their Irish protections and joined the king's army. They had the warning example of the people of Athlone before their eyes; but they considered that Athlone had been attacked by a division only of the army under a lieutenantgeneral ; whereas the whole royal army of Eng. land sat down before Limerick, and the king himself commanded. They did not suffer themselves to doubt the success of an enterprise directed by such ability and power. The fugitives of Limerick were now joined to the fugitives of Athlone, and both together brought up the melancholy rear of the army.
There can hardly be imagined greater misery than what those unhappy people had now to endure. They were taking leave of their homes, perhaps for ever. They were, at all events, aban
doning them to certain pillage and destructior. The little property they made an effort to take with them soon became the prey of the Protestant protectors they had wished for so anxiously, and relied upon so much. The Limerick refu. gees had not proceeded far, when they were as naked and bereft of food, clothing, and property of every kind, as the devoted people of Athlone had long been.
A retreating army is seldom merciful; but William's, even in their seasons of success, had been a dreadful scourge. Now their ferocity knew no bounds. The king had quitted the army immediately on its breaking up from Limerick ; and this fierce and almost disorganised military rabble of all nations, threw themselves upon the country with a rage of spoliation hardly ever surpassed. The people fled in all directions; but the unhappy Protestants of Limerick and Athlone could not fly; they could not escape from the dreadful usage to which they were every moment exposed, and which made them more than martyrs for their faith.
The king was probably tired of his army and of his ill success; and, to escape from both, he set out from Limerick, accompanied by the Prince of Denmark, the Duke of Ormond, and other men of rank, and travelled, with the utmost rapidity, by Clonmel and Waterford, to England, Before embarking at Waterford, he appointed
Lord Sidney, Sir Charles Porter, and Mr.Coningsby, to be lords justices of Ireland, and Count Solmes to be commander-in-chief of the army.
The king had spent three months in Ireland ; and, like Cromwell, he had become impatient and apprehensive of the difficulties of an Irish war. Though he had not succeeded before Limerick, he had not suffered so severely before that city as Cromwell had done before Clonmel. Cromwell took Clonmel, but he lost more than half his army. William failed at Limerick, but his loss did not much exceed three thousand men.
Both quitted the kingdom after those unlucky sieges, and never after returned. Both were fully impressed with the conviction that no war against the Irish could be successful, unless that people could be broken by faction and division. Cromwell accordingly laboured that point with the energy and success for which he was so remarkable. He subdued the kingdom by intrigue, and hardly ventured to direct any military operation after his return to England.
Cromwell fought no battle in Ireland. Far from seeking one, he carefully avoided
deci. sive combat.. William's necessities compelled him to fight; and, though successful at the Boyne, it was such a victory aś, coupled with the sieges of Limerick and Athlone, had nearly destroyed his army.
The result of the campaign was far from being
unfavourable to the Irish. The two severe defeats which William had sustained at Limerick and Athlone more than balanced his success at the Boyne; and the loss of men and materiel which he had sustained was infinitely greater than any thing which had befallen the Irish army. His chief advantage, and it was a great one, was his possession of Dublin : he who is master of the capital being always in some sort the sovereign of the country. William had nearly copied Cromwell's plan of military operations in Ireland ; he now sought to imitate his successful system of intrigue. The materials he had to work upon were not quite so good, though by no means unfavourable. Cromwell had the advantage of the incurable and intricate dissensions of the confederates, and the jealousies of the old Irish and Anglo-Irish. In place of these, William had the disgusts and contentions existing between the Irish and French ; and ultimately these answered the purpose.
When the British army had reached Callan, on their march from Limerick, some pay, which had been long in arrear, was distributed to them ; and the ill humour of the soldiers being thus somewhat appeased, the army broke up for winter-quarters.
General Kirk, with seven regiments of foot, and three of cavalry, took the road to Birr. Scravenmore and Tetteau, with twelve hundred horse, and two regiments of Danish foot,