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Monday the thirtieth of June, his army, marching in three columns, reached the summit of a rising ground near the southern frontier of the county of Louth. Beneath lay a valley, now so rich and so cheerful that the Englishman who gazes on it may imagine himself to be in one of the most highly favoured parts of his own highly favoured country. Fields of wheat, woodlands, meadows bright with daisies and clover, slope gently down to the edge of the Boyne. That bright and tranquil stream, the boundary of Louth and Meath, having flowed many miles between verdant banks crowned by modern palaces, and by the ruined keeps of old Norman barons of the pale, is here about to mingle with the sea. Five miles to the west of the place from which William looked down on the river, now stands, on a verdant bank, amidst noble woods, Slane Castle, the mansion of the Marquess of Conyngham. Two miles to the east, a cloud of smoke from factories and steam vessels overhangs the busy town and port of Drogheda. On the Meath side of the Boyne, the ground, still all corn, grass, flowers, and foliage, rises with a gentle swell to an eminence surmounted by a conspicuous tuft of ash trees which overshades the ruined church and desolate graveyard of Donore.1
In the seventeenth century the landscape presented a very different aspect. The traces of art and industry were few. Scarcely a vessel was on the river
1 Much interesting information respecting the field of battle and the surrounding country will be found in Mr. Wilde's pleasing volume entitled "The Beauties of the Boyne and Blackwater."
except those rude coracles of wickerwork covered with the skins of horses, in which the Celtic peasantry fished for trout and salmon. Drogheda, now peopled by twenty thousand industrious inhabitants, was a small knot of narrow, crooked and filthy lanes, encircled by a ditch and a mound. The houses were built of wood with high gables and projecting upper stories. Without the walls of the town, scarcely a dwelling was to be seen except at a place called Oldbridge. At Oldbridge the river was fordable; and on the south side of the ford were a few mud cabins, and a single house built of more solid materials.
stand at the Boyne.
When William caught sight of the valley of the Boyne, he could not suppress an exclamation and a gesture of delight. He had been ap- The Irish make a prehensive that the enemy would avoid a decisive action, and would protract the war till the autumnal rains should return with pestilence in their train. He was now at ease. It was plain that the contest would be sharp and short. The pavilion of James was pitched on the eminence of Donore. The flags of the House of Stuart and of the House of Bourbon waved together in defiance on the walls of Drogheda. All the southern bank of the river was lined by the camp and batteries of the hostile army. Thousands of armed men were moving about among the tents; and every one, horse soldier or foot soldier, French or Irish, had a white badge in his hat. That colour had been chosen in compliment to the House of Bourbon. "I am glad to see you, gentlemen," said the King, as his keen eye surveyed the Irish
"If you escape me now, the fault will be
Each of the contending princes had some advantages over his rival. James, standing on the defensive, behind entrenchments, with a river before him, had the stronger position:2 but his troops were inferior both in number and in quality to those which were opposed to him. He probably had thirty thousand men. About a third part of this force consisted of excellent French infantry and excellent Irish cavalry. But the rest of his army was the scoff of all Europe. The Irish dragoons were bad; the Irish infantry worse. It was said that their ordinary way of fighting was to discharge their pieces once, and then to run away bawling "Quarter" and "Murder." Their inefficiency was, in that age, commonly imputed, both by their enemies and by their allies, to natural poltroonery. How little ground there was for such an imputation has since been signally proved by many heroic achievements in every part of the globe. It ought,
The army of
1 Memorandum in the handwriting of Alexander, Earl of Marchmont. He derived his information from Lord Selkirk, who was in William's army.
2 James says (Life, ii. 393 Orig. Mem.) that the country afforded no better position. King, in a thanksgiving sermon which he preached at Dublin after the close of the campaign, told his hearers that "the advantage of the post of the Irish was, by all intelligent men, reckoned above three to one." See King's Thanksgiving Sermon, preached on Nov. 16, 1690, before Lords Justices. This is, no doubt, an absurd exaggeration. But M. de la Hoguette, one of the principal French officers who was present at the battle of the Boyne, informed Louvois that the Irish army occupied a good defensive position. Letter of July 31 La Hoguette from Limerick, Aug. 1'
indeed, even in the seventeenth century, to have occurred to reasonable men, that a race which furnished some of the best horse soldiers in the world would certainly, with judicious training, furnish good foot soldiers. But the Irish foot soldiers had not merely not been well trained: they had been elaborately ill trained. The greatest of our generals repeatedly and emphatically declared that even the admirable army which fought its way, under his command, from Torres Vedras to Toulouse, would, if he had suffered it to contract habits of pillage, have become, in a few weeks, unfit for all military purposes. What then was likely to be the character of troops who, from the day on which they enlisted, were not merely permitted, but invited, to supply the deficiencies of pay by marauding? They were, as might have been expected, a mere mob, furious indeed and clamorous in their zeal for the cause which they had espoused, but incapable of opposing a steadfast resistance to a well ordered force. In truth, all that the discipline, if it is to be so called, of James's army had done for the Celtic kerne had been to debase and enervate him. After eighteen months of nominal soldiership, he was positively farther from being a soldier than on the day on which he quitted his hovel for the camp.
William had under his command near thirty-six thousand men, born in many lands, and speaking many tongues. Scarcely one Protestant
The army of William.
Church, scarcely one Protestant nation, was unrepresented in the army which a strange series
of events had brought to fight for the Protestant religion in the remotest island of the west. About half the troops were natives of England. Ormond was there with the Life Guards, and Oxford with the Blues. Sir John Lanier, an officer who had acquired military experience on the Continent, and whose prudence was held in high esteem, was at the head of the Queen's regiment of horse, now the First Dragoon Guards. There were Beaumont's foot, who had, in defiance of the mandate of James, refused to admit Irish papists among them, and Hasting's foot, who had, on the disastrous day of Killiecrankie, maintained the military reputation of the Saxon race. There were the two Tangier battalions, hitherto known only by deeds of violence and rapine, but destined to begin on the following morning a long career of glory. The Scotch Guards marched under the command of their countryman James Douglas. Two fine British regiments, which had been in the service of the States General, and had often looked death in the face under William's leading, followed him in this campaign, not only as their general, but as their native King. They now rank as the fifth and sixth of the line. The former was led by an officer who had no skill in the higher parts of military science, but whom the whole army allowed to be the bravest of all the brave, John Cutts. Conspicuous among the Dutch troops were Portland's and Ginkell's Horse, and Solmes's Blue Regiment, consisting of two thousand of the finest infantry in Europe. Germany had sent to the field some warriors sprung from her