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Williamite War in Ireland: Battle of the Boyne

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Williamite War in Ireland: Battle of the Boyne

The Battle of the Boyne by Jan van Huchtenburg

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Conflict:

The Battle of the Boyne was part of the Williamite War in Ireland.

Date:

The fighting took place on July 1, 1690 (Old Style). With the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, it is now commemorated on July 12.

Armies & Commanders:

Williamites

William III (William of Orange)

  • 36,000 men

    Jacobites

    • James II
    • 25,000 men

  • Battle of the Boyne Summary:

    In the wake of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the deposed Catholic King James II sought to regain the thrones of England and Scotland. Arriving in Ireland, he took command of the 25,000-man Jacobite army and began planning his next move. Included in his army were 6,000 French soldiers who had been sent by King Louis XIV to aid the Jacobite cause. Alerted to James' action, Protestant King William III began assembling forces to drive his adversary from Ireland. Landing at Carrickfergus in June 1690, with 16,000 men, William quickly linked up with the Duke of Schomberg who led a force of 20,000.

    With this combined army, William began moving south towards Dublin. Rather than oppose William's march in the rough country around Newry, James assumed a defensive position along the south bank of the River Boyne, approximately 30 miles north of Dublin. On July 11, William and his men arrived at the Boyne and began scouting the Jacobite positions. While doing so, William was slightly wounded by enemy artillery fire. Making camp at the village of Tullyallen, William devised a plan which called for a sweeping flanking maneuver to the west, while he pinned the Jacobites in place near the fords at Oldbridge.

    At 6:00 AM the next morning, William dispatched Count Meinhard Schomberg, the duke's son, west with 10,000 men and orders to cross the Boyne at Roughgrange. From there they were to march east and strike James in the flank and rear. After marching the six miles, Count Schomberg found that the ford at Roughgrange was held by Irish dragoons led by Neil O'Neill. Approaching the ford, Schomberg's men were attacked by O'Neill's troopers. Beating off their charge, Schomberg's troops successfully crossed the river. Receiving news that Williamite forces had crossed at Roughgrange, James dispatched 17,000 men to the area.

    As James' men reached Roughgrange they discovered that a deep ravine prevented them from attacking Schomberg's men. Conversely, the ravine blocked Schomberg's advance. As a result, these two forces played no further part in the battle. To the east, William began his assault on James' position around 9:00 AM. At Oldbridge, the attack was led by William's elite Dutch Blue Guards who waded across the river. Despite heavy musket fire from the Jacobite troops, William's men were able to obtain a foothold on the south bank and captured the village of Oldbridge.

    Reinforced, the Williamite infantry continued to press their advance. In an effort to block their progress, James began a series of counterattacks near Oldbridge. After his infantry was repulsed, he elected to send his cavalry forward. Halting, the Williamite troops were able to break the cavalry charges, though the Duke of Schomberg was killed in the fighting. Around noon, William led a force of 3,500 men across the Boyne at Drybridge, near Drogheda. With William approaching on their flank, the Jacobites fell back from Oldbridge and assumed a new position near Donore.

    Attacking, William's men were forced the Jacobites to retreat after about thirty minutes of fighting. Retreating to Duleek, James reunited with the troops he had sent to Roughgrange. With the battle lost, they began withdrawaling west towards the Shannon. Effectively screened by their cavalry, they were able to escape unmolested.

    Aftermath:

    The victory at the Boyne cost William approximately 750 killed and wounded, while the Jacobites suffered around 1,500. Continuing his march, William entered Dublin two days later. Fearing that his cause was lost, James departed the army and made for Duncannon. From there he embarked for France, never to return to the British Isles. His army was ultimately besieged at Limerick and forced to surrender the following year. The triumph at the Boyne marked the first major victory for the League of Augsburg over the forces of Louis XIV and his allies. In Ireland, the Boyne marked the turning point of the Williamite war and assured British and Protestant dominance over the country for the next two centuries. For this reason, the battle has assumed significant sectarian importance within the country.

    Selected Sources

    1. About.com
    2. Education
    3. Military History
    4. Conflicts & Battles
    5. Battles & Wars: 1601-1800
    6. Battle of the Boyne - The Battle of the Boyne

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