Irish Soldiers in Exile

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXXIV. ...continued

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George II. died suddenly at Kensington, and was succeeded by his grandson, George III. But I shall request the attention of the reader to some remarks of considerable importance with regard to foreign events, before continuing the regular course of history. The predilections of the late King for his German connexions, had led him into war both with France and Spain; the imprudence of ministers, if not the unwise and unjust policy of colonial government, involved the country soon after in a conflict with the American dependencies. In each of these cases expatriated Irishmen turned the scale against the country from which they had been so rashly and cruelly ejected. In France, the battle of Fontenoy was won mainly by the Irish Brigade, who were commanded by Colonel Dillon; and the defeat of England by the Irish drew from George II. the well-known exclamation: "Cursed be the laws that deprive me of such subjects!"

In Spain, where the Irish officers and soldiers had emigrated by thousands, there was scarcely an engagement in which they did not take a prominent and decisive part. In Canada, the agitation against British exactions was commenced by Charles Thompson, an Irish emigrant, and subsequently the Secretary of Congress; Montgomery, another Irishman, captured Montreal and Quebec; O'Brien and Barry, whose names sufficiently indicate their nationality, were the first to command in the naval engagements; and startled England began to recover slowly and sadly from her long infatuation, to discover what had, indeed, been discovered by the sharp-sighted Schomberg [4] and his master long before, that Irishmen, from their habits of endurance and undaunted courage, were the best soldiers she could find, and that, Celts and Papists as they were, her very existence as a nation might depend upon their co-operation.

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[4] Schomberg.—He wrote to William of Orange, from before Dundalk, that the English, nation made the worst soldiers he had ever seen, because they could not bear hardships; "yet," he adds, "the Parliament and people have a prejudice, that an English new-raised soldier can beat above six of his enemies."—Dalrymple's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 178. According to the records of the War Office in France, 450,000 Irishmen died in the service of that country from 1691 to 1745, and, in round numbers, as many more from 1745 to the Revolution.


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