The Germans in Ireland (From Beamish's History of the German Legion).
From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 28, January 5, 1833.
IT has been mentioned that the two light batalions and the first and second line brigades of the legion were ordered to Ireland. On the sixth of May these regiments sailed for Cork; but scarce had they lost sight of the English coast, when a violent gale of wind sprung up and drove them into the Atlantic. The gale lasted three days, and finally obliged the transports to put into Bantry bay, on the south west coast of Ireland, where, in the harbour of Benhaven, they anchored on the 12th.
So long a voyage not having been anticipated, the stock of provisions proved here deficient, and recourse was had to the inhabitants of the coast for supplies. To their dismay the Germans found that the peasantry of these parts providently reserving any cattle which they might possess as a means of paying the rent of their tenements, subsisted almost entirely upon fish and potatoes, and were consequently little qualified to provide the strangers with more substantial nourishment. From this state of abstinence the troops were however relieved on the 20th, when, the easterly wind subsiding, they sailed for Cork, and anchored in Cove harbour on the following day.
The greater part of the legion had now been removed to Ireland, and found no reason to be dissatisfied with the change. To both officers and men Ireland presented advantages which her sister island did not afford them. The hospitality of the inhabitants; the cheapness of provisions; the readiness with which a stranger, and particularly a military man, was admitted into the family circles of the gentry--formed an agreeable contrast to the parallel circumstances in England. There, indeed, the country towns were so crowded with troops, that general attention to the military could scarcely be expected from the residents; and he who was not fortunate enough to be provided with letters of introduction, had little chance of being invited to partake of their hospitality. In Ireland, on the other hand, the garrisons were smaller, and the gentry, ever more ready to form acquaintances than the English, make those advances which are so agreeable to a stranger, and could not but prove highly gratifying to the officers of a foreign corps. The Hanoverians became acquainted with Irish hospitality to its fullest extent; the houses of the more wealthy residents were open to them; at the grand entertainment, or more humble family party, they were equally welcomed; the ladies taught them English, and the gentlemen bore with their German;--festivities denoted their presence, and lamentations their departure.
That this friendly intercourse should have led to more near alliances may well be imagined, and the subsequent change of condition of several officers of the corps proved that the fair daughters of Erin were not insensible to the merits of their foreign guests.
With more complete satisfaction could we dwell upon the sojourn of the German legion in Ireland, did not an unfortunate event, which about this time occurred, mingle some painful recollections with this period of their history.
The light companies of some Irish militia regiments had been formed into a brigade, and stationed at the town of Birr, in the King's County. In the month of July, this brigade was broken up, and the second companies of which it was composed were ordered to join their respective regiments. Agreeably to this order, four companies, being those of Derry, Monaghan, Limerick and Sligo regiments, marched into Tullamore, where, as has been stated, the first light batalion and one squadron of the first dragoons of the legion were quartered. On their entrance into the town, the militia officers were met by a deputation from those of the legion, who, wishing to return a similar civility which had been paid to one of their battalions by the Irish officers at Birr, begged that they might be favoured with their company at dinner. The invitation was declined under the plea of fatigue, and the militia proceeded to take up their quarters in Tullamore for the night.
About seven o'clock in the evening a man belonging to the German light battalion, who was peaceably crossing the bridge which formed one end of the main street of the town, was knocked down by one of the militia, who was immediately joined by one of his comrades. Three other Germans who were accidentally passing, and came up to see what was going forward, met with a similar fate.
Major General von Linsingen, who commanded the district, happening to be at the moment about to leave the officer's dinner room in the adjoining hotel, was attracted by the noise which this outrage occasioned, and seeing from the inn window that two or three of the German light infantry were surrounded by a crowd of militia soldiery, hurried to the spot, and in the best English he could command, entreated them to desist. For the moment, his interference was effectual, but two of the Germans had been already wounded with bayonets and stones, and a determination to repeat the assault appeared evident on the part of the militia. The Major General, therefore, sending to the barracks for a patrole, repaired to his quarters and made the officer who commanded the militia acquainted with what had occurred. This officer immediately waited upon the General, who ordered him to parade his men forthwith for roll-call, and sent similar instructions to Colonel von Alten for the light infantry of the legion.
The patrole from the barracks now came up and seized one of the militia, who appeared to be a ringleader in the business. About twenty of his comrades then collected for the apparent purpose of rescuing him, and were about to charge the Germans with fixed bayonets when Captain von Dusing moved his company down upon the assailants, and caused them to retreat beyond the bridge. Here they faced about and fired, and seven of the Germans were wounded. Upon this Captain Dusing pressed forward, and drove them into the lanes beyond the bridge; meantime Colonel von Alten's battalion had been formed in the main street.
The militia had now nearly all retired from this part of the town; but taking shelter in the houses, and at the corners of streets, they still continued to fire upon the Germans, and Lieutenant Baron Marschalk was dangerously wounded by a musquet ball in the chest.
General Linsingen now appeared with the cavalry, and charged the only body of the militia which still held out. The German dragoons felt naturally irritated at the unprovoked treatment which their comrades had received, and shewed little mercy towards the aggressors. These, however received them with a heavy fire; but not being able to withstand the violent reprisal of the cavalry, soon dispersed, and here the affair terminated.
Three officers, twenty-two men, and five horses were wounded on the side of the legion; and Baron Marschalk, who had been shot through the lungs, was for a length of time not expected to recover.
Of the militia, only nine were wounded, one of whom died afterwards, which small number of causalties in proportion to that of the Germans, was owing to the latter being un- provided with amunition, while the militia were all loaded with both.
Various reasons have been given for the hostile feeling of the Irish towards the Germans;--revenge for a punishment which had been inflicted upon one of their body for stealing a pipe from one of the legion; a belief that the arrival of the latter in Ireland was the cause of the militia light brigade having been broken up; the faithlessness of some former "sweethearts" of the Irishmen in Tullamore, on the arrival of the legion in that town, have been severally stated as the cause of the aggression, and taken collectively, will probably account for the affray.