Siege of Limerick

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXIII

The French officers, who had long since seen the hopelessness of the conflict, determined to leave the country. Lauzan, after having surveyed Limerick, and declared that it might be taken with "roasted apples," ordered all the French troops to Galway, where they could await an opportunity to embark for France. But the brave defenders of the devoted city were not deterred. The Governor consulted with Sarsfield, Tyrconnel, and the other officers; and the result was a message to William, in reply to his demand for a surrender, to the effect, that they hoped to merit his good opinion better by a vigorous defence of the fortress, which had been committed to them by their master, than by a shameful capitulation.

By a skilfully executed and rapid march, Sarsfield contrived to intercept William's artillery on the Keeper Mountains, and after killing the escort, bursting the guns, and blowing up the ammunition, he returned in triumph to Limerick. His success animated the besieged, and infuriated the besiegers. But the walls of Limerick were not as stout as the brave hearts of its defenders. William sent for more artillery to Waterford; and it was found that two of the guns which Sarsfield had attempted to destroy, were still available.

The trenches were opened on the 17th of August. On the 20th the garrison made a vigorous sortie, and retarded the enemy's progress; but on the 24th the batteries were completed, and a murderous fire of red-hot shot and shells was poured into the devoted city. The trenches were carried within a few feet of the palisades, on the 27th; and a breach having been made in the wall near St. John's Gate, William ordered the assault to commence. The storming party were supported by ten thousand men. For three hours a deadly struggle was maintained. The result seemed doubtful, so determined was the bravery evinced on each side. Boisseleau, the Governor, had not been unprepared, although he was taken by surprise, and had opened a murderous cross-fire on the assailants when first they attempted the storm.

The conflict lasted for nearly three hours. The Brandenburg regiment had gained the Black Battery, when the Irish sprung a mine, and men, faggots, and stones were blown up in a moment. A council of war was held; William, whose temper was not the most amiable at any time, was unusually morose. He had lost 2,000 men between the killed and the wounded, and he had not taken the city, which a French General had pronounced attainable with "roasted apples." On Sunday, the 31st of August, the siege was raised. William returned to England, where his presence was imperatively demanded. The military command was confided to the Count de Solmes, who was afterwards succeeded by De Ginkell; the civil government was intrusted to Lord Sidney, Sir Charles Porter, and Mr. Coningsby.