The Siege of Limerick

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VI | Start of Chapter

Then Ginckel laid siege to the city of Limerick, and the siege proved one of the most famous events in the story of Ireland. Limerick was defended by Patrick Sarsfield, an Irish Catholic of rank, one of the bravest and best soldiers of his day. The odds were heavily against him, but he held out to the last, and every hour's resistance made it more important for William that the victory should be secured at any cost, or that the besieging army should be set free on any terms to carry on his wars in other fields.

William had just then more important work to engage his attention. He saw that a struggle against the increasing power of France would have to be undertaken by England before long, and that the army with which Ginckel was then surrounding Limerick would have to take an important share in it. The victory of William's forces in Ireland had already been virtually accomplished. The defeat of James II. at the Boyne had made it certain that the Stuart cause had no chance of success. While the siege of Limerick was going on, it was already becoming clear to William and his advisers that it meant the absorption of a large English force in a campaign which, however it ended, could make no real difference in the fortunes of the war. Ginckel made an energetic effort to enter into terms with Sarsfield for the surrender of the city. Sarsfield and those around him would listen to no proposals for surrender which did not contain a pledge of civil and religious liberty for the Irish people. Ginckel saw no alternative but to accept the conditions demanded. He accepted a treaty which contained an article providing that the Catholics of Ireland should enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as had been conceded to them before the struggle set in between James II. and William of Orange. Also, that a Parliament was to be summoned in Ireland by King William to procure for the Irish Catholics all such security as might be necessary to guarantee them against further penalties on account of their Faith.