The Siege of Galway


At this juncture, Denis Daly, of Carrownekelly, in the county of Galway, esq. second justice of the court of common pleas, and one of the privy counsellors of James II despatched a messenger to general Ginkel, desiring that a party might be sent for him, who should seemingly force him from his habitation; a circumstance which he conceived would lead to a more speedy surrender of the town. It seems that this gentleman, whose distinguished worth and integrity had gained him the confidence and esteem of all parties, had, with the other principal gentlemen of the county, for several months previous to the battle of Aughrim, held a correspondence with the English government, for the submission and general pacification of this part of the kingdom; to effect which, he proposed, amongst other things, the surrender of Galway. He had measures pre-concerted with a few of the principal inhabitants of the town for the purpose, who, clearly foreseeing that resistance would be useless, had privately authorized the proposal, promising all their assistance to have the town delivered up, and that on stipulated terms, much more advantageous than those subsequently obtained by capitulation. Matters being so arranged, a party of the English army had, in the preceding winter, marched as far as the Shannon, on their way towards Galway; but the French party having, in the mean time, gained the entire ascendancy of the town, the project failed. On the present occasion, however, judge Daly conceived that the apparent forcible seizure of his person would induce those with whom he had formerly negotiated, (and by whose assent he had made the undertaking to government,) to excite a party in the town who would insist on a surrender, to prevent the useless effusion of human blood: but in this he was also disappointed, for the French faction still prevailed; and though some of the magistrates and many of the townsmen were for surrendering, several of them were imprisoned for declaring their intentions. The defence of the town was therefore, as already mentioned, determined upon; and Ginkel, encouraged by the information of Shaw, at length resolved to besiege it.

This resolution was, however, considered by some as too premature: the summer was now advanced, and Limerick, the principal strength and dependence of the nation, was yet to be reduced. The capture of Galway, it was considered, would immediately follow that of Limerick, or, should it even hold out that it would be more easily taken by a winter siege than that important place, which, the year before, had defeated the English army, commanded by the king in person. It was, therefore, concluded that it would be more advisable to station sufficient forces in Athenry, Loughrea, and the other neighbouring towns and positions, to keep the garrison of Galway in awe, and, with the main body of the army, while it was fresh and flushed with victory, immediately to lay siege to Limerick. The general, however, more prudently reflected on the danger of leaving so considerable a place as Galway behind him, which, although the garrison was then weak, might be reinforced by Balldearg O'Donnell, or by French troops which were daily expected in the bay, and thereby become too powerful for his army, which had already been considerably reduced. For these reasons, he resolved to lose no time in commencing the siege, and made every necessary preparation for the purpose. He immediately informed the lords justices of his determination; and they dispatched an express to captain Cole, commander of a squadron then cruising about the mouth of the Shannon, to sail with all expedition to Galway; and empowered him to offer conditions, in case the town should make proposals; but he did not arrive until after its surrender, and was then ordered to return to his former station.

While these preparations were making for the siege, the town was equally active in preparing for defence. The French began to repair the fortified works on the hill; the town's-people were employed on the fort, near the south-east corner of the wall; several strong works were thrown up to defend the east gate, and all the cabins and hedges round the suburbs were levelled. Within the walls eight guns were planted on the upper citadel; near it was a platform of six, and eight or ten more were raised at the south-east corner. Upon the turret, which stood towards the middle of the long curtain that extended next the bay, there were two, and on the side next the river five more, which, with those planted towards the west and north, made about fifty pieces of cannon. Many of these, however, were old and ill-mounted; some of the best guns belonging to the town having shortly before been taken away for other urgent services, and several fine brass pieces lay dismounted and useless in the streets. Although there was a considerable store of provisions, a great quantity of meal, salt, and other additional supplies, was brought from the shipping in the bay. Before the movement of the army towards the town commenced, a party of horse, commanded by the famous colonel Lutterel, attempting to approach and assist the town, was met by a body of cavalry posted at Kilcolgan, and forced to retire. The Irish commanders also attempted to throw in reinforcements across the bay from the county of Clare; and upon the appearance of captain Morgan, with a party under his command, they were prevented, after a skirmish in which three or four men were killed and eight taken prisoners. These disappointments however, did not dishearten the town but rather stimulated all its exertions, and every preparation was made to defend it to the last extremity.

On the morning of the 19th July, the English forces, consisting of upwards of fourteen thousand men, chiefly infantry, marched from Athenry for Galway. The remainder of the army, consisting of three thousand horse and dragoons, was left there under the command of lieutenant-general Scravenmore and major-general Ruvigny, as well for the convenience of forage, and securing the passes for the cannon intended to be sent for to Athlone, (should the siege prove tedious,) as for observing the motion of the Irish forces. The troops advanced in two columns, with a rearguard of one hundred men to each wing, commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, and each regiment preceded by a captain, ensign, and fifty firelocks. They met with no opposition in their approach, until they arrived within view of the town, when some skirmishes took place between the advanced posts and parties of the French and Irish forces. The latter set fire to the castle Tirellan, to prevent the enemy making any use of it against the town, and retained the possession of the outworks of the castle, until they were driven from them by the repeated attacks of a superior force; after which they approached the town by the river, and burned all the suburbs beyond the north-west gate. In these skirmishes several of the English were killed. The Irish troops then entered the town amid loud acclamations, and the besieged manifested every intention of making the most vigorous resistance. Ginkel not expecting such immediate and determined opposition, as soon as a part of the army was drawn up as near the town as he could approach with safety, judged it prudent to summon the garrison to surrender. He offered them the benefit of the lords justices' late declaration, if they yielded without giving him any further trouble or delay; but the governor made answer, "that Monsieur D'Ussone, as well as himself, and the rest of the officers, were resolved to defend the place to the last." While the messenger remained in town, the soldiery impatient for action, discharged several shots from the cannon on the walls, which was afterwards complained of as unusual, and contrary to the rules of war, but it appeared the men were not aware of the communication. The remainder of the day was occupied in fixing the positions of the army round the town, during which the cannonading continued from the walls, though it was attended but with very little effect, in consequence of the favourable situation of the ground chosen by the besiegers. As soon as it was dark, the four regiments of colonel Tiffins, St. John, Monsieur Cambons and lord George Hamilton, with one Dutch and another Danish regiment of foot, and four squadrons of horse and dragoons, all commanded by lieutenant-general Mackay, crossed the river nearly opposite the castle of Menlo, about two miles north of the town. They were all safely over by break of day, and met with no opposition except from a party of dragoons sent to oppose their landing, which, being overpowered by superior numbers, was obliged, after a severe skirmish, to retreat. This formidable detachment (which was wafted over on floats previously constructed, but without success, to seize the only three ships that remained in the bay, and which sailed that night) occupied all the passes from Iar-Connaught, and put an end to any further hopes of succour from Balldearg O'Donnell. This disappointment was followed by another, resulting from the treachery of one Bourke, a captain in the Irish army, who deserted, before the English were many hours before the town, and informed general Ginkel that the fort towards the south-east was nearly finished; and, therefore, the sooner it was attacked, the easier it would be gained: he also added, that, from its importance, as it commanded a great part of the wall on that side of the town, its loss would considerably dispirit the besieged.

It surrenders on articles

The next morning, July 20th, count Nassau and general Talmash, with a party of grenadiers and two regiments of foot, were conducted, by Bourke, the safest and nearest direction to attack the fort, and the troops arrived almost at the foot of the works before they were discovered. This unexpected attack, having caused considerable confusion within, the English pushed forward through some faint firings, and threw in their grenades, which obliged the soldiers to abandon the fort, and retire by a line of communication drawn between it and the town. - In this action the English had only a lieutenant and men killed, and but two lieutenants and eight men wounded. As soon as they entered the fort, a tremendous fire was opened on them from the walls, by which several were killed and wounded, particularly their principal engineer, who fell as he was giving orders to his men. In the meantime the west suburbs were set on fire, to prevent their being possessed by the troops that crossed the river, and the besieged still showed in every quarter the most determined resolution of resistance. But at that moment the principal inhabitants, who were inclined to surrender, waited on the governor, and, representing the impossibility of maintaining the town against such an army, make use of every argument to persuade him to enter into a treaty. Their councils at length prevailed, and at the hour of ten o'clock he ordered a parley to be beat, and despatched a letter to the English commander, requiring safe conduct for some persons to manage a capitulation. This welcome message was gladly received by the general; a satisfactory answer was immediately returned, and a cessation accordingly proclaimed on both sides. The town's-people and soldiers crowded in great numbers to the walls, and the English troops having approached near enough to hold conversation, several inquiries passed for friends and acquaintance in each other's army. In the afternoon hostages were exchanged: those on the side of the English were lieutenant-colonel Purcell, Coote, and the marquis de Rheda and those of the town, lieutenant-colonels Lynch, Burke and Reilly. The articles not being agreed to on that day the cessation was continued until ten o'clock the following morning. In the mean time, several debates took place in the town on the terms to be obtained and given; but the hour limited having arrived before they were able to agree, Ginkel became impatient, and having ordered eight guns and four mortars to be drawn to the fort, which was taken the day before, he sent a drummer to the town to order away his hostages; and, although the besieged demanded and obtained more time to agree among themselves, his impatience was so great, that he sent once or twice to press them to a speedy conclusion. At length lieutenant-colonel Burke, one of the hostages, was permitted to go into town; and Talmash, who evinced every inclination to lay the treaty aside, and even made some cold-blooded declarations that it would be preferable to attempt the town by storm, desired that, "when they were ready to begin again, they would give a signal by firing a gun in the air"; but the other replied, "they would not fire a gun from within until they were provoked from without." In a short time after, on the 21st July, the articles were agreed to, signed and exchanged by general Ginkel, on the part of the English, and by the lords Clanricarde, Dillon and Enniskillen, on the part of the besieged. Of these articles, being sixteen in number, the principal were, that the town was to be surrendered on the following Sunday, the 26th of July. The French officers and soldiers, and such of the garrison as wished it, to be conducted to Limerick. A free pardon to be granted to all within the town, with liberty to possess their estates, real and personal, and all other liberties and immunities which they held, or ought to have held, under the acts of settlement and explanation. The clergy and laity were to be unmolested in the private exercise of their religion, and the clergy protected in their persons and goods. The gentlemen of estates belonging to the town and garrisons to carry certain arms, and the Roman Catholic lawyers of the town were to have free liberty of practice, as in the reign of Charles II.

Immediately after the articles were signed, the governor gave the earl of Clanricarde, lord Enniskillen, colonel Dominick Browne, lieutenant-colonel Bodkin and major Dillon, as hostages for the due performance of the terms to be observed, until the town should be delivered up. William Robinson, deputy paymaster of the army, was thereupon sent in to take an account of the stores, which were found to consist of eight hundred and fifty hogsheads of French meal, sixty barrels of salt, a considerable quantity of ammunition, and other articles of value. In the afternoon of the same day the English troops took possession of the outworks, and the governor dismounted the cannon on the walls. A friendly intercourse subsisted between both armies and their commanders until the time for surrendering arrived; and about seven o'clock on the morning of the 26th, general D'Ussone went out to the English camp, where he stayed about half an hour, and then proceeded with a guard to Limerick. Sir Henry Bellasyse being appointed governor of the town, marched in with his own, colonel Brewer's and colonel Herbert's regiments, and about nine o'clock took possession of the guards, and planted his sentinels on all the posts in and about the town. While the town forces were preparing to march out, a quantity of gunpowder, which a party of them was dividing in the street, suddenly exploded, by which several of the men had their eyes blown out, and upwards of twenty were dreadfully wounded and disfigured. This accident at first caused some confusion, the soldiers on each side immediately suspecting that they mutually intended to fall on one another; but, as soon as the cause was ascertained, these apprehensions ceased. About ten o'clock lord Dillon marched out with the garrison, not being above two thousand five hundred men, (who are described as indifferently armed, and worse clothed,) having according to the articles, six pieces of cannon, (four of which were of iron,) drawn by English horses. They were also conducted to Limerick by a guard of horse and dragoons, and the same day, at noon, General Ginkel entered the town, and was received by the mayor, aldermen and recorder; the latter having delivered a congratulatory speech on the occasion.

When the news of the capitulation of Galway arrived in England, it gave infinite satisfaction to the queen and ministry, and the articles were soon after ratified by their majesties. The event was perpetuated by a medal, on which is represented a bust of the king crowned with laurel, and inscribed with his usual titles. On the top of the reverse are the arms of Galway fixed against two palm branches, placed on saltire between a cap and a bible, the emblem of liberty and religion. The bottom is ornamented with two laurel branches twined together, and the area of the field filled with the following inscription:-" Galloway rebellium et Gallorum penultimum refugium, post plurimas strages Gulielmo III. magno restitutori religionis et libertatis, cim armamentariis simul ac navibus redditur. "-Galway, the last refuge but one of the rebels and the French, is, after much slaughter, surrendered, with all its magazines and ships, to the great William III. the restorer of religion and liberty."