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This account was first brought to our notice by Dr C.J. Woods, formerly of the RIA.
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Created: By Gédéon Bonnivert (16511703) a Williamite soldier. Date range: 19 June to 13 July 1690.
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Among the published material it is difficult to find detailed accounts of the Jacobite War. Works like Dumont de Bostaquet's Mémoires inédits, Berwick's Mémoires, Schomberg's Diary, the Journal of Mullenaux, and Parker's Memoirs, give on the whole scanty detail. The signal exception to this statement is the remarkably important Journal of John Stevens, which has been published by the Clarendon Press. The few unpublished records resemble the published, in the lack of precise information. Thus Ensign Cramond's Diary (Add. 29878, Brit. Mus.) gives no details of importance. It has no title, but begins The Route of Colonel Wauchope's Regiment beginning the 15th of October, 1688. Cramond served in the Low Countries and in Ireland from 1688 to 1691, but was clearly a man of action and nothing else. His diary follows immediately after the details of the number of miles marched each day; and at the end of the slim volume there are money accounts. There are thirty-seven written leaves in it, besides almost the same number that are blank. Bonnivert's Journal (1033, Sloane MSS., Brit. Mus.) is somewhat more satisfactory, though it is also deficient in detail. It occupies only twelve written leaves, besides one leaf of drawings and two of medical receipts. It has no title. Both these diaries were obviously kept in the pockets of their owners. Cramond's diary measures 6 1/4 x 3 inches, and Bonnivert's 5 7/8 x 3 1/2 inches.
Gédéon Bonnivert was the son of Paschall and Judith Bonnivert of Sedan, in Champagne.1 He was probably a Huguenot, and on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 he succeeded in coming to England. Some of his papers, in prose and verse, are preserved in the British Museum. It is evident that he was an enthusiastic scientist. Among the Sloane manuscripts there are a treatise on the elements of geometry and fortification, with
p.332diagrams (993), a notice of the comets of 1680 and 1682 (1030, f. 123), and curious receipts for several diseases (1001, ff. 3257). From 1673 to 1683 he kept a series of commonplace-books. One is in French (1028), one is in English and French (1036), while two are in Latin (1030 and 1031). These are really rough note-books, especially 1036, which is scarcely decipherable. At the beginning of 1028 there is a quotation over the signature Gédéon Bonnivert, Quidquid agas, prudenter agas et respice finem. There are other quotations, extracts, and short stories in this manuscript. Some of them are De l'âme humaine, homicide, De Libertate, Agamemnon, Bath, ville fort ancienne dans le province de Somerset. Another paper is entitled L'A. B. C. du Monde (1009, f. 199): it seems to be a catalogue of the names of places with short descriptive matter. The first name given is Aarak in Persia, while the last is Cagliari in Sardinia.
The letters, preserved in MSS. 4036, 4039, and 4058, he wrote show how great was his love of botany. Unlike the people of his day, he cared much for the beauties of nature, though this feeling is seldom to be noticed in English literature till the days of Thomas Gray. Spenser and Shakespeare are not the poets of outward nature in the sense that Wordsworth is. Both Jonson and Fletcher have written much that is beautiful in the way of nature-poetry, and in this connexion Milton cannot be forgotten. William Browne, the Puritan Wither, Robert Herrick, Andrew Marvell, and Sir John Denham sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers. Speaking of Thomson, Wordsworth says that it is remarkable that, excepting the Nocturnal Reverie of Lady Winchelsea, and a passage or two in the Windsor Forest of Pope, the poetry of the period between the publication of the Paradise Lost and the Seasons does not contain a single new image of external nature, and scarcely presents a familiar one from which it can be inferred that the eye of the poet had been steadily fixed upon his object, much less that his feelings had urged him to work upon it in the spirit of genuine imagination.
Bonnivert was an eager botanist, as well as a lover of nature. To an unknown correspondent he writes: I must own the plant which did so long puzzle me is Gramen Parnassi; but who the devil is the man that knows no more simples than I, (how) could (he) have looked for that plant amongst the Gramina.2 This illegibly dated letter gives an interesting account of his botanical rambles in Oxfordshire. As a soldier he marched from place to place; and in the course of his walks about Dorchester he found rare plants.
p.333Here he suffered from gout, and the last blood that was taken away from me had no serum at all, and was in a manner burnt to ashes. Many of his letters are written to the famous Hans Sloane, and there is one letter, dated October 15th, 1696, from the latter to Bonnivert. Sloane's botanical zeal was not disinterested, for he begs his correspondent to remember where this (plant) was found by you, for it was a true truffle such as makes the delicious dishes.3 On the 23rd no month is given 1696, Bonnivert tells Sloane, I found4 here in a bog at the left-hand, going to Kate Sutton, a plant I never saw before, and I cannot find it described in Mr. Ray's synopsis; and then follows a careful description.5 From a letter of September 4th, 1702, it is evident that his regiment had been suddenly ordered to Dublin. It goes on to speak of some money he owes Dr. Sloane, then describes his journey across the channel, telling how they were driven in to the Isle of Man. He speaks of a creeper growing on the walls of the houses in Ramsey.6
A letter of June 24, 1703, records his transfer to Cork.7 In it he urges his friend Dr. Sloane to be so kind as to go to my Lord Dorset to whom I write to-night about this matter, and press him to go immediately to the Queen and get that post for me, for fear any other goes before. Nobody hardly knows of it but I and another. Don't mention nothing to my Coll. of it by reason he hath so many hangers about him it would spoil all. I leave to your discretion and often-tried friendship to manage the matter. On August 3, 1703, he again writes from Cork to Sloane, but there is no reference to the post he sought.8 He mentions the fact that the Duke of Ormonde was very civil to him. He observes a curious piece of architecture in Limerick, speaks of the silver mines there, and finds a pretty geranium growing on the walls of that city. He also talks of the Giant's Steps about six miles from Cork,9 and alludes to his probable departure for Portugal. From his letter to Sloane on September 29, 1703, his destination was changed to Limerick, and in it he discusses his father-in-law's business affairs.10
One point in the diary calls for comment. According to Bonnivert the bad weather caused the raising of the first siege of Limerick. On the other hand, the Duke of Berwick writes, I can affirm that not a single drop of rain fell for above a month before or for three weeks after.11 Thus, according to
p.334this authority, no rain fell for over ten weeks. Though Corporal Trim was not an exact historian, there is no reason for disbelieving his recollection of the state of the weather. His description of the siege seems to have been taken by Sterne from an old soldier who had been present: We were scarce able to crawl out of our tents at the time the siege of Limerick was raised, and had it not been for the quantity of brandy we set fire to every night, and the claret and cinnamon and Geneva with which we plied ourselves, we had both left our lives in the trenches. The city of Limerick, the siege of which was begun under His Majesty King William himself, lies in the midst of a devilish wet, swampy country; it is surrounded with the Shannon, and is, by its situation, one of the strongest fortified places in Ireland; it is all cut through with drains and bogs; and besides, there was such a quantity of rain fell during the siege, the whole country was like a puddle. Now, there was no such thing after the first ten days, as for a soldier to lie dry in his tent, without cutting a ditch round it to draw off the water; nor was that enough for those who could afford it without setting fire every night to a pewter dish full of brandy, which took off the damp of the air and made the inside of the tent as warm as a stove.
The Duke of Berwick's statement is flatly contradicted by John Stevens, who was a Jacobite officer serving in the besieged town. On the 29th of August he writes: The night was extreme cold, dark and rainy.12 The 3rd of September was appointed a general day of review for the garrison in the King's Island, but the weather proving extreme foul, it was put off.13 The entry of the 29th shows in what sense he uses the word foul, for there he writes that the weather began to grow foul with extreme rain. Story records that a storm of rain and other bad weather began to threaten us, which fell out on Friday the 29th in good earnest, upon which his Majesty calling a Council of War, it was concluded the safest way was to quit the siege.14 Dumont de Bostaquet, an eye-witness Like Story, says that before the siege was raised, because la pluie avoit tombé en telle abondance que je ne doutai pas que j'aurois de la peine a la passer or du moins au retour15 from one side of the Shannon to the other. Captain Maupas informed Dumont son guide craignoit que la rivière ne grossît et qu'elle ne fût plus guéable. ... La pluie continuant violemment nous fit une peine extrême, le terrain étoit gras, les chevaux ne pouvoient tenir pied, et les cavaliers aimoient mieux être à cheval que pied à terre: la pluie continua toute la journée.16 In the Clarke correspondence17 occurs the significant statement:
p.335I wish the inclemency of the weather does not incommode the progress of the siege of Limerick.
Williamite and Jacobite authorities agree that rain fell. The question that now awaits an answer is, why did Berwick state the contrary? He was so young that he gained no honour at the siege. Moreover, he was jealous of Sarsfield; and had he emphasized the fact that rain had fallen, it would have dimmed the glory of his rival. Berwick married Sarsfield's widow, and his Memoirs attest his devotion to her. Perhaps his love of his wife made him resolve that he would not lower the reputation of her first husband. For there is little doubt that the importance of the capture and destruction of the cannon at Ballyneety has been exaggerated; it is the only outstanding exploit on the Jacobite side.
The perplexing problem then occurs that a person who from the nature of the case must have known the truth does not tell it, even though it favours him. It is not, however, without parallel. When Napoleon occupied Moscow it was burnt. The Governor of Moscow, Count Rostopchin, at the time boasted that he had fired the town. Many years afterwards, when an exile from Russia, he denied that he had ordered the conflagration. Which is to be believed, his early affirmation or his subsequent denial?
I came out of London the 6th of June, 1690, and lay at St. Alban's. We were to guard five carriages loaded with 250 thousand pounds for the pay of the army m Ireland.
Saturday the 7th we went to Newport Pagnell, where a troop of dragoons relieved us. We tarried there till Monday following, then we went to Daventry. Tuesday we went to Coissell. Wednesday to Stafford the party went, but I left 'em by the way and went to meet a friend of mine at Lichfield. About four miles this side of Cosswell there is a stone bridge full of the plant called maiden hair.
Thursday I met the party at Nantwich. Within three miles of that place is a very fine house belonging to Sir Thomas Delf, with a very fine pool full of all wild fowls. You may take notice of a carp that was taken there three quarters of a yard and odd inches long, which is set up as a weather cock at the top of the house Friday we came to Chester, the chief town of
p.336the county. Generally Cheshire is a very fine county for corn and grass, which, being intermixed with fine woods, render it very pleasant to the eyes, Chester is a very large town of great trade, it being the sea port town,18 though the ships come no nearer on than sixteen miles at a place called Hoylake, there the river Dee runs by its walls, and it has a pretty strong though small castle.
Sir (John) Morgan19 is now Governor of that place. The two main streets of Chester have covered walks where you may walk at the hottest sun free from heat, and in wet weather sheltered from rain; their shops are underneath these walks.20 Round about the walls of the city you may walk upon large stones, and have a prospect of the town and country. Hoylake is the sea port, and has but two houses beside the King's store house. We stayed there from Monday in the evening (of) the 16th, till Tuesday at eight in the morning, then we embarked our horses, and us selves, we hoisted our sail about three in the afternoon, with the tide, but with a contrary wind, which made us ply to and fro all that day. About ten in the night no wind stirring we cast anchor till two in the morning.
All the day after we had no wind, and our ship was only carried by the tide.
Thursday we fished most of the day, and took a great many gurnets and whitings, the sea being in a great calm. That day we left Cumberland behind us, and endeavoured to reach the Isle of Man, but could not. In the night time, the wind arising, and pretty favourable for our voyage, we left the Isle of Man at our left hand, and we discovered the coasts of Scotland at our right hand, which they call Galloway; and Friday being the 19th, we came between three islands and a town called Donaghadee, which is a market town, and seems a pretty good one. We left it at our right, and Copeland Islands at our left. We saw after that, at our left, the village called Bangor, which is but a small one, but very fit for vessels to come to the very sides of it; both sides are very rocky. That small village is famous for Duke Schomberg landing there with the forces under his command.21 Upon your right you
p.337see the Castle of Carrickfergus, which is a strong place; we took it last year, and lost no great quantity of men. We landed at the White House, where we saw on our arrival great numbers of poor people. The women are not very shy of exposing to men's eyes those parts which are usual for the sex to hide.22 We went that night to Belfast, which is a large and pretty town, and all along the road you see an arm of the sea upon your left, and on the right great high rocky mountains, which tops are often hidden by the clouds, and at the bottom a very pleasant wood, and very full of simples23 of all sorts.
The town is a sea port. There is in it the king's custom house, and you see hard by it a very long stone bridge, which is not yet finished. The town is compassed round about it with hills. The people very civil, and there is also a great house belonging to my Lord Donegal,24 Lord Chief Justice, with very fine gardens, and groves of ash trees. The inhabitants speak very good English. We stayed there two days and three nights, and we went from thence on Tuesday, being the 23rd of June, to Lisburn, where there is a great house and good gardens belonging now to my Lady Mulgrave;25 it was left her with the whole estate, which amounts to £14,000 per annum, by my Lord Conway; the house is out of repair. There is a market kept there on that day.
Wednesday, the 24th, we set forth betimes in the morning, resolving to join our army, which was then encamped at Loughbickland. We passed by Hillsborough, a great house belonging to the king, standing on a hill on the lefthand of the road, and from thence we went to Dromore, hard by that place is the Bishop's house. The success answered our expectation, though we had a very hard and troublesome day's work. At our arrival our friends shewed joy in their faces to see us come amongst them, and each of us went to his respective tent.
Thursday, the 26th of June, we marched at two of the clock in the morning, and went over the high hills to Newry. It is not to be imagined how strong naturally many passages are that way; and besides that, many strong though small forts made by King James, which made me admire many
p.338times what should have made him quit those passages,26 which might have ruined most part of our army with the loss but of few of his own. That day was the first of my seeing the King riding in Irish Land, and he had then on an orange colour sash. We crossed the river at Newry, which was formerly a strong place, but now burnt and destroyed, and encamped upon the side of a hill, where water was very scarce. We left Dundalk on our left hand it stands by the sea, and we encamped in very rugged ground. There, as soon as we had order to dismount, I left my horse to shift for himself, and I, tired with heat and want of drink, fell fast asleep for the space of four hours. Awaked as I was afterwards, I looked for my horse, but no horse to be found in short, I went up and down for about four hours longer ere I could hear any tidings of him. Night was approaching; we were nigh the enemy, and were looking every minute to be commanded to horse, but being in this agony, as God would have it, I spied, upon the side of a bank, my saddle all in pieces. I soon after found my gentleman too, but, however, it was not without great trouble. Therefore, I advise all horsemen in such case never to part with his horse, but if he falls asleep tie the reins fast to his arm. The Inniskilling Dragoons came there to us. They are but middle-sized men, but they are, nevertheless, brave fellows. I have seen 'em, like masty dogs, run against bullets.27
Saturday, the 28th, we were taken fifteen men out of each squadron to go with a detachment of 1,200 to Ardagh,28 where we heard the late King's army was; the rest of our army stayed behind till the Sunday following. Just as we came within sight of the town, we saw the dust rise like a cloud upon the highway beyond it. It was the enemy's arrière garde scouring away with all speed. Some dragoons were detached to follow them, who brought back two or three prisoners and many heads of cattle. We encamped this side of the town the Saturday, and the Sunday after our army coming to us we marched on the other side of the river, where we encamped by a corn-field by a small ruined village. The town of Ardagh is seated in a very pleasant soil, and has
p.339been a fine and strong borough, as one may see by the great towers still extant. King James made there very strong works, as if he would have made it a place to withstand our army; and indeed it is a strong-seated town, being in a plain having a river of one side, and boggy of the other. Monday, the last of June, we marched towards Drogheda, where the enemy were, and we came within sight of the town at nine in the morning. There we drew up our horse in three lines, and came in order of battle upon the brow of a long hill. There we saw the enemy, and were so near them we could hear one another speak, there being nothing but the river between us. As we were drawn up we had order to dismount, and every man stand by his horse's head. We had not been there long; but some of the King's Regiment of Dragoons were detached, and sent to line the river side. So they began to shoot at the enemy, and those of King James's army at 'em. They had not been long at that sport when the king, passing by the first troop of Guards, the enemy fired two small guns at him. One of the bullets greased the king's coat;29 then they played on till three of the clock upon us, and shot often men and horses. One Mr. William, of the Third Troop of Guard, had his arm shot. Some of the Dutch troop were killed and wounded. Indeed 'twas a madness to expose so many good men to the slaughter without need, for we had no artillery yet come to answer theirs, ours not commencing till three in the afternoon. We did retire confusedly behind the hill at the sight of the enemy, when it might have been better managed. King James made that day a review of his army. We had a great mind to force a passage through the river to go to them, but we left it till next morning. At three in the afternoon our artillery came up, an begun to play upon theirs stoutly. Then the enemy showed they had many other batteries besides the first. They played upon one another till night; then we retired about a mile sideways.
Next morning we were up at two of the clock, and we marched to gain a passage two miles of about five in the morning. The passage was a very steep hill, and a shallow river at the bottom that leaded into a very fine plain.30 As we came there we found a party of the enemy with four or five pieces of artillery ready to receive us;31 but that did not daunt our men; they went down briskly, notwithstanding their continual fire upon us. The Grenadiers and Dragoons were first of the other side, and we soon followed them; but the enemy made haste away with their cannon. We drew up in battle as we came in the plain, and marched directly towards the place
p.340appointed for the battle.32 After some hours we saw the enemy coming down a turning between two hills, which we knew by the rising of the dust; and by and by they shew themselves in their best colours, for they drew up upon a line only, and our army was upon three. We looked upon one another who should come first; but at last, we seeing that their foot and baggage was running away, and that the king had engaged their right way, we marched towards them over ditches and trenches. They presently retired upon a mountain behind a little town called Duleek, where they fired three or four pieces at us. We killed abundance of their men, and pursued the rest till nine of the clock, that we overtaking them, and having too hotly pursued them, were almost upon them, when they facing about made as if they had been willing to receive us; but we having left our foot and cannon behind, and considering how late it was, made halt. They fired for an hour and half small shot very thick upon us, for they had hid partly in bushes. At last our cannon came and played smartly upon them, till the night coming they retired, and so did we, we laying in the plow'd lands, and had no tents. That day we lost Duke Schomberg and Dr. Walker, Governor of Londonderry. They were killed in forcing the passage. The king himself passed that way. Next day we stayed encamped in that place, and there was a popish gentleman's house plundered by us.
Thursday being the 3rd of July, we came near a fine house belonging to a papist where we encamped, and where I fell sick of a violent fever and an extreme fit of the gout in the same time. I was sent to Dublin, where I stayed till Saturday, the 12th, that I went in the company of the adjutant-general of the Danish forces to rejoin our army. That day I went to Kilcullen-bridge, sixteen long miles from Dublin. I passed through the Naas, a good, big borough. At Kilcullen-bridge, I found our army encamped, and there we stayed one night, and the next day we marched but eight mile. There, my sickness continuing, or indeed rather increasing, I was forced to go to Castledermot; it has been the seat of some of the kings of Leinster, but now is a poor beggarly town, though in a very pretty plain. Eight miles beyond it upon the highway is the burying place of the kings of Leinster, and there you may see the vaults still full of bones, and some old inscriptions upon large stones.33 Our army went before Waterford and, after the town was surrendered, the king went to lay the siege before Limerick, whilst General Douglas34 was gone to
p.341endeavour with part of our army to take Athlone, but he had no better success there than our men at Limerick, where, through the ill-management of Captain Poultney, who, having had the conduct of eight big pieces of artillery and several other provisions, unadvisedly ordered his detachment to unbridle and turn the horses to grass, for Sarsfield having notice of this fell upon 'em with a very considerable party and cut most of the men to pieces,35 took the cannon, nailed them, burned the carriages and all the ammunitions, and so caused by so long a delay, and the weather growing had, to raise the siege. The king, having left that place, with the loss of many men, took shipping for England. Not long after my Lord Marlborough came from England with 8,000 men, and besieged Cork; he was not long before it, for it was soon taken, but we had a great loss by the Duke of Grafton,36 who died a few days after of a wound in his side, before Kinsale. After the raising of the siege of Limerick, I came along with our troop, thinking (as the order was then) to have gone for England, but after my staying the matter of three months, I went to Lurgan, in the north of Ireland, and was quartered between Litsenagarry37 and Lurgan in the parish of Ballinderry.