We first fought this battle well over 10 years ago and I distinctly remember what a difficult job it was for the Williamites to make any headway against what was a fairly strong defensive position. On this occasion the dice decided I took the part of St Ruth rather than Ginkel. When I surveyed the position from the opposite side I began to appreciate that although strong, the position did have some weaknesses, particularly on the right flank.
On the left centre, in front of the main position were placed two units of rapparees ((belonging to Hugh O'Donnel and Michael Hogan). Their task was to hinder the advance of the attack by the English foot.
The battle started with a desultory artillery exchange, with the soft ground absorbing most of the shot. The whole Williamite force moved forward, with the English foot and to their left the Huguenots, struggling forward across the boggy ground and the marshy stream. The ground conditions slowed them down considerably and disordered their ranks. The English foot then came in musket range of the Hugh O'Donnel's men. The Irishmen's volley added to the confusion and the officers struggled to maintain order. Another volley was fired by the Irish and to this was added fire from artillery on the ridge. With battalions stacking up behind the 8th (Beaumont's) were ordered to clear the way. The colonel requested more time, but behind him the men of Kirke's were in no mood to stand under fire and pushed the leading battalion aside.
To their left, a second column was being led by Trelawney's (the 4th Foot) was also crossing the stream. They were not under artillery fire and although receiving a volley from Hogan's rapparees they continued to advance, reformed and then fired a volley of their own.
This inflicted heavy casualties on the Irishmen, who not waiting for the command, turned and ran for the security of the main defensive position. O'Donnel's men were waiting to deliver more pain on Kirke's as they crossed the stream, but, to their left a battery of guns had moved forward and soon found the range. As his men were killed and wounded about him, O'Donnel decided that discretion dictated he withdraw before the fury of the English reached him.
The Huguenot's were also struggling to cross the stream. They too were under artillery fire and the lead unit of grenadiers suffered heavy casualties. One unit strayed into a marsh and whilst trying to regain some semblance of order suffered the attention of the Jacobite gunners.
On the Jacobite left some dragoons had probed forward to cover an advance of the Williamite cavalry. They discovered a ruined castle garrisoned by infantry and the narrow causeways covered by light artillery. Beyond the stream lay cavalry ready to attack any units disordered by crossing the obstacles. Ginkel, seeing the strength of the position, began to move his cavalry towards his centre.
St Ruth was content with events to his left and front, but his right was causing him some concern. A solid phalanx of Dutch and Danish foot was approaching and in their way was a solitary unit of grenadiers. To the right of the Dutch and Danes were cavalry and they too were looking for a crossing over the stream.
The artillery attached to the grenadiers was finding it difficult to find the range, the soft ground was absorbing shot and not allowing 'bounce through'. As the lead units of the allied advance splashed through the stream they came within musket range and the grenadiers took to their task. Leading the attack were the Dutch Guards and in spite of heavy casualties they crossed the stream, halted and then fired a volley which killed most of the gunners in the supporting artillery battery. Those who survived took to their heels and left the field. To the left of the Dutch Guards were the Danish Guards. As they crossed the stream they were charged by the lead squadron of Sarsfield's cavalry. This was a rash decision by Sarsfield, perhaps he thought the Danes were unformed by the stream, or the speed of the attack would reduce the effectiveness of any defensive volley. The result was carnage. Reserving their fire, the Danes waited until the cavalry were almost on them and then fired a volley which destroyed the front rank of horsemen and quite a few in the second. Although leading the charge, Sarsfield managed to survive and fell back with the pitiful remnant of his command.
His involvement in the charge was to have a second serious consequence. The colonel of the Jacobite cavalry guarding the ford on the extreme right, saw the Sehested Cuirassier begin to cross. Being a man of rigorous discipline he awaited the order from his commander to attack. For his part Sarsfield expected the colonel to act on his initiative. The result was that the cuirassier crossed the stream and reformed without interference. Not only that, whilst the Jacobite colonel dithered, the Allied cavalry charged and caught him at the halt. The resulting melee was a forgone conclusion. With the advantage of weight and momentum the allied cavalry were unstoppable and totally dispersed the Jacobite cavalry.
Taking advantage of the ground gained by the Sehested Cuirassier more allied cavalry crossed the stream. A second Jacobite cavalry unit charged forward and did manage to stem the tide for a short time, but was eventually overwhelmed by superior numbers. Desperately Sarsfield gathered what cavalry remained to lead a counter-charge.
Behind him St Ruth was attempting to bolster the line. Three units of foot were taken from the reserve and moved to the right. In addition he led his reserve cavalry, plus a unit from the left towards the area of danger.
That was the position at close of play. Will Ginkel's left hook win the day for the Williamites, or will St Ruth save the day with his cavalry reserve?
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