On 1st July 1690 the Armies of James 1 and King William III Prince of Orange faced each other across the Boyne river near at Oldbridge near Drogheda, in Ireland. King Williams forces were 36,000 strong. Williams army was a truly International force, made up of English , Germans, Scots, Danish,Norwegian, Swiss, French Huenots Irish volunteers, and his own elitist (Catholic) Dutch Blue Guards, bringing with them the very latest armament available, which would include 12 iron 3lb Dutch Falcoln cannon, 4 6lb English Saker Cannon, 5 short barreled Dutch Field Mortar ( or Howitzers), and various other Military cannon and armament.
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Preparation had began almost a year beforehand when James II was deposed and he set about building up an Army in Ireland, supported by King Louis XIV. The two Armies then met at the Boyne River .King William had assembled his men and made camp above the Boyne River between Drogheda and Slane, above the Village at Oldbridge ( roughly above the area we have secured), 2 days before commencement of Battle. Prior to the main Battle and a few days earlier, James II had stationed his main army at Dundalk, and had sent 4 Regiments of Grenadiers , and 60 mounted Dragoons to the 4 mile pass. These units forced back 300 English Infantry and Dragoons to take the pass but they lost their Commander Col. Dempsey in the attack. James was to learn of the size of the Force massing to face him, and of the Fleet of Navy heading down the Coast in support, and made a decision to retreat to the Boyne to try and hold the ground there. It was to be a fatal error.The river at Oldbridge and most of the 1.5km along it was easily passable at low tide, and even at high water some areas had small islands on which to group, and although James II had ordered the Bridge at Slane to be destroyed, the river remained passable at several points, and King William saw the advantage to the situation and was able therefore to attack at 3 different points.
The Battle itself was hotly fought with King William stepping in to take command of the Army when the Duke of Schomberg was killed in Battle, and unlike James who did not appear on the Battlefield, King William seemed to be in the thickest of engagements, with shot taking off the heel of his boot, and another striking the cap of his pistol. He had been slightly wounded the evening prior to the Battle but was on his horse spurring on his men to the Great Victory. Meanwhile James II had fled toWaterford where he obtained a boat to Kinsale, and then on to France. For such a fierce battle the dead were 1,000 of James II army, and 500 of King Williams Army. Later in a completely unprecedented act of humanity, King William permitted , at the Limerick Treaty to allow all the Army of James II to retreat to France unmolested and with free passage. At the end of the Williamite wars King William had put before Parliament a safeguard to the Catholic people, stating “ in particular as may preserve them from any disturbance upon the account of their said Religion”, but English and Irish landed Gentry ignored this and went ahead with Penal Laws. Following the Battle King William went on to bring about Social and Religious reform throughout Europe.
With 23 Cavalry regiments,5 Dragoon regiments,38 Infantry battalions. Opposed to this James II Jacobite Army was 25,000 men , mostly Catholic Irish , with 6,500 troops on loan from Louis XIV of France, whose armament consisted of 12 4pound French Cannon and Limber , and 4 other pieces. James II army comprised of 9 Cavalry regiments, 7 Dragoon Regiments, 26 Irish Infantry Battalions and 7 French Infantry battalions.
The Boyne Foundation Schomberg House, 368 Cregagh Road, Belfast, BT6 9YE
Tel: +44 (0)28 9070 1122 Fax: +44 (0)28 9040 3700
The Boyne foundation has been officially sanctioned by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.