Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/188

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began. The firing continued all that day and all the following night. When morning broke again, one whole side of the castle had been beaten down; the thatched lanes of the Celtic town lay in ashes; and one of the mills had been burned with sixty soldiers who defended it.[1]

Still however the Irish defended the bridge resolutely. During several days there was sharp fighting hand to hand in the strait passage. The assailants gained ground, but gained it inch by inch. The courage of the garrison was sustained by the hope of speedy succour. Saint Ruth had at length completed his preparations; and the tidings that Athlone was in danger had induced him to take the field in haste at the head of an army, superior in number, though inferior in more important elements of military strength, to the army of Ginkell. The French general seems to have thought that the bridge and the ford might easily be defended, till the autumnal rains and the pestilence which ordinarily accompanied them should compel the enemy to retire. He therefore contented himself with sending successive detachments to reinforce the garrison. The immediate conduct of the defence he entrusted to his second in command, D'Usson, and fixed his own head quarters two or three miles from the town. He expressed his astonishment that so experienced a commander as Ginkell should persist in a hopeless enterprise. "His master ought to hang him for trying to take Athlone; and mine ought to hang me if I lose it."[2]

Saint Ruth, however, was by no means at ease. He had found, to his great mortification, that he had not the full authority which the promises made to him at Saint Germains had entitled him to expect. The Lord Lieutenant was in the camp. His bodily and mental infirmities had perceptibly increased within the last few weeks. The slow and uncertain step with which he, who had once been renowned for vigour and agility, now tottered from his easy chair to his couch, was no unapt type of

  1. Story's Continuation; Macariæ Excidium; Daniel Macneal to Sir Arthur Rawdon, June 28, 1691, in the Rawdon Papers.
  2. London Gazette, July 6, 1691; Story's Continuation; Macariæ Excidium; Light to the Blind.