Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/190

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and that, if he ventured to offer a suggestion, it was received with a sneer or a frown.[1]

A great and unexpected disaster put an end to these disputes. On the thirtieth of June Ginkell called a council of war. Forage began to be scarce; and it was absolutely necessary that the besiegers should either force their way across the river or retreat. The difficulty of effecting a passage over the shattered remains of the bridge seemed almost insuperable. It was proposed to try the ford. The Duke of Wirtemberg, Talmash, and Ruvigny gave their voices in favour of this plan; and Ginkell, with some misgivings, consented.[2]

It was determined that the attempt should be made that very afternoon. The Irish, fancying that the English were about to retreat, kept guard carelessly. Part of the garrison was idling, part dosing. D'Usson was at table. Saint Ruth was in his tent, writing a letter to his master filled with charges against Tyrconnel. Meanwhile, fifteen hundred grenadiers; each wearing in his hat a green bough, were mustered on the Leinster bank of the Shannon. Many of them doubtless remembered that on that day year they had, at the command of King William, put green boughs in their hats on the banks of the Boyne. Guineas had been liberally scattered among these picked men; but their alacrity was such as gold cannot purchase. Six battalions were in readiness to support the attack. Mackay commanded. He did not approve of the plan; but he executed it as zealously and energetically as if he had himself been the author of it. The Duke of Wirtemberg, Talmash, and several other gallant officers, to whom no part in the enterprise had been assigned, insisted on serving that day as private volunteers; and their appearance in the ranks excited the fiercest enthusiasm among the soldiers.

It was six o'clock. A peal from the steeple of the church gave the signal. Prince George of Hesse Darmstadt, and Gustavus Hamilton, the brave chief of the Enniskilleners,

  1. Life of James, ii. 460; Life of William, 1702.
  2. Story's Continuation; Mackay's Memoirs; Exact Journal; Diary of the Siege of Athlone.