Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/194

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

fight, and to conquer or to perish. In such a temper Saint Ruth pitched his camp about thirty miles from Athlone on the road to Galway, near the ruined castle of Aghrim, and determined to await the approach of the English army.

His whole deportment was changed. He had hitherto treated the Irish soldiers with contemptuous severity. But now that he had resolved to stake life and fame on the valour of the despised race, he became another man. During the few days which remained to him he exerted himself to win by indulgence and caresses the hearts of all who were under his command.[1] He, at the same time, administered to his troops moral stimulants of the most potent kind. He was a zealous Roman Catholic; and it is probable that the severity with which he had treated the Protestants of his own country ought to be partly ascribed to the hatred which he felt for their doctrines. He now tried to give to the war the character of a crusade. The clergy were the agents whom he employed to sustain the courage of his soldiers. The whole camp was in a ferment with religious excitement. In every regiment priests were praying, preaching, shriving, holding up the host and the cup. While the soldiers swore on the sacramental bread not to abandon their colours, the General addressed to the officers an appeal which might have moved the most languid and effeminate natures to heroic exertion. They were fighting, he said, for their religion, their liberty and their honour. Unhappy events, too widely celebrated, had brought a reproach on the national character. Irish soldiership was every where mentioned with a sneer. If they wished to retrieve the fame of their country, this was the time and this the place.[2]

The spot on which he had determined to bring the fate of Ireland to issue seems to have been chosen with great judgment. His army was drawn up on the slope of a hill, which was almost surrounded by red bog. In front, near the edge of the morass, were some fences out of which a breastwork was without difficulty constructed.

On the eleventh of July, Ginkell, having repaired the fortifications of Athlone and left a garrison there, fixed his headquarters

  1. Story's Continuation.
  2. Burnet, ii. 79; Story's Continuation.