Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/65

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

had destroyed the works and massacred the workmen; nor had the devastation then committed been since repaired. In this desolate region Sarsfield found no lack of scouts or of guides; for all the peasantry of Munster were zealous on his side. He learned in the evening that the detachment which guarded the English artillery had halted for the night about seven miles from William's camp, on a pleasant carpet of green turf under the ruined walls of an old castle that officers and men seemed to think themselves perfectly secure; that the beasts had been turned loose to graze, and that even the sentinels were dozing. When it was dark the Irish horsemen quitted their hiding place, and were conducted by the people of the country to the place where the escort lay sleeping round the guns. The surprise was complete. Some of the English sprang to their arms and made an attempt to resist, but in vain. About sixty fell. One only was taken alive. The rest fled. The victorious Irish made a huge pile of waggons and pieces of cannon. Every gun was stuffed with powder, and fixed with its mouth in the ground; and the whole mass was blown up. The solitary prisoner, a lieutenant, was treated with great civility by Sarsfield. "If I had failed in this attempt," said the gallant Irishman, "I should have been off to France."[1]

Intelligence had been carried to William's head quarters that Sarsfield had stolen out of Limerick and was ranging the country. The King guessed the design of his brave enemy, and sent five hundred horse to protect the guns. Unhappily there was some delay, which the English, always disposed to believe the worst of the Dutch courtiers, attributed to the negligence or perverseness of Portland. At one in the morning the detachment set out, but had scarcely left the camp when a blaze like lightning and a crash like thunder announced to the wide plain of the Shannon that all was over.[2]

Sarsfield had long been the favourite of his countrymen; and this most seasonable exploit, judiciously planned and vigorously executed, raised him still higher in their estimation. Their

  1. Story; James, ii. 416; Burnet, ii. 58; Dumont MS.
  2. Story; Dumont MS.