The close of the second reign from the siege of Limerick imposes the duty of casting our eyes over the map of Europe, in quest of those gallant exiles whom we have seen, in tens of thousands, submitting to the hard necessity of expatriation.
Many of the Meath and Leinster Irish, under their native commanders, the Kavanaghs and Nugents, carried their swords into the service of William's ally, the Emperor of Austria, and distinguished themselves in all the campaigns of Prince Eugene. Spain attracted to her standard the Irish of the north-west, the O'Donnells, the O'Reillys, and O'Garas, whose regiments, during more than one reign, continued to be known by flames of Ulster origin. In 1707, the great battle of Almanza, which decided the Spanish succession, was determined by O'Mahony's foot and Fitzjames's Irish horse. The next year Spain had five Irish regiments in her regular army, three of foot and two of dragoons, under the command of Lacy, Lawless, Wogan, O'Reilly, and O'Gara. But it was in France that the Irish served in the greatest number, and made the most impressive history for themselves and their descendants.
The recruiting agents of France had long been in the habit of crossing the narrow seas, and bringing back the stalwart sons of the western Island to serve their ambitious kings, in every corner of the continent. An Irish troop of horse served, in 1652, under Turenne, against the great Conde. In the campaigns of 1673, 1674 and 1675, under Turenne, two or three Irish regiments were in every engagement along the Rhine. At Altenheim, their commander, Count Hamilton, was created a major-general of France. In 1690, these old regiments, with the six new ones sent over by James, were formed into a brigade, and from 1690 to 1693, they went through the campaigns of Savoy and Italy, under Marshal Catinat, against Prince Eugene. Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, who commanded them, died at Bareges of wounds received at Staffardo. At Marsiglia, they routed, in 1693, the allies, killing Duke Schomberg, son to the Huguenot general who fell at the Boyne.
The "New" or Sarsfield's brigade was employed under Luxembourg, against King William, in Flanders, in 1692 and 1693. At Namur and Enghien, they were greatly distinguished, and William more than once sustained heavy loss at their hands. Sarsfield, their brigadier, for these services, was made mareschal-de-camp. At Landen, on the 29th of July, '93, France again triumphed to the cry, "Remember Limerick!" Sarsfield, leading on the fierce pursuers, fell, mortally wounded. Pressing his hand upon the wound, he took it away dripping with blood, and only said, "Oh, that this was for Ireland!"
In the war of the Spanish succession, the remnants of both brigades, consolidated into one, served under their favourite leader, the Marshal Duke of Berwick, through nearly all his campaigns in Belgium, Spain and Germany. The third Lord Clare, afterwards Field-Marshal Count Thomond, was by the Duke's side at Phillipsburg, in 1733, when he received his death-wound from the explosion of a mine. These exiled Clare O'Briens commanded for three generations their famous family regiment of dragoons. The first who followed King James abroad died of wounds received at the battle of Ramillies; the third, with better fortune, outlived for nearly thirty years the glorious day of Fontenoy. The Irish cavalry regiments in the service of France were Sheldon's, Galmoy's, Clare's, and Killmallock's; the infantry were known as the regiments of Dublin, Charlemont, Limerick, and Athlone. There were two other infantry regiments, known as Luttrel's and Dorrington's--and a regiment of Irish marines, of which the Grand Prior, Fitzjames, was colonel. During the latter years of Louis XIV., there could not have been less, at any one time, than from 20,000 to 30,000 Irish in his armies, and during the succeeding century, authentic documents exist to prove that 450,000 natives of Ireland died in the military service of France.
In the dreary reigns of William, Anne, and the two first Georges, the pride and courage of the disarmed and disinherited population abiding at home, drew new life and vigour from the exploits of their exiled brethren. The channel smuggler and the vagrant ballad-singer kept alive their fame for the lower class of the population, while the memoirs of Marlborough and Eugene, issuing from the Dublin press, communicated authentic accounts of their actions, to the more prejudiced, or better educated. The blows they struck at Landen, at Cremona, and at Almanza, were sensibly felt by every British statesman; when, in the bitterness of defeat, an English King cursed "the laws that deprived him of such subjects," the doom of the penal code was pronounced.
The high character of the famous captains of these brigades was not confined to the field of battle. At Paris, Vienna, and Madrid, their wit and courtesy raised them to the favour of princes, over the jealousy of all their rivals. Important civil and diplomatic offices were entrusted to them--embassies of peace and war--the government of provinces, and the highest administrative offices of the state. While their kinsmen in Ireland were declared incapable of filling the humblest public employments, or of exercising the commonest franchise, they met British ambassadors abroad as equals, and checked or countermined the imperial policy of Great Britain. It was impossible that such a contrast of situations should not attract the attention of all thinking men! It was impossible that such reputations should shine before all Europe without reacting powerfully on the fallen fortunes of Ireland!