The Battle of Aughrim 1691-2016 325th Anniversary

I am delighted to feature a post by Alan Larsen explaining the role his Re-enactor group 'The Troop' played in the commendable commemorative event which took place in the Summer of 2016.

Photo: John Finnerty (By permission)

As many readers will know, Aughrim tends to be the forgotten major action of the Williamite Wars in Ireland. This is quite remarkable given that it was a larger and more decisive battle than the better known affair at the Boyne river the previous year.

League of Augsburg aficionados will be well aware that cavalry were a powerful and decisive force on the contemporary battlefields of Europe. The determined charges of both Jacobite and Willliamite Horse had been part of what had been a seesaw battle throughout the day, indeed the remarkable charge of the Earl of Oxfords Blues [two abreast down a causeway into heavy enemy fire] had -along with the spectacular decapitation of Marshal St Ruth -been the key turning points of the battle.

It was to portray Jacobite horsemen -specifically the Kings Lifeguard of Horse that “The Troop” travelled to County Galway in July 2016. As some readers may be aware The Troop is a multi- period cavalry re-enactment group that has taken part in various mounted commemorations over the last 20 years -in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, Malta, Russia, and Africa. However never before had we travelled as a group to militarily historic, rural Ireland.  In the event the expedition proved to be everything we had hoped it would be, from both an equestrian and re-enactment point of view.

Photo: John Finnerty (By permission)

The performance of the Jacobite Horse in Ireland from 1689 to 1691 was agreed by contemporary observers to be of a high level.  Pre-eminent amongst these units were James IIs Lifeguards. Amongst their actions were the determined, repeated, downhill charges on the Dutch Foot Guards at the Boyne and Patrick Sarsfield’s legendary ride to and destruction of William IIIs artillery train.  They were certainly motivated soldiers-many of them had become exiles by virtue of remaining true to the oath taken to their Monarch.  This level of loyalty had proved to be somewhat lacking in the British Army in the years preceding Aughrim…

Alan as Bonnie Dundee (photo BH)

The Troops success in undertaking mounted re-enactment around the world has been underpinned by a fortunate ability to source local mounts and to safely introduce the occasionally reluctant equestrian recruits to a wide variety of potentially worrying weaponry and accoutrements -to “have the conversation” to use a delightful Irish equestrian phrase.  In Galway, our remount task was made comparatively straightforward by Oliver Walsh and his staff at Flowerhill Stables -a superb Irish Hunting Yard. Oliver’s big bold and yet steady Hunters took to period tack and weaponry with little difficulty. The horses even took their first sight of grown men wearing massive plumed hats and large beribboned curled wigs in their lengthy stride…

Drummer of the period (photo BH)

In the event the only horse training required in some cases was “neck reining“ that is to say steering ones mount with the left hand only-an understandable requirement when the cavalryman’s right hand is occupied with sword carbine pistol or, most challenging, the Trumpet. As can be seen from the accompanying photographs we could mount our troopers on suitably coloured horses and our Trumpeter on a striking grey-it had in fact been James II who had formalized this arrangement [which is continued in the Household Cavalry to this day] in 1685.

The Earl of Antrim's Regiment (Photo BH)

The commemorative event at Aughrim 325 was organized by Tomas O’Brien of Oireas Historical with support from a number of sponsors whose help is gratefully acknowledged. The programme consisted of talks, wargames and re-enactment displays. The Troops contribution on the day was an arena display of mounted drill and Skill at Arms along with the opportunity afterwards for the audience to meet the riders and horses -and to ask any questions about 1680s cavalry that had been keeping them awake at night.

Ensign David O'Brogain (Photo BH)

The arena itself was part of the original battlefield -in fact it adjacent to the original causeway along which the Williamite cavalry had charged. Our appreciative Sunday audience was swelled in numbers both by the patrons of Valeries Bar -and by the local priests’ suggestion in Sunday Mass that morning that his flock attend!

Officer of Horse (Photo BH)

It was a great honour to be asked to participate in the Aughrim 325th anniversary and it is to be hoped that further expeditions will be possible. A re-creation -at least in part- of “Sarsfield's Ride” through the beautiful and relatively unchanged Irish countryside holds considerable appeal [as must any historical event involving a character called “Galloping Hogan”.. ]

As always, The Troop will ride again.