“Gentlemen, we acknowledge the inappreciable services that France has received from the Irish Brigade, in the course of the last 100 years; services that we shall never forget, though under an impossibility on requiting them. Receive this Standard as a pledge of our remembrance, a monument of our admiration, and our respect, and in future, generous Irishmen, this shall be the motto of your spotless flag: 1692–1792, Semper et ubique Fidelis.”
Count of Provence
The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. 17 XVII,
January to June, 1905
In his life of Frederick the Great, Carlyle refers in the following terms to the manner in which Englishmen regard the events of the War of the Austrian Suc cession, a war which occupies an important place in the history of the eighteenth century:—
Of Philippi and Arbela educated Englishmen can render an account, and I am told young gentlemen entering the army are pointedly required to say who commanded at Aigos-Potamos, and wrecked the Peloponnesian war; but of Dettingen and Fontenoy where is the living Englishman that has the least notion, or seeks for any? 2
Such is not the attitude of Frenchmen, nor of Irish men. They take a lively interest in the events of that great war; and particularly in one of the most important events in it—the battle of Fontenoy. Quite recently a French writer, M. Charles Gailly de Taurines, has made the battle of Fontenoy the object of special study, and has published a list of the officers, regiment by regiment, who were killed or wounded in that famous battle. On that list are to be found the names of many valiant Irish men, officers of the Irish Brigade (consisting of six regiments of infantry and one of cavalry), who had so large a share in turning the tide of victory in favour of France. The Irishmen who fought at Fontenoy deserve to rank with ‘the unforgotten brave.’ Nothing which throws greater light on their valour can fail to interest Irishmen. The object, therefore, of the present paper is—first, to give a general account of the battle of Fontenoy; secondly, to examine how far the glory of the victory was due to Irish valour; and, thirdly, to lay before the reader the names of the valiant Irishmen who fell in the combat.
1. In the preparation of this paper the following works have been consulted:—Mémoires et pieces relatives aux campagnes du Maréchal de Saxe en Flandre depuis 1744 à 174S. Two volumes in manuscript marked 3,084, and 17 Fonds de Suede, Archives historiques du Ministère de la Guerre, Paris; Fontenoy, an article in the Revue des deux Mondes, 15th June, 1887, by M. le Duc Albert de Broglie, de l’académie française; Mémoires des Duc Richelieu, vol. vii., pp. 131-136. Paris, 1790; Mémoires du Duc de Luynes, tom. vii., pp. 161-167 and 179-185; Histoire de Maurice Comte de Saxe, par D’Espagnac, edit. 1775, vol. ii., pp. 75-79. Third volume has plates; Précis du siècle de Louis XV., Voltaire, tom. iv.; Fragments historiques sur l’Inde et sur le General Lally, idem. art. iv., pp. 346-351; Frederick the Great, Carlyle, vol. iv.; England in the Eighteenth Century, Lecky, vol. ii.; Histoire de France. Louis XV. Michelet; Fontenoy— Liste des officiers tués et blessés par regiments, tirés des archives de la Guerre, par M. Charles Gailly de Taurines. Paris, 1904; Historical Notes on the services of the Irish Officers in the French Army. Addressed to the National Assembly in 1792 by General Arthur Dillon. Translated by J. P. Leonard. (Duffy, Dublin); Les Campagnes du Maréchal de Saxe: Fontenoy (February and March, 1905), a series of studies in the Revue d’Histoire rédigée a l’état Major de l’Armée, with documents, not yet finished, to be published later in a volume.
2. Carlyle, Frederick the Great, vol. iii., p. 333.
In the spring of 1745 Marshal Saxe, Commander-in- Chief of the French forces, advanced into Flanders at the head of an army of about 90,000 men, and laid siege to Tournay. The Duke of Cumberland, with 93 pieces of artillery and an army of about 60,000 men, of whom 20,000 were English, 3,000 Hanoverians, and the rest Dutch and Austrians, marched to relieve the beleaguered city. The hostile forces met on the field of Fontenoy.
The French general had left nearly 20,000 men to continue the siege of Tournay. With the main body of his army he took up a position on the right bank of the Scheldt to await the enemy. The day before the battle was spent in preparation. Marshal Saxe fortified Antoin and Fontenoy, and erected three redoubts in the interval which separated them. In front of Fontenoy a deep trench was dug; and at the wood of Barry two redoubts were constructed, and trees were felled to bar the progress of the enemy. The French headquarters were fixed at the village of Calonne. Bridges were also thrown across the Scheldt, to facilitate the passage of troops in case of retreat. Louis XV with the Dauphin had arrived from Paris to be witnesses of the engagement. The Allied Forces on their side advancing from Brussels, by way of Mons, had fixed their headquarters at Vezon.
When day dawned on the 11th May, a fog covered the plains on the banks of the Scheldt. About six o’clock, the fog cleared away, and revealed the two armies in position awaiting the struggle. The French line extended from Antoin on the right, to Fontenoy in the centre, and then away to the wood of Barry on the left. The French King, with his Household troops, to the number of 6,000, took up a position at the village of Notre Dame-aux-Bois, on an eminence surmounted by a windmill, a circumstance which earned for him the title of Louis du Moulin. A large body of troops had been posted to guard the bridges, thus reducing the French forces in the field to between 50,000 and 60,000 men with about 80 cannon. 1
1. The writer of the articles in the Revue d’Histoire, February and March, 1905, states that the number of men engaged on each side was nearly equal, amounting to about 50,000 in each army. The French infantry in the field consisted of fifty-five battalions, making about 35,000 men; the cavalry of 101 squadrons, or about 14,000 men; or about 49,000 in all. The strength of a battalion would, therefore, be about 640 men, that of a squadron of horse 140. What was the strength of the Irish Brigade? From the official report at the Ministère de la Guerre of the inspection of Dillon’s regiment, made in 1788, it appears that it consisted of two battalions, making a total of 1,136 men. Fitzjames’ cavalry in 1764, consisted of four squadrons of 138 men each. The Irish infantry regiments seem to have consisted of two battalions, each amounting to a total of from 1,100 to 1,200 men. In the official account of the order of battle, it is stated that the Irish Brigade consisted of six battalions. Taking 640 as the strength of a battalion this would make the Irish infantry at Fontenoy 3,840 men. Add Fitzjames’ horse with 300 to 500 men, and we reach a total of over 4,000. Of course if the regiments were at their full strength the total would be over 6,000 men.
In front of the French lines lay a plain, oval in shape, measuring about a mile and a half in breadth, by about two miles in length, flanked by woods and sloping down towards the banks of the river. In their rear lay the Scheldt, and away in the distance, about five miles off, the walls of Tournay were visible. To reach Tournay and raise the siege it was necessary that the Allied Army should cross the plain in front of Fontenoy, and cuts its way through the French lines. The Duke of Cumberland, at that time about twenty-two years of age, commanded in person. The English and Hanoverians formed his right, opposite to Barry and Fontenoy; the Austrians and Dutch his left, opposite Antoin. Early on the morning of nth May, he advanced against the French centre at Fontenoy, while the Dutch moved forward to attack Antoin. Three times the English attacked Fontenoy with the greatest bravery. But each time they were met by deadly fire from the French batteries; and the trench in front of Fontenoy was filled with dead. Twice the Dutch attempted to capture Antoin, but with no better success. Nothing seemed to remain for Cumberland but to retire ingloriously from the field. As a last resource, by the advice of the Austrian general, Konigseck, he took the daring resolution of forcing his way through a pass not more than 900 yards wide, between Barry and Fontenoy. It was a hazardous attempt, for the pass was intersected by ravines impracticable for cavalry, and was exposed to the fire of the batteries at Fontenoy and Barry. Should it prove successful the French army would be cut in two, and probably the French King made captive. Cumber land, therefore, ordered his English and Hanoverian troops to advance through the pass, and turn the French position at Fontenoy. They moved forward, numbering about 16,000, in three columns, dragging with them twelve field pieces. They were supported at first by the cavalry. But the nature of the ground and the loss of their commander, Lord Campbell, whose leg was carried off by a cannon ball, compelled the cavalry to fall back.
The three columns of infantry merging into one, continued to advance. At first they moved in the direc tion of Barry, but the presence of the Irish Brigade and the fire of the forts compelled them to keep more towards Fontenoy. Under a galling fire which thinned their ranks, they crossed the ravines, and emerged on the open plain. Here they were met by the French and Swiss Guards. When the hostile forces arrived within about fifty paces of each other, according to most historians, there took place a scene which recalls the conference of Glaucus and Diomede on the plains of Troy.
Lord Charles Hay and the English officers saluted the French officers by raising their hats. The French, true to the politeness of their nation, returned the salute. For a moment the two lines stood face to face. Then Lord Hay cried out: Messieurs des Gardes Françaises, tirez—’Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire.’ Count Auteroche, on the part of the French, replied: Tirez vous mêmes Messieurs les Anglais, nous ne tirons jamais les premiers—’Fire yourselves, gentlemen, we never fire first.’ 1 Whether this was an act of politeness carried to excess, or whether, as the Duc de Broglie thinks more probable, it was a principle which Marshal Saxe had strongly impressed on his troops, to reserve their fire, it cost the French dearly. The English fired, and their first volley swept down more than one half of the first French line. The survivors finding that the second line was too far behind to support them broke and fled.
Onward the oblong English column advanced, despite the galling fire from the redoubts. Troop after troop of foot and horse advanced to stop its progress, but only to be broken and dispersed. The French fought with indomitable courage. Some squadrons returned as many as eight times to the charge. The Due de Biron had three horses killed under him, and two wounded. The Irish cavalry of Fitzjames charged the column, but with no better success than the French. The infantry regiments also charged the terrible column. The regiments of the Royal Vaisseaux and that of Normandy, together with those of Lally, Rothe and Berwick, 2 put forward by Lord Clare, charged three times. Colonel Dillon, 3 too, fell at the head of his men. Still the column continued to advance, keeping up a rolling and continuous fire of cannon and musketry. Already it had passed Fontenoy. Had the Dutch now supported the English and Hanoverians their progress could not have been resisted. At this juncture, Marshal Saxe, fearing for the safety of the King, sent him a message advising him to retire across the Scheldt. 4 Louis replied: ‘Tell him I know that he will do his duty. I will stay here.’ At this moment the Due de Richelieu, one of the royal aides-de-camp, rode up, breathless. ‘What news?’ asked the Due de Noailles. My news,’ replied Richelieu, ‘is, that the battle is won if we like. My advice is to bring forward cannon to play upon the front of the column, and while the cannon throws it into confusion, let the Household troops and the rest of the army make a combined attack upon it.’ Then he went on to describe how he had found the Irish Brigade on the extreme left, rallied in face of the enemy by Lally Tollendal; and by its example carrying off with it the regiment of the Royal Vaisseaux. A council of war was hastily held. Saxe arrived upon the scene; and it was resolved to make a last and a combined charge upon the column. Four pieces of cannon, which had been placed in reserve for the security of the royal person, were ordered forward. Richelieu rode off and bade the Household troops advance. Marshal Saxe galloped off to the left where the Irish Brigade was posted near the wood of Barry, under the command of Lord Clare, and ordered them to charge. Then, hurrying with all possible speed to the. right he rallied the troops in that quarter. At the same moment the English column was assailed vigorously in front and on both flanks. The Irish Brigade, with fixed bayonets, led the charge on the right flank of the column, with the utmost intrepidity. For a moment they were in extreme danger. The French Carbineers, misled by the style of the Irish uniform, mis took them for English, and fired upon them. But the Irish Brigade cried, ‘Vive France,’ and dashed forward to attack their common foe. In a few minutes the terrible column, hitherto firm as a rock, was pierced through, broken and driven from the field. The English cavalry moved forward to cover the retreat of the infantry. The Dutch also were driven from the field. The French continued the pursuit as far as the hedges of Vezon. About half-past two in the afternoon, after a battle of nine hours’ duration, the victory of the French was complete. The enemy left upon the field 9,000 men in killed and wounded, 2,000 prisoners, and forty pieces of cannon. The French loss amounted to 6,000, including 400 officers of all grades.
1. Lord Hay afterwards gave a different version of the incident. He states that he said: ‘Wait for us, Gentlemen. Don’t be in a hurry to swim the Scheldt, you will not find it so easy as the Main.’
2. Funds de Suede, p. 125.
3. Colonel Dillon was succeeded in the command by his brother who was killed at Lawfeld in 1747 at the head of the same regiment.
4. The account given by the valet of Marshal Saxe has the following: ‘Le roi suant a grosses gouttes et tout consterné dit. Q’on avance ma Maison.’ Words which Davis seems to have had before him in ‘Push on my Household cavalry.’
When the battle was ended, Louis XV came down from his position at Notre Dame-aux-Bois, and rode over the field, accompanied by the Dauphin. Wherever he appeared he was hailed by the cheers of the soldiers, who waved their caps on the points of their bayonets in the enthusiasm of triumph. The officers whose bravery had been most remarkable, Richelieu, Lowendal, Biron, and Lally Tollendal, were presented to the King, to receive the expression of his gratitude, and all formed a scene which Horace Vernet has endeavoured to immortalise in his famous painting of Fontenoy, which adorns the galleries of Versailles. In the joy of victory sentiments of humanity were not forgotten. The King gave orders that the English wounded should be treated with equal care as the French; and none was more active in the work than the impetuous Lally of the Irish Brigade. The victory at Fontenoy filled all France with rejoicing. It was the first time since Poitiers that a French king had met the English on the field, and this time victory had crowned his efforts. But the victory had results yet more important. On 23rd May, Tournay surrendered, and soon after Ghent, Bruges, Oudenarde, Dindermonde, Ostend, Nieuport, and Ath were occupied by the French.
The victory at Fontenoy raised the hopes of the Jacobites; and the Scotch rising, which ended so disastrously at Culloden, was the consequence.
It belongs to military critics to pronounce upon the talent displayed by the rival generals. They may question whether it was wise on the part of Marshal Saxe to risk a battle with a river in his rear, endangering his retreat in case of defeat; or whether it was as prudent as it was daring on the part of Cumberland to attempt the passage between Barry and Fontenoy, exposing his troops to the fire of the batteries on either side. Statesmen may question the value of conquests which were abandoned a few years later at the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. But what concerns us most is the share which the Irish Brigade had in turning the tide of victory at Fontenoy in favour of France.
What was the part taken by the Irish troops in the battle of Fontenoy? This is a question which may be determined by the testimony of those who took part in the battle, and by the accounts which historians have handed down to us. It is true all the witnesses do not express themselves in the same terms. But this is true of the history of every battle. For, as Thucydides re marked centuries ago, ‘Such as were present at every action spoke not all after the same manner, but as they were affected to the parts, or as they could remember.’
Yet the variety of details serves but to bring out the main facts with greater clearness.
At Fontenoy the Irish regiments of infantry, six in number, and numbering at least 4,000 men—viz., Clare’s, Bulkeley’s, Berwick’s, Dillon’s, Rothe’s, and Lally’s, with Lord Clare as Lieutenant-General and Rothe as General of Brigade—were posted at the distance of about a gun-shot in front of the wood of Barry. In front of them were two redoubts and quantities of felled trees. To their right stood the Swiss Guards; their left extended beyond the redoubts towards the village of Ramecroix. Cumberland, early in the day, had ordered Colonel Ingoldsby to march through the wood of Barry, and attack the enemy in that quarter. But Ingoldsby, finding the wood occupied by a body of light troops, fell back. In consequence, during the greater part of the day the troops on the French left, and amongst them the Irish Brigade, took but little part in the battle. If we except the onset in which Colonel Dillon was killed, their action was chiefly confined to the final charge which broke and dispersed the English column, and turned a defeat into a victory. Let us examine the various testimonies regarding the part taken by the Irish in that final charge. In the month following the battle, Voltaire published his poem on Fontenoy; and in it he makes honourable mention of the Irish:—
Clare avec l’lrlandais, qu’animent nos exemples.
Venge ses rois trahis, sa patrie; et ses temples.
‘Clare and the Irish fired by our example,
Avenges his King, his Country, and his Altars.’
In his history of Louis XV he also testifies to their valour. But we possess testimony more valuable than that of Voltaire. The Duke of Richelieu was present at the battle; and in his Memoirs is found a report of it which he prepared at a later period for the information of Louis XVI. Richelieu writes:—
At that critical moment [when the day seemed lost] Marshal Saxe rallied once more that infantry ever beaten but never conquered, and joined it to the Irish Brigade which had formed in face of the enemy under the orders of Clare. He brought forward also the Normandy Regiment and that of the Vaisseaux Berenger. Lord Clare was ordered to attack the right flank of the enemy. Then the King’s Household troops, the gens-d’armes, the carbineers, led by the Duke of Richelieu, fell upon the centre, until then unbroken. Four pieces of cannon, well pointed, assail them like so many thunderbolts. Our troops on the right and in the direction of Fontenoy advance and attack that portion of the English army. The invincible column wavered, was pierced through, broken, and thrown into con fusion. If fled from the field of battle, abandoning its cannon. Several regiments were annihilated. Our troops pursued the fugitives as far as the hedges of Vezon. At last, at half-past two, the battle was won. . . . The Irish captured a flag.
Another witness, no less valuable, is Count Lowendal, one of Marshal Saxe’s staff, who was also present on the field. On the day of the battle, Lowendal wrote to announce the victory to his wife:—
The battle [he says] was lost. All were flying. God inspired me to put myself at the head of the Irish Brigade, and of the French Guards, whom I had rallied. We took the enemy on the flank. I defeated and drove them off the field of battle.
Count Lowendal’s secretary added a postscript to the letter, in the following terms: ‘Marshal Saxe has publicly stated that the King owed this victory to Count Lowendal and the Irish Brigade. These are his very words.’ 1
Another testimony, no less weighty, is found in the account of the battle sent to the Queen of France, by the Count d’Argenson, soon after the event. The Count writes in the following terms :—
The Marshal [Saxe] wearied by this uncertainty rallied in person the infantry which had at first given way; but which returned courageously to the charge. He joined it to the Irish Brigade, which had already formed in face of the enemy, under the command of Lord Clare. M. Lowendal, who had come up from the left where there was no fighting, and M. Berenger, who commanded the Normandy Brigade, joined Lord Clare, and all together charged the enemy on the right flank, while the Household troops, the gens-d’armes, and the carbineers, led by the Duke of Richelieu, fell upon their centre, against which four pieces of artillery hitherto held in reserve had been pointed and had spread dismay. . . . The Irish who captured a flag, the Household troops, the gens-d’armes, and the carbineers merit special praise. 2
But the most valuable testimony of all is that given by Marshal Saxe himself. Writing from the camp at Antoin on the day after the battle, he describes the varying for tunes of the day, and how defeat seemed certain. Then he adds:—
At last, as a final effort, I took the Irish Brigade, that of Normandy, and the remnants of the French and Swiss Guards. I put M. de Lowendal at their head, and bade them charge the English column, whilst I went to bring up the carbineers who had already been repulsed, but had formed again, and with them I attacked on the other flank. The Household troops, emulous of the carbineers, rushed forward at full speed and charged at the same moment, together with a portion of the cavalry. I saw that body of English and Hanoverians destroyed in a moment. 3
1. Letter of Count Lowendal to his wife, 11th May, 1745. ‘Fontenoy,’ par le Duc de Broglie, Revue des Deux-Mondes, 15th June, 1887.
2. ‘Relation de la bataille de Fontenoy envoyée par le Comte d’Argenson
a la Reine,’ Memoires du Duc de Luynes’ vol. vii., pp. 166-167.
3. Letter of Marshal Saxe, 12th May, 1745, from the camp at Antoin.
In another letter, written on the 13th May, he describes the same events in almost the same terms, and he adds:—
‘We moved forward and the Irish Brigade which led the van attacked with the greatest possible daring.—Nous nous ébranlâmes, et la brigade irlandaise qui avait la tête, se porta aussi audacieusement qu’il est possible.‘ 1
To testimonies so explicit it seems needless to add more. But there is one which comes down to us from the pen of the son of an Irishman whose valour was con spicuous at Fontenoy, and which appears to express the tradition of the Irish Brigade itself. In the Biographie Universelle by Michaud, there is an article on General Lally Tollendal, 2 which is believed to have been contributed by his son the Marquis Lally Tollendal. In that sketch the writer states that on the day before the battle, Lally went over the field, and discovering, between Antoin and Fontenoy, a road which was erroneously supposed to be impracticable, but by which the enemy could easily have turned the French position, he caused three redoubts and six cannon to be posted in that position. The writer continues:—
The famous battle took place. It is well known how much the Irish Brigade contributed to the victory by breaking through in a bayonet charge the terrible English column, while Richelieu assailed it in front. This last decisive attack was decided on at the most critical moment, in a conversation, eager and quick as lightning, exchanged between Richelieu, rushing from rank to rank, and Lally impatient that the valour of the Irish Brigade was not being turned to account. His address to his regiment, as at their head he dashed into the hostile column, was printed in all the papers of the period.
Voltaire 3 also mentions the valour Lally displayed at Fontenoy and his address to his men. ‘Forward, he said, against the enemies of France, and your own. Don’t fire until your bayonets touch their stomachs.’ After the battle Lally Tollendal was singled out for special honour. Together with Lowendal, Biron, and Richelieu, he was presented to the King, who raised Lally to the rank of Brigadier upon the field of battle. The records of the Ministère de la Guerre testify to the valour of men less in rank than Lally.
1. Lettre a M. le Controlleur General, Memoires du Duc de Luynes, vol. vii., pp. 183-185.
2. Thomas Arthur O’Mullally of Tollendally.
3. In Fragments Historiques sur l’Ide et sur le General Lally.
A valiant captain of Bulkeley’s regiment named Patrick McMahon (a name borne a century later by the hero of Malakoff and Magenta), with ten volunteers of his company, and as many from the regiment of Clare, charged an English battery and captured two pieces of cannon. 1 Poets and historians have handed on the tradition of the valour of the Irish at Fontenoy. A writer in the Mercure de France (July, 1645) celebrates their valour thus:—
L’Irlandais qui sur eux s’élance,
Ne craint pas d’essuyer leur feu.
II venge son pays, et ses rois et son Dieu,
Et son honneur et celui de la France.
Then, alluding to the motto, Nisi Dominus frustra,
inscribed on the captured English flag, he continues:—
De ce cruel revers le funeste présage
Etait écrit sur vos drapeaux.
Pour nous combattre en vain vous traversiez les eaux.
Le ciel a détruit votre ouvrage.
Michelet, in his vigorous and picturesque prose, is no less laudatory of the Irish: —
There were [writes Michelet] on both sides men burning for the fray. As on our side the Irish Brigade scented English blood, so in the English ranks the sons of the Protestants eager for the fight would have given their lives to capture the grand- son of Louis XIV. … It [the English column] advanced. For six hours it advanced. . . . What is certain is, that Maurice, who trembled for the King, began to effect a retreat. But many were unwilling to fall back. Our Irish troops were furious.—Nos Irlandais frémissaient de fureur.1
Summing up, then, all these testimonies it is manifest how great was the share the Irish Brigade had in the victory at Fontenoy. When all seemed lost they stood firm and faced the enemy.
1. Le Marechal de Mac Mahon, par Leon Hennet, sous chef aux ordines de la Guerre, p. 8. Paris, 1894. MS. papers of Bulkeley’s regiment.
2. Michelet, Histoire de France. Louis XV.
There is reason to believe that the idea of the final charge originated with them. It is beyond all doubt that they led the decisive charge on the right flank of the enemy. Of them alone is it recorded that they captured a standard. Davis’s thrilling lines are, therefore, no mere legend, but 1 a treasure for ever. We cannot but admire the courage of Marshal Saxe, moving about in his litter or in the saddle for nine hours, and cheering on his men in spite of his dropsy. The Household troops and the carbineers deserve their meed of praise. But there is good reason to believe that
Fontenoy, famed Fontenoy, had been a Waterloo
Were not those exiles ready there, fresh, vehement and true.
1. Thucydides, History, Book i.
The valour of the Irish troops earned for them great glory, but at the cost of heavy loss. According to a report presented to the National Assembly by Count Arthur Dillon, in 1792, but which seems in excess of the official returns, the Irish lost in the battle of Fontenoy, one-third of their soldiers and one-fourth of their officers, and amongst the latter Chevalier Dillon, colonel of his regiment. The names of those brave officers have long lain buried in the archives of the Ministere de la Guerre, or War Office, in Paris. 1 Recent researches have brought them to light, and we proceed to lay them before the reader, feeling assured that they will not be uninteresting. 2
1. Aux archives de la Guerre, 3,084 (pieces 45 et 175 bis), and Fonds de Suede, 17. 2. The writer desires to express his thanks to M. Gailly de Taurines for his kind permission to make use of the lists in his brochure. He has, however, carefully compared them with the original lists at the Ministere de la Guerre, and has corrected the list of names from other documents, and has added the number of men killed and wounded.
1. The number of sergeants and soldiers of Fitz James’ regiment killed and wounded is not given in the MS.
The foregoing list is a true roll of honour. It testifies to the fearless bravery of the Irish Brigade. Yet Fontenoy was but one of the many fields on which they signalised themselves. According to the learned Abbe MacGeoghegan, from 1691 to the battle of Fontenoy, 450,000 Irishmen died in the service of France. Add to these the 40,000 who took service in the armies of France and Spain after the wars of Cromwell, and the number who imitated their example between 1652 and 1691, as well as those who formed the Brigade from 1745 to 1791, and it will be found that more than half a million of Irishmen died in the French service. France nobly acknowledged the services rendered by the Brigade. She gave to those who served under her flag the rights of French citizens; and to several of the Irish regiments higher pay than to her own native soldiers. The Irish officers ranked with the other officers of France.
Nor was this the only benefit which France conferred on Ireland. At a period when no civil or military career was open to Irish Catholics in their own land, and when the great colonies beyond the seas were still unknown, France offered to Irishmen a field where they might rise to honour. To Irishmen, too, in search of profane or sacred learning she opened her colleges and universities. As by the Cru sades the arts and civilisation of the East were communi cated to the West, so a communication was established between France and Ireland. Even in the darkest days of persecution the noble ambition of honour was not per mitted to decay, nor the lamp of learning to be extinguished. The civilisation of the Continent extended its influence, even to the remotest glens of Ireland. Irishmen, on their side, gave their services to France without regret.
About 1730, not many years before the battle of Fontenoy, the Superiors of the Irish College in Paris resolved to rebuild the chapel of their College. In their appeal for alms for that purpose they mention the bonds which bound France to Ireland, and in particular the services of the Irish Brigade :—
The remembrance [they said] which France has been pleased to preserve of the battles of Marseilles, Luzata, Almanza, of the sieges of Namur, Charleroi, Barcelona, etc., and, last of all, of the battle of Cremona, and of some other occasions on which the Irish did their duty, is so flattering that they do not regret the blood that has been shed in her service; they are ready to give all they have left. The laymen will fight, the ecclesiastics will pray.
So spoke the superiors of the College in 1730. Laity and clergy both were exiles for the cause of Faith. The Irish Colleges in France and the Irish Brigade mutually aided each other. In the officers of the Brigade the Colleges found protectors. The Colleges in their turn furnished to the Brigade priests who acted as their chaplains and give spiritual instruction in their native tongue. 1The names O’Neil, and O’Brien, and Magennis, and M’Carthy, and Stapleton, are found repeatedly on the list of pupils and benefactors of our College in Paris; and, doubtless, many of them were relatives of the brave men who fought at Fontenoy. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the Duke of Fitzjames and the Marquis Lally Tollendal, descendants of Fitz james and Lally of Fontenoy, were members of the Board of Administration of the College. The writer of this paper, therefore, feels that in recording the valour of those brave men he is but discharging a debt of gratitude.
1. Each regiment had a chaplain. In 17S2 Father Corbally was chaplain to Dillon’s regiment, and Abbé Canvan to Berwick’s.—Archives de la Guerre.
The Irish Brigade is now but a historic memory. Yet Ireland recalls with pride the valour of her sons. But how sad that, for more than a century and a half, the flower of the Catholic youth of Ireland were compelled to devote their talents and their energy to the service of a foreign land!
What changes have taken place since Fontenoy ! England and France are united in amity. The army of France is valiant as of old. But the religion for which so many Irishmen were in exile is not less free in Holland and in England, than in the land of St. Louis. Irishmen have now no other wish but to be permitted to live in their own land, and to devote their energies to the promotion of its welfare. Yet the memory of Fontenoy merits to be pre- served. In that great battle the steady intrepidity of the English, and the dauntless impetuosity of the Irish won the admiration of all. If, instead of being opposed, as at Fontenoy, they were united together by the bonds of just legislation and constitutional freedom, what power could resist them?
Patrick Boyle, C.M.
Source: Internet Archive