Frederick Henry, vicomte de Schomberg

SCHOMBERG or SCHÖNBERG, Friedrich Hermann

(1615-90), Duke of SCHOMBERG (1689). His father was Court Marshal to James I’s son-in-law the Elector Palatine Frederick V and his mother Anne, daughter of the 5th Lord Dudley. He enjoyed the title of Baron Tetford in the Peerage of England. As a mercenary he served Bernard of Saxe-Weimar from 1634-7, Holland (1639-42), France (1650-60) and Portugal (1660-8). He was naturalised French in 1668. In 1673 he took command of the French in Catalonia He won a victory over Portuguese forces at the Battle of Viçosa (1658) and was made a marshal of France. In 1676 he commanded in the Low Countries. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) drove him to take service under the Great Elector of Prussia and he came to England with Prussian troops with William of Orange in 1688. He was naturalised British and took a small defensive command in Ulster. He was killed at the B. of the Boyne.

When William of Orange landed at Brixham, James ordered his army, together with the artillery train, to proceed towards Salisbury. Although there were minor skirmishes between the opposing forces, the artillery does not seem to have become engaged. The Prince of Orange had little difficulty in bringing his army into London, and upon his arrival there James, taking the better part of discretion, fled to France.

The abandonment of James, by several of his most trusted advisors and courtiers, breached contemporary notions of military and gentlemanly honour. When he met Churchill in 1690, the staunch Protestant and veteran professional soldier, Marshal Schomberg, remarked that “he [Churchill] was the first Lieutenant-General he had ever heard [of ] that had deserted from his colours”; meaning the first he had met who had quit service half-way through a campaign. But then, Schomberg had never fought purely for religion’s sake or for the continuation of his religion in his native land.

The court of William of Orange was also a very cosmopolitan circle. Willem Friederich van Nassau-Zuylestein, William’s illegitimate uncle, was the son of William’s tutor, and a cavalry commander. He had learned English from his mother, Anne Killegrew. Perhaps the most distinguished military figure among those who accompanied the prince of Orange in the descent on England was Frederick Henry, vicomte de Schomberg (and later first duke of Schomberg in the English peerage). He too was half-English and was related to the Dudley family. His own family had lost their ancestral estates in the Palatinate, and Schomberg grew up in exile in the Netherlands. He began his military career in the Scottish Guards of the French Royal Army and served under Marshal Turenne. After reorganizing the Portuguese army, where he would have met a number of English officers, and upon his return to France, Schomberg was made a duke and a marshal of France by Louis XIV. He left France following the Revocation of the Edicts of Nantes, which abolished freedom of worship for French Protestants, and went to the Netherlands, where he reorganized the Huguenot regiments of the Dutch army. Although he was past the age of 70 when he accompanied the prince of Orange to England in 1688, Schomberg was probably the best general in Europe at the time.

The Duke of Schomberg now became the new Master-General of the Ordnance. James II organized his forces and in March 1689 landed at Kinsale in Ireland. In the same month Schomberg prepared twenty brass pieces of artillery to fight the deposed monarch on his new battlefield. The gunners, matrosses and pioneers of this new artillery train wore blue coats lined with orange, the Netherlands colours. Many more cannon and mortars were gathered together in Chester and sent to Ireland in August 1689. In June ,690 William landed near Belfast to lead his army, and early in the next month the famous Battle of the Boyne was fought. Here the deep river valley reduced the role of artillery considerably, and it is said that the artillery horses were needed for the urgent task of bringing up supplies for the army. It is interesting to note, however, that the contemporary artist Wyck showed many large cannon in his painting of this battle, and they also appeared in the numerous prints which were published afterwards. Two small Irish guns made troublesome attacks, and one shot hit King William on the shoulder. Schomberg was killed during the battle.

Schomberg in Ireland 1689-90

It was especially evident in the Williamite wars in Ireland how little confidence William II and III had in English and Scots commanders. Besides Godart van Reede, Baron Ginkel, and Meinhard Schomberg, the son of the duke of Schomberg (and later duke of Leinster and third duke of Schomberg), Hugh Mackay found himself serving under Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, second marquis de Ruvigny (and later earl of Galway), a French Huguenot; Heinrich Maastricht, count of Solms, a German in Dutch service; and Ernst von Tettau, a Dane. Tollemache and Mackay were the only generals from the British Isles. Two other British generals, Percy Kirke and James Douglas of Cavers, were withdrawn from Ireland and sent to Flanders because of disagreements with the other members of William’s corps of commanders. Douglas, of the Scots army, `was charged with mutinying because he spoke freely about the soldiers being abused for want of pay and other necessaries’.

According to Dalrymple, the various expeditionary forces that William sent to Ireland totalled 36,000 men. `Distrusting English soldiers to fight against one who had been lately king of England, he took care that more than half of his army should consist of foreigners.’ The foreign troops included 10,000 Danish soldiers, 7,000 from the Dutch and Brandenburg armies, and 2,000 Huguenots-the latter organized into a brigade of three regiments of foot and one of horse that was part of the English military establishment. The first group sent to Ireland consisted of some 15,000 troops who sailed from Hoylake, near Chester, during August and September 1689, and landed near Carrickfergus. Together with Williamite forces from Enniskillen and Kirke’s three regiments from Derry, the army could not have exceeded 20,000 men. William wanted to land this force near Dublin, but Schomberg advised going ashore in Belfast Lough. Before putting ashore, it was necessary to clear three French warships out of the lough in an engagement that lasted three hours. Upon landing, Schomberg laid siege to the Norman fortress of Carrickfergus, which was garrisoned by two Jacobite regiments under the command of MacCarty Moor, in order to secure the neighbourhood. The siege lasted seven days. Schomberg allowed the defenders to keep their sidearms, and provided them with a cavalry escort to protect them from the country-people; the latter were Scots-Irish, and they so abused the Catholic soldiers that they fled back to Schomberg for protection.

William of Orange had need to encourage his men, because the expeditionary force under the command of the duke of Schomberg that had landed the previous year at Carrickfergus fared poorly. After the successful siege of Carrickfergus Castle, the duke’s army of 15,000 moved south to Dundalk at the foot of the Newry Mountains, where they went into winter quarters in the autumn of 1689. Schomberg’s force was unable to campaign because they were logistically unprepared.

The fall of that town and of Newry opened the road to Dublin, which French officers advised James to burn and abandon in an escalation of Jacobite scorched-earth practices. Tyrconnel argued instead that James should stand and fight. James reluctantly agreed. The Jacobite army marched north, to where Schomberg had ineptly encamped over a bog near Dundalk. Over the next several months, the old German refused to fight, resisting any and all provocations made by James and Tyrconnel from their nearby lines. Instead, Schomberg stayed in the camp. Unfortunately, nearly 6,000 of his men died as a result before the end of November, not from skirmishes or battle-there was no significant field battle in Ireland during 1689-but from swamp-borne diseases, hunger, and cold. James had wisely withdrawn from the site in early October as his own troops began to grow ill. The Williamite dead were replaced over the winter months by fresh troops brought in from England, Denmark, and the United Provinces. Unhappy with Schomberg’s performance, William determined to lead his forces in Ireland personally, to quickly and decisively end the war of succession with James.

The Danish troops did not disembark until late September; the transports from Hoylake had not brought enough horses for the artillery, and the cavalry had not arrived; there were inadequate shoes and clothing; the magazines were not stocked with sufficient provisions; and few of the English soldiers, who were mostly untrained and ill-disciplined recruits, had ever fired a musket or had any knowledge of field hygiene. Moreover, their officers lacked the knowledge, experience and inclination to train their men. Lacking tents, Schonberg gave the order to build barracks (which were simply huts in the seventeenth century) out of wood and turf; the Dutch and French Huguenot soldiers knew what to do, but the English, being raw soldiers, neglected to obey the duke’s orders until it was too late. The original campsite proved to be wet and boggy, and part of the camp had to be moved to higher ground. The consequence was that more than half of Schomberg’s army died of disease that winter-mostly from dysentery.²3 After the army went into winter quarters at Dundalk, Schomberg put on his best display of paternal regard for his soldiers in order to restore their morale. As wagons bearing the sick and wounded left the camp,

Schomberg ordered his colonels and brigadiers to attend like corporals and sergeants upon the wagons, the ships and hospitals. He stood himself during many hours in the cold and rain, leaning upon a bridge along which the long line of carriages, filled with disabled soldiers passed in sight of the army, to thank them for their services, to lament their distresses, and to cherish their spirits, and to reprimand every officer who showed not the same attention with himself, shaking with age, but more with the strength of his affection. . . . Touched with the same generous sensibility of their general, the soldiers repented their clamours they had raised against him, and attentive only to his anguish, forgot their own.

Schomberg had his hands full during the winter of 1689-90. An Irish army commanded by James II’s natural son, James Fitzjames, duke of Berwick, put on vaunting displays within full view of Dundalk camp. Schomberg ignored them because, although the Irish had fired on his men, he observed that they were not very proficient in the use of their arms, and were not likely to attack across the dangerous bog that separated the two armies, while his forces were well protected behind entrenched positions. Schomberg also had other problems: he discovered 200 Catholic soldiers in the three Huguenot regiments who had to be disarmed and returned to England. Six of them were agents provocateurs who apparently had been planted to sow dissension. They were hanged. The army remained short of provisions, and had to forage, but because of proximity to rapparees, foraging had to be done by large, well armed parties. Bread had to be rationed, so Schomberg issued it only to the enlisted men because he thought that the officers could shift for themselves. King William’s order that the officers were to pay their men promptly was read out to the whole army; the officers were also ordered to see that their sick were attended, and they were also to keep a strict accounting of the number of sick and effective soldiers and where they were located, as well as an inventory of weapons. By June, new arrivals of troops had built the Williamite army at Dundalk up to 30,000.

Both the Jacobite and Williamite forces had their peculiar weaknesses when engaging in siege warfare. When the duke of Schomberg was able to resume campaigning in May 1690 following the disastrous winter spent at Dundalk camp, he set out for Charlemont Fort in co. Armagh, which had been constructed by the Elizabethan general Charles Blount, eighth Lord Mountjoy, to house a garrison. Charlemont was not a large fortress, but it did contain artillery and ammunition, and threatened an important supply route as long as the Jacobites possessed it. The governor of the garrison, Teague O’Reagan, was an experienced soldier who had fought in France, and his first reply to Schomberg’s summons to surrender was a burst of bravado. The braving words were only meant to preserve O’Reagan’s honour; he lacked the provisions to hold out because, besides a garrison of 400, he also had to feed 200 women and children. This was a weakness in resisting a siege, as O’Reagan admitted to Schomberg when he finally accepted the latter’s honourable terms of surrender, because `the soldiers would not stay in the garrison without their wives and mistresses’. As Schomberg later reported, when he surrendered, `Teague’s horse was very mad and himself very drunk’.

The failure to take Derry and Enniskillen had made it difficult for James II to hold on to Ulster, which he had planned to use as a bridgehead to Scotland. William of Orange was determined to take Dublin, and James equally determined to retain it. Because they did not control St George’s Channel, the French could see no point in holding on to Dublin, and wanted to burn it and withdraw behind the River Shannon, which constituted a more formidable physical barrier. Both James and William seemed intent upon meeting one another in a pitched battle. James moved north to Drogheda, and was able to select his position on Donore Hill on the south side of Boyne Water, two miles west of the town. His army did not have time to entrench, and he failed to take into account the fact that the River Boyne could be crossed at a number of points. James could bring only a little more than 23,000 men into the field against William’s 36,000, and through a failure of intelligence and strategy, he had only one-third of his army to withstand the better part of the Williamite force. On a very hot 1 July 1690, after an artillery bombardment, the Williamite foot forced the river and threatened to corner the Jacobites in a bend in the River Boyne. James had to withdraw his forces towards Dublin; the retreat was orderly enough at first, and neither side suffered losses that were not sustainable, but James-blaming his army for his defeat-lost heart, fled to France and never again appeared on a battlefield. Thomas Bellingham, who was an aide-de-camp to the prince of Orange, says that William led a pursuit of the Jacobites at the head of a contingent of Enniskillen horse. William had earlier been slightly wounded, and the brave old duke of Schomberg was killed while rallying his Huguenot regiments. Bellingham also paid tribute to the courage of the Jacobite horse of Tyrconnell’s Regiment, but George Story claimed that all of James’s Irish cavalry troopers had been issued a half-pint of brandy, and most were drunk when they charged `so desperately’.