seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Five Irish Regiments Set Sail for France

irish-brigade-of-franceFive Jacobite regiments of Irishmen set sail from Ireland for France on April 18, 1690. These soldiers, about 5,400 in all, will form the nucleus of France’s famed Irish Brigade.

The Irish Brigade is a brigade in the French Royal Army composed of Irish exiles, led by Lord Mountcashel. It is formed in May 1690 when the five regiments sent from Ireland arrive in France in exchange for a larger force of King Louis XIV‘s well-trained French infantry who are sent to fight in the Williamite War in Ireland. The regiments comprising the Irish Brigade retain their special status as foreign units in the French Army until nationalised in 1791.

King Louis XIV wants to support James II in his quest to regain the British crown from William of Orange, but he can ill-afford the loss of 6,000 soldiers during his own struggle with William on the continent. Louis demands Irish replacements, ill-trained though they might be, in exchange. The Irish regiments sail out on the same ships that landed the French troops under Count de Lauzun.

Soon after arriving in France, the five regiments are reorganized into three, commanded by Lord Mountcashel, Daniel O’Brien, and Theobald Dillon, whose family continues in command of this regiment for a one hundred years. Mountcashel commands this first Irish Brigade which is known as Lord Mountcashel’s Irish Brigade. He has grown up in France, and become fluent in the French tongue after his father had lost everything due to his participation in the fight against Oliver Cromwell and subsequent exile to France. Mountcashel’s brigade is joined by Patrick Sarsfield‘s men in late 1691. The Irish Brigade carries on in French service for 100 years and amass a record equaled by few military organizations in history.

Like Sarsfield, Mountcashel does not survive for very long in French service. Very shortly after his arrival in France, on September 11, 1690, he is seriously wounded in the chest fighting in Savoy near Mountiers de Tarentaise. Although he recovers from this wound and continues to command the brigade, the wound continues to hamper him. In 1694, he leaves the brigade and seeks relief from his wounds in the baths at Baréges in the Pyrenees. Unfortunately, Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, dies there on July 1, just short of a year after Patrick Sarsfield is killed at the Battle of Landen.

The Brigade ceases to exist as a separate and distinct entity on July 21, 1791. Along with the other non-Swiss foreign units, the Irish regiments undergo “nationalization” at the orders of the National Assembly. This involves their being assimilated into the regular French Army as line infantry, losing their traditional titles, practices, regulations and uniforms.


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Death of Charles O’Brien, 5th Viscount Clare

charles_o_brien Charles O’Brien, 5th Viscount Clare, is mortally wounded in the Battle of Ramilles on May 23, 1706. He is the son of Daniel O’Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare and Philadelphia Lennard. He marries Charlotte Bulkeley, daughter of Henry Bulkeley and Sophia Stuart, on January 9, 1696, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. Henry Bulkeley is the “Master of the Household” for Kings Charles II and James II. Charles O’Brien and Charlotte Bulkeley have two children, Charles O’Brien, 6th Viscount Clare (March 27, 1699 – September 9, 1761) and Henry O’Brien (born February 12, 1701).

The family fights as part of the Jacobite Irish Army during the War of the Two Kings, before going into exile in the Flight of the Wild Geese. Charles succeeds his brother, Daniel O’Brien, 4th Viscount Clare, to the title as 5th Viscount Clare in the Jacobite Peerage on his brother’s death from a mortal wound received in the Battle of Marsaglia in Italy on October 4, 1693. Charles is transferred from the Queen’s Dismounted Dragoons where he is a colonel, to the command of O’Brien’s Regiment on April 6, 1696. Later in the year he leads the regiment in the siege of Valenza in Lombardy, and the next year they are stationed with the army at Meuse.

By 1698 over one third of King James’ army is either dead or crippled, and when the Treaty of Ryswick ends the war between Louis and William, James’ soldiers are disbanded, unemployed, and homeless. Many become beggars but others join the Irish Brigade in the Spanish army, while others travel to Austria and enter the Catholic Corps.

Hostilities are renewed and Clare’s Regiment is assigned to the Army of Germany for two years in 1701-02. At the Battle of Cremona in 1702, the Irishmen defend the town against Prince Eugene and the imperial army. The attack is to be a surprise but the Wild Geese foil the attempt. The following year Lord Clare is promoted to brevet Brigadier of Infantry on April 2, 1703. A few months later on September 20, 1703, the unit takes part in the successful Battle of Hochstedt, better known as the Battle of Blenheim. A year later the unit is involved with the unsuccessful battle on August 13, 1704 at the second Battle of Blenheim. Although Clare’s Regiment experiences ups and downs, they are always admired. Two months after Blenheim, Charles rises to the brevet rank of Marshal-de-Camp on October 26, 1704, and a year later he is assigned to the Army of the Moselle under the Marshel de Villars. Clare’s Regiment fights in the disastrous Battle of Ramillies on May 23, 1706, where they distinguish themselves with great glory, but Lord Clare is mortally wounded and dies at Brussels, Belgium.

Due to the great service the O’Brien family has given to France, and having risked all, King Louis XIV makes sure that the regiment is kept in the family, and appoints Lt. Col. Murrough O’Brien (of the Carrigonnell O’Brien’s) as its commander until the minor Charles comes of age.