Chapter 8: Boyne Water.
The morning of Tuesday, the 1st of July, 1690, broke calm and bright. At about six o’clock in the morning the English right wing, under General Douglas and Count Schomberg, marched towards Slane. It consisted of twenty-four squadrons of horse, and six battalions of infantry. As they marched along at the back of the river, they discovered several shallows, and crossed without proceeding as far as Slane. No serious resistance was offered to their passage of the Boyne, as the Irish had here only some parties of skirmishers, who fell back as they advanced.
After forming the troops in order, Douglas and Schomberg advanced, but presently perceived the French battalions and a great part of the Irish cavalry, forming the left wing of James’s army, drawn up in order at some distance. They consequently halted, and sent for reinforcements. When these arrived, they extended their lines to the right, so as to outflank the enemy, and, supporting their cavalry by alternate battalions of infantry, again moved forward.
The Irish skirmishers fell back before their advance, taking advantage of the banks of the ditches, which divided the ground into small fields, and keeping up a galling fire upon the British as they advanced. With some difficulty, the latter passed over this broken ground and formed in order of battle, on the edge of what appeared to be a plain, but which was in fact a deep bog, which completely covered the Irish left. Here they came to a standstill.
William had waited, until he believed that his right would have had time to fall upon the Irish left, and then ordered his centre to advance and force the passage at Old Bridge. The Dutch guards, whom William relied upon as his best and most trustworthy troops, advanced in splendid order to the river side, with their drums beating the march. When they reached the water’s edge the drums ceased, and the soldiers entered the river. The stream rose as the dense column marched in and dammed it up, and the water reached the shoulders of the grenadiers, but they still moved on, in regular order, keeping their arms and ammunition dry by holding them above their heads. On the opposite bank, the hedges near the brink of the river were lined with skirmishers, while in the rear, in a hollow covered by some little hills, seven regiments of Irish infantry, supported by ten troops of horse and Tyrconnell’s regiment of cavalry, were drawn up. The hills protected them from the fire of the British batteries, which passed over their heads.
The Dutch troops continued their way unmolested, until they reached the middle of the river, when a hot fire was opened upon them from the Irish skirmishers; but the Dutch moved on, unshaken, and soon gained the opposite bank, where they rapidly formed up, the skirmishers retiring before them. Scarcely had the Dutch formed their squares, when the Irish horse burst down upon them at full speed, and charged them with impetuosity.