Last weekend saw a return to what we are beginning to call The Wars of James II. Between several of us we now have a good collection of 28mm miniatures spanning 1657-8 campaign in Flanders, when James commanded as the Duke of York, through to the fighting in Ireland when he attempted to regain his throne in the 1690s.
Smaller scale miniatures allow for the spectacle of a big battle with the plenty of room for manoeuvre on a normal sized table. You can do the same in 28mm if you have space for a huge table. Fortunately, thanks to Gary Kitching, we had the space, the miniatures and the enthusiastic players to do this.
Following the True King’s spectacular victory over the Williamites at the Boyne earlier this year, he had to once again defend his divine right of rule at Aughrim. His position was strong with foot formed up in the centre on high ground protected by a boggy stream lined with hedges.
The Williamites massed their horse and best foot on their right flank hoping to force a crossing over a causeway towards a ruined castle and the village of Aughrim. The Jacobites had been expecting the main attack to come on the other flank where the ground was more open. Consequently most of the Jacobite horse were on that flank while the causeway was relatively lightly defended by detachments of commanded musketeers supported by a few squadrons of horse. King James immediately gave orders to transfer several squadrons of his best horse from the right flank to reinforce the left.
The Danish contingent advanced on the Williamite left, forcing back the Irish dragoons who had been sent forward of the boggy stream to delay their advance. The Danes had only intended to feint on that flank but as the Jacobites pulled back they concentrated their forces to push across the boggy ground and close in.
Expected the decisive fighting to take part on the two flanks, the Jacobites thinned out their centre, holding the hedges with relatively inexperienced Irish levies. The better battalions were placed on the ends of the line to support the flanks
Taking advantage of this the English foot surged forward, forced a way across the bog and over the hedges to drive off the Irish defenders. It looked as if they would break through the centre and split the Jacobite army in two. Fortunately King James (who was present on the field after his victory on the Boyne, which was not the case in the historical battle) had drawn off several battalions from his right flank to reinforce the centre.
One of these Jacobite battalions was able to size the opportunity presented by a gap in the enemy line presented when the Danes drew off to the far left wing of the Williamite line. They surged forward to lap the flank of the English and pour a devastating fire into their flank. This, combined with a timely charge by the King’s Lifeguards, not only restored the centre but drove the enemy back over the bog. Now it was the Williamites who had a hole in their centre. The victorious Jacobite battalions could then either swing around to engage the Dutch to their left or march straight through the gap to loot the enemy camp. Naturally they chose the latter option.
The action on the Jacobite left flank was hard fought and confused. The lines broke up with individual units engaging in melees which flowed back and forth with advantage going to the Williamites. For a moment it looked as if the Jacobite left would collapse as the enemy Horse managed to force their way across the causeway. In the nick of time reinforcements arrived which King James had switched from his right flank. These were just enough to stabilise the situation on the left.
The Dutch Guards achieved initial success against the left side of the Jacobite centre, despite the fact that they were held off for several turns by the Irish levies opposing them.
By the time the Dutch broke through King James had been able to re-position his foot guards to intervene. They charged forward full of élan. The Dutch held them for a turn but when Sarsfield’s Horse joined the fray they were thrown back.
The battle was over. There was now no chance for the Williamites to take the position. It had been a very hard fought affair and on several occasions it looked as if William of Orange’s men would break through.
The Jacobite casualties
The Jacobites suffered very heavy casualties, most of them Irish. All of the Irish battalions had been driven from the field as had half of the dragoons and several squadrons of horse. The Williamite casualties were comparatively light but despite their initial successes, the intervention of King James’ reserves had restored the situation in all sectors and made it impossible for William to dislodge the valiant defenders of the true King and true Religion.
Time to take ship for England!