Garry Bryant/Garaidh Ó Briain
12 April 2015
Since the middle 1500's Irishmen had been recruited for military service in Europe in small regiments who served mostly in Spain until the later part of the seventeenth century.
Thomond’s 54th and last king was Murrough O’Brien, who under duress was the first Irish Chief / King to surrender his Irish title and clan lands in 1543 to English King Henry VIII, who re-granted the lands to Murrough and created him Earl Thomond for life, and Baron Inchiquin for his descendants. Murrough’s nephew became the 2nd Earl of Thomond and Baron Ibracken which continued through his descendants until it dsvp. in the middle eighteenth century.
1st Viscount Sir Daniel O’Brien
A branch of the O’Brien Clan lived at Carrigaholt in County Clare, and served in many conflicts for Ireland at home and abroad during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and was wounded many times. For his service to the Crown, he was knighted by the Queen on 1 July 1604, at Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland, and granted large tracts of land in County Clare and had former lands in Counties Clare and Limerick restored to him that the family had lost during Cromwell’s term in power. Sir Daniel served in the Irish Parliament in 1613, and was a member of the Supreme Council of the Catholic Confederates. In 1662 on 11 July, Sir Daniel was created Viscount of Clare and Baron Moyarta in the peerage by King Charles II. Sir Daniel was the third and youngest son of 3rd Earl of Thomond, Cornelius O’Brien and his wife Una O’Brien. Cornelius’ father was Donongh “The Fat” O’Brien (d: 1553), whose father was the 53rd and last king of Thomond, Conor Ó Briain. Daniel died in 1666.
2nd Viscount Conor O’Brien
Conor O’Brien succeeded his father as 2nd Viscount Clare upon the death of his father in 1666, whose wife, Lady Catherine Fitzgerald (daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl Desmond and Eleonar Butler), survived him. Conor, who was born in 1605, married to Honora O’Brien (daughter of Daniel O’Brien and Ellen FitzGerald [daughter of the Knight of Glin]) and died in 1670.[i]
A clansman Terence O’Brien, who was a Catholic Bishop was executed in 1651 following the Cromwellian Siege of Limerick.
3rd Viscount Daniel O’Brien
The 3rd Viscount Clare was Daniel O’Brien (named for his grandfather) who was one of the chief supporters of King James II (who was a younger brother to Charles, and ascended the English throne on the execution of Charles II) and a member of the privy council beginning in 1684. Daniel succeeded to his father’s honors in 1670, and was also Lord Lieutenant of County Clare. Daniel married Philadelphia Leonard/Lennard, daughter Duke (Lord Dacre) Francis Leonard/Lennard, and sister of Earl Sussex Thomas Leonard. She gave birth to three children.
A regiment of foot was raised by Daniel in Ireland for service in Holland on 8 August 1674, and designated as Clare’s Regiment of Foot. A year later the commander, Daniel, was replaced by Sir John Fenwick. Clare’s Regiment was renamed the Northumberland Fusiliers in the English army which later was known as the 5th Regiment of Foot. This unit would later serve in the Williamite War in King William of Orange’s army and fight at the Battle of the Boyne.
King Charles II died in1685 and was replaced by his younger brother James II. James was Catholic and this condition was not pleasing to most of the English and Irish nobility who were Protestant. The Queen gave birth to a son in 1688, and became heir to the throne and taught as a Catholic. Finding this situation unfavorable the Protestant nobility approached Mary Stuart, whose husband was William of Orange, the ruler of the Netherlands, and a Protestant. Mary and William came by invitation to England in December 1688, and King James II fled to France where war had broken out earlier in the year between France and European states lead by William of Orange of the Netherlands. Under King James, England supported French King Louis XIV, but now switched sides supporting King William’s interests.[ii]
Ireland’s position was declared by the Earl of Tyrconnell in the support of King James II, except the citizenry of Ulster did not like the declaration supporting the Catholics. King Louis XIV was disheartened with the swing in England’s support, was uplifted to hear that Ireland was on his side. To show appreciation the French King supplied the ousted English king French army officers, money, and arms in the hopes that James and his followers would keep William and the English army busy in Ireland.[iii]
March 1689, James and 400 French officers landed at Kinsale by the French Navy. William did not arrive in Ireland until June 1690, at Carrickfergus in north eastern Ireland.
Being the Lord-Lieutenant of County Clare, Lord Clare rounded up all the protestant men of the county and housed them in Clare Castle which he had taken, those men not being trustworthy to King James II. Lord Clare also levied a three month tax of £1,798. [Three regiments (about 2600 men) were raised by Daniel O’Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare, to fight in the army of King James II:
Clare’s Buy (yellow) Dragoons - 3rd Viscount Clare, Daniel O’Brien.
1st Clare Regiment of Foot - Col. Daniel O’Brien (eldest son).
2nd Clare Regiment of Foot - Col. Charles O’Brien (youngest son).
Lord Clare’s put into service every able body horse in County Clare that he could find. Clare's Dragoons were the elite of Jacobite army of King James for the moment yet they were poorly trained due to time constraints. Their nickname was 'the yellow horse' due to the facing & cuffs of their jackets and not the color of their horses.
The dragoon unit was sent to Ulster under the command of Sir James Cotter, and the overall general was Lord Mountcashel Justin McCarthy. The advance Jacobite troops were ambushed by the English at Lisnakea which is in Fermanagh. Drawn up a narrow pass the dragoons were routed by a superior force. Clare’s Dragoons were disbanded and the troops placed into other units. A year later the unit was reorganized and participated in the Battle of the Boyne as one of two regiments of King James’ cavalry that performed poorly.[iv]
Upon defeat at the Boyne in 1691, Lord Clare was outlawed and his estates in Clare forfeited to the Crown. In this same year he died.
Most of the soldiers were mercenary and raw recruits with little experience. The outcome in Ireland might have been different if veteran troops had been sent by France.
These French troops were not free. King Louis XIV requested 5000 troops be sent to him, and one of them was Lord Clare’s 1st Clare Regiment (1000 men) commanded by Col. Daniel O’Brien, who joined the other Irish troops under the command of Lord Mountcashel. These 5000 men left Kinsale on 7 August 1690, and arrived on the 23rd at Brest, France, where 500 men were found unfit for duty and returned to Ireland.
Originally the Irishmen were divided into five regiments, but the men of Butler and Fielding units were disbanded and joined the regiments of Mountcashel, O’Brien, and Dillon making three regiments that consisted each of two battalions of eight companies; each company comprised of 100 men, and in all there were 4500 men including officers and cadets. The first regiment was commanded by Lord Mountcashel Justin McCarthy, the second by Daniel O’Brien, and the third by Arthur Count Dillon. King Louis had complete control over the Irish Regiments and he paid them an extra half penny a man per day then he did the French army.
Uniforms for the Irish Regiments were cast-off grey, but the Irish immediately protested and demanded that they should be red, the same as the English army. The facings for the jacket, cuffs and vest were of different colors depending on the regiment. Mountcashel was green, Dillon was black, and Clare was yellow. The regimental colors consisted of the red cross of St. George, fimbrated white overall. In each quarter of the flag was a gold Stuart crown bend ways, and in the center of the cross a gold harp crowned with a Stuart crown, and on the cross arms was the motto in gold, “In hoc signo vinces (In this sign thou salt conquer).” The first and fourth quarter were the color of the regiment’s uniform facings, and the 2nd and 3rd quarter were red.[v] (In 1762 the colors for the uniform facings were; black for Dillon, yellow for Clare, white for Rothe, green for Bulkeley, and red for Berwick. FitzJames’ cavalry wore blue.)[vi]
France trained the Irishmen in the continental science of war. Joining the outfit was Andre de Lee who brought with him 200 Irish veterans from the Grieder’s German regiment and assigned them to O’Brien, where he was commissioned on 18 June 1690, as second in command at the rank of Lt. Colonel but was in command until Daniel was properly trained.
During the year of 1690 O’Brien’s Regiment was assigned to M. Sainte Ruth and sent on active duty to the Alps to dislodge Count Benex and his 400 men in Savoy that were entrenched on a mountain nearly inaccessible. de Lee ordered that O’Brien’s Irishmen should climb the mountain on the opposite side where they descended down upon the Savoy men charging with their battle-cry. Taken by total surprise hardly a shot was fired, the Savoy men left their artillery and munitions, and scrambled into the surrounding mountains trying to escape. de Lee was promoted to full colonel. From this date on the regiment was engaged in almost every siege and battle that the Wild Geese were a part of.
Meanwhile the conflict in Ireland was not going well for King James and the Jacobites. The last stage of the Williamite War was the siege of the city of Limerick in 1691. The last desperate action of the war was fought on Thomond Bridge - the bridge that connected County Clare with the city of Limerick, where Col. Charles O’Brien commanded a cavalry regiment during the siege.[vii] About 850 soldiers were defending the bridge against the Williamite advance. As the men retreated across the bridge hotly pursued by the enemy, the French commander in charge of the city gate, fearing that the Williamites would enter the city, ordered that the gate be closed, leaving the 850 men to be butchered on the bridge. Those Irish soldiers inside realized at this point that the only thing to do was surrender and the war ended.viia
A treaty was signed at Limerick between a defeated James II Stuart and William of Orange. Jacobite soldiers who still carried arms against King William were given the choice to go home, join William’s army, or follow James to France. Over 20,000 men, women, and children made the last choice and were transported to France.
For almost a hundred years the Irish regiments in France, Spain, and Austria needed recruits to replace those troops who died. These recruits were listed as “wild geese” on the ship manifest in the hopes to fool the harbor master who worked for the English Crown.
King William outlawed in 1691 the following O’Briens; 3rd Viscount Daniel O’Brien, his sons Daniel and Charles O’Brien all of Carrigaholt. Murrough O’Brien of Corrofin. Morgan, Conor, and Daniel O’Bryen of Hospital. Daniel O’Brien of Castletown, County Limerick. Teigue O’Brien of Carrowmore, County Sligo.[viii]
Upon arriving in France James II formed an army but didn’t pay much attention to where he placed his men. Many high ranking officers found themselves as privates in the new army. The grey clothing offered to Louis’s Irish army was given to James’ but they quickly dyed them red.
On 4 October 1693, the Battle of Marsaglia, Italy was fought, and mortally wounded was the 3rd Viscount Clare, Daniel O’Brien (whose 56, 931 acres of land in County Clare, Ireland, had been confiscated by King William), Daniel’s eldest son and namesake, Daniel, inherited the title and the French Wild Geese regiment of O’Brien had its name changed from O’Brien to Clare.
Last Will of Daniel O'Brien, 3rd Viscount Clare
"In nomine Domini. Amen. I, Daniel, Lord Viscount Clare, being of perfect sense and memory, yet weak of body, do order my Will and Testament of my Estate in manner as followeth:—First, I bequeath and leave to my eldest son, Colonel Daniel O’Brien, and his heirs males, all my real estate, as manors, castles, lands, tenements, and hereditaments, as also all my breeding mares and stallions; and after the decease of the said Daniel, leaving no issue male lawfully begotten behind him, to my second son Colonel Charles O’Brien, and his heirs male for ever, he or they discharging all my debts and incumbrances rightly charged on my estate, as also the sum of £4,000, lately made over by me as marriage portion, unto my daughter Mary O’Brien, as by my conveyance to that intent, lying in the hands of Colonel Charles M‘Donnell. And I do order and leave Captain James Berry and Ned Torpy to keep and oversee the said stud of stallions and mares for the use of my son Colonel Daniel O’Brien until he comes over seas, conjuring him to cherish and use my now tenants with all favour and kindness as he expects my blessing, and to be loving and kind to his brother Charles. Secondly, I bequeath and leave to my second son, Colonel Charles O’Brien, my field plate and the use of his brother Daniel’s horses, after they come to the age of five or six years, as often as need shall require, as also my horse Custard and all other my riding horses, my boat and brigantine, he first discharging and paying off such money or debts due from me to the dragoons or officers of my regiment, and if there be any other petty debts unpaid, I conjure him on my blessing to see them paid immediately, and do also leave unto him all my right unto the lands of Insy (Inch), and the rest of Clanchy’s estate thereabouts, and I do charge him, as he expects my blessing, to love his brother Daniel, and to shun all manner of debauchery and evil company, and to leave the keeping of the field plate and hampers to Thomas Mearis, to allow him twenty pounds a year and a riding nag. I leave and bequeath unto Dr. William Carrigg £40 a year, during life, on Dromore or any other part of my estate, and one hundred pounds in money to Thomas McNamara of Limerick, merchant. I leave and bequeath unto the Spanish Doctor Michall my riding padd called Swyny, as also my scarlet embroidered cloak, and one hundred pounds in money on Thomas McNamara of Limerick, merchant. I leave and bequeath unto my mother all other my moveable goods and household stuff, and the disposal of all my lands in Scormuck (?) to whom she thinks fit, and also my sheep, which she is to dispose of to poor widows and orphans as she thinks fit after my debts are paid, and also to appoint such stewards or overseers of my estate as she shall think fit. I leave my brother Colonel John M‘Namara, two mares of the Neapolitan breed, and Whitefoot to Colonel Patrick Sarsfield. I leave to Donogh Cory ten pounds during life. I order my black cattle to be disposed of towards the payment of my debts at Ennis, Clare, &c., and especially to pay Mahony and Stacpole, and to dispose of the money they have received formerly towards the payment of other debts, and do desire Edward Morony, Esq., and Dermot Considine of Leitrim, to see that performed immediately. I order that the widow of Daniel M‘Namara shall be paid of my own cattle in as many as shall appear she had wrongfully lost by me or mine. I order and leave all what estate or lands I have hitherto enjoyed and possessed by virtue of my Provisoe, and which of right belonged to and was the estate of other proprietors in the year 1641, to be immediately restored to the several proprietors as shall appear before Father Gilbert Brody, Edmond Morony, Esq., and Dermot Considine of Leitrim, to be their respective proprietors then. I leave to Daniel M‘Duane’s children the freedom of six cows in Kilballyowen, with their houses and gardens a piece, and six acres a piece for tillage to themselves and theirs. I order that my sons Daniel and Charles shall not remove six young Persian horses out of the stable until they be six or seven years old, and that Michael Gillareagh shall enjoy his horse, and ride and look to my horses, and to be rewarded by my son Daniel as he shall deserve. I leave to little Harry O’Brien forty pounds a year on my estate. I leave to Elinor Grady the freedom of five cows in money during her life, and my mother to take care of her. I order that Conor Considine shall enjoy his farm of Clonreddane during the lives of any two persons he shall name in his lease besides those lives formerly inserted therein. I do leave to the tailor Richard Keating, the freedom he hath hitherto, during his life. I order my children to be careful of John Dea’s wife and children, and of black Joan. I leave to Honora Tuohill ten pounds per annum during life. I leave James Barry his farm of Killinny rent free during his life. I leave John Bane FitzPat to my son Daniel, enjoining him to give him five pounds a year during his life. I appoint Father Gilbert Brody, Edmond Morony, Esq., and Dermot Considine of Leitrim, to see this my last will and testament executed immediately, according to my intent and meaning. I order that Gerson shall not be removed from his farm, nor the men that works in the quarry. I order to Mathew the coachman, the fourth part of Cross, at the same rent with the other tenants. I desire Father Gilbert Brody and Dermot Considine to see Daniel Huony’s daughter satisfied in her just demand out of my goods. I bequeath to the wives of Robert Kelly, Donogh O’Devane, Teige Roe O’Quilly, Hugh Mioll, and Honora O’Neill widow, shall have two cows a piece freedom. I order that John O’Dea shall be paid in grazing what he shall prove to be justly due. I leave to Dermot Gorman his own part of Dromellihy as his ancestors enjoyed in 1641. I leave to James Roche the rents of Lismuse till he is paid his full claim; that Murtagh Roe M‘Mahon shall be paid out of my stock of sheep or cattle for the price of the horses he sold me and some arrears of rent. I order that Captain James M‘Donnell shall enjoy the farm of Kilballyowen during the life of himself and his sons Daniel and Randal M‘Donnell in peace and settlement, and during the war to enjoy it rent free. I order Thomas M‘Namara to be accountable to my son Colonel Charles O’Brien, and Colonel Saxby, for what money he received for my use, desiring them to pay twenty pounds a piece of the same to the Friars of Quin and Limerick after the other debts are paid, and fifty pounds to the Friars of Ennis, and six pounds a piece to the friars of Askeaton and Adare. Item, I leave to Dr. Denis Brody my sword, pistols, saddle, and five pounds. I leave to Teige M‘Murrogh and his father what Father Brody and Dermot Considine shall think fit of my goods. All this I own to be my last will in presence of 
20th of October, 1690."
[James Frost, The History and Topography of the County of Clare ;
5th Viscount Charles O’Brien
Charles O’Brien was one of those who fled to France and he was commissioned a captain in James’ Irish Horse Guards but was soon transferred to the Queen of England’s Dismounted Dragoon’s, commanded by Col. Francis O’Carroll. At the Battle of Marsugen, O’Carroll was killed and Charles was promoted to colonel in October 1693. Sadly though it was in this same year of 1693, that Charles’ older brother, Daniel, died at Piguerol from wounds received during the victory at the Battle of Marsaglia in Italy on 4 October 1693.[ix] On the colonel’s death, Lee was promoted to full colonel and ordered to take permanent command, and stationed in the Piedmont. A few months later Lee was made a Chevalier in the Order of St. Louis, and on 28 July 1694, was transferred to take command of the Regiment of Mountcashel.[x]
With the transfer of Lee, Clare’s Regiment was commanded by Brigadier Richard Talbot, natural son of the Duke of Tyrconnell in Ireland. Talbot incurred the wrath of King Louis in April 1696. He was arrested and sent to the dungeons for a year in the Bastille, and relieved of his command, but returned to service and was killed in battle in 1702.[xi]
Upon the death of the 4th Viscount Clare the title passed to his brother Charles who became the 5th Viscount. Lord Clare was married on 9 January 1696, to Charlotte Bulkeley, eldest daughter of Henry Bulkeley and Sophia Stuart, who was Master of the Household of King Charles II and King James II, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.[xii]
A transfer was made of Charles as the new commander of Clare’s Regiment on 8 April 1696.[xiii] Later in the year he led the regiment in the siege of Valenza in Lombardy, and the next year they were stationed with the army at Meuse.
By 1698 over one third of King James’ army was either dead or crippled, and when the treaty of Ryswick ended the war between Louis and William, James’ soldiers were disbanded, unemployed, and homeless. Many became beggars but others joined the Irish Brigade in the Spanish army, while others went to Austria and entered the Catholic Corps.
The 5th Viscount Clare had two sons born at Germain-en-laye, France.
Hostilities were renewed and Clare’s Regiment was assigned to the Army of Germany for two years in 1701-02. At the Battle of Cremona, in 1702, the Irishmen defended the town against Prince Eugene and the imperial army. The attack was to be a surprise but the Wild Geese foiled the attempt.[xiv] The following year Lord Clare was promoted to brevet Brigadier of Infantry on 2 April 1703. A few months later on 20 September 1703, the unit took part in the successful Battle of Hochstedt, and a year later was involved with the unsuccessful battle on 13 August 1704, at Hochstedt, better known as Blenheim. Although Clare’s Regiment experienced ups and downs, they were always admired. Two months after Blenheim, Charles rose to the brevet rank of Marshal-de-Camp on 26 October 1704, and a year later Lord Clare was assigned to the Army of the Moselle under the Marshel de Villars. Clare’s Regiment fought in the disastrous Battle of Ramillies on 23 May 1706, but they distinguished themselves with great glory and captured two enemy banners which it is claimed led to County Clare being given its nickname “The Banner County.” Sadly Lord Clare was mortally wounded and died at Brussels, Belgium, where he was interred in the Irish Monastery in that city.[xv]
A famous song penned in early part of the nineteenth century called "Clare's Dragoons" mentions the battle of Ramillies:
When, on Ramillies' Bloody Field,
The baffled French were forced to yield,
The victor Saxon backward reeled
Before the charge of Clare's Dragoons.
Viva la, for Ireland's wrong!
Viva la, for Ireland's right!
Viva la, in battle throng,
For a Spanish steed, and sabre bright!
Because the O’Brien’s had risked all but honor and their swords for the Jacobite cause, King Louise XIV didn’t want the regiment to pass from the family, and sense there was an heir (although a minor), the command was given to the regiment’s Lt. Colonel, who was promoted to brevet Colonel with the right to the minor Charles O’Brien to obtain the colonelcy when of age.
Maj. General Murrough O’Brien
(ca. 1651 - 1720)
The command of Clare’s Regiment was given to Murrough O’Brien of Carrigoginnell, County Limerick, Ireland. His ancestry branches off from the King of Thomond Conor Ó Briain (1406), through his son Brian “Dubh” Ó Briain, who settled in Pubble-Brien, County Limerick, and built a castle on a lofty hill.[xvi]
Murrough had enlisted in the Irish Regiment of Count George Hamilton which passed over to France in 1671. Murrough fought in the sieges of Orsoy and Rhimberg, was at the passage of the Rhine, and the taking of Doesburgh in 1672. A year later he was at the siege of Maestricht in the Netherlands, and promoted to Ensign during 1673. Three years later Hamilton was killed and the Irishmen were transferred to the Regiment of Furstemberg and Greider.[xvii]
Over the next few years Ensign O’Brien fought in many battles and in 1688 was promoted to captain. He was one of the 200 Irishmen that were brought by Lt. Col. Lee to the new Irish regiment called O’Brien in 1690, where he served as a captain until he was promoted to Lt. Colonel on 25 January 1705, and the colonelcy on 11 August. The “Régiment d’ O’Brien” served for several years in six conflicts in Flanders. On 29 March 1710, Murrough was promoted to brevet Brigadier of Infantry. The unit was transferred to the Army of the Rhine in 1713 and fought at the sieges of Landau and Friburgh. On 1 February 1719, a promotion was granted as brevet Maréchal-de-Camp (Major General), which rank he held when he died in July 1720.[xviii]
Murrough is remembered as a man of ability and great bravery who did not received the honors due to him for his gallantry at Palluë and Ramillies, the latter where he captured the only two standards by the French that day.[xix] He had a son, Daniel, who was himself a Colonel of Infantry in the service of France. Daniel was a Chevalier in the Order of St. Lazarus, and given the title of Earl of Lismore and Viscount Tallow (Jacobite Peerage) in 1747, by King James III. Later he was appointed to Grand Cross in the Order of St. Louis in 1750. King James III appointed Daniel as Secretary of State and Minister to the Court at Rome, where he died on 5 November 1759, at the age of 76. Sir Daniel’s son was Lt. Col. 2nd Earl Lismore Sir James Daniel O’Brien (Chevalier de St. Louis), who served in Clare’s Regiment and died without issue before 1789.[xx]
6th Viscount Clare Charles O’Brien
(1699 - 1761)
Charles was born on 27 March 1699, and younger brother Henry on 12 February 1701. Young Charles served in Spain in 1719 under his uncle Marshal Duke Berwick. In July 1720 he was given the Colonelcy of Clare’s Regiment on the death of Maréchal-de-Camp Murrough O’Brien, and commissioned on 3 August 1720.[xxi]
Several years later Charles was invited to England by his cousin 8th Earl Thomond Henry O’Brien, who introduced him to English King George I. Since Earl Henry had no children he offered, with the King’s consent, that if Charles would convert to the Church of England Henry would make him his heir to the title and estate, and King George said if Charles made this choice he would pardon Charles. The 6th Viscount Clare declined the offer.[xxii]
War broke out in 1733 between France and England. Clare’s Regiment was assigned to the
Army of the Rhine commanded by Duke Berwick. A year later Lord Clare’s regiment distinguished itself at the siege of Philipsburg, where Charles was wounded in the shoulder from shrapnel when a cannon ball exploded that killed the Marshal Duke of Berwick. Several months later Lord Clare was promoted to brevet Brigadier on 20 February 1734, and four years later he was advanced in rank to brevet Maréchal-de-Camp on 1 March 1738, and Inspector-General on 22 May 1741, and ordered to the Army of Bohemia on 20 July.[xxiii] During this same year his cousin the 8th Earl of Thomond, Henry O’Brien died in 1741, and left £20,000 to Lord Clare, but handed over the title and estate to Murrough O’Brien, eldest son of Earl Inchiquin who was Protestant. However Charles assumed the title of “ Earl Thomond” in France.[xxiv]
Lord Clare became known for his knowledge of strategies which he well displayed in 1743 at the Battle of Dettingen, and in 1745 at the famous battle of Fontenoy which is considered by historians to be the Irish Brigade’s finest moment.
Battle of Fontenoy[xxv]
On the death of Austrian Emperor Charles VI in 1740 there arose what is called the War of the Austrian Succession. France and Prussia were in favor of the Bavarian prince’s claim, while England, the Netherlands, and Austria were supporting Princess Maria Theresa Hapsbourg, daughter of the former emperor.
The final battle was fought on a plateau called Fontenoy some five miles southwest of Tournay. Assembled were some 50,000 troops on both sides. The battle began at 6:00 a.m. on 11 May 1745. Throughout the morning there was heavy fighting with the English and their allies gaining the advantage over the French infantry. The French cavalry made several attempts but failed to break the formidable British square until the Wild Geese rushed upon the scene ordered by Marshal de Saxe as a last resource. The Irishmen were excited to fight England’s elite soldiers, and observers have noted that the Irish regiments seemed to be very formidable when fighting against the English.
Marshal Saxe was heard saying, "Lord Clare, you have your wish; there are your Saxon foes!"
Bagpipers led the regiments of Dillon, Clare, Roth, Berwick, Bulkeley, and Lally playing the Jacobite song “The White Cockade.” Calmly advanced the Irish Brigade with level bayonets, and suddenly a ferocious battle-cry rose from the throats of the exiled sons of the Emerald Isle: “Cuimhnigh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach!” (Remember Limerick and Saxon perfidy!) In the van were regiment’s of Dillon and Clare who’s first rank was leveled by hot lead, but they were undeterred in the attack. Finally the two lines met in hand-to-hand battle. That day an English banner was captured.
One French officer witnessed, “In 10 minutes the battle was won.” French Marshal de Saxe, overall commander of the French and Prussian armies stated, “What finer reserve than six battalions of Geese.” The English retreated leaving behind them 5,000 of their fallen comrades.[xxvi]
"The Marshal (de Saxe) almost smiles to see, so furiously he (Lord Clare) goes!
How fierce the look these exiles wear, who're wont to be so gay:
The treasured wrongs of fifty years are in their hearts to-day:
The Treaty broken, ere the ink wherewith 'twas writ could dry,
Their plundered homes, their ruined shrines, their women's parting cry,
Their priesthood hunted down like wolves, their country overthrown;
Each looks as if revenge for all were staked on him alone.
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy; nor ever yet elsewhere
Rushed on to fight a nobler band than these proud exiles were."
At the battle Lord Clare received two musket balls through his coat, and was wounded by shrapnel at the siege of Tournay. For his gallantry he was promoted to Lieutenant-General on 2 May 1745. A letter with orders arrived on 18 December 1745, as one of the leaders of the Irish volunteers from the regiments of Wild Geese in the service of France, to serve under Bonnie Prince Charles Stuart in Scotland, but he never arrived with the majority of troops because of the English blockades. One of the English blockades was under the command of Captain O’Brien, an Irish Protestant, chased the Prince Charles for over 150 miles with four English man-of-war ships, as the pirate ship tried to free itself from the chase for the sloop that contained boxes of money, 14 chests of pistols and sabres with 13 barrels of powder. With the English ships gaining and many ship mates dead, the Irish privateer ran his ship aground fleeing with his crew into the Scottish countryside with the boxes of money.[xxvii]
Had Lord Clare been able to arrive in Scotland the history of the Celtic country may have been different and so would England’s. Two years later Charles was made a Chevalier of the
After the battle of Fontenoy.
Orders of the King on 1 January 1747, and Governor of Neuf-Brisac in Alsace on 5 November 1756, and promoted to Marshal of France at Versailles on 24 February 1757. Another promotion came on 1 November 1757, as Commander-in-Chief of Languedoc Province and the entire Mediterranean coast.[xxviii] In an obituary printed in Europe he is mentioned being a Chevalier of the Order of the Holy Ghost.[xxix]
A cousin Henry O'Brien, 8th Earl of Thomond (d: 1741), assured the said Charles of pardon by King George I (reign 1714 -1727), of the outlawry in which he continued by the attainder of his grandfather in 1691, provided that Charles conformed to the Protestant Religion; but he declined.
Charles married in 1755 to the Marchioness Louise Gauthier de Chiffreville of Normandy. Six years later Lord Clare died at Montpelier at the age of 62. Maréchal de Thomond died at Montpellier on 9 September 1761.[xxx]
“Remember the glories of Brien the brave,
Tho’ the days of the hero are o’er;
Tho’ lost to Mononia, and cold in the grave,
He returns to Kinkora no more!
The start of the field, which so often has proud
Its beam on the battle, is set;
But enough of its glory remains on each sword,
To light us to victory yet!”
7th Viscount Charles O’Brien
(1757 - 1774)
The last of the Carrigaholt O’Brien line was born in Paris in 1757. Being a minor, the Colonelcy of Clare’s Regiment was reserved for the child until he came of age. 6,000 livres was allowed for a officer to take command as Colonel-in-Second who was Brigadier James FitzGerald. FitzGerald resigned his commission in 1762 and was replaced by Chevalier de Biatagh who resigned in 1770. Biatagh was replaced by Chevalier de Meade until 1775 when Clare’s Regiment was disbanded and reassigned to Berwick on the death of the minor Charles on 29 December 1774, at Paris unmarried.[xxxii]
With no heir to take over Clare’s Regiment the unit was disbanded and assigned to Berwick’s Regiment. The end of the Wild Geese regiments came with the French Revolution in 1790.
Clare’s Regimental Battles
The Williamite War
Regiment of Dragoons[xxxiii]
Colonel Daniel O’Bryan’s (Lord Clare)
The Colonel - 3rd Viscount Daniel O’Bryan
Lt. Colonel - James Phillips
Major - Francis Browne
Captains - Florence MacNamara, John MacNamara, Redmond Magrath, Morres Fitzgerald, James McDaniell, Nicholas Bourke, John Fitzgerald, Roger Shaughnessy, Teigue O’Bryan, Thady Quin.
Lieutenants - Turlogh O’Bryan, David Barry, James Purcell, John Hurley, John Ryan, Murrough O’Bryan, Owen Cahane, Silvester Purdon, William Lysaght, Joseph Furlong, Patrick Hehir, Richard Bedford.
Cornets - Daniel O’Bryan, Thomas Fitzgerald, Thady Mulquiny, Murtagh Hogan, Hugh Perry, Thomas Donnell, Nicholas Archdeken, John Bourke, William Neylan, Laurence Dean, Hugh Hogan, Thomas Clanchy.
Quarter-Masters - James Neylan, William Hawford, Laur. McNamara, James White, James Ryan, Christopher O’Bryan, Edmund Bobilly, Gerald Fitzgerald, Daniel MacNamara, Dermott Sullivan, James O’Dea, Thomas Lee.
Colonel, Lt. Col., and Major.
Adjutant - ??? Devon
Chaplain - ??? Daly
Quarter-Master - ??? Barry
Chirurgeon - ??? Nelan
Regiments of Infantry[xxxiv]
Colonel Charles O’Bryan
Colonel - Charles O’Bryan
Lt. Colonel - La Motte Darquet
Major - William Saxby
Captains - Cornelius M’Mahon, Thomas Magrath, Dermott O’Callaghan, Daniel Malooney, Iguatius Sarsfield, Morgan Connell, Donogh O’Bryan, Turle M’Mahon, Donogh McNamara, John Rice, Thady McNamara, Teigue Ryan, William Bourke, Daniel Neiland, Thomas Fitz-Gerald.
Lieutenants - ??? McNamara, ??? Burke, Thomas Barry, Teigue O’Bryan, Winter Bridgman, James Malooney, William Sheenan, Edward Barry, Barnard Sale, Henry McDonough, Donogh McNamara, Donogh O’Bryan, Philip Dwyer, Nicholas Comyn, John Hurley, Dominick White.
Ensigns - ??? McNamara, ??? White, Thomas Bourke, Calla O’Callahane, Stephen Stritch, Joseph Sarsfield, Teigue Connell, Teigue O’Heighir, Murto McMahon, Thomas Grady, Patrick White, ??? Dodd, Lewis Ryan.
Quarter-Master - ??? de Bourg
Chaplain - Rev. ??? Hurley
Surgeon - ??? Bolton
[i]. John Cornelius O’Callaghan, History of the Irish Brigades in the service of France. (Shannon, Ireland: Irish University Press, 1969 [originally published 1870]) P. 26. (HBLL-BYU DA 914.O2s.)
[ii]. Kieran Kennedy, “The Regiment of Clare, 1689-1775,” The Other Clare, #25, pp. 11-15.
[iii]. Kennedy, p. 11.
[iv]. John D’Alton, King James’s Irish Army List (1689). Volumes I-II. Second Edition - enlarged. (Dublin: Self published, 1860) V. 1, Pp. 358-359. (FHL-BRITISH 941.5 M2d v.1.)
[v]. Jane Urwick, “The banners of the ‘Wild Geese’,” The Coat of Arms, vol. IV, #15 (Autumn 1980). Pp. 285-289. NOTE - Various sources flip the quarters colors. Probably the correct version are the flags posted at the "Wild Geese" museum which is the same as described in the article.
[vi]. Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery, A military history of Ireland. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996) P. 298.
[vii]. D’Alton, v. 2, p. 699.
viia. Brian Ó Dálaigh, The Jacobite Era, 1685-1702.
[viii]. D’Alton, p. 362.
[ix]. Kennedy, p. 12.
[x]. Kennedy, p. ?? .
[xi]. O’Callaghan, p. 39.
[xii]. D’Alton, p. 359.
[xiii]. O’Callaghan, p. 39.
[xiv]. Bartlett & Jeffery, p. 298.
[xv]. O’Callaghan, p. 40.
[xvi]. O’Callaghan, p. 40.
[xvii]. O’Callaghan, p. 41.
[xviii]. O’Callaghan, p. 41.
[xix]. Kennedy, p. 13.
[xx]. O’Callaghan, p. 41.
[xxi]. D’Alton, p. 360.
[xxii]. D’Alton, p. 360.
[xxiii]. O’Callaghan, p. 42.
[xxiv]. D’Alton, p. 360.
[xxv]. Pierre Joannon, “Remember Fontenoy,” The World of Hibernia, pp. 36-44.
[xxvi]. Joannon, p. 43.
[xxvii]. O’Callaghan, pp. 440-441.
[xxviii]. O’Callaghan, pp. 43-44.
[xxix]. Gerard A. Lee, "Irish Chevaliers in the Service of France," ???, Vol. V, # 1 (February 1965), p. 5.
[xxx]. O’Callaghan, p. 43.
[xxxi]. O’Callaghan, pp. 350-51.
[xxxii]. D’Alton, p. 361.
[xxxiii]. D’Alton, p. 351.
[xxxiv]. D’Alton, v. 2, p. 698.
My name is Garry Eugene Bryant, or in Irish, Garaidh Eóghan Ó Briain. My O'Bryan family emigrated from Ireland to Canada around 1830. They were devout Catholics and my 2nd great-grandfather, William, was informed by his parents that he was to become a priest like his two older bro-thers. He ran away changed his name by dropping the O' and adding a 't,' and ended up at Black Hawk, Col-orado about 1861. But this story was family tradition, no paper doc-ument to that gives the name change. To the rescue came Family Tree DNA and the O'Brien Surname Project which confirmed that I was not only of the Dál gCais Tribe with the R-L226 & FGC5659 snp marker's, but a distant cousin to Sir Conor M. E. O'Brien, Chief of the O'Brien Clan. So I'm not an English Bryant, but an Irish O'Brien! I have three children, all grown and married, and two grandchildren. I'm a retired photojournalist, am passionate about family history and heraldry.