Sunday, 12 August 2012

Danish Troops in the Williamite Army in Ireland, 1689-91 ~~ by Klejd Hald Galster

There is not much literature on the Nine Years War, there seems to be even less on the Williamite War in Ireland between 1689 and 1691. A couple of years ago John Childs wrote The Williamite Wars in Ireland. This was a welcome scholarly piece of work on this episode during the Nine Years War, and may be considered a standard work. Furthermore, there are monographs on particular battles. such are Mike McNally's books on the battles of the Boyne and Aughrim.

Recently another book was published, namely Danish troops in the Williamite army in Ireland, 1689-91 by Kjeld Hald Galster. Apart for providing a narrative of the war in Ireland during 1689-91, this book gives also a first hand account of subsidy troops and fills in an important gap in the literature. In 17th and 18th century warfare subsidy troops (hilfstruppen) played an important role, even made up a substantial part of the Williamite, and later Marlburian, armies in Flanders. However, there is no single monograph on any of these subsidy troops, as far as I am aware, and this on the Danish contingent is very welcome. 

The author, Kjeld Hald Galster, did a very good job here to clarify the genesis and role of these Danish troops as part of the Williamite forces in Ireland. Gold played, obviously, an important role for Christian V of Denmark when he hired out 7,000 of his troops to William III of England. However, Galster makes clear other, politically motivated, factors played an equally important role. Hiring out troops was also an opportunity for the army to gain experience.

Galster provides the reader with a theoretical framework for warfare, considerations that needed to be taken by commanders, etc. In particular coalition warfare, and the role of the Danish contingent, is given much attention. Regarding the latter, the author frequently reference to modern day wars where so-called coalitions of the willing are important for an international community to achieve certain goals (cf. peace-keeping operations or operations in Iraq and Afghanistan).

On a more detailed level, this book narrates on the operations in Ireland between, roughly speaking, the arrival of the Danish troops in early 1690 until the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in late 1691. Here, Galster makes ample use of documents from the Danish State Archives (Rigsarkivet), hitherto unpublished material. This all should appeal to anyone interested in the conduct of operations during the Williamite Wars. Problems related to reinforcements and payments seem an almost continuous theme.

For a work of such a scope, or actually such a detailed and well-defined topics, it is almost unavoidable that some loose ends and minor issues remain.
First there is the role Denmark would have played as part of the coalition against France that may have needed some more explanation. Though Denmark supplied of course some 7,000 men, Denmark was, as far as I know, not a member of the League of Augsburg or Grand Alliance against France.

Secondly, as the story of the Danish troops is set against that of the Glorious Revolution, the latter is detailed a bit as well. However, here there seems a preference for the 'invitation/conspiracy' theory, neglecting other theories stating that William of Orange's invasion of England was more a pre-emptive strike.

Looking at the welcome tables and illustrations, a few remarks may be made. On page 60 a chart is given on the organization of the Williamite forces.
Here the presence of a Brandenburg regiment is bit odd. Of course, this refers to the Regiment Brandenburg, a regiment of the Dutch standing army. It was not, for example, a (subsidy) regiment from the Brandenburg army. Hence, it should be be listed as part of the 'regiments of Dutch infantry'. The Brandenburg regiment is listed separately in the appendix as well. Looking at the other regiments of cavalry, Schomberg's regiment was a Huguenot regiment but is not listed as such (the Huguenot foot is).

The appendix with Danish regiments is particular nice. I was pleased to find the names of various French officers, Huguenots refugees. As a lineage aficionado I regret there is not more regimental detail on the nine Danish regiments of foot that each supplied one battalion. But something needs to be wished for of course!

But that is all minor compared to the rest of this work. The addition of a book on the Williamite War in Ireland is always welcome.  Though the book's main character, the Danish contingent, may be a bit esoteric, it provides a very nice perspective on the operations and conduct of warfare in Ireland between 1690 and 1691. The discussion of topics such as coalition warfare, and the role of the Danes, as an abstraction makes this book stand out as being more than a, for example, regimental history.

This book is therefor highly recommended to anyone with an interest in this period. The book can easily be obtained via the published: the Four Courts Press.


Bjorn Thegeby said...

I think that Denmark was a member of the Grand Alliance, unlike Sweden, who anyway rented out troops to the Dutch. This non-membership was what enabled Charles XI mediate Ryswick.

Wienand Drenth said...

According to various sources Sweden was part of the League of Augsburg from its formation in 1686, together with the Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Bavaria, and some lesser states in the Empire. England and the Dutch Republic joined in 1689, resulting in the Grand Alliance. Sweden left already in 1691, after having concluded some sort of peace with Denmark. Denmark is never mentioned as part of the League of Augsburg or Grand Alliance.

Bjorn Thegeby said...

You are right. Sweden was aligned with the United Provinces through the Treaty of Hague 1681 and joined the League of Augsburg in 1686. There were Swedish troops at Fleurus four years later. The Swedish contribution was nevertheless by no means comparable to that of Denmark in that war.

Wienand Drenth said...

Glad to have this solved. According to Het Staatsche Leger, the size of the Swedish contingent in Dutch pay numbered about 6,000 men in 1689. As I don't have the books with me now, I cannot tell if they remained in Dutch pay until 1697, or left before already.