Charles Chalmont Marquis of St Ruth (c. 1650 – 12 July 1691) was a French general. Early in his military career, he fought against Protestants in France. Later, he fought in Ireland on the Jacobite side in the Williamite wars, where he was killed at the Battle of Aughrim.
Edict of Nantes
After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, there was an exodus of thousands of Protestants from France in the direction of Geneva. France exerted much pressure upon the Duchy of Savoy for the Protestants fleeing to Geneva to be arrested and handed over. The duke was not in a position to accept another new war or another French occupation. The marquis de Saint-Ruth, the general of the King of France, ordered the burning of the dwellings if " the Ternier clann and the Gaillard clann did not pay the eight quarter and a half (tax) of the normal, plus 8 other quarters to the contribution of war that one had just imposed by the king". The population, confronted with a dilemma, had to pay the tax to le marquis de Saint-Ruth.
In 1690, the Marquis de Saint Ruth besieged the town of Annecy and played a part in the victory at the Battle of Staffarda, among other battles. He directed the operations against le château d'Aléry. Today, le château d' Aléry that belongs to the family Aussedat has been restored.
Arrival in Ireland
On 20 March, the general St. Ruth arrived at Limerick from Brest, France, with the lieutenants-general and the governor. At his landing on the quay he was saluted by a discharge of the artillery from the castle. Proceeding, he found the soldiery of the town ranged on each side of the street. The viceroy came to meet him a hundred paces from his palace, gave him the bien-venu into Ireland, and brought him to dinner. In the evening he was lodged in a house prepared for his residence. Along with St. Ruth came a fleet bringing arms, clothes for several regiments, powder, ball, and a considerable quantity of oats, meal, biscuit, wine, and brandy, which was much appreciated in the country. A few days later, the general began to apply himself to his charge and issued orders that the army should prepare to take the battlefield, except such battalions as were posted for the defence of a few important towns which remained in the possession of the loyal party, such as Limerick, Galway, Athlone, and Sligo, besides some petty holds.
In April the Dutch Baron de Ginkel, general of the prince of Orange's army, issued commands that his troops should leave their quarters and march to the town of Mullingar in the county of Westmeath, some twenty miles from Athlone, to rendez-vous there, and from there to begin the battle campaign. In compliance with these commands, some regiments arrived there on 27 April; the rest of the Williamite soldiers were still marching there.
On the Jacobite side the marquis de St. Ruth sent forth similar orders, that King James's army should march out of their quarters to Athlone and encamp near-by, on the Connaught side of the Shannon, having understood that general Ginkel intended to open the campaign with the siege of Athlone in order to enter into the province of Connaught. From there the plan was to obtain entire possession of Ireland. In order to do so, several foot-soldier regiments came there in the beginning of May. At the same time their cavalry was marching from all parts.
By the beginning of June, William of Orange's English, Danish, German, Dutch, and Huguenot army was assembled at Mullingar, and on 6 June they began their march towards Athlone, with the intention of taking that great pass into Connaught. On 7 June, they came to the village of Ballymore, on the road, and midway between Mullingar and Athlone. There was a fort close by it at the side of a lough, which had been fortified a little by the Irish the previous winter.
The Siege of Athlone
The town of Athlone was defended well for many days; however, a combination of Jacobite underestimation and bad judgement played a large role in the loss.
St. Ruth, hearing the town of Athlone had been taken, fell into a sensible grief. However, he ordered a few troops to march down and retrieve the place if it was practicable. But the officers observed that the entrenchment was extraordinarily guarded and might be supported by the hostile army, so they returned to their camp.
The loss of Athlone on 13 June supported the judgment against the Tyrconnell opponents of this decision, which, if it had not been taken, would have preserved Athlone town, and by the same occasion, the province of Connaught. When the news of this misfortune came to the Duke of Tyrconnell, then at Limerick, he redoubled his sorrow that he was so unfortunate as not to be believed when he proposed clear and sure ways of saving his country from a total ruin. However, he needed to deliver his opinion concerning the operation of the remaining campaign. He would not now lay the kingdom upon a single battle, having heard of such a design, but he would make a defensive and delaying war in the expectation of being superior the next year with reinforcements from France. In the interim and ad hoc (the foot being brought to Limerick), he would send the Irish cavalry over Banagher bridge into the province of Leinster, to bring away from thence great booty, and also recruits from the Catholic inhabitants.
Arrival at Aughrim
General St. Ruth, knowing that he could not justify his loss of Athlone while at the head of a considerable army to King James, thought fit not to share Tyrconnell's sentiment, and chose to risk the kingdom upon a fair combat, being unalterably resolved to bury his body in Ireland or regain the country speedily. Whereupon, observing the strength of his army, he commanded it to decamp from Athlone in the afternoon of that day, 30 June 1691. He marched towards Limerick, proceeding with small marches until he arrived a little beyond the village of Aughrim, 20 miles from Athlone, and some 30 miles from Limerick, in the county of Galway. Viewing the surrounding ground, he judged it convenient for his purposes, and so encamped there, waiting for the enemy. His army faced towards Athlone to the east. In front of his position were marsh-lands, over which foot-soldiers could come but not cavalry. At each end of these marsh-lands there was a passage, through which the enemy's horse could come towards his right and left flank.
The passage on the right was a little ford at a stream issuing from the marsh-lands. That on the left was an old broken causeway, only large enough for two horses to pass it at a time, which was sixty yards long. Beyond this causeway, and on the left within forty yards, was the castle of Aughrim, into which St. Ruth put Colonel Walter Bourk and two hundred men on that day. St. Ruth marshalled his army in two lines. The cavalry on his right were the regiments of the Duke of Tyrconnell, of the Earl of Abercorn, and of Colonel Edmund Prendergast, in front of the regiment of Sutherland and the dragoons. This wing was to see that the enemy's horse did not break in on the right of the army through the pass of the ford and through the narrow ground lying between two morasses after passing the ford. The English had double the number in cavalry; however, the Irish had some advantage in infantry.
It was here Lieutenant-General de Tessé and Major-General Patrick Sarsfield, by then Earl of Lucan, were posted. The other Lieutenant-General, the Marquis d'Usson, went to Galway after the siege of Athlone. On the left St. Ruth placed the Earl of Lucan's regiment of horse, and those of Colonel Henry Luttrell, of Colonel John Parker, and Colonel Nicholas Purcell, with a body of dragoons. Lord Galmoy, with his regiment, was put behind the second line of the foot, in the nature of a reserve for contingencies. The conduct of this left wing was given to Major-General Sheldon, the first line of which Brigadier Henry Luttrell commanded. Their business was to defend the pass of the causeway, near to which there were set two regiments of foot.
Death at the Battle of Aughrim
On Sunday 12 June, during the celebration of the soldiers' 6:00 am mass, the Williamite army was perceived arriving from the Ballinasloe direction.
Observing the Williamite force was losing the battle, General Ginkel, seeing that his centre was totally and wholly broken, and that his left wing had had massive losses without being able to have gained their objective, that his right wing could not get over to the left of the Irish with any safety, and that the foe was on his field of battle, apparently became so disturbed in his thoughts that he could not well resolve what to do, unless it were to take flight, of which some indications appeared immediately. On the Jacobite side, General St. Ruth, noting the condition of the enemy and his own success, cried out with joy: "The day is ours, my children."
General St. Ruth, having sent his command to the horse-men to march and oppose the enemy at the pass, himself felt the need go along to see them perform their duty, that there might be no failure in the last scene of this bloody tragedy with victory within their grasp. They moved and General St. Ruth followed with his guards. While he was riding down a little hill, a cannonball from the other side, directed by the cannoneer amongst the troops that were going to defend the pass, missed all other soldiers targeted and struck the Marquis of St. Ruth in the head, killing him.
His body was carried off and brought to the town of Loughrea and interred privately at the Carmelite Abbey cemetery during a night soon after his death. His death was immediately made known to the enemy by a deserter, who thereupon advanced in haste to the pass.
Without direction and coordination a winning battle was turned into yet another battle lost by the Jacobites in this succession of circumstances. More than 7,000 European soldiers of different nations were killed.
He married Marie de Cossé, widow of Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye. Marie, born in 1622 was many years older and the marriage was childless; she lived until 1710.
Saint-Simon, in his Memoirs, paints a most unflattering portrait of St. Ruth, which should be treated with some caution, since he was only sixteen when St. Ruth died, though he did apparently meet him. He describes St. Ruth as a "gentleman in a small way", tall and well-built but exceptionally ugly; a gallant soldier but notorious for domestic cruelty. According to Saint-Simon, his treatment of his wife became so brutal that she eventually asked the King to intervene. Louis treated her with great sympathy and ordered her husband to desist; when the ill-treatment continued the King began sending St. Ruth on unnecessary missions to free his wife of his company.