Saint-Ruth (Saint-Ruhe), Charles Chalmont (c.1650–91), marquis of Saint-Ruth , commander of the Irish Jacobite army in 1691, was a French aristocrat of modest means who had made his career as an officer in Louis XIV's army. He commanded a regiment in the 1672 invasion of Holland and took part in a number of engagements, including the siege of Maastricht (1673). In 1674 he transferred to a command in the Life Guards, served at the siege of Besançon, and was wounded at the capture of the Chateau de Fauconnier. In 1677 he was promoted brigadier and took part in the sieges of Valenciennes and Cambrai. He later served with distinction under Marshal de Créqui in the Rhineland. He was promoted maréchal de camp (major-general) in 1683 and lieutenant-general in 1688. He gained a reputation as a persecutor of huguenots in the dragonnades. In 1690 he conducted an energetic and successful Alpine campaign against the forces of Victor Amadeus II, bringing most of Savoy under French control. 3,000 Irish soldiers of the Mountcashel brigade formed part of his forces, and Saint-Ruth declared they had ‘done marvels’. The admiration was mutual, and the influence of Viscount Mountcashel (qv) was probably a factor in Louis XIV's appointment of Saint-Ruth to the Irish command in January 1691, with the temporary rank of general.
Saint-Ruth was not a prominent figure at the French court, but had the character of a rough-mannered professional soldier with a reputation for dash and courage. He possessed considerable leadership qualities, including the gift of winning the affection of his men. He was tall in stature, but otherwise of unprepossessing appearance. In Ireland his coming was eagerly awaited. He arrived at Limerick on 9 May 1691, accompanied by fifty transport vessels filled with arms and supplies, but no money or troops. He found the situation to be grave indeed. The army, still in quarters, was in a ragged, starving condition, with low morale and little transport to distribute supplies. He displayed great energy in overcoming these problems and preparing his forces for the summer campaign. Many of the soldiers were ordered to a training camp at Killaloe, and work was intensified on improving the defences of key fortresses. More than any other French officer who came to Ireland, Saint-Ruth believed in the military capability of the Irish. His energy and confidence soon transmitted themselves to the army, which he filled with new hope and transformed, in a remarkably short time, into a force capable of challenging the Williamites in open battle. However, he was less successful in reconciling the divisions within the Irish leadership, and his own relations with the leading protagonists, Richard Talbot (qv), earl of Tyrconnell and Patrick Sarsfield (qv), were decidedly cool. He admired the fortitude with which the Irish catholics had maintained their struggle, and wrote to Louis XIV recommending that additional food be sent to relieve the suffering of the civilian population.
The campaign opened badly for the Jacobites. A thousand men were captured in a futile attempt to defend the isolated post of Ballymore. The subsequent loss of Athlone was a major setback, for which Saint-Ruth bore considerable responsibility. His system of rotating regiments resulted in inexperienced units forming the garrison on 30 June, and the west town fell easily to the Williamite assault across the river. His failure to demolish the west town's fortifications prevented a Jacobite counter-attack. The loss of Athlone left Saint-Ruth with two strategic options. The more radical, advocated by Sarsfield and most of the other generals, was to place the infantry in garrison in Limerick and Galway and send the cavalry and dragoons across the Shannon to harass Leinster and Munster. The thinking was that the Williamites would be forced to retreat by this threat to their extended line of communications. However, the alternative option, a pitched battle to halt the Williamite advance, was preferred by Saint-Ruth. There were military arguments in its favour, and it offered a clear-cut result, which would redeem his honour. Moreover, at Aughrim a few kilometres west of Ballinasloe, he believed he had found a defensive position sufficiently advantageous to ensure victory. Withdrawing there, he employed his considerable leadership skills to rally the army and took up the position he had reconnoitred on the eastern slope of a hill which was protected on front and flanks by rivers and bogs, and approached only by two narrow passes on either flank. His estimate of the strength of the position and his faith in the Irish army were both vindicated when the Williamites attacked on 12 July. Each army had about 20,000 men, but General Ginkel (qv) had more artillery and the advantage of a substantial contingent of continental troops. Nevertheless the Irish defended their position with great courage and determination. They repulsed attacks on their right wing and across the wetlands of the centre. An Irish victory seemed likely, and Saint-Ruth was reported to have boasted that the day was his, and that he would drive the enemy back to Dublin. Ginkel's final manoeuvre was an unpromising attack along the narrow causeway on the Irish left. Riding over to take charge of the defence at that point, Saint-Ruth was killed instantly when struck in the head by a cannon ball. His death transformed a favourable situation into a disaster. The cavalry on the Irish left withdrew, leaving the infantry of the centre to be overcome and massacred. As many as 7,000 died, and the Williamite victory copper-fastened protestant ascendancy for a hundred years. Had Saint-Ruth survived to win the battle, the result of the war might have been different.
Tyrconnell, who blamed him for the defeat at Aughrim, thought his temperament ill-suited to the Irish situation, but the lacklustre campaign that followed his death suggests the opposite. As a soldier, he was respected by his opponents. ‘Brave Saint-Ruth’ had won the affection of the Irish, and the Jacobite writers Charles O'Kelly (qv) and Nicholas Plunkett (qv) both pay generous tribute to him. The fate of his body is uncertain: it may have been brought to Loughrea or buried on the battlefield, perhaps at Kilcommadan church. In the twentieth century a large Celtic cross was erected to his memory at Aughrim.