This Week in the History of the Irish: April 2 - April 8

LUAIN -- Beginning on April 3 and continuing to May 8, 1781, the Irish Hibernia regiment of Spain helped lay siege to British forces in Pensacola, Florida, during the American Revolution. Irishmen had been serving in the Spanish army for well over 150 years and the Hibernia regiment had existed since 1709. Approximately 508 officers and men of the Hibernia regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Arturo O'Neil, were in the Spanish force commanded by Gen. Bernardo Galvez at Pensacola.

(Left: Two soldiers of the Hibernia regiment.)

The British put up a spirited defense, including a number of sorties out of their fortifications, and the Hibernia regiment bore the brunt of some of them. Capt. Hugo O'Connor and Lt. Timotheo O'Dunn were captured during one sortie. But on May 8, a Spanish grenade flew over the walls of the fort and directly into the powder magazine, signaling the end of English resistance. Gen. Galvez demonstrated his pleasure with the performance of the Hibernia regiment by promoting O'Neil to full colonel and appointing him governor of the newly captured territory.

CÉADAOIN - On April 5, 1818, Bernardo O'Higgins (right) defeated the Spanish at the battle of Maipo River, Chile. Bernardo's mother was Chilean and his father was Ambrose O'Higgins of Co. Meath, a brigadier general of Chile and Viceroy of Peru. With his friend and fellow revolutionary, José de San Martín, O'Higgins was struggling to liberate Chile from Spanish domination. O'Higgins had suffered a painful wound in his right arm several days earlier during a defeat at Cancha Rayada, but facing a crisis, he remained with his command. As the royalist army approached, many in the rebel camps urged retreat. "No, I'll stay here," he replied. "If the enemy attacks, I shall die at my post." His defiant spirit boosted the morale of the Chilean rebels. On the clear, bright day of April 5, 1818, the royalists attacked, but the rebel army routed them near the village of El Espejo, on the Maipo River. The royalist army suffered some 1,500 killed and 2,300 captured of 4,500 engaged. With their overwhelming victory, San Martín and O'Higgins and their rebel army had liberated Chile.

SATHAIRN -- On April 7, 1865, Brig. Gen. Tom Smyth was mortally wounded at the battle of Farmville, Virginia. Born in County Cork, Smyth came to the United States in 1854. When the rebels fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, launching the American Civil War Smyth raised a company that joined the Irish 24th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The regiment saw little action and mustered out after 3-months. He then got an appointment as major in the newly formed 1st Delaware Volunteer Infantry. Smyth fought in all the major battles of the Eastern war and rose through the ranks. In February 1864, Smyth briefly commanded the famous Irish Brigade. Smyth finally got a long-deserved star in September. On April 7, 1865, at the battle of Farmville, Smyth was shot through the mouth by a Confederate sniper. He died April 9, the same day Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered, virtually bringing the war to a close. Thomas Alfred Smyth was the last Union general killed in the war.

Voices

No coward in the ranks is seen,
When gallant Smythe (sic) appears,
Men kindle at his voice and mien,
And move on with gay cheer.
               -- From "There's not a star for you, Tom Smythe" by Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, the poet laureate of the Irish Brigade.

April - Aibreán

BIRTHS

3, 1843 - James D. Brady (Civil War officer in the 63rd NY, Irish Brigade - Portsmouth, VA.)
4, 1818 – Thomas Mayne Reid (Author - Katesbridge, Co. Down)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

2, 1914 - Cumann na mBan is formed in Dublin as an auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers.
2, 1973 - Special Powers Act replaced by Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act
3 - to 8 May, 1781- Hibernia regiment of Spain helps lay siege to Pensacola, Fla., during the American Revolution
4, 1864 -
 Gen. Phil Sheridan appointed chief of cavalry for the Army of the Potomac - U.S. Civil War.
5, 1818
 - Bernardo O'Higgins defeats the Spanish at the battle of Maipo River, Chile
5, 1916 - Patrick Pearse denies rumors of a possible rising to Irish Volunteer Chief of Staff Eoin MacNeill.
6-7, 1862 -Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne commands a brigade at battle of Shiloh, TN.
6, 1916 - In Berlin, Roger Casement receives instructions for the delivery of munitions for the Easter Rising.
6, 1954 - Display of Irish tricolor banned in Northern Ireland.
7, 1865 - Former U.S. Irish Brigade commander Tom Smyth mortally wounded at battle of Farmville, VA.
8, 1886 - Home Rule Bill introduced in English Parliament by Gladstone.

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Tags: American Civil War, Americas, Military History, On This Day, United States

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