This Week in the History of the Irish: February 7 - February 13

DOMHNAIGH -- On February 7, 1877, John O'Mahony (left: from the 'Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland), founder of the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States, died in New York. O'Mahony was a member of the Young Ireland party in the 1840s; he escaped to France after the failed rising in 1848. In Paris, he met James Stephens before moving on to New York in 1853. On March 17, 1858, O'Mahony founded the Fenian Brotherhood in New York, as Stephens was founding the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Dublin. O'Mahony led the entire Fenian organization until 1865, when internal disputes led to its splitting into three factions, one being O'Mahony's. His faction's failed in its attempt to invade Canada through Campobello Island in April 1866. Eleven months later, a rising in Ireland failed. In the wake of these debacles, O'Mahony's Fenian wing ceased to exist and he lived out his last days in poverty until his death in 1877. Like Terence MacManus, O'Mahony's body was returned to Dublin where he was given a huge funeral and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Soldiers and flag of the Hibernia Regiment.

LUAIN -- On February 8, 1743, during the War of Austrian Succession , the Irish Brigade of Spain fought at the battle of Campo Santo. The regiments of Ultonia, Irlanda, and Hibernia formed the Irish Brigade fighting in Italy in a Spanish army, led by Gen. Don Juan de Gages. The Spanish government had ordered Gages forward, though he did not have sufficient supplies for his army. He was met at Campo Santo by Gen. Traun's Austrian army. Gages took up a defensive position with the Panaro River to his rear, a risky decision. The Irish were posted on the Spanish right, and, during a momentary breakthrough, the Irish captured two Austrian flags. But the second line of Austrians did not break, and the Spanish advance was halted as darkness set in, ending the fighting. The Spanish could claim a tactical victory, since the Austrians left the field first, but it came at horrendous cost, especially to the Irish. They lost over 24 officers and 465 men killed. Once again hundreds of Irishmen died many miles from home for "every cause but their own."

William "Wild Bill" Donovan as he appeared while commanding teh 69th NY (165 Infantry) during WWI.


LUAIN -- On February 8, 1959, William "Wild Bill" Donovan , soldier, lawyer, politician and head of the Office of Strategic Services, died in Berryville, Virginia. Donovan was a key figure in the development of the United States intelligence service. His life reads like a Hollywood movie script. Born in Buffalo, New York, on January 1, 1883, Donovan earned his nickname "Wild Bill" for his bubbly personality. In truth, an examination of his life shows that he seldom acted in a way one would be likely to call "wild." After flirting with the idea of the priesthood early in his life, Donovan became a lawyer, practicing in Buffalo. He also organized a cavalry unit in the N.Y. National Guard and took that unit to Mexico when General John "Black Jack" Pershing pursued Pancho Villa. On Donovan's return, he was commissioned a major commanding the famous 69th New York Infantry. He commanded the regiment when the United States entered World War I in 1917. The Army redesignated the now federalized 69th as the 165th Infantry (though it remained the 69th to the men in it) and placed it in the Rainbow Division. Donovan distinguished himself in command of the 69th, winning the Medal of Honor. After the war, Donovan was appointed an assistant United States attorney. He ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1932. Donovan was sent on a number of diplomatic missions by President Roosevelt in the 1930s. When World War II began, Roosevelt named Donovan to head up the new Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. Under Donovan's leadership, the OSS proved itself a valuable asset in the American war effort. Through his work organizing the OSS, Donovan laid the groundwork for the Central Intelligence Agency, which was formed in 1947. When Donovan died in 1959, President Eisenhower remarked, "What a man! We have lost the last hero."

MÁIRT -- On February 9th 1773 James Fitzgerald, a soldier in the Irish Brigade died in France. James joined the most famous regiment of the Irish Brigade of France, Dillion’s, in 1730. He fought in that regiment in the 1730’s at the sieges of Kehl and Philipsburg and at the battle of Dettingen in 1743. He was then given command of a company in Lally’s regiment. He fought bravely with that regiment at the most famous battle of the Brigade, at Fontenoy in 1745. He was given a brevet promotion to colonel for his outstanding performance there. In 1757 Fitzgerald was offered the opportunity to serve with Lally on his adventurous expedition to India. It may have sounded like it held a good possibility of wealth and advancement, but perhaps he had a premonition of the disaster in store for Lally in India, and after his return. In any case, he wisely turned down the opportunity and remained with the Brigade in France. He transferred to Clare’s regiment (flag of Clare's regiment, right), eventually retired as the 7th Viscount Clare in command of the regiment. A fluent Irish speaker, James Fitzerald died in France, far from the island home he loved.

Belfast Central Library
Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Ulster's resistance to Home Rule.

MÁIRT -- On February 9, 1854, Sir Edward Henry Carson, Unionist politician, was born in Dublin. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Carson was called to the Irish and then the English bar. In his most famous case he represented the Marquis of Queensbury against a libel suit by Oscar Wilde, and won. Carson was a Unionist MP from Dublin University from 1892 to 1918. He was elected leader of the Unionist party in 1910, and his opposition to Home Rule became more and more strident. His party's willingness to go to war over Home Rule – including collusion by British army officers in the procuring of arms -- pushed the British to retain six of nine counties in Ulster in the Anglo-Irish Treaty, leading to the present six-county statelet. In 1921, Carson gave up the leadership of the Unionist Party to Lord James Craig. Carson took a cabinet post in London, but was in poor health when he gave up the party leadership. He died in Kent, England, on October 12, 1935 and was given a state funeral in Belfast.

New York Public Library
An officer of Dillion's Regiment.


SATHAIRN -- On February 13, 1782, Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France helped capture St. Kitts from the British during the American Revolution. Earlier, Dillon's regiment had helped France capture several other islands during the campaign against the British in the West Indies, also serving at the unsuccessful siege of Savannah, Georgia. The French, commanded by the Marquis de Bouillé, were entrenched around the British stronghold of Brimstone Hill, known as the "Gibraltar of the Antillies," for 31 days before the British finally surrendered. Count Arthur Dillon was made governor of the island and his regiment then formed the garrison until the end of the war. The capture of St. Kitts was the last major military action of the Irish Brigade of France. In 1791, after the French Revolution, the Brigade's close ties to the monarchy of France would cause the leaders of the new Republic to disband the famous unit. Count Arthur Dillon, whose family and regiment had sacrificed so much for France during its 100-years service, would later die on the Revolutionary government's guillotine.

  • Read about the Irish Brigade of France's exploits at Cremona.

VOICES

'When I think of all the boys I have left behind me who died out of loyalty to me ... it's too much.'
        -- William "Wild Bill" Donovan, lamenting the men of the 69th who were killed in World War I

'We must be prepared … the morning Home Rule passes, ourselves to become responsible for the government of the Protestant Province of Ulster.'
        -- Sir Henry Carson in a speech at Craigavon, September 23, 1911

Arthur Dillon

'Count Dillon, we knew you to be a brave and able soldier, but we were not aware that you were so good a lawyer. We have investigated and have confirmed all your judgments, and all your decrees delivered during your government.'
        -- The British Lord Chancellor to Arthur Dillon after the isle of St. Kitts was returned to the British by treaty at the end of the American Revolution

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

'Major Dan O'Mahony is at the barrack-gate
And just six hundred Irish lads will neither stay nor wait.
There's Dillon and there's Burke
And there'll be some bloody work
Ere the Kaiserlics shall boast they hold Cremona

Major Dan O'Mahony has reached the river-fort
And just six hundred Irish lads are joining in the sport.
"Come take a hand," says he,
"And if you'll stand by me,
Then there's glory to the man who takes Cremona.'

        -- From 'Cremona" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"The greatest military genius of our race. ...'
        -- Dan Breen, speaking of his friend Sean Treacy

February - Feabhra

BIRTHS

9, 1854 - Edward Carson, Lord Carson (Politician, Unionist - Dublin)
9, 1923 - Brendan Behan (Author - Dublin.)
11, 1820 - Theodore O'Hara (Confederate colonel and author of "The Bivouac of the Dead, Danville, Kentucky)
13, 1871 - Joseph Devlin (Nationalist - Belfast.)
13, 1898 - Frank Aiken (Revolutionary and politician - Camlough, Co. Armagh)
14, 1895 - Sean Treacy (Revolutionary - Solohead, Co. Tipperary)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

7, 1549 - Composing of any poem or song about anyone other than the King prohibited by statute.
7, 1589 - Burkes rise in revolt in Co. Mayo.
7, 1877 - John O'Mahony, founder of Fenian Brotherhood in US, dies in New York.
8, 1743 - Irish Brigade of Spain fights in the battle of Campo Santo.
8, 1959 -
William "Wild Bill" Donovan, soldier, head of the OSS, dies in Berrryville, VA.9, 1773
9, 1773 - James Fitzgerald, officer in the Irish Brigade of France, dies in France.
10, 1844 - Daniel O'Connell convicted of "conspiracy," fined and sentenced to 12 months.
10, 1855 – John Allen, associate of Robert Emmet and soldier in Napoleon’s Irish Legion, dies in Caen, France.
10-22, 1889 - Richard Piggott exposed as forger of 'Times' Phoenix Park letters.
12, 1795 - Grattan introduces Catholic relief bill in House of Commons.
12, 1817 - Bernardo O'Higgins' Chilean rebels defeat the Spanish at Chacabuco, Chile.
12, 1818 - O'Higgins declares the independence of Chile.
12, 1820 - The ships 'East Indian' and 'Fanny', with about 350 Irish emigrants aboard, leave Cork harbor for Cape Colony, carrying some of the "1820 settlers."
12, 1848 - John Mitchel publishes first "United Irishmen."
13, 1782 - Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France helps capture St. Kitts from the British.
13, 1820 -Leonard McNally, lawyer, English informer, dies.
13, 1862 - The 10th Tenn. (Confederate-Irish) fights and are captured at the battle of Erin Hollow, TN, Fort Donelson campaign.

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Tags: Americas, Diaspora History, Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day

Comment by William J. Donohue on February 11, 2016 at 6:35pm

Bill Donovan was perhaps the most famous person to come out of the Irish First Ward of Buffalo. His life overlapped with half of the life of my great grandfather, Patrick Donohue, who was the himself of the book I wrote of the same title. They shared similar childhood experiences running as boys among the elevators, ships and trains that honeycomb the Ward.

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