This Week in the History of the Irish: January 22 - January 28

DEARDAOIN - January 22, 1760, at Wandewash, India, General Thomas Arthur Comte de Lally's French army, including his regiment of the Irish Brigade, was defeated by Irish-born Sir Eyre Coote's English army. Coote was born in Limerick in 1726; his father's side of the family had come over during the reign of Elizabeth I, and intermarried with the Irish. Lally was second generation Wild Geese, born in France in 1701. His father was Sir Gerard Lally of County Galway. Lally's military career began early and rose ever upward. He first served with the regiment of his uncle, Arthur Dillon. At Dettingen, in 1743, he saved the life of his father and the following year he was promoted to Colonel and given command of his own regiment in the Brigade.

(Right: Thomas Arthur Comte de Lally)

Commanding his regiment at Fontenoy in 1745, the most famous action in the history of the Irish Brigade, his actions in deploying several cannons against the flank of the English advance may have been the turning point in the battle. Lally was involved in the planning of 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie's rising in England later that year, but did not accompany him to Scotland. By 1756, when Lally was selected as commander-in-chief of the French expedition to India, he was one of the greatest living soldiers of France. Lally's force was delayed and did not leave France until May 1757. Further delays occurred on route and he finally landed at Pondicherry, India, on April 28, 1758. In less than two months, Lally cleared the English forces from a huge area around Pondicherry and captured almost 300 pieces of artillery. Lally next laid siege to Madras, but his naval support abandoned him and, in January 1759, the English were reinforced, forcing Lally to retire toward Pondicherry. Forces away from India were conspiring against Lally now, as the merchant fleets of the French had been rendered useless by England's navy. Thus in January 1760, as Lally made his stand at Wandewash, his troops had not been paid in six months, he had few supplies, and no hope of help from France. The morale of his troops could not have been high; still, they gave a good account of themselves until finally they were driven from the field by Coote's army. Lally probably should have sought terms from Coote then, but he held out in Pondicherry for another year until finally, with the garrison facing starvation, he surrendered. Lally had done all a mortal man could do with the forces available to him, now he was on his way back to Europe in a British ship. There were more tribulations ahead for this tragic figure.

MÁIRT -- On January 24, 1862, Miles Byrne, United Irishman and officer in Napoleon's Irish Legion, died in Paris. He was active in the 1798 Rising in Wexford and fought all its major battles, right through the rebels' climactic defeat at Vinegar Hill.

(Left: Miles Byrne (from his 'Memoirs".)

He escaped to the hills and served with Michael Dwyer until the failure of the rising led by Robert Emmet, a close friend of Byrne's, in 1803. Byrne traveled to France hoping to arrange for more French aid to Ireland but after failing in that he joined the Irish Legion being formed in the French army. He had a long career in the service of France. Byrne rose to command a regiment and was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. After his retirement he wrote his Memoirs, which were published 1863, a year after his death in Paris. 

Thomas Charles Wright

DEARDAOIN -- On January 26, 1799, Thomas Charles Wright, an officer in Simón Bolívar's South American army and founder and first commander-in-chief of the Ecuadorian navy, was born in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Wright joined the British navy as a teen-ager and served against the United States in the War of 1812. In 1817 he was moved so strongly by Bolívar's struggle for South American independence that he sailed for Venezuela to join his army. Wright found many other Irish among Bolívar's troops, including his aide-de-camp, Colonel O'Leary. Wright served in a number of land battles with Bolívar's army, including Carabobo, Bombino, and Pichincha. Like Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile, Bolívar had come to understand the need for a naval force to combat the Spanish and was encouraging the formation of revolutionary naval forces. In early 1824, Wright transferred to the Peruvian navy of Admiral Guise and was made captain of the 18-gun-brigantine Chimborazo. Guise praised Wright's conduct when his fleet captured Callao from the Spanish, and Wright then commanded his own fleet of small vessels. With these, Wright helped Antonio Jose de Sucre win the final victory at Ayacucho on December 9, 1824, effectively freeing Peru. As often happens after revolutions, the departure of the colonial power led to fighting among the factions that once were united against the common foe. In 1827, Peruvian President José Lamar invaded Bolivia, then Ecuador. Wright had settled in Ecuador after the ouster of the Spanish, and now he took up the cause of his adopted home, forming the first Ecuadorian navy. Wright's navy fought two battles with the Peruvians in the Gulf of Guayaquil, breaking their blockade of the port and defeating and killing Wright's revolutionary comrade, Admiral Guise. Wright would spend the rest of his days helping to build the Ecuadorian navy and taking part in the politics of the country. It was said he always supported the cause of poor Ecuadorians, perhaps driven by memories of the downtrodden people of his native land. Thomas Charles Wright died in Guayaquil on December 10, 1835.

SATHAIRN -- On January 28, 1967 , Helena Moloney, republican and trade unionist, died in Dublin. Moloney was born in Dublin in 1884. While only at teen-ager Moloney heard Maud Gonne give a pro-nationalist speech near the Customs House. Inspired by Gonne, Helena began a lifelong commitment to republicanism. Moloney joined Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Erin) in 1903 and five years later was named editor of Bean na hÉireann (women of Ireland), a republican - as well as feminist - monthly founded by Moloney's role model, Maud Gonne. Helena began an acting career at this time as well, joining the Abbey Theater, but her commitment to political and then labor activism would eventually end her acting. During this time Helena also became more active in the Irish labor movement, where she worked closely with James Connelly and Countess Markievicz. Connelly made her secretary of the Irish Women Workers' Union in November 1915. She was jailed in 1911 for throwing stones during the protest of a royal visit, making her the first woman jailed in the cause of Irish freedom since the days of the Ladies Land League some three decades earlier. Moloney took an active role with Connelly's Citizen's Army during the 1916 Easter Rising. She took part in the attack on Dublin Castle, where her commanding officer, Sean Connolly, was killed. She was arrested and held until December of that year. Moloney opposed the treaty and supported the republican side during the Civil War. She continued to work for labor causes after the Civil War and was the first woman to become president of the Irish Trade Union Congress. She did not abandon the republican cause, however. She was active with the Women's Prisoner's Defense League and the People's Rights Association during the 1930s. Moloney continued to work for the causes she believed in until illness forced her to retire from public life in 1946.

VOICES

Sir Eyre Coote

'Nobody has a higher idea than I have of General Lally, who, to my knowledge, has struggled against obstacles which I believe unconquerable, and has conquered them. There is certainly not a second man, in all India, who could have managed to keep on foot for so long a period an army without pay, and without any kind of assistance.'
        -- A written statement found in the papers of General Eyre Coote after Coote's death in 1783.

"Wright, as always, behaved well."
        -- From the report of Peruvian Admiral Guise (later to lose his life in a naval battle versus Wright) after the battle of Callao.

"I was a young girl dreaming about Ireland when I saw and heard Maud Gonne speaking by the Customs House one August evening in 1903. She was the most lovely figure and she inspired me, as she did many others, with a love of Ireland."
        -- Helena Moloney recalling the night she dedicated her life to the cause of Irish freedom

January - Eanáir

BIRTHS

23, 1875 – Irish-born John Dempsey wins the US Medal of Honor for saving a shipmate who fell overboard.
26, 1799 - Thomas Charles Wright (Officer in Bolivar's army and founder of Ecuadorian navy) Drogheda, Co. Louth.
26, 1904 - Séan MacBride (Revolutionary, Statesman - Paris.)
28, 1760 - Mathew Carey (Author, bookseller, and publisher - Dublin.)
28, 1807 - Robert John Le Mesurier M'Clure (Explorer - Wexford.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

22, 1760 - Gen. Lally's French army, including his regiment of the Irish Brigade, is defeated by Irish-born Sir Eyre Coote's English army at Wandewash, India.
22, 1972
- Éammon Broy, revolutionary, Police Commissioner, dies.
23, 1875 – Irish-born John Dempsey wins the US Congressional Medal of Honor for saving a shipmate who fell overboard from the USS Kearsage in Shanghai, China.
23, 1898 - United Irish League founded by William O'Brien.
24, 1862
 - Miles Byrne, United Irishmen and soldier in Napoleon's Irish Legion, dies in Paris.
25, 1925 - Nellie Cashman "Frontier Angel" of western US miners, dies in Victoria, BC, Canada.
26, 1942 - US expeditionary troops land in Northern Ireland.
26, 1945 - In Holtzwihr, France, Audie Murphy fights in the action that will win him the Congressional Medal of Honor.
27, 1975 - Mother Mary Martin, founder of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, dies in Drogheda.
28, 1921 - An IRA ambush party of men from the Cork No. 1 Brigade waiting to ambush a convoy of British troops at Godfrey's Cross is itself ambushed by British troops who had been alerted by an informer.
28,1939William Butler Yeats dies in Monaco.
28, 1967 - Helena Moloney, republican and trade unionist, dies in Dublin.

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

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