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

DEARDAOIN -- On July 2, 1779, on the West Indies isle of Grenada, whose name would be famous again in the 1980s, Colonel Arthur Dillon and his regiment of the Irish Brigade of France were among 2,300 troops landed from ships commanded by the Count d'Estaing.

(Right: Photo by Joe Gannon - A re-enactor in the uniform of a grenadier of Dillon's Regiment of the Irish Brigade of France.)

Another Irishman, Lord Macartney, was in charge of the British troops on the island. As the French came ashore, he retreated to the heights of Morne de l'Hopital. Macartney had only 700 troops, but his defensive position on the fortified heights was very strong. Besides the steep incline, there were several walls on the hillside placed to impede the progress of any attackers. D'Estaing sent Colonel Dillon and some other officers to reconnoiter the possible assault routes just before dark on the 3rd and then ordered a rare night-assault on the position. The French attacked with a three pronged assault; Dillon's regiment made up much of the center and left columns of the assault. Count d'Estaing showed his respect for the Irish by personally leading the grenadiers of Dillon's regiment. Despite the obstacles in their way, the French and Irish troops fought their way up the slope and had taken the position by morning, forcing Macartney's surrender. Several officers of Dillon's regiment were among the 106 French casualties.

Photo by Kevin O'Beirne
Re-enactors portraying the men of the 69th Pennsylvania await the assault of others portraying Confederate infantrymen, near the "Copse of Trees" during 1998's 135th anniversary re-enactment of "Pickett's Charge."

LUAIN -- On July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the sun rose behind the men the Colonel Dennis O'Kane's Irish 69th Pennsylvania Vol. Infantry on Cemetery Ridge, the most famous assault of the American Civil War was being prepared across the mile of open field in front of them. The 69th PA would be at the very vortex of that assault, now known to posterity as "Pickett's Charge". At 1 p.m. a tremendous cannonade by the Confederate guns would sail mostly over the heads of the 69th. About 3 p.m. the barrage slacked, and the rebel infantrymen began their assault. "And let your work this day be for victory or to the death," Col. Dennis O'Kane told his men as the furious rebel onslaught approached. Soon they were forced to refuse both flanks as the Confederate tide rolled up to them and lapped around both sides. While many around them ran, the 69th stood fast. The regiment's tenacious stand in front of the famous copse of trees was a pivotal part of the crucial Union victory achieved at Gettysburg. Good to his word, Col. O'Kane was killed, and lying dead near the 69th's position; wearing gray lay Pvt. Willie Mitchel of the 1st Virginia Infantry, son of Irish patriot John Mitchel. At the most crucial battle of America's Civil War, Irish were killing Irish on a foreign field once again.

CÉADAOIN -- On July 5, 1812, Frederick Maning (right), who would become beloved in New Zealand by its native Māori people, was born in Johnville, Co. Dublin. Maning immigrated to Australia with his father in 1824. In 1833 he moved on to New Zealand on his own, when few Europeans were living there. His great size, 6 foot 3 inches, and strength, and his personality, greatly impressed the native Maori people there. He acquired some land near Onaki and settled there and married a Māori woman, Moengoroa. They had four children,Susan, Maria Amina, Hauraki Hereward and Mary. Soon the Māori began to call him 'Pakeha Maori,' naturalized citizen. In 1840 he advised the Māori against signing the Treaty of Waitangi, by which Great Britain "legally" gained sovereignty over the island, but it was ratified by them. Maning published a book on Maori life titled "Old New Zealand: A Tale of the Good Old Times" in 1863. In 1865, he became a judge when the British court system was established. When Maning became ill in 1881 developed cancer and traveled to England seeking a cure. He did not find one, and died in London on July 25, 1883. His body was returned to New Zealand for burial.

Linen Hall Library
Mary McCracken's ill-fated United Irishman brother, Henry Joy.

SATHAIRN -- On July 8, 1770, Mary Ann McCracken -- patriot, philanthropist and sister of United Irish martyr Henry Joy McCracken -- was born in Belfast. Mary Ann was the fiercely independent daughter of a Presbyterian sea captain. With her sister, Margaret, she started a small muslin business while only in her late teens, unheard of for women at that time. She and her family helped revive interest in the Irish harp by founding the Belfast Harp Society. Mary Ann was a supporter of Henry Joy's United Irish activities and may have helped him form many of his ideas regarding social reform and Catholic emancipation. Mary Ann worked hard to get a pardon for her brother in 1798, and even attempted to arrange an escape. When both these efforts failed, she accompanied Henry Joy to the gallows. After her friend Thomas Russell, in whom Mary Ann may have had a romantic interest, was executed for his United Irish activities in 1803, she withdrew from Irish politics. Much to her credit, however, Mary Ann did not become a bitter recluse -- she devoted most of the rest of her life to helping the poor and supporting the anti-slavery movement. She also contributed to Dr. Madden's famous 7-volume history of the United Irishmen. Mary Ann died in 1866 at the age of 96.

SATHAIRN -- On July 8, 1642, Owen Roe O'Neill, nephew of Hugh O'Neill and an officer in the Spanish army, arrived at Lough Swilly and was immediately given command of the Irish army then in revolt. O'Neill had been serving in the Spanish army since 1610 and had made a name for himself during his defense of Arras against the French in 1640. Like the Jacobites later in the century, O'Neill would claim to be fighting for the King and legitimate ruler of England. O'Neill defeated the Scottish Parliamentarians at the battle of Benburb on June 5, 1646, but it would be the only major victory for the Irish forces during the revolt. Cromwell and his battle-hardened veterans landed in Dublin in August 1649. He quickly set into motion his plan for the reconquest of the island. O'Neill began marching south to attempt a junction with Ormond's Royalist army in November when he suddenly died. Some say he was poisoned but no evidence supports that.

VOICES

'I do not believe that there was a soldier in the regiment that did not feel that he had more courage to meet the enemy at Gettysburg than upon any field of battle in which we had yet been engaged, stimulus being, that we were upon the soil of our own state.'
         -- Private McDermott, 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, July 3, 1863

Linen Hall Library
Owen Roe O'Neill

'Army of Ulster, tomorrow we march on Antrim; drive the garrison before you and hasten to form a junction with your Commander-in-Chief.'
         -- From the proclamation of Mary McCracken's brother, Henry Joy, in June 1798.

We thought you would not die, we were sure you would not go
And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell's cruel blow.
Sheep without a shepherd when the snow shuts out the sky -
Oh! why did you leave us, Eoghan, why did you die?
         -- From 'Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh (Owen Roe) O'Neill' by Thomas Davis


BIRTHS

July -- Iúil

4, 1746 - Henry Grattan (Politician, patriot - Dublin)
5, 1812 - Frederick Edward Maning (the "Pakeha Maori" - New Zealand judge - Dublin.)
7, 1823 - John Kells Ingram (Poet - Temple Carne, Co. Donegal.)
7, 1827 - William Browne (Confederate General - Co. Mayo)
8, 1770 - Mary Ann McCracken (Patriot - Belfast.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

2, 1779 - Dillon's Regiment of France's Irish Brigade land on the island of Grenada, which they help to take on the 4th.
2, 1798 - Execution of Father John Murphy and his bodyguard, James Gallagher, at Tullow, County Carlow.
2, 1798 - Engagement at Ballygullen, Cranford, west of Gorey.
2, 1874 - Isaac Butt's Home Rule motion defeated in House of Commons 458-61.
2, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg (PA) - Second day - Irish Brigade fights in the "Wheatfield."
3, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg - Third day - 69th Pennsylvania helps repulse Pickett's Charge.
3, 1918 - Sinn Fein party banned by British government.
3, 1970 - Riots in Belfast, six killed.
4, 1581 - Con O'Donnell defeats his uncle, Hugh MacManus O'Donnell in battle at Kiltole.
4, 1605 – Proclamation forcing all Irish to attend services of the established church; Catholic priest ordered out of Ireland by December 10th. 
4, 1690 - James II flees Ireland for France.
4, 1776 - A cannon at Elizabethtown, N.J., under the command of Irish-born Capt. Daniel Neil, fires first shot at the British after the Declaration of Independence.
4, 1784 - Protestant “Peep o’Day Boys” formed in Market Hill, Co. Armagh.
5, 1828 - Daniel O'Connell elected MP from Clare.
5, 1845 - Anti-Catholic American Republican party holds a national convention in Philadelphia (genesis of Know-Nothing Party).
5, 1862 - Richard Dalton Williams, Irish born poet ("Shamrock" of the Nation) and patriot, dies in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
6, 1918 - John Purroy Mitchel, grandson of Young Irelander John Mitchel and former mayor of New York, is killed in a flight-training accident while serving in the U.S. Army.
6, 1920 - Jeremiah Mee and several others resign from the Royal Irish Constabulary protesting British policies.
7, 1735 - Daniel O'Donnel, Irish-born general in the French army, dies at St. Germain-en-Laye.
7, 1739 - Christian Davies, woman soldier with the Royal Inniskilling Regiment, dies in Chelsea.
7, 1754 - English Gen. Braddock defeated at Monongohela, some Irishmen captured here later join the Irish Brigade of France.
7, 1913 - Home rule bill passes in Commons for the second time; defeated in Lords for the second time (July 15).
7, 1922 - Cathal Brugha dies from wounds received fighting for the Republican side in Dublin during the Irish Civil War.
8, 1642 - Owen Roe O'Neill arrives in Ireland to lead revolt.
8, 1981 - Joe McDonnell dies on hunger strike.

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Tags: American Civil War, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, New Zealand, On This Day, United States

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