This Week in the History of the Irish: March 11 - March 17

DOMHNAIGH -- On March 11, 1858, Irish revolutionary Thomas James Clarke was born of Irish parents on the Isle of Wight but the family moved to Dungannon, County Tyrone, shortly after that. His father, James Clarke, was a sergeant in the British Army. Thomas spent part of his early life in South Africa and the Unites States, as well as Ireland. At 21, living in the United States, he joined the Clan na Gael and was sent to England as part of the Clan's bombing campaign. Living there under the name of Henry Wilson, he was soon arrested and spent 15 torturous years in prison there before being released.

Following his release he married Kathleen Daly, 21 years his jounior. He had met her uncle, John Daly, in Pentonville prison. Thomas lived in the U.S. for a time again working with Clan na Gael under John Devoy, then returned to Ireland and helped reorganize the IRB. In 1915 Clarke and Sean MacDermott established the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later became the Easter Rising. It's members included Patrick Pearse. Clarke was the first signer of the Proclamation of the Republic. Clarke served in the General Post Office during the Rising and surrendered along with the rest of that garrison on April 29th.

As was the case with the other leaders of the Rising, he was quickly tried in sham military trial and sentenced to death. Thomas Clarke was executed at Kilmainham Jail on May 3, 1916.

DOMHNAIGH -- On March 11, 1951, Ulster firebrand and demagogue Ian Paisley (on left in photo with George Bush and Martin McGuinness) formed the first Free Presbyterian Church. Paisley was born on April 6, 1926 in Armagh, County Armagh and lived in the town of Ballymena, County Antrim as a child. His father, James, was a reverend in the Independent Baptist church.

Paisley has been a virulent opponent of the Roman Catholic Church his entire life; he protested putting the British flag at half-mast to mark the death of Pope John XXIII in June 1963. In the late 60s he helped lead the violent opposition to Catholic civil rights. He was one of the leaders of the movement that destroyed the Sunningdale Agreement in the 70s, the demise of which contributed to 20 more years of horrendous violence in Northern Ireland. True to form, he violently opposes the Good Friday Agreement, the latest and most promising attempt at reconciling the two communities.

His DUP party eventually became the majority Unionist party and he finally relented and entered into a powersharing government with the republican party he had so long vilified, Sinn Fein, serving as the First Minister of that government. In June 2008 he stepped down as leader of the DUP party and resigned as First Minister. He passed away on September 12, 2014 in Belfast.

AOINE -- On March 16, 1828, Patrick Cleburne, one of the finest generals produced by either side during America's long, bloody civil war was born at Bride Park Cottage in Ovens Township, Co. Cork, just outside Cork City. Robert E. Lee would one day say of Cleburne , "In a field of battle he shone like a meteor on a clouded sky,"

(Left: Cleburne leading his troops in the bloody assault at Franklin -Image courtesy Don Troiani.)

Cleburne's father was a physician. His early life was one of privilege and personal tragedy, for he never knew his mother, who died when he was 18 months old. After spending some time in the British army, Cleburne emigrated to the United Sates in 1849, eventually settling in Helena, Arkansas. He enlisted as a private in a local militia there shortly before the war began. His rise from that lowly rank would be dramatic. His former military experience soon had him elected captain. When his company and others were formed into the 1st Arkansas Infantry at the beginning of the Civil War, he was elected its colonel. At Shiloh , Richmond - where he was wounded in the mouth - and Perryville in 1862 his performance in command was recognized to be excellent, and he was promoted first to brigadier and then major general in command of a division. He would command with the same excellence to the end of his life, but would not receive another promotion beyond division command. Many believe this was primarily due to his advancement of the idea of enlisting slaves in the Confederate army in return for their freedom in late 1863. In November 1864 Cleburne's division was part of the command of John Bell Hood at Franklin Tennessee when Hood ordered an ill-advised frontal assault on a fortified Federal line. Cleburne went into the attack mounted, making him an easier target, and a ball struck him just below the heart, killing him. The south had lost one of it's brightest stars.

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland

SATHAIRN -- On March 17, 1858, James Stephens founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Dublin at the same time as John O'Mahoney was founding the American branch of the revolutionary group. O'Mahoney gave the organization the better-known name Fenians, in honor of the Fianna, the soldiers led by Fionn Mac Cuchail, the heroic warrior of Irish legend. The Fenians were the first truly worldwide revolutionary organization, with branches in France, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States. The group raised millions of dollars among Irish exiles in the U.S. to support efforts at gaining Ireland her independence, setting a precedent that continues. Though the founders of the Fenians never saw their goal come to fruition, Ireland's freedom was built on the foundation they laid down.

SATHAIRN -- On March 17, 1800, Charles James Patrick Mahon, soldier and politician, was born in Ennis, Co. Clare. He joined Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association and helped him win Clare's seat in Parliament in 1830. After falling out with O'Connell, he went abroad and began a series of amazing (if all true) adventures. He was served in the Czar's bodyguard, was a general and an admiral in South America and fought on the side of the North in the American Civil War. During the course of all this he was said to have fought 13 duels. Mahon then served in Napoleons III's army before returning to Irish politics, where he was elected MP (Member of Parliament) from Carlow. Mahon died in London on June 15, 1891, having lived (if only half the adventures he claimed are true) an incredibly full life.

VOICES

'This is the beginning, our fight has saved Ireland. The soldiers of tomorrow will finish the task.'
        -- Thomas Clarke, May 1916

I will never sit down with Gerry Adams . . . he'd sit with anyone. He'd sit down with the devil. In fact, Adams does sit down with the devil.
        -- Ian Paisley, February 13 1997.

"Well, [General] Govan, if we are to die, let us die like men."

        -- Patrick Cleburne (left) to General Daniel Govan just before the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, where both were killed.

'Ere long there shall be an Irish Army on Irish hillsides, ready to do battle for Irish independence and drive back from the green and sacred Isle of Erin those ruthless tyrants who have desolated our homes and driven us wandering exiles over the whole earth.'
         -- John O'Mahoney, co-founder of the Fenian Brotherhood.

March - Márta

BIRTHS

11, 1858 - Thomas James Clarke (Revolutionary - Isle of Wright.)
12, 1700 - George Berkeley (Philosopher and Bishop - Co. Kilkenny)
13, 1914 - Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare (US Navy Aviator and Medal of Honor winner - St. Louis, MI.)
14, 1894 - William Earle "Moley" Molesworth (WWI Ace, 18 kills - Ireland)
15, 1821 - Peter Sullivan (Confederate Gen. – Cork, Ireland) 
15, 1852 - Lady Gregory (Playwright - Loughrea, Co. Galway)
16, 1828 - Patrick Cleburne (Confederate General - Ovens Township, Co. Cork)
16, 1865 – Patrick “Patsy” Donovan (Major League baseball player & manager, Cobh, Co. Cork)
17, 1800 - Charles James Patrick Mahon (Soldier, politician - Ennis, Co. Clare)
17, 1820 - Patrick Edward Connor (Union General - Co. Kerry)
17, 1877 - Michael O'Hanrahan (Author, revolutionary - New Ross, Co. Wexford.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

11, 1868 – Irish-born Timothy P. Andrews, US general and veteran of the War of 1812 and Mexican war, dies in Washington DC.
11, 1951 - Ian Paisley forms Free Presbyterian Church.
12 1689 - James II arrives in Ireland.
12, 1798 - Many of Dublin's United Irish leaders arrested.
13, 1592 - Foundation stone of Trinity College is laid by the major of Dublin.
14, 1689 – Ulster Protestant force is defeated by Jacobites under Richard Hamilton at the “Break of Dromore,” in Co. Down.
14, 1779 - John O'Flanagan, Col. in the Austrian army, dies in Felsberg.
16 –April 6, 1812 - The Hibernia regiment of Spain and Napoleon’s Irish Legion face each other at the siege of Badajoz during the Peninsular War.
16, 1865 - Irish born Martin Murphy, one of the greatest pioneers of early California, dies in near Santa Clara.
16, 1919 – Robert Barton, later one of the signers of the 1921 Treaty escapes from Mountjoy Prison with the help of Rory O’Connor.
17, 1771 – The “Friendly Sons of St. Patrick” is founded in Philadelphia.
17, 1776 – In honor of Irishmen in the Colonial army, Gen. Washington designates “St. Patrick” as the armies countersign that day.
17, 1858 - James Stephens founds the Irish Republican Brotherhood (Fenians) in Dublin.
17, 1899 - First issue of Gaelic League's An Claidheamh Soluis.
17, 1923 - Mike McTigue wins the Light-Heavyweight Championship by decision victory over “Battling” Siki in Dublin.

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

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