This Week in the History of the Irish: September 10 - September 16

DOMHNAIGH -- On September 10, 1602, “Red” Hugh O’Donnell died in Simancas, Spain. “Red” Hugh is one of the most romantic figures in Irish history. (Right: Donegal Castle in Donegal Town) In 1588, at about 17, Hugh was snatched away from his family and held hostage by the English in Dublin Castle to ensure the good behavior of his clan. After three years O’Donnell escaped the Castle in the dead of a bitter winter; one of his companions in that escape, a son of Shane O’Neill, died of exposure, and “Red” Hugh suffering severe frostbite in the process. A year later the 21-year-old Hugh became head of the O’Donnell clan. For the next ten years, he would lead his clan in a desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful fight to save the Gaelic culture of Ireland. Allied with the legendary Hugh O’Neill, then he would help bring the Irish to the very brink of expelling the English occupation. At Yellow Ford, in 1598, they would hand the English their worst defeat ever on Irish soil. But England's superior resources of men and equipment would eventually win out. After a disastrous defeat or the Irish and their Spanish allies at Kinsale in 1602, “Red” Hugh was dispatched to Spain in an attempt to win further aid from King Philip. At Simancas O’Donnell suddenly fell ill; there is evidence to suggest that an English agent may have poisoned him. On September 10, 1595, “Red” Hugh O’Donnell breathed his last; the days of the Gaelic culture of Ireland were numbered.

CÉADAOIN -- On September 13, 1803, John Barry (left), of Ballysampson, Co.Wexford, considered by many to be the 'Father of the U.S. Navy,' died in Philadelphia. At a young age, Barry went to sea as a fisherman; by age 20, he had a master's licensee. He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1760 and worked his way up to ownership of a merchant vessel. In 1775, he offered his services when the Continental Congress first formed the Navy. Given command of the sloop Lexington, Barry engaged and captured the British sloop Edward on April 7, 1776. It was the first capture of a British warship by a commissioned U.S. ship. Later, commanding the frigate Alliance, he would capture two more British ships, but he was severely wounded during those actions. After the war, Barry oversaw much of the building and improvement of the Navy and was promoted to commodore in 1794. Statues commemorate John Barry's life in his adopted home of Philadelphia and near his birthplace in County Wexford.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
John McCausland

CÉADAOIN -- On September 13, 1836 John McCausland, Confederate General, and son of an Irish immigrant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. McCausland grew up in the western part of Virginia and graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1857. He taught there following graduation and served in the cadet detachment that was on guard during the hanging of John Brown. Though many people in western Virginia remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War began, McCausland did not. He recruited a Confederate regiment, the 36th Virginia, and commanded it as its first colonel.

McCausland and his regiment were transferred to Albert Johnston's western army in early 1862 and narrowly escaped capture at Fort Donelson. They were sent back to western Virginia later that year and fought there through 1863. In May 1864 McCausland was promoted to brigadier general and given a cavalry command. McCausland fought well through to the end of the war, but unfortunately, he is best remembered as the man who burned Chambersburg, PA under orders from General Jubal Early in July 1864. In April 1865 he had his cavalry brigade cut its way through the Federal lines rather than surrender, but he disbanded them several days later. Returning to the area where he grew up, now the state of West Virginia, McCausland would be dogged by the memory of his burning of Chambersburg for the rest of his life. He was even charged with it in PA later, but President Grant used his influence to have the charge dropped. McCausland would spend two years in Europe and Mexico to escape the problems associated with the Chambersburg incident. He later bought a large tract of land in Macon County, West Virginia, and lived there for over 60 years as a recluse. When he died on January 22, 1927, he was the next to last surviving Confederate general of the war.

DEARDAOIN -- On September 14, 1908, Montana and Alaska pioneer John J. Healy (left) died in San Francisco. Many men and women with Irish roots participated in the “winning” of the West for the new nation that was growing into a world power in 19th century North America. Some are well known, but many are not. Among the latter is John J. Healy, of whom William Buck, publisher of the Benton (Montana) Record wrote in the late 19th century: “If a correct history of Montana is ever written … Mr. Healy will figure … as one of the most prominent and heroic characters of our early civilization.” Though John Healy made and lost a fortune a few times, he always seemed more motivated for a new adventure than the mere making of money. In his life he would be a soldier, gold prospector, trader, Indian fighter, law man, capitalist and more. He began that life by surviving An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, one of the greatest disasters to ever occur in his native country. John was born in in 1840 in Donoughmore, County Cork, one of the hardest-hit counties during those tragic years. In 1853 his family lost their grist mill business and immigrated to New York City. Though some Irish immigrants adapted well to city life, John was not among them. Tales of the beautiful open spaces of the American West may have been inspired him to move on. He would end up in Montana and have enough adventures there and later in Alaska for ten men before he died in San Francisco.


 "O'Donnell is dead... he is poisoned by James Blake, of whom your lordship hath been formerly acquainted..."
--  Sir George Carew, President of Munster during part of the Nine Years' War, to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy

“No Sir, the thunder! If this ship cannot be fought without me, I will be brought on deck; to your duty, Sir.” -- John Barry to a junior officer while wounded below decks when it was suggested they surrender. 


September -- Meán Fomhair

10, 1846 - John Finerty (Soldier, war correspondent, and US Congressman -Co. Galway
11, 1862
 - Patrick Henry Morrissey (Labor leader, son of Irish immigrants - Bloomington, IL)
12, 1901 - Phyllis Clinch (Botanist potato blight researcher - Rathmines, Dublin.)
13, 1813 - Isaac Butt (Q.C. M.P, Founder of the Home Rule Party - Cloghan, County Donegal)
13, 1836 - John McCausland (Confederate General, son of Irish immigrants - St. Louis, MO)


10, 1602 - “Red” Hugh O’Donnell dies in Simancas, Spain, probably poisoned by English spy.
10, 1916 - Irish poet Lt. Tom Kettle dies in attack on Ginchy serving in the Dublin Fusiliers.

11, 1649
 - Massacre at Drogheda. Cromwell captures the town and slaughters the garrison.

12, 1850
 - Presley O'Bannon, U.S. Marine hero of the capture of Derna, Libya (on 'The Shores of Tripoli) dies and is buried in Henry County KY - later reinterred in Frankfort Cemetery.
12, 1912 - "Ulster Day," Edward Carson and other Unionists pledge to resist Home Rule "to the end."
12, 1919 - Dail Eireann declared illegal.
13, 1803 - John Barry, of Wexford, US Navy commodore, father of US Navy, dies in Philadelphia.
13 – 17, 1961 – "A" Company of the Irish Army’s 35th Battalion, serving with the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in the Congo, hold out for three days against overwhelming rebel forces.
14, 1908 - Montana and Alaska pioneer John J. Healy dies in San Francisco.
15, 1866
 - John Blake Dillon, Young Irelander, co-founder of "The Nation," dies in Killarney.
15, 1997 - Sinn Fein joins multiparty peace talks in Northern Ireland.
16, 1701 - King James II dies in France.
16, 1798 - Small French force under James Napper Tandy makes brief landing on Rutland Island, Co Donegal.
16, 1798 - Belfast United Irish leaders arrested.
16, 1845 - Young Ireland poet Thomas Davis dies of fever.

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Tags: American Civil War, Europe, Military History, United States

Comment by Don Gray on September 11, 2023 at 6:20am

Henry Gray was the oldest son of United Irishman Nicholas Gray and Elinor Hughes Gray, of Wexford Ireland.

Midshipman Henry Gray : The War of 1812 - Epic voyage of the USS Essex

Midshipman Henry Gray served on the Schooner USS Torch in Stephon Decatur Squadron during the Second Barbary War. The U.S. Schooner Torch along with the rest of the squadron participated in the capture of the Algerian flagship, the frigate Mashuda.  Decatur learned the arts of naval war under John Barry.  Barry and Henry Gray were both natives of Co Wexford, Ireland.  Barry is credited as “The Father of the American Navy”.  “When Barry's family was evicted from their home by their English landlord, they moved to Rosslare on the coast, where his uncle worked a fishing skiff. As a young man, Barry determined upon a life as a seaman, and he started out as a cabin boy”. [6]


In 1798, John Berry,  obtained Decatur's appointment as midshipman on United States, under Barry's command. Barry was a veteran and hero of the Revolutionary War and was Decatur's good friend and mentor. Decatur accepted the appointment on May 1. During his early naval career Decatur learned the arts of naval war under Barry, and also James Barron, both of whom took a liking to Decatur.

[Image Stephon Decatur - Wikipedia]

Decatur supervised the construction of several U.S. naval vessels, one of which he later commanded. Promoted at age 25, he is the youngest man to reach the rank of captain  in the history of the United States Navy.  He served under three presidents, and played a major role in the early development of the U.S. Navy. In almost every theater of operation, Decatur's service was characterized by acts of heroism and exceptional performance. His numerous naval victories against Britain, France and the Barbary states established the United States Navy as a rising power. 

On May 20, 1815, Commodore Decatur received instructions from President James Maddison  to take command of the frigate USS Guerriere  and lead a squadron of ten ships to the Mediterranean Sea to conduct the Second Barbary War , which would put an end to the international practice of paying tribute to the Barbary pirate states. His squadron arrived at Gibraltar  on June 14. [7]  



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