This Week in the History of the Irish: April 3 - April 9

DOMHNAIGH - Beginning on April 3 and continuing to May 8, 1781, the Irish Hibernia regiment of Spain helped lay siege to British forces in Pensacola, Florida, during the American Revolution. Irishmen had been serving in the Spanish army for well over 150 years and the Hibernia regiment had existed since 1709. Approximately 508 officers and men of the Hibernia regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Arturo O'Neil, were in the Spanish force commanded by Gen. Bernardo Galvez at Pensacola.

(Left: Two soldiers of the Hibernia regiment.)

The British put up a spirited defense, including a number of sorties out of their fortifications, and the Hibernia regiment bore the brunt of some of them. Capt. Hugo O'Connor and Lt. Timotheo O'Dunn were captured during one sortie. But on May 8, a Spanish grenade flew over the walls of the fort and directly into the powder magazine, signaling the end of English resistance. Gen. Galvez demonstrated his pleasure with the performance of the Hibernia regiment by promoting O'Neil to full colonel and appointing him governor of the newly captured territory.

MÁIRT - On April 5, 1818, Bernardo O'Higgins (right) defeated the Spanish at the battle of Maipo River, Chile. Bernardo's mother was Chilean and his father was Ambrose O'Higgins of Co. Meath, a brigadier general of Chile and Viceroy of Peru. With his friend and fellow revolutionary, José de San Martín, O'Higgins was struggling to liberate Chile from Spanish domination. O'Higgins had suffered a painful wound in his right arm several days earlier during a defeat at Cancha Rayada, but facing a crisis, he remained with his command. As the royalist army approached, many in the rebel camps urged retreat. "No, I'll stay here," he replied. "If the enemy attacks, I shall die at my post." His defiant spirit boosted the morale of the Chilean rebels. On the clear, bright day of April 5, 1818, the royalists attacked, but the rebel army routed them near the village of El Espejo, on the Maipo River. The royalist army suffered some 1,500 killed and 2,300 captured of 4,500 engaged. With their overwhelming victory, San Martín and O'Higgins and their rebel army had liberated Chile.

DEARDAOIN -- On April 7, 1865, Brig. Gen. Tom Smyth was mortally wounded at the battle of Farmville, Virginia. Born in County Cork, Smyth came to the United States in 1854. When the rebels fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, launching the American Civil War Smyth raised a company that joined the Irish 24th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The regiment saw little action and mustered out after 3-months. He then got an appointment as a major in the newly formed 1st Delaware Volunteer Infantry. Smyth fought in all the major battles of the Eastern war and rose through the ranks. In February 1864, Smyth briefly commanded the famous Irish Brigade. Smyth finally got a long-deserved star in September. On April 7, 1865, at the battle of Farmville, Smyth was shot through the mouth by a Confederate sniper. He died April 9, the same day Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered, virtually bringing the war to a close. Thomas Alfred Smyth was the last Union general killed in the war.

SATHAIRN -- On the morning of April 9, 1916, a German merchant ship, the Aud, had just left the port of Lübeck, loaded with guns and ammunition for the Irish Republican Brotherhood. The German government hoped to deliver the arms to western Ireland to coincide with the planned Easter Rising. Roger Casement, who had arranged the shipment, was spending his last night in Berlin before following in a German U-Boat.

(Right: Roger Casement and crew members stand in the tower of a German U-boat en route to Ireland.)

The Aud had no communications equipment aboard, giving them no means of contacting the Irish while en route. This would be a factor when they finally reached the Irish coast several days later. The IRB would not be waiting as it did not want the guns landed before dawn on the 24th, but the message had been miscommunicated as "not later than the 24th." Casement, meanwhile, desperately wanted to get to Ireland to stop a rising he now believed could not succeed. The wheels were in motion -- the Easter Rising was coming, and there was nothing Casement or anyone else was going to do to stop it now.


No coward in the ranks is seen,
When gallant Smythe (sic) appears,
Men kindle at his voice and mien,
And move on with gay cheer.
               -- From "There's not a star for you, Tom Smythe" by Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, the poet laureate of the Irish Brigade.

Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth; a thing no more to be doled out to us or withheld from us by another people than the right to life itself.
               -- Roger Casement

April - Aibreán


3, 1843 - James D. Brady (Civil War officer in the 63rd NY, Irish Brigade - Portsmouth, VA.)
4, 1818 -
 Thomas Mayne Reid (Author - Katesbridge, Co. Down)


3 - to 8 May, 1781- Hibernia regiment of Spain helps lay siege to Pensacola, Fla., during the American Revolution.
4, 1864 -
 Gen. Phil Sheridan appointed chief of cavalry for the Army of the Potomac - U.S. Civil War.

5, 1818 - Bernardo O'Higgins defeats the Spanish at the battle of Maipo River, Chile
5, 1914 - Inaugural meeting of the Cumann na mBan is held at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin.
5, 1916 - Patrick Pearse denies rumors of a possible rising to Irish Volunteer Chief of Staff Eoin MacNeill.
6-7, 1862 -Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne commands a brigade at battle of Shiloh, TN.
6, 1916 - In Berlin, Roger Casement receives instructions for the delivery of munitions for the Easter Rising.
6, 1954 - Display of Irish tricolor banned in Northern Ireland.
7, 1865 - Former U.S. Irish Brigade commander Tom Smyth mortally wounded at battle of Farmville, VA.
7,1941 - Luftwaffe bombing raid kills 13 people in Belfast. De Valera authorizes fire brigades from Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda and Dun Laoghaire to give assistance
8, 1886 - Home Rule Bill introduced in English Parliament by Gladstone
9, 1812 - The Hibernia regiment of Spain and Napoleon's Irish Legion face each other at Badajoz during the Peninsular War.
9, 1916 - The Aud leaves Germany for Ireland with arms for the IRB.
9, 1921 - Dr. William Walsh (archbishop - nationalist) dies.
9, 1984 - Leslie De Barra, revolutionary, wife of General Tom Barry, dies.

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Tags: American Civil War, Americas, Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day, United States


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