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

MÁIRT -- On February 13, 1782, Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France helped capture St. Kitts from the British during the American Revolution. Earlier, Dillon's regiment had helped France capture several other islands during the campaign against the British in the West Indies, also serving at the unsuccessful siege of Savannah, Georgia.

(Right: New York Public Library - An officer of Dillion's Regiment.)

The French, commanded by the Marquis de Bouillé, were entrenched around the British stronghold of Brimstone Hill, known as the "Gibraltar of the Antilles," for 31 days before the British finally surrendered. Count Arthur Dillon was made governor of the island, and his regiment then formed the garrison until the end of the war. The capture of St. Kitts was the last major military action of the Irish Brigade of France. In 1791, after the French Revolution, the Brigade's close ties to the monarchy of France would cause the leaders of the new Republic to disband the famous unit. Count Arthur Dillon, whose family and regiment had sacrificed so much for France during its 100-year service, would later die on the Revolutionary government's guillotine.

  • Read about the Irish Brigade of France's exploits at Cremona.

CÉADAOIN -- On February 14, 1895, Sean Treacy, a revolutionary leader during the Irish War of Independence, was born in Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary. Treacy joined the Gaelic League and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1911. In 1913, Sean and his friend Dan Breen joined the Irish Volunteers. Treacy helped organize the Easter Rising and spent several months in prison during 1917 and 1918. As 1919 began, Treacy was vice-commandant of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. On January 21, Treacy was one of the participants -- along with his friend, Dan Breen -- in an ambush of RIC officers at Soloheadbeg, which is considered the beginning of the War of Independence. On May 13, he was wounded at Knocklong. In 1920, Treacy went to Dublin to work with Michael Collins. On October 12, he and his long-time comrade, Dan Breen, barely escaped capture in Dublin in a raid by British intelligence. Firing through the door, they killed two British officers and managed to escape the house by crashing through a window. They had been lucky to escape, but Sean's luck was running out. Two days later, he was confronted by a group of British soldiers and intelligence agents on Talbot Street. Treacy and Breen had once sworn to fight to the death rather than surrender -- now Treacy would make good on that pledge. Drawing his pistol, in spite of the tremendous odds against him, Treacy managed to fatally wound two of the British intelligence officers before he was shot and killed. It was said that Treacy's death deeply saddened Michael Collins.

Read more about Seán Treacy.
Read more about the dramatic rescue at Knocklong.

AOINE -- On February 16, 1822, Richard Busteed, Union general and federal judge, was born in County Cavan, Ireland. Most of the Irish men and women we have profiled here have had admirable lives but, as with any ethnic group, a few of our countrymen strayed from the righteous course; Richard Busteed was one of them.

(Right: Library of Congress - Richard Busteed)

Busteed came first to Canada, then the U.S. with his family while a child. They settled in New York City, where Richard became a lawyer and a Democratic Party operative. He raised an artillery company in 1861 but resigned his commission when the unit was transferred into the 1st New York Light Artillery. In 1862, he somehow obtained a commission as a brigadier general and served at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Soon, he was on the move again, appointed a federal judge in occupied Alabama. He would hold that post until 1874. His record there was spotty, at best. He presided over many cases but issued few convictions. This would seem to support the rumor that justice was for sale in his courtroom.

By 1874, Busteed had also become entangled in political infighting, as, though still a Democrat, he supported Republican candidates in 1872. Facing possible impeachment, he resigned his post and returned to New York City to practice law. Busteed died there on September 14, 1898, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.


Arthur Dillon

'Count Dillon, we knew you to be a brave and able soldier, but we were not aware that you were so good a lawyer. We have investigated and have confirmed all your judgments, and all your decrees delivered during your government.'
        -- The British Lord Chancellor to Arthur Dillon after the isle of St. Kitts was returned to the British by treaty at the end of the American Revolution.

"The greatest military genius of our race. ...'
        -- Dan Breen, speaking of his friend Sean Treacy


11, 1820 - Theodore O'Hara (Confederate colonel and author of "The Bivouac of the Dead, Danville, Kentucky)
13, 187
1 - Joseph Devlin (Nationalist - Belfast.)
13, 1898 - Frank Aiken (Revolutionary and politician - Camlough, Co. Armagh)
14, 1895
 - Sean Treacy (Revolutionary - Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary)
15, 1874 - Ernest Shackleton (Arctic explorer - Kilkea, Co. Kildare)
16, 1739 - James Napper Tandy (Revolutionary – Dublin)
16, 1822 
- Richard Busteed (Union General - Craven, Ireland)
17, 1740
 - General John Sullivan (Revolutionary War General and NH governor - Somersworth, NH)


12, 1795 - Grattan introduces Catholic relief bill in House of Commons.
12, 1817 – Bernardo O’Higgins’ Chilean rebels defeat the Spanish at Chacabuco, Chile.
12, 1818 - O'Higgins declares the independence of Chile.
12, 1820 - The ships 'East Indian' and 'Fanny', with about 350 Irish emigrants aboard, leave Cork harbor for Cape Colony, carrying some of the "1820 settlers."
12, 1848 - John Mitchel publishes first "United Irishmen."
13, 1782
 - Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France helps capture St. Kitts from the British.
13, 1820 -Leonard McNally, lawyer, English informer, dies.
13, 1862 - The 10th Tenn. (Confederate-Irish) fights and are captured at the battle of Erin Hollow, TN, Fort Donelson campaign.
14, 1779
 - At the Battle of Kettle Creek, Georgia Irish-born James Boyd commands Loyalist American troops against rebel militia commanded by 1st generation Irish-American, John Dooly.
14, 1817 - Bernardo O'Higgins enters Santiago, Chile in triumph.
15, 1921 - Irish Volunteers of the 3rd Cork Brigade ambush a train in Upton, in West Cork.
16, 1932 – De Valera and Fianna Fáil get 44% of the vote in Irish elections and take control of Dáil Éireann for the first time.
17, 1968
Father Aloysius P. McGonigal is killed during fighting in Hue, South Vietnam, and is awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously.

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Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, Military History, On This Day, United States


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