This Week in the History of the Irish: February 14 - February 20

DOMHNAIGH -- On February 14, 1895, Sean Treacy, revolutionary leader during the Irish War of Independence, was born in Solohead, 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 would spend several months in prison during 1917 and 1918. As 1919 began, Treacy was vice-commandant of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. 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 Michael Collins was deeply saddened by Treacy's death.

Courtesy of
Flag of Berwick's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France. Two battalions of the regiment fought with O'Mahony at Alcoy.

Sometime in the mid-1600s , Daniel O'Mahony, one of the most famous soldiers of the early history of Irish troops on the European continent, was born to Dermod and Mary O'Mahony of Dromore, County Kerry. Daniel served as a captain in the Jacobite army in Ireland in the Williamite war (1689-1691) went with that army to France in 1691. Joining the regiment of Dillon, he held the rank of major in 1702 when he commanded the regiment in the famous victory over Prince Eugene at Cremona during the War of Spanish Succession. Louis XIV promoted him to colonel for this action and Louis' grandson, King Philip V of Spain, was allowed to obtain O'Mahony's services commanding a regiment of dragoons in his army. The final years of O'Mahony's life would be spent in the uniform of Spain. Fighting at Almanza, Saragosa, Villavicosa, and the siege of Alcoy, O'Mahony distinguished himself in every action, earning the title, "Le fameux O'Mahoni." Before he died at Ocana, Spain, in 1714, he was a lieutenant general, a commander of the military order of Saint Jago, and a count of Spain. The younger of his two sons would be Spain's ambassador to Austria and the elder rose to high rank in the army of Naples. Count Daniel O'Mahony of County Kerry was one of the greatest of all The Wild Geese.

Library of Congress
Richard Busteed

MÁIRT -- 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.

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 September 14, 1898, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Library of Congress
Walter Paye Lane

DEARDAOIN -- On February 18, 1817, Walter Paye Lane, Confederate general in the American Civil War, was born in County Cork. He emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was only 4 years old. Lane grew up in Ohio but traveled to Texas at 18. He fought with Sam Houston at San Jacinto and stayed on in Texas, becoming involved in several occupations including Indian fighter, privateer in the Gulf of Mexico and even school teacher. He raised a company of Texas Rangers and served as their captain during the Mexican War.

After the war, Lane spent time mining in a number of western states as well as in South America, making and then losing large amounts of money. He joined the Confederate army in 1861 and was elected lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Texas Cavalry. Lane fought in the important early war battles of Wilson's Creek and Elkhorn Tavern and later in the Red River campaign. Lane was severely wounded at the battle of Mansfield on April 8, 1864 and was out of action until October. He was recommended for promotion by Gen. Kirby Smith, who consider him a superior cavalry officer. The Confederate Congress confirmed his rank on March 10, 1865, the last day they met. After the war Lane wrote of his exploits and the life long bachelor became a well-loved figure in Texas and a particular favorite of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Walter Lane died on Jan. 22, 1892 in Marshall, Texas, where he is buried.

Edward "Butch" O'Hare


SATHAIRN -- On February 20, 1942 Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare became the first U.S. Navy ace of the war when he was credited with downing five Japanese bombers in a single day. O'Hare had an interesting family history. After his parents divorced when he was 13, his lawyer father moved to Chicago and became a lawyer for Al Capone. He later turned against Capone and gave evidence against him. This help led to his tax evasion conviction. In 1939 O'Hare's father, also Edward, was murdered, probably by members of Capone's gang.

Butch attended a military high school and graduated from Annapolis and then flight school in Pensacola, Florida, finishing his aviation training in 1940. On February 20, 1942 O'Hare was assigned to an F4F Wildcat squadron VF-3, stationed on the carrier USS Lexington, which was off the island of New Ireland in the south Pacific. With several flights of Wildcats off investigating earlier radar contacts, Butch and his wingman were the only fighters able to intercept a formation of nine Japanese Betty bombers radar picked up coming from another direction. If this situation were not bad enough, as they closed on the bombers O'Hare's wingman, "Duff" Dufilho, discovered his guns were jammed. Butch was going to have to take them on alone.

Diving into the formation from above, O'Hare quickly took out one of the last planes on the right of the Betty's vee formation, then swung across to hit the one on the left. Continuing his attack as the bombers came in range of the fleets anti-aircraft guns it appeared that O'Hare had destroyed five Bettys, though post war research would show he shot down three, and two that he damaged managed to return to their base. But O'Hare had undoubtedly disrupted their attacks, and no bombs hit the Lexington. By the time the Lexington returned to Pearl Harbor in late March O'Hare's exploits had made him a hero. He was sent back to the mainland for a bond tour and he was presented the Medal of Honor by Franklin Roosevelt at the White House; the first winner of the MOH in naval aviation history.

O'Hare's combat career was not over, however. Promoted to Lt. Commander, Butch returned to the war in the Pacific. In November 1943 he was flying off the USS Enterprise in the Marianas Islands. Flying a dangerous night fighter mission, once again against Betty bombers, O'Hare's plane when down. A search of the area the following day found no sign of him. To this day it's not certain if he was shot down by a gunner on one of the Betty bombers, or friendly fire from the rear gunner of a US TBF Avenger that was nearby.

In 1945 the navy destroyer USS O'Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor. It would later serve in the Vietnam War. But the most famous honor awarded to him was the renaming of Chicago's Orchard Depot Airport as O'Hare International Airport in 1949.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

'Major Dan O'Mahony is at the barrack-gate
And just six hundred Irish lads will neither stay nor wait.
There's Dillon and there's Burke
And there'll be some bloody work
Ere the Kaiserlics shall boast they hold Cremona

Major Dan O'Mahony has reached the river-fort
And just six hundred Irish lads are joining in the sport.
"Come take a hand," says he,
"And if you'll stand by me,
Then there's glory to the man who takes Cremona.'

        -- From 'Cremona" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

"In conclusion, it is due that I should mention the gallant bearing of Lieut.-Col. W. P. Lane in the battle. He had his horse shot under him in the charge and fought on foot until he mounted another horse (whose rider had been killed), and continued the fight."

        -- From Col. E. Greer's report on the battle of Wilson's Creek.

Edward "Butch" O'Hare in his Wildcat fighter.

"As a result of his gallant action--one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation--he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage."
        -- From "Butch" O'Hare's Medal of Honor citation.

February - Feabhra


14, 1895 - Sean Treacy (Revolutionary - Solohead, Co. Tipperary)
15, 1874 - Ernest Shackleton (Arctic explorerer - Kilkea, Co. Kildare)
16, 1822 - Richard Busteed (Union General - Craven, Ireland)
18, 1817 - Walter Lane (Confederate General - Co. Cork)
19, 1923 - Brendan Behan (Author)
20, 1794 - William Carleton (Author - Prillisk, Co. Tyrone)


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.
18 1366 - The Statutes of Kilkenny are passed.
18, 1820 - Dan Donnelly, professional boxing pioneer, dies in Dublin.
19 1992 - U.S. government deports Joseph Doherty, volunteer Oglaigh na hÉireann.
20, 1942 - Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare becomes the first U.S. Navy ace of the war when he is credited with downing five Japanese bombers in a single day.

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


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