This Week in the History of the Irish: February 16 - February 22

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

MÁIRT -- 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, a 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.

DEARDAOIN -- 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 took on Al Capone as a client. 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 manned 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 fleet's 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 MOH awardee 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.

SATHAIRN -- On February 22, 1886, Conservative Party politician Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill, gave what many consider one of the single most destructive speeches in Irish history, inciting militant loyalists at Ulster Hall in Belfast. Churchill had shown disdain for Ulster Unionists up until then, in private, at least, telling Lord Salisbury, "these foul Ulster Tories have always ruined our party," but as 1886 began he saw an opportunity to exploit their fears for political gain.

(Right: Belfast Central Library - A drawing of Lord Randolph Churchill from the Illustrated London News. Churchill died at age 46.)

He decided that if Prime Minister William Gladstone "went for Home Rule [for Ireland], the Orange Card would be the one to play. Please, God, may it turn out the ace of trumps and not the two." This quote would lead one to believe he had few real convictions regarding the issue. "Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right," he proclaimed to a crowd before he even arrived at Ulster Hall on February 22. During his speech, he played on Protestant fears of Dublin's "Catholic" rule and encouraged Ulster Protestants to organize, which they did, beginning to form paramilitary drilling units. Churchill achieved a short term political gain by his playing of the Orange Card; but his most lasting legacy is the unfounded fear of Irish Catholics that he helped to implant in the minds of Ulster Protestants, a tragedy for both traditions on the island. Those fears are still evident in the sectarian hatreds of today.


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.

"Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right".
  -- Lord Randolph Churchill at an Orange rally in 1886.

February - Feabhra


16, 1822 - Richard Busteed (Union General - Craven, Ireland)
17, 1740
 - General John Sullivan (Revolutionary War General and NH governor - Somersworth, NH)
18, 1817 - Walter Lane (Confederate General - Co. Cork)
20, 1794 - William Carleton (Author - Prillisk, Co. Tyrone)
22, 1893 - Peadar O’Donnell (Revolutionary, writer - Meenmore, Co. Donegal.)


17, 1968Father Aloysius P. McGonigal is killed during fighting in Hue, South Vietnam and is awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously.
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, 1921 - 12 Irish Volunteers are killed when Crown forces surround a farmhouse in Clonmult, Co. Cork.
20, 1923 - Author Brendan Behan dies in Dublin.
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.
21, 1945 - For his actions leading his company on Iwo Jima on this day, Marine Capt. Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy is awarded the Medal of Honor
22, 1797 -The last invasion of England: Small French force commanded by Irishman William Tate lands in Wales.
22, 1886 - Lord Randolph Churchill gives memorable speech inciting militant loyalists at Ulster Hall in Belfast.

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

Comment by Liam McAlister on February 21, 2020 at 2:52pm

Re: "This Week in the History of the Irish: February 16 - February 22"- the picture accompanying the insert for "Mairt" is of Brigadier-General James H Lane of North Carolina, VMI Class of 1854. Hopefully attached is a picture of Brigadier-General Walter P Lane


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