This Week in the History of the Irish: February 2 - February 8

'The Rough Riders' by Theodore Roosevelt (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899)
Capt. Buckey O'Neill, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry

DOMHNAIGH -- On February 2, 1860, William O. 'Buckey' O'Neill, sheriff, politician, and one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, was born, possibly somewhere in Ireland. Son of a veteran of the American Civil War's famed Irish Brigade, young William left Washington, D.C., in 1879 hoping to find excitement in the Arizona territories. He found enough for three men. He won fame during many exploits against outlaws as a sheriff and eventually won an election for mayor of Prescott. At the start of the Spanish-American War, O'Neill -- nicknamed 'Buckey' after his favorite card game -- raised a company for Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. It was then that he first listed his birthplace as Ireland, after years of claiming U.S. birth. 'Buckey' O'Neill was one of the most popular men, enlisted or officer, in Roosevelt's regiment. He was killed just before the regiment's famous assault up Kettle Hill (not San Juan Hill) on July 1, 1898.

'Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland'
James Stephens, who founded the IRB, Irish counterpart to John O'Mahony's
Fenian Brotherhood

AOINE -- On February 7, 1877, John O'Mahony, founder of the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States, died in New York. O'Mahony was a member of the Young Ireland party in the 1840s; he escaped to France after the failed rising in 1848. In Paris, he met James Stephens before moving on to New York in 1853. On March 17, 1858, O'Mahony founded the Fenian Brotherhood in New York, as Stephens was founding the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Dublin. O'Mahony led the entire Fenian organization until 1865, when internal disputes led to its splitting into three factions, one being O'Mahony's. His faction's failed in its attempt to invade Canada through Campobello Island in April 1866. Eleven months later, a rising in Ireland failed. In the wake of these debacles, O'Mahony's Fenian wing ceased to exist and he lived out his last days in poverty until his death in 1877. Like Terence MacManus, O'Mahony's body was returned to Dublin where he was given a huge funeral and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery..

Courtesy of
Flag similar to those carried by Irish regiments in Spanish service.

SATHAIRN -- On February 8, 1743, during the War of Austrian Succession , the Irish Brigade of Spain fought at the battle of Campo Santo. The regiments of Ultonia, Irlanda, and Hibernia formed the Irish Brigade fighting in Italy in a Spanish army, led by Gen. Don Juan de Gages. The Spanish government had ordered Gages forward, though he did not have sufficient supplies for his army. He was met at Campo Santo by Gen. Traun's Austrian army. Gages took up a defensive position with the Panaro River to his rear, a risky decision. The Irish were posted on the Spanish right, and, during a momentary breakthrough, the Irish captured two Austrian flags. But the second line of Austrians did not break, and the Spanish advance was halted as darkness set in, ending the fighting. The Spanish could claim a tactical victory, since the Austrians left the field first, but it came at horrendous cost, especially to the Irish. They lost over 24 officers and 465 men killed. Once again hundreds of Irishmen died many miles from home for "every cause but their own."

William "Wild Bill" Donovan as he appeared while commanding teh 69th NY (165 Infantry) during WWI.

SATHAIRN -- On February 8, 1959, William "Wild Bill" Donovan , soldier, lawyer, politician and head of the Office of Strategic Services, died in Berryville, Virginia. Donovan was a key figure in the development of the United States intelligence service. His life reads like a Hollywood movie script. Born in Buffalo, New York, on January 1, 1883, Donovan earned his nickname "Wild Bill" for his bubbly personality. In truth, an examination of his life shows that he seldom acted in a way one would be likely to call "wild." After flirting with the idea of the priesthood early in his life, Donovan became a lawyer, practicing in Buffalo. He also organized a cavalry unit in the N.Y. National Guard and took that unit to Mexico when General John "Black Jack" Pershing pursued Pancho Villa. On Donovan's return, he was commissioned a major commanding the famous 69th New York Infantry. He commanded the regiment when the United States entered World War I in 1917. The Army redesignated the now federalized 69th as the 165th Infantry (though it remained the 69th to the men in it) and placed it in the Rainbow Division. Donovan distinguished himself in command of the 69th, winning the Medal of Honor. After the war, Donovan was appointed an assistant United States attorney. He ran unsuccessfully as the Republican candidate for governor of New York in 1932. Donovan was sent on a number of diplomatic missions by President Roosevelt in the 1930s. When World War II began, Roosevelt named Donovan to head up the new Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. Under Donovan's leadership, the OSS proved itself a valuable asset in the American war effort. Through his work organizing the OSS, Donovan laid the groundwork for the Central Intelligence Agency, which was formed in 1947. When Donovan died in 1959, President Eisenhower remarked, "What a man! We have lost the last hero."


'The Rough Riders' by Theodore Roosevelt (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899)
An illustration of William O. "Buckey" O'Neill

'The iron-nerved, iron-willed fighter from Arizona ... a staunchly loyal and generous friend. ... he, alone among his comrades, was a visionary, an articulate emotionalist ... He was less apt to tell tales of his hard and stormy past than he was to speak of the mysteries which lie behind courage, and fear, and love.'
        -- Teddy Roosevelt describing William "Buckey" O'Neill

'Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn't made that will kill me!'
        -- William 'Buckey' O'Neill, just moments before a bullet hit him in the mouth, killing him, July 1, 1898

'Ere long there shall be an Irish Army on the Irish hillsides ready to do battle for Irish independence and drive back from the green and sacred Isle of Erin those ruthless tyrants who have desolated our homes and driven us wandering exiles over the whole earth.'
        -- John O'Mahony, September 1865, when hopes ran high among the Fenians

'When I think of all the boys I have left behind me who died out of loyalty to me ... it's too much.'
        -- William "Wild Bill" Donovan, lamenting the men of the 69th who were killed in World War I


February - Feabhra


2, 1860 - William O. "Buckey" O'Neill (Rough Rider, Span-Am War - Ireland)
2, 1895 - John Ford (Movie Director)
2, 1882 - James Joyce (Author - Dublin)
2, 1911 - Richard "Killer" O'Kane (US Navy MOH winner - Dover, NH)
3, 1793 - Charles Stewart McCauley (Commodore, U.S. Navy, Civil War, Philadelphia, PA)
4, 1868Constance Markievicz (Revolutionary - London, England)



2, 1880 - Charles S. Parnell addresses the U.S. Congress.
2, 1918 - Former Heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan dies.
2, 1922 - James Joyce's "Ulysses" published in Paris.
2, 1942 - Lts John F. Fitzgerald and James F. McCarthy fly the first two B-25s off the USS WASP to begin Doolittle's Tokyo.
3, 1537 - Lord Thomas Fitzgerald and his five uncles hung drawn and quartered at Tyburn.
3, 1801 - PM Pitt resigns over Royal veto on Catholic emancipation.
3, 1881 - Irish Land League organizer Michael Davitt is arrested.
3, 1896 - Lady Jane Wilde - Speranza of the Nation, Mother of Oscar - dies in London.
3, 1919 - Harry Boland and Michael Collins engineer Eamon de Valera's escape from Lincoln Jail in England.
5, 1733 - Arthur Dillon, 7th Viscount Dillon, first commander of Dillon's regiment, Irish Brigade of France, dies at St. Germain-en-Laye, France.
6, 1685 - Coronation of King James II.
6, 1860 - Spanish Gen. O'Donnell wins the battle of Tetuan in war against Morocco.
6, 1971 - First British soldier killed by Provos.
7, 1549 - Composing of any poem or song about anyone other than the King prohibited by statute.
7, 1589 - Burkes rise in revolt in Co. Mayo.
7, 1877 - John O'Mahony, founder of Fenian Brotherhood in US, dies in New York.
8, 1743 - Irish Brigade of Spain fights in the battle of Campo Santo.
8, 1959 - William "Wild Bill" Donovan, soldier, head of the OSS, dies in Berrryville, VA.

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Tags: Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day


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