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

DOMHNAIGH -- On February 3, 1537, Lord "Silken" Thomas Fitzgerald and his five uncles were executed at Tyburn, England. In June 1534, believing the English had killed his father in London (he actually died in the Tower later, of disease), Fitzgerald led a revolt against the English. He gained the name 'Silken' for the silk fringes on the helmets of his horsemen. Thomas had over estimated the support for actions, however. His attempt to get Lord Butler, son of the Earl of Ormond, his cousin, to join him in the uprising failed. His forces were defeated at Dublin and forced to retreat to their strongholds in County Kildare. When his castle at Maynooth was taken while he was away seeking reinforcements in March 1535 he was driven from his lands in County Kildare. In July, Fitzgerald surrendered to Lord Leonard Grey, England's Marshal of Ireland, after Grey guaranteed the safety of Fitzgerald and his men. But in October 1535, the English broke their promise. Thomas Fitzgerald and five of his uncles were shipped to London and imprisoned in the Tower until February 1537, when all six were hung, drawn and quartered.

LUAIN -- On February 4, 1860, Spanish General Don Leopoldo O'Donnell y Jorris, 1st Duke of Tétuan, 1st Count of Lucena, 1st Viscount of Aliaga, won the battle of Tétuan in Spain's war against Morocco. Leopoldo was descended from a long line of O'Donnells in Spain, who had been there since the Williamite wars. In Ireland, it was said that he was a direct descendant of Calvagh O'Donnell, a 16th-century chief of the O'Donnell clan. He was involved in various political intrigues in Spain during the 1830s and 40s, a period during which his prospects rose and fell. By the late '50s, he had risen to be prime minister, a position he would hold on three separate occasions. In late 1859, while holding the office of prime minister he personally took command of the Spanish army in its invasion of Morocco. O'Donnell split his army into three corps and marched on Tétuan. The Spanish army, around 30,000 men, faced 40,000 Moroccans entrenched around Tétuan. That numerical disadvantage was overcome by the Spanish artillery, which drove the Moroccans out of their entrenchments and into the city with heavy casualties during the battle on the 4th. On the 6th, their position now untenable, the city surrendered to him. O'Donnell returned to Spain in triumph. For his victory, he was given the title of Duke of Tétuan. He would lose and then regain the prime minister's post one more time, holding it until 1866. He died November 5, 1867. The title "Duke of Tétuan" is held today by a descendant, Don Hugo O'Donnell.

MÁIRT -- On February 5, 1733, Arthur Dillon, son of the 7th Viscount Dillon, and first commander of Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France, died at St. Germain-en-Laye, France. His father, Theobald, was killed in 1691 at the Battle of Aughrim, and his mother was killed during the siege of Limerick. Arthur was already in France at the time. He departed for France along with Lord Mountcashel's brigade, in command of a regiment his father had raised. That regiment would go on to serve France for 100 years and be the only regiment of the Irish Brigade of France to be commanded by the members of the same family for the entire history of the brigade. The Irish regiments had been sent in exchange for several veteran French regiments sent to Ireland to serve King James in his fight to regain the English crown.

(Left: An officer of Dillon's Regiment - from the Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms, NYPL)

Arthur would command "Dillion's Regiment" for nearly 40 years, fighting in campaigns of the French army in Spain, Italy and Germany. In 1704 he was promoted to Marechal-de-Camp. He would eventually rise to the rank of Lieutenant-General before retiring in 1730. Four of his sons would serve with the family regiment of the Irish Brigade, and the other would join the priesthood and rise to be Bishop of Evreux, Archbishop of Toulouse, and Archbishop of Narbonne. Three of the four sons who served with Dillion's regiment would command it. Two of them were killed in battle while in command: James at Fontenoy in 1745 and Edward at Lauffeld in 1747. Two of Arthur's grandsons would attain the rank of general in the French army, but they would both become victims of the French Revolution. Theobald Dillon was accused of being a "traitor and aristocrat" and killed by his own troops in 1792 after a lost battle. Arthur, the last commander of the family's regiment, would suffer the indignity of death by the guillotine during the Reign of Terror in 1794. It was an ignominious end for a family that had served the French so gallantly for a century.

Read more about the Irish Brigade of France.

DEARDAOIN -- On February 7, 1877, John O'Mahony (left: from the 'Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland), 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.

AOINE -- 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.

(Right: Soldiers and flag of the Hibernia Regiment.)

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."

AOINE -- 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.

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

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."

SATHAIRN -- On February 9th 1773 James Fitzgerald, a soldier in the Irish Brigade died in France. James joined the most famous regiment of the Irish Brigade of France, Dillion’s, in 1730. He fought in that regiment in the 1730’s at the sieges of Kehl and Philipsburg and at the battle of Dettingen in 1743. He was then given command of a company in Lally’s regiment. He fought bravely with that regiment at the most famous battle of the Brigade, at Fontenoy in 1745. He was given a brevet promotion to colonel for his outstanding performance there. In 1757 Fitzgerald was offered the opportunity to serve with Lally on his adventurous expedition to India. It may have sounded like it held a good possibility of wealth and advancement, but perhaps he had a premonition of the disaster in store for Lally in India, and after his return. In any case, he wisely turned down the opportunity and remained with the Brigade in France. He transferred to Clare’s regiment (flag of Clare's regiment, right), eventually retired as the 7th Viscount Clare in command of the regiment. A fluent Irish speaker, James Fitzerald died in France, far from the island home he loved.

Read more about the Irish Brigade of France.

SATHAIRN -- On February 9, 1854, Sir Edward Henry Carson, Unionist politician, was born in Dublin. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Carson was called to the Irish and then the English bar. In his most famous case he represented the Marquis of Queensbury against a libel suit by Oscar Wilde, and won. Carson was a Unionist MP from Dublin University from 1892 to 1918.

(Left: Belfast Central Library - Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Ulster's resistance to Home Rule.)

He was elected leader of the Unionist party in 1910, and his opposition to Home Rule became more and more strident. His party's willingness to go to war over Home Rule – including collusion by British army officers in the procuring of arms -- pushed the British to retain six of nine counties in Ulster in the Anglo-Irish Treaty, leading to the present six-county statelet. In 1921, Carson gave up the leadership of the Unionist Party to Lord James Craig. Carson took a cabinet post in London, but was in poor health when he gave up the party leadership. He died in Kent, England, on October 12, 1935 and was given a state funeral in Belfast.


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

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

'We must be prepared … the morning Home Rule passes, ourselves to become responsible for the government of the Protestant Province of Ulster.'
        -- Sir Henry Carson in a speech at Craigavon, September 23, 1911

February - Feabhra


3, 1793 - Charles Stewart McCauley (Commodore, U.S. Navy, Civil War, Philadelphia, PA)
4, 1868 - Constance Markievicz (Revolutionary - London, England)
9, 1854 - Edward Carson, Lord Carson (Politician, Unionist - Dublin)
9, 1923 - Brendan Behan (Author - Dublin.)


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, 1917 - The first Sinn Fein candidate for an MP seat, Count Plunkett,, father of Easter Rising martyr Joseph Plunkett, is elected in the North Roscommon bye-election and starts their tradition of refusing to sit in the British Parliament.
3, 1919 - Harry Boland and Michael Collins engineer Eamon de Valera's escape from Lincoln Jail in England.
3, 1921 - East Limerick and Mid-Limerick Volunteers kill 11 RIC and Black & Tans in ambush at Dromkeen, Co. Limerick.
4, 1860 - Spanish Gen. Leopoldo O'Donnell wins the battle of Tétouan in war against Morocco.
5, 1733 - Arthur Dillon, son of the 7th Viscount Dillon, first commander of Dillon's regiment, Irish Brigade of France, dies at St. Germain-en-Laye, France.
5, 1969 – Thomas P. Noonan (Medal of Honor) is killed attempting to save a comrade in the A Shau Valley, Republic of Vietnam.
6, 1685 - Coronation of King James II.
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, 1854 - Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, mountain man and Indian agent, dies in Washington D.C
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.9, 1773
9, 1773 - James Fitzgerald, officer in the Irish Brigade of France, dies in France.
9, 1920 - The No. 1 (East) Cork Brigade Irish Volunteers capture the RIC barracks at Castlemartyr, Co. Cork.

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Tags: Africa, Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day, United States


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