This Week in the History of the Irish: January 1 - January 7

SATHAIRN THROUGH MÁIRT -- From December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne commanded a division at Murfreesboro (Stone's River), Tennessee, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Western theater of the American Civil War.

(Right: A detail from William Travis' 528-ft. traveling panorama of the Federal Army of the Cumberland Union soldiers running from the Confederate onslaught of December 31, 1862 at Murfreesburo, Tennessee.)

In early December 1862, the transfer of Confederate Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner had created a vacancy for a division command in Braxton Bragg's Army of the Tennessee. There was no man in that Army who could breath a word against the promotion of Patrick Ronayne Cleburne to that post, nor the promotion to major general that went with it. Usually the months of December and January were quiet times, with soldiers in winter camps, but Federal Gen. William S. Rosecrans intended to drive Bragg's army from Tennessee, winter or no. Bragg awaited his advance along Stone's River, just west of Murfreesboro. On the morning of the 31st, Cleburne's division was on the Confederate left. Attacking at dawn, Cleburne fell on the corps of Federal Gen. Alexander McCook, which held the Federal right, and drove the corps from the field. Federal Gen. Thomas Crittenden, observing from a distance, said it was the first time the Army of the Cumberland had ever seen such panic. A second line was formed by the Federals, but Cleburne's men drove them as well. They continued to drive the enemy until they ran out of ammunition and energy. Later, Confederate Corps commander William Hardee expressed his belief that if a fresh division had followed up Cleburne's, Rosecrans entire army would have been routed. Night fell, however, and the two armies brought in the New Year sleeping on their arms. Rosecran's army was badly whipped, but it stayed put on January 1st. Bragg was cautious and only probed to discover if the Federals were still there. The Federals had fortified their position to the west of the river, in front of Cleburne; Bragg decided to attack them east of the river. This attack, by Breckinridge, was successful at first, but was then met by 58 Federal artillery pieces and shredded. Bragg would retreat the next day. Though his army had abandoned the field, Cleburne's performance in his first battle as a major general had been outstanding. His eventual rise to corps command seemed certain, but factors away from the battlefield would prevent that.

Courtesy of the New York Public Library
A drawing of the British siege lines at Charleston in 1780.

CÉADAOIN -- On January 4, 1781, Irish-born Revolutionary War Gen. James Hogan died in British captivity at Haddrel Point, South Carolina. Hogan (sometimes spelled Hogun) was born in Ireland about 1721, and emigrated to North Carolina about 30 years later. In May 1776, Hogan was appointed a major in the militia of the Edenton and Halifax regions of the Southern state. In November, when North Carolina decided to raise three more regiment for George Washington's Continental Army, James Hogan was appointed colonel of one of them, the 7th North Carolina. Hogan's regiment fought in Pennsylvania at Brandywine and also at Germantown, where Hogan was cited for "distinguished intrepidity." Hogan was sent back to North Carolina to help recruit four new regiments. He returned to Washington's army in August 1778, and was promoted brigadier general five months later. Hogan served at West Point and as commander of Continental troops in Philadelphia. In November 1779, he was sent south in command of the North Carolina Brigade to the aid of General Charles Lincoln. Lincoln was facing an anticipated British assault at Charleston, South Carolina. The march south, through one of the worst winters ever, was a severe one; Hogan's numbers were reduced by the time he reached Charleston on March 3, 1780. Before the end of the month, British General Clinton's men were besieging the city. The Americans, though outnumbered more than two to one, had a few successes during the siege, one was a trench raid led by Hogan on April 24. But soon they were running low on food and ammunition. At a council of war May 11, the decision was made to surrender. The surrender the following day was one of the worst American defeats of the war -- more than 2,500 men became British prisoners. The British hastily built a prison on Haddrel's Point to hold the prisoners, but the site was incomplete and conditions were harsh. Generals McIntosh, Lincoln and Scott, and other high-ranking officers accepted parole from the British and departed. But generals Moultrie and Hogan refused, preferring to stay with their men. The British were trying to recruit colonial soldiers to serve them in the West Indies. Hogan feared some of his men might weaken if he departed. He did this in spite of flagging health. As winter set in, Hogan's condition worsened. On January 4, 1781, he passed away and was buried near the prison. Like so many other Irish born soldiers before and after him, James Hogan had given his last full measure of devotion to his adopted country.

DEARDAOIN -- On Jan. 5, 1871, the British in a general amnesty released 30 Fenian prisoners. Most of these prisoners were men who had either been swept up the British in 1865, when they suppressed the Fenian paper, The Irish People, taken part in the March 1867 rising, or been rounded up after the 'Smashing of the Van' rescue of Kelly and Deasy in September 1867. The British penal system of that time was brutal under normal circumstances, and the Fenians came in for much harsher treatment than the normal inmate did. Those Fenians still on the outside agitated constantly for the release of their comrades. The man most responsible for the release of 1871 was John 'Amnesty' Nolan, who thus earned his sobriquet. The names of many of the men released by William Gladstone's government are well known to those who have studied the Irish Republican movement. One of them was Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, as steadfast an enemy of English rule in Ireland as any who ever lived. After Rossa's death his body was returned to Ireland for burial, and his funeral in 1915 included the famous eulogy by Patrick Pearse, one of the seminal moments in the renewal of armed struggle for Irish freedom. Another Fenian released that day was John Devoy, who perhaps more than any other man would keep the struggle for Irish freedom alive among Irish exiles in America. The British government released the Fenians on condition that they exile themselves to the country of their choice and not return until their sentences had expired. Many chose to go to Australia, but Rossa, Devoy, John McClure, Henry Mulleda and Charles Underwood O'Connell, who had all been imprisoned together, chose to go to America and shipped together from Liverpool on board the Cuba. The so-called Cuba Five arrived in New York to a hero's welcome from the city's large Irish community and even received a resolution of welcome from the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Air Force photo
Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. (left) with Richard I. Bong.

SATHAIRN -- On Jan. 7, 1945 Major Thomas McGuire Jr., the second highest scoring US ace of WWII, and winner of the Medal of Honor, crashed his plane and was killed over the Pacific. McGuire was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey on August 1, 1920. He spent most of his childhood in Florida, where he and his mother moved after his parents were divorced.

McGuire enlisted in the army as a aviation cadet in July 1941 and earned his pilots wings in February 1942. Sent to Alaska, McGuire bristled at the lack of combat and agitated for transfer to a combat squadron. In December he was sent to California to learn to fly the twin-engine P-38 fighter in which he would earn his fame. In March 1943 he shipped out to the Pacific, joining the 49th Fighter Group. One of the veteran combat pilots in the 49th was Richard Bong, who would be the highest scoring ace of WWII.

In just his second mission, on August 18, McGuire was credited with shooting down three Japanese planes. On his next mission, on the 21st, he shot down two more, making him an ace after just three missions. In October he was shot down but managed to bail out over the ocean and was rescued by a PT boat.

When he took off from his base in the Philippines on Christmas day 1944, he had thirty-one kills. In the next two day he shot down seven enemy planes to bring his total to thirty-eight. He was now only two behind Bong, who had been sent home for a fund raising tour. McGuire was anxious to pass him

On an early morning of January 7th McGuire led a flight of four P-38s over Japanese airbases on Negros Island. While pulling a sharp left turn toward a Japanese fighter his plane stalled and he crashed. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his seven kills in two days in December. McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey is named after him.

To learn more about this WWII hero, read: The Last Great Ace : The Life of Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr.


'Gen. Cleburne has been a Brigadier under my command for about a year, and he has given unmistakable proofs of military talent of a high order. He unites the rare qualities of a strict disciplinarian, a brave and skillful leader and a popular commander.'
-- Part of Gen. William Hardee's recommendation for Patrick Cleburne's promotion to division command.

'All day long …. Sweeny's Hotel and the approaches to it were the scene of the most lively excitement, caused by the congregation of numerous sympathizers. The green flag was flying from the highest flagstaff on the roof of the hotel.'
-- The New York Herald describing the excitement created by the arrival of the Cuba Five in New York in January 1871.

January - Eanáir


1, 1883 - William "Wild Bill" Donovan (Medal of Honor winner, head of the OSS - Buffalo, NY)
4, 1581 - James Ussher (Scholar and Archbishop of Armagh - Dublin)
ury, MA.)
6, 1794 - Frances Ball (Mother Mary Teresa - Founder of the Sisters of Loretto - Dublin)
6, 1898 - Colonel James Fitzmaurice (Aviator - Dublin)
7, 1861 - Louise Guiney (Poet, literary historian - Roxbury, MA.)


1, 1776 - Irish-born General Richard Montgmery of the Continental Army is killed at the Battle of Quebec.
1, 1801 - Act of Union - Ireland and Great Britain form United Kingdom
1, 1892 - Ellis Island becomes reception center for new immigrants (The first immigrant through the gates is Annie Moore, 15, of Co. Cork.)
1, 1957 - Sean South and Feargal O'Hanlon killed during an attack on an RUC Barracks in the County Fermanagh village of Brookeborough.
2, 1602 - Spanish force in Ireland surrender to the English at Kinsale.
2, 1743 - William O'Shaughnessy, general in the French army, dies at Gravelines.
2, 1794 - William Bulkely, officer in the Irish Brigade of France, is guillotined during the French Revolution.
2, 1920 - The Black and Tans are formed.
3, 1966 - Marguerite Higgins, journalist and war correspondent, dies.
4, 1781 - Irish born U.S. Revolutionary War Gen. James Hogan dies in British captivity.
4, 1792 - First issue of Northern Star, organ of United Irishmen published in Belfast.
4, 1925 - Cork native Nellie Cashman: Frontier Angel, gold miner, and pioneer of the American West, dies of pneumonia in Victoria, British Columbia.
4, 1969 - Civil rights marchers attacked at Burntollet Bridge, NI.
5, 1777 - Irish-born Stephen Moylan is appointed colonel in the Continental Army.
5, 1871 - 30 Fenian prisoners are released by the British in a general amnesty.
5, 1885 - Hugh O'Brien is sworn in as Boston first Irish mayor.
6, 1562 - Shane O'Neill submits to Queen Elizabeth, but rebels again within months.
6, 1946 - Nazi broadcaster William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) is executed by England.
7, 1922 - Anglo-Irish treaty approved by Dail Eireann.
7, 1945 - Major Thomas McGuire, the second highest scoring US ace of WWII, and winner of the Medal of Honor, is shot down and killed over the Pacific

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


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