This Week in the History of the Irish: January 31 - February 6

LUAIN -- On February 1, 1702, the Irish Brigade of France added to its growing reputation as elements of the Brigade fought at the battle of Cremona during the War of Spanish Succession. With the city nearly overrun by Prince Eugene's Austrians, only the taking of the Po Gate and its bridge stood between Eugene and complete victory. But guarding that bridge and gate were 600 men of Dillon's and Burke's regiments. Neither bribery, nor pleading, nor 12 hours of fighting could move them; the gate was held, and the town was saved. The brave soldiers of the Irish Brigade had won the day for France, but their courageous stand had cost them 60 percent casualties.

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

MÁIRT -- 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.

 "Silken"Thomas Fitgerald

CÉADAOIN -- 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.

Don Leopoldo O'Donnell

DEARDAOIN -- 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.


AOINE -- 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.

VOICES

'The Irish performed there the most important piece of service for Louis XIV, that, perhaps, any King of France ever received from so small a body of men since the foundation of that monarchy. This action by the Irish, by any impartial way of reasoning, saved the whole French army in Italy.'
        -- The English writer Forman, remarking on the battle of Cremona

'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

February - Feabhra

BIRTHS

?, 1754 - Richard Martin (Politician)
1, 1878 - Thomas MacDonagh (Poet, revolutionary - Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary.)
2, 1860 - William O. "Buckey" O'Neill (Rough Rider, Span-Am War - Ireland)
2, 1882 - James Joyce (Author - Dublin)
2, 1895 - John Ford (Movie Director)
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, 1868 - Constance Markievicz (Revolutionary - London, England)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

January - Eanair

31, 1881 - Ladies Land League launched in Ireland.
31, 1913 - The Ulster Volunteer Force is founded by the Unionist Council.

February - Feabhra

1, St. Brigid's Day.
1, 1315 - Edward the Bruce of Scotland and his Irish allies win the battle of Skerries in Kildare.
1, 1702 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Cremona.
1, 1796 - Theobald Wolf Tone, United Irish leader, arrives in France seeking assistance.
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.
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...
3, 1919 - Harry Boland and Michael Collins engineer Eamon de Valera's escape from Lincoln Jail in England.
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.

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

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