This Week in the History of the Irish: July 14 - July 20

A scene from the Draft Riots.

SATHAIRNMÁIRT -- From July 13 to 16, 1863, one of the more regrettable incidents related to Irish-American history occurred --the New York City Draft Riots. The slogan, "rich man's war, poor man's fight," was the cry of many in the Northern states. Fueled by an understandable anger at a draft that allowed rich men to buy their way out, worried that the eventual emancipation of blacks would rob them of their jobs, and egged on by some politicians and Southern agents, many Irish participated in rioting that engulfed the city two days after the draft began. Through the years the story has been told as if only Irish rioted, but in fact many besides the Irish took part, and many Irish policemen, fireman, priests and trade unionists were among the most influential in quelling them. Still, it cannot be denied -- a large number of Irish did participate in the burning of a black orphanage and murder of blacks in the city. This unfortunate episode left a lasting stain on the reputation of New York's Irish community.

DOMHNAIGH -- On July 14, 1798, brothers John and Henry Sheares, both lawyers and United Irishmen, are executed in Dublin. Sons of a wealthy banker and member of the Irish Parliament, the brothers visited France together in 1792 and there acquired their revolutionary republican principles. They joined the United Irishmen on their return to Dublin and John began to write articles for the Press, a nationalist paper. They were betrayed by an informer, Capt. John Armstrong, and arrested May 21. Found guilty of treason, they were publicly hung outside Newgate Prison in Dublin. Both are buried at Dublin's St. Michan's Church.

DEARDAOIN -- On July 18, 1874, Irish revolutionary Cathal Brugha (right) was born Charles William St. John Burgess on Richmond Avenue in Dublin. Cathal joined the Gaelic League in 1899 and became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers in 1913. He would become one of the most uncompromising advocates of Irish republicanism among all the revolutionary leaders. Severely wounded during the Easter Rising, Brugha lived to become Chief of Staff of the IRA during the War of Independence. One of the fiercest opponents of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Cathal Brugha fought on O'Connell Street against the Free Sate government at the start of the Civil War. On July 5, 1922, surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered in the Hamman Hotel, Brugha ordered the men under his command to surrender. But after they did, Brugha burst into the street with two pistols blazing. He was fatally wounded, dying two days later.

Jean-Joseph Humbert, commander of the first French force sent to Ireland in August 1798.

AOINE -- On July 19, 1798, after months of begging and cajoling by Theobald Wolfe Tone, the French Directory finally authorized the sending of French troops to Ireland to aid the rising there. Since the death of his friend, Gen. Hoche, the previous September, Tone had lost some of his influence with the French. Tone and others must have known the chances for success had probably slipped away through endless delays; most of the members of the United Irishmen had already risen up and been defeated. Napoleon had set sail on his Egyptian adventure -- he would later admit he should have gone to Ireland instead. A plan was devised to send small numbers of French soldiers in numerous expeditions and help prop up the Irish resistance, which in truth, even then was nearly crushed. Gen. Jean-Joseph Humbert would command the first French force of some 1,100 men.

SATHAIRN -- On July 20, 1866, at the battle of Lissa in the Adriatic, an Austrian fleet defeated a numerically superior Italian fleet. Commanding one of the Austrian ships was Irishman Alfred Barry. Alfred, whose brother, Richard, was also an officer in the Austrian navy, was one of the greatest admirals in Austrian naval history. At Lissa, with the Italian fleet in a line formation, Austrian commander Admiral Count Wilhelm von Tegetthoff formed his ships in a wedge and drove them right through the Italians. Barry was commanding the Prinz Eugen on the right side of the formation, as they split the Italians Barry's ship was hit 21 times but he continued on, doffing his cap and making a showy bow to the captain of one of the Italian ships as they passed closely by. The Italians lost 3 ships and retreated, lifting the naval siege of Lissa. Barry was honored by Tegetthoff after the victory. Barry later helped build the Austrian navy into one of the world's best. He died in 1907 and is buried in Pula.


United Irish martyr John Sheares

'Adieu, Julia, my light is out -- the approach of darkness is like that of death, since both alike require I should say farewell forever -- Oh my dear family, farewell forever.'
         -- From a letter written by John Sheares to his sister shortly before his execution.

‘Because of his sincerity, I would forgive him anything. At worst he was a fanatic though in what has been a noble cause. At best I number him among the very few who have given their all ...that this country should have its freedom.When many of us are forgotten, Cathal Brugha will be remembered’
         -- Michael Collins

'. . . in three months it might be too late, and the forces then sent, if the Irish were overpowered in the meantime, find themselves unsupported, and in their turn, be overpowered by the English.'
         -- Wolfe Tone's plea to the French Directory to act quickly in sending troops to Ireland in 1798


July -- Iúil

14, 1830 - Richard Henry Jackson (Union General - Kennegad, Co. Westmeath)
15, 1899 - Sean Lemass (Politician - Ballybrack, Co. Dublin)
17, 1846 - John Mclure (Fenian) near Manhattan
18, 1874 - Cathal Brugha (Revolutionary - Dublin.)
19, 1922 - George McGovern (Senator, WWII bomber pilot - Avon, S. Dakota)


14, 1921 - De Valera meets with Lloyd George in London.
14, 1798 - United Irishmen John and Henry Sheares executed.
14, 1969 - First death of the troubles, a 70-year-old farmer is struck in a melee outside an Orange Hall in Dungiven, Co. Derry. He was probably just an onlooker.
15, 1580 - Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne rises in rebellion in Co. Wicklow.
15, 1729 - Count John Joseph Anton O'Dwyer, Lt. Field Marshal in the Austrian army, dies.
16, 1777 - Irish-born Gustavus Conyngham, "The Dunkirk Pirate," is given command of the USS Revenge.
17, 1690 - Williamite forces begin an unsuccessful siege of the town of Athlone, where Col. Richard Grace commands Irish forces.
17, 1798 - Henry Joy McCracken, United Irishman, executed in Belfast
17, 1951 - Dublin's Abbey Theatre is destroyed by fire.
18, 1561 - Battle of Red Sagums - Shane O'Neill defeats English.
18, 1861 - Irish-born Col. Patrick Moore and his 1st Virginia fight at Blackburn's Ford.
19, 1798 - French Directory authorizes the sending of three expeditions to Ireland and gives command of the first one to Gen. Humbert.
20, 1616 - Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, dies in Rome.
20, 1863 - Young Irelander John Mitchel's son, Confederate Capt. John C. Mitchel, is killed during a Union bombardment of Ft. Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. His brother, Willie, was killed 17 days earlier at Gettysburg.
20, 1866 - The Austrian fleet, including the ship of Alfred Barry, defeats the Italian fleet at the battle of Lissa.

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Tags: Alfred Barry, American Civil War, Cathal Brugha, Diaspora History, Europe, Henry Sheares, Irish Freedom Struggle, Jean-Joseph Humbert, John Sheares, United States, More…Wolfe Tone, battle of Lissa, draft riots

Comment by Jim Curley on July 18, 2013 at 1:53pm
Regarding the Sheares brothers, I remember taking a tour of St. Michan's crypt years ago, and hearing a story about how the limestone below the church kept the bodies of the brothers perfectly preserved until a lady brought flowers to the crypt in 1898 to mark the 100th anniversary of their execution. The oxygen from the flowers began to decompose the bodies, before they were taken away.
Comment by Gerry Regan on July 18, 2013 at 9:17pm

Fascinating story, Jim. Any pictures to share from that visit? Ger

Comment by Jim Curley on July 19, 2013 at 8:41am

Sorry, I don't think I even owned a camera then. One picture that I do have from that 1970 visit to Ireland is one that included a bunch of us and then President Eamon DeValera taken at the President's House in Phoenix Park. One of the men I was teaching with at the time had a friend either in the Irish Embassy in Washington or the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, I forget which, and he got us in. Dev was pretty old then. The conversation was purely social and centered on President Kennedy's trip to ireland in 1963,

Comment by Gerry Regan on July 20, 2013 at 11:14am

Can you share that with us all, Jim?

Comment by Jim Curley on July 20, 2013 at 12:07pm
I'll have to get someone to scan the pix, but I will do that.


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