This Week in the History of the Irish: July 28 - August 3

LUAIN -- On July 29, 1693, units of the Irish Brigade of France fought at the battle of Landen (also known as Neerwinden) against the forces of William of Orange, their nemesis from the Battle of the Boyne. William had some 50,000 English, Dutch, German and Spanish troops against about 80,000 French troops under the Duke of Luxembourg. William's army had a strong defensive position to compensate for its numerical inferiority.

(Left: The National Gallery of Ireland - Patrick Sarsfield, by William Mossop)

The French attacked William's center first, and then both flanks, breaking his line and winning the victory. On the French left flank, the Duke of Berwick and Patrick Sarsfield (Earl of Lucan) commanded in the assault on the village of Neerwinden, which they captured and lost twice before finally holding it. During this back and forth fighting, the Duke of Berwick was cut off from his troops and captured. He was exchanged shortly after the battle to resume his career in the French army. The Irish had won a measure of revenge against the victor of the Boyne, but it came at a heavy price. Sarsfield, the defender of Limerick two years earlier, beloved by the Irish soldiers of theIrish Brigade of France, was wounded and died with the words, "Would it were for Ireland."

DEARDAOIN -- On Aug. 1, 1915, the funeral of Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa was held before a huge crowd at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Rossa's body had been returned from New York where he died June 30. He had been exiled by the British for his Fenian activities in 1871. While in exile, Rossa had managed to alienate many of his former Fenian colleagues, including his good friend John Devoy, with his uncompromising advocacy of violence to end British rule in Ireland.

(Right: National Library of Ireland - Taken just after Pearse's oration at O'Donovan Rossa's grave side. Pearse is seen just to the left of the priest and altar boy in white cassocks, putting away the text of his speech. Click on the photo for a larger veiw.)

Perhaps his attitude was due in part to the harsh treatment he received in British prisons as well as scenes he witnessed while helping to distribute relief in his native County Cork during the Great Hunger . In the late 1870s, he organized the 'Skirmishing Fund,' which financed the infamous dynamite campaign in England. When he died in New York on June 30, 1915, he was estranged from most in the Irish republican movement, but his funeral would be one of the seminal events in the revival of the movement in Ireland. Patrick Pearse gave an address at the graveside that day which has resounded with republicans down through the years; the final words of his oration provided them with one of their most enduring slogans: "Ireland unfree will never be at peace." [Editor's note: Interestingly, the world slogan derives from the Gaelic sluagh ghairm, or army cry, according to The Random House Dictionary.]

AOINE -- In the early morning hours of August 2, 1943, a small American torpedo boat was moving just west of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. In command was a young Irish-American destined to one day be the first Catholic president of the United States: Lieutenant John Fitzgerald Kennedy As PT-109 moved through the gloomy morning, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri suddenly appeared like a ghost ship just a few hundred yards away. The PT boat was running on one idling engine and had almost no speed to maneuver. The commander of the Amagiri, Kohai Hanami, spotted the tiny ship. It was to close to fire at; Hanami turned to ram it. They sliced through the middle of the wooden PT boat, which burst into flames. Two of the crewmen were killed, but Kennedy and ten others survived. The next morning, with Kennedy towing a badly burned crewman, the crew swam to a nearby island. Though Kennedy was suffering greatly from a recurring back injury, he and Ensign Ross made several dangerous night trips into Ferguson Passage over the next few days, swimming out, and later using a canoe they found, in an attempt to contact help. On August 5, the group was found by two natives who worked for an Australian coast watcher, Lt. Reginald Evans. Kennedy quickly carved a note on a coconut for them to bring to Evans. Evans got word back to the U.S. Navy, and, on the night of August 8, all 11 survivors of PT 109 were rescued by PT 157. John F. Kennedy kept that carved coconut on his desk in the oval office until the day he was assassinated.

Courier & Ives print.
Thomas F. Meagher in zouave uniform while a captain commanding Company K of the 69th New York State Militia. 

SATHAIRN -- On August 3, 1823, Irish nationalist and American Civil War general Thomas Francis Meagher was born in Waterford, Ireland. Well educated, Meagher's family was among the better-off Catholics in the country, and the family expected he would practice law. But Meagher took up politics instead, joining the radical Young Ireland Party . He made a famous speech when the Young Irelanders broke with O'Connell's party, which earned him the sobriquet, 'Meagher of the Sword.' Exiled to Australia for his part in the '48 Rising, he escaped to America and became prominent in the Irish exile community in New York. When the Civil War erupted, he led a company of the 69th New York in July 1861 during the first battle of Bull Run and then organized the famous Irish Brigade of the Union army later in the year. He commanded the brigade in numerous battles until May '63, then resigned when he was not allowed to recruit for his decimated brigade. After the war, Meagher was appointed temporary governor of the Montana territory, and he accidentally drowned there in 1867.


'I am dying the most glorious of deaths; we have seen the backs of the tyrants of our race. May you ,Gerald, live to behold other such days; but let Ireland be always uppermost in your thoughts.' 
         -- From a letter dictated by the dying Patrick Sarsfield to his friend and aide, Gerald O'Connor, July 29, 1693

'Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations.'
         -- From Patrick Pearse's oration at the grave side of O'Donovan Rossa, Aug. 1, 1915

... so long as there remains one officer or one soldier of the Irish Brigade, so long shall there be found for him, for his family and little ones, if any there be, a devoted friend in Thomas Francis Meagher.' '
         -- The closing words of Meagher's farewell address to the Irish Brigade, May 19, 1863


July -- Iúil

30, 1863 - Henry Ford (Automobile manufacturer - Dearborn, Michigan.)

August -- Lúnasa

2, 1932 - Peter O'Toole (Actor)
3, 1823 - Thomas Francis Meagher (Revolutionary, Union General - Waterford)


July -- Iúil

28, 1846 - O'Connell and Young Ireland party split over attitudes toward physical force.
29, 1588 - Spanish Armada defeated by England off the coast of Plymouth, some Spanish ships later wreck in the west of Ireland.
29, 1693 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Landen in Flanders, helping to rout the army of William of Orange.
29, 1693 - Patrick Sarsfield mortally wounded at Landen.
29, 1848 - Young Irelander uprising in Ballingarry, County Tipperary. William Smith O'Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher later sentenced to death; commuted to transportation to Australia.
31, 1689 - Siege of Derry lifted.
31, 1893 - Founding of the Gaelic League.
31, 1922 - Harry Boland shot by Free Staters in Skerries, he would die three days later.

August -- Lúnasa

1588Ships from the Spanish Armada wreck on the western Irish coastline.
1, 1166 - Rory O'Connor defeats Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster forcing him to flee from Ireland.
1, 1800 - Act of Union uniting Ireland to England passed by Parliament.
1, 1822 - Irish Constabulary Act sets up county police forces.
1, 1914 – The Chotah unloads 600 rifles to the Irish Volunteers at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.
1, 1915 - Nationalist Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.
1, 1981 - Kevin Lynch dies on hunger strike.
2, 1649 - Battle of Rathmines.
2, 1862 - Irish 6th Louisiana Infantry 
fights at the battle of Bristoe Station.
2, 1943 -
 John F. Kennedy's PT 109 is rammed and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri in the Solomon Islands.
2, 1981 -
 Kieran Doherty dies on hunger strike.
3, 1868 -
 Charles Halpine ("Miles O'Reilly"), soldier and politician, dies in New York.
3, 1916 - Roger Casement hanged by English government.

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


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