This Week in the History of the Irish: June 21 - June 27

LUAIN -- On June 22, 1922, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson was shot and killed by two IRA men in London. Wilson was an Irish native, born in County Longford, and a long-time opponent of Irish home-rule. Wilson joined the British army in 1884 and saw action during the Boer War. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1907. Wilson was assigned to British army headquarters during the infamous "Curragh Incident" and supported the near mutiny of British officers who refused to lead troops against Ulster opponents of home-rule. He served in France during the Great War. When the war ended, Wilson continued his staunch support of the Unionist cause while serving as chief of Imperial General Staff. He was a strong supporter of the coercion tactics of the British in Ireland during the War of Independence, even suggesting that the leaders of Sinn Fein be executed. Wilson left the army when Lloyd George decided not to renew his term as chief of staff and, as a Conservative, was elected MP for North Down in 1922. In Parliament, he urged even stronger coercion methods than those that had been carried out by the Black and Tans. On June 22, returning from unveiling the war memorial at London's Liverpool rail station, he was ambushed by Reginald Dunne and Joseph O'Sullivan and shot dead on the steps of his home on London's posh Eaton Square. Both men were former soldiers in the British army, O'Sullivan having lost a leg at Ypres. Dunne refused to leave O'Sullivan, though his disability hampered the men's escape, and both were caught after being surrounded by angry bystanders. Both Michael Collins and the IRA's anti-Treaty faction denied that they had ordered the killing, and neither man revealed the source of their orders before they were executed. Some speculate that Collins had ordered the killing, enraged by anti-Catholic pogroms in Ulster, but it has never been proven.

CÉADAOIN -- On June 24, 1797, John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York, was born in Annaloghlan, County Tyrone. Hughes emigrated to the United States in 1817 and was ordained in Maryland in 1826. Appointed bishop in New York in 1842 and archbishop in 1850, Hughes was a fierce defender of Catholic civil rights during the worst period of anti-Catholic bigotry in American history.

(Left: Old St. Patrick's Cathedral, 1860. Armed men protected the church against threats of Nativist violence against the church, the seat of the Archdiocese of New York.)

When a Philadelphia mob attacked Catholics and burned two churches there in 1844, and nativists were threatening the same in New York, Hughes placed armed guards on his churches. He then warned Mayor James Harper if he allowed a single Catholic church to be burned "the city would become a Moscow." Apparently, Harper took Hughes threat quite seriously, for in spite of his own anti-Catholic feeling, the mayor took action and the Catholic churches of New York were saved.

DEARDAOIN -- On June 25, 1870Robert Erskine Childers, whose mother was from County Clare, was born in London. Childers was raised at the home of family members at Glendalough, County Wicklow. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After serving in the British army during the Boer War he became an Irish nationalist. In 1914, Childers smuggled German rifles into Ireland on his yacht, Asgard. Though he served as the principal secretary to Collins and Griffith at the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations, Childers opposed the treaty, supporting the anti-treaty forces during the Civil War. Childers was captured by Free Staters in November 1922 with a pistol shortly after the Free State had passed legislation making such possession a capital offence. Ironically, the revolver Childers possessed was a gift from a former comrade – Michael Collins, who led the Free State until his death in an ambush three months earlier. Childers was found guilty on November 19 and executed on November 24, during the tragic exchange of atrocities by the two sides. Before they shot him, Childers shook the hand of each member of his firing squad. Childer's son, also called Erskine, would one day be President of Ireland.

SATHAIRN -- On June 27, 1862, the Irish 9th Massachusetts Infantry regiment of the Union Army was heavily engaged at the battle of Gaines Mill, Virginia, during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign. Put into an exposed, forward position near the bridge over Powhite Creek, the regiment sustained heavy casualties while delaying the advance of A. P. Hill's division, allowing other Federal forces to improve their defenses. Among the Confederates attacking the 9th's position were the Irishmen of Company K, 1st South Carolina.

(Left: Meagher and his Irish Brigade come to the relief of the 9th MA at Gaines Mill as depicted by Don Troiani in "Brothers of Ireland.")

After pulling back to the main Federal line, the regiment would be hotly engaged again later in the day. Numerous attacks by Hill's Confederates were repulsed through the day, and the 9th would also help cover the retreat of their brigade. The 9th was one of the last regiments of the 5th Corps remaining on the field as Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher and his Irish Brigade rushed into line to relieve the beleaguered remnant of the brave Massachusetts regiment. Seeing the green flags of the Irish Brigade coming to the 9th's aid, Lt. Col. Patrick Guiney, who had been watching his regiment shrink in number all day, shook the hand of Meagher and exclaimed, "Thank God, we are saved." The 9th lost 82 killed and 167 wounded that day.

Read more about the battle HERE.


'We took our part in supporting the aspirations of our fellow-countrymen in the same way as we took our part in supporting the nations of the world who fought for the rights of small nationalities. ... The same principles for which we shed our blood on the battle-field of Europe led us to commit the act we are charged with.' 
         -- From a speech that Reginald Dunne prepared, but was not allowed to read, after his conviction for the killing of Field Marshal Wilson

'No sir; but I am afraid some of yours will be burned.' 
       -- Bishop John Hughes (left) answer to New York's nativist Mayor James Harper in 1844 when Harper asked Hughes if he feared some of his churches would be burned by anti-Catholic mobs.

'At Gaine's Mill, Colonel Thomas Cass's gallant 9th Massachusetts Volunteers of Griffin's brigade obstinately resisted A.P. Hill's crossing, and were so successful in delaying his advance, after crossing, as to compel him to employ large bodies to force the regiment back to the main line.' 
         -- Union General Fitz-John Porter, writing in Century Magazine in 1884.


June -- Meitheamh

22, 1788 - James Francis Stuart (James III - The Old Pretender - London)
23, 1846 - John Gregory Bourke (Medal of Honor awardee and Native American ethnologist - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents.)
24, 1797 - Most Rev. John Hughes (First Archbishop of New York - Co. Tyrone.)
24, 1895 - Jack Dempsey (Heavyweight boxing champion, Manassa, Colorado. )
25, 1870 - Erskine Childers (Author and Revolutionary - London, England)
27, 1846 - Charles Stewart Parnell (Politician - Avondale, Co. Wicklow)
27, 1850 - Lafcadio Hearn (Author on Japanese subjects – Lafcadio Island, Greece.)


21, 1798 Battle of Vinegar Hill
21, 1877 
- Ten members of the Molly Maguires are hanged in Pennsylvania at Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and Pottsville.
22, 1798
 - The famed 45-mile route march out of Wexford under Father John Murphy and Miles Byrne to Kiltealy. the Scullogue Gap and the engagement of Killedmond in County Carlow.
22, 1798 - Engagement of Scollagh Gap in Co. Carlow.
22, 1917 - Captain “Dynamite” Johnny O’ Brien dies in Manhattan, NY
22, 1921 - George V opens Northern Ireland Parliament, pleads for peace. 
22, 1922 - Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson shot dead by two IRA men in London.
23, 1695 - Dillon's Regiment of the Irish Brigade of France defends Callela.
23, 1798 - Engagement at Goresbridge, County Kilkenny.
24, 1798 - Capture of Castlecomer, County Kilkenny.
25, 1690 - Waterford surrenders to the Williamites.
25, 1876 - Myles Keogh and over 30 other Irish-born troopers are killed with Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.
26, 1757 - Count Maximilian Ulysses Brown, Austrian Field Marshal, dies in Prague.
26, 1798 - Battle of Kilcumney Hill in County Carlow.
26, 1798 - Bagenal Henry, United Irishman, hung from Wexford bridge.
26, 1846 - England repeals Corn Laws.
27, 1743 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Dettingen. 
27, 1783 - Hibernia regiment of Spain's Irish Brigade arrives to garrison Augustine, Fla.
27, 1862 - Battle of Gaines Mill, VA (Federal Irish Brigade, 9th MA, Confederate 6th LA engaged)
27, 1898 - Ancient Order of Hibernians in US revived at unity conference.
27, 1963 - President John F. Kennedy arrives for his famous visit to his ancestor’s homeland.

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Tags: American Civil War, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day, United States


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