This Week in the History of the Irish: June 27 - July 3

DOMHNAIGH -- 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 was 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.

LUAIN -- On June 28, 1920, at Wellington barracks in Jullundar, India, 350 Irish members of the famous Connaught Rangers regiment of the British army laid down their arms and refused to keep soldiering as long as British troops remained in Ireland. The mutiny soon spread to Ranger detachments in Solon and Jutogh. The leader of the rebellious Rangers in Solon was James Daly.

(Right: James Daly, executed leader of the Connaught Rangers mutiny in India.)

While the Rangers at Jullundar, including Daly's brother, had not attempted anything beyond refusing to soldier, at Solon, Daly led a nighttime raid on the armory in an attempt to recover the arms they had voluntarily turned in that day. During that confrontation, Daly shouted to the officers guarding the munitions, "If you want to know who the leader is, I am, James Daly, number 35025 of Tyrellspass, Co. Westmeath. Two of the mutineers were killed that night -- Patrick Smythe and Peter Sears. Eventually, 61 Rangers were convicted by courts-martial and 14 sentenced to death. James Daly was the only one shot, on Nov. 2, 1920. We believe it noteworthy that an Irishmen remains the last soldier executed by the British army for a military offense.

DEARDAOIN -- On July 1, 1897, Gen. Tom Barry, one of the finest guerrilla leaders of Ireland's War of Independence, was born in Killorglin, Co. Kerry. Barry joined the British army in 1915 and served in Mesopotamia during World War I. When he returned home in 1919, Barry joined the IRA and put his experience to work organizing and training the IRA's West Cork Flying Column. He turned it into one of the most effective Irish fighting units during the War of Independence.

(Left: Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork - 'Men of the South' by Sean Keating, depicting the men of an IRA Flying Column during the War of Independence.)

Barry also proved an excellent tactician during the war. His column's most famous actions were at Kilmichael and Crossbarry. Barry took the anti-treaty side during the Civil War and remained on the IRA's Army Council afterward but resigned from the IRA in 1938 in disagreement with its bombing campaign in England. His story of the War of Independence, Guerrilla Days in Ireland, published in 1949, is one of the best.

Read more about Tom Barry's life  HERE.

AOINE -- On July 2, 1779, on the West Indies isle of Grenada, whose name would be famous again in the 1980s, Colonel Arthur Dillon and his regiment of the Irish Brigade of France were among 2,300 troops landed from ships commanded by Count d'Estaing.

(Right: Photo by Joe Gannon - A re-enactor in the uniform of a grenadier of Dillon's Regiment of the Irish Brigade of France.)

Another Irishman, Lord Macartney, was in charge of the British troops on the island. As the French came ashore, he retreated to the heights of Morne de l'Hopital. Macartney had only 700 troops, but his defensive position on the fortified heights was very strong. Besides the steep incline, there were several walls on the hillside placed to impede the progress of any attackers. D'Estaing sent Colonel Dillon and some other officers to reconnoiter the possible assault routes just before dark on the 3rd and then ordered a rare night assault on the position. The French attacked with a three-pronged assault; Dillon's regiment made up much of the center and left columns of the assault. Count d'Estaing showed his respect for the Irish by personally leading the grenadiers of Dillon's regiment. Despite the obstacles in their way, the French and Irish troops fought their way up the slope and had taken the position by morning, forcing Macartney's surrender. Several officers of Dillon's regiment were among the 106 French casualties.

Photo by Kevin O'Beirne
Re-enactors portraying the men of the 69th Pennsylvania await the assault of others portraying Confederate infantrymen, near the "Copse of Trees" during the 135th anniversary re-enactment of "Pickett's Charge," July 1998.

SATHAIRN -- On July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the sun rose behind the men the Colonel Dennis O'Kane's Irish 69th Pennsylvania Vol. Infantry on Cemetery Ridge, the most famous assault of the American Civil War was being prepared across the mile of open field in front of them. The 69th PA would be at the very vortex of that assault, now known to posterity as "Pickett's Charge". At 1 p.m. a tremendous cannonade by the Confederate guns would sail mostly over the heads of the 69th. About 3 p.m. the barrage slacked, and the rebel infantrymen began their assault. "And let your work this day be for victory or to the death," Col. Dennis O'Kane told his men as the furious rebel onslaught approached. Soon they were forced to refuse both flanks as the Confederate tide rolled up to them and lapped around both sides. While many around them ran, the 69th stood fast. The regiment's tenacious stand in front of the famous copse of trees was a pivotal part of the crucial Union victory achieved at Gettysburg. Good to his word, Col. O'Kane was killed, and lying dead near the 69th's position; wearing gray lay Pvt. Willie Mitchel of the 1st Virginia Infantry, son of Irish patriot John Mitchel. At the most crucial battle of America's Civil War, Irish were killing Irish on a foreign field once again.

VOICES

'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.

'It must be evident to any student of the period that Barry was unique in the measure of success he achieved, in careful planning of every action, and in his domination of such afterwards famous people as (Sir Bernard) Montgomery and (Arthur E.) Percival.'
        
-- Michael Costello, Lt. Gen. Irish Defense Force and veteran of the War of Independence, on Tom Barry.

'I do not believe that there was a soldier in the regiment that did not feel that he had more courage to meet the enemy at Gettysburg than upon any field of battle in which we had yet been engaged, stimulus being, that we were upon the soil of our own state.'
         -- Private McDermott, 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, July 3, 1863

BIRTHS

June -- Meitheamh

27, 1846 - Charles Stewart Parnell (Politician - Avondale, Co. Wicklow)
27, 1850 - Lafcadio Hearn (Author on Japanese subjects – Lafcadio Island, Greece.)
28, 1844
 - John Boyle O’Reilly (Author, poet, and republican - Dowth Castle, Co. Meath)
29, 1771
 - John Edward Newell (Informer - Downpatrick, Co. Down.) 

July -- Iúil

?, 1888 - Linda Kerns (Republican and nurse - Cromard, Co. Sligo.)
1, 1897
 - Tom Barry (IRA general during War of Independence - Killorglin, Co. Kerry.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

June -- Meitheamh

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.

28, 1861 - Robert Burke, of Co. Galway, dies of starvation while exploring Australia.      
28, 1920
 - India Mutiny by Irish members of Connaught Rangers.
28, 1922 
- Irish Civil War begins. Free State forces attack Republicans in Four Courts, Dublin.
29, 1315 
- Edward the Bruce of Scotland and his Irish allies take the town of Dundalk.
29, 1733 
- Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Parma.
29, 1775 - At the Battle of Bemis Heights (Second Saratoga) Timothy Murphy’s shooting of Sir Francis Clerke and General Simon Fraser is one of the keys to the American victory.
29, 1798 - Engagement of Ballyellis.
30, 1691
 - Colonel Richard Grace is killed in Williamite attack on Athlone.

July -- Iúil

431 A.D - A feis is held in Tara to reaffirm national unity and security.
1, 1681 - St. Oliver Plunkett hung, drawn, and quartered in England.
1, 1690 - Battle of the Boyne.
1, 1694 - Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, first commander of the Irish Brigade of France, dies of complications from previous battle wounds in France.
1, 1862 - Battle of Malvern Hill, VA. (Federal Irish BrigadeConfederate 6th LA, engaged.)
1, 1867 - Thomas Francis Meagher drowns in the Missouri River.
1, 1916 - Beginning of the Battle of the Somme.
2, 1779 - Dillon's Regiment of France's Irish Brigade land on the island of Grenada, which they help to take on the 4th.
2, 1798 - Execution of Father John Murphy and his bodyguard, James Gallagher, at Tullow, County Carlow.
2, 1798 - Engagement at Ballygullen, Cranford, west of Gorey.
2, 1874 - Isaac Butt's Home Rule motion defeated in House of Commons 458-61.
2, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg (PA) - Second day - Irish Brigade fights in the "Wheatfield."
3, 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg - Third day - 69th Pennsylvania helps repulse Pickett's Charge.
3, 1918 - Sinn Fein party banned by British government.
3, 1970 - Riots in Belfast, six killed.

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

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