This Week in the History of the Irish: June 5 - June 11

DOMHNAIGH -- On June 5, 1868, James Connolly was born of Irish immigrant parents in the Cowgate, an Edinburgh, Scotland, slum. He served in the British army but deserted to marry an Irish girl and returned to Edinburgh. Under the influence of Scottish socialist John Leslie, Connolly became active in the labor movement. In 1896, he moved to Dublin, where he founded the first Irish socialist paper, The Workers' Republic. Connolly immigrated to the United States in 1903 and stayed there seven years, working for the American labor movement. When Connolly returned to Ireland in 1910, he helped Jim Larkin lead the Irish Transportation Workers strike in 1913, which turned him toward political action. He organized the Irish Citizens Army and became the leader of the labor movement after Larkin left for the U.S. in 1914. Padraig Pearse enlisted Connolly and his Citizens Army for the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly helped plan the rising and was one of seven signatories of the proclamation. He participated in the fighting at the GPO, where he was severely wounded during the fighting. Connolly was one of 16 executed by the British in the Rising's aftermath. Unable to stand, James Connolly was tied to a chair and shot.

John Mitchel as portrayed by Currier and Ives, who made a number of Irish prints to appeal to the Irish-American market.

CÉADAOIN -- On June 8, 1853, John Mitchel escaped from Australia, eventually making it to the United States. Mitchel, a member of the Young Ireland Party, was born in Comnish, Co. Derry. John was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He obtained a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1834 and worked in a law office in Banbridge, Co. Down and came into conflict with the local Orange Order. Mitchel met Thomas Davis and Gavan Duffy during visits Dublin. He joined Young Ireland and began to write for The Nation. Deeply affected by the misery and death caused by the Great Hunger, Mitchel became convinced that nothing would ever come of the constitutional efforts at Irish freedom. He then formed his own paper, The United Irishmen, to advocate passive resistance by Ireland's starving masses. In May 1848 the British tired of his open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invented a crime especially for the Young Irelanders: Felony-treason.

They arrested Mitchel for violating this new law and closed down his paper. A packed jury convicted him and he was deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. After his escape to the U.S. Mitchel worked as a journalist in New York and then moved south. When the Civil War broke out he was a strong supporter of the Southern cause, seeing parallels with the position of the Irish. Mitchel's family would back his commitment to the cause fully; he lost two sons, one at Gettysburg in 1863 and another at Ft. Sumter in 1864, and another son lost an arm. Mitchel's outspoken support of the Confederacy caused him to be jailed for a time at Fort Monroe, where one of his fellow prisoners was Jefferson Davis. In 1874 the British allowed him to return to Ireland and he was immediately elected to Parliament from Tipperary. The government removed him but the people of Tipperary voted him in again. But unfortunately before this could be resolved John Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, died in Newry, and was buried there. In 1913 John Mitchel's grandson, John Purroy Mitchel would be elected mayor of New York.

National Army Museum, London
Lieutenant General
Sir George Nugent

DEARDAOIN -- On June 9, 1798, Col. Chetwynd-Stapylton and a detachment of the York Fencibles rode into the town of Saintfield, County Down, and straight into a force of United Irishmen who had earlier occupied the town. The United Irishmen attacked the Fencibles, killing several of them and driving them off. Among the dead was the colonel's cousin, Capt. William Chetwynd. This success encouraged the United Irishmen in the county and brought new men into the field, but this small action would prove to be the lone victory of the rebel forces in Ulster. Even as the rebels celebrated this small success, General George Nugent, commander of British forces in the North, was collecting his forces and planning his counterattack against them.

U.S. Military History Institute
Pvt. Reddick W. Sibley, Company A, 6th Louisiana Infantry

DEARDAOIN -- On June 9, 1862, as part of "Stonewall" Jackson's "Valley Campaign," the Irish 6th Louisiana fought in the battle of Port Republic, Virginia. Port Republic and nearby Cross Keys were attacked June 8, but the 6th Louisiana was not engaged. The attacks on Cross Keys on the 8th, by a large force under General John Fremont, were called "feeble in the extreme" by Confederate Brig. Gen. Richard Taylor, commander of the Louisiana Brigade, which included the 6th Louisiana. The attack on the Confederates at Port Republic on the 8th had been made by 150 troopers riding in front of Brigadier General James Shield's larger Federal force. The attack on Port Republic on the 9th, however, would be neither small, nor feeble. General Shields, a native of County Tyrone, would prove a more dangerous foe than Fremont the day before, especially for the Louisiana Brigade. As the brigade arrived on the field, the Confederates were outnumbered and Shields' men were advancing. Jackson sent the brigade to attack a strong Union artillery position, which dominated the battlefield from the high ground. While the brigade was advancing on the artillery position, the Union advance in the lowlands swept through the outnumbered Confederates there. The prospects for a Confederate victory appeared slim as Taylor ordered the brigade to advance uphill through the woods on the Federal guns. As the Confederates burst out of the woods on the surprised Federals, the 6th Louisiana was in the most exposed position on the Rebel left and received a destructive fire from the Federal cannon and from the 66th Ohio, which was posted near the guns. The fighting around the guns was soon hand to hand. The Confederates finally wrested the guns from the Federals, but were immediately counterattacked. The fighting again became hand to hand, before the Federal attack was beaten back. But the determined Union troops advanced again, and drove the Confederate off the guns and back into the woods. Taylor reformed his disorganized brigade around the 6th Louisiana's colors and attacked the guns again and retook them, only to be driven off them once again by a Federal counterattack. Reinforced now by parts of the 44th and 58th Virginia, the Confederates advanced on the guns a third time, finally taking them for good. The elation of the 6th was tempered by the regiment's losses. The regiment had suffered 23 men killed, 12 of whom listed Ireland as their place of birth, and 55 wounded. It was highest number of men killed that the 6th suffered in any single battle.


Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland . . . I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and attest it with their lives if need be.'
  -- From the last statement of James Connolly, given to daughter Nora Connolly on the eve of his execution by the British.

'The Attorney General is present -- I retract nothing -- these are my well-judged sentiments -- these are my opinions as to the relative position of England and Ireland; and if I have, as you seem to insinuate, violated the law by stating these things, I now deliberately do so again. Let her majesty's attorney-general do his duty to his government, I have done mine to my country.'
       -- John Mitchel addressing the court at his trial for felony-treason in 1848

'Men ceased to be men. They cheered and screamed like lunatics -- they fought like demons -- they died like fanatics.' 
       -- From a newspaper account of the battle of Port Republic (map of the battle right - click for larger view.)

'It was a sickening sight. Men in gray and those in blue piled up in front of and around the guns and with horses dying and the blood of men and beasts flowing almost in a stream.' 
       -- A witness to the carnage around the Federal guns taken by the 6th Louisiana and the rest of the Louisiana Brigade at the Battle of Port Republic 


June -- Meitheamh

7, 1892 - Kevin Christopher O'Higgins (Revolutionary, politician - Stradbally, Co. Laois.)
7, 1905 - James Braddock (Heavyweight boxing champion - New York City)
10, 1788 - James Francis Stuart (James III - The Old Pretender - London)


5, 1646 - Battle of Benburb
5, 1798 - Reverend William Steel Dickson, a Presbyterian minister and United Irishmen supporter arrested and imprisoned, without trial.
5, 1798 - Battle of New Ross
5, 1899 - Margaret Anne Cusack (Sister Mary Francis Clare), the 'Nun of Kenmare,' dies in England. 
6, 1690 - William of Orange enters Dublin following his victory at the Boyne.
6, 1798 - Rebellion breaks out in Ulster: Henry Joy McCracken issues proclamation calling United Irishmen in Ulster to arms.
6, 1921 - The British government calls off the policy of house burnings as official reprisals.
7, 1798 - Rev James Quigley, United Irishmen, hung.
7, 1798 - Battle of Antrim
8, 1691 - Baron von Ginkel’s Williamite army takes fort at Ballymore.
8, 1815 - Battle of New Orleans won by Andrew Jackson.
8, 1853 - John Mitchel escapes from Australia, eventually makes it to the US.
8, 1886 - Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill defeated in Parliament
8, 1896 - John Bourke, soldier and ethnologist, expert on American Indians, dies.
9, 1798 - Battle of Arklow
9, 1798 - Battle of Saintfield.
9, 1862 - The Irish 6th Louisiana fights in the battle of Port Republic, VA. 
10, 1996 - Sen. George Mitchell begins NI talks with Sinn Fein, still barred by lack of IRA cease-fire.
11, 1522 - O'Donnell stronghold Ballyshannon captured and burned by Con Bacach O'Neill.


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Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day


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