This Week in the History of the Irish: March 13 - March 19

CÉADAOIN  -- On March 16, 1828, Patrick Cleburne, one of the finest generals produced by either side during America's long, bloody civil war was born at Bride Park Cottage in Ovens Township, Co. Cork, just outside Cork City. Robert E. Lee would one day say of Cleburne , "In a field of battle he shone like a meteor on a clouded sky,"

(Left: Cleburne leading his troops in the bloody assault at Franklin -Image courtesy Don Troiani.)

Cleburne's father was a physician. His early life was one of privilege and personal tragedy, for he never knew his mother, who died when he was 18 months old. After spending some time in the British army, Cleburne emigrated to the United Sates in 1849, eventually settling in Helena, Arkansas. He enlisted as a private in a local militia there shortly before the war began. His rise from that lowly rank would be dramatic. His former military experience soon had him elected captain. When his company and others were formed into the 1st Arkansas Infantry at the beginning of the Civil War, he was elected its colonel. At Shiloh , Richmond - where he was wounded in the mouth - and Perryville in 1862 his performance in command was recognized to be excellent, and he was promoted first to brigadier and then major general in command of a division. He would command with the same excellence to the end of his life, but would not receive another promotion beyond division command. Many believe this was primarily due to his advancement of the idea of enlisting slaves in the Confederate army in return for their freedom in late 1863. In November 1864 Cleburne's division was part of the command of John Bell Hood at Franklin Tennessee when Hood ordered an ill-advised frontal assault on a fortified Federal line. Cleburne went into the attack mounted, making him an easier target, and a ball struck him just below the heart, killing him. The south had lost one of it's brightest stars.

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland

DEARDAOIN -- On March 17, 1858, James Stephens founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Dublin at the same time as John O'Mahoney was founding the American branch of the revolutionary group. O'Mahoney gave the organization the better-known name Fenians, in honor of the Fianna, the soldiers led by Fionn Mac Cuchail, the heroic warrior of Irish legend. The Fenians were the first truly worldwide revolutionary organization, with branches in France, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States. The group raised millions of dollars among Irish exiles in the U.S. to support efforts at gaining Ireland her independence, setting a precedent that continues. Though the founders of the Fenians never saw their goal come to fruition, Ireland's freedom was built on the foundation they laid down.

DEARDAOIN -- On March 17, 1800, Charles James Patrick Mahon, soldier and politician, was born in Ennis, Co. Clare. He joined Daniel O'Connell's Catholic Association and helped him win Clare's seat in Parliament in 1830. After falling out with O'Connell, he went abroad and began a series of amazing (if all true) adventures. He was served in the Czar's bodyguard, was a general and an admiral in South America and fought on the side of the North in the American Civil War. During the course of all this he was said to have fought 13 duels. Mahon then served in Napoleons III's army before returning to Irish politics, where he was elected MP (Member of Parliament) from Carlow. Mahon died in London on June 15, 1891, having lived (if only half the adventures he claimed are true) an incredibly full life.

SATHAIRN On March 19, 1921 Tom Barry and the West Cork Flying Column ambushed crown forces at Crossbarry, Co. Cork during the Irish War of Independence. The British had learned that the Flying Column’s HQ’s was in the Crossberry area from a volunteer captured at the Upton ambush in February. Several groups of British troops from the Hampshire and Essex Regiments, over 1000 total, from the Bandon, Cork, Ballincollig, Kinsale and Macroom area moved in, trying to surround and capture the entire group of Volunteers. There were slightly over 100 Volunteers in the area. As is often the case with such a complicated operation involving the coordination of several groups of troops, the timing was not good. The operation began in the early morning hours, with the troops going house to house, arresting all military age men. Charlie Hurley, the commander of the Cork Number Three Brigade, who had been wounded at the Upton, was surprised in a house 6:30am. He refused to surrender, wounding British Major Hallinen of the Essex regiment before being killed himself.

Barry, who had served in the British army in WWI, had been alerted around 2:30 am and roused his men. Quickly realizing from reports of British troops in several directions, Barry got his forces organized. Though he was outnumbered, the British were divided and he had the advantage of interior lines. They probably expected the Irish to run or take a defense posture, but Barry took the initiative away from them by setting up two ambushes with mines and attacking them. The first engaged the troops coming from the west in three lorries, routing them, with Flor Begley, an Intelligence Officer, playing traditional Irish war songs on his pipes as they opened fire. It was perhaps the last time the “war pipes” ever sounded in battle on the island. As the British survivors ran for their lives the Volunteers burned the lorries. Barry excellent positioning of his other troops allowed them to surprise and drive off the British in the other direction as well. Barry was then able to consolidate all his troops and make their escape from the British trap. Encountering one more group of British, he had his entire 100 man unit fire a volley at them, scattering them.

It was one of the larger action of the war, and one of the most embarrassing defeats for the British, who claimed they faced over 300 Volunteers perhaps to decrease their embarrassment, or perhaps that just reflected how well the Irish had taken advantage of their interior line position. The British admitted to ten killed though the Irish claimed they had killed over thirty. The Irish had four killed. Barry had definitely proven himself a formidable guerrilla commander.


"Well, [General] Govan, if we are to die, let us die like men."

        -- Patrick Cleburne (left) to General Daniel Govan just before the battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, where both were killed.

'Ere long there shall be an Irish Army on Irish hillsides, ready to do battle for Irish independence and drive back from the green and sacred Isle of Erin those ruthless tyrants who have desolated our homes and driven us wandering exiles over the whole earth.'
         -- John O'Mahoney, co-founder of the Fenian Brotherhood.

'About two hours had elapsed since the opening of the fight; we were in possession of the countryside; no British were visible and our task was completed. The whole Column was drawn up in line of sections and told they had done well.'
         -- Tom Barry on the Crossbarry Ambush.

March - Márta


13, 1914 - Edward Henry "Butch" O'Hare (US Navy Aviator and Medal of Honor winner - St. Louis, MI.)
14, 1894 - William Earle "Moley" Molesworth (WWI Ace, 18 kills - Ireland)
15, 1821 –Peter Sullivan (Confederate Gen. – Cork, Ireland) 
15, 1852 - Lady Gregory (Playwright - Loughrea, Co. Galway)
16, 1828 - Patrick Cleburne (Confederate General - Ovens Township, Co. Cork)
16, 1865 – Patrick “Patsy” Donovan (Major League baseball player & manager, Cobh, Co. Cork)
17, 1771 – The “Friendly Sons of St. Patrick” is founded in Philadelphia. 
17, 1776 – In honor of Irishmen in the Colonial army, Gen. Washington designates “St. Patrick” as the armies countersign that day.
17, 1800 - Charles James Patrick Mahon (Soldier, politician - Ennis, Co. Clare)
17, 1820 - Patrick Edward Connor (Union General - Co. Kerry)
17, 1877 - Michael O'Hanrahan (Author, revolutionary - New Ross, Co. Wexford.)
18, 1881 - George (Seoirse) Clancy (nationalist and politician - Grange, Co. Limerick.)


13, 1592 - Foundation stone of Trinity College is laid by the major of Dublin.
14, 1689 – Ulster Protestant force is defeated by Jacobites under Richard Hamilton at the “Break of Dromore,” in Co. Down.
14, 1779 - John O'Flanagan, Col. in the Austrian army, dies in Felsberg.
16 –April 6, 1812 - The Hibernia regiment of Spain and Napoleon’s Irish Legion face each other at the siege of Badajoz during the Peninsular War.
16, 1865 - Irish born Martin Murphy, one of the greatest pioneers of early California, dies in near Santa Clara.
17, 1858 - James Stephens founds the Irish Republican Brotherhood (Fenians) in Dublin.
17, 1899 - First issue of Gaelic League's An Claidheamh Soluis.
18, 1801 - Ambrose O'Higgins, Viceroy of Peru, dies in Lima.
18, 1825 - Catholic Association dissolved by Unlawful Societies Act nine days earlier.
18-19, 1921 – The West Waterford Irish Volunteers ambush the Black &Tans at “The Burgery,” 2 volunteers, 1 Black & Tan and 1 RIC constable died.
19 March 1919 - IRA volunteers raid Collinstown airfield (now Dublin Airport) outside Dublin and capture 75 rifles and 4,000 rounds of ammunition
19, 1921 - Tom Barry and the West Cork Flying Column ambushed crown forces at Crossbarry, Co. Cork.

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