This Week in the History of the Irish: March 16 - March 22

Courtesy of the Carter House Archives
The Carter cotton gin, at the Carter House in Franklin, TN, site of some of the most intense fighting on November 30, 1864.

DOMHNAIGH -- 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," 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
James Stephens


LUAIN-- 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.

LUAIN -- 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.

National Library of Ireland
The charge of the 5th Dragoon Guards at Vinegar Hill, portrayed by Sadler.

DEARDAOIN -- On March 20, 1780, Miles Byrne, United Irishman and officer in Napoleon's Irish Legion, was born in Co. Wexford. He was active in the 1798 Rising in Wexford and fought all its major battles, right through the rebels' climactic defeat at Vinegar Hill. He escaped to the hills and served with Michael Dwyer until the failure of the rising led by Robert Emmet, a close friend of Byrne's, in 1803. Byrne traveled to France hoping to arrange for more French aid to Ireland but after failing in that he joined the Irish Legion being formed in the French army. He had a long career in the service of France. Byrne rose to command a regiment and was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. After his retirement he wrote his Memoirs, which were published 1863, a year after his death in Paris.

The emblem of the United Irishmen. It reads "Equality" above and "It is new strung and shall be heard" below.

AOINE -- On March 21, 1763, William MacNeven, United Irishman, was born in Aughrim, Co. Galway.

Educated in the medical profession in Austria, where his uncle was physician to the Empress, MacNeven returned to Ireland to practice in 1783. He was sworn in to the United Irishmen by Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Arrested with most of the other leaders of the United Irishmen on March 12, 1798, MacNeven was imprisoned at Fort George in Scotland. Released in 1802, he traveled to France and for a time was an officer in Napoleon's Irish Legion but departed when it was clear that the French would not be sending troops to Ireland again. Emigrating to the United States, MacNeven settled in New York City, where he had a distinguished career in medicine, worked among the growing Irish community there and also published several books. MacNeven died in the city on July 12, 1841.

VOICES

 

Historical Art Prints
The final, tragic, moments of Patrick Cleburne, as painted by artist Don Troiani.

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

        -- Patrick Cleburne 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.

Currier and Ives
John Mitchel


'Walking on bright winter days along the Avenue of the Champs Elysées, a tall erect figure, magnificent in old age . . . memories clouding at times his clear grey eyes; and through and beyond the battle-smoke and thunder of all Napoleon's fields he has a vision of the pikemen of New Ross and hears the fierce hurrah of Oulart Hill.'
        -- Ulster-born journalist and revolutionary John Mitchel on Miles Byrne, whom Mitchel met while living in exile in Paris.

March - Márta

BIRTHS

16, 1828Patrick Cleburne (Confederate General - Ovens Township, Co. Cork)
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.)
20, 1780 - Miles Byrne (United Irishman, Officer in Napoleon's Irish Legion - ...
21, 1763 - William MacNeven (United Irishman - Aughrim, Co. Galway.)
22, 1848 - Sarah Purser (Artist - Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

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.
19, 1921 - Tom Barry and the West Cork Flying Column fight the battle of Crossbarry.
20, 1920 - Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, murdered in his home by RIC.
21, 1881 - 'Peace Preservation' Act for Ireland legalizes special coercive powers.
21, 1914 - Curragh Mutiny - British officers refuse to move against Irish Unionists.
22, 1841 - Formation of the Irish Emigrant Society in New York.

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Tags: American Civil War, Diaspora History, History of Ireland, Military History, On This Day, United States

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