This Week in the History of the Irish: March 2 - March 8

Currier and Ives
Robert Emmet stands defiant before the judge at his trial.

MÁIRT -- On March 4, 1778, Robert Emmet, one of the most famous revolutionaries in Irish history, was born in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. The Emmets were a prosperous Protestant family; Robert's father was a physician. Robert attended Trinity College Dublin in the 1790s and there became involved with the United Irishmen. He quit the college in 1798 when students were forced to take a loyalty oath. In 1799 he traveled to France, where his brother, Thomas, exiled for his United Irish activities, joined him in 1802. Returning to Dublin that year, he began to organize another rising. With so many of the leaders dead or exiled, his plan had little chance of success, but on July 23, 1803, his small group rose up. Word never got to rebel leader Michael Dwyer in the Wicklow hills and the rising failed. Emmet might have escaped, but he would not go without his love, Sarah Curren, and this proved fatal. He was captured on August 25. Emmet had little hope of acquittal, and his lawyer is now known to have been a paid agent of Dublin Castle. He was found guilty and was hung on Thomas Street on September 20, 1803. His head was severed on the scaffold minutes after the hanging and held up to the crowd as "the head of Robert Emmet, a traitor." Though they had killed the man, in his trial they had given the fiery Emmet a rostrum, and long after his death his famous words live on.

Robert Emmet's Speech From The Dock Of The Court 19 September 1803

DEARDAOIN -- On March 6, 1831, Philip Sheridan, one of the greatest Union generals on the American Civil War, was born. We know he was the son of Irish immigrants, but his place of birth is uncertain, with Albany, New York; somewhere in Ohio; at sea; and County Cavan, Ireland, all rumored as his birthplace. Less uncertain is his place among Union generals; he was one of the finest of the war. Sheridan had an undistinguished pre-war Army career, which came on the heels of a stormy career at West Point, from which he was nearly expelled for fighting with a fellow cadet.

Library of Congress
Phil Sheridan and his staff in the field.

After eight years in the Army, the diminutive Sheridan -- 5'5" -- was only a 2nd lieutenant when the Civil War began. He languished as a supply officer for the first year of the war. It seemed Phil Sheridan was destined for obscurity, but suddenly that destiny took a turn. On May 25, 1862, he was appointed colonel of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. By September Sheridan was a brigadier general; in March '63 he made major general. The brilliant assault of his command on Missionary Ridge brought him to the attention of U.S. Grant. In spring 1864, Grant brought Sheridan to Washington and put him in charge of all the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac. In the East he showed the same aggressiveness he had in the West, seeking confrontations with Stuart's cavalry. His troopers killed Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart at Yellow Ford in May. Later that year Grant gave the 33-year-old Sheridan an independent command in the Shenandoah Valley. There Sheridan made his famous ride to the battlefield of Cedar Creek, saving his imperiled army. Returning to Grant's army, Sheridan was instrumental in the victory at Five Forks, which sealed the fate of Richmond, and later he cut off Lee's retreat at Appomattox. After the war he rose to full general and commanded the entire army. Philip Sheridan died on August 5, 1888, in Nonquitt, Massachusetts, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Read more about the life of Sheridan: Scrappy Phil Sheridan - The U.S. Army's Little Big Man

"Sheridan's Ride" famous Civil War poem by Thomas Buchanan

AOINE -- On March 7, 1921, Limerick Mayor George Clancy was shot and killed in his home. Clancy came from a family with a strong republican tradition. In college, he joined the Gaelic League, forming a branch at University College Dublin and recruiting other students to join. Among those others were Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Tomás MacCurtain, Terence MacSwiney, and James Joyce. It is said that Clancy was the model for the character of Davin in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. After college, Clancy taught Irish at Clongowes Wood, a college administered by the Jesuits, and was active in the Gaelic Athletic Association. Clancy helped in Eamon de Valera's election campaign in East Clare. He nearly died of swine flu during the 1918 epidemic but recovered and in January 1921 he was elected Mayor of Limerick. Though Clancy took no active part in the violence of the War of Independence, on the morning of March 7, 1921, masked men burst into his home and shot him dead. Suspicion immediately fell upon members of the Black and Tans, but a British inquiry into the murder, like most such inquiries through the years, absolved Crown forces of any blame.

Anne Bonny

SATHAIRN -- On March 8, 1700, or perhaps a year or two earlier, Anne Bonny (née Cormac), destined to become arguably the most famous woman pirate in history, was born in County Cork, Ireland. Anne was rumored to be the product of a liaison between her mother, Mary Brennan, and lawyer William Cormac, by whom Mary was employed as a housemaid. It was also rumored (nearly everything known about Anne's life is a rumor) that Cormac's wife learned of the affair and drove Mary from the house. Mary and Anne then traveled to the new world, settling in Charleston, South Carolina. The teenage Anne ran off with a soon to be pirate by the name of James Bonny (or Bonny). She and James traveled to the pirate haven of New Providence Island in the Bahamas. There Anne had soon dumped her husband, perhaps because he became an informer, and took up with pirate captain "Calico" Jack Rackam. She may have become his lover and had a child with Jack and left it to be raised by others in Cuba. Anne later became very "friendly" with another member of the crew, whom she may have mistaken for a man, but whom she soon discovered was actually Mary Read. It seems quite likely that the two of them became lovers. Though there are few things in Anne's life that are certain, one that seems to be, is that she was a fierce fighter. Perhaps this was a result of her feeling the need to prove herself to the male crew. She and Mary were known to be "fierce hell cats" in battle. Their battling days came to an end on November 16, 1720, when their ship was captured by Captain Jonathan Barnett of the Royal Navy, a former pirate himself. The entire crew were hanged, save Mary and Anne. They were saved when they "pled their bellies," i.e. claimed to be pregnant, which was confirmed by the courts doctor. That both were pregnant seems unlikely, and thus another rumor inserts a friendly doctor here. Anne disappears from history at that point. The various tales have her being hanged year later, returning home to South Carolina, returning to her husband, settling down on some Caribbean island, owning a pub in the south of England, or living out her days with Mary somewhere in Louisiana. Whichever of the rumors of her life are true, there is no question that she lived a more adventurous life than most woman of her time.

SATHAIRN -- On March 8, 1903, Charles Gavan Duffy, Young Irelander leader, was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Along with Thomas Davis and John Blake Dillon, he founded The Nation in 1842, the journal that was the soul of the Young Ireland movement. In 1855, despairing of Irish politics, he voluntarily emigrated to Australia. There he entered politics and rose to be Prime Minister of the colony of Victoria and was knighted by the Queen. He retired to France in 1880, spending his time writing until his death in Nice on February 9, 1903. His body was returned to Ireland and interred at Glasnevin.

From RTE: The stories of famous Irish journeys and the impact they have had. In the first programme, Grainne Seoige traces the footsteps of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Gavan Duffy.


"I am here ready to die. I am not allowed to vindicate my character; no man shall dare to vindicate my character; and when I am prevented from vindicating myself, let no man dare to calumniate me. Let my character and my motives repose in obscurity and peace, till other times and other men can do them justice. Then shall my character be vindicated; then may my epitaph be written."
        -- The closing of Robert Emmet's epitaph.

"You will find him big enough for the purpose before we get through with him."
        -- Ulysses Grant to a staff officer who though Phil Sheridan was to small to lead the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.

"Did Sherican say that? He usually knows what he is talking about. Let him go ahead and do it."
        -- Ulysses Grant to Gen. George Meade, after Meade said Sheridan had insisted his troopers could beat Jeb Stuart if given a chance.

"I am sorry to see you here Jack, but if you had fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog."
        -- Anne Bonny to the imprisoned captain of her ship, and father of her child.

March - Márta


4, 1778 - Robert Emmet (Revolutionary - Dublin)
4, 1898 - General Emmet Dalton (Revolutionary, aide to Michael Collins.)
6, 1751, Edward Marcus Despard (Colonel in the British army and revolutionary, Mountrath, Co. Laois)
6, 1791 - John MacHale (Archbishop of Tuam - Tirawley, Co. Mayo.)
6, 1831 - Philip Sheridan(Union General - son of Irish immigrants rumored to have been born in Ireland.)
8, 1700 (?) - Anne Bonny (née Cormac) (Female pirate - County Cork)


4, 1704 - Penal Laws passed in 1695 restricting Catholic civil rights strengthened
4, 1804 - In Australia former United Irishmen stage a small insurrection.
4, 1902 - Ancient Order of Hibernians in Ireland revived at unity council.
5, 1779 - Boston Massacre, 5 killed, including Irish immigrant Patrick Carr.
5, 1867 - Fenian Rising in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Tipperary Counties.
6-19, 1924 - Irish Army 'mutiny.'
7, 1921 - Limerick Mayor George Clancy shot and killed in his home by disguised members of the Black and Tans.
8, 1779 - Don Hugo O'Conor, governor of the Yucatán dies at Quinta de Miraflores, just east of Mérida.
8, 1903 - Charles Gavan Duffy, Young Irelander, buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
8, 1574 - Captain William Martin lays siege to Granuaile (Grace O'Malley) in Rockfleet castle.

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

Comment by William E. 'Bill" Battles III on November 14, 2016 at 10:23am

Is this the right venue for me to trace My Irish Heritage in Southern Ireland.


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