This Week in the History of the Irish: November 15-21

LUAIN-- On Nov. 16, 1814, Michael Kelly Lawler, general in the Union army during the American Civil War, was born in County Kildare, Ireland. Lawler emigrated to the United States with his family at just 2 years of age. His family moved from New York to Maryland, and finally to Gallatin County, Ill., where they settled. Michael married the daughter of a large landowner and opened a mercantile business in Shawneetown. He also commanded a company in the local militia and went to war with the regiment in Mexico in the 1840s.

(Left: Library of Congress Gen. Michael Kelly Lawler)

He distinguished himself with the 3rd Illinois during General Winfield Scott's advance to Mexico City. Lawler returned to civilian life after the Mexican War, but with the coming of the Civil War he mustered into Federal service as commander of the 18th Illinois Volunteers. Colonel Lawler was accused of excessive physical abuse of his men early in the war, but was acquitted of the charges by department commander Henry Halleck. Lawler was wounded in command of his regiment at Fort Donelson in February 1862, but recovered from his wound and was promoted to brigadier general. He commanded a brigade at Port Gibson, Champion's Hill and Big Black River Bridge during the Vicksburg campaign. During the siege of Vicksburg, Lawler's men captured over 1,100 Confederate prisoners in one of the campaign's most successful assaults on the rebel defenses. He was transferred to the Department of the Gulf and commanded the department's 4th and 1st divisions of the XIII Corps until the end of the war. Lawler returned to a farm he owned near Equality, Ill., after the war and lived there until his death on July 26, 1882.

The Reverend Cotton Mather, sworn enemy of "witches" in the colony of Massachusetts

LUAIN-- On November 16, 1688, Irish Catholic Ann "Goody" Glover was hanged as a witch by the Puritans in Boston. Goody was born in Ireland in the first half of the 17th century and came to Massachusetts colony when she, her husband and daughter, like many other Irish men and women, were deported from Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. She went first to Barbados, where her husband died, then to Boston. She and her daughter found domestic work in Boston, but unlike most other Irish Catholic immigrants of the time, they refused to convert, in spite of the lack of priests or a church to attend. Holding to her religion would prove a fatal mistake for Ann. Soon, she was falsely accused of stealing from her employer, John Goodwin, and was dismissed from his employ. The "stolen" items were found to have been misplaced, but the downward spiral of Ann Glover's life was set in motion. When Goodwin's four children began acting "strangely" after Ann departed, no one doubted the cause: witchcraft. Who then could be the witch? Certainly an Irish Papist with a possible grudge against the Goodwins was first on the list. Glover spoke only Irish, no doubt another reason she was looked on with suspicion. She was interrogated by the Reverend Cotton Mather, of later Salem Witch Trial infamy, using translators about whose actual knowledge of the language we can only speculate. It comes as no surprise that Mather claimed that Ann Glover confessed she was a witch. Though no other confessed-witch had ever been hanged at the time, Mather condemned Ann Glover to death. On November 16, 1688, Ann Glover was hanged in Boston, for, in all likelihood, the misfortune of being a resolute Irish-speaking Catholic in Puritan New England. On November 16, 1988, the Boston City Council took note of the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier by proclaiming that day "Goody Glover Day" and condemning what had been done to her.

Library of Congress
General Joseph Finegan

MÁIRT -- On Nov. 17, 1814, Joseph Finegan, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, was born in Clones, County Monaghan. Finegan immigrated to Florida in his early 20s. He built a lumber mill in Jacksonville and then later moved to Fernandia, where he was involved in building railroads and also practiced law. After serving as a delegate to Florida's secession convention, he was appointed to command the state's military by Governor John Milton. Finegan was praised for his organizing of two Florida brigades sent to the armies in Virginia and Tennessee. Meanwhile, Finegan's few remaining troops were spread thin trying to protect Florida's enormous shoreline. In early 1864, Union forces under Gen. Truman Seymour landed in Jacksonville and began to move inland. Finegan assembled three brigades and met the Federals at Olustee on February 20, driving them from the field and back to the Atlantic. It was the largest battle fought in Florida during the war. A "Thanks of the Confederate Congress" was later voted for Finegan and his men. Shortly after Olustee, Finegan was transferred to the Army of Northern Virginia, where he led a brigade of Floridians in William Mahone's division of the III Corps. Finegan's independent decision to attack the flank of Barlow's division at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, helped repulse the Union assault there, and his brigade also fought well during the Petersburg campaign. Finegan performed very well at Hatcher's Run on Feb. 6, 1865, when he commanded four brigades that held off four Union divisions. After the war, Finegan practiced law and was a state senator in Florida, and then lived in Savannah, Georgia, for a time working as a cotton broker. His final years were spent in Rutledge, Fla., where he died October 29, 1885. Finegan, who was said at the end to still be an "unreconstructed rebel," was buried in Old City Cemetery in Jacksonville. 

No tanks were used in the Tunnel Trench assault, but Cambrai was the first battle actually planned to exploit the use of tanks like this British Mark IV.

AOINE -- On the morning of Nov. 20, 1917, the 16th Irish Division of the British army assaulted an area of the German lines known as "Tunnel Trench," named for an elaborate tunnel system that ran along it. The attack was meant as a diversion for the main attack, about 8 miles to the southeast at Cambrai. The whole area in front of the Irish was scattered with concrete machine-gun forts, or Mebus, similar to those that had decimated 16th Division at the Battle of Langemarck the previous August. To maintain the element of surprise, the division's artillery did not open fire until the moment the assault began at 6:20 a.m. At the same time, Stokes mortars began to lay a smoke barrage upon the German trenches in imitation of a gas attack, causing many German to don cumbersome gas-masks and retreated to their underground bunkers. Thus the plan worked to perfection, and the Irish quickly overran and captured most of the German line. Within an hour, the assault on the first line was a total success. Attempts to expand the ground taken resulted in heavier opposition and were driven back after the fiercest fighting of the day, but the initial ground was held. According to the Divisional historian "… this swift and successful operation by 16th Division was a model of attack with a limited objective." The 16th had captured nearly 3,000 yards of trench, killed 330 Germans and taken 635 prisoners. More importantly, though, the mayhem caused by the diversionary assault contributed greatly to the initial success of the Cambrai offensive. (Written by Kieron Punch, edited by Joe Gannon.)

National Library of Ireland
Some of the members of the infamous Cairo Gang of British spies. This photograph was sent to Collins by one of his spies; it numbers and names the members.

SATHAIRN -- In the early morning hours of Nov. 21, 1920, Michael Collins sent out his men to rip the heart out of British intelligence operations in Dublin by killing 11 agents of the so-called Cairo Gang. Through the centuries the British had crushed Irish revolutionary movements through the use of spies and informers, and Collins was in the process of beating the British at their own game. When word of the success of the operation got back to Collins, knowing the brutality of the men in England's infamous "Black and Tan" force, sent a message to the Gaelic Athletic Association, telling them to cancel that day's game between Dublin and Tipperary. But it was too late -- the game went on. Lashing out, the Black and Tans surrounded Croke Park during the game and moved in. Their supposed purpose was to attempt to capture Sinn Feiners who might be in the crowd, but they soon opened fire indiscriminately on the players and spectators. They would kill 12 and wound hundreds before members of the Auxiliaries, another brutal force created to crush the Irish insurrection, finally managed to get them to cease-fire. It would go down in Irish history as the first "Bloody Sunday," though unfortunately not the last. Much like their counterparts in the last "Bloody Sunday," in January 1972, they would make the ludicrous claim that they were fired on first; and exactly like them, they would have no evidence nor any member with as much as a scratch to back up these claims. Among the dead would be Michael Hogan, a player for Tipperary, who was unlikely to have had a gun stuck in his belt during the game. Later that night at Dublin Castle, drunken Black and Tans tortured three prisoners and finally bayoneted and shot them to death. Peadar Clancy and Dick McKee were actually members of Collins' squad, but the third man, Conor Clune, was a completely innocent clerk from County Clare who had merely been in Dublin on business. The official report of the British Colonial government stated that the three were shot while attempting to escape.


'The proof against her was wholly deficient.'
        --Robert Calef, a Boston merchant speaking of Ann "Goody" Glover

On ye brave lads; on ye go, on ye go!'
-- Confederate commander Joseph Finegan exhorting his troops to charge at Hatcher's Run on February 6, 1865

National Library of Ireland
Two of the 500 Irishmen arrested in the two days after Bloody Sunday.

'Yesterday's slaughter is the dreadful result of a policy of illegal violence to which the Government has for months turned a blind eye.'
        -- From the London paper The Daily Mail. Nov. 22, 1920

'My intention was the destruction of the undesirables who contrived to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens.'
        -- Michael Collins on the Cairo Gang.


November - Samhain

15, 1791 – George Croghan (Soldier in the War of 1812 and Mexican War – Louisville, KY)
15, 1881 - William Pearse (Revolutionary, brother of Patrick - Dublin.)
16, 1814 - Michael Kelly Lawler (Union General - Co. Kildare)
17, 1814 -- Joseph Finnegan (Confederate General -- Clones, Co. Monaghan)
20, 1830 -- Patrick Henry Jones (Union General -- Co. Meath)
20, 1840 -- John Russell Young (US Civil War journalist -- Co. Tyrone.)


15-17, 1890 - Catherine (Kitty) O'Shea divorce hearings.
15, 1985 - Garret Fitzgerald and Margaret Thatcher sign Anglo-Irish Agreement.
16, 1688 - Irish Catholic Ann "Goody" Glover is hanged as witch by the Puritans in Boston.
17-19, 1862 -- Corcoran's Irish Legion mustered into the Federal service.
18-21, 1873 -- Home Rule League formed in Dublin.
18, 1886 -- The Plan of Campaign begins at the Clanricard Estate, Portumna, Co. Galway, when tenants offer the land agents rents due, less 40%, on condition that evicted tenants are reinstated.
19, 1798 -- Tone dies from self-inflicted wound in provost-marshal's prison, Dublin barracks.
20, 1917The 16th Irish Division of the British army assaults Tunnel Trench.
20, 1923 – Republican prisoner Denis Barry dies on hunger strike.
20, 1943 -- The 165th Inf. (69th NY) lands on Makin Island in the Pacific, Col. Conroy is killed on the first day.
21, 1814 - Irish Brigadier Juan Mackenna, who fought for the Independence of Chile, dies in Buenos Aires in a duel with Luis Race.
21, 1920 -- 14 British agents in Dublin assassinated by Collins men in the early morning hours.
21, 1920 -- "Bloody Sunday" massacre in Dublin.
21, 1973 -- Sunningdale accord introduces power-sharing executive for Northern Ireland.

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Tags: American Civil War, Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, Key Dates, On This Day, United States


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