This Week in the History of the Irish: November 24 - November 30

Hulton Deutsch
Erskine Childers in his British army uniform, c. 1900

LUAIN -- On November 24, 1922, during the Irish Civil War, Irish republican Erskine Childers was executed by the Free State government. Childers, whose mother was from County Clare, was born in London. He was wounded while serving in the British army during the Boer War, a war in which the Boer side was supported by most Irish nationalists. After the war, Childers became involved in the Irish nationalist movement; he also wrote a book about his exploits in the Boer War called In the Ranks of the CIV (City Imperial Volunteers). In 1914, Childers was involved in one of the most famous incidents of the republican struggle when he smuggled German rifles into Ireland on his yacht, Asgard. Surprisingly, however, Childers was convinced by John Redmond's arguments that an Irish contribution to England's war effort in World War I would yield home rule, and he enlisted in the British Navy and was even awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. Once the war was over, and he saw that Home Rule for the 32 counties was highly unlikely, he became a committed republican. He was elected to the Daíl Éireann from County Wicklow in 1921 and then appointed minister of propaganda in the Republican government. He was secretary to the Irish delegation that negotiated The Anglo-Irish Treaty, but he opposed that treaty and joined the republican side in the Civil War. In November 1922, Childers was captured by Free Staters while in possession of a pistol. Recent Free State legislation had made that a capital offence and Childers was sentenced to death. Ironically the pistol had been a gift from Michael Collins. On the 27th, he was taken from his cell at dawn and shot. Before they shot him, Childers shook the hand of each member of his firing squad and forgave them. In his prison cell the night before he died, Childers made his son promise to forgive those who were about to kill him; 51 years later that son, also Erskine, would be elected president of the Irish Republic.

AOINE -- On November 29, 1895, Denny Lane (right), author and poet, and member of the revolutionary Young Ireland party, died in Cork. Lane was born in Riverstown, near Glanmire in County Cork, in 1818. Denny attended Trinity College, Dublin. While a student there, he met fellow student Thomas Davis, a man who would have a profound effect on his life. After his schooling, Lane passed the Bar, but he soon became involved in the political activities surrounding Daniel O'Connell, joining the Repeal Association. Lane was active in the Association as was his friend Davis. Davis, Lane and small group of their friends soon became known by the name which has survived to this day: the Yound Ireland Party. The young men became increasingly impatient with the slow pace of O'Connell's repeal campaign and soon began to contemplate armed insurrection. Davis, along with John Dillon and Charles Duffy, founded the newspap er of the movement The Nation in 1842. In its pages the idea of total separation from England was soon openly suggested, and Lane became one of the paper's contributors. Lane contributed articles and later poems to the paper, his best known poems being "Carrig Dhoun" and "Kate of Araglen." Finally, in 1846, the issue of physical force split the Young Irelanders from O'Connell's Repeal Association. Lane supported the split. He was among those arrested by the British after the failed '48 Rising, spending four months in prison. After his release, he returned to Cork and does not appear to have had much political involvement from then on. Lane was president of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society, and also had a successful business career in subsequent years before dying at the age of 82.

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.

SATHAIRN -- On November 30, 1864, Corkman and Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne, one of the finest generals produced by either side during America's long, bloody civil war, was killed in command of his division in the battle at Franklin, Tennessee. The Irishman, of whom Robert E. Lee would later say, "In a field of battle he shone like a meteor on a clouded sky," had flashed one last time and fallen to the ground. John Bell Hood, commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Franklin, and one of the finest division commanders the Army of Northern Virginia ever had, was in the last stages of proving himself incapable of independent command. The Federal defensive position at Franklin was a formidable one, but Hood was still angry about the escape of Schofield's army from a near-trap the day before at Spring Hill and was determined to attack the Federal works, though most of his officers, including Cleburne, strongly advised against it. Cleburne was mounted for the first part of the assault, but soon had that horse shot from under him. A courier dismounted to give Cleburne his horse, but that one was killed before he could mount it. Advancing on foot near the 5th Confederate Infantry, perhaps next to one of the many Irishmen in that unit, Cleburne was hit just below the heart by a minie ball and killed. Franklin was one of the most horrific defeats of the war for the western Confederate army. In addition to Cleburne, they lost generals Gist, Granbury, Adams, and Strahl, all killed that day, and Carter, who later died of his wounds. But their greatest loss was Cleburne, 'The Stonewall of the West.' It must have surely convinced the few remaining soldiers of the Army of Tennessee that their cause was lost. Cleburne had died with his face to the foe, as he would no doubt have chosen, but it had been a needless death in an ill-advised attack. Just before the attack, General Daniel Govan had told Cleburne he expected few of them to survive the fight. "Well, Govan," said Cleburne, "if we are to die, let us die like men." And so he had.

Library of Congress
William Brimmage Bate, the 10th Tennessee's division commander at the battle of Franklin.

SATHAIRN -- On November 30, 1864, as the valiant Cleburne met his fate, a tiny band of his countrymen were engaged on another part of the field. The Irish 10th Tennessee, by now whittled down to a mere 36 men, went into the fight at Franklin as part of the second line of Gen. Bate's Division. Just as the 10th was really a small company masquerading as a regiment, Bate commanded a regiment masquerading as a division. The 10th went into action as part of a thin second line on the left flank of the Confederate attack. The unit's attack briefly led the men of the 10th into the works of Federal Gen. Ruger's division, but a strong counterattack soon had Bate's men, including the 10th Tennessee, running to the rear to avoid death or capture. Miraculously, the 10th would have only one man killed, but 10 were wounded, nine of whom were also captured, and one unwounded man was also captured. They had lost a third of their tiny number. Death, injury, decease and desertion over four years had now whittled what had begun as an under-strength regiment in May 1861 down to a squad. For Pvt. Martin Fleming of Co. E, 10th Tennessee, killed that day at Franklin, it is very likely that whatever family he had would never have a body to inter in a family plot. Like millions of 'Wild Geese' the world over before him, Fleming was another Irishmen who died on a foreign field. Just as the soldiers of other generations of 'Wild Geese' now lay in "far foreign fields, from Dunkirk to Belgrade," the bodies of Fleming's generation had sown the ground from Gettysburg to Franklin.



Library of Congress
Patrick Ronayne


'Fare thee well, departed chieftain,
Erin's land sends forth a wail;
And oh! My country sad laments thee
Passed so soon death's dark vale

Blow, ye breezes, softly o'er him,
Fan his brow with gentle breath;
Disturb ye not his gentle slumbers;
Cleburne sleeps the sleep of death!

        -- From a poem written for Patrick Cleburne's funeral and placed in his casket by Miss Naomi Hays, niece of former President James K. Polk.

'Where this division ... attacked no numbers resisted its onslaught, save only once, and there is the grave of Cleburne.'
        -- Confederate General William Hardee, offering Cleburne's epitaph

'I went over the front of our works to see what we had done. Well, for 400 yards in front, I could hardly step without stepping on dead and wounded men. The ground was in a perfect slop and mud with blood and, oh such cries that would come up from the wounded was awful. Oh, how they suffered that night was terrible, they had to lay just as they were shot down all night without anything done for them.'
        -- Pvt. Andrew J. Moon, 104th Ohio, in a letter home to his sister about after the battle Franklin


November - Samhain

24, 1807 -- Henry Blosse Lynch (Soldier and explorer -- Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo.)
29, 1859 - William H. "Billy the Kid " Bonney (Outlaw - New York City)
29, 1902 -- Tommy Loughran (Light-Heavyweight boxing champion.)
30, 1667 -- Jonathan Swift (Author -- Hoey's Court, Dublin)


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24, 1865 - IRB founder James Stephens escapes from Richmond Gaol
24, 1922 - Erskine Childers (Irish Republican) executed by Free State.
25, 1783 - After the British evacuate New York City, George Washington has breakfast with Irish immigrant and American spy Hercules Mulligan, helping to clear his reputation in the city.
25, 1864 -- The 10th Tenn. (Confederate-Irish) fights at the battle of Missionary Ridge, TN.
25, 1913 -- Founding of the Irish Volunteers.
26, 1781 -- Units of Dillon's and Walshes regiments of the Irish Brigade of France help capture the island of St. Eustache.
26, 1791 -- First convicts from Ireland arrive in New South Wales, Australia aboard the Queen.
27, 1953 -- Playwright Eugene O'Neill dies.
28, 1864 -- Foundation of Fenian newspaper, "Irish People."
28, 1899 -- Irish units in Boer army fight in the battle of Modder River (Modderspruit).
28, 1920 -- Tom Barry and his Cork Flying Column ambush a convoy in Kilmichael.
29, 1895 -- Denny Lane, Young Irelander, author and poet dies
30, 1864 -- The 10th Tenn. (Confederate-Irish) fights at battle of Franklin, TN.
30, 1864 -- Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne is killed in command of his division at battle of Frankin, TN.
30, 1900 -- Playwright and poet Oscar Wilde dies in Paris.
30, 1930 - Union organizer and human rights activist Mary Harris "Mother" Jones dies and is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois.

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Tags: 10th TN, 10th Tennessee, American Civil War, Carter House, Charles Duffy, Denny Lane, Diaspora History, Erskine Childers, Irish Freedom Struggle, John Dillon, More…On This Day, Patrick Cleburne, Thomas Davis, United States, battle at Franklin


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