This Week in the History of the Irish: November 26 - December 2

DOMHNAIGH -- On the night of November 26, 1781, units of Dillon’s and Walshes regiments of the Irish Brigade of France were among a force of about 400 commanded by Marquis de Bouille that landed on the British-held West Indies island of St. Eustache (now known as Eustatius). De Bouille had more than 1,500 troops with him (about 600 were Irish), but with only 400 ashore since bad weather and high seas made landing the remainder impossible. Knowing that his small force had only the element of surprise in its favor, and not knowing when the weather might allow the rest of his troops to land, the Marquis decided to attack. He ordered Count Arthur Dillon and his Irishmen to march on the barracks with hopes of capturing the island’s governor there.

(Right: Count Arthur Dillon, from a contemporary portrait. His family served France for more than 100 years, but in 1794 he would die on a French guillotine.)

Meanwhile Chevalier de Fresne and Vicomte de Damas would attempt to rush the fort and enter it before the surprised English could close the gates. Dillon’s men managed to march straight toward the barracks without alarming the island’s inhabitants thanks to their red coats. They arrived at the barracks about 6 a.m., where part of the English garrison was on parade. They also thought the Irish were some other English unit, and the Irish gave no sign of hostile intent until the last minute. By then it was too late for the unsuspecting British soldiers. (Quite a number actually being Irishmen.) A point-blank volley and a bayonet charge by Dillon’s men and the fighting there was over. The governor, Lt. Col. Cockburne, rode up shortly afterward and was made a prisoner. The French force sent to assail the fort was also successful, managing to get into the fort before the drawbridge could be closed and overpowering the garrison there. St. Eustache was captured and over 850 British soldiers taken prisoner. Dillon later reported that 530 of the prisoners were Irishmen who immediately agreed to join the Irish Brigade regiments. A large sum of money was found in the governor’s house and de Bouille, in a gesture seldom seen in that era, distributed 100 crowns to each private soldier. 

Over 150 Irishmen, woman and children were on the Queen, some for such heinous crimes as ‘stealing a black hat of silk,’ ‘stealing one silver tea spoon, of ‘taking a drab cloth coat.’ For such appalling crimes, these people were sentenced to ‘transportation for 7 years,’ which sentence might just as well be for life. There was little chance but a few of these people would ever see their beloved island of green again. Until the 1780s, many of England’s ‘criminals’ had been sent to the American Colonies; but the American Revolution had ended that. Over the next 80 odd years, thousands of Irish would arrive in Australia, some by choice, others would also be so-called ‘criminals.’ The ranks of the Irish in Australia would be swelled by revolutionaries from the United Irishmen, Young Ireland and Fenian movments -- often the best and brightest of Ireland’s youth. And just as they did in America, Australia’s Irish would get deeply involved in Australia’s political and labor movements, fighting to ensure that in their new land their children would never have to live under the same tyranny that ruled their homeland. (pic – auschain.jpg – An chain gang in ‘Van Dieman’s land.’ – National Library of Australia.)

CÉADAOIN -- 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 Young 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.

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

DEARDAOIN -- 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.

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

DEARDAOIN -- 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.

Thomas Clarke Luby

AOINE -- On December 1, 1901, Fenian Thomas Clarke Luby died in New York. Luby was born in Dublin in 1821. He was the son of a Church of Ireland minister and graduate of Trinity College. His first political experience was in the Young Ireland movement. After the failed rising in 1848, he and James Fintan Lawlor attempted further agitation in Dublin, and he was arrested and imprisoned for a short time. In 1858, he helped James Stephens found the Irish Republican Brotherhood, writing the oath that members would later swear to secretly. In '63, Stephens sent Luby to the United States to raise money but he had little success. Back in Ireland, he became co-editor of The Irish People, a Fenian paper founded by Stephens. He was among many Fenians arrested in a preemptive strike by the British in '65; he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Luby was among the many Fenians released and deported in '71 (Devoy and Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa were also in this group). He traveled first to Belgium and then to America. In the United States. Luby joined Clan na Gael but opposed both Devoy's New Departure and the Land League. He was a supporter of Rossa's Skirmishing Fund, which ran the dynamite campaign against England. Luby worked as a journalist during his years in New York. He also published a book on the life of O'Connell and another on famous Irish figures from history. On December 1, 1901, the old revolutionary, who had been a Young Irelander, Fenian, and member of Clan na Gael, died in New York.


‘Each soldier thus gained for France is worth 3 men to her; she has an enemy the less, a defender the more, and the blood of a citizen saved.’
        -- -- Count Arthur Dillon discussing the value of Irish soldiers who often deserted from the English army to the Irish Brigade of France

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

26, 1886 - Michael Francis McTigue, (Light-heavy weight boxing champion Kilnamona, Co. Clare)
29, 1902 - Tommy Loughran (Light-Heavyweight boxing champion,Philadelphia, PA.)
30, 1667 - Jonathan Swift (Author -- Hoey's Court, Dublin)

December - Nollaig

?, 1820 - Dion Boucicault (Playwright and actor - Dublin)
2, 1736 – Richard Montgomery (General in US continental army - Raphoe, Co. Donegal.)


26, 1781 - Units of Dillon's and Walshes regiments of the Irish Brigade of France help capture the island of St. Eustache.
27, 1906 - Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA, dies.
27, 1953 - Playwright Eugene O'Neill dies at the Shelton Hotel in Boston.
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 an Auxiliary 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.

December - Nollaig

1, 1848 - Seventy-two Irish immigrants fleeing the famine are suffocated in the hold of "The Londonderry" in Derry Harbor.
1, 1901 - Thomas Clarke Luby, Fenian, dies in New York.
2, 1980 - Three nuns and a female Catholic lay missioner are raped and killed by the Salvadoran National Guard. (Three of the four women were of Irish ancestry.)
2, 1865 - The Fenian senate deposes founder John O'Mahoney as president, replacing him with William Roberts.

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Tags: American Civil War, Diaspora History, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day, United States


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