This Week in the History of the Irish: November 3 - November 9

DOMHNAIGH -- On Nov. 3, 1815, John Mitchel, Young Irelander and Irish patriot, was born in Comnish, County Derry. John was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He obtained a law degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1834, and worked in a law office in Banbridge, County Down, where he eventually came into conflict with the local Orange Order.

(Left: John Mitchel as portrayed by Currier and Ives, who made a number of Irish prints to appeal to the Irish-American market.)

Mitchel met Thomas Davis and Gavan Duffy during visits to Dublin. He joined the Young Ireland movement and began to write for The Nation. Deeply affected by the misery and death caused by The Great Hunger, Mitchel became convinced that nothing would ever come of the constitutional efforts to gain Irish freedom. He then formed his own paper, The United Irishmen, to advocate passive resistance by Ireland's starving masses.

In May 1848, the British tired of his open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invented a crime especially for the Young Irelanders: felony-treason. They arrested Mitchel for violating this new law and closed his paper. A rigged jury convicted him, and he was deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. However, in June 1853, he escaped to the United States.

Mitchel worked as a journalist in New York and then moved to the South. When the Civil War erupted, he was a strong supporter of the Southern cause, seeing parallels with the position of the Irish. Mitchel's family would fully back his commitment to the Southern cause; he lost two sons, one at Gettysburg in 1863 and another at Fort Sumter in 1864, and another son lost an arm. Mitchel's outspoken support of the Confederacy caused him to be jailed for a time at Fort Monroe, where one of his fellow prisoners was Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In 1874, the British allowed him to return to Ireland, and he was immediately elected to Parliament from Tipperary. The government removed him, but the people of Tipperary again voted him in. Unfortunately, John Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, died in Newry on March 20, 1875, and was buried there. Thirty-eight years later, John Mitchel's grandson, John Purroy Mitchel, would be elected mayor of New York.

DOMHNAIGH -- On Nov. 3, 1717, Henry Luttrell, soldier and suspected betrayer of the Jacobites, was assassinated in Dublin. Luttrell was probably born around the mid-1650s and raised on his family's estate at Luttrellstown, County Dublin. As an adult, he served for a time in the French army before joining the Jacobite army of James II. Luttrell commanded cavalry under Patrick Sarsfield in Ireland during the Williamite War. Sarsfield, a long time friend of Luttrell's, considered him one of his best commanders. At Aughrim in July 1691, Luttrell's troops failed to hold a vital causeway on the Franco-Irish left flank. Though many military historians would say his force was simply not large enough to hold the position and was unsupported by others whom might have come to his aid, Luttrell's later conduct caused his actions at Aughrim to be questioned.

In Limerick on August 2, Sarsfield discovered a letter from a Williamite officer to Luttrell regarding discussions they had had during a truce about possible surrender terms. It is probable that Luttrell entered into these discussions in an innocent manner, but when Irish commander Richard Talbot (the Duke of Tyrconnell, who was no friend of Luttrell's) learned of this letter, he had Luttrell court-martialed. He was found innocent, but after the surrender of Limerick he was one of the few Irish officers who went over to the English side rather than following his old friend Sarsfield into exile in France.

Luttrell received £500 a year and possession of his brother's estate from William of Orange; his brother followed Sarsfield to France. This was ostensibly a reward for his help in bringing about peace in Ireland, but many Irishmen were sure it was blood money for betraying them at Aughrim. It may well be that it was this that led to his death when he was shot in his sedan chair in Dublin. His murderer was never caught. Though few in Ireland today remember his name, he was so reviled in Ireland that 80 years after his death his skull was taken from his grave and smashed.

MÁIRT -- On the morning of Nov. 5, 1688, William of Orange, King of the Netherlands and son-in-law of King James II of England, arrived in Brixham, England, with a large Dutch army. He had been invited by the Protestant noblemen of the country to come and usurp the English throne. Led by Lord Monmouth, a group of Protestant nobles had unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the Catholic James from ascending to the throne on the death of Charles II in 1685. Since then James had been disturbing the Protestant noblemen who had remained loyal to him in '85 by giving Catholics more and more freedoms in both England and Ireland; on May 7, 1688, he issued a 'Declaration of Indulgence' pledging religious toleration.

(Left: Linen Hall Library: Portrait of William of Orange by an unknown artist.)

Still, the Protestant nobles had been comforted by the fact that all the possible heirs to James were Protestant; thus the country would be safely returned to a Protestant monarch in time and many of James' reforms would be reversed. All that changed on June 10 when the Queen gave birth to a male heir, one who would be raised as a Catholic. Very shortly thereafter, an invitation was sent across to William, who was married to James' daughter Mary, to come and save England for Protestantism. This, William was more than happy to do, for Louis XIV of France was threatening to invade the Netherlands and what better way to ensure the support of England in that coming war than to become the King of that country.

AOINE -- On November 8, 1987, in one of the most widely condemned actions of the "Troubles," an IRA bomb killed 11 at the annual Remembrance Day celebration in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Just before 11 a.m., as a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the World War I fallen was to begin at the town's war memorial, a bomb exploded without warning.

(Right: The War Memorial in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, site of an IRA bomb attack November 8, 1987)

Many people were buried as part of the three-story St. Michael's Reading Rooms crashed down from the force of the blast. In addition to the 11 killed, 63 were injured. Among those who died later that day in the hospital was the daughter of Gordon Wilson, who was injured in the blast himself. Wilson would give an interview to a BBC reporter that night in which he mourned his daughter's death, but also accepted the her death as part of God's plan and professed no ill will toward those responsible; it was one of the most poignant interviews in the history of the centuries-old "Troubles." His moving words were later credited with discouraging Loyalist paramilitary groups from retaliating for the attack. From governments and individuals all over the world messages of condolences for the victims and condemnation for the bombers poured into the six counties of the North. Lead singer Bono of the Irish rock group U2 condemned the bombing from the stage during the band's

American tour. The terrible human tragedy would prove to be one of the worst public-relations disasters ever for the Provisional IRA.

National Library of Ireland
James Napper Tandy

SATHAIRN -- On November 9, 1791, James Napper Tandy convened the first meeting of the Dublin United Irishmen. Tandy had been a member of the Volunteers, who helped force the formation of Grattan's parliament in 1782. Earlier in 1791, Tandy had assisted Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell in the formation of the United Irishmen and became the secretary for the Dublin branch. In 1793, he was forced to flee to the United States to avoid arrest for also being a member of the Defenders. He traveled to Paris in 1798, anxious to participate in any French assistance to an Irish rising. There he was appointed a general by the French government, but came into conflict with many of the other United Irishmen already there, including Wolfe Tone. While in France, Tandy boasted that he could set Ireland ablaze with revolution with only a handful of French troops. The French took him at his word and sent him off to Ireland with 370 Grenadiers, aboard a corvette on the same day that Hubert's larger force won their famous battle at Castlebar. Tandy's actions in life had, for the most part, been admirable thus far, but the next part of his life reads like some bad comic-opera. Landing at Rutland Island off the coast of Donegal, Tandy distributed a proclamation to the people hoping to incite them to rise up. Tandy drank to excess that evening at the home of the local postmaster (who happened to be an acquaintance of his), and it was said that he had to be carried back to the ship, which set sail again that morning. Tandy would later be arrested in Hamburg, Germany and delivered to the British, who tried him and sentenced him to death. But they did not execute him, perhaps because there was some question whether they had violated international law in seizing him. He was released and sent back to France. He died in Bordeaux on August 24, 1803. He would later be immortalized in the song "Wearing of the Green."


"If heav'n be pleas'd, when mortals cease to sin --
And hell be pleased, when villains enter in --
If earth be pleas'd, when it entombs a knave --
All must be pleas'd -- Now Luttrell's in his grave.'

        -- From a poem written about Henry Luttrell in 1809

The Attorney General is present -- I retract nothing -- these are my well-judged sentiments -- these are my opinions as to the relative position of England and Ireland; and if I have, as you seem to insinuate, violated the law by stating these things, I now deliberately do so again. Let her majesty's attorney-general do his duty to his government, I have done mine to my country.'
        -- John Mitchel addressing the court at his trial for felony-treason in 1848

'I met with Napper Tandy and he took me by the hand
Saying, how is old Ireland? And how does she stand?
She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen;
They are hanging men and women for the wearing of the green!

         -- From the lyrics of "The Wearing of the Green"

'I have sacrificed all my views of life; I have courted poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children whom I adored fatherless. After such sacrifice, in a cause which I have always considered as the cause of justice and freedom - it is no great effort at this day to add the sacrifice of my life!'
        -- A portion of Theobald Wolfe Tone's testimony from the dock


November - Samhain

3, 1741 - William Irvine (General in the Continental Army – Co. Fermanagh)
3, 1777 - Count Laval Nugent (Field Marshal in the Austrian army, and son of Field Marshal James Nugent – Ballynacor, Co. Westmeath)
3, 1815 - John Mitchel (Revolutionary - Camnish, Co. Derry)
4, 1884 - Harry Ferguson (Inventor - Hillsborough, Co. Down)
4, 1918 - Art Carney (actor and WWII veteran - Mt. Vernon, NY)
4, 1932 - Tommy Makem, (Traditional Irish musician and singer - Keady, County Armagh)
8, 1847 - Bram Stroker (Author)
8, 1921 - Aloysius Paul McGonigal (U.S. Army Chaplain and Silver Star awardee - Philadelphia, PA)
9, 1826 - Eduardo Butler y Anguita (Admiral in the Spanish navy, Cádiz)
9, 1893 - Liam Lynch, (Irish rebel leader during the Irish War of Independence  Limerick, Co. Limerick)


3, 1717 - Henry Luttrell, soldier, suspected betrayer of Jacobites, assassinated in Dublin.
3, 1798 - Wolfe Tone arrested after arriving in Lough Swilly with French.
3, 1850 - Ballina, Co. Mayo native William E. Shannon, U.S. soldier, attorney, and abolitionist dies in Sacramento, CA.
3, 1854 - Catholic University opened in Dublin.
4, 1791 - Irish-born Revolutionary War General Richard Butler is killed in battle against the Miamis.
4, 1873 - General William Ryan of the Cuban rebel forces executed in Santiago, Cuba.
4, 1908 - The Irish Women's Franchise League women's suffrage organization is founded in Dublin.
5, 1688 - William of Orange arrives in England.
6, 1649 - Owen Roe O'Neill dies.
6, 1901 - Irish-born Confederate General James Hagan dies in Mobile, AL.
7, 1863 - Irish 6th LA fights at the 2nd battle of Rappahannock Station.
8, 1960 - An Irish peacekeeping force ambushed in the Congo, causing first overseas combat deaths of the Irish Republic.
8, 1987 - IRA bomb kills 11 at Remembrance Day celebration in Enniskillen.
9, 1791 - Napper Tandy convenes first meeting of Dublin's United Irishmen.

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Tags: Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day


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