This Week in the History of the Irish: November 30 - December 6

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

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

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.

DOMHNAIGH -- 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

MÁIRT -- 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.


Michael Collins signature (in Irish) on the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Immediately after he signed, it he commented to a member of the British negotiating team that he had just signed his own death warrant. He would die at the hands of his former comrades in the IRA within the coming year.


SATHAIRN-- In the early morning hours of December 6, 1921, representatives of the Irish government appointed by President Eamon de Valera, and those negotiating for the Crown signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, ending the Irish War of Independence against Great Britain. It was then, and remains, one of the most debated moments in Irish history. The British negotiating team, led by Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Lloyd George, was composed of old masters at the game of politics. Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins led the Irish team; they were brave and intelligent, but had nowhere near the political acumen of the British side.De Valera, a shrewd, experienced politician, may have been the only man in all of Ireland who might have matched them, but he refused to join the negotiations. With less reluctance about forcing their political opponents to negotiate "with a gun to their heads" than they appear to have developed recently, the British gave the Irish an ultimatum on the evening of Dec. 5: Sign the treaty as is, or face military annihilation in three days. (See quote below.) The treaty Collins and Griffith had signed contained several clauses that de Valera and his supporters would reject.Chief among them was the treaty's partition of the country and its requirement that Irish officials must swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown. The cabinet split 4 to 3 in favor of the treaty, and in January, the full Dáil Eireann accepted the treaty 64-57. The stage was set for the brutal Irish Civil War and the seeds of the tragic political mistake known as Northern Ireland were sown. Ever since, Irish historians have debated how events might have turned differently. Was Collins right to accept anything less than full Irish independence? Were the British bluffing? Did the world's -- especially America's -- revulsion at the atrocities of the Black and Tans make impossible the threat of Lloyd George's threatened siege of the Irish population? Would further resistance by the Irish have resulted in the dreamed-of 32-county republic, or might it have resulted in a continued 32-county colony? We will never know, and will always wonder.

VOICES


Library of Congress
Patrick Ronayne
Cleburne

 


'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

'Here are the alternative letters which I have prepared, one enclosing the Articles of Agreement reached by His Majesty's Government and yourselves, the other saying that Sinn Fein representatives refuse the Oath of Allegiance and refuse to come within the Empire. If I send this letter, it is war - and war within three days. Which letter am I to send?'
        -- British Prime Minister Lloyd George to the Irish negotiating team on the evening of December 5, 1921
 

BIRTHS

November - Samhain

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.)
4, 1887 - Winifred Carney (Trade unionist, revolutionary - Bangor, Co. Down.)
5, 1841 - Marcus Daly (Mine owner, "the copper king" - Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

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.
3-8 1792 – Meeting of the “Back Lane Parliament” Catholic Convention.
4, 1649 – Publication in Cork of the first newspaper in Ireland: Irish Monthly Mercury.
4, 1882, John Curran, Dublin magistrate, opens a special inquiry into the Phoenix Park murders, in which Parnell is falsely accused.
5, 1921 – The Irish committee negotiating the Anglo-Irish treaty is told to accept the terms or face "immediate and terrible war" by Lloyd George.
6, 1820 - Spanish Gen. Diego O'Reilly defeated by Peruvian revolutionaries.
6, 1921 - Signing of Anglo-Irish Treaty.

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