This Week in the History of the Irish: October 22 - October 28

LUAIN -- On October 23, 1641, implementing a plan by Rory O'More and led by Phelim O'Neill (left), the Irish rose up against the English. Their plan had called for the seizing of Dublin Castle on the 23rd along with a general uprising in the countryside, but the plot to capture the Castle was foiled by an informer. In Ulster, however, the plot did not fail: By the end of the day, much of the province was controlled by the rebels. Within days the province had been taken, with many of the poor Catholic peasantry taking an active part in the uprising. With resentment and hatred of those who had stolen the bulk of Ulster from the native Irish running high, many atrocities would be committed by these Irish peasants in the following days and weeks. How many Protestants colonists were actually killed during this period has never been firmly established. In England each retelling of the events increased the number until it was said that over 150,000 had been killed in Ulster. This figure was well over the actual total number of Protestants living in Ulster at the time. A meticulous study of the events was once done which set the figure, even when including local hearsay and rumor, at about 1,250, less than 1% of the exaggerated figure. The larger, spurious figures would be used to justify later massacres by Cromwell and others; in reality, in one day at Drogheda in 1649 Cromwell would slaughter twice as many as had been killed in Ulster in all of 1641. More incredible than England's ready acceptance of those tremendously inflated figures then is that they are also still cited by some today in an attempt to exonerate Cromwell.

DEARDAOIN -- On Oct. 26, 1771John (Juan) MacKenna (left), who would rise to fame in South America, was born in Clogher, County Tyrone. MacKenna was related to Gen. Alexander O'Reilly, of the Spanish army, and O'Reilly helped MacKenna get established in Spain. In 1787, MacKenna was appointed a cadet in the Irish Brigade of the Spanish army and fought with them in Ceuta in northern Africa. After returning to Spain, he met the future liberator of Argentina, José de San Martín. In 1796 he traveled to Chile and served as a military engineer for Ambrose O'Higgins, and MacKenna eventually was appointed governor of Osorno, Chile. He joined the revolutionary party of Carrera in 1810, commanding his artillery, but he had a falling out with Juan Jose Carrera, a rift which would one day cost him his life. MacKenna would eventually ally himself with Carrera's rival, Bernardo O'Higgins, son of John's old friend Ambrose. When Carrera came to power in 1814, he banished MacKenna from Chile. While he was living in exile in Argentina he became embroiled in a dispute with Luis Carrera, brother of the Chilean revolutionary, and was killed in a duel with him in Buenos Aires on Nov. 21, 1814.

Library of Congress
James Lawlor Kiernan, doctor, soldier, diplomat, Galwayman.

DEARDAOIN -- On October 26, 1837, James Lawlor Kiernan, Union general in America's Civil War, was born in Mount Bellow, County Galway. Son of a retired British navy surgeon, James attended Trinity College, Dublin, then moved to the United States in the 1850s, studying medicine at New York University. He practiced law in New York until 1861. When war broke out, he went South with the 69th New York State Militia as an assistant surgeon, serving through the First Battle of Bull Run. When the 69th returned to Manhattan, he moved west and became the surgeon of the 6th Missouri Cavalry (U.S.) After the Battle of Pea Ridge, Kiernan determined to join the ranks of fighting soldiers and was apparently appointed a major in the 6th. At Port Gibson, Miss., in May 1863, he was wounded in the left lung and left on the field for dead. He was captured, but soon escaped and made his back to the Union lines. It appears that he resigned his commission at that point, but on Aug. 1, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers by Lincoln. Kiernan had not yet recovered from his lung wound, however, and, in fact, he probably never fully recovered from it. He was forced to resign again in February 1864. Right after the war, he was appointed to a consular post in Chinkiang, China, and did manage to make the trip there but his health would not allow him to perform the duties and he returned to New York. Kiernan was appointed an examining physician for the pension bureau and worked at that job until November 26, 1869, when he died of 'congestion of the lungs.' Perhaps he was killed by that Confederate ball that wounded him six years earlier. He was laid to rest in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.


'In noe wayes intended against our Soveraine Lord the King, nor the hurt of any of his subjects, eyther of the Inglish or Schotish nation, but only for the defense and liberty of our selves and the Irish natives of this kingdome.' 
         -- From a proclamation issued by Phelim O'Neill after his capture of much of Ulster, October 24, 1641

'When you stick to your notes you're the greatest speaker going, but let someone in the crowd shout "Up Dev!" and you lose your head entirely.'
         -- A friend commenting to Eoin O'Duffy on his speaking style 


October - Deireadh Fomhair

26, 1771 - John (Juan) MacKenna (Chilean general - Clogher, County Tyrone.)
26, 1837 - James Lawler Kiernan (Union General - Mount Bellow, County Galway.)
26, 1902 - Jack Sharkey (Heavyweight boxing champion.)


22, 1920 – The Cork No. 3 Brigade (West Cork) under Tom Barry ambush members of the Essex Regiment in Toureen, killing 5, wounding 4 and capturing 6.
23, 1641 - Irish rising begins in Ulster.
23, 1776 - Irish-born William Maxwell is appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army.
24, 1842 - Bernardo O'Higgins, liberator of Chile, dies in Peru.
25, 1920 - Terence MacSwiney dies on hunger strike.
26, 1932 - Margaret "The Unsinkable Molly" Brown, daughter of Irish immigrants, dies in New York.

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Tags: American Civil War, Americas, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day, United States


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