This Week in the History of the Irish: October 5 - October 11

The Battle of Perryville from a contemporary illustration.

MÁIRT -- On October 8, 1862, Irish-born Confederate General Patrick Cleburne commanded a brigade at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky. Cleburne's brigade was part of the army of General Braxton Bragg. Encouraged by Jefferson Davis, Bragg had invaded Kentucky in August. On the 30th, at the battle of Richmond, Cleburne had received a very painful injury when a ball passed through his open mouth and out his left cheek, taking several teeth with it. But less than a month later, the intrepid warrior was back with his command, in time for the crucial battle at Perryville. Going in with the second wave of attackers Cleburne's brigade overran Colonel William H. Lytle's Federal brigade. Cleburne's horse, Dixie, was hit by a cannon ball and killed. The general sprawled on the ground, but he was quickly up and leading his men on foot, sword in hand. The Confederates had driven a portion of the Federal line back several miles and won the battle, but they were forced to retire the next day in the face of Buell's superior force. Despite being wounded twice more in the battle, including a painful ankle wound, Cleburne performed another valuable service to the Southern cause during Bragg's retreat -- he saved thousands of rifles, cartridges, and other supplies by using stragglers to drag the supply-wagon train to safety.

A soldier of Dillon's regiment, left. and a chasseur of the regiment of Walsh, drawn about 1774.

CÉADAOIN-- On Oct. 9, 1779, members of Dillon's and Walsh's Regiments of the Irish Brigade of France took part in the Franco-American assault on Savannah, Georgia, during the final stages of the siege there during the American Revolution. Dillon's regiment was sent to the right of the main assault, but their guides proved to be unreliable and the column went down the wrong path into a swamp. The British had already learned of the assault and the bagpipes of a Highland regiment began playing at daybreak, unnerving the allies since it signaled that surprise was lost. French commander Admiral D'Estaing later said he wanted to call off the attack,but it was too late and the assault went on. As Colonel Bethisy's main attack reached the British breastworks, Dillon's men were still trying to get back to their proper position. Thus, the attacks did not go in together. By the time Dillon's men began their attack, the main force had been driven off. In spite of that their assault actually managed to breach the British fortifications in a few spots. Major Thomas Browne, whose family provided several field marshals in the armies of Russia and Austria, was among the Brigade members killed atop the redoubts. Heavy casualties soon forced the French and Americans to break off the attack. The Brigade suffered more than 40 killed and probably had close to 150 wounded. Among the dead was Captain Bernard O'Neill, a 5th generation officer in Dillon's regiment. Dillon's regiment was the only one of the Brigade units to remain in command of one family for its entire service. Count Arthur Dillon, commander at Savannah, was the grandson of Colonel Arthur Dillon, who brought the regiment into French service in 1690. The Count would later become a victim of the French Revolution; he was guillotined in 1794.

Courtesy of Lt. Col. Ken Powers, historian, 69th Regiment, New York Infantry
The 'Prince of Wales flag,' presented by grateful Irish citizens on March 16, 1861, to the 69th Regiment "in commemoration of the 11th Oct. 1860." The flag has been restored and is on display in the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan.

SATHAIRN -- On October 11, 1860, all the militia units of New York City were ordered to turned out to march in honor of the visiting Prince of Wales, the 19-year-old heir to the English throne. One unit in that city refused to obey this order: the 69th Regiment New York State Militia. Five days earlier, Col. Michael Corcoran, commander of the 69th, had refused tickets to the ball in the Prince's honor telling those who invited him that he was "not desirous of joining in the festivity." As for the order to march, he said he refused to ask the sons of Erin to honor the son of "a sovereign under whose reign Ireland was made a desert and her sons forced to exile." He was also heard to refer to the Prince as "the bald-faced son of our oppressor." Corcoran's actions caused a firestorm of outrage around the country and especially in New York. U.S. citizens, most completely ignorant of the conditions under which many of these men had lived in British-controlled Ireland, saw the actions of the men of the 69th as an insult to American hospitality in welcoming these immigrants to their adopted country. (Though in truth, that welcome had been much less than lukewarm.) Corcoran was arrested and stripped of his command by New York and a court martial was planned. But Corcoran had written his name forever in the pantheon of Irish heroes in America. New York's Irish presented the regiment with a green flag commemorating the event. Before Corcoran could be tried on the charge, Fort Sumter was fired on and the country was more worried about saving the Union than honoring visiting princes. Corcoran would lead his regiment into battle at 1st Bull Run, on July 21, 1861, with what is now called the "Prince of Wales Flag" flying proudly above his men.


Library of Congress
Patrick Cleburne

'Picture in your mind, half a mile of open field, fronted by an entrenched enemy behind a breast-high rock wall, their beautiful new flags flying, their bands in full view playing their level loudest. … It was beautiful. It was only a man such as Cleburne who could inspire men to go up against such odds, and win – and he did.         -- W.E. Yeatman of Cleburne's staff discussing the battle of Perryville at a post-war Daughters of the Confederacy dinner for Confederate veterans

'... refused lawfully as a citizen, courageously as a soldier, indignantly as an Irishman. ...'
         -- Part of Thomas Francis Meagher's assessment of Michael Corcoran's refusal to allow the 69th New York State Militia regiment to parade for the Prince of Wales, October 1860


October -- Deireadh Fomhair

5, 1923 - Philip Berrigan (Militant priest, Virginia, Minn.)
5, 1954 - Bob Geldorf (Musician and fundraiser - Nobel Peace Prize nominee.)
10, 1790 - Father Theobald Mathew (Temperance leader - Thomaston Castle, Co. Tipperary)


5, 1968 - The first clash between civil rights marchers and RUC in Derry.
6, 1798 - Grattan removed from Irish Privy Council, falsely charged with being a sworn member of United Irishmen.
6, 1891 - Charles Stewart Parnell dies in Brighton.
7, 1594 - Battle of the Biscuits.
7, 1843 - O'Connell's 'monster' Repeal meeting prohibited and canceled.
8, 1862 - Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne commands a brigade at battle of Perryville, KY.
9, 1779 - Dillon's and Walsh's Regiments of the Irish Brigade of France take part in a failed assault on Savannah.
9, 1779 – South Carolina hero, Sergeant William Jasper, is killed during the assault on Savannah.
9, 1814 – Irish-born US Navy Capt. Johnston Blakeley and his warship “Wasp” are lost at sea.
9, 1849 - First tenant protection society established at Callan, Co. Kilkenny.
10, 1729 - Irish native George Baron Browne, general in the Austrian army, dies in Austria.
11, 1649 - Massacre at Wexford.
11, 1860 - Michael Corcoran and the 69th militia refuse to parade for the Prince of Wales.

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Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, On This Day, United States


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