This Week in the History of the Irish: October 8 - October 14

DOMHNAIGH -- 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.

(Left: The Battle of Perryville from a contemporary illustration.)

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 cannonball 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.

LUAIN -- 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 left of the main assault, but their guides proved to be unreliable and the column went down the wrong path into a swamp.

(Right: "Attack on Savannah" by A. I. Keller (1866 - 1924)

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.

CÉADAOIN -- On October 11, 1860, all the militia units of New York City were ordered to turn out to march in honor of the visiting Prince of Wales, the 19-year-old heir to the English throne.

(Left: Courtesy of the late 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.)

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.

SATHAIRN -- On Oct. 14, 1814, Thomas Osborne Davis, the poet laureate of the Young Ireland party and one of its founders, was born in Mallow, Co. Cork. Like many other revolutionary Irish leaders, Davis was of an Anglo-Irish family; his father was a British army surgeon. He graduated from Trinity College and was called to the bar in 1838, but he never practiced.

(Right: Thomas Davis from an illustration in Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, c. 1903.)

Davis joined Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Association in 1839; the rest of his short life would be dedicated to the cause of Irish freedom. In 1840, along with John Blake Dillon and Gavan Duffy, he founded The Nation, the paper which gave voice to the Young Irelanders. The poetry and prose in the paper, especially Davis', but also those of many other Irish nationalists, was an inspiration to the people of Ireland, helping to reawaken the spirit of Irish nationalism. Many of his poems focused on past glories, such as Fontenoy, Battle Eve of the Brigadeand Death of Owen Roe O'Neill, and others, such as his most famous verse, A Nation Once Again, contained a hopeful vision of the future. The latter, The West's Asleep, and many other of Davis' poems have been put to music and are very popular to this day. The movement Davis helped found would be short-lived, but it would still outlive him. On Sept. 16, 1845, 28 days before his 31st birthday, Davis died of a fever at his mother's house at 67 Baggot St., Dublin.

National Library of Ireland
Mary Spring-Rice, right, next to Molly Childers aboard the Asgard, July 1914.

AOINE -- On Oct. 14, 1880, nationalist and Gaelic League activist Mary Ellen Spring-Rice was born in Foynes, Co. Limerick. Her family had Jacobite roots, but by the time Mary Ellen was a child, it was very much a part of the Anglo-Irish ruling class. Her father was the 2nd Baron of Monteagle, with estates in Kerry and Limerick, and her cousin was the British ambassador to the U.S. Mary grew up around many Irish speakers in the Foynes, Co. Limerick, area and became a fluent Irish speaker. This was to influence her entire life. She met Dr. Douglas Hyde early in her life and later joined his Gaelic League. Mary organized many Irish language festivals in Limerick and hired an Irish teacher for a local school. She helped her cousin Nellie O'Brien organize an Irish-language summer school, even getting many of her establishment relatives to contribute money. Like many others before and since, Mary Ellen's study of the native language of Ireland influenced her politics, and she was soon an ardent nationalist. It is said that it was she who first proposed to Erskine Childers the idea of transporting German arms to Ireland aboard private yachts, such as the one Childers owned. She then helped plan the famous Asgard gun-running affair into Howth on July 26, 1914, and accompanied Childers and his wife, Molly, on the ship during the actual operation. Mary's health began to fail while she was working as a nurse during the War of Independence. When she died in 1924, she was buried in Loghill, Co. Limerick, near her childhood home. Local republicans carried her coffin to the cemetery in honor of her contributions to the fight for Ireland's freedom and the preservation of its language.


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

'The prophet I followed throughout my life, the man whose words and teachings I tried to translate into practice in politics.'
        -- Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffin on his respect for Young Irelander Thomas Osborne Davis

'You're the greatest soldier, ma'am, indeed, y'are.'
        -- Michael O'Rahilly (The O'Rahilly) to Mary Rice's companion on the Asgard, Molly Childers, at the quay in Howth. A sentiment he no doubt would have applied to Mary Ellen Spring-Rice as well.


October -- Deireadh Fomhair

10, 1790 - Father Theobald Mathew (Temperance leader - Thomaston Castle, Co. Tipperary)
12, 1671
 - Peter Drake (soldier and memoir author, Co. Meath.)
13, 1717 - John Armstrong (General in US Continental Army – Brookeborough Co. Fermanagh)
13, 1872 - Charles "Kid" McCoy (Welterweight and Middleweight boxing champion.)
14, 1814 - Thomas Davis (Author and Patriot - Mallow, Co. Cork)
14, 1880 - Mary Rice (Nationalist and Gaelic Leaguer - Foynes, Co. Limerick.)
14, 1882 - Eamon de Valera (Politician and Revolutionary - New York)


8, 1862 - Irish-born Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne commands a brigade at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky.
8, 1862 - The Irish 35th Indiana fights at the Battle of Perryville, KY.
9, 1779
 - Dillon’s and Walsh’s Regiments of the Irish Brigade of France takes 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 Austria.

11, 1649 
- Massacre at Wexford.
11, 1860 
Michael Corcoran and the 69th militia refuse to parade for the Prince of Wales.
11, 1995
- Dr. Aidan MacCarthy, RAF MD and WWII POW dies in London.
12, 1798 
- French invasion squadron under Admiral JBF Bompart is defeated outside Lough Swilly by British squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren.
12, 1920Roscommon Volunteer ambush RIC at Four-Mile-House, killing 2 constables and wounding 2
12, 1984 – IRA bomb nearly kills Margaret Thatcher in Brighton, England.
13, 1881
 - Parnell arrested for Land League activities.
14, 1702 - Irish Brigade of France fights in the battle of Friedlingen.
14, 1791 - United Irishmen (Irish revolutionary group) formed in Belfast.
14, 1797 - William Orr, United Irishman, executed by the British.
14, 1920 - Sean Treacy killed in Dublin.

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


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