DOMHNAIGH -- 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.
(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.
(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.
AOINE -- 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 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 Brigade, and 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, 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.
SATHAIRN -- On Oct. 15, 1763, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, military leader of the United Irishmen, was born in Carton House, Co. Kildare. Like Wolfe Tone and Emmet, Lord Edward was from a prominent family. His father was the 1st Duke of Leinster and his mother was the daughter of the Duke of Richmond. But there were rebels in his family tree also -- he was a descendant of 'Silken Thomas' Fitzgerald, who was executed by the English in 1537. Lord Edward served in the British army with the Sussex Militia against the American colonists and was severely wounded at the battle of Eutaw Springs in '81. He spent time in Paris after the war, where one of his companions was Thomas Paine. There he acquired his republican ideals. One night at a dinner of British residents of Paris he toasted to the abolition of hereditary titles, which caused his discharge from the British army.
Right: Lord Edward Fitzgerald by Horace Hone - 1797
He returned to Ireland and in the mid-1790s he joined the United Irishmen. With his military experience, he was one of the main planners of the '98 Rising. In March '98, when many of the United Irish leaders were arrested, he barely escaped capture. He managed to hide out in Dublin for a time, but a spy betrayed his hiding place on Thomas Street. Lord Edward was arrested there on May 19; he resisted fiercely, stabbing one of his opponents to death, but another shot him and he died of his wounds on June 4. His loss was a terrible blow to the cause of the United Irishmen but his name lives on as another in a long line of Irish rebels who made a conscious choice of principle over power and money.
'... 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.
|Lord Edward Fitzgerald, from an early 20th century postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons.|
''What a noble fellow. Of the first family of Ireland, with an easy fortune, a beautiful wife, a family of lovely children, the certainty of a splendid appointment under the government, if he would condescend to support their measures; he has devoted himself wholly to the emancipation of his country.'
-- Theobald Wolfe Tone on Edward Fitzgerald from Tone's diary.
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)
15, 1763 - Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Revolutionary - Carton House, Co. Kildare)
15, 1881 - William Pearse (Revolutionary, brother of Patrick - Dublin.)
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, 1920 – Roscommon 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.
15, 1842 - First issue of "The Nation."