This Week in the History of the Irish: September 6 - September 12

Linen Hall Library
Lord Charles Cornwallis had already lost one colony, and his reputation wouldn't survive the loss of another.

MÁIRT -- On September 8, 1798, Lord Charles Cornwallis and General Gerard Lake cornered French General Joseph Humbert's small Franco-Irish army at Ballinamuck, County Longford. With the two British armies closing in, Humbert drew his men up into line of battle. Humbert had less than 2,000 men, and only about 850 were his trained French troops; he was confronted with many times that number of British. Many of Humbert's French troops urged him to surrender, but he believed he was honor-bound to make some sort of fight. After about a half-hour of combat, Humbert and his Frenchmen surrendered. Most of the Irish rebels were not given that opportunity -- they were slaughtered in the hundreds by the dragoons who rode them down, slashing left and right. Many of those who were taken alive would be executed, including Wolfe Tone's brother Matthew and Bartholomew Teeling, of Antrim. Both had accompanied Humbert from France and were commissioned French officers, wearing French uniforms, but this defense was rejected by the British and they were executed at Arbour Hill barracks in Dublin. There were but a few more tragedies yet to be played out before the catastrophic year of 1798 came to a close.

Courtesy of Dick Dowling Camp, SCV
Lt. Richard Dowling, hero of Sabine Pass

MÁIRT -- On September 8, 1863, a small Confederate force commanded by Richard W. Dowling, a red-headed 25-year-old Houston saloon owner, won one of the most remarkable victories of the American Civil War. The Union commander had dispatched four heavy gunboats, 18 transports and 5,000 men to force its way up Sabine Pass, between Texas and Louisiana. They were to enter Texas and capture Sabine City and from there take Houston and Galveston. Tuam, Co. Galway-born Dowling, a lieutenant in the Confederate Army, held a partially finished earthwork called Fort Griffin with only 40 men, almost all of them also Irish, and six cannon. The orders Dowling received stated: "If you cannot defend, abandon the fort," but he and his men decided to stand to their guns. Dowling may have duped the Federals into thinking the fort was abandoned by holding his fire until the lead gunboat was only 1,200 yards away. When he opened fire he quickly disabled the Sachem and the Clifton, causing heavy damage and severe casualties. Both damaged ships hoisted the white flag and the rest of the fleet withdrew in disorder. Dowling and his men had inflicted an amazing defeat on the Union forces -- the Federals suffered 50 killed, a large number wounded, and 350 men and 2 gunboats captured, while Dowling had no casualties. Confederate President Jefferson Davis had a medal struck to commemorate the stunning victory, the only such medal ever awarded by that government. In 1937 a statue of Dowling was unveiled on the site of the fort, and last year a bronze plaque honoring Dowling was unveiled at the Tuam Town Hall. You can learn more about Dowling and his men at the Dick Dowling Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans Web site.

From The Illustrated London News, August 29, 1846
A potato plant attacked by the blight. 

CÉADAOIN -- About September 9, 1845, the first effects of the potato blight were reported around Ireland. No one was sure what caused the potato leafs and stalks to turn black and wither, and the potato to rot in the ground or sometimes seem fine on digging but then turn to putrid mush. It was the damp weather, some thought, or the unusually cold weather. Still others were sure it was a punishment from God; some Protestants thinking it was for granting Catholic emancipation and some Catholics that it was for accepting British money to finance Maynooth College. No matter the cause, the peasantry of Ireland, virtually all Catholics, was now at the mercy of two forces completely beyond their control -- Mother Nature and the Parliament of Great Britain. The cause of the blight was a fungus we now know as 'Phytophthora infesians,' and there would be no cure until the 1880s; the cure for British rule would be even longer in coming. The unknown fungus, combined with the inept, some say criminal, colonial administration of Great Britain, was about to turn the beautiful green isle of Erin into a hell on earth -- it was the start of An Ghorta Mor, the Great Hunger.

DEARDAOIN On September 10, 1602, “Red” Hugh O’Donnell died in Simancas, Spain. “Red” Hugh is one of the most romantic figures in Irish history. (Right: Donegal Castle in Donegal Town) In 1588, at about 17, Hugh was snatched away from his family and held hostage by the English in Dublin Castle to insure the good behavior of his clan. After three years O’Donnell escaped the Castle in the dead of a bitter winter; one of his companion in that escape, a son of Shane O’Neill died of exposure and “Red” Hugh suffering severe frostbite in the process. A year later the 21 year old Hugh became head of the O’Donnell clan. For the next ten years he would lead his clan in a desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful fight to save the Gaelic culture of Ireland. Allied with the legendary Hugh O’Neill, the he would help bring the Irish to the very brink of expelling the English occupation. At Yellow Ford, in 1598, they would hand the English their worst defeat ever on Irish soil. But England superior resources of men and equipment would eventually win out. After a disastrous defeat or the Irish and their Spanish allies at Kinsale in 1602, “Red” Hugh was dispatched to Spain in an attempt to win further aid from the King Philip. At Simancas O’Donnell suddenly fell ill; there is evidence to suggest that an English agent may have poisoned him. On September 10, 1595, “Red” Hugh O’Donnell breathed his last; the days of the Gaelic culture of Ireland were numbered.

VOICES

'After having obtained the greatest successes and made the arms of the French Republic triumph during my stay in Ireland, I have at length been obliged to submit to a superior force of 30,000 men.'
         -- From Gen. Humbert's report to the Directory of the French Republic after his defeat at Ballinamuck, September 1798


Courtesy of Dick Dowling Camp, SCV
The medal awarded to the Davis Guards (D. G.) by Jefferson Davis

'There is no parallel in ancient or modern warfare to the victory of Dowling and his men at Sabine Pass, considering the great odds against which they had to contend.'
         -- Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the actions of Lt. Richard Dowling and his Davis Guards on September 8, 1863


'But, happily, there is no ground for any apprehensions of the kind [famine] in Ireland. There may have been some partial failures in some localities; but, we believe that there was never a more abundant potato crop in Ireland than there is at present.'
         -- The Dublin Evening Post, September 9, 1845

BIRTHS

September -- Meán Fomhair

6, 1831 - Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa (Fenian – Rosscarbery, Co. Cork)
8, 1812 - John Martin (Young Irelander - Newry, Co. Down.)
11, 1862 - Patrick Henry Morrissey (Labor leader, son of Irish immigrants - Bloomington, IL)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

7, 1695 - Penal Laws passed severely restricting the rights of Catholics in Ireland.
7, 1892 - "Gentleman" Jim Corbett beats John L. Sullivan for the Heavyweight boxing championship in New Orleans, LA.
8, 1798 - Ballinamuck, County Longford - Surrender of the French invasion for...
8, 1863 - Confederates under the command of Richard Dowling (Galway) repulse ...
8, 1893 - The House of Lords rejects the 2nd Home Rule Bill.
8, 1908 - St Enda's school founded by Patrick Pearse.
9, 1706 - Dillon's regiment of the Irish Brigade of France fights at the Battle of Castiglione.
9, 1774 - Charles O'Brien, 6th Viscount Clare, soldier in the Irish Brigade of France, dies at Montpellier, Fance.
9, 1845 - First report of a new, and ultimately horrific, potato blight in Ir...
10, 1602 - "Red" Hugh O'Donnell dies in Simancas, Spain, probably poisoned by English spy.
10, 1916 - Irish poet Lt. Tom Kettle dies in attack on Ginchy while serving in the Dublin Fusiliers.
11, 1649 - Massacre at Drogheda. Cromwell captures the town and slaughters the garrison.
12, 1850 - Presley O'Bannon, U.S. Marine hero of the capture of Derna, Libya (on 'The Shores of Tripoli) dies and is buried in Henry County KY - later reinterred in Frankfort Cemetery.
12, 1912 - "Ulster Day," Edward Carson and other Unionists pledge to resist Home Rule "to the end."
12, 1919 - Dail Eireann declared illegal.

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Tags: American Civil War, History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, Military History, On This Day

Comment by Tim Collins on September 8, 2015 at 2:19pm

   I am delighted that, even in the current climate, you saw fit to highlight a little known battle that took place 152 years ago at Sabine Pass, Texas, which resulted in a resounding Confederate victory, by a band of some forty-odd predominantly Irish-born artillerymen against a powerful Federal invasion fleet intent on bringing Texas back into the Union.

   Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, but I published a biography of Dick Dowling in 2013, which I co-researched with Dowling family descendant, the late Ann Ivins of Houston.   Available in all good Galway bookshops in Ireland, and online from Charlie Byrne's Books ( http://charliebyrne.com/shop )!   Bibliographic details: 

   Dick Dowling: Galway's hero of Confederate Texas, by Timothy Collins and Ann Caraway Ivins, foreword by Edward T. Cotham Jr.  Kilnaboy (Co. Clare, Ireland): Old Forge Books, 2013.  256p, illus (some col.), maps, bibliog.

   Copies may also be consulted at the Library of Congress and in various reference libraries across east Texas (Houston, Galveston, Port Arthur, Beaumont).

   'Just saying . . .!


Admin
Comment by Joe Gannon on September 10, 2015 at 9:28am

Tim, I wrote our brief piece here on Dowling and the battle. The battle is quite fascinating, and Dowling's life is as well. I'm sure folks here would love to read more about him. Why don't you write a blog post about him here? I've thought of doing one before, but obviously you'd be the right man for that job. And of course you can include links to where folks can buy your book. Some people may see your link here in the comments, but lots more would see it if you posted a blog article about him. 

For others reading this, here's a link directly to the page for Tom's book on the Charlie Byrne website: http://charliebyrne.com/dick-dowling-galways-hero-of-confederate-te...;

Comment by Gerry Regan on September 10, 2015 at 9:47am

Here's more about Dick Dowling from TheWildGeese.Irish: http://thewildgeese.irish/profiles/blogs/the-irish-sword-a-communit...

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