DOMHNAIGH -- 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.
(Left: From The Illustrated London News, August 29, 1846: A potato plant attacked by the blight. The lower leaves are dead -- the stem and upper leaves show black spots.)
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.
LUAIN 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 companions 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.
DEARDAOIN -- On September 13, 1803, John Barry (left), of Ballysampson, Co.Wexford, considered by many to be the 'Father of the U.S. Navy,' died in Philadelphia. At a young age, Barry went to sea as a fisherman; by age 20, he had a master's licensee. He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1760 and worked his way up to ownership of a merchant vessel. In 1775, he offered his services when the Continental Congress first formed the Navy. Given command of the sloop Lexington, Barry engaged and captured the British sloop Edward on April 7, 1776. It was the first capture of a British warship by a commissioned U.S. ship. Later, commanding the frigate Alliance, he would capture two more British ships, but he was severely wounded during those actions. After the war, Barry oversaw much of the building and improvement of the Navy and was promoted to commodore in 1794. Statues commemorate John Barry's life in his adopted home of Philadelphia and near his birthplace in County Wexford.
|Courtesy of the Library of Congress
DEARDAOIN -- On September 13, 1836 John McCausland, Confederate General and son of an Irish immigrant, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. McCausland grew up in the western part of Virginia and graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1857. He taught there following graduation and served in the cadet detachment that was on guard during the hanging of John Brown. Though many people in western Virginia remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War began, McCausland did not. He recruited a Confederate regiment, the 36th Virginia,and commanded it as it's first colonel.
McCausland and his regiment were transferred to Albert Johnston's western army in early 1862 and narrowly escaped capture at Fort Donelson. They were sent back to western Virginia later that year and fought there through 1863. In May 1864 McCausland was promoted to brigadier general and given a cavalry command. McCausland fought well through to the end of the war, but unfortunately he is best remembered as the man who burned Chambersburg, PA under orders from General Jubal Early in July 1864. In April 1865 he had his cavalry brigade cut it's way through the Federal lines rather than surrender, but he disbanded them several days later. Returning to the area where he grew up, now the state of West Virginia, McCausland would be dogged by memory of his burning of Chambersburg for the rest of his life. He was even charged with it in PA later, but President Grant used his influence to have the charge dropped. McCauland would spend two years in Europe and Mexico to escape the problems associated with the Chambersburg incident. He later bought a large tract of land in Macon County, West Virginia and lived there over 60 years as a recluse. When he died on January 22, 1927 he was the next to last surviving Confederate general of the war.
"O'Donnell is dead... he is poisoned by James Blake, of whom your lordship hath been formerly acquainted..."
-- Sir George Carew, President of Munster during part of the Nine Years' War, to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy
“No Sir, the thunder! If this ship cannot be fought without me, I will be brought on deck; to your duty, Sir.” -- John Barry to a junior officer while wounded below decks when it was suggested they surrender.
September -- Meán Fomhair
10, 1846 - John Finerty (Soldier, war correspondent, and US Congressman -Co. Galway)
11, 1862 - Patrick Henry Morrissey (Labor leader, son of Irish immigrants - Bloomington, IL)
13, 1836 - John McCausland (Confederate General, son of Irish immigrants - St. Louis, MO)
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 Ireland.
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 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.
13, 1803 - John Barry, of Wexford, US Navy commodore, father of US Navy, dies in Philadelphia.
14, 1908 - Montana and Alaska pioneer John J. Healy dies in San Francisco.
15, 1866 - John Blake Dillon, Young Irelander, co-founder of "The Nation," dies in Killarney.
15, 1997 - Sinn Fein joins multiparty peace talks in Northern Ireland.