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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Anne Bonny, Irish Pirate

Anne Bonny, Irish pirate operating in the Caribbean and one of a few female pirates in recorded history, is said to be born in Old Head of Kinsale, near Cork, Kingdom of Ireland on March 8, 1697.

Bonny is the daughter of servant woman Mary Brennan and Brennan’s employer, lawyer William Cormac. Official records and contemporary letters dealing with her life are scarce, and most modern knowledge stems from Captain Charles Johnson‘s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates.

Bonny’s father, William Cormac, first moves to London to get away from his wife’s family, and he begins dressing his daughter as a boy and calling her “Andy.” When Cormac’s wife discovers William has taken in his illegitimate daughter and is bringing her up to be a lawyer’s clerk and dressing her as a boy, she stops giving him an allowance. Cormac then moves to the Province of Carolina, taking along his former serving girl, the mother of Bonny. At first, the family has a rough start in their new home, but Cormac’s knowledge of law and ability to buy and sell goods soon finances a townhouse and eventually a plantation just out of town. Bonny’s mother dies when she is 12. Her father attempts to establish himself as an attorney but does not do well. Eventually, he joins the more profitable merchant business and accumulates a substantial fortune.

It is recorded that Bonny has red hair and is considered a “good catch” but may have have a fiery temper as, at age 13, she supposedly stabs a servant girl with a knife. She marries a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. He hopes to win possession of his father-in-law’s estate, but Bonny is disowned by her father. He does not approve of James Bonny as a husband for his daughter, and he kicks Anne out of their house. There is a story that Bonny sets fire to her father’s plantation in retaliation, but no evidence exists in support.

Sometime between 1714 and 1718, Bonny and her husband move to Nassau, on the island of New Providence, known as a sanctuary for English pirates called the Republic of Pirates. Many inhabitants receive a King’s Pardon or otherwise evade the law. It is also recorded that, after the arrival of Governor Woodes Rogers in the summer of 1718, James Bonny becomes an informant for the governor. He reports to Governor Rogers about the pirates in the area, which results in a multitude of these pirates being arrested. Bonny dislikes the work her husband does for Governor Rogers.

While in the Bahamas, Bonny begins mingling with pirates in the taverns. She meets John “Calico Jack” Rackham, and he becomes her lover. He offers money to her husband if he would divorce her, but her husband refuses and apparently threatens to beat Rackham. She and Rackham escape the island together, and she becomes a member of Rackham’s crew. She disguises herself as a man on the ship, and only Rackham and Mary Read are aware that she is a woman until it becomes clear that she is pregnant. Rackham then lands her at Cuba where she gives birth to a son. She then rejoins Rackham and continues the pirate life, having divorced her husband and married Rackham while at sea. Bonny, Rackham, and Read steal the ship William, then at anchor in Nassau harbor, and put out to sea. Rackham and the two women recruit a new crew. Their crew spends years in Jamaica and the surrounding area. Bonny takes part in combat alongside the men, and Governor Rogers names her in a “Wanted Pirates” circular published in The Boston News-Letter.

In October 1720, Rackham and his crew are attacked by a sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet under a commission from Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica. Most of Rackham’s pirates put up little resistance, as many of them are too drunk to fight. They are taken to Jamaica where they are convicted and sentenced by Governor Lawes to be hanged. According to Johnson, Bonny’s last words to Rackham are: “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”

Read and Bonny both “pleaded their bellies“, asking for mercy because they are pregnant, and the court grants them a stay of execution until after they give birth. Read dies in prison, most likely from a fever from childbirth. A ledger from a church in Jamaica lists her burial on April 28, 1721, “Mary Read, pirate.”

There is no record of Bonny’s release, and this has fed speculation as to her fate. A ledger lists the burial of an “Ann Bonny” on December 29, 1733, in the same town in Jamaica where she was tried. Charles Johnson writes in his book: “She was continued in Prison, to the Time of her lying in, and afterwards reprieved from Time to Time; but what is become of her since, we cannot tell; only this we know, that she was not executed.”

Other sources have stated that she may have returned to the United States after her imprisonment, dying in South Carolina in April 1782.


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Death of Colonel James Hagan

james-haganJames Hagan, Irish American captain in the United States Army during the Mexican–American War and a Confederate States Army colonel during the American Civil War, dies in Mobile, Alabama on November 6, 1901.

Hagan is born in County Tyrone on June 17, 1822. His family moves to a farm near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he is still at an early age and he is educated at Clermont Academy. He moves to Alabama in 1837. His prosperous uncle, John Hagen of New Orleans, Louisiana, takes him into the family business and sets him up in Mobile to manage the Hagan business there.

Hagan serves in John Coffee Hays‘s Texas Rangers, a cavalry unit in Major General Zachary Taylor‘s army during the Mexican–American War. He is recognized for his gallantry at the Battle of Monterrey. He is commissioned a captain in the 3rd U.S. Dragoons in 1848 and is discharged on July 31, 1848. After the war, he returns to Mobile where he purchases and subsequently manages a plantation rather than remaining in the family mercantile business. In 1854, he marries Bettie Oliver, daughter of Alabama’s attorney general.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, Hagan organizes and is elected captain of a cavalry company for the Alabama Militia, the “Mobile Dragoons,” which serves on guard duty along the Gulf Coast. At the rank of major he transfers to the 1st Mississippi Cavalry Regiment on October 26, 1861. The regiment fights at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6–7, 1862. He leads his men in a mounted charge at the Battle of Perryville which is highly commended by his brigade commander, Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler.

Hagan is promoted to colonel of a new regiment, the 3rd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, on July 1, 1862. The regiment fights in all of the campaigns of the Army of Tennessee. In July 1863, He is assigned to command Brigade 1 of Brigadier General William T. Martin‘s Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Tennessee, which is Major General Joseph Wheeler’s old brigade. During the spring and summer of 1863, the brigade screens the left front of General Braxton Bragg‘s army. Wheeler recommends that Hagan be promoted to brigadier general but Bragg blocks the promotion because he says Hagan is in a state of “dissipation”, a reference to drunkenness or alcoholism. Hagan is wounded near Franklin, Tennessee in the winter of 1862 and again near Kingston, Tennessee in November 1863. In November 1863, he resigns and returns to Mobile to recover from his wounds and his disappointment from not being promoted.

After he had recuperates, Hagan asks that his resignation be revoked. The resignation is revoked and he returns to his regiment for the Atlanta campaign, where the regiment fights as infantry in the trenches. When Brigadier General William Wirt Adams is promoted to command of the Division, Hagan is assigned to permanent command of the brigade, consisting of five regiments and one battalion of Alabama cavalry. His brigade is part of Wheeler’s force which opposes Major General William Tecumseh Sherman‘s March to the Sea and Campaign of the Carolinas. He is wounded again at the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, near Kinston, North Carolina on March 10, 1865, and again at Fayetteville, North Carolina the next day.

Although Hagan is assigned as acting brigadier general in early 1865, he never receives an official appointment from Jefferson Davis or confirmation by the Confederate States Senate of an appointment as a general officer. Major General Wheeler later writes that he had been told unofficially by Confederate States War Department officials that brigadier general commissions had been issued for Hagan, Henry Marshall Ashby and Moses Wright Hannon near the end of the war, but no such commissions ever were delivered.

Hagan returns to Mobile after the war but is penniless since his fortune had been converted to Confederate money. He works as manager of a plantation on the Alabama River in the 1870s and early 1880s. President Grover Cleveland appoints him crier of the United States District Court in Alabama in 1885.

James Hagan dies on November 6, 1901 at Mobile, Alabama. He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile.