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


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Death of Maximilian Ulysses Browne, Austrian Military Officer

Maximilian Ulysses, Reichsgraf von Browne, Baron de Camus and Mountany, an Irish refugee, scion of the Wild Geese and an Austrian military officer, dies in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia on June 26, 1757. He is one of the highest ranking officers serving the Hapsburg Emperor during the middle of the 18th century and one of the most prominent Irish soldiers never to fight for Ireland.

Browne is born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Count Ulysses von Browne (b. Limerick 1659) and his wife Annabella Fitzgerald, a daughter of the House of Desmond. Both families had been exiled from Ireland in the aftermath of the Nine Years’ War.

Browne’s early career is helped by family and marital connections. His father and his father’s brother, George (b. Limerick 1657), are created Counts of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Charles VI in 1716 after serving with distinction in the service of the Holy Roman Emperors. The brothers enjoy a lengthy, close friendship with John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who is primarily responsible for their establishment in the Imperial Service of Austria. On his father’s death he becomes third Earl of Browne in the Jacobite peerage. His wife, Countess Marie Philippine von Martinitz, has valuable connections at court and his sister, Barbara (b. Limerick 1700), is married to Freiherr Francis Patrick O’Neillan, a Major General in the Austrian Service. So, by the age of 29 Browne is already colonel of an Austrian infantry regiment.

Browne justifies his early promotion in the field, and in the Italian campaign of 1734 he greatly distinguishes himself. In the Tirolese fighting of 1735, and in the Turkish war, he wins further distinction as a general officer.

Browne is a lieutenant field marshal in command of the Silesian garrisons when in 1740 Frederick II and the Prussian army overruns the province. His careful employment of such resources as he possesses materially hinders the king in his conquest and allows time for Austria to collect a field army. He is present at Mollwitz, where he receives a severe wound. His vehement opposition to all half-hearted measures brings him frequently into conflict with his superiors, but contributes materially to the unusual energy displayed by the Austrian armies in 1742 and 1743.

In the following campaigns Browne exhibits the same qualities of generalship and the same impatience of control. In 1745 he serves under Count Traun, and is promoted to the rank of Feldzeugmeister. In 1746 he is present in the Italian campaign and the battles of Piacenza and Rottofreddo. He and an advanced guard force their way across the Apennine Mountains and enter Genoa. He is thereafter placed in command of the invasion of France mounted in winter 1746-47, leading to the Siege of Antibes, but he is obliged to break off the invasion and return to Italy in February 1747 after Genoa rises in rebellion against the Austrian garrison he had left behind. In early 1747 he is appointed commander of all imperial forces in Italy, replacing Antoniotto Botta Adorno. At the end of the war, he is engaged in the negotiations on troop withdrawals from Italy, which leads to the convention of Nice on January 21, 1749. He becomes commander-in-chief in Bohemia in 1751, and field marshal two years later.

Browne is still in Bohemia when the Seven Years’ War opens with Frederick’s invasion of Saxony in 1756. His army, advancing to the relief of Pirna, is met, and, after a hard struggle, defeated by the king at the Battle of Lobositz, but he draws off in excellent order, and soon makes another attempt with a picked force to reach Pirna, by wild mountain tracks. He never spares himself, bivouacking in the snow with his men, and Thomas Carlyle records that private soldiers made rough shelters over him as he slept.

Brown actually reaches the Elbe at Bad Schandau, but as the Saxons are unable to break out, he retires, having succeeded, however, in delaying the development of Frederick’s operations for a whole campaign. In the campaign of 1757, he voluntarily serves under Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine who is made commander-in-chief. On May 6 of that year, while leading a bayonet charge at the Battle of Prague, Browne, like Kurt Christoph, Graf von Schwerin, on the same day, meets his death. He is carried mortally wounded into Prague, and there dies on June 26, 1757.


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The Battle of Cassano

battle-of-cassanoUnits of the Irish Brigade of France fight at the Battle of Cassano on August 16, 1705, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The battle is fought at the town of Cassano d’Adda, in Lombardy, Italy, between a French army commanded by Louis Joseph, Duke of Vendôme and an Imperial army under Prince Eugene of Savoy.

By August 1705, the French occupy most of Savoy, with the exception of Turin. In order to relieve the pressure, Prince Eugene tries to cross the river Adda at Cassano, and threaten Milan. Although the French are taken by surprise, they manage to hold the bridge after six hours of intense conflict, both sides suffering heavy casualties.

The deep and fast-flowing river Adda has limited crossing points, especially for large bodies of men. The town of Cassano is on the right bank, with a stone bridge protected by a small fortification or redoubt. The area is also divided by numerous small streams and irrigation channels, the most significant being the Retorto, an irrigation canal running parallel to the Adda. This is connected to the left bank by another bridge, protected by another strongpoint.

Assuming Prince Eugene is still heading for Mantua, Vendôme orders his brother Philippe to leave his positions around Cassano and intercept him. In fact, the Imperial troops had marched overnight from Romanengo and are approaching the town when spotted by one of Vendôme’s cavalry patrols early the next morning. Realising their intentions, Vendôme heads to Cassano, along with approximately 2,000 reinforcements.

On arrival, he finds Philippe’s troops unprepared and in an extremely dangerous position, the bulk of their force caught between the Retorto canal and the Adda, and the main bridge blocked by their transport. Vendôme orders the baggage thrown into the river and forms a line running from the Retorto on the left, his centre around the main bridge, and his extreme right resting on the road leading to the nearby village of Rivolta d’Adda. Armand St. Hilaire, the French artillery commander, positions his guns inside the town, allowing him to fire directly on the bridge.

Around 2:00 in the afternoon, Austrian grenadiers attack the French positions around the Retorto. They initially succeed in capturing the bridge before being repulsed by St. Hilaire’s guns and a counter-attack. Vendôme sends four regiments of the French Irish Brigade to reinforce his left, but after a fierce struggle, the Imperialists capture the canal’s sluice gates. After these are closed, the water level in the canal is lowered enough for men to wade across it.

Prince Eugene orders Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, and his Prussians into the canal to assault the French left. They manage to seize the further bank but suffer heavily in doing so. The battle surges back and forth across the river for several hours, in the course of which Vendôme has his horse killed under him, while Prince Eugene is wounded twice and has to leave the field. The fighting lasts another four to five hours, until ended by sheer exhaustion, with the opposing forces back at their starting positions.

The battle is inconclusive. While the French prevent the Imperialists crossing the Adda, Prince Eugene succeeds in delaying an assault on Turin until June 1706. Combined with having to transfer forces to Northern France following their defeat at Ramillies in May 1706, the French siege is broken in September, and fighting in Northern Italy ends in March 1707.

(Pictured: The battle of Cassano 1705 (War of the Spanish Succession), painted by Jean Baptiste Martin (1659-1735). Oil on canvas, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, Austria)


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The Battle of Waterloo

battle-of-waterlooThe Battle of Waterloo is fought on Sunday, June 18, 1815 near Waterloo, Belgium, which is part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. The battle marks the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte is defeated by British forces under the command of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington of Dublin and a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The Iron Duke is not the only Irish presence on the battlefield that day. Napoleon’s horse, Marengo, is reared in County Wexford, and the Duke of Wellington’s mount is from County Cork.

Upon Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815, many states that have opposed him form the Seventh Coalition and begin to mobilise armies. Wellington and Blücher’s armies are cantoned close to the northeastern border of France. Napoleon chooses to attack them separately in the hope of destroying them before they can join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. On June 16, he successfully attacks the bulk of the Prussian army at the Battle of Ligny with his main force, while a portion of the French army simultaneously attacks the Anglo-allied army at the Battle of Quatre Bras. Despite holding his ground at Quatre Bras, the defeat of the Prussians forces Wellington to withdraw north to Waterloo on June 17. Napoleon sends a third of his forces to pursue the Prussians, who have withdrawn parallel to Wellington in good order. This results in the separate and simultaneous Battle of Wavre with the Prussian rear-guard.

Upon learning that the Prussian army is able to support him, Wellington decides to offer battle on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment across the Brussels road. Here he withstands repeated attacks by the French throughout the afternoon of June 18, aided by the progressively arriving Prussians. In the evening, Napoleon commits his last reserves, the senior battalions of the French Imperial Guard infantry. The desperate final attack of the Guard is narrowly beaten back. With the Prussians breaking through on the French right flank, Wellington’s Anglo-allied army counter-attacks in the centre, and the French army is routed.

Waterloo is the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon’s last. Napoleon abdicates four days later, and coalition forces enter Paris on July 7. The defeat at Waterloo ends Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French and marks the end of his Hundred Days return from exile. This ends the First French Empire and sets a chronological milestone between serial European wars and decades of relative peace.

The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne, about 15 kilometres south of Brussels, and about 2 kilometres from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield today is dominated by the monument of the Lion’s Mound, constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself. The topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved.


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Death of War Correspondent William Howard Russell

william-howard-russellSir William Howard Russell, an Irish reporter with The Times and considered to be one of the first modern war correspondents, dies in London, England on February 11, 1907.

Russell is born in Tallaght, County Dublin on March 28, 1820. As a young reporter, he reports on the First Schleswig War, a brief military conflict between Prussian and Danish troops in Denmark in 1850.

Initially sent by editor John Delane to Malta to cover British support for the Ottoman Empire against Russia in 1854, Russell despises the term “war correspondent” but his coverage of the conflict brings him international renown, and Florence Nightingale later credits her entry into wartime nursing to his reports. The Crimean medical care, shelter and protection of all ranks by Mary Seacole is also publicised by Russell and by other contemporary journalists, rescuing her from bankruptcy.

His dispatches are hugely significant as for the first time the public can read about the reality of warfare. Shocked and outraged, the public’s backlash from his reports leads the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and leads to Florence Nightingale’s involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment.

On September 20, 1854, Russell covers the battle above the Alma River, writing his missive the following day in an account book seized from a Russian corpse. The story, written in the form of a letter to Delane, is supportive of the British troops and pays particular attention to the battlefield surgeons’ “humane barbarity” and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. He later covers the Siege of Sevastopol where he coins the phrase “thin red line” in referring to British troops at Balaclava.

Following Russell’s reports of the appalling conditions suffered by the Allied troops conducting the siege, including an outbreak of cholera, Samuel Morton Peto and his partners build the Grand Crimean Central Railway, which is a major factor leading to the success of the siege.

Russell spends December 1854 in Constantinople on holiday, returning in early 1855. He leaves Crimea in December 1855 to be replaced by the Constantinople correspondent of The Times.

In 1856 Russell is sent to Moscow to describe the coronation of Tsar Alexander II and in the following year is sent to India where he witnesses the final re-capture of Lucknow.

In 1861 Russell goes to Washington, D.C., returning to England in 1863. In July 1865 he sails on the SS Great Eastern to document the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable and writes a book about the voyage with color illustrations by Robert Dudley. He publishes diaries of his time in India, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, where he describes the warm welcome given him by English-speaking Prussian generals such as Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal.

Russell retires as a battlefield correspondent in 1882 and founds the Army and Navy Gazette. He is knighted in May 1895 and is appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by King Edward VII on August 11, 1902.

Sir William Howard Russell dies on Februry 11, 1907 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.