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


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Birth of Civil War Officer John O’Neill

john-oneillJohn Charles O’Neill, Irish-born officer in the American Civil War and member of the Fenian Brotherhood, is born on March 9, 1834 in Drumgallon, Clontibret, County Monaghan. He is best known for his activities leading the Fenian raids on Canada in 1866 and 1871.

O’Neill receives some schooling in Drumgallon. He emigrates to New Jersey in 1848 at the height of the Great Famine in Ireland. He receives an additional year of education there and works in a number of jobs. In 1857 he enlists in the 2nd United States Dragoons and serves in the Utah War (May 1857 – July 1858), apparently deserting afterwards to California.

In California, he joins the 1st Cavalry and serves as a sergeant in the American Civil War with this regiment until December 1862, at which time he is commissioned as an officer in the 5th Indiana Cavalry. He is credited as being a daring fighting officer, but believes he has not received due promotion, which leads to a transfer to the 17th United States Colored Infantry as captain. He leaves the Union Army prior to the end of the conflict, marrying Mary Crow, with whom he has several children.

While in Tennessee, O’Neill joins the militant Irish American movement, the Fenian Brotherhood, which eschews politics in favor of militant action to expel the British presence in Ireland. He attaches himself to the group led by William Randall Roberts, who wishes to attack Canada.

O’Neill, ranked as colonel, travels to the Canada–US border with a group from Nashville to participate in the Fenian raids. The assigned commander of the expedition does not appear, so O’Neill takes command. On June 1, 1866, he leads a group of six hundred men across the Niagara River and occupies Fort Erie.

The following day, north of Ridgeway, Ontario, O’Neill’s group encounters a detached column of Canadian volunteers, commanded by Lt-Col. Alfred Booker. The inexperienced Canadians are routed by the Civil War veterans. O’Neill withdraws back to Fort Erie and fights a battle against a detachment led by John Stoughton Dennis. With overwhelming numbers of Canadian forces closing in, O’Neill oversees a successful evacuation on the night of June 2-3 back to United States territory. He is later charged with violating the neutrality laws of the United States but the charges are later dropped.

The penetration of O’Neill’s organisation by British and Canadian spies ensures that his next venture into Canada, the Battle of Eccles Hill, in 1870 is known in advance, and Canada is accordingly prepared. After the Battle of Trout River ends in a disorganized rout, O’Neill is arrested by United States Marshal George P. Foster and charged with violating neutrality laws. He is sentenced to two years in prison in July 1870 but he and other Fenians are pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant that October.

Though he renounces the idea of further attacks on Canada, he changes his mind at the urging of an associate of Louis Riel, William Bernard O’Donoghue. With the latter, and without the backing of the bulk of the Fenians, he leads an attack on the Hudson’s Bay Company‘s post at Pembina, Manitoba, on October 5, 1871. The area is then disputed between America and Canada. He is arrested by American troops.

In 1874 O’Neill embarks on a lecture tour along the east coast, encouraging the poor Irish that they would have a better standard of living if they would resettle with him in Nebraska. The first Irish colony in Nebraska is set up in Holt County in the town that bears his name today – O’Neill, Nebraska. His legacy is in the communities that exist in Nebraska today. These settlements are thriving and successful farming communities. John O’Neill can claim credit for the spirit of generosity that is still part of these communities today.

In 1877, while on a speaking tour in Little Rock, Arkansas, O’Neill becomes ill and returns to his home in Nebraska. His condition continues to deteriorate and, after been admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital Omaha in November 1877, suffers a paralytic stroke and dies on January 8, 1878.

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Death of General John Charles O’Neill

general-john-oneillJohn Charles O’Neill, Irish-born officer in the American Civil War and member of the Fenian Brotherhood, dies on January 7, 1878. He is best known for his activities leading the Fenian raids on Canada in 1866 and 1871.

O’Neill is born on March 9, 1834, in Drumgallon, Clontibret, County Monaghan, where he receives some schooling. He emigrates to New Jersey in 1848 at the height of the Great Famine. He receives an additional year of education there and works various jobs. In 1857 he enlists in the 2nd United States Dragoons and serves in the Utah War (May 1857 – July 1858), apparently deserting afterwards to California.

In California, O’Neill joins the 1st Cavalry, and serves as a sergeant in the American Civil War with this regiment until December 1862, at which time he is commissioned as an officer in the 5th Indiana Cavalry. He is credited as being a daring fighting officer but believes he has not received due promotion, which leads to a transfer to the 17th United States Colored Infantry as captain. He leaves the Union Army prior to the end of the conflict, marrying Mary Crow, with whom he has several children.

While in Tennessee, O’Neill joins the militant Irish-American movement, the Fenian Brotherhood, which eschews politics in favor of militant action to expel the British presence in Ireland. He attaches himself to the group led by William Randall Roberts, who wishes to attack Canada.

O’Neill, ranked as colonel, travels to the Canada–US border with a group from Nashville to participate in the Fenian raids. The assigned commander of the expedition does not appear, so O’Neill takes command. On June 1, 1866, he leads a group of six hundred men across the Niagara River and occupies Fort Erie.

The following day, north of Ridgeway, Ontario, O’Neill’s group encounters a detached column of Canadian volunteers, commanded by Lt-Col. Alfred Booker. The inexperienced Canadians are routed by the Civil War veterans. O’Neill withdraws back to Fort Erie and fights a battle against a detachment led by John Stoughton Dennis. With overwhelming numbers of Canadian forces closing in, O’Neill oversees a successful evacuation on the night of June 2-3 back to United States territory. He is later charged with violating the neutrality laws of the United States, but the charge is dropped.

The split between two factions of the Fenians remain, and penetration of O’Neill’s organisation by British and Canadian spies ensures that his next venture into Canada in 1870 is known in advance, and Canada is accordingly prepared. After the Battle of Trout River ends in a disorganized rout, O’Neill is arrested by United States Marshal George P. Foster and charged with violating neutrality laws. That leads to O’Neill’s imprisonment in July 1870 with a sentence of two years, but he and other Fenians are pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant that October.

Though O’Neill renounces the idea of further attacks on Canada, he changes his mind at the urging of an associate of Louis Riel, William Bernard O’Donoghue. With the latter, and without the backing of the bulk of the Fenians, he leads an attack on the Hudson’s Bay Company‘s post at Pembina, Manitoba, on October 5, 1871. The area is then disputed between America and Canada. He is arrested by American troops.

Following his military career, O’Neill works for a firm of land speculators in Holt County, Nebraska. He dies of a paralytic stroke on January 7, 1878, and is buried in Omaha, Nebraska.


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The Opening of Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo, located in Phoenix Park, Dublin, opens on September 1, 1831. It is the largest zoo in Ireland and one of Dublin’s most popular attractions. The zoo describes its role as conservation, study, and education. Its stated mission is to “work in partnership with zoos worldwide to make a significant contribution to the conservation of the endangered species on Earth.”

Covering over 28 hectares (69 acres) of Phoenix Park, the Dublin Zoo is divided into areas named Asian Forests, Orangutan Forest, The Kaziranga Forest Trail, Fringes of the Arctic, Sea Lion Cove, African Plains, Roberts House, House of Reptiles, City Farm and South American House.

The Royal Zoological Society of Dublin is established at a meeting held at the Rotunda Hospital on May 10, 1830. The zoo, then called the Zoological Gardens Dublin, initially opens to the public with 46 mammals and 72 birds, all donated by London Zoo.

The initial entry charge per person is sixpence, which is a sizable sum at the time and limits admission to relatively wealthy middle-class people. What makes Dublin Zoo very different from some of its contemporaries is a decision to reduce the charge to one penny on Sundays. This makes a day at the zoo something that nearly every Dubliner can afford once in a while and it becomes very popular.

In 1833, the original cottage-style entrance lodge to the zoo is built at a cost of £30. The thatch-roofed building is still visible to the right of the current entrance. In 1838, to celebrate Queen Victoria‘s coronation, the zoo holds an open day on which 20,000 people visit. This remains the highest number of visitors in one day. President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant, after leaving office, is among the celebrities who come to see Dublin’s world-famous lions in the 19th century. In 1844 the zoo receives its first giraffe, and in 1855 it purchases its first pair of lions.

In 2015, Dublin Zoo is the third most popular visitor attraction in Ireland with 1,105,005 visitors.

Dublin Zoo is part of a worldwide programme to breed endangered species. It is a member of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which helps the conservation of endangered species in Europe. Each species supervised by the EEP has a single coordinator that is responsible for the building of breeding groups with the aim of obtaining a genetically balanced population.

Dublin Zoo manages the EEP for the golden lion tamarin and the Moluccan cockatoo. It also houses members of the species Goeldi’s monkey and the white-faced saki monkey which are part of EEPs coordinated by other zoos. The focus is on conservation, which includes breeding and protecting endangered species, as well as research, study and education.


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Birth of Patrick Henry Jones, Postmaster of New York City

patrick-henry-jonesPatrick Henry Jones, American lawyer, public servant, and Postmaster of New York City during the mid-to late 19th century, is born on November 20, 1830, in County Westmeath.

Jones attends grammar school in Dublin for three years until emigrating with his family to the United States in 1840. They settle on a farm in Cattaraugus County, New York where Jones spends most of his childhood. Because of his poor background, he receives only a limited education at the Union School in Ellicottville. In 1850, the 20-year-old Jones becomes involved in journalism and travels as a correspondent throughout the Western States for a leading New York journal. He later becomes the local editor for the Buffalo Republic and one of the editors of the Buffalo Sentinel.

Eventually, Jones decides to pursue a career in law and later studies under the firm of Addison Rice. He is admitted to the bar in 1856 and afterwards practices law with Addison in Ellicottville as a full partner. By 1860, he has established himself as one of the most prominent lawyers in western New York. A lifelong Democrat, he becomes disillusioned by the party’s support of Southern succession from the Union and, in May 1861, decides to join the military in defense of the United States.

Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jones readily joins the Union Army. On July 7, 1861, he enlisted with the 37th New York Volunteers, popularly known as the “Irish Rifles”, under Colonel John H. McCunn. Jones has a successful career serving in the Union Army, being involved in thirty major battles and countless skirmishes, and reaching the rank of brigadier general. He remains at that rank for the rest of the war and resigns on June 17, 1865. He is one of ten Irish Americans to become brigade commanders and one of four Irish-born officers to become a divisional commander.

After his resignation, Jones resumes his law practice in Ellicottville and in November 1865 is elected on the Republican ticket as Clerk of the New York Court of Appeals. On August 13, 1868, Jones is appointed by Gov. Reuben E. Fenton as Register of New York City to fill the vacancy resulting from the death of Charles G. Halpine. On April 1, 1869, Jones is appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as Postmaster of New York City. From 1875 to 1877, Jones is again Register of New York City, elected in November 1874 on the Republican ticket. Afterwards he resumes his private practice.

In 1878, Jones is involved in the Alexander T. Stewart bodysnatching case when he is contacted by the kidnappers to act as an intermediary between themselves and the Stewart estate. When negotiations stall between the Stewart family’s lawyer Henry Hilton, he assists Stewart’s widow in negotiating for the return of her husband’s body.

Jones suffers serious medical problems in his old age, specifically deafness and chronic diarrhea, which his physician blames on his exposure to artillery fire and his time in the swamps along the Chickahominy River during his military service. He also suffered from constant pain in his right sciatic nerve, attributed to his old war wound suffered at Chancellorsville, as well as his wound in the gluteal region.

In early July 1900, Jones begins suffering from severe gastroenteritis. His condition does not respond to therapeutic treatments as he loses control of his bowels and is unable to keep down solid food, living on scalded milk and brandy. On July 18, 1900, Jones dies from cardiac failure, indirectly caused by his gastroenteritis, at his home in Port Richmond, New York. His funeral is held at St. Mary’s Church two days later and he is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery.


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Death of General Philip Henry Sheridan

philip-sheridanIrish American General Philip Henry Sheridan, career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War, dies of heart disease in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on August 5, 1888.

Sheridan is born in Albany, New York, the third child of six by John and Mary Meenagh Sheridan, immigrants from the parish of Killinkere, County Cavan. Fully grown, he reaches only 5 feet 5 inches in height, a stature that leads to the nickname “Little Phil.” Abraham Lincoln describes his appearance in a famous anecdote, “A brown, chunky little chap, with a long body, short legs, not enough neck to hang him, and such long arms that if his ankles itch he can scratch them without stooping.”

Sheridan’s career is noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant, who transfers Sheridan from command of an infantry division in the Western Theater to lead the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the East. In 1864, he defeats Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and his destruction of the economic infrastructure of the Valley, called “The Burning” by residents, is one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics in the war. In 1865, his cavalry pursues General Robert E. Lee and is instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox Court House.

In later years, Sheridan fights in the Indian Wars of the Great Plains. Comanche Chief Tosahwi reputedly tells Sheridan in 1869, “Me, Tosahwi; me good Injun,” to which Sheridan supposedly replies, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” Sheridan denies he had ever made the statement. Biographer Roy Morris Jr. states that, nevertheless, popular history credits Sheridan with saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” This variation “has been used by friends and enemies ever since to characterize and castigate his Indian-fighting career.” In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown attributes the quote to Sheridan but does not provide documentation to support his contention, so the quote may be more apocryphal than real.

Both as a soldier and private citizen, Sheridan is instrumental in the development and protection of Yellowstone National Park. The protection of the Yellowstone area is Sheridan’s personal crusade. He authorizes Lieutenant Gustavus Doane to escort the Washburn Expedition in 1870 and for Captain John W. Barlow to escort the Hayden Expedition in 1871. Barlow names Mount Sheridan, a peak overlooking Heart Lake in Yellowstone, for the general in 1871. As early as 1875, Sheridan promotes military control of the area to prevent the destruction of natural formations and wildlife.

In 1883, Sheridan is appointed general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, and in 1888 he is promoted to the rank of General of the Army during the term of President Grover Cleveland. Sheridan serves as the ninth president of the National Rifle Association.

Sheridan suffers a series of massive heart attacks two months after sending his memoirs to the publisher. After his first heart attack, the U.S. Congress quickly passes legislation to promote him to general and he receives the news from a congressional delegation with joy, despite his pain. His family moves him from the heat of Washington, D.C. and he dies of heart failure in his summer cottage in the Nonquitt section of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

His body is returned to Washington and he is buried on a hillside facing the capital city near Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery. The burial helps elevate Arlington to national prominence.