On behalf of the New York State AOH Board; I would like to thank the Veterans not just of our Order but all Nation wide. We owe each of you a debt of gratitude. It is because of your work and sacrifice, we enjoy the many freedoms we have in the United States of America. Thank you and God Bless!
Thomas Lambert NYSAOH President
THE IRISH BRIGADE COMES HOME TO NEW YORK
By Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian
Prior to the American Civil War, the regular Army was small reflecting the logic that America was best defended by hundreds of volunteer militia units. Many were little more than glorified fraternal organizations, filled with men who liked to parade, drink, and sometimes drill. New York had the Continental Guards, German Black Sharp-shooters and Hungarian Kossuth Rifles among others. Not to be outdone, the Irish formed the O’Connell Guards, Irish Rifles and Irish Zouaves. The more serious of these units were mustered into a formal state militia. On October 12, 1851, the 69th New York State Militia Regiment was officially organized. It consisted of eight companies of 643 men each, most of Irish birth or parentage. Within a year it topped 1,000. The regiment would go on to earn fame and glory during the Civil War as a key part of the Irish Brigade. The heroic sacrifice of the Irish in battle boosted the reputation of the Irish in America and provided a new and more ennobling meaning to the term “fighting Irish.”
When the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, Regimental Colonel Sligo-born Michael Corcoran called for the American Irish to join the 69th. More than 5,000 applied for only 1,500 billets and 11 days later, Corcoran and his regiment marched down Broadway and steamed away to defend the Union capital in D.C. The first test for the 69th was the Battle of Bull Run. In their first battle, the inexperienced Union army cut and ran back to D.C., but one unit that earned praise was the 69th Regiment who stayed to provide cover for the fleeing troops. They were the last to leave the field suffering 97 casualties and 95 captured, including Colonel Corcoran. The 69th returned to NY to rebuild their tattered ranks. Acting Commander, Captain Thomas Francis Meagher, began recruiting from the Hibernian House on Prince Street. When thousands of Irish responded, Meagher requested permission to form a Brigade. The Army was against forming ethnic brigades, but since England was trading with the Confederacy, they felt that fielding an Irish unit might just give the British pause and so they agreed and the Irish Brigade was born. It included the 69th, 88th and 63rd NY regiments and, later, the 28th Mass and 116th Pennsylvania. Some joined for the $300 signing bonus which was sent to family in Ireland, some out of a sense of duty toward their adopted land and some because of British support for the Confederacy.
The Irish Brigade saw some of the war’s harshest battles and they earned a reputation as the most courageous unit in the Army of the Potomac. After one battle, President Lincoln visiting the troops lifted a corner of the Irish battle flag, kissed it and said, God Bless the Irish Flag. Meagher had ordered 69-caliber smoothbore muskets for his men. They were considered obsolete, but very effective at close range which was the style of fighting he wanted because they fired the more deadly buck and ball ammunition and could take down 3 men at a time. Close up fighting made the Brigade fearsome, but also produced heavy casualties since they had to get up close to be effective. The Brigade fought in every campaign of the Army of the Potomac, from the peninsular campaign in 1862 to the surrender of Lee at Appomattox in 1865. At Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac, the figure of General Meagher was seen leading his men into battle. Between campaigns new Irish were recruited to replace the fallen. Among all their battles the three most costly were Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. The Sept, 1862 battle of Antietam was the deadliest day in American history, with 23,000 killed and wounded. The Brigade suffered 540 casualties and Gen McClelland later wrote, The Irish Brigade sustained their well-earned reputation, suffering terribly in officers and men, and strewing the ground with their enemies, as they drove them back. Three months later, the Brigade assaulted Confederate entrenchments along Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg achieving international fame with the tenacity of their attack and eliciting cheers from their rebel adversaries, many of whom were Irish themselves. The next day, only 280 of 1,300 men were able to report for duty. Gen. Robert E. Lee later wrote, Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry. In July 1863 at Gettysburg they successfully countered a Confederate offensive near Little Round Top losing 202 men killed out of 530. When Lee finally surrendered to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865, the Brigade was there. One rebel officer told a Union officer, the only reason you won was because you had more Irish than we had! On May 23 and 24, 1865 they paraded in review in Washington D.C. and in the following months, they returned to their homes to celebrate the new national holiday declared by President Lincoln two years earlier — Thanksgiving. Returning to New York, they received a tumultuous welcome from not only the Irish citizens, but from all who had followed their courageous history.
In post-war America, the Irish still faced poverty but discrimination had diminished. Many Americans accorded the Irish a new level of respect since many thousands had made the ultimate sacrifice defending the Union and, as a testament to their bravery, 7 were presented with the Medal of Honor. Soon it became unfashionable to discriminate against the Irish and the NO IRISH NEED APPLY signs began to disappear from Help Wanted ads. And that was perhaps the greatest victory for the Irish Brigade. Of the 7,715 men who served in its ranks, 961 were killed and more than 3,000 were wounded – more than ever served in its ranks at any one time. The 69th NY suffered 75 per cent casualties while the British Light Brigade memorialized by Alfred Lord Tennyson for riding into the ‘Valley of Death’ lost less than 37 per cent. There is no famous verse for the Irish, but author Joseph Bilby in his book Remember Fontenoy wrote, The Irish Brigade was, many said, the best brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Some said it was the best brigade in the whole Union army and perhaps the best infantry brigade on either side. Today, others with the perspective of history have come to believe it may have been the best infantry brigade that ever was!
On behalf of the New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians, I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of longtime AOH member and Past Division President Joe Weissenberger, Division 3 Kevin Barry, Kings Park, Suffolk County. Please join myself and the rest of the state, in prayers not only for Joe, but his wife Della, their children, and grand children.
Funeral arrangements can be found by going to:
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis
(May his faithful soul rest at the right hand of God)
New York Ancient Order of Hibernians President
Congressman Brian Higgins, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, representing Buffalo and Niagara Falls New York, recently met with New York State AOH President Tom Lambert and District 2 Director Craig Speers where issues affecting Ireland and Irish America were discussed. The Congressman specifically commented on Brexit by noting “Brexit’s backstop should be Irish unity”. Mr. Higgins also noted that with its self-inflicted political dysfunction of Brexit, Britain has “influenced growing support for Irish unity.”
The AOH leaders met the Congressman to discuss Irish community concerns about, issues including Brexit, legacy and freedom for all Ireland. The two AOH leaders also discussed Congressman Higgins’ recent trip to Ireland along with Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Neal, then expressed appreciation to Congressman Higgins for all he has done on crucial Irish issues.
New York State AOH President Tom Lambert noted:
“Congressman Higgins has a long record of support on Irish issues. However, it is important for our elected representatives to hear how much their work on Irish issues means to their voters”.
“The AOH believes that American Congressional scrutiny can help make a difference on issues like Brexit, immigration and all for legacy victims in their long fight for truth and justice. We welcome Congressman Higgins’ statement and as NY State AOH President I am encouraging our members around the state to meet with their local elected officials”.
Congrats to the New York State Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians on receiving the Second Place AOH Marching Unit award from the March 16, 2019 NYC St Patrick’s Day Parade. On hand to accept the award from the NYS board was John Manning NYS AOH Vice President, Immediate Past NYS AOH President Victor Vogel, and NYS AOH Treasurer Tom Beirne.
Worthy President Tom Lambert is happy to report that a contract has been signed for the 2021 NYS AOH / LAOH Convention in Syracuse at the newly renovated Marriott Syracuse downtown. Congratulations to the Brothers and Sisters of the host committee!
FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
NYAOH FFAI Chair
National AOH FFAI Chair
A-Boris Johnson unveils border checks Brexit plan after illegal Westminster suspension-Boris Johnson revealed his Brexit plan to replace the “backstop” (or insurance policy drawn up to keep a free-flowing border on the island of Ireland). Johnson detailed his plan after his attempt to suspend or prorogue Westminster was declared illegal by the British Supreme Court. He wants the six counties to leave the European Union’s customs union when Britain does at the start of 2021.Howeve the north would, with Stormont approval, apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products -in what he calls an “all-island regulatory zone”. This arrangement would need new Stormont approval every four years. There would be physical customs checks or a hard border at specified locations across Ireland, although he says these will be at a few locations near but not on the border. The British promised to give the north grants to deal with the impact. The European Commission simply said these proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”. Sinn Fein called the plans a “non-starter”, the Social Democratic and Labour Party said they were “dead on arrival”, and even the Ulster Unionist Party argued the north would be left in a “perpetual cycle of uncertainty”, needing a vote every four years.
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said “We don’t see how the proposal to have two different customs territories on the island of Ireland can avoid customs checks between those territories.” He also questioned Johnson’s idea to give the collapsed Stormont Assembly a vote both on whether to opt into the all-island regulatory system in 2021, and whether to remain in it after an initial four-year period. The proposed Stormont vote every four years would hand the DUP a veto. Arlene Foster of the DUP reacted angrily to Irish objections saying it was Dublin’s “majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism”. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal was “not acceptable” while the Liberal Democrats’ leader Jo Swinson accused Mr Johnson of not being “serious about getting a deal”. Labour MP Hilary Benn, chairman of the Commons Brexit Committee said the proposals were “worse than Theresa May’s”, asking: “How will it help peace and stability in Northern Ireland if every four years there is a divisive debate about whether to follow British or EU rules?” Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the proposals were “designed to fail”. If the EU and Johnson cannot agree to terms ratified at Westminster by October 19th, the British prime minister will be mandated by the Benn Act to ask the EU for another extension on Brexit. Johnson repeatedly said he will leave the EU on October 31st. Ireland is at the heart of this crisis because Brexit would make the six counties Europe’s land border with Britain and force customs, import and immigration checks. The EU offered to allow the north to remain in the customs union, with customs controls etc beginning in the Irish sea, (meaning at entry points into England, Scotland or Wales).The Tory Party, needing DUP votes at Westminster, vetoed any “backstop” or safety net as the DUP demanded. The “backstop” would only have taken effect if a full trade agreement was not reached by the end of 2020.The new plan would mean two borders and divisive Stormont votes every four years.
B–Bloody Sunday prosecution brings Derry relief London protests- The case against the only British trooper being prosecuted for fourteen Bloody Sunday murders, reached a Derry courtroom for the first time. The former British trooper known as “Soldier F” in Court proceedings is charged with murdering James Wray and William McKinney, along with attempting to murder 5 others. He did not appear personally, but his counsel requested a committal hearing disputing whether there was sufficient evidence for the case to go forward. The matter was adjourned until December 4th for the preliminary hearing. Brothers of murder victims Liam Wray and Mickey McKinney attended the brief hearing along with other Bloody Sunday families, Derry political leaders and hundreds of others. Liam Wray said it was a “historic day” and his family was “glad and relieved that this day has arrived after 47 years.” Mickey McKinney called it “a significant event for us on the journey towards achieving the third and final demand of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign-the prosecution of a soldier for murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday.” Meanwhile in London thousands of ex-troopers including hundreds of bikers brought central London to a standstill as organizer Gavin Wragg called the prosecution “one of the crimes of the century” and crown “appeasement of the IRA”
C-Constabulary must investigate torture of Hooded Men-The Hooded Men have won the latest stage of a legal battle to force an investigation into torture by the British Army in 1971.The Court of Appeal in Belfast said the constabulary must obey a lower Court order requiring them to investigate charges that torture had been approved by British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the British government. Declan Morgan, the north’s most senior judge, said the treatment of the men “would, if it occurred today, properly be called torture”. The Hooded Men were interned without charge in August 1971. The 14 men were forced to listen to constant loud static noise; deprived of sleep, food and water; forced to stand in a stress position and beaten if they fell. They were hooded and thrown from helicopters a short distance off the ground – having been told they were hundreds of feet in the air and made to run gauntlets over broken glass. Francie McGuigan, who spoke to the AOH Tour last February, said after the ruling, he still felt the effects of what was done to him.”What they had done to my brain and my body – I finished up that I couldn’t spell my own name,” he said.”That is torture – it was torture then, it is torture today and it always will be torture and it has to be stopped throughout the world”. Mr McGuigan added: “The High Court was right when it said there should be an investigation to identify and hold to account those ministers, Ministry of Defence and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers who were responsible for authorising and carrying out torture on us. After waiting for justice for nearly five decades the time for accountability is long overdue”. Their case against the PSNI was supported by human rights campaign group Amnesty International. Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said the appeal court ruling was a vindication for the men’s “fight for justice and offers hope for torture victims around the world.”
D-British Army killed unionist then blamed IRA admits HET-The family of a Protestant security guard shot dead in Belfast in 1972,went public to correct the record to show that 56 year old Thomas Mills was shot dead by the British Army, which then blamed the IRA. The Mills family had been told that the IRA killed Thomas Mills as he worked as a security guard in a Belfast factory. This claim was not challenged in the original Coroner’s Court Inquest. The family had always accepted this version but wanted an investigation by the Historical Enquiries Team within the Constabulary to get more facts about IRA involvement in the murder of their loved one. However the HET revealed that British troopers had shot and killed Mr. Mills then blamed it on the IRA to avoid bad publicity. Family lawyer Paul McNickle said “This family has been waiting 47 years for the truth about their father.” Mr. Mills’ daughter Margaret Blac said “We certainly did not go looking for this. It came to us”. The Mills family believes that others are in the same position. They are waiting for another Coroner’s Court hearing to establish how their father was murdered by the British Army and why the truth was hidden from them for decades.
AOH FIGHTS JOHNSON’S LEGACY SHUTDOWN WITH THOMPSON TOUR
After Brexit, Boris Johnson and the Tories vow to shutdown prosecutions of British troopers for murdering the Irish, and plan to end hopes for justice by cutting off truth mechanisms once and for all. The AOH will stand behind these families and fight Britain’s legacy cover-up! We are bringing back Mark Thompson, of Relatives for Justice in mid-November.
His schedule will include:
Chicago- Friday November 15th
Ohio-Saturday November 16th (location being arranged by Danny O’Connell and Denny Parks)
New Jersey-Monday 18th-Sean Pender and Malachy McAllister
Washington DC-November 19-20TH
Albany-Friday-22nd-Fr. Murphy Awards Night
Bronx, New York at Rory Dolan’s on Sunday 24th
Mark’s visit to Washington can be another step in building up a network of Congressmen, who are aware of key FFAI issues and the importance of Irish issues to voters in their district. Brothers living in Congressional districts across the country, are a key part of this effort. FFAI is calling upon AOH members across the country to contact your local Senators and Congressmen, and ask will they make time to hear Mark Thompson in Washington D.C. on November 19th or 20th.
Within the next two weeks the AOH will begin this year’s Christmas Appeal. Britain still denies truth and justice to the families of victims murdered by the crown or loyalist agents in places like Ballymurphy or Loughinisland. Brexit threatens catastrophe across Ireland. They even refuse an Irish Language Act. The Stormont Assembly does not function because of unionist bigotry. Instead of opening the door to Irish national freedom, Britain and the DUP want to nail that door shut. America can make a difference, but only if the AOH and LAOH, as the voice of the Irish in America, lead the way. Our donations to carefully chosen charities through monies raised by the FFAI Annual Christmas Appeal, alongside our political and educational campaigns, are the cornerstone of our FFAI initiative.
Our National Officers are asking for a commitment from everyone to participate and support FFAI with a donation or fundraising event. Please donate and help the AOH and LAOH make the difference. Help make Freedom for all Ireland, not an aspiration or endeavor but the reality for those Irish people still denied it! Don’t let them down!!!
MALACHY MCALLISTER DEPORTATION FIGHT
Remember Malachy McAllister’s fight against deportation. Malachy has multiple grounds which should entitle him to legal permanent residence under American law. He is a prominent AOH member, key member of the National FFAI Committee, and respected member of the Irish-American community. He was a political prisoner decades ago in a war that is long over, after being targeted by British agents within loyalist paramilitaries.
AOH members, particularly those represented by Republican Senators or Congressmen can help. Already a Call to Action, from our National President, was answered by state chairs in Texas and South Carolina, and gotten important support. If we can get Congressional or Senate support especially in the Judiciary Committee we can move the bill forward and keep Malachy McAllister here!!!
FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN
Please read and distribute the monthly FFAI Bulletin. The is now available on AOH national email blasts, or on the New York State and National AOH web sites. We want to give you monthly updates on key events in the north with short analysis and explanation.
by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian
On October 6, 1891, Ireland lost her uncrowned king. His name was Charles Stewart Parnell, a Protestant Squire from Avondale in Co. Wicklow, the son of an English father and an American mother. The maternal grandfather for whom he was named was Charles Stewart: Commanding Officer of U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) during the War of 1812; the U.S. Navy’s first Rear Admiral (an appointment made by President Lincoln in 1862); and a genuine hero. On February 20 1815, with a strategy described by James Fenimore Cooper as, the most brilliant maneuvering in naval annals, Stewart, heavily outmanned and outgunned, soundly defeated and captured two British ships off the coast of Spain. He was awarded the freedom of the city of New York and the thanks of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who presented him with a gold sword.
Young Squire Parnell was indeed of respectable stock and in 1875 was elected to the House of Commons where, it was expected; he would serve dutifully and create no great sensation. Parnell however, inherited his grandfather’s strong sense of moral justice and he took up the cause of Home Rule ─ a program calling for an end to the British Parliament in Ireland and the establishment of an Irish Parliament with full control of Ireland’s domestic affairs. In taking up the cause, Parnell became the champion of the Irish people.
Landlords in Ireland, reacting to the changing European economy, were turning their holdings from farming to cattle grazing and thousands of tenant farmers were being dispossessed. Parnell supported Michael Davitt’s Land League against the rack-renting landlords, and eventually became its President. He urged tenant opposition to landlords through boycotts and rent refusal, and in 1879, sailed to America to address the U.S. Congress on the problem. His sister, Fanny, set up an American Land League to raise and channel relief funds to the Irish League in order to defend the tenant farmers in court, making dispossession at least costly for the landlord. The significance of this action is evident from British statistics which show that between 1849 and 1882, 482,000 families had been evicted.
In spite of the League’s limited success, a virtual land war continued between landlords and tenants. The Crown reacted with arrests, but the situation remained tense. In order to avert open rebellion, the Land Act of 1881 was passed. It was a weak law, but it defused the situation until the government could act. The Land League was declared illegal and its leaders arrested. In the House of Commons, Parnell was accused of fomenting rebellion, but refused to answer the charge declaring that he drew his support from the people and he would only allow the people to judge him; he saw no need to defend his actions to England. Referred to as the uncrowned King of Ireland, Parnell was at the height of his popularity, though his health was beginning to fail. He threw his support to Gladstone in the 1886 British election, and engineered the defeat of the Tories. He was now at the height of his power as well. Gladstone fulfilled his promise to Parnell and introduced a Home Rule Bill, but it was defeated by the House of Lords. Parnell demanded another; in the eyes of many he was becoming too powerful.
Soon, a series of articles appeared in the British press accusing Parnell of instigating a crime-wave against the landlords and a special commission was appointed to investigate. In spite of perjury and bribery, Parnell defeated his detractors but he made many enemies in Parliament, even though they dared not act against him. Their opportunity came when an MP named Capt O’Shea filed for divorce from his wife naming Parnell as co-respondent. Parnell, in typical fashion, gave no defense to Parliament. Instead of feeding the scandal, he chose to save his career by working harder than he had ever worked in his life despite his failing health. Gladstone used the incident as an excuse to rid himself of Parnell and agitated against him. The Catholic Church joined the detractors and publicly condemned him as an adulterer for his affair with Kitty O’Shea. Parnell began to lose support among the Irish for the first time since he devoted his life to their welfare.
On Sept 27 1891, he attended a public meeting in Galway against the advice of his doctors. He had promised to speak, and would not disappoint those who had remained loyal to him. It was his last appearance; on October 6, he died. He was buried at Glasnevin beside Daniel O’Connell after a funeral procession that could only be termed magnificent. In the eyes of some he had erred and was punished. The tragedy of Parnell is that, in spite of his dedication and superhuman efforts, England was able to sow division among the Irish. Parnell shall nevertheless be eternally remembered for the words he defiantly spoke in Parliament which are now engraved on his monument in O’Connell St, Dublin: No man has a right to fix a boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a right to say thus far shalt thou go and no further. We have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland’s nationhood and we never shall!