DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE MITCHELS OF DUNGIVEN

John Mitchel was born to a radical Presbyterian minister, in Dungiven, Ireland, in 1815. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin and became a lawyer and journalist.  An outspoken nationalist, his love for Ireland led him to establish the United Irishman newspaper in 1848, but his impassioned articles soon led to his arrest on a charge of treason.  Found guilty, he was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).  In 1853 he escaped and made his way to the United States.  He settled in the south where he published a newspaper, and gave three sons to the Confederate cause in the American Civil War.

His eldest son, Captain John C. Mitchel, First South Carolina Artillery, opened the barrage on Charleston’s Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 that started the American Civil War.  Later, in command of that same Fort, he was killed during a Union barrage.  His sword is in a glass case in a Charleston museum with a confederate flag, both gifted by his mother in 1896. A display plate reads: The sword worn by Capt John C. Mitchel, First Regiment, South Carolina Artillery and the flag that waved over Fort Sumter on July 20, 1864, the day he was killed.  His dying words were ‘I willingly give my life for South Carolina.  Oh, that I could have died for Ireland! Those words are also inscribed on his headstone in nearby Magnolia Cemetery, in a plot shaped in the outline of Fort Sumter.

His youngest son, Willie, joined the First Virginia Regiment and was killed in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 carrying his regiment’s colors.  After the battle, members of the Union Army’s Irish Brigade, learned from Confederate Irish captives that John Mitchel’s son had fallen on the field.  They left a detachment behind to locate the body.  It was discovered in a shallow grave wrapped in a blanket secured with three pins and a note attached that read, Willie Mitchel, son of an Irish patriot.

Captain James Mitchel was the only son to survive the war, but he lost an arm in combat.  After the war he relocated north and settled in the Bronx, NY.  He became involved in politics and became a City Fire Marshal.  He went after and jailed a number of arsonist gangs who made a living hiring out to businessmen who wanted to collect on insurance claims.  He thereby incurred the wrath of several big businessmen and he lost his job in a political feud.  He married the sister of County Clerk Henry Purroy and they had one son.  They named him John Purroy Mitchel after James father and his mother’s maiden name.

Meanwhile, old John himself returned to Ireland in 1874 and the following year was elected to the House of Commons from Tipperary.  Denied his seat because he was considered a felon, he returned to his constituency and was overwhelmingly re-elected.  However, he died before he could take his seat.

 

The last surviving male in the Mitchel line was young John Purroy Mitchel.  Somehow, the family had become Roman Catholic and young John Purroy Mitchel was educated at Fordham University.  Raised with the same strong sense of patriotism and civic duty that marked his father and grandfather, after graduating Law School, he became an incorruptible reformer fighting the graft of Tammany Hall.  His successes led him to become the youngest man ever elected Mayor of New York City (1914-1917) at age 34.  While in office Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and professionalized the city’s civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees.  Widely known as the “Boy Mayor,” he also fought police corruption, instituted the nation’s first zoning guidelines, and appointed the first woman to lead a major municipal agency in any U.S. city.

After his term as Mayor, World War I was raging and young John joined the new Army Aviation Service.  Sadly, Major Mitchel was killed in an accident during a training flight in Louisiana; he was only 38 years old.  New York and the nation responded with a flurry of eulogies and memorials, including a Mitchel Square memorial park at 167th Street and Broadway and a memorial bust at the entrance to Central Park on 5th Avenue at 90th Street.  The next time you end the NY St. Patrick’s Parade on Fifth Avenue, walk up a few blocks and check it out.  Also named in honor of this beloved public servant and American patriot was Mitchel Field, a former Army Air Service airfield on Long Island from where Charles Lindbergh took off on the first trans Atlantic flight to Paris.  As he flew over Ireland, I wonder if Lucky Lindy realized he was flying over the resting place of the grandfather of the man for whom his point of departure was named.  Among the many eulogies given at Mitchel’s passing, President Theodore Roosevelt was moved to say, No stauncher American, no abler public servant, and no finer natural soldier than [John] Purroy Mitchel was to be found in all our country.

John Purroy Mitchel’s patriotism for America was a reflection of his grandfather’s patriotism for Ireland and his sense of justice was the same as his father’s.  It seems that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Thomas Francis Meager

On August 3, 1823, a boy was born who became a hero to three lands: Ireland, Australia, and the United States. His grandfather’s successful trading business made it easy for his father to own a small hotel and pub in County Waterford, where, Thomas Francis Meagher was born. Young Tom was educated at a Jesuit boarding school, and later at a Jesuit college in England where he earned a reputation as an effective orator.

He returned to Ireland in 1843, just two years before the Great Hunger, and saw his countrymen starve while the landlord’s crops grew in abundance for export.  Infuriated, he became a vocal opponent of the Crown’s policy of Laissez Faire, joined the Young Ireland movement, and began to preach insurrection. He wrote for The Nation newspaper, and earned respect as a spokesman for the nationalist cause. Upon his return from a visit to post-revolutionary France, he introduced a tricolor which Ireland eventually adopted as her national flag.

After an aborted rising in 1848, Meagher was arrested, and sentenced to life  at the penal colony in Australia.  After three years, he escaped to New York, where he received a hero’s welcome from the New York Irish for his part in the rising of 1848.  Meagher married in 1855, became an American citizen in 1857, and commanded a company in New York’s 69th Militia, locally known as Corcoran’s Irish Legion.  At the outbreak of the American Civil War, New York’s 69th was the first to volunteer.  Battered at the first Battle of Bull Run where Colonel Corcoran was captured, Meagher was asked to reorganize the regiment, but he did better than that; he organized a Brigade.  The Irish Brigade under the command of the newly-appointed General Thomas Francis Meagher, fought heroically at the bloodiest battles of the war; at almost every major engagement fought by the Army of the Potomac, the figure of General Meagher was seen leading his men into battle.  By war’s end Meagher had earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most effective leaders.

After the war, President Johnson appointed him Secretary of the new Montana Territory.  In August 1865, the young Irishman and his wife, Elizabeth, left for Montana.  Upon arrival, the Territorial Governor handed him the  papers of office, saying he was unable to stand the rigors of the frontier and headed back to Ohio.  Meagher thus became the acting Governor of the Territory.  Having seen so much danger in his young life, one could hardly have blamed Meagher if he had turned his back on the responsibility just thrust upon him, but he was no quitter; President Johnson had asked him to bring Montana into the Union as a state, and he was determined to do it.

He was immediately opposed by powerful men who had carved a profitable empire out of the Montana wilderness, for statehood would threaten their private domains.  Vigilante groups threatened Meagher’s life and slanderous rumors were spread in an attempt to reverse his popularity. Yet he became popular with the people of Montana, especially the Irish who had migrated west after the Civil War, but when he called for a territorial legislature, he angered the profiteers.  With danger on all sides from vigilantes and local Indians, he convinced his old friend General Sherman, to send a shipment of rifles up the Missouri to Fort Benton.  Meagher and a few of his officers rode overland for six days in the heat of a Montana July to meet the shipment.  Dehydrated and  ill on arrival, Meagher retired to a stateroom aboard the G.A.Thompson, a boat piloted by an old friend, Johnny Doran.

As he lay his fevered head on the shipboard berth, he may have reminisced on the words spoken at a Virginia City rally six months earlier, Beware young Chief; you have done too much to bring the traffickers in the political market into disrepute and bankruptcy, not to have provoked their vengeance.  That night July 1, 1867, Thomas Francis Meagher disappeared.  His body was never found, and rumor mongers spread the story that he had fallen overboard in a drunken stupor and drowned.  There was no one to dispute the claim, but few who knew the man ever believed it.  His loving wife walked the banks of the Missouri for two months seeking his body in vain.

Then, in May of 1913, a dying man in Missoula, Montana, called for the local newspaper to witness his deathbed confession.  He was a local ne’er-do-well named Frank Diamond, and he swore that he would not go to judgement without clearing his conscience of an awful deed that he had been paid to do many years before.  Then he told the startled press that he had murdered Thomas Francis Meagher, under orders from the local vigilantes, and thrown his body overboard on that hot July night, 46 years earlier.  Members of old and prominent Montana families, who had descended from the early Vigilantes and profited from Meagher’s demise, swore that Diamond was an irresponsible liar, but men don’t lie on their deathbed.  Those who knew the character of Thomas Francis Meagher were relieved that the truth had finally been revealed, yet Frank Diamond, was never prosecuted for the crime.  He unexpectedly recovered from his malady, immediately recanted his confession and said no more about the incident.

Thus, the exact details of Meagher’s demise remain clouded by time and temperament, yet one positive consequence evolved from the controversy surrounding the confession.  In the eyes of many, the character of Thomas Frances Meagher had been exonerated.  He had not fallen overboard in a drunken stupor, but fallen in service to others: as he had served all his life – a life that began as an Irish patriot, continued as he broke his chains of bondage in Australia, and ended as an American legislator.  He was truly a hero in three lands.

The Bloody Shamrock

Before the Civil War, the 69th NY State Militia regiment, was commanded by Sligo-born Michael Corcoran. On November 15 1860, he was arrested for refusing to parade the 69th before the visiting Prince of Wales. Less than two months later, on January 9, 1861 Fort Sumter was fired on and everything changed.

The commander of the artillery battery that opened fire on Fort Sumter was Capt. John Mitchel, who had escaped from Van Dieman’s Land with his father, Irish patriot John Mitchel. After the surrender of the fort, Mitchel allowed defending Major Anderson a cannon-salute to their flag in tribute to a courageous defense. However, with fire and sparks all around the cannon, a flake of fire entered the muzzle of one of the guns and when the cartridge was rammed down it exploded, killing Private Daniel Hough and wounding five men. Private Hough, who became the first casualty in the American Civil War, was a recent immigrant from Ireland.

In April, 1861, Lincoln called for volunteers and Col. Corcoran’s pending Court Martial was dropped so he could lead the 69th to protect the nation’s capitol. One Hundred and Fifty years ago, on July 21, Confederate forces marched north and Union forces were sent to Manassas, VA to meet them at a creek called Bull Run. The largely untrained Union forces were buttressed by Corcoran’s 69th while on the Confederate side Brigadier General Thomas Jackson commanded a brigade of Virginians. Jackson, whose great-grandfather hailed from Coleraine, Co. Derry, held firm in the face of furious assaults against his lines earning him the nickname Stonewall, and launching a legend in military history.

In Jackson’s command was the 1st Virginia Infantry, whose Company C, Montgomery Guards, was almost totally Irish, led by another Irish patriot, John Dooley. There were also Irishmen from Alexandria, Va. in the Emmett Guards and O’Connell Guards, which were incorporated into the 17th Virginia Infantry. There were other Irish in the Confederate forces as well, like the rough and tumble Irish longshoremen from New Orleans, fighting with Roberdeau Wheat’s 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, known as the Louisiana Tiger Rifles.

The Irish in the Union and Confederate forces met at Bull Run where the Confederates built up enough troops on the Union right side to overrun their flank leading to a disorderly retreat to the North. This was the first major engagement of the War and the Federal army was routed, but the 69th regiment had charged bravely and stubbornly held its ground. Even after its commander, Col. Corcoran, was wounded and captured, the 69th retreated in order, protecting the rear while panicked Union soldiers swarmed around them headed for Washington. After the battle, Union commander General McDowell personally thanked them for their gallantry.

Shortly after the battle, the regiment was re-enlisted and re-formed as the 69th New York State Volunteers. Capt. Thomas Francis Meagher was commissioned colonel, and the War Department authorized him raise four more regiments to form a brigade. Col. Meagher formed the Irish Brigade – a name chosen not merely to describe the nationality of its men, but also in honor and remembrance of the men who had gained a reputation for valor during the preceding century in the French Army where names like Fontenoy and other great European battle-fields flew among their battle-ribbons. The original Irish Brigade was dissolved in 1791 by the revolution. In 1792, Count de Provence (later Louie XVIII) presented them with a ‘farewell banner’ embroidered with an Irish Harp, shamrocks and fluer-de-lis. The future King said, We acknowledge the inappreciable services that France has received from the Irish Brigade in the course of the last 100 years; receive this Standard as a pledge of our remembrance, a monument of our admiration, and our respect; and in future, generous Irishmen, this shall be the motto of your spotless flag: Semper et ubique Fidelis (Always and Everywhere Faithful) – a motto not unfamiliar to U.S. Marines!

Meagher intended the brigade to be made up of two New York, one Boston, and one Philadelphia infantry regiments, with artillery forming the fifth regiment. Initially made up of the 63rd 69th and 88th NY regiments and four small artillery companies of the 2nd NY Light Artillery Battalion, they began training at Fort Schuyler, NY, the first Headquarters of the Irish Brigade. In the fall of 1862, the 2nd New York Light Artillery was reassigned and the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania were added. Meagher ordered 69-caliber smoothbore muskets, which many considered obsolete, but were very effective at close range which was the style of fighting he had in mind for the Irish Brigade. Close fighting had won the day at Fontenoy, and he intended to follow this tradition. These tactics would make the Irish Brigade famous on both the Union and Confederate sides, but would also produce heavy casualties within its ranks since they had to get up close before being effective.

The Irish Brigade fought in every campaign of the Army of the Potomac, from the Peninsular Campaign in the early half of 1862 to the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865. At various points throughout these campaigns the brigade’s ranks became so depleted that its very existence was threatened and they were actually reorganized in February 1863.

After First Bull Run, when Gen. McClellan was put in command of the Army of the Potomac, he placed the Irish Brigade in the 1st division of the II Corps. The emblem of II Corps was the Club (playing card suit) and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Division colors were Red, White and Blue; thus as part of the 1st Division of the II Corps, the emblem of the Irish Brigade was a Red Club.

Out of a total enlistment of 7,000 men during the war, the Brigade returned to New York in 1865 with just 1,000; one company was actually down to seven men. The 69th NY suffered 75 per cent casualties among enlisted men; compare that to the famed Light Brigade which rode into the ‘Valley of Death’ at Balaklava and lost only 36.7 per cent of its men. Is it any wonder that the men of the Irish Brigade referred to McClellan’s Red Club emblem as the ‘Bloody Shamrock’!

John Philip Holland

His name was John Philip Holland and he was born in Liscannor, Co. Clare, Ireland, on February 24, 1841. He was only three when the potato failure devastated his country and though he survived, he suffered poor eyesight for the rest of his life. His father was a member of the Coast Guards and young John inherited a love of the sea. Although his poor eyesight prevented him from following in his father’s footsteps, he developed an interest in ship design.

John attended St. Macreehy’s School during his youth and later, perhaps, the Christian Brothers School in Ennistymon. His mother, Mary Scanlon, moved the family to Limerick in 1853 and here he came under the influence of Brother Burke, a science teacher, who greatly encouraged his interest in ships. By the end of the 1850’s, John had drawn his first plans for a submarine, which he never radically changed. When he left school, he joined the Christian Brothers as a school teacher.

His love of ships led him to study the unsuccessful attempts of Bourne, Bushnell, and Fulton at underwater sailing. At the end of 1862, he read an account of the first combat between armored ships: the historic confrontation of the Monitor and Virginia in the American Civil War. He noted at the time that the English were nervous because their country’s strength lay in their wooden ship Navy which was now vulnerable. In his spare time young John began to design an ironclad that would sail beneath the waves, undetected by surface ships.

Then, in another action, the Union ship Housatonic was sunk by the underwater craft Huntley. Though the Confederate sub was dangerously unstable, and eventually sank with its entire crew, it verified the importance of Holland’s ideas. Unable to promote interest in Ireland, he left the Christian Brothers, and came to America in 1872. After a short stay in Boston, he found employment in St. John’s School, Paterson, New Jersey. In 1875, he offered his plan for a submersible boat to the U.S. Navy, but it was rejected as a fantastic scheme. He was sure if he could raise the money for a prototype vessel, he could convince the skeptics, but money was hard to find.

In 1876, as his brother and other patriotic young Irishmen had done before him, Holland joined the Fenian Brotherhood, a rebel organization dedicated to freeing Ireland from British rule. Here he found interest in his plans for a weapon that could sink the British Navy. Delighted with the prospect of striking a blow for Ireland, the Fenians financed Holland’s project. He constructed a prototype to demonstrate his theories, and in 1878 the 14-foot, one-man, Holland I slipped beneath the waves of the Passaic river in New Jersey. Impressed, the Fenians provided $23,000. for a full-sized version along with a mother vessel for launch and retrieval. In 1881, Holland completed a 31-foot, 3-man submarine of 20-tons displacement complete with a torpedo tube and fittings for armaments. Spectators stared as the sub went through its trials, and newsmen dubbed it the Fenian Ram in recognition of its origin and purpose. The British nervously watched the subs progress. Holland continued to test and refine his design when, in 1882, an impatient Fenian leader, John Breslin, stole the Ram and Holland’s third hull which was then under construction. They were taken to New Haven to be launched; unfortunately, with no knowledge of their operation, they sank and the project was abandoned.

Holland again tried the U.S. Government, and again was rejected. With his own limited assets and borrowed money, he continued his designs, trying to interest financiers in his invention. In 1895, he finally won a $150,000. U.S. Navy contract to build a submarine, but the Navy insisted on alterations which Holland said would make it a failure. So, while building a sub with their modifications, the headstrong inventor also built the 53-foot, 63-ton, Holland VI to his own specifications. After the predicted failure of the Navy design, Holland floated out his alternative vessel. The trials took place at New Suffolk on Long Island, NY and were a total success. In 1900, Holland VI became the U.S.S. Holland – the first American submarine, and the Holland Torpedo Boat Company received an order for six more.

Although the brainchild of the tenacious Irish immigrant became the prototype for the greatest submarine fleet in the world, success came too late. He was deeply in debt and couldn’t finance the order. Financier Isaac Rice and others backed Holland’s successful Company and it became the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut and later a division of General Dynamics. Holland was moved ever lower in the company, ending up as only one of a staff of designers. In 1904, his financiers tried to retire him, but he refused. Instead, he tried to form a rival company, but litigation brought against him by the Electric Boat Company over patent rights, prevented him from raising capital. Rice and the others dealt with both the U.S. and British governments, selling them the original patents much to the chagrin of their inventor and the Fenian brotherhood.

Holland spent his remaining years in costly, but unsuccessful, litigation trying to reclaim his patents. On August 12, 1914, he died in obscure poverty in Newark, N.J., leaving his wife Margaret with five children. As he lay dying, the Germans and British were readying their respective Navies for war and the eyes of both fleets were submarines, built with Holland’s principles.

John P Holland was soon forgotten. For 61 years, he lay in an unmarked grave until public attention was focused on the historic oversight in 1975 and a memorial headstone was erected. Years later, another was erected in its place, and the original memorial stone was transferred to his home town of Liscannor in his native Co. Clare and rededicated by the U.S. Navy Submarine Force.

As for Holland’s first big sub, the lost Fenian Ram, it would have made Holland to learn that it did strike a blow against the Crown; it was salvaged in 1916, and used in a fund-raising campaign for Ireland’s Easter Rising. After that, it was placed on a concrete base as a monument to Holland in Westside Park in Paterson, NJ. When the Beatles recorded Yellow Submarine, vandals painted the sub a bright yellow; and it was moved to the protection of a shed at the rear of the Paterson Museum. In 1988, the office of National Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians learned of its location, and queried the museum regarding its intentions. The museum responded that a plan had been in the works, but a lack of funds kept them from creating a proper display for the Ram. The AOH Historian sponsored a nationwide fund-raiser, and in 1990, presented the museum with a check for $12,000.00. Today the Fenian Ram can be seen along with Holland I, salvaged in 1927, as the centerpiece of an elaborate exhibit to Holland in a special section of the Paterson Museum partially financed by the AOH.

Finally, a long overdue ceremony took place on April 8, 2000, when a monument was dedicated to the memory of Holland’s accomplishment, at what is now recognized as the first U.S. Submarine Base in New Suffolk, Long Island. Funding was organized by the U.S. Navy Submarine Veterans. Thankfully, John Holland’s memory has been resurrected, for he was truly one of Ireland’s sons who helped to make America great. Now if we can only get his name in our school’s history books!

Did You Know About The Mitchels of Dungiven?

John Mitchel was born to a radical Presbyterian minister, in Dungiven, Ireland, in 1815. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin and became a lawyer and journalist. An outspoken nationalist, his love for Ireland led him to establish the United Irishman newspaper in 1848, but his impassioned articles soon led to his arrest on a charge of treason. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania). In 1853 he escaped and made his way to the United States. He settled in the south where he published a newspaper, and gave three sons to the Confederate cause in the American Civil War. His eldest son, Captain John C. Mitchel, served in the South Carolina Regular Artillery, which opened the barrage on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 which started the war. Later on July 20, 1864, he was killed commanding a battery at Fort Sumter. As he lay dying, he uttered, in paraphrase the last words of Patrick Sarsfield, the Earl of Lucan (killed at Landen, Holland, 1693), I willingly give my life for South Carolina. Oh, that I could have died for Ireland! Those words are inscribed on his headstone in nearby Magnolia Cemetery, in a plot surrounded by a replica of Fort Sumter.

His youngest son, Willie, was killed in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. After the battle, members of the Union Army’s Irish Brigade, learned from Confederate Irish captives that John Mitchel’s son had fallen on the field. They left a detachment behind to locate the body. It was discovered in a shallow grave – one of the only ones to be buried during the fierce battle – wrapped in a blanket secured with three pins and a note attached that read, Willie Mitchel, son of an Irish patriot. Another son, James, survived the war but lost an arm in combat.

Old John himself returned to Ireland in 1874 and the following year was elected to the House of Commons from Tipperary. Denied his seat because he was considered a felon, he returned to his constituency and was overwhelmingly re-elected. However, he died before he could take his seat.

After the Civil War, John’s only surviving son, James, relocated to New York and settled in the Fordham section of the Bronx. There he had a son whom he named after his father. Somehow, the family had become Roman Catholic and young John Purroy Mitchel was raised with the same strong sense of patriotism and civic duty that marked his grandfather’s family. After graduating Law School, he became an incorruptible reformer fighting the graft of Tammany Hall. His successes led him to become the youngest man ever elected Mayor of New York City (1914-1917) at age 34.

While in office Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and professionalized the city’s civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees. Widely known as the “Boy Mayor,” he also fought police corruption, instituted the nation’s first zoning guidelines, and appointed the first woman to lead a major municipal agency in any U.S. city.

After his term as Mayor, World War I was raging and young John joined the new Army Aviation Service. Sadly, he was killed in an accident during a training flight in Louisiana; he was only 38 years old. New York and the nation responded with a flurry of eulogies and memorials, including a memorial at the entrance to New York’s Central Park on 5th Avenue at 90th Street. The next time you end the NY St. Patrick’s Parade at 86th and Fifth, walk up a few blocks and check it out. Also named in honor of this beloved public servant and American patriot was Mitchel Square, a small triangular park in Manhattan, at St. Nicholas Avenue and 166th Street; and Mitchel Field, a former Army Air Service airfield on Long Island from where Charles Lindbergh took off on the first trans Atlantic flight to Paris. As he flew over Ireland, I wonder if Lucky Lindy realized he was flying over the resting place of the grandfather of the man for whom his point of departure was named. Among the many eulogies given at Mitchel’s passing, President Theodore Roosevelt was moved to say,…”No stauncher American, no abler public servant, and no finer natural soldier than [John] Purroy Mitchel was to be found in all our country.”

John Purroy Mitchel’s patriotism for America was a reflection of his grandfather’s patriotism for Ireland. It seems that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.