Galloping Hogan

In 1649, Cromwell’s Puritan army overpowered all resistance in Ireland.  He introduced the Cromwellian Settlement, by which all land belonging to Irish Catholics were forfeit to pay the debts incurred by the war.  The land was sold to loyal Englishmen, and the Irish land owners were told to relocate or die – To Hell or to Connaught – the most  agriculturally poor province in Ireland.  Over 40,000 Irish were relocated beyond the Shannon by the end of 1654.  Those who didn’t were hunted down and press-ganged into the British Navy, or sold as slaves to Barbados.  There was one group however, who refused to relocate.  They eluded capture in the hills and glens near their ancestral homes and raided the new settlers on the lands of their clans.  They led an outlaw existence, and were called Rapparees after their favorite weapon – a half-pike known in Irish as a rapaire.  They were a  concern to the English for many years.

The new owners of the land refused to stoop to menial labor, so some native Irish were allowed back east of the Shannon to provide that labor for the landlords, but the Rapparees continued to strike from hiding.  By the time Parliament invited William of Orange to usurp the throne of King James II, there were many Rapparees in Ireland.  When James promised religious freedom to those who would support him in defending his crown, many Rapparee’s joined him.  After William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne however, James fled to France leaving his Irish supporters in the field.  Patrick Sarsfield eventually took command of the remnants of the Irish forces and withdrew to defend the only remaining Gaelic land in Ireland – the portion to which the Irish had been forced by Cromwell 36 years earlier; in hot pursuit was William’s vastly superior army.  Sarsfield decided to make a stand at the walled city of Limerick, but he needed help, and he turned to the local Rapparrees.  There were at least 5 different bands of Rapparees controlling the glens and mountains around Limerick, but the Rapparee who was to ride into history with Sarsfield was Michael ‘galloping’ Hogan, who controlled the mountains of Tipperary and Clare, southwest of Nenagh.

King William’s forces reached Limerick on August 9, 1690, ahead of his siege artillery.  His demand for surrender was refused, and an assault on the town was repelled.  He bellowed for his artillery which, he was informed, was on its way from Cashel.  Hogan’s riders, who had been scouting the arriving siege train, said it was the biggest collection of artillery ever seen in Ireland – 153 wagons drawn by 400 horses.  Hogan proposed a daring plan.  He would lead Sarsfield and a detachment of 500 men out of Limerick under cover of night, travel north along the Clare side of the Shannon to a point where he knew men could cross with ease and attack William’s siege train from the rear.  Sarsfield agreed, and Hogan led the detachment to a point just north of Killaloe where the Shannon was narrow and shallow.  They crossed and began south toward Ballyneety, where the Siege train was camped for the night, using the Silvermines Mountains as cover.  They covered 90 miles through mountain glens, with burlap covering the horses’ hooves to silence their approach.  One of Hogan’s men, left behind to shoe his horse, met the wife of a Williamite soldier headed for the English camp.  The Rapparee befriended her, and learned the password of the enemy camp.  Ironically, it was Sarsfield.

 

On the night of August 11, Hogan led Sarsfield to the edge of the English camp.  Sentries, who accepted the password when they challenged the approaching shadows, were dead before they hit the ground.  The Irish swarmed into the camp, and dispatched the enemy.  Sarsfield ordered the guns into a circle, muzzles inward.  They were filled with gunpowder and the muzzles driven into the ground.  The remaining shells and supplies were put in the middle of the circle, and a powder trail was laid to the edge of the woods.  The troops were ordered into the wood, and Hogan was given the honor of putting a match to the powder.  The resulting explosion shook the earth with the loudest man made sound ever heard in Ireland and it lit up the sky with a flash that was seen from the walls of Limerick.

Without his artillery, William realized that he could not take Limerick, so he offered terms to the Irish.  Those who had fought in James’ army would have to leave Ireland, but their families who stayed behind would get their lands back and the free practice of their religion.  The terms were accepted and the treaty of Limerick was signed on October 3, 1691.  True to its terms, 14,000 Irish left Ireland and among them Sarsfield and Galloping Hogan.  The Flight of the Wild Geese had begun.  They would distinguish themselves in the Irish Brigades of foreign armies, but they never saw Ireland again.  As for those left behind, they never saw the promises of the Treaty fulfilled.  By 1709, when the threat of Irish retribution was gone, it was broken by the Popery Act which denied Catholics the right to own land.

Today, many memorials exist to that time in Irish history; the most notable of which is the road along both sides of the Shannon from Limerick to Killaloe.  It is called Sarsfield’s Ride, but there are many who think it should be called the Hogan Highway, after that superb horseman and early guerilla fighter – the Galloping Hogan.

America’s Birthday

 

Independence Day, July 4th is America’s biggest holiday.  It’s her birthday; but it doesn’t mark the day she won her independence, it marks the day when it was declared.  And the Irish were there.  Great numbers of them filled the ranks of Washington’s patriot army from foot soldiers to high ranking officers, and those who were unable to suffer the hardship of a colonial soldier, contributed in other ways.  The military won the war, but the ones who led the march toward the battlefield were the merchants, and community leaders who really shaped our destiny, for they were the ones who dreamt the dream, organized its creation, and supported its success.  And there were many Irish among them as well.

In the late 1700s, when increased Crown exploitation drove the colonists to protest, among the loudest were the Irish who had no great love for the Crown to begin with.  That was significant for there were many Irish in the colonies at the time; they had been coming since the 1650s.  The first noticeable influx into New England occurred in 1652 with the arrival of 400 Irish children sent by Cromwell to be sold as slaves.  From that time on, the shipment of men, women and children as indentured servants was common practice.  Among the first to come of their own volition were those who fought the English theft of their lands and ended up hunted men; they were followed by those Catholics and Presbyterians who fled the Penal Laws and persecution by the Church of England; some of whom were businessmen who sought to escape the economic oppression fostered on them by the Crown in order to benefit their British competitors.  The suppression of the Irish wool and linen trades reduced the population of Ulster by half a million; and they came to America with their looms and spinning wheels.

In the beginning, they came in such large numbers that one Massachusetts Court, fearing the “malignant spirit that has from time to time been manifest by the Irish against the English“, prohibited the Irish from its jurisdiction, and fined anyone who should buy an Irishman and bring him in.  But they came anyway.  Some altered their names and some settled in outlying areas like the ancestor of John Hancock who came from Co Down, and Capt. Daniel Patrick and Robert Feake – first white settlers in what is now Greenwich Conn.  They settled in New Hampshire, where they founded the town of Concord; in Vermont, where their sons would lend strength to the Green Mountain Boys led by Irish American John Stark and Limerick-born Matt Lyons; in New Hamphire where Capt Maginnis commanded the militia; and in other areas from Maine, home of the O’Briens who would capture the 1st British ship in the war that was yet to come, to Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn who had grown up in Co Cork.

They were a considerable presence in many communities.  In 1728, for example, it was reported that most of the 4,500 who landed at New Castle, Delaware were Irish.  Philadelphia likewise reported that 3,500 people from Ireland had arrived in the first two weeks of August, 1772.  They had obviously been arriving for a while since the city had a Hibernian Club as early as 1729; it later became the Friendly Sons of St Patrick, whose first President was  Stephen Moylan of Co Cork – soon to be one of Washington’s top Generals.  In 1772 and 73, Irish immigration to the American colonies was more than 18,500 and they were no friends of British colonialism.

There was no shortage of leaders either and men like Matthew Lyons, Patrick Henry, and other Irish and Irish American orators used their eloquence to urge separation from England.  When confrontations became frequent, it seemed that the Irish were always in the middle of it.  Among those killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770 was Irish-born Patrick Carr; Boston Tea Party participants met at an inn owned by man named Duggan; and the tea was dumped at Griffin’s Wharf by a group dressed as Indians, some of whom had a notably Irish accent.  While young Irishmen rushed to arms in support of Washington, Irish civilians, businessmen, and merchants participated in the deliberations of Councils and in Congress, and raised money to feed and clothe the army.  Irish-born Oliver Pollack personally raised over $300,000.00 – a considerable fortune at the time.

On July 1, 1776 after a year of hostilities, the leaders met to discuss their options.  A resolution was presented which read, “Be it resolved, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”   After much heated debate, the vote was indecisive.  They met again on July 2nd to continue the debate and finally the ayes carried the question.  On July 3rd, John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2nd was the most memorable day in the history of America and would be celebrated forever.  However, approval of the final draft of the document was not made until July 4th.

The Philadelphia State House was packed, despite the sweltering heat, as Secretary Charles Thomson of Co. Derry read the formal document that Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Livingston had composed, and that he – Thomson – had drafted.  It was a declaration explaining why their action was justified.  After a full day of temper tantrums, modifying copy, shouting matches, further amendments and even more debate, Secretary Thomson recorded the changes, and America’s Declaration of Independence was complete.  Only Hancock and Thomson signed that day; the formal copy would not be ready for all signatures until July 19th.  Signing that Declaration carried enormous risk, for to the British it was an act of treason, punishable by death.  As Benjamin Franklin put it to the delegates, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Among the courageous signers were 3 native-born Irish: James Smith, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton and many of Irish descent.  Philadelphia printer Charles Dunlop of Co Tyrone rolled out copies (now famed as the rare Dunlop Broadsides) that were snatched up before the ink was dry.  On July 8th the people first heard that document read – in an Irish accent – as Secretary Thomson read it to an anxiously awaiting public.

The event marked by the 4th of July is therefore, not the winning, but the declaring of America’s independence.  There would be many more years of struggle and sacrifice before the last battle was fought on March 10, 1783, but America had made her stand.  That last battle, by the way, saw Irish-born Commodore John Barry defeat the British ship Sybil.  He had been carrying a cargo of gold with which Congress would establish the new Bank of North America with the help of Irish-born Thomas Fitzsimmons.

Yes, the Irish were there, and the fact that they made loyal Americans is evidenced in the writings of Marquis de Chastellux who wrote after the revolution, “An Irishman, the instant he sets foot on American soil, becomes an American.  During the whole of the war, the English and Scots were treated with distrust, even with the best of attachment for the cause, but the native of Ireland stood in need of no other certificate than his accent.  While the Irish emigrant was fighting for America on land and sea, Irish merchants purses were always open and their persons devoted to the country’s cause, and on more than one imminent occasion Congress itself, and the very existence of America, owed its preservation to the fidelity and firmness of the Irish.”

In Ireland, where funds were raised to support the American cause, the hopes of the Irish were with America to such an extent that America’s success inspired a liberation movement in Ireland and in 1798, the Irish attempted to duplicate the American example.  Unfortunately they were too close to England and it failed, and though young America was in no position to help the Irish, her hopes were with them.  President Washington wrote that “the Irish need that critical moment to shake off the badges of slavery they have worn for so long.”

It was perhaps best said by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of the beloved first President and Martha Washington.  In 1828, he said, “Ireland’s generous sons, alike in the days of our gloom, and of our glory, shared in our misfortunes and joined in our successes; With undaunted courage (they) breasted the storm which once threatened to overwhelm us; and with aspirations deep and fervent for our cause, whether in the shock of liberty’s battles, or in the feeble expiring accents of famine and misery, cried from their hearts God Save America.  Then honored be the good old service of the sons of Erin in the war of Independence.  Let the shamrock be entwined with the laurels of the Revolution, and truth and justice, guiding the pen of history, inscribe on the tablets of American remembrance ‘Eternal Gratitude to Irishmen.’

Today, it might seem that many of our elected representatives have forgotten the debt owed to the Irish, but we haven’t.  Remember that as you hang out the stars and stripes on the Fourth of July.  Many Irish fought and died so that you would have the right to do so, so do it with pride.  And it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you made a copy of this history and gave it to your children to bring in to their teachers.