Civil War

Quick Link | A Confederate Agent in Ireland « Irish in the American Civil War

This is fascinating stuff!

In July 1863 Lieutenant J.L. Capston, a cavalry officer, received a letter from Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin indicating that he was to be reassigned. His destination was Ireland, and his task was to use legitimate means to counteract the work of agents of the United States operating there. His ultimate mission was to prevent the Irish from emigrating to the north and enlisting in Federal armies.

via Quick Link | A Confederate Agent in Ireland « Irish in the American Civil War.

Thomas Francis Meagher: Man of distinction

In between, a remarkable life that carried Meagher to four of the world’s seven continents, earned him hero status from the Irish and a sentence of death from the British, then a last-second reprieve and lifetime banishment to Tasmania, which was followed by his escape to New York City, and American careers that ran the gamut from newspaper editor, to South American adventurer, to lecturer, to brave brigadier general who led his troops into some of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles.

via Man of distinction.

What I'm reading: Thirty Years of Woe

Peter H Wilson's Europe's TragedyAs ever my reading list is long with both History and Science Fiction but I think it is worthwhile mentioning a few of the history books here as they are most enjoyable.

The first and best of the lot is Europe’s Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson. There are excellent reviews around so I’ll point you to them rather than write my own right now. I’d point out one small irritant which is that Wilson has a tendency to shift what seems to me abruptly between theatres of conflict. I’m getting used to it, but combined with the huge line up of notable actors in the period, it can make reading harder going that I’d like.

The Telepgraph
Worse than the Black Death, worse than the First World War, worse than the Second World War, worse than the Holocaust – that is how the Thirty Years War lives on in the collective German memory. This is just one of many arresting pieces of information to be gleaned from this colossal history of one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history.

The Times
The lead-lined window that sparked it all is still there, of course: you can even open it, and peer down to the dry moat into which the three Catholic imperial counsellors were cast on May 23, 1618 by a group of enraged Bohemian Protestant gentry. The room itself is on the fourth floor of the great Hradschin Palace, which looks over the river to the city of Prague. All is peaceful now, but it wasn’t then; it was the epicentre of a storm that was to engulf much of Europe for the following three decades.

Californian Literary Review
Wilson, whose grasp of 17th century politics and diplomacy is most impressive, makes two significant contributions toward understanding the origin of the Thirty Years War. First, the Holy Roman Empire, which unified the German and Slavic states of Central Europe under Habsburg rule, was a much more effective political force than is generally realized. Differing in organization from a modern nation state, the Empire was an elective monarchy which kept order and cohesion among the component dukedoms, electorates and free city-states.

BBC History magazine
Perhaps most importantly Wilson is an enemy of historical inevitability. The first 300 pages of this book, far from being a countdown to inexorable catastrophe, are largely about why the war should not have occurred. Against the familiar line that a chaotic and enfeebled Holy Roman empire of German principalities, cities and micro-territories was already long past its sell-by date in 1618, Wilson offers a feisty defence of imperial institutions and of their remarkable success during the later 16th century in solving problems of territorial inheritance, religious rights and political rivalries.

One final observation before I leave it for today, the cover for the British and Irish edition is top left and it really is a nice cover but the US edition is really something, far superior and much more attention grabbing so I’ve included it below right.

See what I mean?
Eoin

Taoiseach – TV3's new series

I have to say, I didn’t expect this of TV3. I missed the news that it was running and so missed the first episode on one of the most interesting men t hold the office, WT Cosgrave (whom we’ve mentioned here before).

The Independent carries a fine piece by John-Paul McCarthy about the series:

Cosgrave was in many ways an essentially theocratic politician, a deeply devout Catholic who once proposed that an ecclesiastical commission vet parliamentary legislation for theological deviance as soon as the statutes emerged from the Dail print shop.

And yet he held office under a classically liberal constitution, complete with an American-style establishment clause banning preferential treatment for a state church and an essentially British division of competences between an executive, a lower house and an upper house possessed of some interesting delaying powers. The Catholic Gulliver was thus immobilised for 15 years by these delicate constitutional chains. Cosgrave was also mild-mannered, unambitious personally and prone on occasion to diplomatic illnesses which allowed him to avoid contentious cabinet tussles between his headstrong subordinates. (He was formally ill during the Army Mutiny crisis in 1924 and sought to direct events from hospital.) And yet, circumstances forced Cosgrave to become arguably the most ruthless civilian chief executive the Irish State has ever produced.

Looking forward to catching up and watching the rest!
Eoin

A Video Review – The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman and Davis In The Mexican War 1846-1848

A short video review of The Training Ground: Grant. Lee, Sherman and Davis In The Mexican War, 1846-48 by Martin Dugard (ISBN: 978-0-316-16625-6).

I mention that I enjoyed the writing style but felt the short chapter structure was an annoying feature.
I also mention my bigger issue which was the absence of proper detail on the military aspects of the campaign and the fact that the Mexican side of the story is mostly ignored except for a very cursory analysis.

I encourage people to read the book however as is an enjoyable read despite its problems.

Google & General George Monck

Eoin Purcell

Links & the rest
I decided I would search out George Monck information on the web and the results are pretty great. Google has an interesting timeline feature. You can view it here, but I’ve a screen grab below:

Google's Timeline Feature

Google's Timeline Feature



It also drags up the Wikipedia link, the About.com link, the rather excellent British Civil War site and the General George Monck site (which has a lot more than just a biography on hand).

It is all well worth digging into,
Eoin

Dick Mulcahy: An enigma, even now!

Eoin Purcell

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution

My Father, the General: Richard Mulcahy & the Military History of the Revolution


John Bowman’s Archive Show
John Bowman covered General Richard Mulcahy on its show today. Their archive link is here, but the show is not yet put up. The show includes some very interesting pieces with contributions from John A Murphy, Brian Farrell, Brian Nolan and several others.

The idea was to give a sense of this somewhat enigmatic figure from Irish history. He was after all an interesting figure in the 1916 Rising when he fought with the men of Fingal at Ashbourne (there is a good summary of that fighting here on the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour site) and he went on to hold the Rank of Commander in Chief of the Free State Army, not to mention a significant of not always successful career in politics. The General’s son. Risteard is publishing a new book (with Liberties Press) on his father’s life and career:

My Father, The General: Richard Mulcahy and the Military History of the Revolution by Risteárd Mulcahy is an in-depth biography of the often controversial and hitherto neglected figure and Free State leader. Featuring rare and unseen material from the family archive, this book is a marvellous insight into the man behind the uniform who played a major role in running the War of Independence.

The Executions
Even the Liberties site and the book description manages to reference the remaining core controversy of Mulcahy’s story and the one which overshadows his entire career (which is an impressive on):

His order to execute anti-Treaty activists found carrying guns made him a figure of controversy during the Civil War when a total of 77 anti-Treaty prisoners were executed by the Provisional Government. Despite the Free State government’s mandate being renewed in the following election, Mulcahy’s perceived severity during the Civil War was later to prove a stumbling block to his elevation as Taoiseach of the first Inter-Party government in 1948. Mulcahy selflessly stepped aside to allow John A. Costello to become Taoiseach of a coalition which, as leader of Fine Gael, Mulcahy had skilfully organised

What is remarkable about this is that Bowman’s archive show generally skirted over those executions that Mulcahy and the Free State government oversaw. In fact the only reference I heard was also by far the most chilling section of the piece in which Ernest Blythe defended mulcahy as an arch-realist who in the aftermath of Sean Hales’ killing had already selected the four Anti-Treaty Free State Men that were to be executed.

Thoughts
I’ve yet to read the book and right now I’ve got to say it is only moderately high on my list, but two points seem to come clearly out of the discussion today and the book description. One is the need for a rigourous, unquestionable account of Mulcahy’s life. Something both he and many of the other early Free State leaders lack. Secondly that Mercier’s forthcoming series on the military history of the Civil War will be enormously valuable in bringing that period back into the public thoughts so that we can finally lay to rest some of the lasting myths and resentments that remain alive in some minds, even now (though admittedly to an enormously lesser extent that in the 1950s and 1960s when active participants in the conflict remained in positions of authority).

A good radio day Sunday,
Eoin