So many heroes of America and one we should remember is Thomas Francis Meagher.
Early Life of Thomas Francis Meagher
Thomas Francis Meagher was born August 3, 1823, in Waterford, Ireland, to a well-to-do family. At age eleven, he was sent to begin his studies with the Jesuits at Clongowes in Dublin. Thomas went on to college at Stonehurst College, Lancashire, England graduating. he returned to Ireland and began lecturing against the atrocities of the British against Ireland.
It wasn't long before his lectures caught the eye of the British. He was arrested, convicted, ad sentenced to death. Fortunately, Queen Victoria commuted the death sentence and instead sent him to Tasmania Penal Colony for life. Thomas spent the next three years in Tasmania until he made his escape in an open rowboat. He was fortunate as he was picked up by an American whaler on the way to New York.
Thomas arrived in New York City in 1852 to a hero welcome. He began studying law and journalism and founded the paper The Irish News. At first, he was enamored by the south when the Civil War broke out, but he broke with them after President James Buchanan ignored his request for a government position and realized the Catholic Church sided with the Union. But the final nail in the coffin was when the Confederates fired on Ft. Sumter on 4/12/1861.
Meagher's Irish Brigade
It didn't take Meagher long to begin recruiting as many Irishmen as possible, placing his ads in the New York Daily Tribune to join the union. He then formed Co. K of the 69th NY. With little time to train his regiment, they suffered heavy losses at the first Battle of Bull Run. Later he realized his men's uniforms were too flashy and made easy marks for the enemy. Before long, Co. K of the 69th became known as The Fighting Irish. Meagher was a born leader, a great orator, and believed in freedom and equality.
The motto of the Irish was"Faugh a Bellaugh" which means "Clear The Way." Meagher was close to President Abraham Lincoln who eventually commissioned him Brigadier General in the Union. He gave Meagher permission to recruit men from any state and even from Ireland. When President Lincoln died, Meagher served as one of his pallbearers.
Meagher and his regiment would go on to fight in many battles of the Civil War. Some of those included, Battle of Bull Run, Peninsula Campaign, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, and Battle of Chancellorsville.
After The Civil War
After the Civil War, Meagher resigned his commission in May 1863. Still, the Army rescinded his resignation and assigned him to the Western Theater in charge of ETOWI, Chatoonga, TN., and shortly relieved of that command. Meagher decided that politics was the path for him. He was appointed Secretary of Montana territory and then acting governor. He was a leader in creating the Montana Constitution.
Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see Montana claim statehood. He was on a steamboat, the G.A. Thompson, when somehow he fell overboard and drowned. His body was never recovered, and rumors were plentiful that it was a possible murder by some of his political opponents.
Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
The wife of Thomas Francis Meagher, Elizabeth Townsend Meagher (1840-1906), is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Unfortunately, his body was never recovered, and it took the work of volunteers and the Waterford Association, along with the Green-Wood Historical Fund, to raise the money to have a bronze sculpture and base for a cenotaph of Thomas Francis Meagher to be placed very close to his wife's grave. The Green-Wood Cemetery took it upon themselves to research the cemetery for veterans buried there. They expected perhaps about 500, but after years of dedicated research, they found 5000, 3200 were unmarked. Petitions were made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and probably by now, all veteran grave markers are installed at no charge.
Michael Keropia sculpted the bronze memorial of Thomas Francis Meagher.
The largest bridge in Waterford, Ireland, over the Suir River opened in 2009 and named Thomas Francis Meagher Bridge in his honor.
From the 1848 Young Irishlander Rebellion to the Civil War, Meagher was always fighting for freedom ad equality. He is revered in Ireland and the U.S. as a great statesman and soldier.