From Wednesday 2nd June until Friday 4th June, 2010, I accompanied Dr Paisley (Lord Bannside) and Baroness Paisley on a cultural visit to Dublin. I attended as Senior Advisor to Dr Paisley and founder of the Somme Association.
On the first day we visited the National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge, Inchicore, accompanied by John McCullen, Supt., Parks Division, Office of Public Works and Margaret Gormley, Supt., National War Memorial Garden. Islandbridge commemorates the 49,400 men who died in the Great War out of the 300,000 who served in all armies and we were shown the illuminated volumes recording their names. including those of Lord Paisley’s own family. We were shown the wooden Ginchy Cross originally erected on the Somme to the 4,354 men of the 16th Irish Division who died at Ginchy and Guillemont in September 1916. This cross was replicated in granite at Guillemont, Wytschaete in Belgium and Salonica in Macedonia, at all of which the Somme Association has held Services of Remembrance. Lord Paisley said a prayer for all.
We then visited the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, where we viewed an exhibition on Gallipoli with Tom Burke and Sean Connolly of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, of which Lord Bannside, Baroness Paisley and I are honorary members. We met old friends who had been prominent at the ceremonies in Gallipoli earlier this year. Following this we went to the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks to see the “Soldiers and Chiefs” exhibition which focuses on the totality of the Irish military service traditions and experience. We were accompanied by Exhibition curator Lar Joye. The exhibition is an important one as it demonstrates so much of Irish history which is either neglected or ignored, particularly as it relates to service in the British Army.
In Ireland the loyalty of Irish Catholics with their Protestant fellow countrymen to the British concept is fully attested during the Napoleonic Wars. New regiments, such as the Connaught Rangers, fought like heroes alongside the famous Inniskillings, and it was such men whom Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington had in mind when he said, “It is mainly due to the Irish Catholics that we all owe our proud pre-eminence in the Military career” Indeed it has been estimated that at least half of the British Army at Waterloo in 1815 were Irishmen. Certainly, according to Wellington, himself the most British of Irishmen,” the 27th of Foot (Inniskillings) saved the centre of my line at Waterloo”. Speaking in the House of Lords as Prime Minister of England in 1829 in support of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, he praised at length and with much eloquence the Irish soldiers who had served under his command in the Peninsular War and in Flanders. Another great soldier of that period was Bernardo O’Higgins who liberated Chile and then served as its President from 1817 until 1823.
The exhibition also highlights the exploits of Myles Keogh, who was a handsome 36 year old Irishman, the Leader of I Company, which was part of Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry. Keogh had been born to a well-to-do Catholic family in County Carlow and at twenty left for Italy to join the Army of Pope Pius IX in his battle against Garibaldi’s Italian revolutionaries. He was recognised for his bravery and after the eventual defeat of the papal forces he headed for America to fight in the Civil War.
Once again Keogh distinguished himself as a dependable and gallant officer on the Union side. He died with Custer at the Battle of the Greasy Grass” Little Big Horn” River, when Sitting Bull’s 2,000 warriors defeated the 600 troopers of the 7th Cavalry on 25th June 1876. Most of Custer’s men were recent Irish and German immigrants, nervous and ill-trained. Remembered by the Indians for the atrocities committed against their people, the dead soldiers’ bodies were mutilated, except for Keogh, out of respect for an Agnus Dei medallion hanging from his neck.
This Battle was to become one of the iconic moments of the so called romantic Old West, which was neither old nor romantic since the West was an unstable frontier of convulsive change and the epitome of the worst form of capitalistic colonialism against the traditional values of the indigenous people of the Lakota and Cheyenne. Throughout all the various Indian uprisings which punctuated the early history of America, the central thread was to be the Indians’ attempt to put a stop to the continuing White, or as the Lakota called them ”Wasichu”, encroachments on their lands. The Indians fought bravely and the Battle of the Greasy Grass River was to be their most prominent victory, although even this was a closer run thing than most people realise. More usually they suffered continuing defeats, including the infamous needless massacre of nearly 250 Indian women, men and children at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota on 29th December, 1890. And that is why on the 25th June, 2010 at the Somme Museum, Conlig, we will say a prayer for them in Lakota and also in memory of those Indian people such as the Mohawks, who suffered and died for the British cause.
Ed: I have BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE on my shelves. And I’m an admirer of George Macdonald Frazer’s FLASHMAN historical series of novels. One of these dealt with the Greasy Grass – from both sides.
Then I’ve seen a DISCOVERY CHANNEL documentary on the same. Based on the distribution of cartridges found on the site, there’s been a reevaluation. The fight lasted only a few minutes.
Dr Adamson’s response: The soldiers were paralysed with fear and could not fight properly at the end. There was good documentary evidence on the Indian side. If Custer’s subordinates had come to his aid quicker he would have won.
Battle of the Little Bighorn – Wikipedia