Online Encyclopedia

THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER (1823–1867)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 947 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER (1823–1867), Irish nationalist and American soldier, was born in Waterford, Ireland, on the 3rd of August 1823. He graduated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, in 1843, and in 1844 began the study of law at Dublin. He became a member of the Young Ireland Party in 1845, and in 1847 was one of the founders of the Irish Confederation. In March 1848 he made a speech before the Confederation which led to his arrest for sedition, but at his trial the jury failed to agree and he was discharged. In the following July the Con-federation created a " war directory " of five, of which Meagher was a member, and he and William Smith O'Brien travelled through Ireland for the purpose of starting a revolution. The attempt proved abortive; Meagher was arrested in August, and in October was tried for high treason before a special commission at Clonmel. He was found guilty and was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Van Diemen's Land, whither he was transported in the summer of 1849. Early in 1852 he escaped, and in May reached New York City. He made a tour of the cities of the United States as a popular lecturer, and then studied law and was admitted to the New York bar in 1855. He made two unsuccessful ventures in journalism, and in 1857 went to Central America, where he acquired material for another series of lectures. In 1861 he was captain of a company (which he had raised) in the 69th regiment of New York volunteers and fought at the first battle of Bull Run; he then organized an Irish brigade, of whose first regiment he was colonel until the 3rd of February 1862, when he was appointed to the command of this organization with the rank of brigadier-general. He took part in the siege of York-town, the battle of Fair Oaks, the seven days' battle before Richmond, and the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, where he was wounded, and Chancellorsville, where his brigade was reduced in numbers to less than a regiment, and General Meagher resigned his commission. On the 23rd of December 1863 his resignation was cancelled, and he was assigned to the command of the military district of Etowah, with headquarters at Chattanooga. At the close of the war he was appointed by President Johnson secretary of Montana Territory, and there, in the absence of the territorial governor, he acted as governor from September 1866 until his death from accidental drowning in the Missouri River near Fort Benton, Montana, on the 1st of July 1867. He published Speeches on the Legislative Independence of Ireland (1852). W. F. Lyons, in Brigadier-General Thomas Francis Meagher (New York, 187o), gives a eulogistic account of his career.
End of Article: THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER (1823–1867)
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