Just 30 minutes drive from the magnificently restored Lisheen Castle in north Co. Tipperary, American and Australian guests in particular may wish to visit the small picturesque village of Ballingarry (South) a rural drive of just 30 minutes (26.6 km / 16.5 miles) via route R691.
It is difficult to comprehend in today’s world that a happening here in Ireland in 1848, in this remote but beautiful hamlet, would directly affect the outcome of one of the deadliest wars in American history, the American Civil War.
It was here, just outside of Ballingarry village on July 29th 1848, that the only rebellion during the Irish Great Famine period (1845-1849) took place. This rebellion, known as “The battle of the Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch”, was led by the then ‘Young Ireland’ movement and held amongst its membership taking part that day, one Thomas Francis Meagher (‘Meagher of the Sword’), a writer, patriot and convict. He later be elevated to the position of a US Brigadier General and for short periods, the Secretary and later acting State Governor of the State of Montana (‘The Treasure State’) in the Western United States.
The picture above shows a statue of Thomas Meagher in front of the Montana State capitol building. (Click on image for greater magnification.)
The paternal grandfather of rebel Thomas Francis Meagher had once been a farmer residing near Fethard, (just a 23 minute drive (22.0km / 13.7 miles from Ballingarry Village) Co. Tipperary. Latter had been evicted from his land holding following the failed 1798 rebellion. Also named Thomas Meagher, he had been correctly accused of harbouring 1798 escaped rebels and forced to go on the run. He eventually ending up in the English colony of Newfoundland, having gained passage on a ship owned by Edmund Rice, latter who later founded the Congregation of Christian Brothers (Congregatio Fratrum Christianorum) in 1802.
Thomas Francis Meagher some days later was arrested and put on trial for treason, at the request of Queen Victoria, before being sentenced to death by being ‘Hanged, Drawn and Quartered’. This latter punishment by the British Government was used extensively for those found guilty of high treason, with convicts fastened to a hurdle or wooden panel. This was then drawn by horse to the nominated place of execution. Here the criminal would then be hanged to the point of death before being emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and chopped into four pieces.
You can read the full story (Click HERE) of the commutation of this most severe sentence originally imposed on Thomas Francis Meagher; his escape from imposed prison exile in Australia and his rise to become Brigadier General of the Irish Infantry Brigade, (The ‘Fighting Sixty-Ninth’), which consisted predominantly of Irish Americans then serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
A rare signature of Thomas Francis Meagher written on the inside cover of a book entitled “Wreath of Friendship” can be found in St. Mary’s Famine Museum, Thurles, same situated just 10 minutes driving time from Lisheen Castle. Same signature was written while he was a prisoner in Richmond Prison, Tasmania.