1820 Thomas Sweeny was born in Cork on this day in 1820. He moved to America as a teenager and joined the US Army once he was old enough. Sweeny fought for the US against Mexico in the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and was injured so badly that his arm had to be amputated.
Despite the injury, Sweeny continued to serve in the US Army, and his comrades nicknamed him ‘Fighting Tom’. He actually got into a fist fight with one of his soldiers. General Grenville M. Dodge had broken the chain of command and given his own order to the men in Sweeny’s regiment.
Sweeny reacted angrily and attacked Dodge. He was later court-martialled but was acquitted.
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1843 Albert Cashier was born in County Louth on this day in 1843. He was actually born female, named Jennie Irene Hodges, but lived his entire life as a man, and revealed his secret to only a handful of people.
Cashier moved to America and enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War. His comrades noted that he was of small stature, and liked to keep himself to himself but never suspected he was female. Cashier was once kidnapped by enemy soldiers but managed to escape by overpowering a prison guard.
He then worked as farmhand, and lived out his life in relative obscurity. Cashier was discovered to be female on a couple of occasions by medical professionals but each time the secret remained kept.
That was until, sadly in the latter stages of his life, he moved to a hospital for the insane after his mind deteriorated. The staff there discovered Cashier was female, and made him live out the rest of his life wearing a dress.
He was buried in his US Army uniform, and the tombstone read the name Albert Cashier. The executor of his estate took nine years to trace him back to the birth of Jennie Hodges in County Louth. However, none of the claimant beneficiaries to his estate could prove their relationship, and the proceeds were deposited into the Adams County, Illinois, treasury.
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1916 Irish prisoners were released from Frongoch prison on this day in 1916. An estimated 1800 Irish nationalists had been interned in Frongoch following the Easter Rising rebellion earlier in the year. The leaders of the Rising had been executed within a few days of being captured.
The Rising took place during the First World War and the British didn’t want any conflicts in Ireland jeopardising their fight against the Germans. So, they simply arrested an imprisoned any known or suspected rebels in Ireland.
The prison became a training ground for Irish nationalists. Michael Collins was one of those imprisoned and spent much of his time teaching about guerrilla warfare tactics to use against the British, as well as networking with other Irish nationalists from across the country. The prison even became known as the “University of Revolution” or “Sinn Féin University”.
The Irish prisoners were released on Christmas Day in 1916, after David Lloyd George took over from H. H. Asquith as British Prime Minister.
Michael Collins used many of the contacts and associates he made in Frongoch when he led the Irish in the War of Independence a few years later.
Click here to read more about Irish history
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1937 Happy birthday to Noel Furlong, born in Dublin on this day in 1937. Furlong is the owner of a successful carpet manufacturing business, but rose to the public eye when he won the 1999 World Series of Poker tournament, which came with a $1m prize.
Furlong had to pay $10,000 to enter the tournament, and managed to navigate his way through various heats and tables to progress to the final. He managed to outlast fellow countryman Padraig Parkinson aswell as former world champion Huck Seed to win the tournament.
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1971 Happy birthday to Noel Hogan, born in Limerick on this day in 1971. Hogan is the guitarist and co-songwriter of the Irish band the Cranberries. The band made a massive impact on the music scene in the mid-nineties, with hits including the love song Linger, and the Troubles protest song, Zombie.
Click here to read more about the Cranberries
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1999 Irish bookmakers Paddy Power didn’t have a happy christmas in 1999. Although the weather in most of Ireland consisted of heavy wind and rain, there was snowfall in County Waterford which meant lucky punters who had bet on a white christmas were due to collect a total of £50,000.
Click here to read about Yule – the ancient Celtic festival