Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero by Timothy Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If only the history books of my youth were written by such people as Timothy Egan. Instead of having to learn dry facts and memorize the dates of battles I might have developed an interest in history long before I reached my later years.

I had never heard of Thomas F. Meagher but the fact that this book was written by is Timothy Egan was the reason I picked it up. I’d read Egan before - “The Big Burn, Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America,” and “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis,” the man who spent decades documenting the lives of more than eighty North American Indian tribes. Both are terrific books.

The depth of Egan’s research begins during the years of cruelty heaped upon the Irish by the British government. Even those of us who have heard all about what used to be called the “Great Famine” will learn and be shocked by the depth of cruelty bestowed on Ireland by the British. Today that horrid era is more rightly called “an Gorta Mor,” the Great Hunger. This was the time of the potato blight which saw the starvation and death of so many Irish. It’s the story of why so many Irish left their homeland and why so many were jailed by the English for minor “offenses” dealing with their need to feed themselves. And shocking is the fact that several other crops were grown, only to be loaded onto ships and sent to feed English citizens.

After making his mark in the Irish fight for independence, O’Meagher was banished by the British to a penal colony on an island now known as Tasmania. From there he made his way to America and was heralded in New York as a hero. The next step in his extraordinary life was his role as a leader in the Union army during the Civil War.

So while this is the story of Thomas F. Meagher, the man who designed the Irish flag, the man proclaimed a hero by the Irish both in the old world and the new, it is also the story of a man whose demons sometimes obscured his greatness.



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