Irish patriot, Civil War general, frontier governor—Thomas Francis Meagher played key roles in three major historical arenas. Today he is hailed as a hero by some, condemned as a drunkard by others. Paul R. Wylie now offers a definitive biography of this nineteenth-century figure who has long remained an enigma.
The Irish General first recalls Meagher’s life from his boyhood and leadership of Young Ireland in the revolution of 1848, to his exile in Tasmania and escape to New York, where he found fame as an orator and as editor of the Irish News. He served in the Civil War—viewing the Union Army as training for a future Irish revolutionary force—and rose to the rank of brigadier general leading the famous Irish Brigade. Wylie traces Meagher’s military career in detail through the Seven Days battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Wylie then recounts Meagher’s final years as acting governor of Montana Territory, sorting historical truth from false claims made against him regarding the militia he formed to combat attacking American Indians, and plumbing the mystery surrounding his death.
Even as Meagher is lauded in most Irish histories, his statue in front of Montana’s capitol is viewed by some with contempt. The Irish General brings this multi-talented but seriously flawed individual to life, offering a balanced picture of the man and a captivating reading experience. ~Goodreads Blurb
The title is unfortunately a lie, I'm so sorry. While I don't have a list of why Maegher is bae, it appears someone else had such a man-crush on him that he sent a letter to President Lincoln. In author Paul A Wylie's own words, "By the end of 1861 a surreptitious campaign had begun to have Meagher named the permanent commander of the Irish Brigade. Probably with his knowledge, but surely without his editing, an awkward, anonymously authored, and unsigned document titled "Reasons Why Colonel Thomas Francis Meagher Should Be Appointed Brigadier General of the Irish Brigade." was delivered to President Lincoln. Written in a hand different from Meagher's usual jagged right-slanted, nearly illegible penmanship, the pamphlet gave ten reasons why he deserved the appointment." Less than 30% into the book and I had to laugh out loud at the sheer fact that it seemed like a time travelling Buzzfeed editor was to blame for Thomas Meagher's appointment in charge of anyone, let alone a large group of soldiers.
Paul Wylie has done an amazing job putting together this biography on Thomas Meagher, a man that Montana history has started to forget. Lauded as an Irish Rebel and a brilliant orator, Meagher had nothing but trouble as soon as he stepped outside his wheelhouse. As a General he lead most of his men to the slaughter. Not believing any real cause other than Irish independence, Meagher saw the Civil War merely as a training ground for the Irish to gain experience and weapons. Most of the men he lead onto the field would not return to their homes. The man even chose to equip his men with less than modern weapons because he felt it would make a better picture and story. This man with his romantic views on war and rebellion was not a great general or even a good leader. He was a brilliant speaker and if only he had be satisfied with his speeches and rhetoric, perhaps things would have gone differently.
This fast paced but detail filled biography is incredibly well written. Without choosing to call Meagher a villain or a hero, Wylie simply lays the facts before us in a easy and simple manner, thus leaving the name calling up to the reader. At times the sheer amount of data and facts can make it a bit too dry, the action and the additional sources show what Meagher's journey from Ireland to Montana would have been like.
I would recommend to history buffs, and folks interested in Montana history. It is very well written and there are plenty of pictures if that's what you require. Even though I am not a fan of the man he writes about, I have to appreciate the work that went into Wylie's biography.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer