A gravestone honoring Irish Patriot Thomas Meagher, a Fighting 69th Brigade commander and former acting governor of Montana Territory, was unveiled at the Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, New York on April 19.
The Green-Wood Historic Fund erected the gravestone to Meagher, whose body was never found after he went missing on the Missouri River in 1867, and placed it next to the grave of his wife Elizabeth.
Meagher, born in Waterford in 1823, received his education from the Jesuits, first at Clongowes Wood in Kildare and later at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. On his return to Ireland he was greatly influenced by politician Daniel O’Connell, and agreed with him for a need to repeal the Act of Union with Britain.
In 1845, with William Smith O’Brien, he was one of the founders of Young Ireland, a group that shared O’Connell’s vision but not his method of non-violent means to attain their common goal. It was a speech that Meagher delivered around this time, urging his countrymen to take up arms against England, that earned him the nickname “Meagher of the Sword.”
In 1848 Meagher and others were arrested after the Young Ireland Rebellion at the Battle of Ballingarry in Tipperary and sentenced to death for sedition. The sentence was later commuted to life in exile in Australia.
Meagher escaped Van Diemen’s land and arrived in America in 1852. He became an American citizen and led Company K of the Fighting 69th Brigade in battle during the America Civil War.
On fighting for the Union, General Meagher was once quoted, “It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”
After the war, he was Secretary of the new Montana Territory and later served as acting Governor. In 1867 while traveling on steamboat on the Missouri River, Meagher went overboard and his remains were never recovered.
“It is only fitting that we remember General Meagher here at Green-Wood – the final resting place of his beloved wife, as well as thousands of American Civil War veterans,” said president of Green-Wood Cemetery Richard J. Moylan of the unveiling. “We are proud to recognize his lifelong commitment to freedom and his brave military service in defense of our nation. His memory will be honored for generations to come.”
Chris Meagher, a great grand nephew of the Civil War hero, was at the unveiling on behalf of the Meagher family. The State of Montana also paid its respect to Meagher by sending a representative, Major Patrick Flaherty of the Montana National Guard, to the ceremony.
Major Flaherty read aloud from a letter penned by Governor Brian Schweitzer for the occasion. “As Governor of the State of Montana and a member of the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, we thank you for giving our brother a symbolic resting place. He earned his place in history. He earned his place in our hearts across America and around the world. We are honored to claim him as our hero.”