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In addition to more Irishmen joining his battalion, Riley welcomed other foreign-born US deserters, as well as American-born deserters. Also, some Irish-born civilian residents of Mexico were persuaded to join the struggle. Patrick, is the patron saint of the Irish people.

On the other side, Saint Patrick was depicted holding in his left hand a key and in his right a crook or staff resting upon a serpent. Even before this flag flew, however, and even before the official May 13 declaration of Mexican- American war, the men who would make up the core of the San Patricio Battalion had taken part in the first two battles of the war at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma May 8 and 9, Moreno, with Riley in charge of 1 st company and Santiago O'Leary heading up the second. They were credited with defeating two to three separate US assaults into the heart of the city.

Among their targets were companies led by such officers as Braxton Bragg, many of whose soldiers would end up in their own ranks later in the war. These cannons would later be used by Mexican forces at the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco. They fought until their ammunition was exhausted and even then tore down three times the white flag that was raised by their Mexican comrades in arms, preferring to struggle on gallantly with bayonets and sabers until finally being overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

Despite their brave resistance, however, 85 of the Irish battalion were captured including wounded Riley and O'Leary.


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Seventy-two of them were immediately charged with desertion from the US Army. They were to be tried by US court-martial in two groups, on August 23, in the town of Tacubaya and on August 26, at San Angel, as traitors. At neither of these trials were the prisoners represented by lawyers, nor were transcripts made of the proceedings.

William Harney also of Irish origin! Only two of the prisoners were found to be not guilty, since they had never actually joined the US Army. Two others were found guilty but given the usual punishment for desertion, death by firing squad. The rest of them, including John Riley - on the ground that they had deserted from the US Army before war had been officially declared - received a lesser sentence that included whipping with fifty lashes and being branded on the cheek with a "D" for deserter.

Some were branded on the hip, while others were branded on the cheek, and John Riley was branded on both cheeks for good measure. It should be noted that, though more than 9. General Winfield Scott Hancock assigned Colonel William Harney to carry out the terms of the sentences, chosen intentionally on the ground of his Irish Catholic heritage! Wanted in St. A large section of the executions crossed into the realm of gross cruelty, sadism and political theatre, General Scott ordering a group to be hung within sight of the Battle of Chapultepec, one of the last clashes of the war after Mexico City was taken, just as an American flag was raised on the nearby castle.

This was done after Juan Escutia - the last of the six young military cadets who refused to fall back when General Bravo finally ordered retreat and fought to the death - grabbed the Mexican flag, wrapped it around himself and jumped off the castle to prevent the flag from falling into enemy hands. Harney was taunted and jeered by the condemned men during their execution. While overseeing the hangings, William Harney ordered Francis O'Connor hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day.

My order was to hang 30 and by God I'll do it! Riley and his tortured companions were forced to dig their fallen comrades' graves.

John Riley was not one of those executed, a distinction drawn between those who had deserted before and after the war had started. He suffered through his flogging in grim silence, but he screamed and passed out when branded on the right cheek, just below his eye.


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  • An American officer inspected the damage and noticed the brand had been applied upside down. The Irish captain was brought back to consciousness, and the brand was reapplied correctly on his left cheek. The result was a large ugly welt on each cheek which were highly noticeable. One of the last duties of the US forces in Mexico City involved a punishment detail. Beyond the gates of the Citadel, the guards watched astonished as Riley took off his tattered prison garb and drew the formal uniform coat of a Mexican colonel, emblazoned with the orders and decorations awarded to a foreigner soldier by a grateful nation.

    Riley would remain in Mexican service until , dying in unknown circumstances sometime later. Several American politicians including Abraham Lincoln considered unjust the aggression against a weak nation, and underscored the true cause: annexing territory to become slave states that would protect and increase the power of the southern area of the United States. General Ulysses S. Grant later expressed the view that the war against Mexico was one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation and that it had brought punishment on the United States in the form of the American Civil War Yet, it added more to the national treasury and to the land mass of the United States than all other wars combined.

    After the conflict, which was resolved in the way that US had wished, so much new area was opened up, so many targets had been accomplished, that a mood of self-congregation and enthusiasm took root in the United States.

    The deserters from the war were soon forgotten as they homesteaded and labored in the gold fields of California or, as the s approached, put on the gray uniform of the Confederacy or the blue one of the Union. That is not surprising. You can't tell the story of the heroes without commenting the atrocities that prompted them to cross battle lines.

    The preferred version of those US historians who do engage the story is that these conscientious objectors were little more than disoriented deserters who, one day, drank too much and stumbled across enemy lines. The US Army long denied the existence of the Saint Patrick's Battalion as a cover-up and an attempt to discourage other potential deserters.

    Tzilacatzin el Súper Héroe Mexica que Asustaba a los Españoles

    This resulted in the US Army's admitting its denial of the matter. Indeed, over the next century and a half they would largely realize this dream, as the prejudice and discrimination against them became less and less common. A Commemorative plaque listing the names of seventy-one soldiers was placed at the San Jacinto Plaza in the district of San Angel, Mexico City, in The heraldry at the top of the plaque depicts a Celtic cross protected by the outstretched wings of the Aztec eagle. The inscription on the plaque reads: " In memory of the Irish soldiers of the heroic San Patricio Battalion, martyrs who gave their lives for the cause of Mexico during the unjust US invasion of ".

    At the bottom of the plaque another inscription reads: "With the gratitude of Mexico, years after their holocaust". Numerous schools, churches and other landmarks in Mexico take their name from the battalion.

    John Riley sums up what cannot be clearly documented in any history: the basic, gut-level affinity the Irishman had then, and still has today, for Mexico and its people. John Riley was not forgotten in Mexico, neither were his men. It was a cross bearing three images: a gamecock, a pair of dice, a skull and crossbones. The imagery was summed up best by the historian Edward S. There are no words inscribed on that side of the coin. Ex-Counsellor to the European Parliament.

    Vice-president of the Institute for Management of Geopolitical crises, Thessaloniki.

    Brussels, May Muchos ciudadanos de los EE. Pero la mano de obra barata irlandesa era agradable. Las familias irlandesas que llegaban en los puertos de las ciudades norte-orientales de los EE.

    En este momento, la sociedad de los EE. Los "San Patricios" fueron reconocidos por su habilidad como artilleros. En ninguno de estos juicios los presos estuvieron representados por abogados, ni se realizaron las transcripciones de los procedimientos. Buscado en St. El general Ulysses S. Eso no es sorprendente.

    Las decisiones de los que se unieron a los "San Patricios" probablemente no fueron bien pensadas o planeadas. Eran impulsivas y emocionales, como muchas de las rebeliones de Irlanda. Wallace en "estos desafortunados hombres fueron valientes y lucharon, apostaron y perdieron". No hay palabras en ese lado de la moneda.

    Ex-Consejero al Parlamento Europeo. Vice Presidente del Instituto de gestion de crisis geopoliticas, Thessaloniki. Bruselas, mayo de Song in Honor of the San Patricio Battalion. In , Journalist John L.