Did one Irish family achieve the highest bravery awards in Britain and the US?

An outstanding group of six Indian Mutiny medals and a Victoria Cross awarded to Patrick Donohoe from Co Tipperary is up for auction this month
Did one Irish family achieve the highest bravery awards in Britain and the US?

The outstanding group of six medals awarded to Patrick Donohoe.

The auction of a Victoria Cross awarded to Patrick Donohoe for bravery during the Indian Mutiny at Dix Noonan Webb on January 26 raises a fascinating question. Is he the brother of Timothy Donoghue, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for service during the American Civil War?

Both were born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary – Patrick in 1820 and Timothy in 1825. And Timothy, who named his son Patrick, is known to have had an older brother of that name. 

If it turns out they are brothers, it will be the only case of one family receiving the highest gallantry award of both Britain and America.

Research suggesting they are indeed brothers has been produced by Col James Tierney, US army retired, regimental historian of the 69th (New York Infantry) Regiment.

Timothy earned his Medal of Honor serving with the 69th New York Infantry at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862. Patrick won his VC at the Battle of Bolondshuhur in 1857 during the unsuccessful mutiny against British rule, known in India as the First War of Independence.

Patrick joined the 17th Lancers in Dublin in 1839, giving his trade as coachmaker. In April 1842, he transferred to the 9th Lancers, then bound for India where, in the space of the next 17 years, it was to see more fighting than in the whole of its previous 125 years.

Timothy arrived in the US in the City of New York with his wife and son Patrick in April 1862. He enlisted in the 69th Regiment in September of that year.

The Victoria Cross awarded to Patrick Donohoe.
The Victoria Cross awarded to Patrick Donohoe.

In India, Patrick Donohoe was among a select group, unique to his unit, to be present at all three major military episodes of the campaign, the Siege of Delhi, the Relief of Lucknow and the final capture of Lucknow. 

Wounded in Lucknow in 1858, he recovered to undertake the passage home with the regiment in 1859, now among a mere handful of comrades to have survived the years in India. His VC was sent to India while he was at sea, returned to London and eventually presented by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in January 1860.

Patrick Donohoe was discharged with chronic bronchitis from the British Army in Dublin in 1864 after 25 years of service. He died in Ashbourne, Co Meath, in 1876 and is buried in Donoughmore, Co Cork.

On offer at Dix Noonan Webb in London on January 26 is the outstanding group of six Indian Mutiny medals awarded to Patrick Donohoe, including his VC. Lot 207 is estimated at £140,000-£180,000 (€167,440-€215,280).

For now, the question of whether two brothers from Tipperary received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Victoria Cross remains open.

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