Photograph of John T. Prout on his wedding day, July 1922

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The photograph seen here is of Irish Free State Army Commandant General John T. Prout and his wife, Mary Conba, on their wedding day. They were married in St. John’s Church in Kilkenny in early July 1922; and the church can be seen in the background of the photograph. Also featured are men from Prout’s South Eastern Command group.

Prout was born In 1880 in Dundrum, County Tipperary, but his family emigrated to the United States while he was still a child. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, and fought with the 69th Infantry Regiment in France, where he reached the rank of Captain and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his heroism. Prout returned to Ireland in 1920 to visit friends in Dundrum, and he reconnected with his childhood friend Eamon O’Duibhir, who was the Assistant Brigade Quartermaster for the Third Tipperary Brigade of the IRA. O’Duibhir believed that Prout would be valuable to the movement and requested that he assist in whatever manner he felt comfortable with. Prout helped to train local IRA units throughout the remainder of the Irish War of Independence, and by the end of the war he held command over one of the training camps. He stayed in Ireland after the Truce, and joined the Irish Free State Army at the rank of Commandant General.[1]

When the Civil War began, Prout led a command of 450 men with one 18 pound field gun to Waterford. After a three day battle they defeated the Anti-Treaty forces there. Prout’s men occupied the city and recruited additional soldiers into their ranks to help maintain order. He would then command his troops to take Carrick on Suir, Cashel, and Clonmel. Once the Anti-Treaty IRA adopted guerilla tactics Prout’s area of command did not experience the intense fighting that other areas faced. Prout would eventually come under criticism when posts under his command fell back against Anti-Treaty forces commanded by Tom Barry.[2]

Troops under Prout’s command did carry out two operations that likely led to the end of the Civil War. His men traversed through the Glen of Aherlow in February 1923, where they engaged with Anti-Treaty forces. During the fighting they killed the commander Dinny Lacy and capture many of the men under his command. Prout’s forces carried out another sweep through the Knockmealdown Mountains in March and April 1923, where they again skirmished with Anti-Treaty forces. During this exchange, they killed Anti-Treaty IRA commander Liam Lynch, and captured many members of the Anti-Treaty general staff. Despites these actions, Prout’s troops continued to be criticized for their performance and inability to eliminate guerilla activity in Wexford.[3]

After the Civil War, Prout left Ireland and settled in New York. According to Eamon O’Duibhir, the Civil War disgusted Prout, and that was his main reason for returning to the United States.[4] However, Prout was demobilized from the Army in 1924, possibly due to the criticism of his command during the Civil War. As one of the highest ranking officers to be demobilized, it seems that his frustration with how the government handled the Army likely played a large role in his decision to return to the United States.[5]

The photo of Prout on his wedding day is a great example of how despite Civil War raging around them, people still carried on with their daily lives. Prout, an active combatant in the Civil War, still made time to get marry. Soldiers and friends still had time to attend his wedding. This challenges much of our thinking about the Irish Revolution, as historians have often painted the period to focus solely on the active roles of combatants and politicians. We must not forget that everyone carried on with their home lives as well.

 

Notes:

[1] Bureau of Military History WS1474, Eamon O’Duibhir.

[2] Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green: The Irish Civil War (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2004), 154-155 and 168-169.

[3] Hopkinson 238-246.

[4] Bureau of Military History WS1474, Eamon O’Duibhir.

[5] Dail Debates 13 June 1924, “Newspaper Article” http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail1924061300036?opendocument

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