John T. Prout

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John T. Prout (1880–1969) was an American and Irish soldier. He served in the United States Army in the First World War, a training officer in the guerrilla Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) and held one of the senior commands in the National Army during the Irish Civil War (1922–23).

First World War[edit]

Prout was born in County Tipperary in 1880, but emigrated to the United States while still young. After the United States entry into the First World War in 1917, he enlisted with the United States 69th Infantry Regiment. He spent five months attached to the French command staff and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.[1]

Irish War of Independence[edit]

After the war he returned to Ireland, where he became involved in the agitation for Irish independence and joined the Irish Republican Army. He served as a training and intelligence officer to the Third Tipperary Brigade, based at Galtee Castle[citation needed].

Irish Civil War[edit]

When the IRA split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922, he sided with the Treaty. He subsequently joined the new National Army, where he was given the rank of Commandant General and given command of the southeast, based in Kilkenny.[2] The Civil War, between pro- and anti-Treaty factions, broke out in June 1922.

In July 1922, with a command of 450 men, and an 18 pounder field gun, Prout re-took the city of Waterford from anti-treaty forces after a three-day battle (see Irish Free State offensive).[3] There he recruited 200 more soldiers into the National Army, and received a large shipment of arms by sea from Dublin. His troops also had to keep order in the city in the absence of any other civil power.[4]

Moving on from Waterford, his command proceeded to take the republican held town of Carrick on Suir, after more fighting on August 2, 1922. He went on to take Cashel and Clonmel. After a final stand at Redmondstown, the Anti-Treaty IRA in the south east gave up their fixed positions and took up guerrilla warfare.[5]

The guerrilla war was not as intense in Prout's south-eastern command as elsewhere but his troops came in for considerable criticism for indiscipline and inefficiency. A National Army report of October 1922 stated, "Prout is too weak as well as too guilless to handle traiterous or semi-mutinous incompetents". In December a number of posts under Prout's command, including Carrick on Suir, surrendered to an anti Treaty column under Tom Barry, giving up their arms and equipment. Commandant General Eamon Price, sent to investigate the incident sympathised with Prout and backed his plea for more arms and transport for his command. He blamed Prout's subordinate officers for the reverse.[6]

However, in the new year, Prout organised a number of successful anti-guerrilla operations, which helped to bring the war to an end. In February 1923, he launched a sweep of the Glen of Aherlow, killing republican commander Dinny Lacey and capturing much of his column. In March and April, another sweep, this time of the Knockmealdown Mountains, arrested more anti Treaty fighters, including much of their general staff and killed their Commander in Chief, Liam Lynch.[7] Nevertheless, his command was heavily criticised by National Army GHQ until after the end of the war for its poor performance - particularly the failure to stamp out guerrilla activity in County Wexford.[8]

Though the Irish Civil War was marked by executions and killings of prisoners, in Prout's command there were only two judicial executions and no other 'summary executions.' Republican Mick Sheehan commented, "we may thank Prout that there are so few" [9]

Later life[edit]

Prout was demobilised from the National Army in June 1924, at a time when he held the rank of Major General. General Richard Mulcahy, Commander in Chief of the Army criticised the decision, "I think that is a very regrettable matter. Major-General Prout has been made the butt of an attack by a none too sober and none too industrious section here in the country and it is a most disconcerting matter that an officer of Major-General Prout's record and service during the last 18 months or two years finds himself now demobilised."[10]

Prout later moved back to America, settling in New York.

In 1940, he was technical advisor on the film The Fighting 69th, where he was credited as "Captain John T Prout".[11][12]

An article on Irish republican activities in the US in the interwar years states, "The son of a former pro-Treaty Army General, John T. Prout did become involved in a right wing plot to carry out anti-Semitic terrorism during 1940".[13]

His son also served in the American 69th Regiment in the Pacific theatre of World War II.[14]

Prout died in 1969 and is buried in Vermont.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Terence O'Reilly: Rebel Heart: George Lennon: Flying Column Commander Mercier 2009, ISBN 1-85635-649-3 p174
  2. ^ Niall C Harrington, Kerry Landing, p36
  3. ^ O'Reilly, p177-185
  4. ^ O'Reilly, p190
  5. ^ Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green, p168-169
  6. ^ Hopkinson p209-210
  7. ^ Hopkinson p235, 244
  8. ^ Hopkinson p246
  9. ^ O'Reilly, p205
  10. ^ http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0007/D.0007.192406130035.html
  11. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032467/fullcredits
  12. ^ http://books.google.ie/books?id=bsoUXGZSxZcC&pg=PA335&lpg=PA335&dq=John+T+Prout+army&source=bl&ots=x_7khiCX-k&sig=aMquaDnMX8aGGP6wWOclfwXT0Og&hl=en&ei=WAPdSqbyJcqZjAezgJn_Cg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CCEQ6AEwCQ
  13. ^ http://www.ijasonline.com/BRIAN-HANLEY.html
  14. ^ http://web.mac.com/sisyphus3/Site_3/COL_Powers.html
  15. ^ His gravestone lists the 69th under its Federal number of 165th Infantry