#OnThisDay 1917 Captain ‘Dynamite’ Johnny O’Brien passed away in a hotel in New York City.
Born in NYC in 1837, O’Brien was a wild man and supporter of all rebel causes, you could argue. He was involved in conflicts from Haiti to Colombia, and from Mexico to Honduras but closest to his heart was Cuba.
“Being of Irish parentage I was favourably disposed towards dynamite on general principal,”
Both his parents were Irish, from Cavan & Longford (and quite likely knew General Phillip Sheridan’s folks too). He left home at 13 to work on ships, working his way up the ranks. He was third officer on the Union navy The Illinois but subsequently ended up running guns for the Confederates through the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.
In 1888 he transported 60 tons of unnatural dynamite which could explode at any second through a storm to Columbia to aid some revolutionaries there.
During the Cuban-Spanish war, he through his lot in with the Cubans and ferried
“2500 rifles, a 12 pounder Hotchkiss field gun, 1500 revolvers, 200 short carbines. 1000 pounds of dynamite, 1200 machetes, an abundance of ammunition” and one-General Calixto Garcia-to the Island.” Another time he landed guns and supplies only three miles from the Presidential palace in Havana.
O’Brien was offered the job of Chief Havana Harbour Pilot by the first president of Cuba-Thomas Estrada Palma which he took and settled in Cuba for years. He returned to New York where he died and was buried in the Sailors’ Cemetery. His funeral was paid for by the Cuban Government and he was buried in a large bronze casket.