The Shiel or Shields Family

Shiel or Shields family crest

(Crest No. 48. Plate 20.)

THE Shiel or Shields family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Maine, ancestor of the Southern Hy Nials, and son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379.

The ancient name was Sibhealt, meaning “The Gracious,” and was taken from a chief named Siaghail.

The possessions of the sept were located in the present Counties of Westmeath and Antrim. The name is of great antiquity, and was Latinized at a very early date in the form Sedulius. Under the Celtic pentarchy the O’Shiels or Shields were the standard bearers of the north, an office of special honor and trust in those military times.

One of the most noted of this name was Richard Lalor Shiel, author, politician and orator, and the “twin” emancipator, who was O’Connell’s chief supporter in the struggle for Catholic emancipation. He was born in Waterford in 1791. In early life he produced several plays of merit, the best known of which are “Evadne” and “The Apostate.” His labor in the cause of Catholic emancipation was brilliant and successful, and his devotion to his country’s interests was sincere. As an orator he had few equals in his day, and his “Sketches of the Irish Bar” will always remain the best source for information concerning the leading bar celebrities of the time in Ireland. He died in 1852.

Of this family also was the late General James Shields of the United States. He was a native of the historic town of Dungannon, and came to America at an early age. He served as Second Lieutenant of Volunteers in the Florida War before the age of twenty, and on the outbreak of the Mexican War he was appointed a Brigadier-General. He contributed largely to the victory of Cerro Gordo, and elicited the praise of General Scott and his brother officers. Near the close of the engagement General Shields was shot through the lungs, the ball passing completely through his body. At Contreras and the Hacienda de los Partales he subsequently distinguished himself, and at the assault upon Chapultepec, though severely wounded, he refused to leave his command or quit the field. General Shields served also in the late Civil War, and won the distinction of being the only man who ever defeated “Stonewall” Jackson. In civil and political life General Shields likewise gained high honors. He was the only man who ever represented, at different times, three states in the United States Senate.

There are many of this name in the United States.