The Funeral of General Michael Corcoran

Michael Corcoran was something of a celebrity in 1860s New York. The Co. Sligo native hit the headlines in 1860 when as Colonel of the 69th New York State Militia he refused to parade during the visit of the Prince of Wales. His court-martial had not occurred by the outbreak of the war, and at First Bull Run he was captured while still in command of the 69th. He was not exchanged, instead being held under threat of retaliatory execution until August 1862. He returned to New York to a rapturous reception and reentered the war at the head of the ‘Irish Legion’. He died on 22nd December 1863 when his horse fell on him while riding with Thomas Francis Meagher. The 28th December edition of the New York Times held an account of his funeral, and clearly demonstrates the deep affection in which he was held.

Col. Michael Corcoran. Digital ID: 1217874. New York Public Library
General Michael Corcoran

THE OBSEQUIES OF GEN. MICHAEL CORCORAN; IMPRESSIVE AND SOLEMN FUNERAL SERVICES-THE MILITARY PROCESSION

At 9 o’clock yesterday morning the remains of the late Gen. Corcoran, which had been lying in state for the past two days in the Governor’s room at the City Hall, were conveyed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Mulberry-street; in order for the Solemn High Mass requiem to be said over them. Long before the hour appointed, the Cathedral was crowded to its utmost limits, in consequence of which the doors had to be closed against the constantly increasing throng. On the arrival of the body at the Mott-street entrance of the Cathedral it was at once borne to the centre of the middle aisle, and placed upon a raised dais, with six candles around it. The solemn and impressive ceremonies – made more so by the Cathedral being draped in black – of the High Mass requiem was then performed by Very Rev. William Starrs. V.G., assisted by Deacon Father Eugene McGuire. Sub-Deacon Rev. Dr. McSweeney, Master of the ceremonies, and Rev. Francis McNiernly, Secretary to Archbishop Hughes. At the conclusion of Mass, Rev. Wm. Starrs delivered an oration, of the most feeling and impressive nature, eulogistic of the deceased.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Digital ID: 1659444. New York Public Library
St. Patrick’s Cathedral 1858

The remains were then removed back to the City Hall, and again laid in state in the Governor’s room, where an opportunity was afforded the public to see the remains. The throng until the hour of 1 o’clock was immense, and large numbers were unable to gain admittance.

A few minutes after 1 o’clock the military escort began to file into the Park, shortly afterward followed by several benevolent societies, who were to take part in the procession. Owing to the necessary delay of getting so large an escort into line the cortege did not commence to move till nigh upon 2 o’clock, being nearly an hour after the appointed time, and was in the following order:

The Twenty-second regiment, N.Y.S.N.G., under command of Col. Aspinwall.

The Sixty-ninth regiment, N.Y.S.N.G., under command of Col. Bagley.

The Fourth Artillery, under command of Col. Teller, Cavalry Troop of Sixty-ninth regiment.

Hearse, drawn by eight iron-gray horses, each decorated with funeral trappings.

PALL BEARERS.

Gen. Thos. F. Meagher.

Col. Math. Murphy, Sixty-ninth regiment, N.Y.S.V.

Col. J.R. McIvor, One Hundred and Seventieth regiment, N.Y.S.V.

Ex-Col. W. McCloey, One Hundred and Fifty-fifth regiment, N.Y.S.V.

Gen. Charles C. Dodge.

Col. John O. Mahoney, First regiment, Phoenix Brigade.

Col. Hugh C. Hood, One Hundred and Fifty-fifth regiment N.Y.S.V.

Lieut.-Col. T.M. Reed, Sixty-ninth regiment, N.Y.S.N.G.

Hon. William Walsh, Hon. Joseph Shannon, Hon. Peter Moneghan, Hon. John Healy, Hon. John Kelly, Hon. Elijah F. Purdy, Hon. Morgan Jones, Samuel T. Webster, Esq.

After the hearse and pall-bearers came family and relatives, officers of the Corcoran Legion, officers of the First division, N.Y.S.N.G.

His Honor the Mayor and Common Council, preceded by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

First regiment Phoenix brigade, Twenty-sixth regiment N.Y.S.N.G., under command of Col. John O’Mahoney.

Father Matthew U.T.B.A. Society, under command of Edward L. Carey.

Longshoremen’s Benevolent Society.

Father Matthew U.B.T.A.B. Society, of South Brooklyn, No. 1.

The military, under the command of Gen. Ewing, preceded by their bands, marched with arms reversed, and their colors bound with crape. The benevolent societies had also their banners, with the insignia of mourning upon them. The Police arrangements were under charge of Capt. Thorne, of the Twenty-sixth Precinct, and were excellent. About one hundred and fifty men were on duty, comprising detachments from eight Precincts. Capt. Greer, of the Third Precinct, with a force, had charge of Broadway.

Along the route up Broadway to the foot of Tenth-street, E.R., there was one continuous line of people, our Irish citizens predominating. Arriving at the ferry, the military and civic societies filed off, the respective bands struck up enlivening and secular airs, and the hearse, accompanied by the relatives and friends of the deceased, proceeded to Calvary Cemetery where the interment took place. During the day the flags on the various public buildings were kept at halfmast.

References

Warner, Ezra J. 1964. Generals in Blue

The New York Times Archive 1851-1980

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Categories: Corcoran's Irish Legion, Michael Corcoran, New York, Sligo

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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16 Comments on “The Funeral of General Michael Corcoran”

  1. September 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Michael Corcoran had recommended his fellow prisoner, Timothy O’Meara, to command the 90th Illinois, Chicago’s Irish Legion. Colonel O’Meara was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chattanooga and died on November 26, 1863, not quite a month before Corcoran’s death. O’Meara’s family chose private, rather than the offered public services, and a Solemn Mass of Requiem was said for O’Meara at their church on December 19th. It is fitting that O’Meara and Corcoran are buried within “speaking distance” of each other in Calvary Cemetery.

  2. September 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Impressive obsequies indeed!

  3. Jonski
    September 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    What a way to go though – does history record the fateful horse’s name?

    • September 23, 2010 at 8:36 am #

      Hi,

      That is one I am not sure of, I will have to check it out!

      Damian.

    • Martha Boltz
      July 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      I have read that for some reason he was instead riding Thomas Meagher’s horse, and when it stumbled, he was trapped under it. Also that there had been some libations going around before impromptu “race” which may have contributed to it. Since Meagher hada formally retired before that date, I doubt they were racing together, but many sources seem unclear. I’d like to know the name of whichever horse he was riding, too!

      • August 1, 2013 at 11:01 am #

        Hi Martha,

        many thanks for the comment! That is quite possible, I must check that out it would make a good post- it might also reveal his horse as well!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

  4. March 23, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    The General Ewing referred to is the brother-in-law and foster-brother of General William Tecumseh Sherman.

  5. April 20, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    It was an impressive Funeral. At least he got to see the Victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

    • April 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      Hi Daniel,

      Many thanks for the comment. It certainly was- it was an unfortunate end for him, it would have been interesting to see what he would have done in the post-war years, particularly in relation to Ireland.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  6. John Corcoran
    September 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Damian, did Michael have children with either of his wives? Just curious if there are descendants…

    • September 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

      Hi John,

      many thanks for the comment- I am don’t think he did, although I will have to confirm this. He certainly has a number of relatives from other branches but I don’t think any are direct.

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  7. Lloyd Jackson
    November 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Damian,

    Our unit here in Florence, AL. participated in the First Bull Run. A private William Oakley became separated from his unit in the conflict and while trying to find his company spotted someone hiding in the bushes and ordered him to come out. It was Col. Corcoran. Oakley brought Corcoran back to the Fourth Alabama unit. He was awarded Corcoran’s sword which he sent back home to Florence, AL. I continue to search this area for it! Been on many wild-goose chases but no luck yet. Thanks for posting info on Corcoran!

    • November 4, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      Hi Lloyd,

      Many thanks for sharing this information! Did Private Oakley leave an account of the incident anywhere? It would be a great one for the site- I hope you manage to track down Corcoran’s sword- you never know!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

      • John J. 'Jack' Corcoran
        February 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        Damian:

        It has long been said in my family (4 generations that I know of) that we were descendants, even by a Supreme Court Justice, but alas, no proof. It seems we have had skip generations, one being John Joseph and the next John Daniel, also Robert but no Michaels which beg the question whether this was concocted. There was also some previous company, John Daniel, Sons & Sons. To this day if you go to McSorley’s Ale House on 7th in New York City, Michael Corcoran’s picture is proudly displayed at the top of the wall above the wood burning stove. A pity that not more is known about his descendants, given he had 2 wives.

        John J. ‘Jack’ Corcoran

      • February 26, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

        Hi Jack,

        Many thanks for the comment- he was such a popular man- images of himself and Meagher must have been around a fireside in the United States, an interesting topic in itself! It is certainly worth looking into in more detail to see can you track back and verify it- it would be a nice link to confirm!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. ‘Our Orphan Children Will Not Soon Forget Him’: The Death of General Michael Corcoran | Irish in the American Civil War - December 22, 2013

    […] prior to his burial at Calvary Cemetery. To read more about the funeral service see a previous post here. His loss was keenly felt by the Irish across America, even by some with Confederate sympathies. […]

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