Revealed: The Tipperary Town Where the First Soldier to Die in the American Civil War was Born?

The first soldier to die in the American Civil War was Private Daniel Hough of the 1st United States Artillery, from Co. Tipperary. Although we have long-known Hough was a Tipperary native, it has not been clear from where in that county he hailed. Details as to his wider family have also been scant. Recent research I have been conducting revealed a newspaper article, which if the letter-writer is genuine, provides much fresh information on Hough (or Howe as it was sometimes spelled). It allows us to identify the home town of the first to fall in the American Civil War- Nenagh, in the north of the county. 

The Bombardment of Fort Sumter on 12th April 1861 (Library of Congress)

The Bombardment of Fort Sumter on 12th April 1861 (Library of Congress)

Hough and his comrades were part of the Fort Sumter garrison in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina which endured the Confederate bombardment that sparked the deadly four-year conflict. He and his companions survived the initial action, but it was during a salute to the flag fired after the Fort’s surrender that Daniel met his end. He was killed on 14th April 1861, when the cartridge he was loading prematurely went off, in an explosion that also mortally wounded fellow Irishman Edward Gallway. Over four years after the event, on Saturday 17th June 1865, and with the conflict now at an end, a man identifying himself as Daniel Hough’s brother William wrote a letter that was published in the New York Herald-Tribune:

Secession’s First Victim

To His Excellency, President Johnson:

Sir: The N.Y. Journal of Commerce in a recent issue, published the name of the first man who was killed in this war, Daniel Howe.

His father’s name was Timothy Howe; his mother’s maiden name was Catharine Lacey; his birthplace was the town of Nenagh, county of Tipperary, Ireland. Daniel was killed at Fort Sumter (in 1861) and there interred in the presence of then Major (now Brigadier-Gen.) Anderson, and of Beauregard.

The writer of this is a brother of the above-mentioned Daniel, and is a humble and comparatively obscure citizen of these United States, a man of limited pecuniary means; and one object of this communication is to express a desire to have the remains of his brother removed from Sumter to Calvary Cemetery, on Long Island.

It might not be deemed presumptious to suggest to your Excellency that the United States Government could consistently defray the expenses of such desired removal, and possibly induced to go a step further and erect a suitable monument over the last resting place in Calvary of the remains of Daniel Howe.

It will not be presumptious to add that the writer feels some pride in calling your Excellency’s attention to the above statement, and also in giving it this publicity. 

Should your Excellency be disposed to think favorably of this “expressed desire,” the writer would feel proud and happy to be allowed to superintend the arrangements necessary to carry it out, and forever be Your most grateful and obedient servant,

William Howe,

Westchester House, corner Bowery and Brooms-st., New York City, June 15, 1865. (1)

Further work is required to fully confirm the contents of this letter. Previous research has been carried out on Hough’s origins by Tom Hurley for his excellent ‘What the Hough- the First Casualty of the American Civil War was a Tipperary Soldier’ radio documentary, which was broadcast on Tipp FM in 2012. Tom’s work identified a Daniel Hough born in Borrisokane in 1829 as the most likely candidate for the Fort Sumter Hough. He is certainly a strong contender. This Hough was baptised on 1st August 1829, the son of John Hough and Ellen Quinlan. However, this differs from the details in the 1865 letter, in which Timothy Howe and Catharine Lacey are identified as the parents of the Fort Sumter Daniel Hough. This raises the possibility that they may not be the same individual. (2)

Initial reviews have not revealed a marriage of Timothy Howe and Catharine Lacey in north Tipperary, but records are far from complete, and only additional research can answer the question as to whether evidence exists of their union. The primary question is if the William Howe who wrote this letter is genuine, or if he was an imposter attempting to profit in some way from an association with the Daniel Hough who died at Fort Sumter. However, if we accept the letter as genuine, then there is no reason to doubt that Daniel Hough was indeed a native of Nenagh.

William’s published letter provides us with vital new information to further explore Daniel’s origins in Ireland, which should allow additional research into his life before he departed for the United States. Although the 1865 letter to have Daniel Hough suitably remembered proved fruitless, it may be that 150 years later the information provided in it may inadvertently allow for the suitable commemoration of Daniel Hough (or Howe) in the town of his birth. It seems that this may well be Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

(1) New York Herald Tribune; (2) North Tipperary Genealogy Centre Church Baptism Records;

References

New York Herald-Tribune 17th June 1865. Secession’s First Victim.

North Tipperary Genealogy Centre Church Baptism Records.

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Categories: Battle of Fort Sumter, Tipperary

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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13 Comments on “Revealed: The Tipperary Town Where the First Soldier to Die in the American Civil War was Born?”

  1. March 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Nice work Damian!

  2. March 25, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    This will be an amazing discovery if you can confirm it ! Well done!

  3. Anthony McCan
    March 25, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    The Irish newspapers followed the Major Andrew Gallweyfortunes or misfortunes of the Irish abroad.
    The Costitution 12 August 1863.
    At Baton Rouge LA USA Major Andrew Gallwey of Skibbereen having been wounded in the taking of Port Hudson died 9 July. His brother Edward Gallwey was kiled at Fort Sumter 13 April 13 1861 aged 20 years.
    I’ll have a look for Daniel Hough next time I go to the City Library
    At Baton Rouge LA USA

    • March 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for this excellent additional info- it is great to narrow that family down to Skibbereen as well (where I hope to be visiting next weekend!)

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  4. March 25, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Very interesting, and it appears no one is really sure where Daniel Hough is buried:

    “The fate of Private Hough’s body is unclear. His remains were first interred in Ft. Sumter’s parade ground shortly after his death. It is possible that he was re-interred in the Ft. Moultrie burial ground on Sullivan’s Island nearby. The location of this cemetery, however, is unknown today. His body may have been taken to the St. Lawrence Cemetery in Charleston. This cemetery has no records concerning Hough, however. If Hough’s remains stayed at Ft. Sumter, it is highly possible that they were destroyed by the heavy Union bombardments of the fort during the 1863-1865 Siege of Charleston. Approximately seven million pounds of artillery projectiles were fired at the fort over the course of the siege, resulting in extensive damage to the fort.”

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=64447684

    • March 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      It is still a mystery, I doubt we will ever know, which is a great pity.

  5. Eimear Hough
    March 25, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    Would love to know more about this!

    • March 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      Hi Eimear, hopefully we can fully get to the bottom of it and confirm the location of Daniel’s birth!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

  6. Anthony McCan
    March 27, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Further to this historical puzzle, Slater’s Directory of 1856 shows a Michael Hough as a Provision Dealer in Silver St. Nenagh. That doesn’t prove anything except that there was a family named Hough living in Nenagh. A message back in 2002 on the Hough Genforum says that Daniel enlisted in the \army in 1849 and that he had a mother sister and Bother William living in New York. I feel that the letter quoted is perfectly genuine although I couldn’t find dfinite proof.
    I consulted the Cork Examiner for April/May 1861 and there is a remarkably detailed rport on Fort Sumter and the fact that there were only 2 casualities, no names are given

    • April 2, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Hi Anthony,

      Nice work! I am inclined to agree with you regarding the letter. I have sent out inquiries in Nenagh to see can we find out mor, I will keep you up to speed with the results!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

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