‘So Mote It Be': A Ramelton, Co. Donegal Mason in the Confederate Army

Surviving the American Civil War was no guarantee of a long and healthy life. Donegal native John Patton had served with distinction throughout the four years of conflict, first with the New  Orleans Crescent Rifles and subsequently in the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. Despite all the hazards he had endured, death came for him at the age of only 33, in 1872. He had been in the United States for a total of fifteen years, but in that time he had become firmly embedded in the New Orleans community. He was also a dedicated member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, a group that accorded him every honour on his death. One of his fellow masons was also a journalist, who penned a heartfelt tribute to his friend in a local newspaper, ending his tribute with the quintessentially masonic phrase ‘So Mote it Be.’

John Patton's Parole following his capture at Vicksburg in 1863 (Fold3)

John Patton’s Parole following his capture at Vicksburg in 1863 (Fold3)

Born in Ramelton, Co. Donegal in 1838, John Patton emigrated to New Orleans in 1854 at the age of sixteen. It is probable he was a member of Quitman Lodge No. 76 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons prior to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Serving initially in Company A of the New Orleans Crescent Rifles, he joined Company I of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery in Yazoo City on 3rd May 1862, signing on for ‘three years or the war.’ It would appear his service with the Mississippi Light almost ended as soon as it began, as he quickly found himself confined sick in hospital, where he would remain for a number of weeks in the late summer and early autumn. Eventually returning to his command, he and Company I became part of the force tasked with the defence of Vicksburg, the ‘Gibraltar of the Confederacy.’ He fought at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou in late December 1862, helping to defeat the first Federal efforts to gain control of the vital strategic city. During the siege of Vicksburg the following year John played a central role in his company’s activities, particularly after his commanding officer Lieutenant Bowman fell ill. When the city eventually surrendered to Ulysses Grant and the Union on 4th July 1863 John, now a First Sergeant, became a prisoner for the first time. He gave his parole and was eventually exchanged, and after a period as an Orderly Sergeant at Camp Cahaba in Alabama he rejoined his unit in the defences around Mobile. That August his commanding officer, recognising his organisational capabilities, recommended the Ramelton man for the position of Lieutenant and Adjutant, and he was duly appointed in November, 1864. He still held this position in April 1865, when the he was captured for a second time in what was his final action of the war, the campaign against Fort Blakely in April 1865. He was imprisoned for a time on Ship Island before returning to civilian life, having survived the trials of war. When illness eventually took him in 1872, his friends sought to make sure the Irish immigrant would not be forgotten.

The letter recommending that John Patton be promoted to Adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery (Fold3)

The letter recommending that John Patton be promoted to Adjutant of the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, August, 1864 (Fold3)

Here is John Patton’s obituary as it appeared in 1872:

Death of Capt. John Patton. In our last issue the following notice appeared:

DIED

In New Orleans on Friday morning, April 12, 1872, at 11 o’clock, of congestion of the brain, JOHN PATTON, aged 33 years 11 months and 8 days, a native of Ireland, and for the last fifteen years a resident of this city.

It was not our intention to pass with so brief a mention the death of a worthy citizen and personal friend, but the lateness of the hour at which the melancholy intelligence was received precluded, until this issue, our paying to his memory an appropriate tribute.

John Patton is dead. We are not often called upon to chronicle the passing away of so bright and noble a spirit as his. In his life there was a much for young men to emulate, much that added beauty to the world’s life. By his death a chord in the great and many toned lyre of nature has been broken. A bud has blossomed forth, and withered, and gone from among us to shine, let us trust, like a star upon the tree of immortal life. A good citizen in time of war and peace, a true friend, a loving brother, a devoted son, a faithful and affectionate husband has been taken from those he loved, and who loved him.He will meet with them around the family circle on this earth no more forever.

Mr. Patton was an Irishman. He was born in Ramelton, Co. Donegal, on the 4th of May, 1838. Fortune did not smile upon his birth, but careing nothing for her frowns he immigrated when sixteen years of age, in 1854, and at the instance of the lamented John McFarland, who sacrificed his life with unselfish devotion upon the altar of Southern independence, John Patton cast his lot with the people of the South. He had qualities that eminently fitted him to hew his pathway through the rocks of life. He was just and true to all with whom he came in contact, and by his integrity, his independence, his manliness and his sterling business qualities, he soon won in his adopted country the confidence of those who knew him. With hundreds of friends he probably had not a single enemy.

When the tocsin of war resounded throughout the length and breadth of the land, he was among the first to volunteer, and upon the 4th of April, 1861, marched as a private soldier with Company A, New Orleans Crescent Rifles, to the battle fields of Virginia. His term of service having expired, he re-enlisted in the 1st Mississippi Artillery Regiment, with which command he participated in the battle of Chickasaw Bayou and the siege of Vicksburg. Being made prisoner, he was for a time in the Federal military prison on Ship Island. After he was exchanged he participated in the desperate and bloody engagement at Blakely, Alabama, just before the surrender of Mobile, and laid down his arms at the general surrender. For his zealous attachment to the Confederate cause and his known gallantry he was promoted through all the non-commissioned grades; and during the last years of service held the rank of Captain and Adjutant of his regiment. No native son of the South put forth his energies in her defence with more earnestness. None gave his service with less thought of personal sacrifice. In all ages Erin has boasted of the bravery of her children; she has cause to be prouder of none more than him. The war being over, he returned to New Orleans with but little more of this world’s goods than were his when, eleven years before, as an immigrant Irish boy, he placed his foot upon American soil. His native energies had not deserted him, and he soon, by his unsurpassed business qualifications, occupied a position among the merchants of that city of which a much older man might well be proud.

On Friday last, the 12th inst., he closed his eyes in that long sleep that knows no earthly waking, and on the succeeding day his remains were escorted to their final resting place by Quitman Lodge, No. 76, A., F. and A. M. (La.), and interred with all the honors and mystic rites of that most honorable and ancient order, there to remain until the general resurrection of the just. With them may we permitted to say: “The will of God is accomplished. So mote it be.” (1)

An 1865 plan of the dispositions at Fort Blakely, Alabama in April 1865, where John Patton was made a prisoner for the last time (Wikipedia)

An 1865 plan of the dispositions at Fort Blakely, Alabama in April 1865, where John Patton was made a prisoner for the last time (Library of Congress)

(1) John Patton Service Record, The Semi-Weekly Citizen 19th April 1862;

*Sincere thanks to friend of the site Jeff Giambrone for bringing this obituary to my attention and for providing a copy of same.

References & Further Reading

John Patton Civil War Service Record, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery.

The Semi-Weekly Citizen (Jackson) 19th April 1872. Death of Capt. John Patton.

Company I, First Mississippi Light Artillery Marker at the Vicksburg Battlefield

Civil War Trust Battle of Vicksburg Page

Civil War Trust Battle of Fort Blakely Page

Vicksburg National Military Park

Historic Blakely State Park

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Categories: Donegal, Louisiana, Mississippi

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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