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;


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

North Tipperary Genealogy Centre Church Baptism Records.