Tipperary – Irish in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com Exploring Irish Emigration in the 19th Century United States Sat, 24 Feb 2018 13:02:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-Family-90x90.jpg Tipperary – Irish in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com 32 32 133117992 Document Focus: The Story of the Phelan Family Register http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/04/10/document-focus-the-story-of-the-phelan-family-register/ Mon, 10 Apr 2017 19:45:01 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=11990 The last post (see here) was the first in a series called Document Focus, highlighting specific documents that are of interest in both their own right but also served a specific purpose in building the claim of a prospective pensioner. In this second post on that topic, we return once again to the Irish of Ohio,...

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The last post (see here) was the first in a series called Document Focus, highlighting specific documents that are of interest in both their own right but also served a specific purpose in building the claim of a prospective pensioner. In this second post on that topic, we return once again to the Irish of Ohio, examining a document handed over to the Pension Bureau by Tipperary native Catharine Phelan in the 1870s, which charted the story of her family.

The Phelan Family Register (NARA/Fold3)

The Phelan Family Register- click to enlarge (NARA/Fold3)

The document Catharine submitted was her Family Register. In supplying it to the Pension Bureau, Catharine stated that “all of the said record was written before the commencement of the last war, except the name of the last child and some pencil marks in the death column.” The register is a fascinating historical document in and of itself. It charts the place and dates of birth not only of Catharine and her husband Patrick, but also of their children. From it we learn that Patrick Phelan was born in Kilcrag[g]an, Co. Kilkenny on St. Patrick’s Day 1821, while Catharine (née Fox), a native of Tullagha, Co. Tipperary, had been born on 25th March 1826. The couple had presumably met following their emigration, marrying in Buffalo, New York, in February 1851. The names, dates and places of birth of the couple’s seven children were recorded as follows (1):

Name Date of Birth Location
Mary A Phelan 8 November 1851 Buffalo, NY
William H Phelan 2 August 1853 Lucas, OH
Ellen P Phelan 16 September 1855 Lucas, OH
Johannah Phelan 25 July 1857 Lucas, OH
John R. Phelan 14 December 1858 Lucas, OH
Anny Phelan 20 September 1860 Lucas, OH
Alice Phelan 27 March 1862

Table 1. Names, dates and places of birth of the Phelan children as recorded in the Family Register. 

Alice, born during the Civil War, is one of those names added in pencil. Also written in pencil is 15th February 1863, the date of death of Catharine’s husband Patrick. The Kilkenny man had enrolled in the Union Army at Camp Mansfield, Ohio, on 12 September 1862, becoming Captain of Company H, 120th Ohio Infantry. Somewhat unusually for an officer commanding a company, the 1860 Census for the village of Lucas recorded him not as a professional, but as a laborer. Patrick’s military career proved a short one. His death in early 1863 came of typhoid fever at a hospital in Young’s Point, Louisiana (you can see an image of Captain Patrick Phelan here). (2)

A private in the 120th Ohio Infantry (Library of Congress)

A private in the 120th Ohio Infantry (Library of Congress)

These family records of births and marriages– often kept in family bibles– are not unusual in the widow’s pension files, though they are somewhat less common in the files of Irish Catholic emigrants than those of other faiths. The Phelan register is a particularly fine example. Why had Catharine given it up, to become a formal piece of evidence in her pension claim? She explained the reason herself, in an affidavit of 1873, stating she was:

availing herself of the provisions of an Act of Congress approved March 3rd 1873, giving an increase of pension to the widows of officers at the rate of $2 per month for each child under the age of sixteen years, such increase to begin on the 25th day of July 1866 and to continue until said children respectively become of the age of sixteen years.

In order to claim this money Catharine had already handed in her original Widow’s Certificate to the Bureau, and given an affidavit with respect to the birth of her children. However, the Bureau informed her this would not be enough to obtain the payments, and she had to provide additional evidence with respect to both her children’s existence and dates of birth. The Family Register was the key piece of evidence she supplied in this regard. To supplement it, she also gave more detail on each of her children. She revealed that her eldest, Mary, had been born in the house of her brother-in-law James Phelan, in Buffalo, an indication of why they had likely made their initial home in that city. In addtition to that, she had Dr. Norman Baker, a physician, give testimony that he had attended at the birth of her other six children in the village of Lucas between 1853 and 1862. (3)

The harsh realities of 19th century child mortality was another facet of her story Catharine related to the Bureau. She divulged that she had another child, a baby boy, who was not on the Register. He had been born in Lucas in September 1854 but had died within the hour. She also noted that her son John R. Phelan had died in Mansfield on 14th August 1864, a few months shy of his 6th birthday- Dr. Baker, who had attended the young boy at his birth, was also there at his death. John’s fate was recorded in pencil below that of his father on the Register. (4)

Catharine had to explain a few discrepancies between the information presented on the Register and that which she had provided previously, such as the fact that the clergyman named as having married them on the Register was not in fact the officiating priest. However, her claim appears to have been ultimately successful. Shortly after her husband’s death in the Civil War the Irish widow moved her family to nearby Mansfield, Ohio. In 1870 she was living there with her children while operating a Boarding House in the city’s Third Ward. Catharine passed away in Ohio on 10th April 1899, and is remembered with her husband at Mansfield Catholic Cemetery. Her fine Family Register survives to provide us an insight into the births, marriages and deaths of one Irish emigrant family, and also allows us to gain further knowledge of the lengths even officer’s widows had to go to in order to satisfy the Pension Bureau. (5)

Memorial to Catharine Phelan and her husband Patrick in Mansfield, Ohio (Image; Tracey Harry, Find A Grave)

Memorial to Catharine Phelan and her husband Patrick in Mansfield, Ohio (Image; Tracey Harry, Find A Grave)

* None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

(1) Patrick Phelan Widow’s Certificate; (2) Ibid., 1860 Census; (3) Patrick Phelan Widow’s Certificate; (4) Ibid.; (5) Ibid., 1870 Census, Find A Grave;

References

Widow’s Certificate WC10267 of Catharine Phelan, Widow of Patrick Phelan, 120th Ohio Infantry.

Catherine Phelan Find A Grave Memorial.

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Communicating Death & Creating Memory on Fredericksburg's Streets http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2016/12/09/communicating-death-creating-memory-on-fredericksburgs-streets/ Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:37:23 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=11374 I have recently had a conference paper accepted on the topic of letters communicating bereavement to those on the Home Front. Since I began my work on the widow’s and dependent pension files, I have become particularly interested in these types of document, and in exploring the multitude of questions we can ask of them. How was...

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I have recently had a conference paper accepted on the topic of letters communicating bereavement to those on the Home Front. Since I began my work on the widow’s and dependent pension files, I have become particularly interested in these types of document, and in exploring the multitude of questions we can ask of them. How was news of death transmitted? What degree of detail was provided (or not)? What was the language of consolation (if any) employed by the writer? I have also been thinking about how this information was physically imparted to the bereaved and experienced by them– for example, for illiterate families the correspondence would have to be read aloud by a third-party. What responses did they compose (if any?), and what questions did they ask? To demonstrate just how much of this type of correspondence survives in the files, and also something of its variety and range, this post takes a look at bereavement letters written to the Irish emigrant families of four soldiers– all of whom died as a result of the savage fighting endured by the 20th Massachusetts Infantry on the streets of Fredericksburg on 11th December 1862.

Depiction of Fredericksburg from the 1906 Regimental History of the 20th Massachusetts (The Twentieth Regiment)

Depiction of Fredericksburg from the 1906 Regimental History of the 20th Massachusetts (The Twentieth Regiment)

On the evening of 11th December 1862 the 20th Massachusetts Infantry– the “Harvard Regiment”– was one of the units engaged in driving the Confederates from the city of Fredericksburg, clearing the way for the main assault of the Rebel positions that followed two days later. What they experienced that day would become one the famed episodes of the war. As Union troops sought to expand their bridgehead in the city, the 20th Massachusetts was sent forward to face an enemy who were ensconced in both buildings and at street intersections. The main body of the 20th advanced from the direction of the river up Hawke Street towards Caroline Street. Commanded by Captain Henry Macy, the regiment’s advance was led by Henry L. Abbott, who brought his company forward to march on the intersection. As the Massachusetts men pushed on, a Michigander Major warned them that “no man could live beyond that corner.” The Confederates were waiting. Once the 20th marched into the cross street the darkness was “lighted up by the flash of muskets” as a sheet of fire poured into the regiment. Although his command was almost wiped out, Abbott ran the gauntlet and crossed the intersection. As he sought to continue west, another battalion of the 20th faced south onto Caroline Street, while a third turned north. The fading light made it difficult for the Union men to see their targets. In the words of Captain Macy “we could see no one and were simply murdered.” While the other two battalions held the intersection, Abbott continued up Hawke Street; all three groups sustained terrible losses. The city was eventually taken by the Federals, but for the 20th Massachusetts it had come at a staggering cost. They had suffered 97 casualties in the space of just fifty yards. Many Irish-Americans were among the fallen. (1)

Depiction of the Fredericksburg Streets where the 20th Massachusetts were engaged, depicted in the 1906 regiment history (20th Massachusetts)

Depiction of the Fredericksburg streets where the 20th Massachusetts were engaged, from the 1906 Regiment History. For discussion on the precise streets the 20th fought on, see O’Reilly, The Fredericksburg Campaign (20th Massachusetts)

Among the 20th Massachusetts Irishmen in the streets of Fredericksburg that day was James Briody (sometimes Briady). He was part of an emigrant family from Castlerahan, Co. Meath, who left Ireland for North Andover, Massachusetts. An express driver before his enlistment, he joined up on 11th August 1862. The 24 years-old was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, with blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. On the night of 9th December, two days before the fight for the streets of Fredericksburg, he wrote to his widowed mother, seemingly with little idea of what was to come:

Falmouth Va.

Dec 9th 1862

Dear Mother,

I am well at this time and hope you are the same. I got your letter yesterday and was happy to hear you was well and my sister. I do not know of any news at this time we go on picket tomorrow and that is a job we do not like as we have now log huts to live in which we have built. I like to have you send me a pair of gloves by mail, as we have no chance to get them here, and we do not have any money now, nor do I know when we will get any. I hope soon as we cannot get anything without the money and it must be a good pile too, for the article we buy. I am out of money and I want to get a pair of boots and in order for to get them I want you to send $5 so I can get them. It is now very cold and wet here, and muddy. There is now some 3 or 4 inches of snow on the ground and it is poor shoes that the government gives us. As regards the box, you will not send it untill I write you again, as I do not know how long we shall stay here, and I shall have time to send it before I need it. When you do send it, send me a pretty good share of paper and envelopes, as it is hard to get them here, as there is not any chance to buy them here. Give my love to all of my sisters and send those things as soon as you get this, and be sure to write as often as you can as I am always happy to hear from you, and tell all of my sisters to write as often as they can. I am glad that all things are going on so well at home. I do not know of any more at this time, but I will write you more next time, if I have a plenty of time. I will now wish you good night, as soon as I get paid off I shall send you the most of my wages as I shall not want it all myself, but do you get the state aid, let me know, as I am in hopes you will let me know in your next without fail. No more from your son,

James Braidy

Direct as follows

Mr James Braidy

Co “I” 20 Reg Mass Vols

Washington D.C. (2)

A soldier of the 20th Massachusetts at Camp Benton, Maryland (Library of Congress)

A soldier of the 20th Massachusetts at Camp Benton, Maryland (Library of Congress)

As is often the case with last letters, foreknowledge of what was to occur brings poignancy to the mundane. The events of 11th December meant there would be no opportunity for James to get new gloves or boots, there would be no “next time” to write. Beyond what this letter can tell us about the events of 1862, it also represents an object of memory in its own right. The context of its survival allows us to infer the emotional value that James’s mother Maggie invested in this last letter. We know this because the document in file is not an original, but a copy. Instead of submitting the actual correspondence– as so many others did– she instead had it transcribed in front of a Justice of the Peace, in order that she could keep hold of a cherished memento of her son. This fact allows us to consider how a very ordinary letter could be invested with additional meaning and emotional value because of subsequent events. How many times in the years ahead did she look at the original, her last communication from her son? Another who felt James’s loss was his Captain, Henry Livermore Abbott. On 17th December 1862 he penned the following to the Co. Meath emigrant:

Near Falmouth VA

Dec 17/62

Mrs. Briody,

Dear Madam,

I don’t wish to address to you the common words of condolence merely- I feel, myself, as well as you, too much the greatness of the loss. The first time, I saw James Briody, I was struck with his honest, manly, cheery face. I found him to be one of the two best of all the recruits who joined my company. It gave me a great pang when I saw him lying dead in the street. He was killed instantly. A board with his name on it, marks his grave in a vacant lot in Fredericksburg. Believe me that I sympathize most deeply with you, in your awful loss.

I remain,

Respectfully

H.L. Abbott

Capt Co I 20 Mass

The pay due him can be got by applying through a lawyer to the dept at Washington. (3)

briody-1

The first page of Captain Henry Livermore Abbott’s letter to Maggie Briody (NARA/Fold3)

These letters informing loved ones of a soldier’s death had the potential to be powerful agents of memory. The words an officer chose in the hours and days after a death could form a lasting picture in a family’s mind of their fallen kin’s last moments, and whether or not they had met a good death. In that context, the words chosen had the capacity to resonate across decades. Abbott took up his pen again the following day, this time to the sister of another Irish emigrant, John Deasy. Unlike James Briody, John had grown to adulthood in Ireland, marrying his wife Joanna in Clonakilty, Co. Cork in February 1845. The couple subsequently emigrated to Boston during the Famine, where they began to raise a family. They had four surviving children by the time Joanna died of consumption in July 1860. The network of fellow Cork emigrants and family that surrounded John helped him to care for his children when he enlisted on 18th July 1861. By the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg his eldest Mary was 14, Daniel was 12, Catherine was 9 and Margaret was 6. John had already survived a wound in the arm during the Seven Days’ battles, but on 11th December his luck had run out. Captain Abbott demonstrated that he was well aware of the Corkman’s personal circumstances when he wrote to Boston:

Near Falmouth

Dec 18/62

Your brother John Duecy [Deasy] was mortally wounded in the battle of the 11th. He lived, I believe, till the next day, & was buried from the hospital. He was as honest and brave a fellow as ever lived. I trust his orphan children will be properly cared for. You can get his pay by applying through a lawyer to the dept at Washington.

Very truly yours

H.L. Abbott

Capt Co I 20 Mass. (4)

examiner-4-august-1847

Is this the advertisement that brought the Donnelly family (below) to America? It was one a series that ran in Ireland in 1847, this example from the Cork Examiner of 4th August 1847. Those from Tipperary who wished to travel to the United States first made their way to Cork, where they boarded the Governor Davis before a rendezvous with the Ocean Monarch at Liverpool (Cork Examiner)

Henry Abbott was not the only officer of the 20th Massachusetts who had to relive the horrors of the Fredericksburg street-fighting in the days following the engagement. Lieutenant Henry Ropes, commanding Company K, wrote to the father of John Donnelly on 20th December. John’s journey to his fate at Fredericksburg had begun in Co. Tipperary. His parents James Donnelly and Ellen Mackie had been married in the Premier County, and John was born there. According to other Tipperary people in Boston they had arrived in the United States aboard the Ocean Monarch around September 1847, at the height of the Famine. They were perhaps fortunate to have made it– the Ocean Monarch, a new vessel in 1847, would catch fire and sink the following year with the loss of 178 lives. John’s parents were living at 1309 Tremont Street in Boston when the dreadful news arrived:

Near Falmouth VA

Dec. 20 1862

My dear Sir,

It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son John Donnelly, a private in my company.

He was instantly killed by a musket ball which passed through his head during the desperate fight in the streets of Fredericksburg VA. on the afternoon of the 11th inst. He must have instantly died without suffering. His body was buried near the spot where he fell, by his friends and the place marked by a head board bearing his name, company & regt.

Your son was a brave and faithful soldier and he fell bravely fighting with his Regt. A true soldier’s death. Please accept my dear Sir my sincere sympathy for you & for your family in this deep affliction and believe me,

Your Obdt. Servt.

Henry Ropes

Lt. Comdg. Co. K

20th Mass. Vols.

Mr. James Donnelly (5)

The Ocean Monarch which apparently brought the family to the UNited States in 1847 had a short career. She caught fire and sank with great loss of life off Great Orme in 1848

The Ocean Monarch which apparently brought John Donnelly to the United States in 1847 had a short career. She caught fire and sank with great loss of life off Great Orme in 1848. This is a depiction of the event by artist Samuel Walters (Peabody Essex Museum)

Some Irish families first learned of their loved ones’ fate from enlisted comrades rather than officers. Daniel Shannahan from Co. Cork was an 18-year-old former shoemaker in Company F at the time of Fredericksburg. After the fighting, he took it upon himself to write to the family of another Cork native, Daniel O’Brien. Daniel, who was also 18-years-old at the time of the battle, had been a painter before he enlisted in Boston on 13th August 1862. He was described as 5 feet 5 inches in height, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

Falmouth Va Decbr 1862

Miss O’Brien

Your brother Daniel and some others were killed and wounded in the fight on thursdays night I was picked out to pick up the dead out of the street I laid him in a yard and then a burial party buried him and some others. He was helping off a wounded man and stepping into the mans place and was shot…My sergeant for the envelope (With your address) that you sent in your last letter, otherwise I would have wrote you before.

His Companion,

Daniel Shannahan

Co “F” 20th Mass. Vols. (6)

Upon hearing the news, Daniel’s sister back in Boston wrote to the 20th Massachusetts to find out more about the circumstances of her brother’s death. On 26th December Sergeant Thomas H. Kelly responded:

Headquarters Co F. 20th Mass. Vols.

Camp near Falmouth Va Dec 26th 1862

To Miss Margaret O’Brien

Dear Miss,

I received your letter of the 21st of December on the morning og the 26th in answer to mine of the 12th in which I informed you of the death of your dear and beloved brother Daniel J. O’Brien of Co. F. 20th Regt Mass Vols who fell in battle on the 11th inst at the city of Fredericksburg Va. Our regiment was engaged at the corner of Woulf and Caroline Streets where the Rebels occupied the houses and fired from the windows at us, we were not more than ten minutes engaged when our Captain Charles F. Cabot fell and in less then two minutes after your brother was shot in the side. I had him fetched into a store close by and sent for a doctor but the poor boy died in a short time…next morning he was buried my one of his comrades…

I remain your Friend

Thomas H. Kelley

Co “F” 20th Regt Mass Vols

Howards Division Burnsides Army (7)

Captain Macy, who commanded the 20th Massachusetts, also later confirmed that Daniel was “killed by a minnie ball from the enemy on Caroline Street.” (8)

I have always felt that examining the ripple effect of the losses sustained by a single regiment in a single action is one of the most effective ways of imparting the cost of war (for more of my thoughts on this, see Visualising the Demographics of Death: 82 Men of the 9th Massachusetts). The brief exploration above also illustrates how we do not need to look at ethnic Irish regiments to uncover the impact of the conflict on large sections of the Irish-American community. Needless to say, officers like Henry Abbott and Henry Ropes would have written to the families of large numbers of their men in the days following Fredericksburg, native-born and emigrant alike. How did these obligations weigh on them? Did they adopt standard language throughout, or did they vary their compositions? What (if anything) of the impact of battle and loss on them personally can be seen in such correspondence? (See for example this letter of Charles McAnally after Gettysburg, where he confessed to being “confused”). How might these elements have changed through the course of the war? It would be interesting at a future date to study a large body of such bereavement letters from a single officer across a protracted period of time- a project I would be keen to have an opportunity to undertake at some point in the future.

henry_livermore_abbott_in_uniform

Captain Henry Livermore Abbott, who wrote the letters informing the Briody and Deasy families of their loss. Abbott would himself lose his life at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, when he was a Major. His bravery at Fredericksburg on 11th December was later recalled in a famous speech by his friend Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr: “His few surviving companions will never forget the awful spectacle of his advance alone with his company in the streets of Fredericksburg. In less than sixty seconds he would become the focus of a hidden and annihilating fire from a semicircle of houses. His first platoon had vanished under it in an instant, ten men falling dead by his side. He had quietly turned back to where the other half of his company was waiting, had given the order, ‘Second Platoon, forward!’ and was again moving on, in obedience to superior command, to certain and useless death, when the order he was obeying was countermanded” (Harvard Law School Library)

(1) O’Reilly 2003: 91-95 (2) Briady Service Record, Briady Widow’s Pension File; (3) Ibid.; (4) Deasy Service Record, Deasy Widow’s Pension File; (5) Donnelly Service Record, Donnelly Widow’s Pension File; (6) Shannahan Service Record, O’Brien Service Record, O’Brien Widow’s Pension File; (7) Kelley Service Record, O’Brien Widow’s Pension File; (8) Ibid.;

* None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

References & Further Reading

Widow’s Certificate WC9732 of Margaret Briady, Dependent Mother of James Briady, Company I, 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Widow’s Certificate WC11238 of Mary, Daniel, Catherine and Margaret Deasy, Dependent Children of John Deasy, Company I, 2oth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Widow’s Certificate WC133477 of Ellen Donnelly, Dependent Mother of John Donnelly, Company K, 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Widow’s Certificate WC32800 of Ellen O’Brien, Dependent Mother of Daniel O’Brien, Company F, 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

20th Massachusetts Infantry Service Records; James Briody, John Deasy, John Donnelly, Daniel O’Brien, Daniel Shannahan, Thomas Kelley.

Bruce, George A. 1906. The Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865

O’Reilly, Francis Augustin 2003. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock.

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Fredericksburg Civil War Trust Page.

The post Communicating Death & Creating Memory on Fredericksburg's Streets appeared first on Irish in the American Civil War.

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Dying at the Death: Remembering the Dorcy Family at Appomattox Court House http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2015/04/09/dying-at-the-death-remembering-the-dorcy-family-at-appomattox-court-house/ Thu, 09 Apr 2015 20:45:21 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=8000 On 9th April 1865– 150 years ago today– Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Although the event stopped neither the war nor the killing, in the popular imagination it has nonetheless come to be considered as the act which brought the war to a...

The post Dying at the Death: Remembering the Dorcy Family at Appomattox Court House appeared first on Irish in the American Civil War.

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On 9th April 1865– 150 years ago today– Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Although the event stopped neither the war nor the killing, in the popular imagination it has nonetheless come to be considered as the act which brought the war to a conclusion. This was certainly true for many of the men present at Appomattox that day. However, it is worth remembering that the surrender was presaged by a battle. Although the casualties at Appomattox on 9th April were relatively slight, there were nevertheless some men who died on the field. One of them was Irishman John Dorcy of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, killed in action at the moment of victory.

Members of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Charging in 1864 (Library of Congress)

Members of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Charging in 1864 (Library of Congress)

There is not a huge amount of information available on John Dorcy. He was born in Ireland (possibly in Co. Tipperary) around the year 1833, but his family appear to have emigrated when he was still a young boy. The 1850 Census finds John, aged 17, living with his parents James (a laborer) and Eliza in St. Clair County, Michigan. He had three younger brothers– Patrick (born c. 1839), Jeremiah (born c. 1841) and Michael (born c. 1844). The locations where John’s brothers were born helps to trace the family’s emigration route; John was born in Ireland, Patrick and Jeremiah in Canada, and Michael in Michigan. Many Irish emigrants to North America availed of cheaper passage available to Canada, and it was not unusual for them to spend weeks, months or even years there before moving on to the United States. (1)

We next encounter John on 19th June 1856, when a Justice of the Peace married him to Irish-American Mary Ellen Carroll in Kenockee township, St. Clair County. It maybe that the couple’s families had known each other in Canada, as Mary Ellen had been born there. They went on to have four children- Maria (born 24th April 1857), John (born 3rd February 1859), James (born 30th July 1860) and William (born 30th April 1863). There was no physician available for the births of any of their children, so John’s mother Eliza and family friends Bridget McMahon and Mary Jaynes stepped in to assist with the children’s deliveries. (2)

John was not an early volunteer during the American Civil War. In 1863 he was listed for the draft in Kenockee, when he was recorded as being a 32 year-old married laborer from Ireland on 1st July 1863. On 6th February 1864 John was enrolled in Kenockee into Company B of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, mustering in three days later. Soon thereafter he headed east to join his new unit in Virginia. In so doing he became a member of one of the most famous cavalry brigades of the war– the Michigan Brigade, or Wolverines– forever associated with George Armstrong Custer. Throughout 1864 John would have seen much hard fighting during Sheridan’s Raid, at Trevilian Station and in the Valley Campaign. April of 1865 found the Wolverines participating in the final engagements against Robert E. Lee’s army, as the war drew to a close. (3)

On 9th April 1865 the Michiganders formed the First Brigade (Colonel Peter Stagg commanding) of Brigadier General Thomas C. Devin’s division. Early that day, the Confederates made one last effort to break away from the desperate stranglehold they found themselves in at Appomattox. They enjoyed some initial success, but as more and more Union forces joined the fray the Rebels fate would be sealed. Devin’s men were among those tasked with pressing the Confederate left flank near Appomattox. The troopers dismounted and advanced on foot, with the Wolverines being sent through some heavy woods towards the Rebel left. Encountering the enemy, the division was initially forced backwards, but after ‘a hard fight’, they drove the Confederates in and began to form barricades to hold their position. They would not be required to defend them. With the situation hopeless, Robert E. Lee would surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant later that same day. (4)

The 9th April 1865 would be remembered fondly across the North as the final fulfillment of four years of struggle in the East. The name Appomattox Court House became synonymous with the victory hard won. However, that name and the date must have held somewhat different connotations for the Dorcy family. With the end so close that it could almost be touched, Private John Dorcy of the 1st Michigan Cavalry had been killed in action. For 28-year-old Mary Dorcy, the 9th April 1865 at Appomattox Court House was the day when she became a widow, leaving her alone to raise four children– the youngest of whom was not yet 2-years-old. (5)

The MacLean House, Appomattox Court House, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. The image was exposed by Irishman Timothy O'Sullivan (Library of Congress)

The MacLean House, Appomattox Court House, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. The image was exposed by Irishman Timothy O’Sullivan (Library of Congress)

*None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

(1) 1850 U.S. Census. The family are recorded as ‘Dowsey.’ The spelling ‘Dorcy’ is preferred here as that is the spelling used by John’s wife to Mary to sign her name, but it is also variously spelt Darcey, Dorsay, Dorsey, Dorsy and Darcy. An ancestry family tree suggests the Dorcy’s originally hailed from Tipperary; (2) John Dorcy Widow’s Pension File; (3) U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, John Dorcy Widow’s Pension File; (4) Official Records: 1126; (5) U.S. Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, John Dorcy Widow’s Pension File;

References & Further Reading

John Dorcy Widow’s Pension File WC77594.

U.S. 1850 Federal Census.

Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registrations, 1863-1865.

Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, compiled 1861–1865.

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion Series 1, Volume 46, Part 1. Report of Brig. Gen. Thomas C. Devin, U.S. Army, commanding First Division.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Civil War Trust Appomattox Court House Page

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'In Account Of We Being Irish': A New Irish Brigade Letter After Fredericksburg http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2014/12/13/in-account-of-we-being-irish-a-new-irish-brigade-letter-after-fredericksburg/ Sat, 13 Dec 2014 20:13:00 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=7544 As some readers will be aware I am currently working on a long-term project identifying and transcribing the letters of Irish and Irish-American soldiers contained within the Civil War Widows & Dependents Pension Files. This work has already identified large numbers of previously unpublished letters of Irish soldiers, which I intend to prepare for ultimate...

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As some readers will be aware I am currently working on a long-term project identifying and transcribing the letters of Irish and Irish-American soldiers contained within the Civil War Widows & Dependents Pension Files. This work has already identified large numbers of previously unpublished letters of Irish soldiers, which I intend to prepare for ultimate publication. One of the most interesting I have come across so far are those written by a soldier of the Irish Brigade after Fredericksburg. Given that today is the 152nd anniversary of that engagement, I thought I would share it here for the first time. It was written by Tipperary native William Dwyer of the 63rd New York, more than a month after the battle. He had written other letters (now lost) to his mother that December, but it is clear from his January 1863 correspondence that the action was still having a deep emotional impact on him. William was also clearly angry that the Brigade were not being sent home to refit, something which he attributed to anti-Irish prejudice. Although he survived Fredericksburg, William ultimately succumbed to disease at City Point, Virginia on 12th July 1864.

The Stone Wall at the base of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, the target of the Irish Brigade Assault (Library of Congress)

The Stone Wall at the base of Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg, the target of the Irish Brigade Assault (Library of Congress)

Camp near Falmouth Va

January 23d 1863

Dear Mother,

I take the opportunity of writing these few lines to you hoping to find you and my sisters in good health as this leaves me in at present thank God for it. Dear Mother I am sending you forty dollars $40 now we got paid on yesterday and all we got was four months pay $52 dollars and I am sending you 40 and we expect to get pa[i]d the other two next month. The[y] owed us seven months and gave us only four. I owed the sutler three dollars for tobbacco and I gave the priest one dollar so Dear Mother I will send you twenty more when we get paid again. We have log houses built for the winter for our selves but we dont know how long we will be left in them we expect to leaves them every day. Dear Mother tell Julia Greene that I have not see Mike since the Battle of Fredericksburgh only once and let me know if he is moved away because his Regt expected to got to Washington he was camped 8 miles from me when I seen him last. Dear Mother I wrote an answer to you on the 31st of December last and I got no answer from you yet and I had no way of writing sooner untill I got paid and you might write to me any how even since if you did not get or not. Dear Mother it is very cold out here and on Christmas day it snowed terrible and I was on picket on the banks of the Rappahannock River all day and night with only half a dozen hard crackers and a piece of raw pork for the Day and night.

Dear Mother we are expecting an other fight in Fredericksburgh some of these days but I dont want to see any more for to see all the men that fell there on the 13th of decr last it was heart rending sight to see them falling all around me.

Tell Mrs Smith that Johnny Mc Gowan is well and in go[o]d health and Tommy Trainors mother also he is well and in good health. Dear Mother we thought surely that our brigade was going home to New York that time but we were kept back and would not be let go in account of we being Irish. In the three old Regts we have only 250 for duty when we ought to have 3000 men for duty so we thought when we were so small that we would be sent home to fill up but who ever lives after the next battle can go home because it is little will be left of us.

No more at present,

From you aff son

William Dwyer

63d Regt N.Y. Vol

Co H Irish Brigade

Washington D.C.

Or elsewhere

 Answer this as soon as you can I never got the box that you said uncle Charley sent me if he sent whiskey in it it was all broke box and all kept.

Give my best respect to uncle Charley uncle James aunt Mary and children the two Mrs Kells  Mary McAlamey Mrs Delany Mrs Gallaher and their families

James Lodge and family

Also to Pat Fogarty

Jer Fitzpatrick

The Camp of the 110th Pennsylvania, Falmouth, Winter 1862. William Dwyer wrote home from a similar camp in Falmouth (Library of Congress)

The Camp of the 110th Pennsylvania, Falmouth, Winter 1862. William Dwyer wrote home from a similar camp in Falmouth (Library of Congress)

The fact that William felt the brigade was being kept at the front because they were Irish is an interesting one. It feeds into a belief, current after the carnage of 1862, that the Irish were being used as cannon fodder by prejudiced ‘Know Nothing’ officers. There is no evidence to substantiate this claim, but it is interesting to consider just how widespread this view may have been among Irish Brigade soldiers in early 1863. The extreme mental trauma they had experienced by participating in the 13th December charge must have exacerbated many of their reactions to later news that they would not be going home. William wrote a second letter three days after the first, in which he outlines how his mother, thinking the brigade had returned to New York, had ‘run down to the Battery’ (the Battery was on Manhattan) to meet him. It also demonstrated that he was a man of faith, which must have done something to sustain him during his experiences:

Camp Near Falmouth Va

January 26th 1863

My Dear Mother,

I received your welcomed letter this day which gave my great pleasure to hear that you and my sisters are in good health as this leaves me in at present thank god for it. Dear Mother tell Mrs Fay that Tom her husband was here with me and Johnny Mc Gown for about half an hour and he was telling that their pontoon bridges was stuck in the mud and they were two days trying to get them out he is in good health and he was telling me that Mike Greene was well and in good health.  Tell Maggie that General McClellan has left us and General Burnside has taken his place and tell her that the[y] will put us in to fight if there was only ten of us left in the Brigade all we have now is 250 men out of 3000 in the three old Regts. Dear Mother I did laugh when I heard that you run down to the Battery to look for me we were so sure that we would be going home that time we thought it was all right. We are hear Falmouth Virginia we have plenty of clothes and we have built log houses for ourselves so we expect to winter here for awhile but dont know ho[w] long after that. If I had any way of getting or ink I would write to you although I did[n’t] get any answer to the other tell Mrs Smith that Johnny McGown sent 30 dollars last week by Adams Express.

Dear Mother Father Dillon left us last augst at Harrisons Landing and he is with Corcorans Legion and I am glad that my mother is getting the Relief yet and I dont get any of the papers you sent me send me an other one and if I dont get that one I will tell you to stop sending any more. I dont want anything as yet the next letter you send send me a scapular and fix it so as it dont be any weight in the letter you will get them to buy in any Catholic Book Store and you can get it blessed by the priest. The one I got from Father Dillon it is all wore and I lost the part that goes down my back he gave every one of us one when he was leaving us if you can get one from the sisters get it. Dear Mother you can keep the five dollars I am glad that you dont want for any thing I sent you forty dollars last week by adams express and as soon as you get it let me know. Is Julia living in the country yet. No more at present,

Your aff son

William Dwyer

63d Regt N.Y. Vol.

Co H Irish Brigade

Washington D.C.

or else where

 Give my best Respects to

Maggie Kells                                                  Pat Fogarty

Mary Hays                                                      Jerry Fitzpatrick

Lizzy Curran                                                  James Curran

                                                                        Margt Curran

                                                                        Mary Curran

Also to Mick Curran two Mrs Kells

Mary McAlanney

and their families

*The letters above have no punctuation in their original form. Punctuation has been added in this post for ease of modern reading- if you would like to see the original transcription please contact me. None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

References

William Dwyer Dependent Mother’s Pension File WC103233

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150 Years Ago: Dipping Handkerchiefs in the Blood of General Polk http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2014/06/14/150-years-ago-dipping-handkerchiefs-in-the-blood-of-general-polk/ Sat, 14 Jun 2014 12:34:25 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=6950 150 years ago today the Confederate Bishop General- Leonidas Polk- a Corps commander in the Army of Tennessee, lost his life when he was struck by a Union shell on Pine Mountain, Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign. David Power Conyngham, a journalist from Corhane, Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, was one of the first Union men to...

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150 years ago today the Confederate Bishop General- Leonidas Polk- a Corps commander in the Army of Tennessee, lost his life when he was struck by a Union shell on Pine Mountain, Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign. David Power Conyngham, a journalist from Corhane, Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, was one of the first Union men to see the site of Polk’s death. He would later describe the rather macabre activities carried out by both he and other men at the spot, perhaps providing a glimpse of the toll the war had taken on these men by 1864.

Bishop and Lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk (Library of Congress)

Bishop and Lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk (Library of Congress)

On 14th June Polk was in company with Generals Johnston, Hardee, Jackson and their staffs as they observed Federal movements in front of their position atop Pine Mountain. Patrick Cleburne’s Adjutant, Irving Buck, outlined the events that followed, as he later heard them:

‘General Johnston mounted Beauregard’s works and turned his field glasses to the left, when a shot directed at him came directly from the front. He immediately turned his glasses upon the battery firing, at the same time directing the staff and escort to disperse. General Polk moved off by himself, walking thoughtfully along, his hands folded behind his back, his left side towards the enemy, when a second came, then a third, the last of which- a Parrott shell- struck him, entering his left arm, passing through his body, emerging from his right arm, then struck a tree and exploded.’ (1)

Pine Mountain, Georgia, where Gen. Polk was Killed (Library of Congress)

Pine Mountain, Georgia, where Gen. Polk was Killed (Library of Congress)

David Power Conyngham  was following Sherman’s advance towards Atlanta as a correspondent for the New York Herald and for a time as a member of Brigadier-General Henry M. Judah’s staff. He had previously spent time as a volunteer aide with the Irish Brigade, and after the conflict would pen the most famous account of that unit, The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns. He also recorded his experiences with Sherman, in his 1865 book Sherman’s March through the South. Conyngham credits Sherman himself with directing the fire on the Confederate officers which led to Polk’s death. The Tipperary man later saw the spot where Polk fell, and describes the activity that he and others engaged in at the site:

‘When we took that hill [Pine Mountain], two artillerists, who had concealed themselves until we had come up, and then came within our lines, showed us where his [Polk’s] body lay after being hit. There was one pool of clotted gore there, as if an animal had been bled. The shell had passed through his body from the left side, tearing the limbs and body to pieces. Doctor M—- and myself searched that mass of blood, and discovering pieces of the ribs and arm bones, which we kept as souvenirs. The men dipped their handkerchiefs in it too, whether as a sacred relic, or to remind them of a traitor, I do not know.’ (2)

Conyngham’s is a fascinating account of the supposed actions of Union soldiers at the site where and enemy General fell. The idea of keeping fragmented parts of the body as souvenirs and dipping handkerchiefs in the blood of their fallen enemy is one I have not come across before- have any reader’s encountered any similar accounts from the Civil War?

Captain David Power Conyngham while serving with the Irish Brigade (Library of Congress)

Captain David Power Conyngham while serving with the Irish Brigade (Library of Congress)

(1) Buck 1908: 223; (2) Kohl (ed.) 1994: xviii-xxi, Conyngham 1865: 112;

References

Buck, Irving Ashby 1908. Cleburne and His Command

Conyngham, David Power 1865. Sherman’s March Through the South

Kohl, Lawrence (ed.) 1994. Conyngham, David Power. The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns (1st Edition 1867)

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Dependent Father: How one Irish Brigade Soldier's Service Helped an Elderly Man in Rural Tipperary http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/12/13/dependent-father-how-one-irish-brigade-soldiers-service-helped-an-elderly-man-in-rural-tipperary/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/12/13/dependent-father-how-one-irish-brigade-soldiers-service-helped-an-elderly-man-in-rural-tipperary/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 20:20:58 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=6114 Each month for much of the 1880s the octogenarian Timothy Durick travelled from his home in Lackamore, Castletownarra, Co. Tipperary to the nearby town of Nenagh. He made the journey to visit the Post Office and collect his pension, which was worth $8 U.S. Dollars. In order to secure the pension the elderly man had...

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Each month for much of the 1880s the octogenarian Timothy Durick travelled from his home in Lackamore, Castletownarra, Co. Tipperary to the nearby town of Nenagh. He made the journey to visit the Post Office and collect his pension, which was worth $8 U.S. Dollars. In order to secure the pension the elderly man had made a long journey across the Atlantic; the service which earned it had been that of his son, Jeremiah- a soldier of the Irish Brigade who’s story came to an end on the bloodiest day in American history. (1)

The Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam (Andrew Bossi- Wikimedia Commons)

The Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam (Andrew Bossi- Wikimedia Commons)

Timothy Durick had been born around the year 1801. He married Mary Hogan in 1827 and the couple went on to have five children together. The dangers of childbirth were everpresent in this period, and Mary did not long survive the birth of their fifth child- Timothy became a widower at sometime during the early 1840s. The family were poor and there were few prospects in Ireland for the children. Timothy and Mary’s son Jeremiah had been born around 1835, and by the mid-1850s had decided that his future lay in the United States. (2)

As was so often the case with Irish emigrants, when Jeremiah went to America he chose to join people whom he already knew and who were originally from the Nenagh area. He settled in the town of West Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont, where he boarded with John Barrett, who had known him since he was a boy and had attended his mother’s funeral. There Jeremiah worked in the marble quarries, making sure to send his father in Ireland money whenever he could. (3)

Marble Mills in West Rutland, Vermont as they appeared c. 1915 (Wikipedia)

Marble Mills in West Rutland, Vermont as they appeared c. 1915 (Wikipedia)

With the outbreak of the war, Jeremiah, who had found work sporadic in Vermont, decided to enlist in the army. The regiment he chose was the 88th New York Infantry, one of the units of the Irish Brigade. He mustered in as a Private in Company C on 28th September 1861, aged 26 years. A steady wage seems to have been one of Jeremiah’s key motivating factors in joining up, and his father back in Nenagh remained in his thoughts- at one point he sent $30 of his pay to Ireland via his brother John. (4)

Jeremiah served with the Brigade through the Peninsula before marching onto the field at Antietam on 17th September 1862. Captain William O’Grady of the 88th later described that regiments part in the action:

‘We forded the creek, by General Meagher’s orders, taking off our shoes (those who could, many were barefoot, and some, like the writer, were so footsore that they had not been able to take off their shoes, or what remained of them, for a week), to wring out their socks, so as not to incumber the men in active movements, and every man was required to fill his canteen…The bullets were whistling over us as we hurried past the general in fours, and at the double-quick formed right into line behind a fence. We were ordered to lie down while volunteers tore down the fence…Then, up on our feet, we charged. The Bloody Lane was witness of the efficacy of buck-and-ball at close quarters. We cleared that and away beyond…When our ammunition was exhausted, Caldwell’s Brigade relieved us, the companies breaking into fours for the passage as if on parade…By some misunderstanding, part of the Sixty-third New York with their colors were massed on our right for a few minutes, during which our two right companies, C and F, were simply slaughtered, suffering a third of the entire casualties of the regiment. (5)

Jeremiah Durick was one of the unfortunate members of Company C caught in this exposed position. He was killed on the field, one of 35 men of the regiment who lost their lives as a result of Antietam. Another 67 were wounded as the 88th New York lost, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Kelly, ‘one-third of our men.’ (6)

Confederate Dead in the Bloody Lane, Antietam, the Target of the Irish Brigade Attack (Library of Congress)

Confederate Dead in the Bloody Lane, Antietam, the Target of the Irish Brigade Attack (Library of Congress)

In April 1867 Jeremiah’s father Timothy, now 66-years-old, sought to secure a pension based on his son’s service. His previous efforts in this regard had been unsuccessful, and so  he made the journey across the Atlantic to Vermont to press his claim. Old friends from Nenagh who lived in Vermont, 40-year-old John Barrett (with whom Jeremiah had boarded) and 50-year-old John Gleason, gave evidence that Timothy had received upwards of $100 a year in financial support from his son. They also revealed that Timothy was very poor, had no property of any kind except his personal clothing and had no income or means of support except what he earned by manual labour. Timothy was reported to be in poor health and was unable to earn a living due to physical disability. A Dr. Backer Haynes in the town of Rutland also provided a statement to say he had examined Timothy, and found that he suffered from long-standing hypertrophy of the heart which had caused rheumatism in the back, right arm and right shoulder. These ailments rendered him ‘entirely incapable of earning a subsistence by manual labor’ and had done so for at least five or six years. Timothy’s pension application was approved in March 1868. (7)

An Extract of the Statements Provided by John Barrett and John Gleason for Timothy Durick (John Barrett could sign his name, John Gleason was illiterate so made his mark- Image via Fold3)

An Extract of the Statements Provided by John Barrett and John Gleason for Timothy Durick (John Barrett could sign his name, John Gleason was illiterate so made his mark- Image via Fold3)

Timothy remained in Vermont for some time after securing his pension, living in Castleton. In November 1868 he sought to have the pension back-dated to the time of his son’s death in 1862, although it is unclear if he was successful. Timothy eventually made the journey back to his home in Tipperary and by 1883 was collecting his pension from Nenagh Post Office. Despite his ailments he lived well into his 80s, eventually passing away near Nenagh in 1887 at the age of 86. His son’s service, which had ended in Maryland on America’s bloodiest day, helped to provide vital financial assistance for an elderly man living out his final years a world away, in rural Co. Tipperary. (8)

Timothy Durick's Mark from his November 1868 Application (Image via Fold3)

Timothy Durick’s Mark from his November 1868 Application (Image via Fold3)

(1) Griffiths Valuation, Pensioners on the Roll:640; (2) Jeremiah Durick Widow’s Pension File; (3) Ibid. (4) Adjutant General Report: 42; Jeremiah Durick Wodow’s Pension File; (5) O’Grady 1902; (6) Phisterer 1912, Official Records: 298; (7) Jeremiah Durick Widow’s Pension File; (8) Ibid., Civil Registrations;

References & Further Reading

Government Printing Office 1883. List of Pensioners on the Roll January 1, 1883. Volume 5

Ireland Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958; Nenagh Registration District

Ireland Griffith’s Valuation, 1848-1864; Owney and Arra, Co. Tipperary

Jeremiah Durick Widow’s Pension File WC109831

New York Adjutant-General 1893. Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York, Volume 31

Official Records of the War of Rebellion Series 1, Volume 19 (Part 1). Report of Lieut. Col. Patrick Kelly, Eighty-eighth New York Infantry, of the battle of Antietam

O’Grady, William 1902. ‘Historical Sketch of the 88th New York’ in New York Monuments Commission, Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg.

Phisterer, Frederick 1912. New York in the War of the Rebellion

www.fold3.com

New York State Military Museum

Civil War Trust Battle of Antietam Page

Antietam National Battlefield Park

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How To Find American Civil War Veterans from Irish Counties: A Case Study of Mathew Dooley, Roscrea http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/12/06/how-to-find-american-civil-war-veterans-from-irish-counties-a-case-study-of-mathew-dooley-roscrea/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/12/06/how-to-find-american-civil-war-veterans-from-irish-counties-a-case-study-of-mathew-dooley-roscrea/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:37:27 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=6086 I receive regular requests from around Ireland to provide information on men from specific parts of the country who served during the American Civil War. Pinning veterans down to a locality of origin is a difficult challenge, but it is often possible to reveal some of their stories. Having recently conducted  research on one fascinating...

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I receive regular requests from around Ireland to provide information on men from specific parts of the country who served during the American Civil War. Pinning veterans down to a locality of origin is a difficult challenge, but it is often possible to reveal some of their stories. Having recently conducted  research on one fascinating Roscrea man- Private Mathew Dooley- I decided to take the opportunity to share some of the techniques I employ to find out more about men like him. In Mathew’s case, this is a story which was intrinsically linked throughout his life to the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

Pension Index Card of Mathew Dooley (Fold3)

Pension Index Card of Mathew Dooley (Fold3)

I have had the occasion (and indeed privilege) this year to give a large number of talks about the Irish in the American Civil War in different parts of Ireland. I always try to give these presentations a local focus, highlighting those from the area who were caught up in the conflict. While it is usually possible to provide information on Generals and Officers, it is generally much more difficult to trace enlisted men back to the exact location of their birth. There are many reasons for this, among them the poor state of records from this period in Ireland, the lack of information on origins gathered at immigration ports, and the tendency for birth data to be recorded only as ‘Ireland’ in contemporary U.S. military records. As a result, despite the fact that we know thousands of men from each county in Ireland served between 1861 and 1865, we often know the precise localities of only a few dozen of them.

Given these difficulties, there are a couple of sources I tend to return to when I hope to find people from specific areas. One is the ‘Information Wanted’ advertisements of the New-York Irish American and Boston Pilot, which often reveal exactly where the subject of the advertisement was from. The ‘Information Wanted’ ads from the Irish American have been published in book form and are also accessible through subscription to the GenealogyBank site here. The ads from the Pilot are freely available through the database at Boston College here. Another resource is the List of Pensioners on the Roll, taken in 1883, which records the location of men, women and children who were receiving U.S. Military Pensions at that time. You can access this either through Ancestry or for free through archive.org. The Roll reveals that a number of individuals were having pensions delivered to local post offices in Ireland, and so it can be used as an an indicator of where they lived, and in the majority of cases where they were originally from. In advance of a recent talk for the Roscrea Heritage Society I decided to see was anyone in that Co. Tipperary town collecting a military pension in 1883. It transpired that there was- Mathew Dooley, Pension Certificate No. 135,213, who was in receipt of $3.00 per month for a wound he had sustained to his right leg. Short of ordering Dooley’s Pension File for additional information (with the associated cost), what more is there to be found out about Dooley? (1)

Men of Company K (Mathew's Company), 2nd new York Heavy Artillery at Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)

Men of Company K, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery at Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)

I tend to use Fold3 and Ancestry as a means of tracking men like this. Having Mathew’s Pension Certificate Number means it is possible to source his Pension Index Card (Fold3), which stated that he served as a Private in Company G of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. He had enlisted on 11th October 1861 and was discharged on October 14th 1864. His card also indicates that he passed away on 2nd June 1917, in Washington D.C. A review of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery’s history (on a site such as the NPS Soldiers and Sailors Database) reveals that aside from it’s role in the Washington defences it was engaged at Second Bull Run and during the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns, mustering out on 29th September 1865. If you want to find out more about the specific actions of regiments like this and reports relating to them, the best free resource are the digitized Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, which are available for free via Cornell University. The roster of regiment, available along will those of every New York unit through the New York State Military Museum here, provides additional information on Mathew, which is as follows:

Dooley Matthew.- Age, 20 years. Enlisted, October 11, 1861, at New York City; mustered in as private, Co. G, October 15, 1861, to serve three years; discharged, October 14, 1864. (2)

The most important revelation here is Mathew’s age. Armed now with an approximate birth date and known death date, it is possible to see what other documents there are relating to him. An 18-year-old man named Mathew Dooley arrived in New York on 11th April 1861 aboard the Cultivator which had sailed from Liverpool (Ancestry). Although we can’t be certain this is the same man, it seems likely that it is, indicating that when the Roscrea native enlisted he had only been in the country for a few months. Having made a life in the United States, Mathew decided to return to Roscrea sometime after the war’s end. The major question is why he chose to go back to Ireland, and having returned why did he subsequently return to the United States? The answers ultimately reveal much about the many struggles he endured in the years following the war. (3)

Officers of Companies K and L, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery at Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)

Officers of Companies K and L, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery at Fort C.F. Smith (Library of Congress)

Mathew Dooley’s name occurs again and again in the records of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Ancestry). These homes were designed to give men who had served a refuge and somewhere to live. Although they were run according to military doctrine, veterans applied to enter and could apply to leave whenever they wished. The different entries for Mathew reveal much about both his service and his life in general. He is described as being 5 feet 9 inches in height, with a fair complexion, light coloured eyes and light hair. It was also noted he was unmarried, was a Catholic and could read and write. We further discover that the gunshot wound he had received to his right foot had occurred at the Battle of the Wilderness on 7th May 1864, and that he had left his regiment in 1864 from its position in front of Petersburg following the expiration of his term of service. After the war he had worked as a plumber in New York, but by 1877 had made the decision to enter one of the Homes. It was a pattern that would continue for the rest of his life- Mathew was admitted and re-admitted to different Homes around the United States a total of 21 times, spanning 39 years. He was last discharged only a few months prior to his death in 1917. (4)

Branch

Admitted

Discharged

Southern (Hampton, Virginia)

13th October 1877

1st March 1878

Eastern (Togus, Maine)

29th April 1887

16th March 1889

Central (Dayton, Ohio)

19th October 1892

12th January 1893

Central (Dayton, Ohio)

10th October 1899

26th February 1900

North-Western (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

26th October 1900

11th October 1901

Danville (Danville, Illinois)

14th January 1902

25th June 1903

North-Western (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

24th October 1903

27th April 1904

Mountain (Johnson City, Tennessee)

28th November 1904

17th May 1905

Central (Dayton, Ohio)

24th July 1906

3rd October 1906

Marion (Marion, Indiana)

13th October 1908

24th February 1909

Central (Dayton, Ohio)

1st September 1910

24th May 1911

Mountain (Johnson City, Tennessee)

22nd September 1911

13th February 1912

Danville (Danville, Illinois)

29th December 1912

28th March 1913

Eastern (Togus, Maine)

27th September 1913

20th January 1914

Western (Leavenworth, Kansas)

15th April 1914

18th June 1914

Southern (Hampton, Virginia)

15th August 1914

1st October 1914

Danville (Danville, Illinois)

27th December 1914

24th March 1915

Central (Dayton, Ohio)

15th July 1915

18th September 1915

Mountain (Johnson City, Tennessee)

25th January 1916

4th April 1916

North-Western (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

27th June 1916

19th September 1916

Southern (Hampton, Virginia)

4th October 1916

13th January 1917

Table 1. Admission and Discharge Records for Mathew Dooley at National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

Mathew’s time in the National Homes did not always go smoothly- at one point he was dishonorably discharged for ‘continued disobedience of orders and general bad conduct.’ It may have been this that led him to return to Ireland, sometime after his discharge from the Southern Branch of the Home in March 1878. While in the Home he had recorded his next as kin as his sister Johanna in Roscrea, and he must have hoped that he could put his difficulties behind him with the help of his family in Co. Tipperary. For whatever reason, be they personal or financial, Mathew spent only a few years in Roscrea before once again heading to the United States, and the support that the National Homes had to offer. He was readmitted on 29th April 1887 to the Eastern Branch. (5)

Eastern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Library of Congress)

Eastern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (Library of Congress)

By the time of his return to America, at least some of Mathew’s family were making their home there; over the years he recorded as next of kin a sister Mrs. Julia Casey living in New York, and niece, Mrs. Ellen Gillen, who resided at 214 Little 12th Street in Manhattan. He got into trouble again for his conduct at the Home in 1893, but overall the majority of his discharges were voluntarily, no doubt as he sought to make his way successfully in different parts of the United States. However, as the years passed Mathew was beset by a variety of illnesses and disabilities that made him more and more reliant on the National Homes. Aside from his old gunshot wound, he was variously recorded as suffering from Chronic Bronchitis, Sciatica, Prostatic Hypertrophy, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Hemorrhoids, Arteriosclerosis, Chronic Rheumatism and difficulties with his eyes. (6)

The above sources are but a small selection of those that I generally use when attempting to discover more about Irish emigrants in the war- there are many others worth examining, for example the wealth of digitized newspapers freely available through the Library of Congress Chronicling America website or the wealth of online memoirs available at archive.org. Mathew Dooley’s story is also a demonstration of what can be revealed about one Irish soldier’s experience through the resources that are now being made available online. These resources offer us the potential to take a man like Mathew Dooley beyond a mere entry in a list of pensioners, revealing something more about his life and experiences.

Camp of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery and 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Belle Plains, Virginia, 16th May 1864- 9 days after Mathew Dooley was wounded (Library of Congress)

Camp of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery and 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Belle Plains, Virginia, 16th May 1864- 9 days after Mathew Dooley was wounded at The Wilderness (Library of Congress)

(1) Pensioners on the Roll 1883: 640; (2) Mathew Dooley Pension Index Card, New York Adjutant-General 1893: 621; (3) New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; (4) U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 1866-1938; (5) Ibid; (6) Ibid;

References & Further Reading

www.ancestry.com

www.fold3.com

www.genealogybank.com

www.archive.org

Chronicling America at the Library of Congress

National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database

New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion at Cornell University

Government Printing Office 1883. List of Pensioners on the Roll January 1, 1883. Volume 5

Mathew Dooley Pension Index Card Certificate No. 135,213

New York Adjutant General. Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York for the Year 1893

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 1866-1938 (Togus, Johnson City, Danville, Marion, Leavenworth, Bath)

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Boston Immigrant to Crescent City Soldier: The Poignant Letters of William Hickey http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/08/15/boston-immigrant-to-crescent-city-soldier-the-poignant-letters-of-william-hickey/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/08/15/boston-immigrant-to-crescent-city-soldier-the-poignant-letters-of-william-hickey/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 19:19:06 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=5686 I was recently contacted by historian Ed O’Riordan, who a number of years ago saved a remarkable series of letters sent home to Tipperary by an Irish emigrant in America, William Hickey. The letters chart the story of a young man who experienced the loneliness and uncertainty of life in a new country and his...

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I was recently contacted by historian Ed O’Riordan, who a number of years ago saved a remarkable series of letters sent home to Tipperary by an Irish emigrant in America, William Hickey. The letters chart the story of a young man who experienced the loneliness and uncertainty of life in a new country and his search for a place to settle down. That journey seemed fulfilled eight-years after his arrival, when William arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana. It would ultimately draw to a close near a small Tennessee Church, at a place called Shiloh. 

In 1853 sixteen-year-old William Hickey left his home in Lisfuncheon, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary for the last time. Travelling first to Liverpool, he boarded a vessel (most probably the Vanguara) which brought him to New York that September. It was at Yarmouth Port in Massachusetts that he wrote his first letter home, on 3rd October:

Dear Father and Mother,

I take the opportunity in writing to you these few lines, hoping to find ye all in good health as this leaves me at present thanks be to God for it. Dear Mother I landed in New York on the 19 September, and since the day I left Liverpool I did not get one hours sickness…Dear brother keep your hilt [health] but I am not sorry for coming and I will have better news to send you in my next letter. (1)

However, despite William’s optimism it seems he struggled in his early days in the United States. He wrote home again from Boston in January of 1854, in a letter which suggests he was having trouble getting work and wanted to return home to Ireland. It also highlights how important it was for emigrants from a particular locality in Ireland to maintain contact in the United States after they arrived:

Dear Father and Mother,

I have to inform you that I received your kind note on the 20th which gave me the greatest pleasure in reading it. and also grieved me very much in your disappointment to me and if you had to send that money in your last letter I would be ready to sail on the 25[th] of this month to old Ireland once more. I have lost in some measure my time and credit, thereby yet my future diligence, I hope to recover both and to convince you that I will pay a strict regard to all your commands which I am bound to do. Dear Father and Mother I submit and give in that I was wrong in my down [doing] so to put you to that trouble but I hope it’s all for the better…This is the only season of the year to go home to Ireland. I can get a passage here in Boston for 12 dollars, when you can’t get in Liverpool for 20 dollars, and as quick as I receive your next letter I will write home the day before sailing, and when I get to Liverpool I will write likewise to you…Dear Father I am in Boston since September, boarding with Michael Keating with the exception of a few weeks. I met with [a] little accidence [accident]. I was to work on board the ship and got my two toes jammed and one almost cut off, but thanks be to god it’s all well now. You must excuse Michael Keating for not sending home some relief to his mother at present, in regard of the summer being bad and winter being likewise, and everything so dear, and he could not afford to send her some relief at present, but still he is not forgetting her, and he is still in the idea of sending for Wm. Keating his brother, and he was much pleased in hearing from all the family. Mick did not hear from Thos. for the last six months, in good health. (2)

One of William Hickey's letters home to Tipperary (Ed O'Riordan)

One of William Hickey’s letters home to Tipperary (Ed O’Riordan)

Despite this correspondence, William did not return to Lisfuncheon. Instead over the next few months he decided that his future lay out west, in California. In his next letter of June 1854 he related his desire to move on, and also told of the successful arrival of more familiar Tipperary locals in Boston. He also revealed a heart-breaking story of one Irish family’s loss on their passage to America:

My dear Father,

I have to inform you that I am in perfect good health as I hope this will find you and my ever dear Mother, brother Thomas, James and my sister Bridget also. My dear father I am not being possess[ed] of as much as take me to go to California which place I am inclined to go with many others which are determined for the same Country where there is the greatest encouragement for young men if I had as much money as would pay my expenses. Dear Father it would take 8 weeks to take me there which would cost me 20 pounds which would take a long time to earn it here, everything is so dear and all commodities high through means of the Eastern War  [Crimean War]. My dear Father and Mother I am much inclined for it. If you would take me into your kind consideration and remit as much money as would take me there. Therefore I will say no more on the subject but leave all to yourselves. So if you comply with my request I will kindly receive it with many thanks, Etc.

My dear Father and Mother I met with Wm. Starkey & family on board the Ship, Meridian at their arrival in Boston immediately at the dock in good health, after a voyage of 29 days without an hours sickness during the voyage. [62 year-old William Starkey had arrived on May 31st 1854 from Liverpool together with Alice (43) and children Richard (11), Peter (7) and Alice (9)]. At same time they have delivered the parcel you sent by them to me. You would not believe how well Wm. Starkey looks after his travels which I am happy to have to inform of. The same evening he arrived he was not two hours here  when a Captain of another ship came into John Kelly’s where he stopped ordered on board for Chatham [Chatham, Massachusetts], at which time he and family started without taking the least nourishment but some gin and wine we took with Sister Norry, who kindly treated us. He then went on board and was driven back into Boston on the next morning…

Dear Father we had Tom Russell with Wm. Starkey on board the same ship in good health. Not a single person died on board but one woman who was wife to John Bourke from Tubrid who went to bed with her husband the first night we went on board in Liverpool and was corpse the next morning at 4 o’clock, and left two young children to deplore her loss. He got only two hours to get her away on his back and have her interred. We lost no other person during the whole voyage. [William is here most likely referring to 30-year-old Michael Bourke, who sailed on the Meridian with Mary (9) and Oliver (1)]. We lost no other person during the whole voyage. Wm. Starkey had the title of being Mayor of the ship. My dear Father and Mother I have spent 6 months at the boot and shoe-making, which business is now rather dull here. I have brought Wm. Starkey to Aunt Norry, and Mickey Keatings and received him most kindly. 

Dear Father, California is the West Country. Wm. Starkey says that I am much taller and stouter than my brother Thos. he joined me in love to you all, my mother, Thos., James and sister Bridget, and other inquiring friends, with many ardent wishes of your future prosperity. From your affection son etc.,

Wm. Hickey. (3)

William was clearly not sure what he really wanted to do. He had initially expressed a desire to return to Ireland, then changed his mind and set his sights on California. In the end he did neither. His next letter was dated 8th October 1854 when he was working at ‘Sheepscut Bridge’, most likely Sheepscot Bridge in Maine. Clearly lonely and missing Irish company, his attention was turning to a new potential destination- St. Louis, Missouri:

Dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sister,

I take the opportunity in writing these few lines to you hoping to find you all in good health, as this leaves me, thanks be to God for it. Dear Mother and Father I have to inform you that I am here in this wilde country alone 200 miles from all friends in America. I was sure that any part I go to, but I would meet Irish, but here where I am now, there is none, but I could do no better and I should come here. I am in the wilde woods of America away from priests and chapel, and if I had as much money as would fetch me to St. Louis, I should have gone there before now, for I am sure it was there that the Ryans would get me a trade. I beg and request of you dear father and mother to send me the sum of six pounds, to as much as that would fetch me to St. Louis, and that’s all that ever I will ask of you, ’till I return you three times the compliment. I never had that cause to make money in this country, only as much as would keep me in clothing. I shed three tears from my eyes in this letter for you, thinking of you and being so lonesome here that I have no one that I would spare a word to but savage Yankees; some of them who [would] sooner see the divel than a Irishman. Michael Keating and his wife is in good health, and Aunt Norry and family likewise…

…Please go to Michael Ryan and he will leave you have the directions of his brother in St. Louis, and send it to me in your next letter. If I get a letter from you I will be in St. Louis before Christmas day, and I will have as much thin [then] as will buy me some clothes, and I can go there respectable. I am here working like a horse from four in the morning till ten at night before I can go to bed, and if I don’t get some supply from you dear Father and Mother, I will be perished going in the woods in the winter time cutting down wood, where there would be six foot of snow; in places fourteen foot of snow. (4)

William presumably received the money he requested from his father and moved to Missouri. However it seems he may have long harboured a desire to return to Ireland. His aunt Ellen Tobin indicated this in a letter to her brother and William’s uncle in Lisfuncheon, Father James Hickey, as late as 1859. Writing from Ware in Massachusetts she asks ‘if William Hickey went home yet.’ William did move on from Missouri but it was not to return home. A letter from March 1861 finds him in New Orleans, Louisiana:

Ever honoured Father and mother, brother and sister. I prefer addressing you these few lines not only to let you know that I am in health, but to present my humble duties and good wishes towards you. Ever wishing you an abundance of felicity and health, wealth and many prosperous days with the like duty and respect and the same good wishes to those that are near and dear to you. Inform you that I am employed in a very respectable Establishment. It is a new shoe factory. I get two dollars per day and very easy clean work. I enjoy the best of health and hope you do the same. You may rest assured that you are all fresh in my memory although not writing to you this many a day, for which I hope you will excuse me. I am sorry to hear of the death of my Venerable Uncle. I was told he died by a young girl of the O’Briens from Shandrahan. May God have mercy on his soul, amen. 

 Please write at the receipt of this, and let me know how is every member of the family, and all enquiring friends. Direct your letter to William Hickey, New Orleans, Louisiana. (6)

William Hickey's Service Record with the 1st Louisiana Infantry (Fold3.com)

William Hickey’s Service Record with the 1st Louisiana Infantry (Fold3.com)

By the time William had written his letter Louisiana had already seceded from the Union. With the firing on Fort Sumter on 12th April 1861 and the outbreak of war, the Tipperary man decided to enlist. On 15th April the then 24-year-old joined up, mustering in to Company G of the 1st Louisiana Infantry Regiment (Strawbridge’s) on the 30th April. He clearly had leadership qualities, as he quickly became a Sergeant. William originally signed up to serve for one year. The beginning of 1862 found him and his regiment serving at Pensacola, Florida. It was here that William agreed to extend his time in the army to two years, making him eligible for a bounty of $50 that was to be paid on 15th April 1862. The early months of 1862 saw a major buildup of Union and Confederate forces in and around Tennessee, and the 1st Louisiana soon found themselves on the move to link up with the main army in the Western Theater. On 6th April 1862 the young man from Lisfuncheon and the Confederate Army of Mississippi advanced to the attack near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The carnage that ensued across the 6th and 7th April was on a scale never before seen in American history. It became known as the Battle of Shiloh. (7)

The 1st Louisiana and the Confederate army had started their advance early on the morning of the 6th April. William and his comrades struggled forward through difficult wooded terrain and across a stream before they could move up a slight slope towards the first enemy line. They encountered their first taste of major battle at 8.30am, near the Union camps of General Prentiss. As they advanced to within 200 yards of the enemy the Louisianans took heavy fire from the Yankee line, which was supported by artillery and sharpshooters firing from the trees. As the engagement intensified the Rebel brigade commander, Brigadier-General Adley Gladden, was mortally wounded when a cannonball mangled his left arm and shoulder. With the men wavering, Colonel Daniel Adams of the 1st Louisiana (now acting as brigade commander) grasped the flag of his regiment and called on the men to follow him. They did. William and his fellow Rebels charged forward, driving the Union line back through their camp. The Lisfuncheon man had made it through the first encounter of the day. (8)

Despite their early success, there was a long day ahead for the 1st Louisiana Infantry. They eventually reformed on the other side of the captured Union camp, and had to endure artillery fire from nearby guns which were eventually silenced by Confederate fire. Eventually they were ordered forward once more, with the brigade soon losing another commander- Colonel Adams was wounded in the head by a bullet at around 2.30pm. As they drove forward to attack the next organised group of Federals, sometime around 4pm, Sergeant William Hickey was struck in the head and killed. He was one of 232 casualties sustained by the 1st Louisiana over the two days fighting at Shiloh. The young man’s fate was outlined in an 1866 letter written by David Ryan of St. Louis (the same Ryan cousins William had sought out in 1854) to his cousin and William’s uncle, Father James Hickey:

Your nephew William Hickey was a brave-hearted young man, well liked by everyone in St. Louis, and at the breaking out of the war he went to New Orleans where he joined the Confederate Army and was killed at the Battle of Shiloh holding the rank of Lieutenant [it is possible William was acting as a Lieutenant at the time of his death] and was acknowledged to be a brave intrepid commander. (9)

The man who had left home at the age of sixteen to travel to the United States had come to grief on a Tennessee battlefield at the age of only 25. His letters chart the story of a young boy  in search of a better life- a boy who clearly had itchy feet, always looking towards the next place to live, the next opportunity. His journeying around America eventually took him to New Orleans, and ultimately the Confederate army. One can imagine the impact news of his death had at home in Lisfuncheon when it came. The Battle of Shiloh, and the American Civil War as a whole, cast a dark shadow that was often felt half a world away.

Hickey's death as recorded in his Confederate Service Record (Fold3.com)

Hickey’s death as recorded in his Confederate Service Record (Fold3.com)

* I am greatly indebted to Ed O’Riordan who located these letters, which offer a remarkable insight into emigrant life. He also provided me with the transcripts of the letters for use in this post, for which I am most grateful. Thanks are also due to the Hickey family of Lisfuncheon, Clogheen for permission to tell William’s story.

(1) New York Passenger Lists, William Hickey to Parents October 3rd 1853; (2) William Hickey to Parents January 22nd 1854 (erroneously dated 1853); (3) William Hickey to Parents June 1st 1854, Boston Passenger and Crew Lists; (4) William Hickey to Parents October 8th 1854; (5) Ellen Tobin to Father James Hickey February 27th 1859; (6) William Hickey to Family March 4th 1861; (7) William Hickey Confederate Service Record; (8) OR: 536-537, Daniels 1997: 154; (9) OR: 536-537, OR: 538, Daniels 1997: 313, David Ryan to Father James Hickey July 10th 1866;

References & Further Reading

William Hickey Letters.

Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943. Record for Meridian arrived May 31st 1854.

New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Record for Vanguara arrived September 7th 1853.

Daniels, Larry 1997. Shiloh: The Battle that Changed the Civil War.

Official Records Series 1, Volume 10 (Part 1). Report of Col. Daniel W. Adams, First Louisiana Infantry, commanding First Brigade pp.536-537.

Official Records Series 1, Volume 10 (Part 1). Report of Col. Z.C. Deas, Twenty-second Alabama Infantry, commanding First brigade. pp. 538- 539.

Civil War Trust Battle of Shiloh Page

Shiloh National Military Park

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Revealed: The Tipperary Town Where the First Soldier to Die in the American Civil War was Born? http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/03/24/revealed-the-tipperary-town-where-the-first-soldier-to-die-in-the-american-civil-war-was-born/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2013/03/24/revealed-the-tipperary-town-where-the-first-soldier-to-die-in-the-american-civil-war-was-born/#comments Sun, 24 Mar 2013 19:15:12 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=5284 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...

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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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South Tipperary Military History Society Lecture http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2012/04/25/south-tipperary-military-history-society-lecture/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2012/04/25/south-tipperary-military-history-society-lecture/#comments Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:46:19 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=4238 I had the good fortune to deliver a talk on the 17th April last to a relatively new military history society on the topic of the Irish in the American Civil War. The South Tipperary Military History Society was formed in 2010, and hold their lectures in the Irish United Nations Veteran’s Association House in Clonmel....

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I had the good fortune to deliver a talk on the 17th April last to a relatively new military history society on the topic of the Irish in the American Civil War. The South Tipperary Military History Society was formed in 2010, and hold their lectures in the Irish United Nations Veteran’s Association House in Clonmel. We covered a wide range of topics during the hours presentation, and managed to discuss a few of the better known Tipperary American Civil War veterans into the bargain.

John Lonergan Memorial, Carrick-On-Suir, Co. Tipperary. Lonergan received the Medal of Honor for actions at Gettysburg

John Lonergan Memorial, Carrick-On-Suir, Co. Tipperary. Lonergan received the Medal of Honor for actions at Gettysburg

The main themes dealt with during the lecture were as follows:

• Causes of the American Civil War

• The Irish in the United States before 1861

• Why Did the Irish Fight?

• Theatres of War

• The Union Irish

• The Confederate Irish

• Irish Stories

• The American Civil War and Ireland

• Aftermath and Memory

• Irish American Civil War Trail

There was a great attendance at the event and we had a lively discussion afterwards. I must say the evening was one of the most enjoyable lecture nights I have had in a long time, and I strongly recommend that anyone in the vicinity with an interest in military history consider checking out this energetic and proactive organisation. I must extend my thanks to the society for their invitation to chat them, and I hope they have continued success in the future!

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