Wisconsin – Irish in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com Exploring Irish Emigration in the 19th Century United States Sun, 18 Feb 2018 18:29:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-Family-90x90.jpg Wisconsin – Irish in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com 32 32 133117992 In Search of Cornish Emigrants in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/09/22/search-cornish-emigrants-american-civil-war/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/09/22/search-cornish-emigrants-american-civil-war/#comments Fri, 22 Sep 2017 22:30:45 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13237 I recently had an opportunity to spend some time in Cornwall, England’s most south-westerly county. The dramatic scenery is everywhere punctuated by the physical remains of the industry for which the Cornish established an international reputation– mining. Cornish tin and copper mines allowed many of the locals to develop skills that became particularly useful in...

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I recently had an opportunity to spend some time in Cornwall, England’s most south-westerly county. The dramatic scenery is everywhere punctuated by the physical remains of the industry for which the Cornish established an international reputation– mining. Cornish tin and copper mines allowed many of the locals to develop skills that became particularly useful in the 19th century, when, like Ireland, Cornwall witnessed large-scale emigration. I decided to explore how that emigration might have manifested itself during the American Civil War, with a particular look at south-west Wisconsin, a region to which the Cornish flocked. Specifically I have taken as a mini-case study the town of Mineral Point, where many a “Cousin Jack” made their home. 

Agnes Head

The Towanroath Shaft Engine House, Wheal Coates Mine, St. Agnes Head, Cornwall (Damian Shiels)

A downturn in the mining industry during the middle of the 19th century was one of the push factors which caused high migration from Cornwall. It was natural that these Cornish emigrants would seek out opportunities where their expertise would improve their prospects, and in the 1830s such opportunities existed in the lead-mining region of Wisconsin. The bulk of Cornish immigrants there were concentrated in Iowa County, Wisconsin, where during the 1840s they “poured in in large numbers.” By 1850 there was as many as 4,500 Cornish in places like Dodgeville, Linden and Mineral Point, with some estimates placing 7,000 Cornish throughout the state, more than 25% of all the British in Wisconsin. Not all of them had come to mine; many hoped to take the opportunity to improve their lot by working the land on farms of their own. (1)

How many of these Cornish-Americans in Iowa County elected to volunteer for service during the American Civil War? In 1898 Louis Albert Copeland opined that “there seems to be a difference of opinion as to whether the Cornish furnished their proper proportion; it seems certain, however, that they did not furnish more than their share.” Thomas Allen, who Captained Company I of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, felt there were around 30 Cornishmen under his command, with another 20 to be found in Company E of the 11th Wisconsin Infantry. Both companies had their origins in Mineral Point. There is little doubt that many other Cornishmen served in companies associated with the other settlements in the area. Among them were men from Dodgeville, who fought in the “Dodgeville Guards,” Company C of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, and the “Dodgeville Rangers,” Company C of the 31st Wisconsin Infantry. It also included those from Linden who marched to war in the ranks of Company E of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. In an effort to gain an insight into both the English and Cornish influence on such units, I elected to examine in more detail the Mineral Point volunteers across three companies in the 2nd, 11th and 30th Wisconsin Infantry Regiments. (2)

Wheal Owles Engine House, Botallack Mine, Cornwall (Damian Shiels)

Wheal Owles Engine House, Botallack Mine, Cornwall (Damian Shiels)

The majority of men who volunteered for Union service from Mineral Point during the American Civil War served in one of three companies. The town’s militia company, the appropriately named “Miners’ Guards”, became Company I of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. They in turn formed part of the famed Iron Brigade, fighting in some of the most celebrated actions in the war. The “Farmers’ Guards” served as Company E of the 11th Wisconsin Infantry, which saw its most intensive service during the Vicksburg Campaign. Those in Company E of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry would find themselves even further west, serving in places like the Dakota Territory during the conflict. Analysis of the rosters of these three companies reveals 121 men who had their residence recorded as Mineral Point. Using the 1860 Census for Iowa County, it was possible to determine the nativity of 85 of these men. The results confirm the strong English presence in these units, with 21% of those for whom nativity could be established having been born in England. This compares to 18% born in Germany and Ireland combined, 23% born in Wisconsin, and 22% born in other U.S. states. (3)

nativity

Figure 1. The nativity of volunteer soldiers from Mineral Point, Iowa County, Wisconsin across the three selected companies, excluding those for whom nativities could not be established (Damian Shiels).

However, nativity data tells us only part of the story. We can expect that many of those born in the United States, particularly in Wisconsin, were also of English stock. To further explore this, I widened the 1860 Census search criteria. As well as the English-born, I included those American-born who lived with an English-born family member (e.g. parents or older sibling) and those who bore a surname where another who shared it in the county had English nativity. Following these criteria, 41 of the 121 men, almost 34% of the entire sample, could be shown to be part of the English diaspora. (4)

Iowa County English

Table 1. The 41 men from the Mineral Point sample for whom English associations could be established based on 1860 Census data for Iowa County (Damian Shiels).

Taking the information further, a minimum of 20 of these individuals can be confirmed as Cornish, either through analysis of historical documents or the fact that they bear distinctly Cornish surnames.There is little doubt that many of the others, perhaps even the majority, were also of Cornish stock. With respect to their occupations, a lare number did have a demonstrable association with the mining industry. The table below indicates where 1860 Census analysis revealed that an individual (or one of their family) were connected with either mining or farming. (5)

Cornish work backgrounds

Table 2. Associations with mining and farming among the 41 men of demonstrably English origin who enlisted at Mineral Point, based on 1860 Census data (Damian Shiels).

Aside from analysing rosters, another way in which we can reveal the story of Cornish emigrants in the American Civil War is through the pension files. One of the Cornish of Dodgeville in Iowa County was John Ryall, who was enumerated as a farmer in the 1860 Census. He had married Mary Webb in Poundstock, North Cornwall on 22nd June 1851. They had two children, Sarah Jane (b. 1854) and Lewis (b. 1859). During the Civil War, John served in Company C of the 31st Wisconsin Infantry. On the 23rd November 1863 he was admitted to the General Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he died of chronic diarrhoea on 17th December. The dependents’ file based on John’s service reveals some insight into the Cornish community of which the Ryalls were a part. Interestingly many of Mary’s Webb siblings– and her parents– also made the move to Wisconsin. When Mary needed to provide witnesses who were present at her marriage in England, she was able to call on her brother John and also John Simmons, another Cornish farmer who had made the move from around Poundstock. When Mary remarried in 1864, she chose to do so within the Cornish community. Her new husband was Richard “Uncle Dick” Rogers, who ultimately ran the Dodgeville Hotel. Uncle Dick’s first wife, Amy Potter, had also been from Cornwall, but had passed away in 1863. The hotelier made enough of his life in America to warrant a short biography in the history of the county, which revealed that he had initially come to the United States in 1845, starting off as a miner in Mineral Point before moving into the backwoods to burn lime. He spent a short period in California in 1852 before returning to lime burning, eventually starting his hotel in 1867. (6)

A Wisconsin soldier during the American Civil War (Library of Congress)

The dependent pension files also allow us to examine the impact of the war on Cornish parents, like William Tregea and Letitia Couch. William was a miner in St. Neot when he married Letitia (from Bodmin) in St. Neot Parish Church, Cornwall on 6th March 1830. The couple emigrated first to Pennsylvania but were in Mineral Point by the late 1830s. Their Wisconsin-born son John was still a teenager when the war came. A miner like his father, he became a soldier in the Miners’ Guard, Company I of the soon to be famed 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Another of the regiment was his older brother Leonard. John fell in the heavy fighting at the Brawner Farm that marked the beginning of the Battle of Second Bull Run on 28th August 1862. That night his brother-in-law, Thomas Maloney, went out on the field to look for his body, but in the darkness ran into a body of Confederate troops and was captured. As with the Ryalls, the file of the Tregea family demonstrates the close bonds that existing among the Cornish community. John Ivey, a constable and William Lanyon, a blacksmith both gave statements on their behalf. As with Tregea, both Ivey and Lanyon are Cornish surnames. William Lanyon had come to America from Cornwall in 1840 along with his wife Mary Ann Bennett, and would eventually become a successful businessman. When the Tregea’s needed to find someone who had been present at their marriage, they, like the Ryalls, could call on a former neighbour from the old country. Nicholas Coad who farmed land in nearby Linden, had been present at the ceremony in St. Neot more than three decades previously, and gave a statement to say so on the family’s behalf. (7)

St Neot

The Parish Church of St. Neot, Cornwall, where William Tregea and Letitia Couch married. They would lose their son during the fighting at Second Bull Run, Virginia in 1862 (Image: Necrothesp)

Another of Mineral Point’s Cornish soldiers was Richard Chesterfield. Richard’s parents John and Eliza were married in Newlyn, near Penzance in south-west Cornwall in August 1841. Richard was born there before the family made the trip across the Atlantic. He also initially enlisted in Company I of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, but was transferred to the Navy for gunboat service in Western Waters on 17th February 1862. Serving aboard the USS Mound City, Richard kept his parents constantly up to speed with events. One of his letters was written soon after he had joined his boat, and is reproduced below. In the correspondence, Richard describes his uniform by referencing the Royal Navy uniforms his parents would have been familiar with in Cornwall:

March the 17th 1862

Moun[d] City

Dear father and mother i take my pen in hand to wright you these few lines to let you know that I am in good helth at present and hope to find you the same. I sent you one letter to let you know where I was too but I have received no ansure altho I am expecting one every day. I am on the Moun[d] City as I told you before. We mad[e] sail down the missippi last week and we are now opisit Birds Point. The rebels are strongly fortyfied her we have been bombarding them four days. The first day we was firing I got deaf and I can scarsly hear anything now. I expect we will be tow [two] weeks taking this place or praps more. We are waiting for a land force to come along before we give them the grand stroke…We are going to rattle away at them again tomorrow. I don’t know how long before we will get them wipt out we ar[e] taking some place all the time, our troops has got New Madrid down below this place and they can’t run away, they can’t get out on either side. Some of out oficers has been out looking around and they say the rebels are sinking there boats to blocade the river but our pilot says it is no use for the channel is tow [too] deep. There is about 17teen thousand rebels here we threw some shell into there camp and it took tents over and every thing els before it they screamed and runed like devels.

We have dismounted four or five of there guns lots of our shell goes right into there fort we are about three miles from there forts I am first shot and shell man on the bow gun it is a sixty eight pounder. First shot and shell man gets the shot and shell for the gun. The bow of our boat is three feet thick and is coated with iron on the outside a inch thick, no ball will go through it. Our uniform is blue shirt, blue pants with flaps in front like the old Country pants. Our caps are blue and round with no peaks. I supose you have seen them on board the man of war in the old Country, it is [a] regular man of war uniform.

We have salt gunk and hard crackers to eat and I tell you what it is I would rather be home on one meal a day then here. When a fellow is sick he is left to lay on the deck like a dog. He is treated worse then you would treat one of our dogs. I hope that i[t] will be over this Summer I am sick and tired of it. I don’t want you to show this letter to anyone els nor say anything about it but let them inlist and learn a leson that will last them there life time and a lesson which all ought to have. So you can pray for peace with all your might. Tell this [to] Sam and Jim and Mary Jane and ask them if they would like to be man of wars men.

Pleas tho wright as soon as you can direct to

Richard Chesterfield

U.S. Gunboat Moun[d] City

Cairo, Ill. (8)

Three months after writing this letter Richard and the USS Mound City were part of the White River expedition in Arkansas. As the Mound City proceeded up the river she was engaged by shore batteries, and a shot penetrated the vessel’s steam drum. In one of the most horrifying naval incidents of the war, the escaping steam scalded most of the Mound City’s crew to death– including Richard Chesterfield.

The USS Mound City, the vessel on which Richard Chesterfield from Newlyn, Cornwall, lost his life (Naval Historical Center)

Not long after Richard’s death his father John was no longer able to continue work, being “broken down by hard labor.” As a result John’s wife Eliza sought a dependent mother’s pension based on her son’s service. The file demonstrates that the realities of the Cornishmen’s working lives in Mineral Point were often more complex than the 1860 Census might suggest. The Chesterfields are recorded in Table 2 as having a farming association, but according to Eliza Chesterfield, her husband “had always been a miner until a short time previous when he moved onto eighty acres of land in the town of Willow Springs…and farmed a little…In 1862 he was mining a little and farming a little but not making much…probably not over ten dollars per month. This cross-over between mining and farming is further demonstrated in another affidavit in the file, that of Irishman John J. Ross. Recorded on the 1860 Census as a “Lumber Merchant”, he described himself as a “farmer and miner and speculator.” Also, just because someone was recorded on the census as a farmer did not mean they were not a miner– nor did it mean they were any good at farming. Alfred Dobson, an English born miner who had emigrated in 1845 and had known the Chesterfields since 1848, recalled that John Chesterfield was “a farmer on a small scale and prospecting miner…he prospected for lead ore some, worked on his land a little, and hauled wood to Mineral Point.”He continued: “he was not much of a farmer, his mining did not yield him much income and generally he was not at all prosperous.” John Chesterfield eventually gave up his farm and moved into Mineral Point, where he made whiskey and kept a “grocery or drinking saloon.” As with the other Cornish families seeking a pension, the Chesterfields were able to call on one who had known them in Cornwall for assistance. William Cornelius, a Cornish miner in Mineral Point, made the following statement:

“I came over from England in 1847 with John & Eliza Chesterfield I have lived near them ever since. I have lived in this city since 1847 continuously and John & Eliza Chesterfield have lived here too, except for a while on a farm in Lafayette County and a while on a farm in this County. I have known them intimately all these years.” (9)

Even this limited, partial look at the soldiers of Iowa County offers us an opportunity to gain some insight into the experiences of the Cornish community during the American Civil War. There is much more analysis that could be carried out. As ever, the pension files provide us an excellent opportunity to examine the social aspect of their lives, and the internal community links which these immigrants maintained. I hope to return to this fascinating group of English emigrants again in the not too distant future.

Crown Engine Houses, Botallack Mines, Cornwall (Damian Shiels)

Crown Engine Houses, Botallack Mines, Cornwall (Damian Shiels)

*Aside from Cornish surname analysis, this was confirmed through biographical data in the pension files, the History of Iowa County, and The Cornish in South-West Wisconsin. The names are: William H. Bennett, Thomas W. Bishop, Richard T. Chesterfield, Richard Gundry, George Harris, Thomas James, William Odgers, Thomas Pascoe, James B. Prideaux, Thomas Priestly, Paul Prisk, Samuel Prisk, Thomas W. Prisk, Henry Rule, John F. Tregea, Leonard Tregea, James Trevillian, William Trevillion, Mathew Trewhella and Josiah H. Tyack.

** 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) Western Historical Company 1881:744, Schwartz 2006:172, Nesbit 1989:153; (2) Copeland 1898:332, 333, Western Historical Company 1881:555; (3) 1860 Census; (4) Ibid.; (5) Ibid.; (6) WC76399, 1860 Census, 1870 Census, Western Historical Company 1881:746, 899; (7) WC1858, 1860 Census, Western Historical Company 1881:548, 865; (8) NC12546; (9) NC12546, 1860 Census;

References

Navy Widow’s Certificate 12546 of Richard Chesterfield, USS Mound City.

Widow’s Certificate 1858 of John Ryall, 31st Wisconsin Infantry.

Widow’s Certificate 76399 of John Tregea, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry.

1860 Federal Census.

1870 Federal Census.

Western Historical Company 1881. History of Iowa County, Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin Legislature. Rosters of the Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865. Vols 1 & 2.

Copeland, Louis Albert 1898. “The Cornish in South West Wisconsin”, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 301-334.

Nesbit, Robert C. 1989. Wisconsin: A History, Second Edition. 

Schwartz, Sharron P. 2006. “Bridging “The Great Divide”: The Evolution and Impact of Cornish Translocalism in Britain and the USA” in Journal of American Ethnic History Vol. 25, No. 2/3, Immigration, Incorporation, Integration, and Transnationalism: Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives (Winter-Spring 2006), 169-189.

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"I Will…Avenge His Death": Shared Community, Life, & Death through the Battle of Chickamauga http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/07/01/i-will-avenge-his-death-exploring-shared-community-shared-life-shared-death-through-the-battle-of-chickamauga/ Sat, 01 Jul 2017 19:42:34 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=12323 The afternoon of 20th September 1863 found Privates Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary facing into a maelstrom. Fate and circumstance had placed them on the line at Chickamauga, as a tide of Confederate infantry swept towards the position they had been rushed forward to hold. With the crescendo of battle reaching fever pitch, Company E...

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The afternoon of 20th September 1863 found Privates Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary facing into a maelstrom. Fate and circumstance had placed them on the line at Chickamauga, as a tide of Confederate infantry swept towards the position they had been rushed forward to hold. With the crescendo of battle reaching fever pitch, Company E of the 96th Illinois Infantry was not a good place to be. As the opposing lines threw curtains of lead at each other, men quickly began to stagger and fall. One who was there claimed the firing kept up “until the muskets were so hot that a ball could not be got down in them.” In the midst of the ferocious exchange a Rebel Minié ball spun through the trees in search of a target. It found one in Daniel Harrington. Striking him just above the navel, the missile drilled through his bowels before blasting out beside his backbone. As the 20-year-old crumpled to the ground, Denis O’Leary rushed to his side. The two young men were not only brothers-in-arms, they were tent mates and life-long friends. Leaving the firing line, Denis dragged his mortally wounded comrade to the regimental surgeon, positioned only 15m behind the firing line. Denis knew his friend was doomed. Leaning Daniel against a tree, he shouted to the physician above the din of battle: “I will leave Harrington with you, and go back and avenge his death.” With that Denis O’Leary rushed back to the fight, and his own appointment with eternity. Within moments Daniel Harrington had breathed his last. Only minutes later, Denis too went down, struck in the right hip, spine and bowels, perhaps a victim of the charge of grape shot that “cut out almost every man for several files near the centre.” Twenty minutes after Daniel Harrington had fallen, the 96th Illinois were retreating, forced to leave behind not only Daniel’s lifeless body but also the gravely wounded Denis O’Leary. Denis was captured, but was so badly maimed he was soon returned. The 22-year-old died from his injuries in Chattanooga on 26th October. The experiences of Daniel and Denis on the firing line at Chickamauga are just one vignette from thousands on that savage field. But who were the two men behind that combat experience, and what was the path that had led Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary to their ultimate doom in Georgia on 20th September 1863? (1)

Monument to the 96th Illinois at Chickamauga, near where Daniel Harrington and Denis O'Leary fought and fell (Byron Hooks, Civil War battlefield Monuments)

Monument to the 96th Illinois on Horseshoe Ridge at Chickamauga, near where Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary fought and fell (Byron Hooks, Civil War battlefield Monuments)

Both Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary were American born, but their stories were ones of Ireland and America. Indeed, in many respects their lives had remarkable parallels. Both sets of parents were Irish emigrants and may even have been from the same part of Ireland– the O’Learys came from Bantry Bay in West Cork, an area closely linked with the Harrington surname. Both families initially settled in New York, where Denis was born around 1840 and Daniel around 1843. And by the late 1840s, both the Harrington and O’Leary families felt that their future lay in the west– more specifically in Wisconsin. Daniel’s and Denis’s fathers shared a trade that drew them to a burgeoning settlement in Lafayette County that was quickly becoming home to large numbers of Irish. The village of New Diggings was especially welcoming of those who had the skills that John Harrington and Denis O’Leary Senior possessed; they were miners, and New Diggings was experiencing a lead mining ‘boom.’ This growing rough and tumble town was where Daniel and Denis grew up, and where they became friends. A description of New Diggings at the time gives an insight into the locale:

From 1840 to 1850, the village grew…In early days, the miners “burrowed” for protection from the blasts of winter, or lived in huts of primitive comforts or conveniences. When the village became an established fact, frame houses were substituted for the caves and huts, and woman’s taste was evidenced in the neatness of surroundings that had theretofore been “shiftless.”…Like all young villages, its ways were not ways of pleasantness…the residents, as a rule, are measured by their excesses [rather] than the absence of them. Gambling and drinking were usual, and the saloons, where these accomplishments were held in high regard were numerous as the lice in Egypt, and equally as voracious. (2)

Engine House of the Mountain Mine, Allihies, West Cork. Many of the emigrants from where the O'Learys (and likely the Harringtons) hailed from were already part of mining communities (Peter Bell)

1860s Engine House of the Mountain Mine, Allihies, West Cork. Many of the emigrants from where the O’Learys (and likely the Harringtons) hailed from were already part of mining communities (Peter Bell)

In October 1850 both families were enumerated on the New Diggings census. Daniel was recorded as 7-years-old, living with his older brother Philip (10, also born in New York) and parents John (35) and Julia (30). Denis was 10-years-old, while his father Denis Senior was 42 and mother Catharine 37. Also in that household were Denis’s older sister Mary (13), who had been born in Ireland, his younger siblings Catharine (8), James (6) and John (4), born in New York, and 9-month-old baby Hannah who had arrived in Wisconsin. As the two young Irish-Americans grew to adulthood in the 1850s, the fortunes of New Diggings dipped somewhat. The coming of the gold rush in California had drawn many of the miners away, abandoning the pursuit of lead in hopes of finding a path to fortune on the west coast. These circumstances forced Daniel’s father and a number of other Irish miners in New Diggings to range further in search of work. They eventually found it in a coal mine at French Village, Illinois, near the Missouri border. There disaster struck on 3rd December 1851, when John Harrington was killed during a mine collapse. His Irish companions dug him out, and bore their sad tidings with them back to their homes in New Diggings. Some three years later Denis’s father also died, reportedly succumbing to cholera. (3)

Miners at the Penna Benton Mines, New Diggings in 1915. Many of these miners were likely descendants of some of the Irish emigrants who settled here in the 1840s and 50s (Library of Congress)

Miners at the Penna Benton Mines, New Diggings, Wisconsin in 1915. Many of these miners were likely descendants of some of the Irish emigrants who settled here in the 1840s and 50s (Library of Congress)

Both young men now had added financial burdens to bear. Daniel Harrington seemingly did not want to do so by carrying on with mining– a decision perhaps influenced by the loss of his father. Instead, he sought out a position as a farm labourer. Each season from 1854 on he worked the land of Ohioan-born John Chambers, who had a farm near New Diggings, at White Oak Springs, Wisconsin. It was here that 17-year-old Daniel was recorded on the 1860 Census. His efforts, along with that of his brother Philip, allowed them to secure for their mother a one-half share in 10 acres of land and a couple of cows, as the family sought to exploit the opportunities for improvement that had brought them to Wisconsin in the first place. Daniel was not the only Irish miner’s son from New Diggings working the land in White Oak Springs in 1860. The neighbouring farm, owned by North-Carolinian farmer Samuel Scales, had two agricultural hands– one of whom was none other than Denis O’Leary. (4)

The New Diggings General Store & Inn, New Diggings, Wisconsin (Wikipedia)

The New Diggings General Store & Inn, New Diggings, Wisconsin (Wikipedia)

Daniel may have combined some seasonal farm labouring with mining– it seems that Denis certainly did so. By 1862 Daniel was also making the journey across the state line to Apple River, Jo Daviess County, Illinois, to work the farm of Ohio-born Louis Chambers. It was while labouring there that Daniel learned of a regiment being newly recruited in Jo Daviess and Lake counties. That August both he and Denis enlisted in what became the 96th Illinois Infantry– the regimental history claims they did so at Scales Mound, Illinois. As the two friends marched off to war, Daniel asked Louis Chambers if he could send him money to pass to his mother, a request to which the farmer agreed. Meanwhile Denis’s mother reportedly “turned gray before [he] had been in the army long.” Perhaps mercifully, she had reportedly passed away before the autumn of 1863, when both Daniel and Denis found themselves rushing to stem the flow of Union defeat in the wooded landscape of Northern Georgia. (5)

The battle-torn National Color of the 96th Illinois Infantry (Library of Congress)

The battle-torn National Color of the 96th Illinois Infantry (Library of Congress)

For Julia Harrington, Daniel’s death at Chickamauga did not bring an end to her suffering. Her surviving son, Philip, was drafted from New Diggings on 29th September 1864. He became a private in Company A of the 17th Wisconsin Infantry, the state’s Irish regiment. On 15th March 1865 Philip died at the regimental hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina, succumbing to apoplexy. His death meant that the Irish emigrant woman was now alone. Having been widowed due to the mining accident, she had lived to see both her children lost to the war. In an effort to survive she sold her share in the ten-acres, exchanging it for flour and fire-wood. Worse was to come in her endeavours to claim a pension. The fact that her son’s body had not been recovered, combined with the misfortune that Denis had also died, meant that it took her more than four years to prove her claim. The last reference I have located for her is in the 1880 Census for New Diggings, where she was recorded as a pauper. (6)

A young Illinois soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress)

A young Illinois soldier in the Civil War (Library of Congress)

The descriptions of Daniel Harrington and Denis O’Leary’s final actions at Chickamauga are preserved because a number of veterans of the 96th Illinois provided Julia Harrington with their recollections of those events so she could prove her son’s fate. Those final moments open for us a window, allowing us to glimpse these soldiers lives in a fuller, more comprehensive fashion. In so doing they become more than just the sum of their last actions at Chickamauga. Their lives are revealed as parts of a family and community, with shared experiences stretching back to Wisconsin’s Irish miners, to the Irish of New York, and ultimately all the way to West Cork, where the decisions were first made that set in train their presence on the bloody fields of Chickamauga.

Chattanooga National Cemetery, where many of those who died at Chickamauga are buried (Robert Rynerson)

Chattanooga National Cemetery, where many of those who died at Chickamauga are buried (Robert Rynerson)

* 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) Daniel Harrington Widow’s Pension File, Partridge 1887: 215, Register of Deaths of Volunteers; (2) Mary O’Leary Hamilton Recollections; 1850 Federal Census, Butterfield 1881: 567-8; (3) 1850 Federal Census, Butterfield 1881: 566; (4) Daniel Harrington Widow’s Pension File, Leonard Family History, 1860 Federal Census; (5) Daniel Harrington Widow’s Pension File, Mary O’Leary Hamilton Recollections, 1860 Federal Census, Partridge 1887: 787, 789, Leonard Family Tree; (6) Daniel Harrington Widow’s Pension File, Wisconsin AG 1886: 51, Register of Deaths of Volunteers;

References & Further Reading

Widow’s Certificate 126005 of Julia Harrington, Dependent Mother of Daniel Harrington, Company E, 96th Illinois Volunteers.

US Register of Deaths of Volunteers, 1861-1865.

US Federal Census 1850, New Diggings, Lafayette, Wisconsin.

US Federal Census 1850, Apple River, Jo Daviess, Illinois.

US Federal Census 1860, New Diggings, Lafayette, Wisconsin.

US Federal Census 1860, White Oak Springs, Lafayette, Wisconsin.

US Federal Census 1880, New Diggings, Lafayette, Wisconsin.

Mary O’Leary Hamilton Recollections as told to her family [sister of Denis O’Leary], scanned at Leonard Family tree, Ancestry.com.

Butterfield, Cosul Willshire 1881. History of La Fayette County, Wisconsin.

Patridge, Charles A. 1887. History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.

Wisconsin Adjutant General 1886. Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865.

Civil War Battlefield Monuments.

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.

Chickamauga Civil War Trust Page.

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Naming Erin Hills: 19th Century Irish Emigrants & the 2017 U.S. Open http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/06/18/naming-erin-hills-19th-century-irish-emigrants-the-2017-u-s-open/ Sun, 18 Jun 2017 16:27:48 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=12241 Today the eyes of the golfing world are turned to Erin Hills golfcourse in Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin, as the 2017 US Open draws to a conclusion. Though none of the Irish-born golfers remain in contention for the title, there is nonetheless a strong Irish interest in the location of the tournament. As the name...

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Today the eyes of the golfing world are turned to Erin Hills golfcourse in Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin, as the 2017 US Open draws to a conclusion. Though none of the Irish-born golfers remain in contention for the title, there is nonetheless a strong Irish interest in the location of the tournament. As the name implies, Erin is a town with strong links to Ireland, stretching back to some of the first settlers in the county. Given the day that’s in it, I was interested to take a brief look at some of the history behind how Erin got its name.

Logo of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin (Wikipedia)

Logo of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin (Wikipedia)

Erin, Wisconsin is so called because of the Irish emigrants who first made their homes there in the 1840s. The 1912 History of Washington County provides some detail:

…the first settlers of this township were Irish– they were Catholics from the Emerald Isle. Michael Lynch on November 27, 1841, was the first one to take up Government land. In the following two years the valleys fairly resounded with the efforts of the Ryans, Quinns, Daleys, Fitzgeralds, Welches, Donohues, Murphys, McCormicks, Gallaghers, McLaughlins and others of distinctly Gaelic lineage to create a home in that most hilly portion of the county. German names among the first settlers are rare exceptions. By 1846 the last patch of arable land was taken. The town was well settled before the first tree was fell in the town of Hartford. Town Erin was incorporated on Jan 16, 1846. On April 6, 1846, the first town meeting was held in the home of Patrick Toland… (1)

True to its Irish links, the town was overwhelmingly Democratic in its early years– so much so that an amusing story was told about the town’s solitary vote for Abraham Lincoln in 1860:

…Town Erin was from the very beginning of its existence the stronghold of the Democratic party in Washington county. Until 1859 nobody who was not a Democrat could poll a vote. Lincoln in 1860 was the first one to effect a breach in that solid phalanx. He got one vote. But the election officers thought that it certainly must have been a mistake, and– threw it out. Since then the Republican party slowly gained ground. In the next few elections that solitary Republican vote regularly reappeared. There is the following story to it: An Irishman after landing in New York was taken violently sick, and was taken up and nursed in the home of a compatriot. When he had recovered, he wanted to pay for the shelter and good care he had received, but his benefactor would not take any money, instead, he made his ward promise to vote at the polls no other ticket save the Republican. This Irishman settled in the town, and he kept his promise faithfully. (2)

Holy Hill Basilica, visible from the Erin Hills course, is an important Catholic shrine in the region that was frequented by the 19th century Irish community in the area (Shoelace414 via Wikipedia)

Holy Hill Basilica, visible from the Erin Hills course, is an important Catholic shrine in the region that was frequented by the 19th century Irish community in the area (Shoelace414 via Wikipedia)

Why had these Irish communities moved to Wisconsin? The 1840s and 1850s saw large numbers of Irish settlers move west, often seeking to form distinctly Catholic and Irish communities while taking advantage of the significant amounts of land on offer. The eastern Irish press regularly featured descriptions of the opportunities available for farmland in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and New York was even home to a “Wisconsin Emigration Agency” that sought to promote relocation. Readers of newspapers such as the New York Irish-American Weekly were told to “come out west”, with promises there were “fertile fields to greet your brawny arms with cereal plenty, a quiet home, and happy contentment.” Wisconsin was not only being promoted to Irish emigrants in the east, but in Ireland itself. In 1849 the Cork Examiner re-printed the following correspondence, which had originally appeared in the Boston Pilot:

WISCONSIN, UNITED STATES

Sir, I propose Wisconsin as a settlement to all Irish emigrants, with or without a capital. I worked there myself during the last year, and up to the first of December, and although fifty-six years of age and not in the habit of doing much labor in the old country, I independently went through all kinds of common labour up to that time practised in that State, together with sawing, ploughing and harrowing, raising and saving all kinds of crops, and found no difficulty in their mode or habit of working any more than if I went from one parish in the old country into the next one. Hire of labourers varies from one dollar and fifty cents to seventy-five cents per day, and found. No labourer will be at a stand for a moment to get work there. Women, girls, and boys, will be employed even before the men. If a person can afford to carry his children there, they will, after the age of seven years, be able to make a living for themselves, together with the advantage of being educated without any interference whatever with their religion. If a labourer commences there without one cent in his possession, he will of his own individual earning, in two years, be able to purchase one hundred and sixty acres of land, free from all other charges except a mere trifle to maintain the army, and the dignity of the State. He could additionally purchase a yoke of oxen, a waggon and different other framing utensils, and build a log-house sufficient for any middling man to live in for years, and which would answer for an out-house when it would be found convenient to build a better one. The laboring man will find another way to go ahead, and become immediately happy if he only have sufficient help and pays attention to industry. The farmer will give him a part of his farm to work, for what they call their “shares,” that is, the farmer gives his labourer or a neighbouring labourer twenty, thirty, fifty acres, more or less, of his tillage land to cultivate, providing him with horses or oxen to plough the ground, together with seed and all kinds of implements of husbandry, and a house to reside in…The emigrant will find there [Wisconsin] cows, horses, and hogs, of as good breed, quality and appearance as ever he had or saw in his country. He will find plenty of sheep there but not of that superior quality, that he would find in Ireland when I knew it…The goose, the turkey, the duck, and the hen, will be found there, and the same species of those formerly so well known in Ireland. The settler will recollect that on the moment he makes his purchase he is the undisturbed lord of the soil, henceforth, and for ever, that he need not fear rent, rate, or taxes, bailiffs, drovers or rectors, agents, bribe men, or canters….I have had through life the better chance of knowing the unavoidable necessity, and the incalculable utility of the mechanic, in an agricultural territory,– therefore I invite the smith, the carpenter, the joiner, the boot and shoemaker, the tailors, the mason, the bricklayer, the plasterer, the slater, the painter and glazier…Irish emigrants of every class, I again call upon you to go, as they say in the height of their distress in the old country, “by hook or by crook, or by creeping or crawling,” to Wisconsin, where if you are fortunate enough to go, and that you industriously work and not mispend your earnings for two years, you will have made a property for yourself and children, of which you and your posterity cannot be deprived, as long as the independence of the United States of America holds. (3)

Many of those who gave Erin its name would have been enticed to Wisconsin by such promises of a better life. The naming of the town itself is credited to John Whelan, one of the early settlers who was apparently from the Aran Islands. A review of the 1850 census demonstrates just how Irish this settlement was, with almost 50% of the population Irish-born in 1850; when their American-born children are included it is clear the vast bulk of Erin was Irish-American. (4)

John Whelan and his family in Erin on the 1850 Census (NARA)

John Whelan and his family in Erin on the 1850 Census. John is credited with coming up with the name Erin. Like many Irish settlers in the west, the birthplaces of his children demonstrate that he and his wife had first settled in the east (in their case Massachusetts) before moving into the interior of the country (NARA)

The town and surrounding area has maintained a strong Irish and Catholic identity into the 20th and 21st centuries. From a Catholic perspective, many of the pictures from the Erin Hills course feature the dominant visage of the Holy Hill National Shrine in the background, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and has been an important site since the 19th century. The town named many of its streets for places in Ireland, and this together with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has seen the Wisconsin settlement make its way into the news in Ireland, for example in the Irish Press in March 1961, when the paper featured some of Erin’s street signs. That the connection with Ireland was well-remembered into the 20th century can be demonstrated by a poem written by Estelle Maher (née Fitzgerald) in 1923. A native of Erin, Estelle was the daughter of one of the area’s first settlers. She penned a poem, entitled “Toast to Town Erin Settlers”, which is reproduced below. The hosting of the 2017 U.S. Open in the town has provided an opportunity for those in Ireland to explore something of the locality’s fascinating history, and longstanding connection stretching across the Atlantic.

TOAST TO TOWN ERIN SETTLERS

A poor but honest people

From far across the sea,

Heard tidings of a new land,

And a world that was to be;

So some of them took passage

On a shop that left their shore,

And the friends they left behind them,

They never saw them more.

 

There’s one small unseen person

On every ship afloat,

And this proved no exception,

Cupid was on the boat.

Some of them had been married

Ere they left the County Cork,

Others were joined in wedlock

In the city of New York.

 

On sailboat, stage and ferry,

They traveled with a will,

Walked many miles through forest

Till they came to Kuhn’s mill.

Here they lived and worked together

Till each a patch had cleared,

And in that tiny clearing,

A log cabin had been reared.

 

Though not of costly splendor,

Though not a palace grand,

‘Twas the faith and hope within them,

Made this seem a magic land.

 

No lord with liveried servants,

No king upon his throne,

Ever felt the deep contentment

Of the settler in his home.

 

When they came to name the township,

They all were of one mind.

Resolved to call it Erin

For the land they left behind.

To one cabin in the forest

Following in the paths they trod,

Came a priest, and here they gathered

For to know and worship God.

 

Here the women brought their children,

As Mary did of old,

To be baptized by Christ’s deciple

And received into the fold.

Soon they felt a church was needed,

For religion they did thirst;

Of the honored saints of Ireland

St. Patrick’s name came first.

 

Here they lived and worked and prospered,

Loyal to home and church and state,

Till rebels fired upon Fort Sumpter–

It’s a well remembered date.

Their country called, they answered,

For they knew that in God’s sight

The could of the black man,

Was just as dear as the white.

 

In the churchyard, across the roadway

Where you see the small flags wave,

Lie the bodies of our heroes,

Who gave their lives, that flag to save.

Some died of a dread sickness,

Ere they heard the cannon’s roar,

In unknown graves they’re sleeping,

Upon the southern shore.

 

Some returned, and took their places,

With wives and children dear,

And lived to tell the story

For many and many a year.

The pioneers have gone to their Redeemer,

Their voices here are stilled;

They lived to see prosperity,

Ambitions attained, and hoped fulfilled.

Street signs of Erin, Wisconsin, shown in the Irish Press of 22nd March 1961 (Irish Press)

Street signs of Erin, Wisconsin, shown in the Irish Press of 22nd March 1961 (Irish Press)

(1) Quickert 1912: 27; (2) Ibid.; (3) New York Irish American, Cork Examiner; (4) 1850 Census; (5) Hartford Times;

References

1850 United States Federal Census, Erin, Washington, Wisconsin.

Hartford Times 31st August 1923. Toast to Town Erin Settlers. Preserved by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

New York Irish American Weekly 11th April 1857. Emigration to the West. 

Cork Examiner 19th November 1849. Wisconsin, United States. 

Quickert, Carl 1912. Washington County Wisconsin Past and Present. Volume 1.

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Emigrant Irish Badgers: With the Second Wisconsin in Herbst's Woods http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2016/11/09/emigrant-irish-badgers-with-the-second-wisconsin-in-herbsts-woods/ Wed, 09 Nov 2016 17:49:21 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=11233 A focus of my recent trip to the Gettysburg battlefield was to look at some of the stories of Irishmen who were among that majority who undertook their war service in non-ethnic Irish units. A number of them were to be found in the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry– part of the famed Iron Brigade– who on...

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A focus of my recent trip to the Gettysburg battlefield was to look at some of the stories of Irishmen who were among that majority who undertook their war service in non-ethnic Irish units. A number of them were to be found in the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry– part of the famed Iron Brigade– who on the first day at Gettysburg were engaged in the vicious fighting in Herbst Woods on McPherson Ridge and in the brief stand near the Lutheran Seminary. In this post I look at three of those Badger State Irish-Americans, explore their experiences, and examine their fates.

Second Wisconsin Infantry Memorial in the Herbst Woods, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

Second Wisconsin Infantry Memorial in the Herbst Woods, Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

During the see-saw struggle in Herbst Woods on 1st July 1863, Private Patrick Maloney of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry spotted an opportunity. His regiment had just charged the Tennessean Confederates that opposed them, driving their foe back across the stream known as Willoughby Run from whence they had come. Continuing the pursuit, Maloney, “a brave patriotic, and fervent young Irishman”, identified amongst the Rebels none other than Brigadier-General James J. Archer, whose men the Black Hats were up against. Seemingly without hesitating, Maloney plunged into the Southerners and apprehended Archer, who initially tried to resist but was soon overwhelmed. Maloney brought his captive back to his commanding officer, Major John Mansfield, who in turn placed Archer in the hands of another Irishman in the 2nd Wisconsin, Galwegian Lieutenant Dennis Dailey. According to Dailey, so shaken was Archer by his encounter that the General appealed “for protection from Moloney.” Patrick Maloney’s actions had resulted in the first capture of an Army of Northern Virginia General since Robert E. Lee had taken command over a year before. His are probably the best known actions of any Irishman who served in the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg, though he would not live to reap any reward from them. Somewhere between the fighting in the Herbst Woods and the Brigade’s stand at the Seminary later in the day, Patrick Maloney was killed. The import of his contribution was enough to merit note in his commanding officer’s Official Report on the engagement at Gettysburg. Major Mansfield penned the account on 15 November 1863:

I ordered a charge upon this last position of the enemy, which was gallantly made at the double-quick, the enemy breaking in confusion to the rear, escaping from the timber into the open fields beyond. In this charge we captured a large number of prisoners, including several officers, among them General Archer, who was taken by Private Patrick Maloney, of Company G, of our regiment, and brought to me, to whom he surrendered his sword, which I passed over with the prisoners to Lieut. D.B. Dailey, acting aide-de-camp on the brigade staff. I regret to say that this gallant soldier (Private Maloney) was killed in action later in the day. (1)

The Herbst Woods, the terrain through which the Second Wisconsin fought on the first day at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

The Herbst Woods, the terrain through which the Second Wisconsin fought on the first day at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

Willoughby Run, across which Patrick Maloney and other members of the Second Wisconsin advanced on their way to capturing Brigadier-General Archer (Damian Shiels)

Willoughby Run, across which Patrick Maloney and other members of the Second Wisconsin advanced on their way to capturing Brigadier-General Archer (Damian Shiels)

Today, beyond his heroics on the field, we know very little about the origins, emigration or life of Patrick Maloney and his family. We know somewhat more about his compatriot Dennis Dailey, who had taken charge of Archer’s sword. He would be involved in more trials and tribulations on 1st July, as the survivors of the 2nd Wisconsin retreated through the town of Gettysburg towards Cemetery Hill. He was among those men, who included Colonel Morrow of the Iron Brigade’s 24th Michigan, who took refuge in the home of Mary McAllister near the Christ Lutheran Church. She remembered the Galway man in her home:

There was a young Irishman in there, too. His name was Dennis Burke Dailey, 2nd Wisconsin. He was so mad when he found what a trap they were in. He leaned out of the kitchen window and saw the bayonets of the rebels bristling in the alley and in the garden. I said, “There is no escape there.” I opened the kitchen door and they were tearing the fence down with their bayonets. This young Irishman says “I am not going to be taken prisoner, Colonel!” and he says to me “Where can I hide?” I said, “I don’t know, but you can go upstairs.” “No,” he said, “but I will go up the chimney.” “You will not,” said the Colonel. “You must not endanger this family.” So he came back. He was so mad he gritted his teeth. Then he says to me “Take this sword, and keep it at all hazards. This is Gen. Archer’s sword. He surrendered it to me. I will come back for it.” I ran to the kitchen, got some wood and threw some sticks on top of it…Col. Morrow says to me “Take my diary. I do not want them to get it.” I did not know where to put it, so I opened my dress and put it in my dress. He said, “That’s the place, they will not get it there.” Then all those wounded men crowded around and gave me their addresses. Then this Irishman, he belonged to the 2nd Wisconsin, said, “Here is my pocketbook, I wish you would keep it.” Afterward I did not remember what I did with it, but what I did was to pull the little red cupboard away and put it back of that… Then there came a pounding on the door. Col. Morrow said, “You must open the door. They know we are in here and they will break it.”…That Irishman, he was so stubborn…He stood back so very solemn. Then they took him prisoner. He asked them to let him come back into the house. Then he said to us “Give me apiece of bread.” Martha said, “I have just one piece and that is not good.” He said, “It don’t make any difference. I must have it. I have not had anything to eat for 24 hours.” Then the rebels took him. (2)

The monument marking the deathspot of Major-General John Reynolds, Commander of the First Corps at Gettysburg. He fell at the edge of Herbst Woods, as the Second Wisconsin and others plunged towards the Confederates (Damian Shiels)

The monument marking the deathspot of Major-General John Reynolds, Commander of the First Corps at Gettysburg. He fell at the edge of Herbst’s Woods, as the Second Wisconsin and others plunged towards the Confederates (Damian Shiels)

The marker to Archer's Confederate Brigade in the Herbst Woods at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

The marker to Archer’s Confederate Brigade in the Herbst Woods at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

Born around 1840, Dennis Dailey and his family had emigrated when he was six-years-old, settling in Ohio where he was educated at Antioch College. The Galwegian survived his Gettysburg captivity and later went on to serve in the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, performing notable service at engagements such as the Weldon Railroad, where he was wounded. He ended the conflict a brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. He had an active and successful post-war career; in 1867 he settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa where he became a criminal lawyer and served as District Attorney. He passed away in Council Bluffs in 1898 where he is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery (you can read his obituary here and see his grave here). (3)

Looking west from the cupola of the Lutheran Seminary towards Herbst Woods, the ground on which the Second Wisconsin fought on Gettysburg's first day (Damian Shiels)

Looking west from the cupola of the Lutheran Seminary towards Herbst Woods, the ground on which the Second Wisconsin fought on Gettysburg’s first day (Damian Shiels)

As with nearly every unit in the Army of the Potomac, there were Irish-American families at home who waited anxiously for news of the 2nd Wisconsin. One were the Brennans in Vermont. Mary Brennan’s son Michael had worked on a farm in Rutland County, Vermont during much of the 1850s, before striking out west in the winter of 1856-7 with some friends. He was still there when war came, and he enlisted in Company B of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry in La Crosse on 13th February 1862. He continued to financially support his mother. One of the letters he wrote home (addressed to his brother) came on 18th March 1863, just over three-months before Gettysburg. The patriotic soldier was optimistic about the future despite the low numbers of men left in the unit:

Camp near Bellplain VA

March 18th 63

Dear Brother and mother i take this oppertunity of writing these few lines to you and let you know that i have changed my location since i last wrote you and am now with my reg. i came hear yesterday and am well thank god as i expected to be at this time the boyes are all in good fiting trim never better what their is of them.

we had 80 men when i left the reg officers and all now their is only 25 their is 12 deserted this winter the rest have been shot died of wounds and sickness and so on but we have comfortable quarters and good grube and things look livley and active hear instead of the army being demorlised it is quite the reverse if i have my health i had rather be hear than any place i have been in hospitall but we will have active times before long i expect

i wrote severil letters to you from the convalsent camp and recived no answer but that was very bad about the maills coming regalar

William Obrin told me[he] heard from you regalar i have not got one dollar of my regelar pay since i got a few dollars extra pay for work but not anough hardly to keep me in tobaco at the prices we have to pay now. i am in hopes that i will get it by the first of next month if the reg is paid by that time which i hope in god it will. But it may be so that i cant get it when i was not hear to be mustered the last of febuary if i was hear and mustered for the roll their would be no troble when the reg is paid but i supose the paymaster can do as he feels about it. But i shall do the best i can to get it and when i do you shall get the most of it with the help of god. I know that you must stand in need of it all winter but god knows i could not helpe it i tride my best to get it but could not.

i want you to write to me as soon as you get this and direct as you did when i was with the reg before and then i shall be purty shure to get it give my love to mother and all frinds

I got a letter from philip the other day he is well and down at [illegible]

No more at present

from yours truley

Michael Brennan

Michael did eventually get paid, and sent his mother $30 via Adams Express on 27th April. A little over two-months afterwards he was with the 2nd Wisconsin on Gettysburg’s first day’s battlefield, where he was destined to be among the dead. His mother would include proof of his last remittance to her in a pension application as she sought to secure support based on his service. (4)

The Adams Express recipt from April 1863, the last remittance Michael Brennan sent to his mother prior to his death at Gettysburg (NARA/Fold3)

The Adams Express receipt from April 1863, the last remittance Michael Brennan sent to his mother prior to his death at Gettysburg (NARA/Fold3)

The 2nd Wisconsin Infantry is another example of a unit that can be examined to learn something of the Irish experience of the American Civil War (for the story of another Irishmen in this regiment, who beat the odds to survive First Bull Run, see here). I hope to look at other elements of Irish participation in the Iron Brigade (particularly that of the 24th Michigan) and other non-ethnic Irish units at Gettysburg in future posts, incorporating some of the images I took on my recent visit to the battlefield.

The Lutheran Seminary as seen from Herbst Woods, ground traversed and fought over by the Second Wisconsin at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

The Lutheran Seminary as seen from neat the edge of Herbst Woods, ground traversed and fought over by the Second Wisconsin on the first day at Gettysburg (Damian Shiels)

* 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) Hartwig 2005: 169, Official Records: 274; Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers: 366; (2) Mary McAllister Memoir; (3) Wisconsin Historical Society; (4) Michael Brennan Mother’s Pension File;

References & Further Reading

WC34622 Widow’s Certificate of Mary Brennan, Dependent Mother of Michael Brennan, Company B, Second Wisconsin Infantry.

Hartwig, D. Scott 2005. “I Have Never Seen the Like Before” Herbst Woods, July 1, 1863.

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1. Report of Maj. John Mansfield, Second Wisconsin Infantry, 273-275.

Wisconsin State Legislature 1886. Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Volume 1.

Adams County Historical Society. Mary McAllister Memoir. Transcription by Ginny Gage accessed via the Gettysburg Discussion Group.

Wisconsin Historical Society. Dailey, Lt. Col. Dennis B. (1840-1898).

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A Song For Mother: Last Letters of A 16-Year-Old Wisconsin Irish Immigrant http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2016/03/19/a-song-for-mother-last-letters-of-a-16-year-old-wisconsin-irish-immigrant/ Sat, 19 Mar 2016 14:56:09 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=10051 Some Irish soldiers of the American Civil War were little more than boys. Despite their youth, they often fervently supported the cause for which they fought. Timothy Dougherty was one such emigrant soldier. His antebellum family story is one of hardship and hard work– typical of that of many Irish immigrants in America. During the...

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Some Irish soldiers of the American Civil War were little more than boys. Despite their youth, they often fervently supported the cause for which they fought. Timothy Dougherty was one such emigrant soldier. His antebellum family story is one of hardship and hard work– typical of that of many Irish immigrants in America. During the war, he took the opportunity of his final letters home to display his fervent belief in the war effort, not only in words, but also in lyrics.

Not all Federal soldiers spent their service fighting Confederates. Timothy Dougherty was sent west, to Kansas and Missouri, where he spent more time encountering hostile Native Americans than Rebels. Nevertheless, Timothy was a believer in the cause of Union. Though his adoptive state of Wisconsin had witnessed significant wartime disturbances in opposition to the draft, Timothy clearly had little time for those who opposed the conflict, as his letters reveal. He had grown into a young man during the early war years, and had sought to enlist while still little more than a boy– he was only 16-years-old when his mother (then only 33 herself) had given her consent to his enlistment in 1864. (1)

Milwaukee in the 1850s, as the Doughertys would have known it (Library of Congress)

Milwaukee in the 1850s, as the Doughertys would have known it (Library of Congress)

Timothy was the eldest child of Denis and Catharine Dougherty. The family had emigrated to the United States around 1854; Denis and Catharine arrived in America with three sons in tow– Timothy, John and Jeremiah (Jerry). They initially settled in New York, where a fourth child, Margaret, was born. It was not long before they followed the well-worn path of many Irish immigrants and headed west. The family set out for Wisconsin around 1857, where another son, Michael, arrived. But it wasn’t long before their future well being was put in jeopardy. Denis passed away from a fever in Cairo, Illinois in November 1858, leaving Catharine to fend for their young family on her own. The 1860 Census records the 29-year-old widow living in Milwaukee’s Third Ward with Timothy (12), John (10), Jerry (7), Margaret (5) and Michael (2). A 29-year-old Irish laborer named Patrick Murphy also appears to have been living with the family at this time. Though still only a child, Timothy had to help his mother earn a living. Catharine kept two jobs to maintain her family, working as both a servant and a washerwoman. Timothy helped her with this, cutting wood and fetching water for his mother, as well as going out to collect the clothes from her patrons and returning them when she was finished. The young boy also worked various odd jobs, but by all accounts seems to have excelled as a fisherman, operating along the Milwaukee River and the shores of Lake Michigan. He used his catch not only to help feed the family, but to turn a profit at the local market when the opportunity presented itself, often earning between $1 and $3 per day. However, the extra money lasted only as long as the fishing season, and all too quickly each year the family’s earnings would once again diminish. (2)

Motivated by both economics and patriotism, Timothy enlisted in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry in late February 1864. He soon received a bounty of $200 for joining up, which he passed to his mother. Despite his enlistment, Timothy’s muster in was delayed due to illness. He came down with measles and had to be hospitalized, a situation which also meant that when Catharine came to see him before his departure she couldn’t find him, and to return home disappointed. Timothy recovered to muster in at Madison in early March, and wrote home on the 27th of the month to let Catharine know he was ok. (3)

A trooper of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry in Fort Scott during the Civil War (Kansas Memory)

A trooper of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry in Fort Scott during the Civil War (Kansas Memory)

Timothy was sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas along with another young Irish recruit, Michael Cantwell. They both initially did service with Company C, but in the Autumn of 1864 they were assigned to a detachment under Captain Theodore Conkey. From there they were ordered to Fort Riley, where they formed part of the forces of Major-General James Gilpatrick Blunt, commander of the District of the Upper Arkansas. Their job was to protect settlers on the frontiers in Kansas and Southwestern Missouri from Native Americans and Confederate raiders alike, and to expel any Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers they came across. Michael Cantwell later recalled that they spent the majority of their time “engaged in fighting the Indians and protecting the settlements from their ravages.” Their isolated position meant that there was little news available on the wider war. On 17th August 1864 Timothy wrote home from Fort Scott:

Dear Mother what do the peppol of the North think about this war but I think it wont be over this Summer I think I will have a chanch to reinlist after my time is out what time I have been in the army dont seam long to me. Dear Mother I would like to have you send me the Daily Scentenel [The Milwaukee Daily Sentinel] about once a week if it dont cost to much to scend it to me fore we dont here any thing about the war only whats going on in Kansas. (4)

That summer a new outpost– Fort Zarah– had been established where the Santa Fe trail crossed Walnut Creek, due to the propensity of Native American attacks there. Timothy and Michael were part of a 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry detachment sent to the Fort that autumn under the command of Captain Conkey. Typical of the actions the men were engaged in were those of early December. On the 4th of the month an ammunition wagon with a driver and four-man escort was making for Fort Zarah when they were attacked by Native American warriors at Cow Creek, some 15 miles east of the post. The men were eating supper when arrows began to rain down on them, killing the driver and wounding one of the escorts. Timothy may well have been a member of one of the two parties that Captain Conkey later sent from Fort Zarah to recover what was left of the ammunition, much of which had by then been taken. Despite their position in hostile territory, ordinary life went on. Shortly after the Cow Creek incident Captain Conkey received a letter from an upset Catharine back in Milwaukee, who was worried that Timothy wasn’t writing home. His officer wrote back on 12th December:

…Your son Timothy Dougherty is with me, doing duty at this Post– I have lectured him severely for not writing to his mother oftener. He says he has written frequently and thinks the letters must have miscarried– Timothy is well and a good boy, he makes a fine soldier– I shall try to persuade him to send his money all home to his mother when he is paid off. (5)

The Santa Fe Trail. Timothy and the men at Fort Zarah were responsible for defending a portion of it (National Park Service via Wikipedia)

The Santa Fe Trail. Timothy and the men at Fort Zarah were responsible for defending a portion of it (National Park Service via Wikipedia)

Perhaps chastened by the rebuke from home, Timothy did write to his mother from Fort Zarah on 19th December. He described the post as a:

…Camp out on the plaines on a little stream call the Walnut creak…we live in little houses in the bank cover over with poles and durt and a fireplace in it. We are not truble anything but indian[s] we are not truble much… (6)

Despite the fact that he was spending most of his time in frontier operations against Native Americans, the young emigrant had no doubt why he was fighting. He had strong opinions about the anti-war Democrats (Copperheads) back in Wisconsin, and what he would do to any he met who might cause him trouble when he went home:

…we are now expecting to go home this Winter the Coperhead[s] might as well be in hell as to abuse the soldiers whin will they go home this Winter for I am going [to] cary a pair of revovers [revolvers] home with me this Winter…have you heard anything about going home this Winter but we are [illegible] to see home once more before we die… (7)

Perhaps the most intriguing element of Timothy’s letter home is the song lyrics he included for his mother, presumably because it was popular among the troops at Fort Zarah. With the brief introduction “hear is song”, the soldier went straight into relating the verses:

So let the cannons boom as they will

We’ll be gay and happy still

Gay and happy gay and happy

We’ll be gay and happy still

 

Friends at home be gay and happy

Never blush to speak our name

Should our comrades fall in battle

They shall share A soldiers fame

 

Girls at home be gay and happy

Show that you have womans pride

Never wed A homesick coward

Wait and be a soldiers bride

 

Chorus

gay and happy sweet they answer

None but fools get married now

valliant men have all enlisted

unto cowards we’ll not bow

 

We’re the girls thats gay and happy

Waiting for the end of strife

Sooner share a soldiers rations

Than to live a cowards wife

 

For the gay and soldiers

We’re contented as the dove

But the man who dare not soldier

Never can obtain our love

 

Chorus

So let the conscripts woe[?] ar they

We’ll be free and happy still

Free and happy free and happy

We’ll be free and happy still (8)

The original letter by Timothy to his mother from Fort Zarah, with the verses of the song seperated by lines (Fold3/Library of Congress)

Part of the original letter by Timothy to his mother from Fort Zarah, with the verses of the song separated by lines (Fold3/National Archives)

This is the first full song I have come across in my research into the pension file letters of Irish soldiers. It is a version of the wartime song Gay and Happy, which is generally credited to Anne Rush, “The Philadelphia Vocalist.” Various versions sprang up, both North and South; among the notable Southern efforts was the Camp Song of the Maryland Line. But by far the closest versions to Timothy’s I was able to locate are associated with troops from Wisconsin and Iowa. The 1864 publication Poetical Pen-Pictures of the War: Selected from Our Union Poets includes a variation of Gay and Happy that is broadly similar to that given by Timothy, and had been submitted by “W.M.J.” of Company C, 7th Wisconsin Infantry. It was ascribed to the Battle of West Point, Virginia on 7th May 1862. The Times of the Rebellion in the West: A Collection of Miscellanies published in 1867 also contains a close variant, and one that was popular among the 6th Iowa Infantry. The song resonated with some veterans for many decades after the conflict. A Union veteran in Florida quoted the third verse [“Never wed a homesick coward”]  in a piece to The National Tribune in 1910, noting that it was “a verse ‘our girls we left behind us’ used to repeat when we were in the army, and they have made good.” The same verse was also quoted in the Chicago Daily Herald in 1924, again with reference to women singing it as soldiers marched off to war. (9)

Gay and Happy Song Music

Original Gay and Happy Lyrics (Levy Sheet Music Collection)

Camp Song of the Maryland Line, a Confederate adaption of Gay and Happy

Camp Song of the Maryland Line, a Confederate adaption of Gay and Happy (ZSR Library)

Gay and Happy the Wisconsin Version

7th Wisconsin Infantry version of Gay and Happy (Poetical Pen-Pictures of the War)

6th Iowa Infantry version of Gay and Happy

6th Iowa Infantry version of Gay and Happy (The Times of the Rebellion in the West)

Passing on the song was the last correspondence Timothy Dougherty ever had with his mother. That January Captain Conkey and his men were ordered to make the long journey back to Lawrence, Kansas. The officer remembered the weather as cold, rainy and snowy. The cold and exposure caused a “violent fever” to take hold of the boy by the time of their arrival, and he was admitted to the Post Hospital at Lawrence on 11th February. Timothy was suffering from pneumonia, and it took his life on 13th February 1865. He was at most 17-years-old. (10)

A lack of proof of her marriage delayed Catharine’s pension for a number of years, but the payments were eventually approved in 1868. By then Catharine must surely have been in desperate need of them. Described as very poor and “living in a rented shanty”, her eldest surviving child John had left for Tennessee and had not been heard from since– Catharine suspected he may have been dead. Her other Irish-born son, Jerry, was unable to work as he was a “chronic invalid.” She would receive payments based on her boy’s service until her own death in July 1893 at Plover, Wisconsin. (11)

(1) Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File; (2) Ibid., 1860 Census. (3) Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File; (4) Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File, 1860 Census, Nye 1968:15; (5) Nye 1968:12, Michno 2003:160, Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File; (6) Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File; (7) Ibid.; (8) Ibid.; (9) Levy Sheet Music Collection, ZSR Library Hayward 1864: 264, Howe 1867: 208, The National Tribune 3rd February 1910, The Daily Herald 30th May 1924; (10) Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File; (11) 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

Timothy Dougherty Dependent Mother’s Pension File WC115555.

1860 U.S. Federal Census.

The National Tribune 3rd February 1910. Glad of St. Cloud.

The Daily Herald 30th May 1924. Observer’s Notes.

Hayward, J Henry 1864. Poetical Pen-Pictures of the War: Selected from Our Union Poets.

Howe, Henry 1867. The Times of the Rebellion in the West: A Collection of Miscellanies.

Michno, Gregory F. 2003. Encyclopedia of Indian Wars: Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850-1890.

Nye, Wilbur Sturtevant 1968. Plains Indian Raiders: The Final Phases of Warfare from The Arkansas to The Red River.

John Hopkins. Levy Sheet Music Collection. Gay and Happy.

ZSR Library. Camp Song of the Maryland Line.

Kansas Memory.

The post A Song For Mother: Last Letters of A 16-Year-Old Wisconsin Irish Immigrant appeared first on Irish in the American Civil War.

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