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 Irish in the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com 32 32 133117992 Leave by Order of the KKK: Conflict in War & Peace for a Louisiana Irish Republican http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/02/18/leave-order-kkk-conflict-war-peace-irish-louisiana-republican/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/02/18/leave-order-kkk-conflict-war-peace-irish-louisiana-republican/#respond Sun, 18 Feb 2018 18:28:22 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13892 In 1871 Irishman Luke Madden, who had ostensibly been a loyal Union man during the Civil War, made application to the Southern Claims Commission. His home during the conflict had been opposite the city of Vicksburg, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. There he had suffered repeated loss to both sides during the...

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In 1871 Irishman Luke Madden, who had ostensibly been a loyal Union man during the Civil War, made application to the Southern Claims Commission. His home during the conflict had been opposite the city of Vicksburg, on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River. There he had suffered repeated loss to both sides during the protracted struggle for control of the region, and had even spent a number of months as a captive. His identification with the Republicans immediately after the war led to the issuance of a warning from the newly formed Ku Klux Klan– a remarkable official copy of which he had submitted to demonstrate his loyalty bona fides.

Luke Madden was born in Ireland around 1835, and emigrated to the United States in 1847 during the Great Famine. For a number of years he made his home in Pennsylvania, becoming a naturalized citizen in Clarion County in 1853. By the end of that decade he had relocated south, and on the eve of war he was a laboring contractor. He and his team, which included his brother Patrick, had secured a job to undertake ditching and levee work in the vicinity of the Brown & Johnston Plantation in Madison Parish, Louisiana. He spent most of his time around the settlement of Delta, which lay on the west bank of the Mississippi directly opposite the city of Vicksburg. Sometime after the outbreak of the war, he took charge of the Plantation itself, and formalised his position as a lessee under the Regulations of the Treasury Department when the region fell under Union control. Throughout the conflict, Luke Madden sought to maintain his business interests in what was one of the most contested landscapes of the American Civil War. Ultimately, the conflict brought him opportunity and hardship, and he suffered at the hands of both Union and Confederate forces through the course of the fighting. His efforts to seek compensation after war’s end record his version of the story, in which he claimed his long-standing support for Union.

The Federal Canal under construction near Delta, Louisiana (Library of Congress)

The Federal Canal under construction near Delta, Louisiana (Library of Congress)

During the summer of 1862 Union forces began construction of a canal on the west bank of the Mississippi in an effort to bypass Vicksburg’s guns. The location they chose was not far from Delta. The mammoth undertaking ultimately proved unsuccessful, but the works themselves consumed massive resources. The 75 wheelbarrows and shovels that Luke Madden had sitting on the bank of the river for his levee work proved too tempting a target. It wasn’t long before the U.S. transport steamer Laurel Hill arrived and commandeered the equipment. It was to prove the first in a long-line of Federal requisitions of Madden’s property. Around the same time a Union officer, who Madden remembered as a First Lieutenant in the 4th Wisconsin Infantry, confiscated his rifle.

Eventually the majority of Union troops moved on, but by early 1863 they were back. As Federal efforts to overcome Vicksburg intensified, the canal project was briefly reignited before mass manoeuvring became the order of the day as Grant sought to bring the city to heel. The reappearance of Federal soldiers, together with the lack of compensation he had received in 1862 was perhaps the catalyst for Madden’s decision on 4th May 1863 to seek a pass from the Confederate provost of Vicksburg. He needed one so that he cross the lines and drive his sheep to Redbone in Warrenton County, Mississippi, where presumably he sought to dispose of them. The timing of his departure coincided with the period when Grant’s forces began to close in for what would prove the decisive investment of Vicksburg, movements that encompassed fighting in Warrenton County. While he was gone, Federal troops, consistently on the look out for working animals, took eleven mules and two horses from his land in Madison Parish. Madden quickly passed back through the lines, seeking to determine “the condition of the negroes” on the Plantation and to see if they needed supplies. On 14th May 1863 he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Copy of the 1863 Confederate Pass issued to Luke Madden (NARA)

Copy of the 1863 Confederate Pass issued to Luke Madden (NARA)

Immediately following the fall of Vicksburg on 4th July 1863 Luke Madden went to work for the Union Quartermaster’s Department based there. He ran an express service and helped to supply newspapers and other items to naval officers stationed below the city. It was while undertaking this business that General John A. Logan took one of the Irishman’s better horses, promising that it would be returned after he completed a raid to Rocky Springs, though the animal never was. After two months in Vicksburg, Madden returned to Delta where he continued his farm business and operated a Government woodyard to supply Union needs. Even though the front lines moved on the war was never far away, and as it proved the worst was yet to come. On the night of 9th September 1864 a band of Confederate “guerrillas” swept down on Madison Township, confiscating goods from those they believed to be supporting the Union. At Luke Madden’s woodyard they made off with 12 mules, 2 horses, 2 wagons, an assortment of blankets, clothes, tobacco, coffee, flour and $1700 in cash. Led by a man known as Captain Disheron or Disheroon, reportedly a paroled prisoner, they also took Madden captive. While the supplies were disposed off in Franklin Parish, Louisiana, the captured man spent the following months in Shreveport, Louisiana and Tyler, Texas. He was not released until 27th May 1865, when he was exchanged at Red River Landing.

After his release, Luke Madden got permission from General Slocum to travel to Mississippi in search of the Rebel Captain who had stolen his property– Disheroon reportedly lived about 4 miles east of Grand Gulf. It is doubtful he was successful, but by 1871 he was seeking compensation for his losses to Federal forces through the Southern Claims Commission. As part of that process, he sought to demonstrate his loyalty to the Union. Firstly, he asserted that he had not voted on the Ordinance of Secession for Louisiana, claiming “I kept as near neutral as I could so as to keep out of difficulty, I would not have been safe if I had announced myself as a Union man.” He also noted that he had four full cousins– William, Pat, John and Luke Burns– who served in the Union military during the war. A series of affidavits were provided by locals to support his claim. His brother stated that he had given details on the positions of Rebel guns at Vicksburg to the Union Navy, while Edmund Jackson who lived nearby claimed that Madden had always provided the Union military with information on the best roads and routes. John T. Rankin, who had been a Union officer during the war, first met Madden in 1864 when he was doing work for the Union military. Rankin had relocated to Vicksburg (one of the despised “Carpetbaggers”), where he came to know the Irishman better and noted that he was a supporter of the Republicans in Louisiana during the Campaign of 1868. One of the strongest pieces of evidence in the Irishman’s support was given by elderly Bartlett Corbin, and African-American who had lived on the Brown & Johnson Plantation in Madison, and had possibly been a slave there. He had known Madden from the late 1850s, and spent a lot of time with him during the war. Bartlett testified that he “always heard him speak in favor of the Union” and “spoke against the rebels all the time.” He continued:

He was against slavery before the war and always spoke against it. Before the Union troops came down he spoke against the Confederacy all the time. I don’t know if he spoke that way to white people but he did to colored, I don’t think it would have been safe for him to talk to the white folks as he did to me…I never spoke with Luke Madden about the war in presence of white people until the Yankeys came…

General John A Logan. "Black Jack" took Luke Madden's grey horse during 1863 (Army Historical Foundation)

General John A Logan. “Black Jack” took Luke Madden’s grey horse during 1863 (Army Historical Foundation)

Another key piece of supporting evidence came from Alston Mygatt, President of the Mississippi Union League and a Republican State Senator for Mississippi:

I have known the claimant since the fall of 1863…I planted in 1865 on the plantation adjoining Brown and Johnson’s where claimant worked. Claimant had the reputation of being a man loyal to the United States Government. I am a loyal man, I opposed secession, I was not at home when the vote was taken on the adoption of the secession ordinance. I resided in April 1861 in Vicksburg, where I now reside, I never gave a dime for the aid of the Confederate Government. I have been persecuted for my Union sentiments, was twice arrested by the Rebels. People were afraid to speak to me on the street lest they should be suspected of being Union men. My whole family was ostracized on account of my Union sentiments. I organized in the year 1863 about the tenth of July a club of Union men, which club was recognized by the Commanding General…and at his request witness and Judge Houghton made out a list of Union men…Mr. Madden’s name was not on that list, because he resided in Louisiana. About the 1st September 1863 I was delegated by the Union Club to go to New Orleans and get the papers necessary to the establishment of a Loyal League in Vicksburg. I established the League and was one of its officers. I am at the present time [1871] President of the Grand Council of the Union League of Mississippi. I have acted with the Republican Party ever since the war, I was for two years a member of the State Republican Executive Committee. I was Chairman of that Committee from 1866 to 1868. I was a member of [the] Constitutional Convention in 1868 and am now State Senator. I have known Mr Madden continually since 1863. Know that he has acted with the Republican Party since the war…I have heard himself as decidedly opposed to the Rebellion and in favor of the Union cause. The claimant was regarded by his loyal neighbors as a Union man. I do not know that he was ever molested or threatened on account of his Union sentiments. I do not know that he ever contributed anything to the aid of either the Federal or Confederate Government.

Luke Madden’s claim amounted to one horse worth $300, 12 mules worth $1500, two horses worth $200, 72 wheelbarrows and shovels worth $324 and a rifle worth $20 to a total of $2344. Although most of his claims were accepted, his valuations were not, and he was ultimately awarded just $780. Whatever the reality of his Union support (be it ideological or opportunistic), the fact that the Irishman was imprisoned by Confederate guerrillas during the war suggests he was seen as someone who was too overt in his support for the Union war effort. It was likely his support for the Republican Party (individuals derogatorily referred to by Southern opponents as “Scalawags”) that drew the post-war ire of the Ku Klux Klan, leading to the ominous threat with which he was served.

Luke Madden advertisement, Madison Times 5 September 1885 (Madison Times)

Luke Madden advertisement, Madison Times 5 September 1885 (Madison Times)

It is not clear what happened to Luke Madden after 1871. The 1880 Census for Delta records a man of the same name as a “Retain Grocer”, though he gave a different age. His shop at the Delta Depot ran advertisements in local newspapers across the next number of years. The Carroll Democrat reported that he was robbed and beaten by “Negro foot pads” at Delta in 1891 (his widow was later shot in the face during an attempted robbery in 1899). This Luke Madden, the Delta Merchant, passed away in 1895. Interestingly his death was recorded in the Vicksburg Daily Commercial Herald as follows:

Mr. Luke Madden, of Delta, La. a great favorite in this city where he is mourned by many old comrades and friends died Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, after a short but violent illness. He was a Confederate veteran, having enlisted as a member of the Madison Tips at the outbreak of the war, and his record in the service was unexcelled.

Luke Madden is not a common name, and the fact that both individuals were in business in the same relatively small place seems an unlikely coincidence. Yet the Luke Madden described in the 1895 obituary could not be further removed from the Luke Madden portrayed in the Southern Claims Commission, the man arrested by Confederate guerrillas and threatened by the KKK. Perhaps they are different people, but if not, it raises many intriguing questions about the reality of his life, and how he chose to portray himself to different groups.

Luke Madden KKK Warning

Luke Madden’s warning from the Ku Klux Klan (NARA)

References

1870 Census

The Carroll Democrat 6th June 1891

The Daily Commercial Herald 23rd April 1895

The Times-Democrat 12th December 1899

Union Citizen File for Luke Madden

Southern Claims Commission Claim No. 3171 of Luke Madden

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A New Opportunity to Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/02/06/new-opportunity-stamp-mark-irish-commemoration-american-civil-war/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/02/06/new-opportunity-stamp-mark-irish-commemoration-american-civil-war/#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 17:16:23 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13869 As readers are aware, I have long lamented the lack of study and commemoration in Ireland of the hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants whose lives were forever impacted by the American Civil War. We have made many efforts to see something done on this front, particularly during the 150th anniversary of the conflict, but...

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As readers are aware, I have long lamented the lack of study and commemoration in Ireland of the hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants whose lives were forever impacted by the American Civil War. We have made many efforts to see something done on this front, particularly during the 150th anniversary of the conflict, but ultimately extremely little occurred in Ireland to mark the occasion. A new opportunity has now presented itself, and I am asking readers to consider submitting proposals to see if, this time, we can make it a reality.

Back in 2013 I launched a campaign for readers to contact An Post, the Irish postal service, as they sought suggestions for themes for future Irish stamps (Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War). Many of you did so. Despite the fact the subject matter appeared to completely match all of An Post’s stated criteria, including being in an anniversary year, the proposal was rejected (My reaction to that is here: Has Ireland Missed the Last Opportunity to Remember Her Civil War Dead). Now, as part of the 2020 stamp programme, proposals are being sought for themes that specifically represent events or people of significance for the Global Irish Diaspora. The time seems right to once again make an effort to have this monumental event in the global Irish experience recognised.

The Irish Abroad Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade have asked people to send a brief outline of their suggestions to them by Friday, 16th March 2018. The email for submissions is globalirishhub@dfa.ie and you can read the original call and criteria by clicking hereI would like to call on all readers of Irish in the American Civil War, wherever you may be based, to consider submitting a proposal that the Irish of the American Civil War be remembered on one of these stamps. If you could share this request as widely as possible I would be extremely appreciative. Please feel free to use the indicative text (below) or formulate your own. The more submissions that arrive requesting such a stamp, the harder it will be to ignore. Fingers crossed for a positive result!

The American Civil War is the only conflict in the Irish experience comparable to the First World War. Some 200,000 Irish-born men fought, at least 180,000 in order to preserve the American Union. The conflict led to the deaths of up to 35,000 Irish emigrants, leaving innumerable widows and orphans in Ireland, the United States, and among the Irish diasporas of Britain and Canada. The sacrifices of these individuals, part of the Famine generation, were the foundations upon which Ireland’s unique relationship with the United States has been built, yet they have never been properly recognised in Ireland. There is no event in the history of the Global Irish Diaspora to compare with this conflict and the time is now right to acknowledge its key importance in the Irish story. I would therefore like to call on you to dedicate one of the Global Irish Diaspora stamps to this seminal experience.

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“A Brutal, Good Natured Face:” A New York Irish “Rowdy” in War and Peace http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/30/brutal-good-natured-face-new-york-irish-rowdy-war-peace/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/30/brutal-good-natured-face-new-york-irish-rowdy-war-peace/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:28:54 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13839 Irish in the American Civil War is fortunate to have Brendan Hamilton as a long-standing contributor to the site. Brendan’s painstaking research and analysis always makes for fascinating reading (see for example here and here). His latest piece is just as intriguing. It follows the remarkable life of Irishman Felix Larkin, who during the Civil War...

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Irish in the American Civil War is fortunate to have Brendan Hamilton as a long-standing contributor to the site. Brendan’s painstaking research and analysis always makes for fascinating reading (see for example here and here). His latest piece is just as intriguing. It follows the remarkable life of Irishman Felix Larkin, who during the Civil War served as an officer in 15th New York Engineers. But Felix was also a man of New York’s rough and tumble underworld of gangs. His was a life led facing legends such as Bill “The Butcher” Poole and the Bowery Boys. It was a lifestyle which would ultimately brought his end. Brendan brings us the details. 

After Captain Felix Larkin met his untimely demise in November of 1868, his lengthy funeral procession included multiple state and municipal politicians, 46 carriages, and over 500 New York volunteer soldiers wearing badges of mourning. It was a memorial fit for a war hero, yet to many Americans, the dead Irish native represented a great deal beside that. Though relatively unknown today, this “sporting man” stood to his some of contemporaries as a representative of the same culture of brutality and corruption that bloodied the streets of Manhattan and helped to inspire the mythologized image of the mid-19th century New York gangster. It is a myth that endures in books like Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York and lives on in our time through the Martin Scorsese film of the same title and television depictions such as “Copper.” But truth is sloppier than fiction, and researching the historical figures behind the myths and legends often reveals complex, even contradictory portraits. The story of Felix Larkin is no exception. (1)

It is unclear exactly where Felix Larkin was born, but his proximity, both in neighborhood and principle occupation, to Larkins from the parish of Desertmartin in County Derry suggests he likely hailed from the same region. By the time of the 1855 New York State Census, he was living with his wife Margaret and three children on Hammersley Street (present day West Houston) in Manhattan’s Eighth Ward, in an area known today as SoHo. While the occupation he officially provided was “laborer,” Trow’s Directory reveals that within the year Larkin was running a rum shop on 73 King Street. According to period newspapers, this establishment served as a “disorderly den,” a gathering place for local rowdies and criminals of various stripes. Larkin himself was affiliated Lew Baker’s gang of “short boys.” Baker, a Welsh immigrant and former policeman, led this crew of political thugs to perform dirty work for Tammany Hall. They infamously engaged in street battles with nativist rival gangs like the Bowery Boys, and ultimately killed the legendary Bill “The Butcher” Poole in a drunken altercation at the Stanwix Hall saloon in 1855. (2)

The killing of Bill “The Butcher” Poole as the Stanwix Hall. (via Murder by Gaslight)

The killing of Bill “The Butcher” Poole at the Stanwix Hall. (Image: Murder by Gaslight)

In January 1856, Baker Gang members James “Bully” Nelson and Martin Michaels sought shelter in Larkin’s shop after brutally beating a policeman who had caught them throwing rocks and ice through the windows of a local building. A week later, police raided the saloon, rounding up Larkin and “seven or eight suspicious characters.” It is unclear with what crime Larkin was charged, or whether he did any time for the offense, but he disappears from Trow’s Directory for two years afterwards (1857-1858). His name reemerges in 1859, accompanied with a new saloon on 320 West Street. He again ran afoul of the law, and was convicted of assaulting a man on Hudson Street during a quarrel over a foot race. Larkin survived the ensuing fight despite getting stabbed by the other man and pelted with stones by an angry mob. His penalty for the crime consisted of a $10 fine. In the same year, he commanded a militia company, the Michael Murphy Guard, a 120-man organization that gathered for periodic drill and target shooting competitions in Hoboken, New Jersey. (3)

Felix Larkin’s role leading a quasi-military organization, the social opportunities commensurate with running a mid-19th century saloon, and his burgeoning political clout as a “short boy” and “queer bluffer,”* left him well-positioned for a commission in a Manhattan-based regiment at the onset of the Civil War. He was quickly enrolled as a First Lieutenant in Company A of the 15th New York Volunteers. Larkin’s saloon was, in fact, listed as one of two headquarters for the nascent regiment; it is likely, therefore, that Larkin played an important role in the unit’s recruitment. Company A was commanded by Captain Thomas Bogan, himself an Ulster-born, Eighth Ward saloon keeper with ties to Mayor Fernando Wood’s Mozart Hall political machine. While more of Company A’s recruits hailed from the Eighth Ward than any other part of New York, its numbers included men and boys from all over Manhattan, plus seven enlistees recruited in Troy, New York. The majority were Irish natives. Together they represented a broad cross section of New York’s working class: laborers, skilled tradesmen, shop clerks, and seamen, ranging in age from 13 to 51. It is impossible to say just how many of these men were affiliated with pre-war street gangs. One soldier, James Cusick, fits the name and age of a criminal who went by the moniker of “The Eighth Ward Man-eater” for his proclivity to bite opponents in brawls. He was later a suspect alongside Felix Larkin in an assault and robbery in a West Houston Street saloon. (4)

Officers of the 15th New York Engineers (Library of Congress)

Officers of the 15th New York Engineers (Library of Congress)

In June of 1861, the new regiment went into camp at Willett’s Point in Queens, where it received its first issue of uniforms, camp and garrison equipment, Model 1842 smoothbore muskets, and was officially mustered into federal service. Though it was recruited as an engineer unit, the regiment’s original designation was initially the 15th New York Volunteer Infantry. It arrived in Washington, D.C. on June 30th, 1861, where it was attached to McCunn’s Brigade and soon upgraded to British-made Enfield rifle muskets. The 15th’s first duties involved building fortifications and performing routine picket duties outside the capital. In October 1861, the regiment’s commander, Colonel John McLeod Murphy, was finally successful in securing his unit an official designation as an engineer regiment. The 15th New York Engineers was then ordered to Camp Alexander for specialized army engineer training. (5)

“Pontoon Drill by Conversion,” Engineer Brigade (15th & 50th NY Engineers) (New York State Military Museum)

“Pontoon Drill by Conversion,” Engineer Brigade (15th & 50th NY Engineers) (New York State Military Museum)

The spring of 1862 found Larkin and his comrades attached to Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. They played a vital role in the Peninsula Campaign, constructing siege works around Yorktown, clearing obstructions, and repairing and building bridges and roads to allow the army to cross the Chickahominy and move through the swamplands of eastern Virginia. At Elpham’s Landing, Larkin’s Company A was part of a three company detachment that constructed a floating wharf enabling Franklin’s Division to launch an amphibious landing and unload artillery and supplies while under enemy fire. (6)

Larkin’s Company A, 15th New York Engineers building a corduroy road, purportedly during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. It’s possible that the tall officer at right is Felix Larkin himself. (Library of Congress)

Larkin’s Company A, 15th New York Engineers building a corduroy road, purportedly during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. It’s possible that the tall officer at right is Felix Larkin himself. (Library of Congress)

After McClellan’s withdrawal from the Peninsula, the 15th returned to D.C. area, where they resumed work on the capital’s defenses. On September 8, 1862, Felix Larkin was promoted to Captain of Company G. While the rowdy, devil-may-care attitudes of many of Larkin’s peers impeded their ability to succeed in a structured, military environment, this does not appear to have been the case for Captain Larkin. The 15th returned to the Army of the Potomac in November 1862, just in time for Major General Ambrose Burnside’s ill-fated Fredericksburg Campaign. On December 10, as one half of the army’s Engineer Brigade, they were assigned to laying pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River to enable Burnside’s forces to enter the city. Here their working parties came under small arms fire from Confederate pickets on the opposite side of the river, compelling the remainder of the regiment to pick up their rifle muskets and return fire until Union artillery came to their support and drove the Confederates back. The 50th New York Engineers, their sister regiment in the brigade, faced stiffer opposition during their bridge construction. Hunkered down behind stone walls and concealed among the buildings and docks lining the shore, Confederate marksmen poured a deadly fire upon the 50th’s exposed work details. A detachment from the 15th, led by none other than Captain Bogan, was tasked with ferrying Union infantry across the Rappahannock in pontoon boats to clear the opposite bank. The harrowing, yet ultimately successful crossing, has been described by historians as “the first large-scale, boat-borne riverine crossing under fire in American military history.” Captain Bogan was later promoted to major for his role in the operation. (7)

The 15th New York Engineers photographed with their pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing, Virginia in May 1863. (via Mysteries & Conundrums)

The 15th New York Engineers photographed with their pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing, Virginia in May 1863. (Library of Congress via John Hennessy, Mysteries & Conundrums)

The 15th New York Engineers photographed with their pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing, Virginia in May 1863. (via John Hennessy, Mysteries & Conundrums)

The 15th New York Engineers photographed with their pontoon bridges at Franklin’s Crossing, Virginia in May 1863. (Library of COngress via John Hennessy, Mysteries & Conundrums)

The 15th participated in the Union retreat after the disastrous “Mud March” of January 1863, corduroying the muddy roads with logs to enable the army’s bogged-down wagons and artillery to return safely to camp. They performed numerous bridge-building duties during the Chancellorsville Campaign. The majority of the 15th, including Larkin, having enlisted for two years’ terms of service, returned to New York in June 1863 and were mustered out of federal service. While some of these men reenlisted in the 15th or other regiments, most returned to civilian life. Captain Larkin, it seems, returned to the life of a “rowdy.” By September 1865, he was, alongside the aforementioned “Eighth War Man-eater,” suspected in assaulting a man and robbing $766 from him. Larkin does not appear to have been charged with the crime, nor does the accusation appear to have affected his status as a city-appointed Street Inspector for the Eighth Ward. (8)

Larkin also continued managing his West Street saloon and quickly rose to prominence in the bare-knuckle boxing world. Though several articles referred to him as a “pugilist” and a “giant” of “extraordinary build,” I have not been able to find any specific references to organized bouts in which Larkin partook directly. His most prominent role during the postwar years was as a manager and financial backer for a younger fighter named Ned O’Baldwin. O’Baldwin, who went by the moniker of “The Irish Giant,” was a native of Lismore, County Waterford. O’Baldwin’s exploits, particularly his defeat of Andrew Marsden and his rivalry with Joe Wormald, were covered in newspapers across the U.S. and the U.K., but he regularly faced arrest by local authorities due to the illegality of prizefighting. (9)

An 1868 New York Herald article, reprinted in a San Francisco paper, provides a fascinating look into a gathering of various “notabilities” in the sporting world, as they assembled to front the cash for an upcoming O’Baldwin-Wormald bout:

The House of Commons–not the English legislative assembly, but Bob Smith’s house in Houston Street–was last night filled with the representative men of the sporting ilk. Early in the evening the drama of “Punch and Judy,” for bachelors only, was performed to an admiring crowd, who laughed over their ale as they listened to the ridiculous performance. Toward ten o’clock, the disciples of muscular humanity began to congregate at the outer bar, behind which the diamond-studded, rubicund and jolly Bob stood and dispensed liquors and cigars. Among the notabilities present was seen the towering, massive form of the “Benicia Boy,” [John C. Heenan] whose name will go down to posterity, if not further, linked with that of Tom Sayers. Then came Jem Ward–”Gentleman Jem”–who won eighteen out of twenty hard-fought battles in the old and glorious days when the P.R. flourished….Lew Baker–black-whiskered Lew–Mr. Solomons and Capt. Schultz are next in order. Felix Larkin–the unmistakable Felix–was there too. Felix is a great boy. He is engineer-in-chief when a fight is on hand and, like an old war horse, smells the battle from afar. His latest protege and prodigy is the Irish giant, Ned O’Baldwin, who is soon to try his fists with Joe Wormald. In fact it was this that assembled these delegates at the House of Commons last evening. The third installment of $100 was to be put up, and this is how it was done: At dusk the delegates skirmished around the room, shaking hands with each other and everybody else. Then the body marched in close order to the bar, and everybody treated almost everybody else, until about a hogshead of brandy, wine and whiskey was deposited in eager stomachs. Cigars were lighted, and Felix placed the “spondulix” on behalf of Ned O’Baldwin, and Mr. Solomons promptly covered it with a like amount for Wormald. “Smiling” was again in order, and the order was obeyed to a man. They drank heartily, every mother’s son of them. They know how to drink without making rye faces. (10)

“The Irish Giant” Ned O’Baldwin. (via Murder by Gaslight)

“The Irish Giant” Ned O’Baldwin. (via Murder by Gaslight)

The fight occurred in Lynn, Massachusetts, in October 1868. Larkin’s appearance left an enduring impression upon the spectators and journalists present. “Larkin is a heavy-built, broad-shouldered looking fellow,” wrote one correspondent, “with a brutal, good natured face; and one fellow in the crowd who offered to pay my hack fare if I would give him ‘a puff,’ said that Larkin weighed at ‘least twelve hundred pun s’help ‘im God.’” The bout that followed was brisk and ferocious. Just as O’Baldwin knocked Wormald down, twenty policemen charged into the ring, arresting both combatants as “the pimps, bruisers, and burglars fled like sheep.” (11)

Larkin escaped arrest in Massachusetts, only to be killed during a brawl in an Eighth Ward oyster saloon the following month. Though the newspaper stories and eyewitness accounts vary as to the particulars, the following narrative emerges: Larkin and his pals were out on a spree in the well into the wee hours of the night. They got hungry, and, upon finding no dining establishments remaining open, they proceeded to pound upon the door of Hugh Campbell’s oyster saloon, waking him and several employees who all resided in the same building. Campbell reluctantly agreed to serve them raw oysters and ham sandwiches, but Larkin demanded oyster stews and Campbell was unwilling to light the stove. Words were exchanged and a row ensued between Larkin and Campbell’s respective crews, Larkin drawing a pistol either immediately before or during the melee. Campbell, in turn, stabbed Larkin repeatedly, while the cook, Ann Hines, walloped Larkin on the head with some sort of club. By the time the police arrived, Larkin’s case was hopeless. His injuries included numerous stab wounds to the chest, head, and abdomen and multiple fractures to his skull. After an elaborate funeral procession, Larkin’s body was interred at Calvary Roman Catholic Cemetery in Queens. (12)

“Frightful Murder.” Headline from the front page of the New York Evening Telegram, 25 Nov. 1868.

“Frightful Murder.” Headline from the front page of the New York Evening Telegram, 25 Nov. 1868.

The killing was covered in newspapers throughout the nation. The New York press’s reactions to the incident were myriad. While one Herald reporter characterized it as “one of the most horrible murders which has been perpetrated in this city for years,” others were less sympathetic. “Larkins [sp],” wrote an Evening Telegram correspondent, “was a low, brutal rough [who] had muscle and availed himself of it to knock men down and stamp them into jelly.” Knowing Larkin and his associates’ brutal propensities, he argued, Campbell and his staff had every reason to fear for their lives and therefore acted in self defense. While the Herald reporter offered that Larkin’s friends described him as “good natured and kind of heart,” he also related sources who claimed Larkin ”when in liquor, [was] more fiend than man, and would hesitate no more over the doing of a deed of blood than he would over the eating of a good dinner.” Whether the killing was justified or not, it was undoubtedly tragic–a man was dead, leaving in his wake a widow and seven children, and Campbell and Hines were in jail facing murder charges. (13)

While well-known in his time, Felix Larkin has since been largely forgotten. His story, or what endures in the pages of old newspapers and public records, provides a glimpse into the bizarre, surprisingly public underbelly of mid-nineteenth century New York City and the characters who left that world to serve their country in the midst of its Civil War. In Larkin’s case, it seems ironic that a man whose life was so saturated with violence spent the bulk of his war service building bridges and bullet-stopping fortifications. One thing is clear–for two years in Virginia, Larkin and his New York Irish “roughs” performed a vital service to both the nation’s capital and the Army of the Potomac, the oft-overlooked but live-saving work of military engineers. “The rest,” to quote the poet Campbell McGrath, “I must pass over in silence.”

* “Queer Bluffer. The keeper of a rum-shop that is the resort of the worst kinds of rogues, and who assists them in various ways.” Matsell: 71.

(1) “Funeral…;” (2) 1855 NY State Census, Trow’s, “Attempt…,” “Haul…,” Anbinder: 275, Walling: 49-51; (3) “Attempt…,” “Haul…,” Trow’s, “Court…,” “Military;” (4) Muster Roll Abstracts, 15th NY Newspaper Clippings, “Major…,” Bogan, 15th NY Roster, 1860 Census, “Assault…,” Sing Sing Prison Registers; (5) 15th NY Newspaper Clippings, 15th NY Historical Sketch; (6) Ibid.; (7) Ibid., Muster Roll Abstracts, 15th NY Newspaper Clippings, “Major…,” Mackowski; (8) 15th NY Historical Sketch, 15th NY Roster, “Assault…,” Valentine: 64, Annual Report of the Comptroller; (9) Trow’s, “Bloody…,” “Frightful…,” Harding: 24-25, Redmond: 32, 263; (10) “The O’Baldwin and Wormald Mill…;” (11) “Battle of Giants;” (12) “Bloody…,” “Frightful…,” “The Two Murders,” “Funeral”;

References

“15th Regiment Engineers, New York Volunteers, Civil War Newspaper Clippings.” New York State Military Museum.

“15th Regiment, New York Volunteer Engineer Historical Sketch from The 3rd Annual Report Of The Bureau Of Military Statistics. New York State Military Museum. 

1855 New York State Census, New York, NY.

1860 US Census, New York, NY.

Anbinder, Tyler. Five Points: The 19th-century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

Annual Report of the Comptroller. New York: E. Jones & Co., 1867.

Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928.

“Assault and Robbery.” The Sun [New York, NY] 26 Sept. 1865: 4. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Jan. 2018.

“Attempt by a Gang of Political Ruffians to Kill a Policeman–Arrest of Two of the Gang.” New York Daily Tribune 14 Jan 1856. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

“Battle of Giants.” New Orleans Republican 5 Nov. 1868: 4. Library of Congress: Chronicling America Web. Jan. 2018.

“Bloody Tragedy.” New York Herald 26 Nov. 1868: 5. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

Bogan, Thomas. “Fraud Exposed!” New York Tribune 3 Dec. 1860: 1. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

“Court of General Sessions.” The Sun [New York, NY] 23 Sept. 1859. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

“Frightful Murder.” Evening Telegram [New York, NY] 25 Nov. 1868: 1. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

“Funeral of Felix Larkin.” New York Herald 28 Nov. 1868: 6. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

Harding, William Edgar. The Champions of the American Prize Ring: A Complete History of the Heavy-weight Champions of America, with their Battles and Portraits. New York: Richard K. Fox, Proprietor Police Gazette, 1881.

“Haul of Disorderlies.” New York Daily Tribune 24 Jan. 1856. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

Mackowski, Chris and Kristopher D. White, “Before the Slaughter: How the Confederate Delaying Action in the Streets of Fredericksburg Set the Stage for the Bloodbath to Follow.” Hallowed Ground. Civil War Trust Web Jan. 2018.

“Major Thomas Bogan Dead.” The Sun [New York, NY] 28 Jul. 1906: 10. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Jan. 2018.

Matsell, George W. Vocabulum, Or, The Rogue’s Lexicon: Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources. New York: George W. Matsell & Co., 1859.

“Military Excursions.” New York Herald 9 Oct. 1859: 6. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Jan. 2018.

New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

New York, Sing Sing Prison Admission Registers, 1865-1939 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

“The O’Baldwin and Wormald Mill–Putting Up the Stakes.” Daily Alta California [San Francisco, CA] 8 Oct. 1868. California Digital Newspaper Collection Web Jan. 2018.

Redmond, Patrick R. The Irish and the Making of American Sport, 1835-1920. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2014.

“Rosters of the New York Volunteers during the Civil War.” New York State Military Museum.

Trow’s New York City Directory, 1855-68.

“The Two Murders.” Evening Telegram [New York, NY] 27 Nov. 1868: 2. 10. Old Fulton NY Postcards Web. Dec. 2017.

Valentine, D.T. Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York. New York: Edmund Jones & Co., 1865.

Walling, George W. Recollections of a New York Chief of Police: An Official Record of Thirty-eight Years as Patrolman, Detective, Captain, Inspector and Chief of the New York Police. New York: Caxton Book Concern, 1887.

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“God Has Called Your Husband…”: An Analysis of Death Notification Letters from the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/25/god-called-husband-analysis-death-notification-letters-american-civil-war/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/25/god-called-husband-analysis-death-notification-letters-american-civil-war/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:40:15 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13541 As regular readers are aware, my research over the last number of years has focused on identifying and analysing the correspondence of Union Irish soldiers in the American Civil War. Over the course of my work I have read hundreds of letters written to Irish families to inform them of their loved ones’ fate, and...

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As regular readers are aware, my research over the last number of years has focused on identifying and analysing the correspondence of Union Irish soldiers in the American Civil War. Over the course of my work I have read hundreds of letters written to Irish families to inform them of their loved ones’ fate, and this correspondence has increasingly fascinated me. There are many questions we can ask of it, and I intend in the future to develop some of them into a full-length paper. In 2017 I was fortunate to have an opportunity to flesh out some of my thoughts in this area at the excellent War Through Other Stuff Conference held at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland between 22 and 24 February. I wanted to take the opportunity to share the full presentation with readers of the site; the paper is reproduced in full below together with the slides from the accompanying powerpoint presentation. 

The National Archives in Washington D.C. is home to a collection known as the “Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain.” Each of these files-of which there are 1.28 million- contains documentation associated with the claims of individuals for financial support as a result of the death of a family member who had served in the U.S. military, the vast majority during the American Civil War. The files have their genesis in an act signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on 14 July 1862, which provided monthly pensions for both widows and men totally disabled by conflict. In the years that followed, a series of additional pension acts expanded and refined the initial entitlement criteria, part of which saw the inclusion of dependent parents, dependent siblings and minor children.

The wide-ranging pension entitlements that became available to both Civil War veterans and the families of deceased servicemen in the decades following the war created oceans of documentation, unsurprising given that by 1893 some $165.3 million dollars a year- or 40% of the entire Federal budget- was being spent on pension entitlements. As a result, these files are perhaps the richest source of social information on individual families from the 19th century United States. That richness lies in the material that widows and dependents had to submit in order to demonstrate their pension entitlement, which included things such as affidavits, marriage certificates, baptismal certificates, proof of service, medical appraisals, and original letters written by deceased servicemen. Over recent years the focus of my research has been on these pension claims, particularly with respect to what they can tell us about Irish emigrant communities in the United States. This work has largely been conducted on the 11% of files that have been scanned and are available via the Fold3 website. During my work I have created a database of hundreds of Irish-American letters written before, during and after the conflict. Contained among much of this correspondence are letters that are the focus of my paper today, namely the communications informing families that their loved ones had died.

Few historic documents intrude on the intimate emotional experiences of past people quite like the letters that brought them details of a loved one’s death. To read them is to at once imagine the first occasion on which they were read. The letters that brought the dreadful news could come from a variety of sources- officers, comrades, hospital staff, hospital volunteers and religious are the most common. In the majority of instances, correspondents sought to break the news as gently as possible. Many of the writers were aware that the words they chose were of extreme import, and were likely to serve as powerful agents of memory for the bereaved family. There is an awareness that their comments were likely to form a lasting picture in the family’s mind of their fallen kin’s final moments, of their character, of the death’s meaning, and- important in an 19th century context- if they had met a “good death.” When Captain Henry Abbott of the 20th Massachusetts wrote to the family of Meath native James Briody following his death on the streets of Fredericksburg in December 1862, he sought to give his mother pride in her son’s service:

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 recruits who joined my company. It gave me a great pang when I saw him lying dead in the street.

Aside from showing that their service was valued, another common feature of the letters is an effort to assign meaning to the men’s death, and to comfort families with the knowledge that their loved one had willingly given their life for the Union. Michael Brady, Color Bearer of the 75th Ohio Infantry- whose mother had died at the height of the Famine in Ireland- was horrifically wounded at Second Bull Run in August 1862 when a ball had entered his chest, nearly severing his windpipe before passing through his right lung and exiting his back. Following his death in an Alexandria hospital, the Assistant Surgeon who had treated him wrote home that he was:

perfectly resigned to his fate. When I informed him that he must die he said “welcome be the will of God I could not lose my life in a better cause”…he was perfectly rational to the last and died like a good soldier and Christian.

The number of letters that communicate a peaceful and relatively pain free death, and a life willingly given to the cause of Union, suggests that many writers may have been altering the facts in order to soften the blow. Not everyone was fortunate enough to be spared all the gory details. Mary Clark from Westmeath received two letters from the front in July 1863, informing her of her husband’s death at the Battle of Gettysburg. A comrade in the 65th New York penned a letter that explained how:

Your husband was laying on his back calmly talking of the “Union” when a fragment of a shell struck him nearly taking both legs off…He lingered for about 4 hours when death put an end to his sufferings…

Occasionally it is possible to observe just what information correspondents chose to omit. Owen Fox was a young Irish emigrant in the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry who was mortally wounded battling Mosby’s Rangers at Mount Zion Church, Virginia in 1864. The regimental Chaplain Charles Humphreys wrote to his wife Ann of the incident:

Owen Fox was shot through the kidneys and I picked him up and tended on him all night till 3 o’clock in the morning when he died. After breakfast I was digging his grave when a rebel took me prisoner. He was buried by the kindness of a citizen. His brother Thomas Fox was taken prisoner not wounded.

The Chaplain’s brevity obscured some of the wider details of Owen’s death, which he elaborated on in his memoirs of the war, published in 1918. There he revealed that Owen had in fact surrendered to the Confederates, and had been shot by them while he begged for mercy. As he treated the soldier’s “ghastly wound” he tried to get a message from him for his wife and child, but his “agonies were too great; and he kept crying out even with his dying groans, “Chaplain, they shot me after I surrendered.” In his original letter, Humphreys had chosen to spare Owen’s widow these distressing details.

Many of the Irish troops who lost their lives during the conflict were of the Catholic faith, and letting those at home know this had been recognised was important. Eugene Sullivan from Drimoleague, Co. Cork died of congestion of the brain in 1862 while serving with the 24th Ohio Infantry in Kentucky. A Catholic nun, Sister Mary Joseph, wrote to his wife that:

He did not speak while in the hospital being unconscious, but from his having on the scapulars we knew him to be a Catholic and sent for the priest who gave him absolution and anointed for death.

The American Civil War was a conflict that had a transnational impact, affecting many thousands of people still living in Ireland. In late 1862 Eleanor Hogg was living in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, when a letter arrived from her nephew in New York. It told her that both her son Pat and husband Farrell were dead:

Deare aunt i have two inform about worse news Farrell listed in the Irish brigade that is the 88 regiment new york Volunteer he got wounded on the 29 of june and died of His wound on the 5 of August. He was Captured by the Enemy when he were wounded So they got their liberty and He died on his way Coming Back to the Capital of Washington

We know from Eleanor’s pension file that she was illiterate, and so this letter must have been read aloud to her by a family member or friend. This greatly changes the context in which we view how this information was transmitted- rather than being a personal and private event, it was bereavement experienced in a social setting. This was certainly the case for Anna Heron, whose tale of loss is surely one of the most emotive in the files. On 27th June 1864, having heard her son, a private in Corcoran’s Irish Legion, was wounded at the North Anna River, she had her neighbor in New York pen a desperate letter for her:

My dear son I write you these few lines hoping to find you in good health as this leaves me in trouble about you. Dear son I wrote to you twice and I received no answer yet and if you are alive I hope you will write to me. Dear son ain’t you got anyone to write for you? Dear son I expected you in New York, the rest of your regiment came to New York that was wounded. For God sake dear son write to me.

A few day’s letter Anna’s letter was returned to her, with the following message scrawled on the back:

Washington Hall Branch

2 Div Gen Hospital

Alexandria Va June 29th 64

John E Herron died at this Hospital June 8 1864 with gunshot wound in left knee and was buried in this city in good order.

For a fortunate few, the letter informing them of their loved one’s death might also have brought some final words. When Mary McNamara was informed of the discovery of her husband Hubert’s body on the Cold Harbor battlefield, the writer included fragments of a last letter that had been found in the dead man’s pocket. It told of how Hubert didn’t know the moment he might get killed or wounded, but that he trusted in God. He signed off by telling his wife and children “goodbye for a while”.

Ann Scanlan got a detailed description of her husband Patrick’s final thoughts, as he lay mortally wounded following the Irish Brigade’s charge at Fredericksburg:

He felt sensible, I think, that his end was approaching for he requested me to make a note of his feelings at that time- this was yesterday forenoon, I think. He did not talk a great deal as it hurt him to do so much. “After I am dead, write to my wife and tell her that I died a natural death in bed, having received the full benefits of my church.” “Say that I felt resigned to the will of God and that I am sorry I could not see her and the children once more. That I would have felt better in such a case before I died. It is the will of God that it should not be so, and I must be content to do without.” This was about the substance of what he said. I read it to him and he said it was all that would be necessary to write.

The widows and dependent pension files at the National Archives offer us many avenues for research, but there are few as compelling as the bereavement correspondence, only included in applications by parents and widows out of necessity, as they sought to prove their relationship with the deceased. The emotional cost of war pours off the pages, exposing the human face of loss, and bringing poignancy to the mundane. Even today, such emotions are readily conjured in our mind when we read passages such as that written to Mary Sullivan about what her husband had left behind:

A letter of yours, a pair of beads and a little girl’s picture is all he left…I cut a piece of his hair off after his death which I will send you…

Time constraints have allowed us only a brief exploration of this resource, selecting only a small number of examples from the thousands in the files. Their analysis can expose for us how news of death in war was transmitted, received and in some cases dealt with in the 19th century. Perhaps most importantly, it shines further light on the scale of human cost of the American Civil War on Irish emigrants and their families, both in Ireland and the United States.

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From Dungarvan Workhouse to Samoan Grave: The Life & Letters of James Butler, United States Navy http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/13/dungarvan-workhouse-samoan-grave-life-letters-james-butler-united-states-navy/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/13/dungarvan-workhouse-samoan-grave-life-letters-james-butler-united-states-navy/#comments Sat, 13 Jan 2018 20:54:13 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13769 James Butler was born in Kereen (Aglish), Co. Waterford in 1878. His family were poor– extremely poor. In 1891 his elderly father John, a labourer, died in nearby Dungarvan Workhouse. It was a place James and his family would come to know intimately in the years that followed. The young man’s efforts to provide his...

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James Butler was born in Kereen (Aglish), Co. Waterford in 1878. His family were poor– extremely poor. In 1891 his elderly father John, a labourer, died in nearby Dungarvan Workhouse. It was a place James and his family would come to know intimately in the years that followed. The young man’s efforts to provide his mother with “a house of your own” eventually led him to America, and the United States Navy. He made it through the Spanish-American War unscathed, but in 1899 the Imperial ambitions of the U.S., Britain and Germany would take him to a Polynesian island, and an early grave more than 9,500 miles from his boyhood home.

James Butler Birth Certificate

Certified Copy of James Butler’s Birth Certificate sent to the United States Government by his mother (NARA/Fold3)

Through the 1890s, Kate Butler and her children were frequent visitors to Dungarvan Workhouse. Michael McKeigue, James Condon and David Wall later remembered that the family were “in a very destitute condition having had on several occasions and for considerable periods to seek relief in said Workhouse.” They would know, given that David Wall was a porter there, and James Condon was the teacher in the Workhouse School, where he remembered James Butler as a student. Kate herself would state in 1900 that “we are often very destitute, and have to seek relief in Dungarvan Workhouse, where we have been for a considerable time past and which we have only recently left.” As soon as was humanly possible, the Butler children went out to work. By 1896 James was employed as an agricultural labourer, raising enough money to get to the United States where he could seek to better provide for his family in Ireland. After his departure, he tried to send letters home when he could. The first in his file was written from Queenstown, Cork Harbour (seemingly written in late 1897).

Drawing of the front facade of Dungarvan Workhouse, William Fraher (Reproduced with permission of Waterford County Museum)

Drawing of the front facade of Dungarvan Workhouse, William Fraher. The Butlers spent much time here (Reproduced with permission of Waterford County Museum)

Dear Mother I am writing you these few lines hoping you are in good health as I am at present thank God. Dear Mother write as soon as you can as I will be waiting for an answer from you you have nobody to write for you now but cheer up as you will soon have a house of your own and family to write for you. Dear Mother I expect you have nobody to write for you [she was presumably illiterate- we also know from the 1901 Census she was bilingual] write as soon as you can and let me know did you get my answer from Kate yet. I didn’t, I hope to soon get one from her I think she had a fine passage across with God’s help. Write as soon as you can. Remember me to Bridgie and Francis and Willie [his younger siblings]. I must now finish with fond love as I have no time to spare. From your fond son

James Butler xxxxxxxxxx (1)

The Cruiser USS Philadelphia on which Coxswain James Butler served (State Historical Society of Colorado)

The Cruiser USS Philadelphia on which Coxswain James Butler served (State Historical Society of Colorado)

Once in America, James didn’t waste much time before enlisting, joining the Navy in Boston on 6th June 1898. It was a time of opportunity in the military, given the fact that the Spanish-American War was underway. James was just over 19 years old, though his Naval records state he was a year older (there are other interesting discrepancies– his mother remembered him as 5 feet 9, but the Navy said he was 5 feet 6). He was described by the Navy as a mariner, with a small birth mark below his right buttock, and scars on the small of his back. His mother also noted that he was missing some of his teeth, the result of a childhood accident. James’s first assignment was aboard USS Wabash, then a receiving ship in Boston Harbour. He was sent to the USS Independence on 27 June, another receiving ship but on the other side of the country, at Mare Island, California. On 9th July he joined the vessel on which he would see all his active service, the cruiser USS Philadelphia. That was the date the Philadelphia was recommissioned as the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Station. She was soon headed for Honolulu to participate in the formal ceremony to mark Hawaii coming under the control of the United States. Shortly afterwards, James wrote his mother another letter:

USS Philadelphia

San Francisco

U.S.A. Oct 15 [1898]

Dear Mother I am writing you just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health thank God for it …I do be for months at sea and don’t see land but I would write as often as I can. Willie [ his younger brother] did a bad thing when he joined the militia he’ll be sorry for it before he is finished with it. Let me know how is Bridgie getting along when you write again of course Hannah is with you always. Let me know if you can [if] Mary Agnes has got married of course I cant go home no more however it wont break my heart of course you got plenty with you I might go home some time. I don’t see any part of the world like Ireland I been to fine places but home is the nicest of all. You dident know that I was in the war, it is all over now and I don’t want to see another fight like it it might be all right to read about but when shell and shot was buzzing by you it is no joke xxxx

I must now finish with best wishes to all of you from J. Butler (2)

"Studying to Please" from Life magazine, 1899. It depicts Uncle Sam, John Bull, and Bismarck trying to teach a Samoan their respective national anthems (Library of Congress)

“Studying to Please” from Life magazine, 1899. It depicts Uncle Sam, John Bull, and Bismarck trying to teach a Samoan their respective national anthems. The machinations would have fatal consequences for James Butler (Library of Congress)

Clearly James was pining for Ireland. His statement “of course I can’t go home no more” suggests there may have been a reason he couldn’t return (had he perhaps briefly been a mariner in the Royal Navy?). It is also unclear what action he might have seen during the Spanish-American War. His next letter was from the following year, and was almost certainly his last:

USS Philadelphia

Jan 22nd 1899

Dear Mother I am writing you just a few lines hoping to find you in good health as I am at present. I hope you excuse me for not writing sooner I was in an uncivilized part of the world where I could not get no chance to write from let me know if you got any money from Boston if you did it is from me it amounts to 8.10 if you haven’t got it you soon will get it it was extra money I got for joining for the war you ought to get it as soon as peace was [declared] let me know if you got it. No more at present from your affectionate son J. Butler. I was in such a hurry I forgot all the children I hope they are all well let me know all you know about Mary

James Butler

USS Philadelphia

San Francisco

Cal. U.S.A. (3)

The USS Philadelphia and other vessels of Apia, Samoa Photography by Kerry and Co. Tyrrell Collection, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)

The USS Philadelphia and Royal Navy vessels off Apia, Samoa in 1899 (Photography by Kerry and Co. Tyrrell Collection, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)

In March 1899 USS Philadelphia, and Coxswain James Butler, steamed for Samoa. The islands were in the midst of an imperial tug of war between Germany, the United States and Britain, which in 1899 led to the outbreak of the Second Samoan Civil War. The stand-off manifested itself in the backing of rival claimants to the leadership of Samoa; the United States and Britain lent their weight to Malietoa Tanumafili, the son of the island’s previous ruler (the appointment of whom had also been characterised by Imperial interference), while the Germans supported Matā‘afa Iosefo (who enjoyed considerable local support). The Philadelphia was among the vessels that arrived off Apia (today Samoa’s capital) on Upolu Island to take on Matā‘afa Iosefo’s German supplied forces.

The New York Journal frontpage, breaking news of the fighting in Samoa. James Butler is mentioned in the report (Library of Congress)

The New York Journal front page, breaking news of the fighting in Samoa. James Butler is mentioned in the report. Click on image to read. (Library of Congress)

Having used naval firepower to drive their enemy back from Apia’s vicinity, on 1 April a small force of British and American personnel together with Samoan troops moved out to attack positions at the nearby Vailele Plantation. James was among that party. As they approached the Plantation the Matā‘afan troops, who outnumbered their opponents, sprung an ambush. With snipers positioned in the trees, they launched attacks against the column and the fighting soon degenerated into hand-to-hand combat. After a desperate struggle the Americans, British and their Samoan allies were forced back, with the Americans losing four dead (the British had three killed, Samoan loses were though to be heavy on the Matā‘afan side, but light for those allied with the Americans and British). The bodies of the dead were recovered the following morning. Among them was James Butler. It was said that he had been “killed instantly when firing and standing against the enemy.” The official Naval Report for his death noted that he had died between 4 and 5pm:

Deceased was one of a company of blue-jackets under the command of Lieut. Lansdale, U.S.N., when attacked on the first instant by certain hostile Samoans. His remains were recovered early on the morning of the second instant, when after careful examination it was found that he had been shot dead. A bullet round was found in his chest entering about two inches to the right and the same distance below the upper end of the sternum. The missile had passed entirely through his body in nearly a horizontal direction. The attacking natives had cut off both his ears, and he had incised wounds on both sides of front of neck, and front of left shoulder. (4)

James was buried on 2 April near Mulinu’u. The war continued and ultimately resulted in the 1899 Tripartite Convention, which divided Samoa into a German controlled region (today Samoa) and an American controlled region (today American Samoa).

The graves of the Americans on Samoa, an image taken shortly after their burial in 1899. James's headstone is second from left (Photography by Kerry and Co. Tyrrell Collection, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)

The graves of the Americans on Samoa, an image taken shortly after their burial in 1899. James’s marker is second from left (Photography by Kerry and Co. Tyrrell Collection, Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences)

It is hard to picture somewhere further removed from Dungarvan and its workhouse than Samoa. Back in Waterford, Kate must have been distraught at the news of her young son’s death, the boy who had left with the hope of providing for her and his siblings. Those siblings were still extremely young, with William not yet sixteen, Bridget fourteen and Hannah just twelve in 1900. Though Willie was now following in his brother’s footsteps as an agricultural labourer, finances were still extremely tight. Nonetheless, the family had succeeded in exiting the Workhouse (no doubt in part thanks to money from James) and by now were living at 39 The Buttery in Dungarvan. Kate herself was 50-years-old. In order to secure an American pension, she sent on the precious letters she had received from James, together with a request that they be returned to her after the application had been assessed. As was always the case, they were not returned– they had now become official paperwork. But Kate’s pension was approved, and it helped her survive through the next twelve years, though she and her family were never truly free from financial concern. (5)

Unveiling of a monument at Mulinu'u, Upolu to the dead American and British sailors, on which James is named. Taken on 29 July 1900 by Thomas Andrew (Museum of New Zealand)

Unveiling of a monument at Mulinu’u, Upolu to the dead American and British sailors, on which James is named. Taken on 29 July 1900 by Thomas Andrew (Museum of New Zealand)

On 6th July 1911 Kate Butler fell ill at the home of her daughter Bridget (then a Daly) at 13 Thomas Street in Dungarvan. The dispensary doctor visited her, the cost of his time and supplies being paid for out of the Union funds. On 8th July Kate died, officially of peritonitis, and was later buried in Dungarvan Cemetery. The financial struggles she had been forced to deal with in her life affected her daughter in death. Bridget wrote to the Bureau of Pensions seeking financial assistance for the funeral expenses. In her letter, she described herself as “but a poor girl trying to earn my living”, while her solicitor J.F. Williams wrote that he felt assured the United States “will with their usual generosity defray the funeral expenses of the deceased and I also trust they will erect a suitable tombstone over the grave of the woman whose child gave his young life for the Country of his adoption.” The majority of the expenses were ultimately paid by the United States Government. Among the most poignant material in the file are the invoices from those in Dungarvan who provided services to the family during Kate’s illness and burial, the originals of which you can view in detail by clicking the gallery below. Those payments brought to a close the sad story of James and his mother Kate, one which forever linked a poor Waterford family with events on the other side of the Globe. (6)

*I am extremely grateful to Waterford County Museum for permission to reproduce an image of Dungarvan Workhouse from their collections. Also to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, New South Wales for permission to reproduce the image of James’s 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) Widow’s Certificate; (2) Ibid.; (3) Ibid.; (4) Collum 1903, Widow’s Certificate; (5) Widow’s Certificate; (6) Ibid.;

References

James Butler Widow’s Certificate.

Richard Strader Collum 1903. History of the United States Marine Corps.

1901 Irish Census.

1911 Irish Census.

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Guest Post: Finding a Window into My Past…And Bringing a Fistful of Letters to Life http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/10/guest-post-finding-window-past-bringing-fistful-letters-life/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2018/01/10/guest-post-finding-window-past-bringing-fistful-letters-life/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2018 19:22:27 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13744 As regular readers are aware, I devote the bulk of my research time to the study of letters written by Union Irish soldiers during the American Civil War. As many of the stories on the site demonstrate, these documents are often extremely evocative and emotive, opening for us a small window into the lives of...

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As regular readers are aware, I devote the bulk of my research time to the study of letters written by Union Irish soldiers during the American Civil War. As many of the stories on the site demonstrate, these documents are often extremely evocative and emotive, opening for us a small window into the lives of people whose existence was touched by both mass emigration and violent conflict. Rare indeed is the individual who is fortunate enough to read such letters in the knowledge they are tracing the words of a direct ancestor. Ellen Alden is one such individual. It is a testament to the power these letters retain that reading them set Ellen on a journey of her own– one that both led her back to Ireland and to take up her own pen, publishing a historical novel based on her Great-Great-Grandfather’s letters and life. She joins us for a guest post, describing that journey. 

Florence Burke of the 37th Massachusetts Infantry. Ellen Alden's Great-Great-Grandfather, his letters inspired her to write a novel based on his family's life (Ellen Alden)

Florence Burke of the 37th Massachusetts Infantry. Ellen Alden’s Great-Great-Grandfather– his letters inspired her to write a novel based on his family’s life (Ellen Alden)

Searching for a photo in my attic led me to discover an old leather box filled with tin-type photos and 19 American Civil War letters written from my Irish immigrant great, great grandfather Florence Burke, to his wife and children back home in western Massachusetts. The letters are raw, compelling and heart-breaking. They describe the atrocities of war and paint a portrait of a desperate Irish immigrant father trying to aid his impoverished family. Florence Burke wasn’t alone in joining the American Civil War. It is estimated that 150,000 Irishmen fought for the North and about 20,000 enlisted for the South, many incentivized by Lincoln’s Draft Law. That was the case for Florence Burke. He was propositioned by a wealthy banker who offered him $300 to purchase a piece of his land in exchange for his service. It was an offer my great, great grandfather could not refuse. He would achieve the American dream and hopefully turn his misfortune around.

In January of 1864, 37-year-old Florence Burke joined the Union Army and bought a small plot of barren farmland for his wife and children. He trained for 3 weeks in Boston before being mustered to the Virginia battlefields. His 19 beautifully written letters have been preserved for over 160 years and they reveal an extraordinary real-life story of an Irish immigrant family struggling to survive in their new country. I was deeply touched by the letters and they inspired me to research the past and to discover my roots in Ireland.

Ellen on her journey in Ireland (Ellen Alden)

Ellen on her journey in Ireland (Ellen Alden)

I travelled to the Emerald Isle in the hopes of uncovering the backstory of Florence and Ellen Burke, and to follow their footsteps leading to their eventual emigration. Unfortunately, I was met with numerous road blocks along the way and I couldn’t find the information I wanted through church records and official town documents. County Cork is a vast area and my photos and family names were not recognized in the towns and cities that I visited. I would have considered the trip a great disappointment if it had not been for a random stop in a tiny village called Ballinhassig, in Cork. It was there that I met John L. O’Sullivan, a local historian who taught me about 19th century Ireland, specifically the Potato Famine, and offered to review my manuscript for historical accuracy once I began the writing process. It was at that moment that I had decided to write my novel in the historical fiction genre because I knew that whatever information I couldn’t dig up, I could fictionalize based on real events in history. I would call it Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke, because that is how my great, great grandfather signed most of his war letters. I ended up using Ballinhassig as the village where Florence and Ellen lived—but I have consequently discovered that they were from West Cork, Schull to be exact. The highlight of the trip was the realization that my ancestor’s life was even more tragic and interesting than I first thought; Florence and Ellen Burke lived through two historic time periods on two different continents.

After a year of additional research, a year of writing and a year of rewriting with a NYC editor, I finally published my book in May of 2016. Since the launch I have been surprised by the places this book has taken me– I’ve presented the story and original letters throughout New England and beyond. Colleges, museums, Irish organizations, genealogist and Civil War groups are fascinated by the first-person account of an Irish soldier in the American Civil War. I’ve made my way to Ireland as well. This past September I was invited to Dublin to view a Famine Exhibit in which Florence Burke was featured. Remarkably I ended up appearing on the RTE News (Ireland’s national broadcaster) as they were promoting Culture Night events and I was presenting my book in Skibbereen and Cork on Culture Night. My trip to Ireland was profound because I finally visited my ancestral town of Schull and viewed famine-related museums, exhibits, sculptures, grave sites and ships. These haunting places have left an indelible mark on my soul.

One of Florence's surviving letters (Ellen Alden)

One of Florence’s surviving letters (Ellen Alden)

The story of Ellen and Florence Burke, told through my novel, will be passed down to my children in the hopes that they will understand the sacrifices of their first-generation Irish ancestors. My great, great grandfather’s Civil War letter collection will soon make its final appearance in the Burns Library at Boston College. I am donating them to the prestigious archival library because I’ve observed that they are beginning to fade and deteriorate. I know that Boston College has the facility to professionally preserve the letters and keep them in excellent quality for years to come. Additionally, because the letters will be digitized, they will be available to researchers and students worldwide. Parting with the letters will be difficult, but I feel confident that my Irish ancestors would be honored to find themselves immortalized at one of the finest Irish Studies institutions in the country.

The journey of tracing my roots and bringing the letters to life has been an unexpected venture. But the moment I opened the old leather box and read the letters I felt compelled to bring my ancestors to life through a novel, and to share their remarkable story. Writing in the first person allowed me to create a strong connection to them as I told the story through their eyes. My Irish ancestors suffered greatly and sacrificed themselves for the betterment of the next generation. Although they did not receive honor in their life time, my hope is that they will be honored when people read their life story.

While in Ireland, Ellen described Florence’s story to Ronan McGreevy of the Irish Times. You can see the video above. 

You can visit Ellen’s website and find out more about her work at ellenalden.com.

Ellen’s official donation of Florence’s letters to Boston College’s John J. Burns Library takes place on Wednesday 31st January 2018 at 7pm. The ceremony is co-sponsored by The Eire Society of Boston, and is free and open to the public. Ellen will be discussing her novel and will play a recorded excerpt from the letters read by WROL radio host Seamus Mulligan, along with music and images of the Civil War. She will also discuss her research and writing journey, with the program concluding with the formal presentation of the letters and an acapella rendition of “Isle of hope, Isle of Tears” performed by Jule Zavri. The event will be followed by a reception, and copies of Ellen’s book will be available for purchase and signing. You can find more details of the event here

The author Ellen Alden (Ellen Alden)

The author Ellen Alden (Ellen Alden)

 

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Document Focus: Fragments of Ireland’s Lost 19th Century Censuses http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/12/30/document-focus-fragments-irelands-lost-19th-century-censuses/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/12/30/document-focus-fragments-irelands-lost-19th-century-censuses/#comments Sat, 30 Dec 2017 18:54:39 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13704 Large numbers of Irish documents are to be found among the vast collection of 19th century military pension files housed in Washington D.C.’s National Archives. Among the most fascinating are official extracts of 19th century Irish Censuses. Today, the earliest surviving complete Census of Ireland dates to 1901. The 1861 and 1871 Irish Censuses were...

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Large numbers of Irish documents are to be found among the vast collection of 19th century military pension files housed in Washington D.C.’s National Archives. Among the most fascinating are official extracts of 19th century Irish Censuses. Today, the earliest surviving complete Census of Ireland dates to 1901. The 1861 and 1871 Irish Censuses were destroyed soon after they were taken, while the 1881 and 1891 Censuses were pulped in the early 20th century. Famously, the vast majority of the Censuses from 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 were lost during the Irish Civil War, when Dublin’s Four Courts was set ablaze during the fighting of June 1922. Their absence is keenly felt by historians of 19th century Ireland and her diaspora. This post takes a look at those rare survivals– extracts which are now preserved thousands of miles from the homes they once enumerated. (1)

Patrick McCullough enlisted in 1862, and served as a First Class Fireman during the Civil War. He spent the majority of the conflict aboard USS Sachem and USS Fort Jackson. Patrick continued his naval service on and off periodically until 1871, leaving the sea behind with a “Gods of Liberty” indian ink tattoo on his right forearm as a memento. It was nearly four decades after his service before Patrick went in search of a pension, and one of the grounds he did so was due to general debility. He included an 1841 pension extract for his family from the townland of Attagh, Co. Tyrone, having his name on the entry highlighted with an asterisk. He was living in Brooklyn at the time, and presumably ordered the copy from Ireland in order to prove his age. (2)

1841 Census Copy. McCullough Family, Attagh, Lowe badony, Upper Strabane, Tyrone

1841 Census Copy. McCullough Family, Attagh, Lower adony, Upper Strabane, Tyrone (NARA)

James Morrison was a Landsman aboard USS Commodore Barney during the last year of the American Civil War. He married Bridget Doherty in Brooklyn in 1878, and it was Bridget who would send to Ireland from Brooklyn for a census copy when she was seeking an increase in widow’s pension in 1916, due to her for being over 70 years of age. Bridget selected the 1851 Census, adding with it a note:

Census was taken 66 years ago. I was then 8 years old making my age now 74 years. Line 7 of record from Ireland shows my record.

1851 Census Copy for McDonnell/Doherty family, Dunaff, Clonmany, Inishowen, Co. Donegal.

1851 Census Copy for McDonnell/Doherty Family, Dunaff, Clonmany, Inishowen, Co. Donegal (NARA)

Another file to feature an extract from the 1851 Census is that of William Sweeney. A First Class Boy and Landsman between 1862 and 1865, he spent the majority of his time aboard USS Rhode Island and USS Nereus. In 1870 he married another Donegal native– and another Sweeney–  in Philadelphia. Her name was Hannah, and in the 20th century she also went about seeking an increase in her widow’s pension having passed 70 years of age. When Hannah inquired about how she might satisfactorily prove her age in 1916, she received a communication advising her that:

If you can furnish a public, church or family record showing the date of your birth, or any other proof showing that you are over 70 years of age, you should do so, returning this letter with the evidence submitted.

Hannah had her agent contact the Public Record Office of Ireland for evidence, and received the below covering note from the Four Courts.

Census Extract Cover for Hannah Sweeney, 1917

Census Extract Cover for Hannah Sweeney, 1917

Also enclosed was the certified copy of the 1851 Census, showing Hannah as an 8-year-old in Arryheernabin townland, Co. Donegal, details sufficient to prove her case with the Pension Bureau. The Census extracts further demonstrate the sheer range of Irish documentation that can be found in American military pension files, symptomatic of a large emigrant population who often had to reach back across the Atlantic, and across decades, in search of the official documentation they needed to secure monies in later life.

1851 Census Copy for Sweeney Family, Arryheernabin, Clondavaddog, Kilmacrenan, Co. Donegal.

1851 Census Copy for Sweeney Family, Arryheernabin, Clondavaddog, Kilmacrenan, Co. Donegal (NARA)

* 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) National Archives of Ireland (2) Navy Widow’s Certificates

References

National Archives of Ireland: History of Irish Census Records.

Navy Widow’s Certificates.

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Christmas Advertisements for Irish Emigrants, 150 Years Ago http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/12/27/christmas-advertisements-irish-emigrants-150-years-ago/ Wed, 27 Dec 2017 11:14:21 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13603 The New York Irish-American was a major weekly newspaper serving America’s ethnic Irish community. It provided thousands of emigrants across the United States with news concerning both their local communities and their former homes in Ireland. Then, as now, advertising was a major source of revenue for such publications. As Christmas approached, some advertisers adopted...

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The New York Irish-American was a major weekly newspaper serving America’s ethnic Irish community. It provided thousands of emigrants across the United States with news concerning both their local communities and their former homes in Ireland. Then, as now, advertising was a major source of revenue for such publications. As Christmas approached, some advertisers adopted a festive theme in an effort to boost their appeal among target markets, while others undoubtedly hoped their regular ads would prove more enticing given the time of year. What was being advertised, and how did advertisers market their products to readers? In an attempt to explore this, the new post takes a look at ads in just one issue of the Irish-American, published on 21st December 1867– 150 years ago this week. 

Clothes (Click on Gallery to view Advertisements)

Stylish clothes and dressing for the season were an important feature of life for those who could afford it. Lord & Taylor hoped to attract Irish-Americans to their “Fall and Winter Wear” which included “novelties adapted to the Season” while Robert Irwin highlighted the good value of his footwear: “Quick Sales and Small Profits.”

Bowery Shirt Store Lord & Taylor Dry Goods Hunter Clothing Irwin Shoes

 

Carpets & Furnishings (Click on Gallery to view Advertisements)

H. O’Farrell told readers of his new extended store, which now formed a complete arcade where customers could peruse a vast array of carpets and furniture suites. William Gardner offered his customers beds and bedding, and was prepared to fill major orders as well as small ones, having recently completed 10,000 bedsteads for U.S. hospitals.

O'Farrell Carpets William Gardner

 

Drinking & Dining (Click on Gallery to view Advertisements)

Unsurprisingly there were many ads for alcohol, with both William Reagan and John McAuliffe wishing their customers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Reagan wanted to “call the particular attention of those who intend to make merry during the Christmas Holidays to his first class Ardbeg’s Islay, Stewart’s Paisley, Irish and Scotch Malt Whiskeys,” while McAuliffe had “10,000 bottles ready for the present season.” For those looking for a night out, Leggett’s Dining Saloon informed readers that they had moved to new premises, where the “first class citizens” who frequented it could enjoy “the choicest viands and delicacies of the season.”

William Reagan John McAuliffe Richard Ternan Leggett Dining Saloon

 

Entertainments (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

Entertainments of different varieties were extremely popular in the 1860s. Thomas Manahan brought notice that he had organised a brass and string band, and also offered his services as a teacher. For those who enjoyed a raffle, readers could purchase one dollar tickets to enter a draw for a statue of the Virgin and Child in aid of St. Mary’s Church and School of Hoboken, modelled on the one which had featured in the Paris Exposition. A major draw was the Barnum and Van Amburgh Museum and Menagerie Company, where visitors could enjoy a show along with attractions such as “An infant female Esau!!!, hairy all over, with elegant human form!” and animals such as a baby elephant and gorilla. Other draws were listed, many of them part of the highly popular genre of the time, the “freak show”: “LIVING TROPICAL FISH, GORDON CUMMINGS the Lion-slayer’s Collection. A MAMMOTH FAT-INFANT, A GIANTESS, DWARFS, A CIRCASSIAN GIRL, LIVING SKELETON, FAT LADY, LEOPARD CHILD, LEARNED SEAL, LIVING SEA LEOPARDS, SNAKES, MONKEYS, HAPPY FAMILY, GRAND AQUARIA, Prof. HUTCHINGS (Lightning Calculator), BEARDED LADY, PHENOMENON VIOLINIST.”

 

Books (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

Many of the readers of the Irish-American were well to-do and had higher literacy levels than their fellow immigrants. Advertisements for books were commonplace, particularly those with Irish and religious themes. Without a doubt the big publication of 1867 was John Savage’s Fenian Heroes & Martyrs, which charted major figures in the Fenian movement and remains an important reference work today. P.M. Haverty produced copious quantities of Irish-themed works, and offered history-based books such as Eugene O’Curry’s Lectures of Manuscript Materials for Ancient Irish History and The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill. Sadlier & Company appealed to the spiritual market with Catholic Anecdotes and The Christian Armed Against the Seductions of the World and the Illusions of His Own Heart, but also carried The Poems of Thomas Davis and the Old House by the Boyne. For those seeking writings in their native tongue, Mullany advertised the Reverend Bourke’s Works in the Irish Language.

Fenian Martyrs Haverty Books Sadlier Books Sadlier's Books Mullany Irish Works

 

Irish Heritage & Music (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

As we have seen, Haverty’s were major publishers of Irish-themed works and they also sought to appeal to the heart-strings of emigrants far away from the land of their birth. His Photographic Views of Irish Scenery offered 25 views of Dublin, each one available for 50 cents each. Others that appealed to Irish culture and history were The Wild Irish Girl by Lady Morgan and readers could also sample “The Latest and Best” publications on the history of Ireland. For those musically inclined, three hundred Irish airs were available individually priced and included “The Limerick Piper,” “Shule Aroon,” and “John O’Dwyer of the Glens.”

Photographic Views of Ireland The Wild Irish GIrl History of Ireland Haverty Irish Airs

 

Others (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

Among the array of other advertisements in the newspaper were those for items such as Empire Sewing Machines, apparatus that were revolutionising how many Irish immigrant women worked. The extensive undertaker section formed part of every edition of the Irish-American, with William Cody offering “Superior Glass Hearses” and John Ward promising that he was “cheaper than can be got in any other place in the city.” Another ubiquitous ad during this period were those for American Billiard Tables, the popular game being the stock in trade of Phelan & Collender. In an age where societies were omnipresent, there was always a healthy trade in the production of flags and regalia, a business that a number of Irish women did particularly well at. S.A. Joyce offered “scarfs, American and Irish flags, banners, Officers’ emblems, hats for marshals, sashes, and all articles used by societies.” Food was a necessity of life, and Peter Lynch sought to attract grocers, bakers and hotel proprietors as well as families to buy his “groceries, fine new teas, and provisions” beneath the motto, “Economy is Wealth.”

Lynch Groceries

Education (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

In another indication of the status of many of the Irish-American’s readers, a number of ads were taken out by educational institutions. St. Mary’s in Notre Dame promised that “a thorough English education ranks first in importance, while particular attention is paid to Music and the Languages.” An added bonus was that the “buildings are heated throughout by steam, hot and cold water being conveyed to every portion.” Evidence that wealthy immigrants were willing to send their children back to Ireland for an education are revealed in the ad for St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam, Co. Galway, who offered a rate of £24 per term for boarders. Both schools continue to operate today. Perhaps more modest was what was offered by the Sisters of Mercy in New York, where students could attend “French and English Schools.”

St Mary's Notre Dame St Jarlath's College Sisters of Mercy

 

Fenians (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

The Fenian Movement was at its height during this period, and the society was ever-present on the pages of the Irish-American. One of the ways they raised money was through concerts and balls, such as that arranged by the Constitutional Wolfe Tone Circle (tickets fifty cents, reserved seats for ladies) and the O’Donovan Rossa Circle (tickets one dollar, aimed at those “who wish for a speedy release of our Brothers who are now suffering in British dungeons”). The O’Donovan Rossa Circle was also in search of new members, inviting “patriotic Irishmen” to join them every Monday evening at the Shakspere Hotel. Another money-making scheme was selling one dollar portraits of Fenian President William Roberts, the price set “so as to be within the reach of all who appreciate the name of that patriotic man.” The movement also wanted agents “in every town of the United States” to sell lithographs of Fenians John McMahon and Thomas Burke for fifty cents, confident that “these beautiful plates should have a place in every Irish household.”

Wolfe Tone Fenian Concert Rossa Ball Rossa Recruitment Fenian Roberts Portrait Wanted Fenian Agents

 

Fuel (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

Few things occupied the minds of working class Irish immigrants in America more during Winter than securing fuel, and a number of businesses advertised it. Dougherty’s of Madison Street felt that “Wisdom, through her handmaid Experience” recommended you buy your coal and wood from them, while McDonnald’s selling point was their range, which included “Peach Orchard, Red Ash, Locust Mountain, Broad Mountain, Black Heath and Lehigh White Ash Coals.” Carey’s of Cherry Street simply offered “The best coal at the lowest price.”

Dougherty Coal McDonnald Coal Carey Coal

 

Medicines (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

Few forms of advertisements dominate 1860s newspapers more than those offering medicinal products. No claims were seen as too outlandish for those in the trade, often in the full knowledge that their products could do little of what they promised. Those desperate for relief were willing to try all they could in search of a remedy. Holloway’s were one of the major players, with their pills seeking to help those with inflammation of the kidneys and urino-genital organs. Dr. Wolcott’s Pain Paint and Dr. Wolcott’s Annihilator claimed to stop “pain more sure than water puts out fire.” Ayer’s Cathartic Pills were aimed at those seeking a laxative, while Tarrant’s Compound Extract advertised itself under the banner “Ultimum et Unicum Remedium” (The Last and Only Remedy), for diseases of the bladder, kidneys and urinary organs. Helmbod’s Buchu was yet another to offer assistance with “bladder, kidneys, gravel, and dropsical swellings,” evidence of how extremely common such ailments were in this period.

Holloways Pills Pain Paint Ayers Pills Tarrant's Compound Helmbold's Buchu

 

Emigration & Remittances (Click on Gallery to View Advertisements)

The last class of advertisement to examine is also the most frequent in the Irish-American. They are those offering passage for emigrants, and services to remit money from America back to Ireland. Competing lines offered everything from tickets to California for those seeking to move West or, for those who had done well, opportunities to visit Europe once more. Among them are names that remain familiar, such as the Cunard Line. Most offered those in America and opportunity to buy tickets for family members still in Ireland or Britain. John Graham of Chicago not only sold tickets but was also a publisher, advertising his “Young Catholic’s Guide” magazine side-by-side with his promise that “passengers are seen to on arrival in New York and Chicago, and forwarded to their friends with dispatch.” Sending money back to Ireland was an obligation many immigrants had to fulfil. Thompsons Passage Office specifically advertised “Christmas Remittances to the Old Country,” highlighting the increased traffic in money that accompanied the Season. The Emigrant Savings’ Bank was the method through which many Irish saved money for themselves as well as those at home, and they laid out in extensive detail how they remitted money to Ireland, funds that proved so vital for sustaining those at home.

California Line McDonald Line Cunard Line Chicago Line Thompson Line Roche Emigration Tapscott Remittances Thompson Christmas Remittances Emigrant Savings Bank Savings Bank Remittances to Ireland

 

References

New York Irish American Weekly, 21st December 1867.

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“I Saw Him Gasping For Breath”: Irish Rhode Islanders at Fredericksburg http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/12/09/saw-gasping-breath-irish-rhode-islanders-fredericksburg/ http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/12/09/saw-gasping-breath-irish-rhode-islanders-fredericksburg/#comments Sat, 09 Dec 2017 16:06:43 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13543 We are approaching the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, the engagement more closely associated with the Irish experience of the Civil War than any in the conflict. There will undoubtedly be much focus on the efforts of the Irish Brigade in the coming days, but I want to take an opportunity to remember that the...

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We are approaching the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, the engagement more closely associated with the Irish experience of the Civil War than any in the conflict. There will undoubtedly be much focus on the efforts of the Irish Brigade in the coming days, but I want to take an opportunity to remember that the majority of Irishmen went into action that December without a sprig of boxwood in their caps. To that end, I am focusing on one particular group of Irishmen, all of whom served in an ethnically mixed regiment. They were in earshot when Thomas Francis Meagher addressed his brigade before their fateful advance– later that day some of them would follow their countrymen into oblivion.

Patriotic Civil War Rhode Island envelope (Library of Congress)

Patriotic Civil War Rhode Island envelope (Library of Congress)

The soldiers of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry had spent the early part of Saturday 13th December waiting. Positioned in the town of Fredericksburg, many of them wandered in and out of the town’s houses and premises, searching for what they might ‘liberate.’ The pickings proved rich; men scurried to and fro with everything from barrels of salt mackerel and boxes of smoked herring to sugar and molasses. One Captain even directed his servant to attempt (unsuccessfully) to drag a piano back across the Rappahannock. But it was surely Company B who were most satisfied with their efforts, emerging from a tobacconist’s store laden down with both tobacco and the pipes to smoke it with. The furore quietened though when the Rhode Islanders spotted a body of troops moving purposefully up the street. It proved to be the Irish Brigade, now only moments from launching the most famous attack of their existence. One of the 7th remembered how the Irishmen:

…halted directly abreast the row of our stacked muskets, and, when at attention, the general [Meagher] made a brief address from his saddle, informing the men they were immediately to proceed to the front where he expected each one would do his duty and add to their honors. At its conclusion the column passed on to the battle front. A few moments after they disappeared one of our batteries suddenly opened fire, working its pieces with exceeding rapidity for a few moments, and then slacking down when a crackle of rifles ensued that increased to a continuous rattle. In less than half an hour the wounded of that brigade began to come in, some on stretchers and others less seriously injured leaning on their muskets as on a crutch or cane. The waiting soldiers calmly discussed their individual chances for making a similar exit from the field. (1)

7th Rhode Island National Color (Regimental History)

7th Rhode Island National Color (Regimental History)

Like almost every Federal unit in the Army of the Potomac, the 7th Rhode Island had its own liberal sprinkling of Irishmen in the ranks. Many came from the sizeable immigrant communities who worked in the State’s industries, most notably her textile mills. One wonders what they made of the sight of the unit that even then had come to represent the embodiment of their island’s contribution to the Union cause. The battle to come would be their first; their compatriots in the Irish Brigade had already proven themselves on the Peninsula and at Antietam. The Ocean Staters still had a couple of hours to wait before their own date with destiny, but before long increased Rebel shellfire on the town began to drop some of the men. At last they were ordered forward. Moving through the town’s streets and into the outskirts towards Marye’s Heights, the regiment gradually came under an ever-increasing fire, though the casualties were still light enough that each caused notice. Eighteen year-old Irish boy Michael Kerr of Company D was one, and his fate was remembered by William Hopkins:

Michael Kerr…was stricken by a bullet that cut a horribly ragged hole in his right temple, the side opposite the enemy unless he was looking around. His face quickly turned dark purple. I was one of those who placed him on a stretcher and carried him to the rear. We were obliged to stop and rest frequently though flying bullets and shells spattered mud upon us and shivered and splintered the fences and roofs. Each time we halted he cried, “Carry me away! Carry me away!” It required one man to hold him while we were removing him. We left him in charge of a New Hampshire surgeon whom I saw insert a probe deep in the wound.” (2)

Irish in 7th Rhode Island

Images of some of the many Irish in 7th Rhode Island Infantry. Clockwise from top left: Thomas Keegan from Cork, William Joyce from Brookeborough Co. Fermanagh, William Fay from Co. Longford and Samuel McIlroy from White House Co. Antrim (Regimental History)

Hopkins had misremembered, as Kerr had actually been struck in the left rather than right temple. The ball had destroyed the left side of his frontal bone and taken his eye. Remarkably he survived, though the wound debilitated him for the rest of his life; he maintained only partial vision in his surviving eye. As the 7th continued their stop-start advance on Marye’s Heights, the officers tried to take advantage of swales in the ground to reform the men as they sought to press on. As the Confederate fire ranged against them reached fever pitch– a “perfect volcano of flame”– the dreadful carnage of the preceding assaults was everywhere to see:

At every impediment whether fence, ditch or ridge where the progress of the line of battle had been delayed, was a line of dead and wounded. None would believe men could bleed so much except as it was seen. Barrels of blood had apparently been poured on the ground along those places. (3)

Sutlers Camp

One of the sutlers used by the 7th Rhode Island, the tent of William Gallagher (Regimental History)

Eventually the Rhode Islanders could advance no further and tried to hold their advanced position by lying down under cover at the front, with most having to wait hours before they could retreat to Fredericksburg and assess their losses. Many of those losses were Irish, and Michael Kerr was far from the only Irish Rhode Islander who would bear the scars of Fredericksburg for the rest of his life. Others included men like Denis Foley of Company B, who sustained the first his two war wounds there– he would pass away almost three decades later in the Eastern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. (4)

We tend to forget that for the majority of Irish families, it was to the fate of regiments like the 7th Rhode Island Infantry that they looked, not that of the Irish Brigade. They included women like Elizabeth Boyle of Co. Tyrone, who had emigrated with her husband and five children to America in the early 1850s. By 1862 she was a widow living in the town of Johnston, Rhode Island. There she made her home in a tenement owned by the Merino Mill, where her eldest son Charles had worked as a spinner before the war. The awful news drifted back to her from Fredericksburg that two of her sons had been wounded, both serving in different units. Charles had fallen in Company E of the 7th, his left lung pierced by a rebel bullet as he advanced towards the Heights. Carried off the field and taken to Armory Square Hospital in Washington D.C., he lingered for weeks before death claimed him on 4th February 1863. (5)

Casualties Manufacturers'_and_Farmers'_Journal_1862-12-22_2

7th Rhode Island Fredericksburg casualties published in the Manufacturers’ & Farmers’ Journal, a Providence newspaper, on 22nd December 1862 (click to enlarge). It includes the names of the Irishmen discussed in this post (Manufacturers’ & Farmers’ Journal)

There was to be no lingering hope for women like Margaret Gallagher in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Her husband Owen had been a factory wool carder before becoming a member of Company G of the 7th Rhode Island in August 1862. After Fredericksburg she was informed that her husband had been shot in the head and killed in the assault of the 13th December. The young Irish couple’s eldest child Francis was 2 at the time of Fredericksburg– Owen Junior had just turned three weeks old. Margaret surely knew fellow Irish emigrant Mary O’Neil, who also made her home in South Kingstown, whose husband James had also been a factory worker, and who had like Owen enlisted in August 1862. Unlike Owen, James did not lose his life on the battlefield, surviving long enough to be carried to Sturgis Hospital near Falmouth where he died three days after sustaining his injuries. His death left Mary to care for their four young children. (6)

Yet another whose military career had barely begun was former laborer Jerry Leary, who had also enlisted that August, seeing his service in Company H. Jerry was also a new husband, having married fellow immigrant Honora Connor in Norwich, Connecticut the previous March. Honora had given birth to their daughter Mary in Westerly, Rhode Island only three months later, suggesting that there may have been some urgency to formalise the couple’s relationship. It may well have been this chain of events that motivated 20-year-old Jerry to enlist in the first place. Either way, Honora barely had time to adapt to her new life as a wife and mother before Fredericksburg widowed her. (7)

1889 Rhode Island Veterans

Veterans of the 7th Rhode Island photographed in 1889, an image that includes a number of the unit’s Irish veterans (Regimental History)

As with so many battles where the Federals didn’t hold the field at the close of action, many Irish mothers and widows faced a long and tortuous road in attempting to prove the fate of their loved ones. Such was the trials that faced the mother of Thomas Malloy, who had joined Company E of the 7th as a private in September 1862. Thomas’s mother Mary had struck out from Co. Dublin with her family following the death of her husband, and by the coming of war was living in Fall River, Massachusetts. It was more than 14 months after the battle before her attorney received the following confirmation from Thomas’s former officer:

Camp 7th R I Vols near

Post Isabelle KY Jany 26 1864

Benjamin F. Winslow Esq.

Dear Sir,

I received your letter this day asking for what information I could give concerning the late Thomas Maloy, in answer to which I would say that he was a member of company “E” 7th R.I.V. and was with the company until the thirteenth day of December 1862. On that day while engaged in the battle of Fredericksburg, Va. he was struck in the neck by a ball which lodged in his chest. I saw him gasping for breath and loosed his equipments. About four o’clock in the afternoon he was taken to an old church used as a hospital where he died that night. Thinking of nothing further to write I will close.

Remaining yours & c.

G.D. Bates

1st Lieut Comdg Co “E” (8)

The Irish Brigade are rightly remembered and commemorated for their actions with the Army of the Potomac. There is an argument to be made, however, that their fame and celebrity has been so all-consuming as to obscure the true scale and breadth of Irish service in the Union military. That service amounted to some 180,000 Irish-born, not to mention the tens of thousands of American, Canadian, Scottish and English-born men who identified themselves as ethnically Irish. The impact on Irish communities of losses in units where we rarely consider the Irish– such as the 7th Rhode Island Infantry– help to us to recover something of the scale of that involvement, and of its impact.

Young soldiers of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry (Regimental History)

Young soldiers of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry (Regimental History)

*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) Hopkins 1903: 42-3; (2) Hopkins 1903: 43-4, Register of National Home; (3) Surgical History 1.2: 331, Hopkins 1903: 45-6; (4) Register of National Home; (5) WC13003, 1860 Census; (6) WC105279, 1860 Census, WC6120; (7) WC61316, 1860 Census; (8) WC14436, 1860 Census;

References

1860 Census, Johnston, Providence, Rhode Island.

1860 Census, South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island.

1860 Census, Norwich, New London, Connecticut.

1860 Census, Swansey, Bristol, Massachusetts.

Record of Michael Kerr, Register of Eastern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

Record of Dennis Foley, Register of Eastern Branch, National Home for Disable Volunteer Soldiers.

WC6120 of Mary O’Neal, Widow of James O’Neal, company G, 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

WC13003 of Elizabeth Boyle, Dependent Mother of Charles Boyle, Company E, 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

WC14436 of Mary Malloy, Dependent Mother of Thomas Malloy, Company E, 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

WC61316 of Honora Leary, Widow of Jerry Leary, Company H, 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

WC105279 of Francis and Owen Gallagher, Minor Children of Owen Gallagher, Company G, 7th Rhode Island Infantry.

US Army Surgeon General’s Office 1870. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion Part 1, Volume 2.

Hopkins, William P. 1903. The Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the Civil War 1862-1865. 

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Irish Medals of Honor and the American Civil War http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2017/11/29/irish-medals-honor-american-civil-war/ Wed, 29 Nov 2017 16:29:06 +0000 http://irishamericancivilwar.com/?p=13516 As some readers will be aware, I am often asked to contribute to the genealogy magazine Irish Lives Remembered on topics relating to Irish military history. The Autumn 2017 issue has just been released, in which I have a piece on Irishmen who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the American Civil War. The publication...

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As some readers will be aware, I am often asked to contribute to the genealogy magazine Irish Lives Remembered on topics relating to Irish military history. The Autumn 2017 issue has just been released, in which I have a piece on Irishmen who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the American Civil War. The publication is free to view online– you can access it by clicking here or on the image below, and will find my article on page 32.

Irish Lives Remembered

Irish Lives Remembered

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