A New Flag Flies Over Castle Pinckney

6 03 2015

I received word from my brother in Charleston, SC, that a new flag is now flying over Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor (see here for some posts on the one-time Bull Run prison-pen.)

Irish flag 1Irish Flag 2

Yep, that’s the famous Irish tricolour you see flapping in the breeze. The fort was purchased a while back from the South Carolina State Ports Authority by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1269 for $10 (read about it here.) They’re the folks who have raised the flag, and according to them they’ve done so in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a very, very big day in Charleston, if you didn’t know. Visit their preservation site here. This is the second time the flag has flown there. See here for details on the first.

You’re right if you’re thinking that this particular flag was not officially in use in Ireland at the time of the Civil War. In 1848, the first Irish tricolour was presented to two visiting Irish nationalists by a small group of French women who were sympathetic to their cause. Those men returned to Ireland’s Waterford City and presented the flag, but it would be another sixty-eight years before it would become recognized as an emblem of the nation, after one was raised over the Dublin Post Office during the Easter Rising.

But there are links between the Irish banner and Castle Pinckney in Civil War ways, even if unintentional on the part of the fort’s caretakers.  On December 27, 1860, local Charleston militiamen led by (North Carolinian) James Johnston Pettigrew stormed the very lightly defended fort and took possession of it for the state. The three militia units involved were the Washington Light Infantry, the Carolina Light Infantry, and the Meagher Guards.

OCCUPATION OF CASTLE PINCKNEY BY THE CHARLESTON MILITIA, DECEMBER 26, 1860.  Harper's Weekly, 01/12/1861

OCCUPATION OF CASTLE PINCKNEY BY THE CHARLESTON MILITIA, DECEMBER 26, 1860.
Harper’s Weekly, 01/12/1861

Hmm…Meagher Guards. Tantalizing, yes? The Guards was a company of Charleston Irishmen, which had named itself in honor of Thomas Francis Meagher. Yes, that Thomas Francis Meagher.  In 1853 Meagher, on the lecture circuit, delivered a St. Patrick’s Day speech to Charleston’s Hibernian Society so stirring that – according to Donald Williams, the Society’s current historian and author of Shamrocks and Pluff Mud – an honorary membership was conferred on him. Of course, at the time Meagher (an acting major with the 69th New York State Militia at First Bull Run) was still famous as an Irish patriot, and not as the Union general he would become. The Hibernians revoked Meagher’s membership in 1861 as his role in the Union war effort became more prominent. The Meagher Guards became the Emerald Light Infantry (see here.) According to Irish-American Units in the Civil War they eventually formed part of Co. K. of Maxcy Gregg’s 1st South Carolina Volunteers.

1861-currier-ives-engraving-1entitled-capt-thomas-francis-meagher-zouave-corps-of-the-sixty-ninth-brightly-tinted-meagher-appears-in-his-zouave-uniform-of-the-69th-new-york-vols

Capt. Meagher of Co. K, 69th New York State Militia

 

Now here’s where it gets freaky. Care to guess who was one of the two young Irish nationalists that accepted the tricolour from those French women back in 1848? That’s right, non-other than Thomas Francis Meagher, who had yet to be exiled to Tasmania and escape to the United States. His unveiling of the flag in Waterford City is celebrated annually (this year’s festivities are being held today and tomorrow – see here.) How about that?

Modern Day Meagher in Waterford Cities Tricolour Celebration

Modern Day Meagher in Waterford City’s Tricolour Celebration

Also, photographic evidence shows that some members of Meagher’s unit captured at Bull Run were indeed held in Castle Pinckney (the regiment at Bull Run was the 69th New York State Militia, not New York Infantry.) Meagher was captain of Co. K, a zouave group. I think the fella fourth from right, seated, is a good candidate for a member of Co. K.

Title: Federal prisoners captured at battle of Bull Run, Castle Pinkney [i.e. Pinckney], Charleston, S.C., August 1861 Summary: Photograph shows group from the 69th New York Infantry [sic](Fighting 69th), some seated, others standing in the rear, facing front. A sign above the door, No. 7 Musical Hall, 444th Broadway. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013651611/

Title: Federal prisoners captured at battle of Bull Run, Castle Pinkney [i.e. Pinckney], Charleston, S.C., August 1861
Summary: Photograph shows group from the 69th New York Infantry [sic] (Fighting 69th), some seated, others standing in the rear, facing front. A sign above the door, No. 7 Musical Hall, 444th Broadway.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013651611/

Here is a list of the 69th’s prisoners that their colonel, Michael Corcoran, sent home from Richmond. There are three from Co. K. No telling if any of them wound up at Pinckney.

So it would appear altogether fitting and proper that this flag should fly at this place at this time, don’t you think?

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Castle Pinckney

18 12 2006

Tom over at Touch the Elbow has a writeup on Castle Pinckney, which sits in Charleston Harbor and was one of the places Union soldiers taken prisoner at First Bull Run were sent, including Orlando Willcox.  Here’s a photo I took of the remnants of the castle while in Charleston earlier this month: 

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 And here is one of the interior of the Castle from 1865:

cp3.jpg 

The next time I’m down there I’m going to have to see if my brother can arrange for me to get on the island.





More on Pinckney

19 12 2006

I found more in Lonnie Speer’s Portals to Hell, though it’s tough to figure out where he gets some of his information – the loose standards of footnoting these days!  Anyway, it appears that Castle Pinckney was captured by South Carolina forces under Col. James J. Pettigrew (better known as Reverence N. Awe at Chapel Hill) on December 27, 1860.  The first Union prisoners held there made up a small work detail that was quickly permitted to retire to Ft. Sumter.

The first batch of prisoners arrived at Castle Pinckney from Richmond on September 13, 1861 (after first spending a disturbing night in the city jail), and consisted of 154 men primarily from the 11th, 79th, and 69th NY regiments.  Speer says there were also some men from the 8th MI, but since this regiment did not leave Michigan until September 29, I think he got the regiment number wrong.  These were men of the 1st MI of Willcox’s Brigade, per Willcox’s diary and memoir; meaning the whole kit and caboodle were taken at Bull Run.  Willcox also reports that Chaplain Eddy of the 2nd CT and Maj. J. D. Potter of the 38th NY – both BR1 regiments – were also at Castle Pinckney, so it would appear that a hodgepodge of prisoners taken at the battle were held there.

Probably due in part to the less crowded condition and the fair treatment of their guards – about 40 young men of the Charleston Zouave Cadets – conditions were pretty good at Castle Pinckney.  Willcox said that only one man died while he was there – Porter, Co. D., 1st MI, of typhoid – and that there was little sickness.

By the end of October, the Castle had become so crowded that the men were once again sent to the city jail.  Eventually, that building became so crowded that the enlisted men were sent to the Charleston Race Course.  I believe it was the cemetery of this same race course, in which at least 257 Union soldiers (known as The Martyrs of the Race Course) were buried, that became the scene of the nation’s first Decoration Day, conducted by thousands of the city’s black residents on May 1, 1865.  This is vividly described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion.

On December 11, 1861, the city was engulfed in flames.  The guards at the city jail and the Guard House, which was also being used to house POW’s, rushed to assist in putting out the flames as the fire grew.  The prisoners, trapped in the path of the fire, were left to fend for themselves.  The men in the city jail managed to escape the burning building, and kept together throughout the night.  The next day, they were not too gently herded back into captivity and over 300 men from the various facilities were sent to a now very crowded Castle Pinckney.  After being held in exposed conditions for over a week, the prisoners were transferred out to various locales.  By the beginning of 1862, Castle Pinckney had been converted back to a defensive work.

During the early days of the Castle’s use as a prison, the commandant, Captain C. E. Chichester, brought in a professional photographer to record the images of the prisoners and their guards.  I’ve seen a few of these, which show the guards on a parapet above the prisoners and their makeshift camp signs.  I haven’t been able to locate any online yet, but when I do I’ll post them here.  Here’s one:

79thInfPhotoMillerVIIP4Prison





Recent Reads

8 04 2008

OK: it looks like WordPress has its hands full trying to deal with all the complaints.  I think the only way for me to fix my particular problem (font types and sizes) is to purchase an upgrade to something called CSS (cascading style sheets), which will allow me to manipulate my fonts.  That’ll cost me $15 per year, which will bring my total costs for this blog to just about $15 per year.  But it may remove the two step Word to WordPress process I currently employ.

In the past few weeks, I’ve finished three books and will hip you to them now.

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, by Nicholas Lemann, was described briefly here in my post on Stephen Budiansky’s The Bloody Shirt (follow the hyperlinks, folks: they’re there for a reason).  Redemption more narrowly focuses on the program by white Democrats to take back, or redeem, the government of the state of Mississippi from the Republican majority.  While not as well written as The Bloody Shirt, Redemption does a better job of tying in to the overall program of Democrats throughout the south, and it also more directly takes on the role of the Grant administration – in fact, the front and rear covers of the dust jacket feature upside-down, negative images of Grant’s Tomb.  Lemann also presents a more rounded (nuanced?) picture of First Bull Run Medal of Honor winner Adelbert Ames than did Budiansky.  I recommend them both, but if you can only read one I’d go with Lemann for a better overall understanding of the time.  Next up on my list for Reconstruction reading is Brooks Simpson’s The Reconstruction Presidents.

Did Lincoln Own Slaves? by Gerald J. Prokopowicz is one of the best Lincoln books I’ve read (cover to cover or otherwise), and that’s more than a few.  Based on questions Prokopowicz has fielded or solicited over his years as a teacher, talk-show host and Lincoln Scholar, the book is broken down into chapters covering Lincoln’s boyhood, his early adult life and law practice, his years in Springfield, his development as a politician, his role as a speaker, his presidency, his performance as Commander-in-Chief, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, his physical appearance, his assassination, and his legacy.  Throughout Prokopowicz provides light and readable and at the same time thorough and scholarly answers to the questions, with responses ranging from one word to several pages.  He’s got a great sense of humor and the bits on Was Lincoln gay? and Speaking of JFK, what about the amazing coincidences between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations? will have you spitting Pepsi through your nose if you’re not careful.  Buy this book: I get the impression Prokopowicz had as much fun writing it as I did reading it. 

I finished Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering over the weekend.  You’ve already heard plenty about this book – it has received more press coverage than any non-Lincoln Civil War book that I can recall over that past 15-20 years.  It’s well worth your time but is pretty gloomy.  On a Bull Run note, Faust recounts the journey of the soldiers of the city of Charleston killed in the battle from that field to burial in the city’s Magnolia Cemetery, which gives me something else to look for next the next time I’m in town (I also need to track down the spot in the cemetery where the single Bull Run prisoner to die in Castle Pinckney was buried, according to Orlando Willcox – see here). 





A Few Charleston Civil War Sites

15 10 2007

 

Last week my family spent a few days visiting with my brother in Charleston, SC.  He lives on the water just off Ft. Johnson Rd., on James Island.  On April 12, 1861 artillery at Ft. Johnson opened fire on Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor to initiate hostilities between the Confederacy and the United States.  From my brother’s dock you can see the local landmark Morris Island Lighthouse.  Morris Island is the site (now submerged) of Battery Wagner.  Across the street from my brother’s house, on private property, is the remnant of a Rebel battery, which was part of the island’s defenses.  I believe this battery was Ryan, Tatom or Haskell, but I have to check into that more.  Only a few yards from his backyard is the site of one end of Hatch’s Bridge, which ran to Secessionville during the war.  And a quick jaunt across Clark’s Sound brings you to Secessionville Manor, used as a hospital after the Battle of Secessionville (here’s a picture…click the thumbnails for larger images). 

secessionville.jpg

The long and the short of it is you can’t swing a dead cat in my brother’s neighborhood, or in Charleston for that matter, without hitting some piece of Civil War history.  I could literally spend weeks down there sightseeing.  While I only seem to be there for a few days at a time, I always manage to work in little CW excursions, not always an easy task when accompanied by a nine-year-old son and his mom who has little interest in my hobby.  This time we saw three Bull Run related sites.

As part of an hours long afternoon on the water we worked in a sea tour of Castle Pinckney, where Bull Run prisoners were briefly held (see here and here).  Below are three views, including a close up of the overgrown interior.  Note the curved wall which I believe gave the fort its medieval name.  Access to the island (Shute’s Folly) is restricted, but I hope to get permission to go ashore the next time I visit.   

pinckney2.jpg pinckney3.jpg pinckney1.jpg

Toward the end of our cruise we looped by the Morris Island Lighthouse.  Though not constructed until 1876, the lighthouse has a pretty strong Bull Run connection.  Its foundation was designed and built by Major Peter Conover Hains, who as a lieutenant and graduate of the West Point class of June, 1861 fired the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run from a 30-pdr Parrott rifle.  The lighthouse is suffering the ravages of time and the sea, but an organization is actively trying to save it, and procedures are under way. 

morrisislandlighthouse.jpg

The next day we had some time to kill, and to my surprise the family agreed to kill it by taking the cruise out to Ft. Sumter.  It was a beautiful day, if a little hot.  This time I got a picture of the storm flag, which flew over the fort during the bombardment.  The larger garrison flag, damaged in a storm earlier, is on display in the NPS visitor’s center near the aquarium, but flash photography of it is verboten and you can only view bits of it at a time.  Here are some images of the fort, the parade ground, the big guns, the storm flag, and my son.   

 sumter1.jpg sumter4.jpg sumter3.jpg 

sumterflag.jpg sumter2.jpg

To round out the afternoon, we drove over to Magazine St. to see the Old City Jail.  When the Bull Run prisoners were moved out of Castle Pinckney, the officers were sent to the City Jail and the enlisted men wound up at the Race Course on the outskirts of town.  During the fire of December, 1861, the guards abandoned the jail to help fight the flames, and the prisoners, including Colonel Michael Corcoran of the 69th NY State Militia, were left to fend for themselves.  They escaped out a window and spent the night huddled together for safety.  I don’t know if it was this window. 

cityjail1.jpg cityjail2.jpg

The next time I visit, I must try to find the site of the race course – as described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion, it was also the site of the earliest Memorial Day ceremony – and Magnolia Cemetery, where the only Bull Run prisoner to die in Castle Pinckney was buried.  But in Charleston, it’s always so much to see, so little time.





A Brief Foray to the Birthplace of the Rebellion

10 10 2007

 

I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few days.  I have once more ventured into the heart of Secessia –Charleston, SC – and again emerged unscathed.  While in the Holy City, I had a little time to CW sightsee.  We sailed around Castle Pinckney, where Bull Run POWs were briefly held, and drove over to where they were transferred, the Old City Jail.  We also took the ferry over to Ft. Sumter.  We didn’t have time to see much since we were only in town for three days, but we had some quality R&R on my brother’s boat.  I’ll post some photos later.

In the meantime, Brian Downey called me out.  Tantalizing stuff…I’ll have to dig into it.  But right now I’m swamped with my real job, in addition to family stuff and a couple of other CW projects I’m working on.  I’ll try to make regular posts despite all that.





Bull Run Prisoners

8 08 2007

John Hoptak at The 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry has an interesting post regarding Union prisoners, some taken at Bull Run, who were held for an unusually long period in “retaliation” for the treatment of Confederate privateers taken with the schooner Enchantress.  Check it out; it’s good stuff.  I wrote about some of these prisoners here, here and here.

11thny.jpgThis photo is from an 11th NY website, and shows prisoners from the regiment at Castle Pinckney.  While one of the men is shown wearing baggy trousers and sash, it should be noted that the color of the 11th NY zouave uniform was gray, and most of the men were wearing blue pants during the battle.  Right click on the thumbnail for the full size image.





Why Did Thomas Francis Meagher Get the Jerk? It’s Nobody’s Business…

9 03 2015

Donald Williams, author of Shamrocks and Pluff Mud, sent along this bit from the May 7, 1861 edition of the Charleston Mercury, explaining the actions of the Charleston Meagher Guards militia regarding the individual in whose honor they took their name (see here):

At a meeting of the Meagher Guards, held at the Military Hall on the evening of the 6th inst., the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:

The report of the committee appointed to inquire into the truth of the rumor that THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGER, Esq. (in honor of whose patriotic efforts for the liberation of Ireland this company was named) had joined the crusade against the Southern States, having been heard—

1. Resolved, That the same be confirmed.

And, whereas, from the said Report, it appears to be true that Mr. Meagher has been carried away by the fanaticism of the North, and has enrolled himself in the ranks of our enemies, taking arms against us in this most unholy war, in support of usurpation and oppression, thus proving himself recreant to the sacred principles of liberty, of which he was hitherto an uncompromising an advocate; therefore,

2. Resolved, That, remembering the services of Mr. MEAGHER in the cause of freedom in Ireland, this Company have learned with infinite disappointment and regret that he too, should have joined the oppressors of this their adopted land.

3. Resolved, That under these circumstances this company can no longer, consistently with its position and dignity, bear his name, and that the same be and hereby is repudiated by them.

4. Resolved, That the name of THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER be erased from the roll of the honorary members of this Company.

5. Resolved, That it be referred to a Committee to suggest some suitable name by which this Company shall hereafter be known.

6. Resolved, That a copy of these preamble and resolutions be published in the daily papers of this city, and in the New York, Day Book