The 69th New York, Not the 69th New York

18 09 2016
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The flag of the 69th NYSM, which commemorates a great moment in Fenian history, in which Col. Corcoran refused to march the unit in review before the Prince of Wales

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The flag of the 69th NYVI, a different regiment altogether, likely much more different than many assume

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Flag of the 69th NYNGA (182nd NYVI) – Rightful CW heir to the 69th NYSM?

Many “fans” of the Irish Brigade, and in particular the 69th New York State Militia and the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry, labor under the assumption that the two units are related, the latter somehow descended from the former. I’ve met with some resistance, and once outright anger,  when I’ve suggested that the relationship is tenuous at best. I received the following note from Christopher M. Garcia in comment form on a Facebook status of Damian Shiels, host of Irish in the American Civil War. Mr. Garcia has researched New York Irish troops extensively, and did his master’s thesis on another 69th, the 69th New York National Guard Artillery. When I looked at the Old Dominion University thesis and saw Timothy Orr’s name listed as Director, I realized that he and I had briefly discussed Christopher’s work back in 2011. You can read a little more about Christopher and find a link to his thesis on Damian’s site here. Pay particular attention to Chapter 2, on page ten, and the opening sentence:

The 69th New York National Guard Artillery (NYNGA) considered itself to be the old 69th New York State Militia (NYSM) in federal service. 

Later he writes:

Although thousands of New York’s Irish joined the ranks of the Union Army at the war’s outset, most Fenians chose to stay out. After their return from Bull Run, most of the members of the 69th NYSM did not answer the Federal Government’s call for three-year volunteers… The 69th Infantry Regiment New York National Guard (as the 69th NYSM was designated after the Civil War), received the battle honors for the 69th NYV. Over time, the Irish Brigade tradition became the dominant regimental tradition, as if the 69th NYV was the 69th. The differentiation was lost sometime in the early twentieth-century when first hand knowledge disappeared…Regimental tradition holds that the 69th NYSM was the primary cadre for both the 69th NYV and the Irish Brigade, but this is untrue. The Irish Brigade was a non-Fenian entity.

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Michael Corcoran

The basis of the 69th NYSM was political, strongly rooted in the Irish nationalist Fenian movement. There was a lot of infighting among Fenians, with allegiances to different heads. Michael Corcoran, a prominent Fenian, was colonel of the 69th NYSM, and not affiliated in any way with the 69th NYVI or the Irish Brigade. Captured at First Bull Run, he returned after a year in captivity and formed Corcoran’s Irish Legion, which included the 69th NYNGA.

Here is Christopher’s original comment:

[F]ewer than 80 members of the 69th NYSM volunteered with the 69th NYV. The post war histories do not correlate with the records. The 69th NYSM was the mother Fenian regiment. All 3 founders of the F[enian] B[rotherhood] in America were members of the 69th [-] Doheny, O’Mahoney, and Corcoran. The Fenians purged the unit of differing factions in 1858-9. The core 69th NYSM was not its Bull Run strength but normally in the 200-300 person range. The Irish Legion is a different kettle of fish from the Irish Brigade, both class and ideological. Almost all the 69th NYNGA officers were up from the ranks and there were no “Big men” with pedigrees as men like Conyngham were so quick to point out. The Irish Brigade Fenians while getting a lot of attention were insignificant compared to the Legion. To the point the IB never even had its own Circle (which the Legion did) nor anyone on the ruling council of the FB which the 69th NYNGA did (2). Unfortunately most of the Legion Fenians were killed off between Spotsylvania and Petersburg, becoming the vanguard when the Irish Brigade was at its lowest ebb…

Christopher’s thesis is very interesting, and worth your time. Check it out.





2nd Rhode Island Photos – High Res!

12 08 2016

Friend and fellow blogger John Banks has acquired high resolution copies of the images of Rhode Island soldiers I posted here. These amazing images (including a smiling soldier (!) and those unique Rhode Island overall uniforms) are courtesy of Kate Wells in the Special Collections unit of the Providence (RI) Public Library. They were apparently taken by Matthew Brady or an assistant on July 17-18, 1861, near Centreville, VA, at “Bush Camp.” All are members of Company F – I’ll add captions later. Click on the image for the bigger version. Enjoy!

Copy of Provenance Co F 2nd RI (2)Godfrey Co F 2nd RI (2)Johnstone Co F 2nd RI (2)Potter Co F 2nd RI (2)Robertson Co F 2nd RI (2)Ronain Co F 2nd RI (2)Wood Co F 2nd RI (2)





2nd Rhode Island Photos

19 07 2016

John Banks has found some amazing photos of members of the 2nd Rhode Island before First Bull Run. These include great shots of the Rhode Islanders unique overall or night-shirt style uniforms.

The soldier identifications have been expanded on John’s site – visit it here. And here is a link to the Providence Public Library piece on the discovery of the photos.

Below are the photos. They are fantastic.

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Background, Pvt. Thomas Green, Co. B, 11th Massachusetts Volunteers

17 10 2015

Friend Damian Shiels, who runs the site Irish in the American Civil War, sent along this great letter from a member of the 11th Massachusetts, Thomas Green, of Co. B. In addition to the transcription, Damian provided the information below:

For your reference, the file is WC98464, and is from the Dependent Mother’s Pension File of Thomas Greene, 11th Massachusetts, Company B.

Thomas survived his wound, but was posted missing and eventually reported dead at Second Bull Run following the charge of the regiment on that battlefield on 29th August 1862. In terms of family background, Thomas is listed as an 18 year-old laborer in the Mass soldiers and sailors of the Civil War (Vol 1, 749, also attached). He worked in Chandler’s Dry Goods Store in Boston for 2-3 years before the war. He lived with his family in two rooms in a rented tenement building, which cost $1.25 a week. I am virtually 100% positive I have traced them on the 1860 Census, in Boston’s 7th Ward. The affidavits show they lived in rooms rented from the Thompsons, and the census (attached) shows the Thompsons recorded on the same page. They are the only family who match in any case. What is interesting is that Thomas is recorded as 14 when this was enumerated in July 1860, meaning he couldn’t have been more than 15 at Bull Run.

His mother Ann claimed the pension – she lived at 106 Fourth Street in South Boston. She had married Daniel Green in ‘Murrough’, Ireland (there are a few of these, so not sure which one it is) on 10th December 1843. They were in Boston by at least 1850 and Daniel deserted his family in the late 1850s, around 1857. He is described as a ‘miserable shiftless fellow’ in the affidavits.

Reader Will Hickox finds that the Library of Congress has a photo of Pvt. Green here:

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Click for larger image

Thomas Green in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors

Boston Herald, July 28, 1861 (to which Thomas Green refers in his letter)

1860 Census





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





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.)

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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.

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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?





Portraits of Bull Run Participants

23 01 2015

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Albert Armstrong, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry. “Age, 20 years. Enlisted, May 2, 1861, at Binghamton, to serve two years; mustered in as private, Co. D, May 21, 1861; promoted corporal, date not stated; discharged, September 1, 1862, by order War Department.” From here.

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Private Amos Bowen, Co. A, First Rhode Island Infantry. “Born at Providence, R. I., January 22, 1838, died at his home in Providence, June 3, 1907, and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Rumford, R. I.  He enlisted from Brown University as private, Company A, First Regiment, Rhode Island Detached Militia, April 17, 1861, was mustered in May 2, following, taken prisoner at Bull Run, July 21, 1861; paroled, May 22, 1862, at Salisbury, N. C.; discharged July 22, 1862. He reenlisted and was commissioned first lieutenant, Company C, Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, February 10, 1863, and was acting aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Eustis, September, 1863, until May, 1864; honorably discharged and mustered out, June 17, 1864.  For six years he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and for nineteen years member of the Providence school committee. ” From here.

Photos courtesy of Joe Maghe.