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.)

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?





Photographic Miniatures of First Bull Run Participants

9 01 2015

A few weeks ago, Facebook friend and collector Joe Maghe sent me a few interesting images with First Bull Run connections. Included were some cool, rectangular miniatures, (Joe says they are “Abbott Types”), mementos more than likely purchased as a show of support for the men and cause. Click on the thumbs for larger images.

Fronts

Fronts

Backs

Backs

 

Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th NYSM, captured at First Bull Run

Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th NYSM, captured at First Bull Run

Capt. Francis T. Meagher, Co. K, 6th NYSM, acting Major of the regiment at First Bull Run

Capt. Francis T. Meagher, Co. K, 6th NYSM, acting Major of the regiment at First Bull Run

Rev. Father Thomas Mooney, Pastor of St. Brigid's R. C. Church in New York and Chaplain of the 69th NYSM at First Bull Run

Rev. Father Thomas Mooney, Pastor of St. Brigid’s R. C. Church in New York and Chaplain of the 69th NYSM at First Bull Run

Col. [James A.] Mulligan was not a member of the 69th NYSM and was not at First Bull Run. In Chicago, he raised the 23rd Illinois Infantry, which was also known as “Mulligan’s Irish Brigade.”

Below is a LOC photo of Father Mooney celebrating Mass with men and officers of the 69th NYSM in camp near Washington some time prior to the battle. On Father Mooney’s right is Col. Corcoran. Click here for the high def TIFF version.

Sunday Mass in camp of 69th NYSM, near Washington, June, 1861.

Sunday Mass in camp of 69th NYSM, near Washington, June, 1861.

Joe also sent these images of small, disc portraits. Their use is a little less certain.

Col. Michael Corcoran

Col. Michael Corcoran

Thomas F. Meagher

Thomas F. Meagher

Col. Ambrose Burnside, who commanded a brigade in David Hunter's Division of McDowell's Army at First Bull Run

Col. Ambrose Burnside, who commanded a brigade in David Hunter’s Division of McDowell’s Army at First Bull Run

Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, who accompanied Burnside's Brigade at First Bull Run.

Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, who accompanied Burnside’s Brigade at First Bull Run.

Thanks so much to Joe Maghe for sending these. Joe sent other items to share with you which I think you’ll find of interest as well. So stay tuned – and by that I mean check back here every single day.





The New York “Irish-American”

28 01 2012

A big thanks go out to FOBR (Friend of Bull Runnings) Damian Shiels, a professional archaeologist who specializes in military archaeology and who runs Irish in the American Civil War from, of all places, Ireland. He’s been feeding me clippings from the New York Irish-American, featuring letters primarily from the 69th New York State Militia on the battle. I hope you’re enjoying them. I think they’re great, especially in illustrating the limited perspective of most private soldiers during battle.

Just a word – you should keep in mind that the 69th NYSM is NOT the 69th New York Volunteers that would be a part of the famous Irish Brigade. That was a completely different organization, although some (and it’s hard to say how many) members of the 69th NYSM did join the 69th NYV. I’ve been informed that there was some division among the men of the militia units in their loyalty to its colonel, Michael Corcoran, and the captain of Co. K, Thomas Francis Meagher. The schism was perhaps rooted in the Fenian movement. While Meagher was recruiting up the new 69th NYV, some members of the militia unit, which had mustered out of US service when its 90 days were up shortly after Bull Run, joined him, some decided to stay with the militia, and some joined other units, including the 88th and 63rd NYV which also became part of the Irish Brigade, and the various regiments of Corcoran’s Irish Legion which was formed after Corcoran’s release from captivity and his promotion to brigadier-general. The 69th NYSM would operate through the war, being called back into emergency service once or twice more during the conflict, and in fact it survives to this very day and has an illustrious history including Father Duffy (as portrayed by Pat O’Brien, above with James Cagney, in The Fighting 69th; below is my 2004 snapshot of Duffy’s statue in Duffy Square in NYC). So, no, the Irish Brigade was not at Bull Run, and neither was the regiment that would be a part of that brigade and known as the 69th NYV.

Hope that makes sense!





Thomas D. Norris, Co. A, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

28 01 2012

The annexed letter, from a member of Co. A, 69th Regiment, gives some interesting details of the fight:-

Fort Corcoran, July 22, 1861.

My ever dear and beloved Wife.

I suppose you feel unhappy at present on account of passing accounts from the seat of war. I should not wonder, ,if you knew the half of our poor fellows that are lost or left behind. It would be no use for me to try to give you anything like a description of the battle field. – Enough to say, that besides bomb shells and rifle cannon shot, we had musket balls about our ears as thick as hail almost all the time from six in the morning until six in the evening, and a noise to be compared to nothing earthly. – Through the mercy of God, and the watchful eye and protecting shield and interceding care  of our glorious and blessed Mother, I was saved from even a scratch. Now you see how thankful we have a right to be to God for his excessive kindness to us at all times, and particularly now.

I tell you, my loving wife, it was an awful day. We left our camp about three o’clock yesterday morning, and marched about three miles through wood, &c, crossing streams knee deep, until we came or went to the scene of action, which was about three-quarters wood, and the remainder in little naked spots scattered amongst the trees. We opened fire on the enemy at ten minutes to six in the morning, and got no reply. We repeated and repeated, and got no reply still; so we drew nearer and changed our position  and gave them another salute, but with the same effect. We could not see a man nor hear a shot unless our own, until they, (the enemy) had everything as they pleased, and then, O my dearest, did we not have music! In a short time after the fight commenced, we saw a grand battle about a mile away between 8 Secessionists and some of our Union troops. The 69th were ordered to the relief of our party. Off we went in double quick time, crossing a river up to our knees, and soon we were before the enemy. We let them have it quick and hot; and in less than three minutes we put them to the route. But our noble and brave Haggerty, who was acting as Lieutenant Colonel, rushed so bravely in before us, and was about taking a prisoner, when he fell a victim to a ball that passed through his heart. Our Artillery gave in very early in the day; our cavalry rendered us very little or no assistance, while the enemy’s batteries played on us hot and heavy all the time. Our infantry had to do the best they could. The enemy were entrenched on the left of a battery that was playing directly on the Sixty ninth. This entrenchment was filled up with Southern riflemen, who could receive reinforcements from a wood that covered their left in spite of our troops. My dear wife, here is where they committed a slaughter on our troops, who went up, one regiment after another. The 14th, of Brooklyn, were cut up pretty much, as well as I can think; so were our Eight Regiment, of New York. The Fire Zouaves, ,who fought like tigers, were cut up badly. Our time was now come; so we advanced towards the aforementioned battery, into a hollow, and, stooping down, and letting their rifled cannon balls whiz closely over our heads, we passed immediately under their battery to their left and took our position in front of the entrenchments. Then the firing commenced, when a great many of our poor fellows fell. The firing continued from ten to fifteen minutes; and, our fellows getting confused, from a retreating Ohio regiment, who ran through our ranks, had also to retire from a hidden foe, for we could only see their heads and shoulders), a force far greater in numbers than ours, and who were to be aided by about three hundred cavalry who were bearing down on us. We took our flag of Erin, with the Stars and Stripes, away, all right, although some of our boys were obliged to work hard for it. Colonel Sherman, fearing the cavalry still, told the bravest of colonels (Colonel Corcoran), to from square. The gallant colonel said, “I have not as many as I like to do so; but we’ll do the best we can.” So the brave and determined colonel formed us into square, and so we retreated, receiving a fresh flanking fire from our adversaries as we went along, and a great many of our men were wounded in this way, amongst the rest our adored Col. Corcoran and Captain Clarke were both wounded in the legs. I believe the colonel was not much hurt. Their cavalry followed is all the way; and this, with a flank fire from the woods on both sides as we retreated, caused the artillerists to loosen their horses and ride them off, leaving their guns all in the hands of the enemy. This was about six o’clock in the evening; and we marched to our camp, about 30 miles, and reached there about daybreak. There was a reinforcement sent to meet the enemy, and if there are licked we’ll expect the enemy every day to attack Alexandria and Fort Corcoran. They won’t have masked batteries then, and you may be sure that we’ll let them have what they want, and what they will have. Oh! how surprised you would be to see T. F. Meagher, riding his poor steed, with one of its hind legs blown almost away – the fleshy part of it was all gone. Oh! my dear wife, he is a brave soul, and was with us all the time, under shot and shell, encouraging and cheering us up, and giving us a hurrah, for old Erin, now and again, that warmed is to the heart. With him and our own beloved Colonel, we could not help feeling ourselves blessed. About the other officers I won’t say anything, as it would be hard to pick a choice of them; they are all regular trumps – although I prefer Lieuts. Kelly and Strain, they being our own Company’s officers. I need not tell you that all the regiment are in great gloom at the loss of Lieut. Col. Haggerty – moreover Company A, whose Captain he was. I forgot to tell you that Acting Brigadier general Sherman publicly thanked the 69th for their desperate fighting; and when they were formed into line, after the first battle, he and his staff rode in front, with his hat in his hand, cheering for them. Give my love to all, and do you continue to pray for your own loving husband.

Thos. D. Norris.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

Clipping Image

Contributed by Damian Shiels





John Stacom, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

27 01 2012

Mr. John Stacom, of the “Ivy Green,” Elm-street, now a member of the New-York 69th  Regiment, arrived home on Tuesday, having received a wound in the left hand. He says:-

I was in the fight on Sunday all day, until we got completely off the field, and were on the road toward Vienna. On Sunday morning we were within two or three miles of this place. We encamped by the side of a road close by a wood, and then formed in line of battle, and proceeded steadily down through a thick wood into a ravine (Bull’s Run), and kept firing continually, in order to draw out the enemy, and unmask his batteries. After a good deal of firing, they opened upon us. We then fought our way down into the plain. The Wisconsin Regiment and the 69th tacked a large party, estimated at a number of thousands, total about 17,000, partially hidden in some brushwood, and succeeded in driving them completely away at the point of the baynet. They were in great disorder all over the field. Gen. McDowell came in at the other end and headed them off, while Col. Hunter approached on the right with his division, and the action then became general. It continued until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when all stood still and we thought the battle won. The Generals collected on the hill, and were cheering and shaking hands. General McDowell took his hat off, complimented Col. Corcoran, and said the victory had been won. All at once the reinforcements on the other side, under Johnston, as was supposed, came down upon us, and the men being completely exhausted, gave way, until they reached the road. Col. Corcoran had only Capt. Meagher with him after Lieut. Col. Haggery was killed, which hapened in the first engagement. I saw him fall by a musket ball. Thomas Francis Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and we then formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

We got on the road all well, and in good order. Having got my hand hurt, I took a Secessionists horse, and rode among the civilians, of which a lot, including artists and reporters, were gathered in carriages and on horseback. They were viewing the battle from the hill. Soon after I left my regiment, the civilians got panic stricken, and from them panic seized the teamsters, who imagined they were going to be cut off. From the teamsters it spread into several Ohio regiments and then became general.

I rode back alone. If there was any more fighting, it must have been in the road after the retreat commenced. I think there was no more fighting. The reinforcements opened four or five batteries on us immediately. There was only one party (in the woods) that we fought at all. We did not see any more, except a complete cavalry regiment, that charged on the Zouaves. Among the cavalry about three companies were colored, and officered by white men.

Gen McDowell three times charged us on batteries. It appeared that the 69th and the Zouaves were all over the battle field, as there were Aids running all the time saying the General wanted us over here or over there, to take this or that battery.

There were many killed and wounded lying around on the field, like sheaves in a wheat-field. There was a house on the hill where wounded men were almost piled, and the rebels shelled it, as much as anywhere else, while they must have known, by seeing our ambulances, that they were only wounded. The Ohio, 71st, 8th, and others took part. The 71st made only one charge, and lost very few men. The 69th did all the charging.

New York Irish-American 8/3/1863

Clipping Image

Contributed by Damian Shiels





M. Crosbie, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

26 01 2012

Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights,

July 25th, 1861.

We have returned to the fort after a pretty severe time of it. I am glad to inform you that the regiment has not suffered as severely as at first supposed. If I was competent even to do it I wouldn’t attempt to describe the battle. I feel very deeply Haggerty’s death; he was the first man of the 69th that fell, pierced through the heart; he never spoke after; but, believe me, his assassin met with a fitting fate – as many as fifty bullets pierced him; he fired from behind a tree. I have lost some friends both in this and other regiments. There is not on this continent a braver man than Thomas Francis Meagher. When his horse was actually torn from under him by a rifled cannon ball, he sprang on one of their outside parapets, and, waving his sword above his head, pointed to the green flag following, shouting “Boys! look at that flag – think of Ireland and Fontenoy,” – all the while the bullets raining around him. It was nothing but rally, charge and repulse. We could see no enemy; they fought from the woods and from masked batteries. When we’d charge to the borders of the woods not one of them was to be seen – all the while their secreted riflemen and artillery, with every advantage of position, pouring their hail over and around us. When Corcoran ordered the flag to be lowered, as it made too prominent a mark, the man that bore it said, “No, colonel, I’ll never lower it,” and was almost instantly killed; another sprang to it, and met the same fate. One thing was evident, not a man in the regiment would lower that flag an inch. I thank heaven we have it safe. You must bear in mind we had to fight fresh men on their own ground, while we were after a weary march of fully 30 miles on a cracker per day, with horrible ditch water for subsistence, laying in the wet grass whenever halted; still the boys went to their work like bricks. Corcoran made a regular target of himself; I have not seen him since; I understand he’s wounded; he is a brave officer, but Meagher is the adoration of the regiment. I hunted everywhere and made all the enquiries possible to find where Haggerty’s body lay, but could not find it; his wife, I know, will be in a dreadful state; I did intend to write her, but am not at present fit; if ’tis any consolation to her, he died a hero.

Yours, &c.

M. Crosbie.

Co. E, 69th, Fort Corcoran.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

Clipping Image

Contributed by Damian Shiels








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