Who Were the Emmet Guards?

Who were the Emmet Guards? I first wrote about the Emmet Guards here. They were an Irish militia started in 1850. It appears James Nelligan’s father, David Nelligan helped start the Emmet Guards. Their captain at the outset of the war was James Nelligan. Who were the other members and what were their backgrounds? They did not leave memoirs. They did not leave a unit history. But, from public records, we can glean some hints about who they were and what they were. The Confederate service records tells us who they were. Some public records then help describe their background.

The Emmet Guards, as the name suggests, were overwhelmingly Irish. Some of their members included:

Thomas Long enlisted in the Emmet Guards on July 1, 1861. He was probably new to the Guards. He was sworn in by Capt. Nelligan himself. Thomas Long was a laborer, according to the 1860 census. He was born in Ireland. He was 36 years old in 1861. He claimed $100 in personal possessions. He and his wife, Bridget, lived in a boarding home. They were married by Fr. J. Monahan (St. Anthony of Padua Catholic church) in 1858. Thomas signed his own name, as did his witness and best man, P. Bourke.

Roger McKeown started as corporal when he enlisted on April 28, 1861. He was sworn in by Capt. Nelligan himself, suggesting he was a member of the Guards before the war fever started. Cpl. McKeown was promoted to First Sergeant in October, 1861, very early in the war. He was killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). He was a steward before the war, according to his service record. Born in Belfast, he was 27 years old in 1861.

There is no Roger McKeown in the 1860 census for New Orleans or for Louisiana. Indeed, the 1861 City Directory lists no McKeown at all. The 1855 City Directory also lists no McKeowns. He appears to have been one of the many, faceless, almost nameless Irish immigrants in the sixth largest city in the country.

George M. Morgan was elected First Lieutenant of the Emmet Guards. He was a lawyer. He lived at 13 Commercial Place, near the wharves. He also lived in the 11th ward and had attained modest financial success. He was born in Louisiana.

John McMullen served in the Emmet Guards through 1861, when they became Co. D. First Louisiana Infantry Regiment. There was one John McMullen listed in the 1861 City Directory. He lived at 431 S. Charles, close to the Irish part of the city. He drove a cab. He enlisted on April 28 1861, when the Emmet Guards were transferred into the Confederate army. He was promoted several times, eventually becoming First Sergeant. He died in 1864. His service record mentions that he was a “faithful, dutiful and gallant” soldier, who participated in every battle in which the regiment was engaged.

William L. Doyle served in Co. D of the First Louisiana Regiment. He also served in other companies within the same regiment. He enlisted on April 28, 1861, likely as a pre-war member of the Emmet Guards. He was a clerk, aged 22 years when he enlisted. As a clerk, William was at the top of the food chain for Irish immigrants. He was wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). This William Doyle appears to be the person known as “M. Doyle” in the 1860 census. This M. Doyle lived in the Third Ward, very close to the Emmet Guards Armory. He was born in Louisiana and was not married. He lived in a boarding house before the war.

During the war, William participated in several battles. He was captured and returned to active service with the First Louisiana Regiment. He was detailed by Gen. Lee himself to support Jackson Hospital in Richmond.

Thomas O’Neil enlisted on April 28, 1861., probably as a member of the pre-war Emmet Guards. He was enlisted by Capt. James Nelligan. He was 25 when he joined. Thomas was a “light laborer” before the war. He lived in a boarding house at the time. He was born in Ireland and was unmarried. He was wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill. Thomas was captured by the Federals at the Battle of Chancellorsville. He took the oath of allegiance and was then released. Later, Thomas found his way to St Louis, Missouri. In St. Louis, he was accused of talking “disloyal language” at the supper table of a boarding home. His language was accused of being disloyal to the USA. He was described by the proprietor of the boarding house as a deserter. The landlady was named Mary O’Neill.

Thomas was described as a member of a militia in New Orleans prior to the war. In St. Louis, he worked at his trade, carpentry. He was arrested in 1864 as a deserter from the rebel army. His statement at the supper table was supportive of Bill Anderson, the bushwacker, who killed Union soldiers at Centralia, Missouri. Thomas said the Federal soldiers had previously killed and scalped professed rebels. He also stated support of the Confederacy. Thomas was described by a witness as a “rebel and a dangerous man.” There is no record explaining what became of Thomas O’Neil. But, it appears he was a committed rebel, despite his desertion.

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