Diminished Humanity and the Irish Immigrant

J.C. Prendergast, Irish immigrant and editor of the New Orleans Daily Orleanian, often commented on the plight of the Irish immigrants. His perspective is unique, because he arrived in the U.S. long before the famine. Yet, he saw the daily privations of the Famine refugees daily, weekly in the busy port.

He complained about the wretched condition of the passengers of the Otillia when they arrived in late March, 1851. Unlike the Irish immigrants from 15 years prior, the passengers of the Otillia were craving (apparently meaning craven), vacillating, and devoid of spirit. He said these passengers have become brutalized and unfeeling. They arrived in terrible condition.

When they arrived, there were 40 cases of “ship fever,” which was probably typhus. They buried at sea two adults and three children. Upon arrival in New Orleans, there were onboard one dead child and two or three adults fast approaching death. The decks were filthy and between the decks, the air was putrid. The doctor who inspected the ship in the New Orleans wharf said that even after those 40 cases of ship fever recover, they will return to the hospital afflicted with starvation. Dr. Hart, the city’s health officer, predicted there would soon be a typhus epidemic in the city if steps were not taken.


Prendergast was appalled that one father whose wife died at sea, abandoned his two year old child as soon as the ship touched the levee. He left the child, gaunt and weak, on a log on the levee and then disappeared. The child seemed “stupefied.” Unlike most children, the child uttered no cry, not the slightest whimper. The child’s eyes dropped. It ate readily, but then relapsed into its former stupor. Prendergast suggested some generous person in the city might wish to adopt some of the children who had arrived.

Prendergast mentioned that two rough looking men, one Spanish and the other French, were stopped as they were taking three of the young women, as young as 14, to “get bread.” When stopped, the three girls seemed as if they were drugged. One teetered from side to side. It turned out that the two men had plied the girls with drink. The editor did not explain how the two abusers were stopped. But, they were probably rescued by police. The police, such as they were in 1851, were often Irish and they often kept an eye out for the Irish immigrants.

Such was the immigrant life when the coffin ships arrived in 1851.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, April 4, 1851, p. 2, col. 1, 2, 3

Half a Hundred Tipperary Throats

The Union Army had its famed 69th Regiment, all Irish. The South too had its Irish Brigade. The Sixth Louisiana Infantry Regiment was largely Irish. A key component of that Regiment was a company sized unit known as the Louisiana Tigers. They were commanded by the remarkable Maj. Roberdeau Wheat. Traveling from New Orleans to Virginia at the outset of the war, the Tigers and the Fourteenth Louisiana Regiment, mostly Irish, started a riot in Grand Junction, Tennessee. The commander had to shoot seven soldiers, killing them and wounding another nineteen to stop the riot.

I previously wrote about Maj. Wheat here.

But, in the heat of the action, the Irish always distinguished themselves. Gen. Richard Taylor commanded the Sixth Regiment for some time during the Shenandoah campaign under Stonewall Jackson. Taylor was a former Know-Nothing. In Louisiana, the Know Nothings caused riots that killed a few Irish immigrants. At least initially, Gen. Taylor was skeptical about his Irish charges. But, during the Shenandoah campaign they performed exceedingly well. In that campaign, Gen. Jackson had to march his “foot cavalry” over dozens of miles over several days. The Irish always responded. Even today, Infantry would not be expected to march more than 12-15 miles in one day. During the Valley Campaign, they marched 20 miles in one day and 30 the next.

In May, 1862, the Louisiana Brigade, which included the 6th Regiment, made an exhausting march to Strasbourg, Virginia in the oppressive May heat. Union cavalry pressed them and caused them to panic. The Irish provided a rear guard, which helped restore order. The Irish then refused to be relieved throughout the night, insisting they would protect the rear. The weather poured that night, dropping hail the size of “hen’s eggs.” Occasional artillery fire would not dissuade them from their duty. They cried out, “We are the boys to see it out!” Theis loud assurance “from half a hundred Tipperary throats,” prompted Gen. Taylor, the former Know-Nothing, to comment years later that ever since, his heart “warmed to an Irishman since that night.”


David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South, 1815-1877 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press 1995), p. 144-145.

Views of Reconstruction Have Changed

Was Reconstruction good or bad? Your view on that topic will largely dictate whether you see the white Southerners of the Civil War time period in a good light or bad light. The view of Reconstruction was largely negative in white society until the 1980’s. With the publication of Eric Foner’s book, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (Harper & Row 1988), the popular white view changed. A Colombia historian, Dr. Foner is widely respected. His tome received positive reviews. Reprinted several times, it has now become a classic history of the Reconstruction period in U.S. history.

Dr. Foner makes a critical point throughout the book, that with the end of Reconstruction, so ended the right to vote and other civil rights for Southern African-Americans. His research is exhaustive. Yet, he does diminish what had been accepted prior to his book, the degree to which Reconstruction was abused by both Northern politicians and local African-Americans. For example, we know that many African-Americans profited handsomely from their positions of power. The perception in the time before Dr. Foner’s book was that black men had been manipulated by the white Northerners, and that they may have allowed themselves to be manipulated.

Reconstruction Abuses

For example in a book widely read in its day, Charles Nordhoff traveled the South in 1875 on a tour requested by his boss, James G. Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald. Mr. Nordhoff’s mission was to find out the “truth” of Reconstruction. The northern public was aware of charges of corruption. Mr. Nordhoff was sent to either verify those charges or discount them. His resulting book, The Cotton States in the Spring and Summer of 1875, largely verifies the charges of corruption by “carpet-baggers” and by African-American males who appeared to be under the influence of white northerners now living in those Cotton states.

Mr. Nordhoff in his tour of Louisiana talks about seeing “colored” members of the Louisiana legislature – men who were slaves ten years before – now “driving magnificent horses, seated in stylish equipages, and wearing diamond breast pins.” He discussed a box containing election returns from an unnamed parish being carried into New Orleans by a Conservative politician to a house of prostitution in New Orleans. The Conservatives won their election in that parish. So, the unnamed politico concealed the box in the brothel, while holding it ransom for some large reward from the Conservatives in that parish. Norhdoff defined “Conservatives” as white voters who opposed Republican rule. They generally included former Democrats, Whigs and Know-Nothings.  [1]

Nordhoff visited one of the river parishes, to see the operation of a Negro jury. The court had to adjourn due to a lack of potential jurors. From a list of 48 potential Negro jurors, 36 were found to be fictitious. [2]

Failures of the Judicial System

Mr. Nordhoff reported in his book that while most murders in Louisiana since 1870, with two major exceptions – Coushatta and Colfax – were not political, few of the murderers received their just punishment. There were some 33 murders. Of these 33, 31 were of black on black. One was white on white. And, another concerned a colored man who shot a Republican from the North. The Republican served as a tax-collector. He seduced the black man’s sister, and turned the girl “adrift” with her baby. But, most of the assailants who were arrested broke out of jail. In the Fall of 1874, one Republican jailer was indicted for allowing three murderers and a defaulting tax-collector to escape from his jail. Those who were sentenced to life for murder were generally pardoned.  [3]

Mr. Nordhoff, an abolitionist before the war, explained that between 1865-1868, the white citizens of Louisiana did kill and oppress the freed black man. But, when Reconstruction began in 1868, the freed black man was given authority for which he was not prepared. Mr. Nordhoff saw black members of parish police juries (the legislative body for parishes) who could not read or write, or just barely so. Yet, those black police jury members had total control over taxes, roads and bridges. In 1868, the Louisiana legislature paid $4.2 million for 70 miles of railroad that was never completed. The railroad was billed as a connection from New Orleans to Mobile, but it never got beyond the first 70 miles. [4]

The Louisiana Levee Company

One issue always looming in New Orleans and Louisiana was the state of the levees. Without a system of levees, flooding would occur every year. Both Democrats and Republicans built levees with some corruption as part of the price. But, Nordhoff tells us, the corruption was worse during the Reconstruction years. Between 1868 and 1871, $4.7 million in state bonds were issued for the levee system. But, by 1875, when Nordhoff visited Louisiana, no such levees had been built. Most of the money was spent by the “State Board of Public Works.” Its member were appointed by the corrupt governor, Henry Clay Warmoth.

Warmoth was a carpet bagger’s carpet bagger. He had come south specifically to advance himself. He was openly corrupt. But, he did generally support voting rights for blacks.

In 1871, the job of repairing the levees – and the money – was turned over to a private corporation. The company was known as the Louisiana Levee Company. The state gave this corporation one million dollars. The state legislature allowed the corporation to charge sixty cents per cubic yard of work. But, this was a time when local plantation owners performed the same work on their own levees for a much lower rate of fifteen to eighteen cents per cubic yard. As far as Nordhoff could see, the Levee Company performed no actual work during his time in the state.

The members of the state legislature who supported the creation of the levee company were bribed to support it. One black member, named T.B. Stamps, missed the vote on the act. So, he wrote a letter to the Finance Committee of the Louisiana Levee Company asking that his bribe, if he had been present for the vote, be paid to a friend. Stamps was later elected as a state senator. He assured the Finance Committee that had he been present, he would have voted for the act. Stamps viewed his bribe as an entitlement and he wished to pass that entitlement to a friend, as if Stamps had indeed been present for the vote. [5]

The Louisiana Levee Company employed careless construction techniques. It allowed weeds to grow on the levees, preventing the growth of St. Augustine grass. It allowed the levees to be used as roads. Builders often used logs and stumps to reduce costs. In 1876, the act which created the Louisiana Levee Company was repealed.


Dr. Foner allows that black Republicans were not immune to illicit gain, but he compares it to corruption practiced by white Democrats. He suggests that corruption was common throughout the country, not just in Reconstruction cotton states. Foner, Reconstruction, at pp. 388-389.

The Southern Economy

But, Dr. Foner’s book does not address the issues presented in the prior Reconstruction research, that the post-war economy plummeted in the South after the Civil War and after Reconstruction started. The 1874 value of real property in New Orleans had fallen to one-third of its value from 1868, the last year prior to Reconstruction. The Sheriff of Orleans Parish was paid $60,000 in 1868, a time when $500-600 was the typical yearly wage for skilled labor. This was in a city that did not particularly support secession.  [6]

Neither does Dr. Foner address another concern presented by the earlier scholarship on the subject, that many black males of the time simply voted as they were told by white Republicans. The White League, Robert Henry tells us, said the Negroes “invariably” voted like a body of soldiers obeying a command. The white Southerners accused the blacks of voting “blindly” based on how they were instructed. [7]

The Kirk-Holden War

In North Carolina, state Sen. John W. Stephens, who supported the Republican governor, William W. Holden, came to Caswell County seeking evidence to be used in prosecutions under the state’s “Ku Klux” law. He was seeking evidence to prosecute members of the KKK. While there, he met with Negroes at a meeting of the Union League. Sen. Stephens handed a box of matches to twenty Negroes. He suggested to them that the matches would be well used if they were used to burn barns. Nine barns were then burned in one night in the county. So claimed the local Democrats known as Conservatives. While still in the county, Stephens was abducted by the Klan and killed. [8]

The killing of Stephens then lead to Gov. Holden declaring two counties in a state of insurrection. He raised a regiment to put down said insurrection. The “regiment,” lead by a North Carolinian who had served in the Union army, George W. Kirk, tortured whites seeking confessions. They arrested 82 persons. The regiment, which was more like a mob, then roamed the state plundering and insulting the citizens. A Conservative (i.e. Democrat) and fifteen others signed a confession to Klux activity. It was known that the Conservative, James E. Boyd,  had previously been paid by the Governor to ferret out evidence against Kluxers. [9]

The Louisiana Metropolitan Police, created by Gov. Henry Clay Warmoth, were essentially a private army for the governor. Warmoth did not deny his corruption. Without Negro votes, he would never have been elected. Gov. Warmoth was replaced by William P. Kellogg, who was only more corrupt than Gov. Warmoth. See more about Henry Clay Warmoth here. [10]

Spike in Crime

In May, 1874, a white woman was robbed in broad daylight on a major street in New Orleans. The newspaper of the day proclaimed no one was safe due to Negro outrages. [10] That was surely hyperbole, but this was a time when even approaching an unknown woman was socially forbidden. That one white woman would be robbed during the day was shocking. Also in May, 1874, a home was entered while the family was out and all the silver was taken. The newspaper warned New Orleans white citizens to watch out for Gov. Kellogg’s men during the day. In other words, the newspaper believed the daytime burglar was a Republican. [12]

Dr. Foner’s book does not address this apparent spike in crime, or the perception that the crime was due to Republicans. In disregarding these issues, Dr. Foner’s book reveals a lack of balance, just as the earlier Reconstruction books lacked a different sort of balance.

The hysteria of the time did have racial tones. The Battle of Liberty Place quotes news stories of the day indicating widespread fear of “black militia” marching by and possibly storming saloons and businesses. White Southerners of the time felt an irrational fear of newly freed blacks. [13]

Dr. Foner never mentions the open corruption of two successive Louisiana governors. Neither does he acknowledge that unlike corruption in other states, in the South, open corruption was essentially sanctioned by the federal government. Dr. Foner never discusses the extent to which freed blacks were allowed, and even encouraged to harass the white Southerners. His book does help remedy the lack of attention to black suffrage and civil rights in prior Reconstruction research.

But, it appears Dr. Foner remedied that imbalance in part by overlooking the absence of fundamental state police powers. If the state cannot enforce criminal laws, then the state has failed its central function. Foner misses an important point about Reconstruction. When you impose a government on a people otherwise accustomed to democracy, that government must demonstrate some level of competence, tolerably free of corruption.


[1] Charles Nordhoff, The Cotton States in the Spring and Summer of 1875 (New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1876), p. 41-42, 45. When Nordhoff mentions specific “Conservative” politicians, he is generally referring to Democrats.

[2] Cotton States, at p. 43

[3} Cotton States, at p. 50

[4} Cotton States, at p. 58

[5] Cotton States, at p. 58-59

[6] Robert Henry, The Story of Reconstruction (New York: Konecky & Konecky 1999, originally published in 1938), p. 516.

[7] Story, at p. 517. See, also, Justin Nystrom, New Orleans After the Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press 2010, p. 85. Dr. Nystrom explains that while instances of Blacks voting as they were told was sometimes exaggerated, it did occur during the tenure of Gov. Clay Warmoth 1868-1872.

[8] Story, at p, 412.

[9] Story, at pp. 412-414.

[10] Joe Gray Taylor, New Orleans and Reconstruction, La. Hist. Assoc. (Summer, 1968), Vol. 9, No. 3, p. 196.

[11]  New Orleans and Reconstruction, p. 201.

[12] New Orleans Bulletin, May 8, 1874, p. 3.

[13]  Stuart Omer Landry, Battle of Liberty Place (Gretna, La.: Firebird Press 2000), first published in 1955.

“Gen. Lee to the Rear”

In the annals of military warfare, it was so extraordinary. There is no record of this happening to Julius Caesar, Hannibal or Napoleon. In May 1864, in a the Battle of the Wilderness, Gen. Robert E. Lee tried to lead the charge of the Texas Brigade. Commanding generals do not typically attempt to lead a charge themselves. It just is not done. The commanding general has to keep the entire battle in mind. He has to forecast chess moves three or four moves in advance. He must respond to aides hurrying back and forth with urgent messages seeking aid, warning of supply shortages, and he must press recalcitrant commanders. The heat of battle is “prime time” for a commanding general. Yet, when the Texas Brigade moved up to block a penetration by Union General Winfield Scott’s forces, he knew the moment was dire. He knew too that the Confederates were being pressed in ways they had never been pressed. He wanted to be sure the charge succeeded.

Drive These People Back

Gen. Lee cheered as the Texans moved into position to plug the gap created by Gen. Scott. The Corps Commander, Gen. Longstreet planned to move one brigade into the gap, followed by a second brigade and then a third. When the Texans first arrived, Gen. Lee urged them, “We must drive these people back.” A man not given to frequent displays of emotion already showed more emotion than his soldiers were used to. “The Texans always drive them,” he added.  The commander of the Texas Brigade, Gen. Gregg, told his men, “The eye of Gen. Lee is on you.” The Texans responded with cheers. With a shout of “Forward,” the Texans and Arkansans started forward with a yell.

Immediately, the men noticed Gen. Lee was moving with them. Capt. Bedell noticed the general advancing with them well into the enemy fire. Dozens would later insist they were there and they held the reins of Traveller, pulling Lee back to the rear. Traveller was the name of Lee’s horse, named after Gen. Washington’s horse during the American revolution. Gen. Washington was Gen. Lee’s step-grandfather.

The Chain of Command

Capt. Bedell had been wounded twice in prior battles. He was one of the original recruits into Co. “L” of the Texas Brigade. Co. L came from Galveston. Capt. Bedell implored Lee to stop. Gen. Lee responded, “I want to lead the Texas Brigade in this charge.” From commander to his men, bypassing three or four layers of command was unusual in itself. But, the overall commander was negotiating with his men. He could have simply told them to shut up and let him do his job. But, he was negotiating, asking them to let him do what he thought he needed to do ensure success.

It is hard for civilians to understand this remarkable military relationship during war. There is an unspoken understanding that each person, male or female, will do his/her best at all times to ensure success of the military unit. That principle is a sacred duty. It stays with you all your life. In this instance, the Commanding General was asking his men to let him do what he believed he had to do to plug this gap. His men were telling him, “no.” They were assuming the responsibility for the success of this charge. They were saying, “sir, we got this.” They were not just assuring him they would ensure the success of this charge, they were insisting. They were telling their boss, “no,” in terms that did not allow for negotiation.

The tender feeling in that moment cannot be overstated. They were also saying the possibility of losing Gen. Lee was too high a price to pay for the success of one charge. That is an extraordinary honor, one probably never made to a general of Robert E. Lee’s caliber. Napoleon’s soldiers respected the general, but they did not love him.

Charge Hell Itself

Other soldiers joined in. “You will get killed dad[d]y.” “We won’t go forward until you go back,” said another. One soldier watching this unheard of display remarked years later, “I would charge hell itself for that old man.” One soldier in a friendly way kicked at Traveller, saying, “Get out of the Wilderness with General Lee, you old looney!” That alone would merit court martial in today’s army. In the Confederate army, assaulting the general’s horse in other circumstances would have resulted in lashes or worse.

The general finally turned toward the rear, as the Texas Brigade surged forward into the fire. Dozens of Texans fell. But, Gen. Lee lived.

Arthur Wellesly, the Duke of Wellington, was equally adept at forecasting moves and counter-moves by the enemy. He was also quite well-liked by his troops. But, at no time did any British soldier suggest Lord Wellington go to the rear, to ensure his safety.


Susannah J. Ural, Hood’s Texas Brigade (LSU Press 2017), pp. 212-213.

Waving the Flag

The Ukrainian city of Kherson has been occupied by Russian forces since March 4, 2022. Yet, the Ukrainians in that city have engaged in several acts of civil disobedience. Those acts include confronting armed Russians. During one protest in Kherson, a Ukrainian waving the Ukrainian flag jumped aboard a passing BTR. The crowd cheered. Kherson and other smaller towns near the Crimea peninsula represent patriotic Ukrainians hanging onto their country in the face of armed aggression. Flags are powerful symbols.

The Yankee Invaders

The City of New Orleans engaged in similar protests over flags when another invader, the United Sates, came to the Crescent City. When the Yankees first arrived in 1862, they lacked any Infantry. As the USS Mississippi docked, a band aboard the ship struck up the Star Spangled Banner. Unionists on the New Orleans docks cheered, briefly. Then some Confederate soldiers broke up the cheering section. New Orleans had a large contingent of merchants who had originated from north of the Mason Dixon line. These persons generally opposed secession.

Capt. David Farragut sent a couple of officers ashore to demand the surrender of the city. The Confederate military had already retreated. So, the officers had to meet with Mayor John T. Monroe, a former Know Nothing, but now a moderate Democrat.


As the two Yankee officers walked toward City Hall, a mob followed them shouting, “Hang them! Kill them!” The officers spoke with Mayor Monroe. They demanded that the U.S. flag be displayed atop the post office, the Customhouse (a federal building) and the U.S. Mint. They demanded that the Louisiana flag be lowered from the top of City Hall. Monroe then deferred to Maj.-Gen. Mansfield Lovell, then hiding in the city. Lovell came to City Hall, said he had no authority, since his forces had all withdrawn. Farragut’s officers withdrew back to their ship through a side door.

Lovell then returned to the city, met with the Mayor and discussed the possibility of rushing the Mississippi and seize the ship. Lovell opposed the plan as unrealistic. But, he said he would support the plan if the city could find 1,000 volunteers for the task. When only 140 men were found, the plan was abandoned. The overwhelming majority of New Orleanians willing to fight had already left town.

Mayor Monroe then replied to Capt. Farragut that if he wanted the state flag removed from City Hall, he, Farragut, must do it himself. The mayor believed that he could somehow maintain his allegiance to the Confederate States, despite Union occupation.

The U.S. Mint

Farragut was in a quandary. If he disembarked his few Marines to occupy the city, riots would ensue. The Infantry under MG Butler were still down river from the city, days away. Farragut threatened to bombard the city of they did not accede to his terms. During negotiations, the Marines managed to hoist a flag over the U.S. Mint. But, they avoided City Hall, where a mob congregated and threatened vengeance on the invaders.

Removing the U.S. Flag

As soon as the Marines marched away from the Mint and proceeded back to their ship, a crowd surged toward the Mint. Four men ascended to the roof and tore down the U.S. flag. They tore it to shreds. A large crowd then proceeded to the river front, led by one woman carrying a large Confederate flag. She stood beneath the Yankee guns, while the crowd sang “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Dixie.” With no Confederate military in the city and the Yankees still not in the city, riots and looting broke out. Stores were looted. Many of the residents had little to no food for the prior many months. The Union blockade had essentially brought the busy port to a stand-still.

One of the Unions ships fired a cannon at the crowd by the Mint. The crowd dispersed. The cannoneers on the Pensacola jumped to their pieces, ready to bombard the town, as Farragut had promised. Fortunately, the primers had all been removed and the Captain of the ship was able to restrain his sailors.

For now, the four men who removed the flag remained unidentified. But, later, after a few weeks of occupation, the Federal identified one William Mumford as one of the protagonists of the Mint flag removal. Mumford was easy to identify. He had sold shreds of the US flag and retained one piece which he wore on the lapel of his coat. Maj.-Gen. Butler did not hesitate to sentence him to death for his crime. Mumford was a gambler and reckless. But, he was also a homeowner with a family. He was well liked by the working class.

Many New Orleanians expected Butler to commute the sentence. But, those persons did not yet know “Beast” Butler. On June 8, the Federals hung Mumford for daring to pull down the U.S. flag.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), pp. 67-70.

County Kerry Orphans Traveling Alone

On Dec. 10, 1851, arrived at the port of New Orleans more Irish orphans. I previously wrote about a previous boatload of Irish orphans here. On the ship Lord Elgin came eighteen Irish pauper orphans. Eleven girls and seven boys were sent with no adult escort. John C. Prendergast the editor of the Daily Orleanian, could not find out what happened to the girls. But, he learned that the boys were taken by a police officer named O’Sullivan to a guard house for a brief time. That likely referred to Police Officer Eugene Sullivan who lived at 79 Enghien (now Almonaster).

The boys were then taken to the Male Orphan Asylum. In the 1850’s, New Orleans, like many American cities, had charitable orphanages. Officer O’Sullivan collected money to buy them food and other necessities.

Lord Lansdowne

Prendergast believed these orphans were placed on the ship from the estate of Lord Lansdown. They were placed aboard by his agent, Mr. French. The oldest boy said he was told on the first leg of their trip that Mr. French had given money to the ship captain named Herron. Capt. Herron was to give the money to the children upon arrival. Capt. Herron denied he was given any money for the children. Prendergast expresses skepticism for Capt. Herron’s claim.

The boys likely referred to Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, third Marquis of Landsdowne (1780-1863). He held a seat in Parliament and in the House of Lords and generally supported Catholic emancipation. See historyhome for more information about Lord Lansdowne here.

The Estate Agent

How or why eighteen orphans were sent to New Orleans and not to New York with the other tenants, we may never be known. According to “From Famine to Five Points,” the estate agent was named William Steuart Trench. Mr. Trench left his memoirs. Trench said he allowed some 1700 tenants to choose their destination, New York, Quebec, Boston or New Orleans. The New York newspapers remarked that the Lansdowne tenants were some of the most impoverished arrivals the city had ever seen.

Some person on the Lord Elgin – with some connection to Lord Landsowne – told the eighteen children that the British consul would make sure they were taken care of. Prendergast describes this claim as a “sham.” Prendergast notes that the former Irish Immigrant Society (a New Orleans ad hoc committee that helped prior immigrants) is now defunct. He expresses hope that the authorities will investigate this abuse of children.

The lack of communication reflects the absence of any adults traveling with these children. Prendergast must rely on the understanding of the “oldest boy.” This was yet another “shameful transaction,” as Prendergast said, by an Irish landlord.

A day, later, several of the boys had been selected by families to come live with them. Prendergast said he hoped those situations would succeed.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 12, 1851, p. 1, col. 2

New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 14, 1851, p. 1, col. 3

Cohen’s 1851 New Orleans City Directory

Tyler Ambinder, “From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne’s Irish Tenants Encounter North America’s Most Notorious Slum,” American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2 (April 20020), accessed here.

No Sergeants Major for Operation Lone Star

Among the many odd things about Operation Lone Star is the absence of a Sergeant Major who actually visits the troops. Jim Betts, a retired E-9 in the Navy, knows something about what E-9’s do. In the US Army, the E-9 is the Sergeant Major. There is a SGM at command level from Battalion up through Army level in Washington, D.C. There is a top SGM in the Texas Guard assigned to Camp Mabry. SGM’s perform one critical function: ensuring the welfare and discipline of the individual soldier.

During my time in Iraq, I observed first-hand what happens when an army does not have a tradition of strong NCO’s. The Iraqi army had no tradition of strong, capable NCO’s.

And, at the top of the NCO food chain is the SGM. A SGM will generally visit every soldier and observe first-hand his/her discipline and equipment. If there are problems, a SGM will fuss at the NCO responsible. And, the SGM will report that deficiency to the Commander. The SGM is the Commander’s eyes and ears.

Master CPO Betts (Ret) is the father of one of the Texas Guardsmen deployed to the border. MCPO Betts says the SGM’s in the Texas Guard are not doing their jobs. They are not visiting and checking on the soldiers. See Texas Scorecard report here. Contrast that with my experience in the Texas Guard. No matter where my Infantry unit was, the SGM always found my soldiers. I would run into the Battalion SGM in the deepest darkest corners of Ft. Hood.

MCPO Betts says the soldiers are living in miserable conditions. When they first came to these long shuttered motels, they found dead roaches, dead rats and drug paraphernalia in the rooms. The soldiers who live in the trailers from tractor trailers are squeezed into very cramped quarters. They lack cold weather gear, first aid kits, Individual Body Armor (IBA), and helmets. They are sometimes shot at by the narco terrorists across the river. This problem is similar to the problem in the Viet Nam War. In that war, field grade officers rarely visited the soldiers in the bush. Never seeing the big cheese indicates their mission is not important. The worst thing you can do with a soldier is to ask him/her to risk their health and life for a mission that does not matter.

“Aren’t Doing Jack Shit”

And many soldiers are ding exactly that: nothing. As one soldier said, he is on duty two hours a day. Then he goes back to his quarters, drinks alcohol, and then does the same thing the next day.

I work probably two hours a day. I just go back to my room and drink. And then rinse and repeat. I’ve been doing this for four months,” one member of the Guard told TPM. “I really don’t have a problem with the mission. I think the execution was the issue, and the fact that we have way too many soldiers down at the border, and a lot of them aren’t doing jack shit.”

Guardsmen expect to make sacrifices protect their states and their country. But, to sacrifice your job, your family, your business to work two hours a day and drink is more than they can bear. Mental health issues are worsening. See Talking Point Memo here.


The other problem is equipment. Because the Guardsmen were activated not through an Army post, they have to rely on state owned property. But, the National Guard is just not set up to acquire enough equipment for 20,000 members of the Guard. The OLS soldiers even lack radios. They have to rely on cell phones – if the phone has service. There is a reason why the Army does not rely on cell phones. Service in rural areas is often non-existent. Try getting cell phone service in the middle of North Ft. Hood. Without radios, the Texas Guard is just one catastrophe away from a scandal.

No Sick Call

Remarkably, the Texas Guardsmen often do not have sick call. A long-time military tradition. Sick call is supposed to work like this: the soldier reports he has an illness. He is then sent to a clinic for a check-up. But, MCPO Betts says his son had strep throat last November. He could not go on sick call, because there was no sick call. Again, being on state orders, they have no access to U.S. military hospitals or clinics. Texas is asking the Guard to perform a mission it cannot support.

And, I have to say, as a Company Commander or Battalion Commander, there is no way I would tolerate no SGM checking on the troops. The lack of SGM visits suggest they did not activate enough SGM’s to get to everyone. It is time for some officers to start transferring to the IRR and protest this complete lack of command support. There is no reason for the absence of a SGM.

The problem for most of us is that when the Guardsmen start leaving the Guard, we will not have them the next time we see a Hurricane Harvey.