Michael Nolan, Commander, Part III

The Montgomery Guards were placed in the 1st Louisiana Infantry Regiment and on their way to Virginia by May 15, 1861. That was early in the war effort. That suggests they were simply ready sooner than the other militias. The Montgomery Guards were one of the two oldest Irish militias in New Orleans. Doubtless, they were able to recruit new members faster than the other militias. Some two dozen other militias were also recruiting in the very busy Spring and Summer, 1861. Militias were springing forth like mushrooms after a Spring rain.

Michael Nolan was a close friend of Fr. Darius Hubert before the war.  According to the 1860 U.S. census, Michael owned $30,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property. For an Irish immigrant, he was doing very well. His brother, Thomas, could claim $1,000 in real estate and $350 in personal property. That was also not a small sum for Irish immigrant in 1860. Michael owned the store at Common and Robertson. He had a partner, William A. Beecher.  But, Beecher claimed no real estate in the 1860 census, suggesting Nolan was the sole owner of the store. Michael Nolan was the first commander of the 1st Louisiana Infantry. The Regiment was sent to Virginia, where it became part of the Louisiana Brigade and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Battle of Manassas

Lt.-Col. Nolan achieved some fame at the Battle of Manassas for his quick thinking. At particularly bitter fighting at the Deep Cut, his men ran out of ammunition. Nolan quickly rallied his men to hurl stones and rocks at the Yankees, then literally just a stone’s throw away. The Mostly Irish Confederates did indeed hurl the works over a railroad embankment, holding their position until reinforcements arrived. Fr. Sheeran, another chaplain from New Orleans, would record in his diary that after the battle, many Union soldiers were found with broken skulls.

Lt.-Col. Nolan was badly wounded at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). He was evacuated to a Richmond hospital and from there, he was sent on recruiting duty to Mobile. Many refugees from New Orleans and Baton Rouge had evacuated to Mobile at the time. His wife, Ellen, joined him in Mobile. He rejoined the First Louisiana Infantry Regiment just before the Battle of Gettysburg in July, 1863. Bravely, he led his men in an attack on Culp’s Hill. Almost immediately, he was cut down by a 12 pound artillery shell. He was killed within 24 hours of his return to his unit. What was left of his body was buried in a nearby orchard in a shallow grave. Soon afterward, through the kindness of a local Catholic woman, Isabella “Belle” Gubernator, and aided by the estimable Regimental chaplain, Fr. Hubert, Lt.-Col. Nolan was re-buried in consecrated ground at the nearby Conewago Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. LTC Nolan received a rare honor for a Confederate, a marked, Catholic burial.

Fr. Hubert

It was said that the death of Lt.-Col. Nolan was a blow to the kindly priest, Fr. Hubert. They were long-time friends. Another chaplain remarked upon hearing of Nolan’s death, “it was a great loss for Fr. Hubert.”  Later, after Gen. Lee’s surrender, Fr. Hubert remained in Virginia long enough to coordinate with Federal authorities the future removal of Lt.-Col. Nolan’s body to New Orleans.

A lengthy obituary was published in the nationalist Dublin newspaper, The Irishman, which suggests Lt.-Col. Nolan had a friendship with the editor.  He was apparently known to the editors of the The Irishman.

Re-Buried in New Orleans

Fr. Hubert and Fr. Sheeran, the two New Orleans priests who went to war, presided over the funeral.  After his death, his widow, Ellen faced serious financial issues. Michael and Ellen did not have any children. Ellen was among hundreds of others who were cited for failure to pay taxes in 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876, and 1878. She sold her property at a sheriff’s sale in 1879. The Southern economy was wrecked by the war and so was Ellen.

In 1869, Ellen re-married Thomas Egan. Thomas was also a native of Ireland. He was a grocery keeper with substantial real and personal estate. Ellen passed away Dec. 1, 1880. Like the rest of South, Ellen endured.


Cork Examiner, Aug. 9, 1848, p. 3, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 30, 1879, p. 4, col. 5

Dublin  Irishman, Oct. 24, 1863, p. 4, col. 1

Laura Kelley, The Irish in New Orleans (Lafayette, La.: Univ. of La. at Lafayette Press 2014), p. 48, 51, 55.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 20, 1847, p. 2, col. 6

New Orleans Daily Picayune, Sept. 1, 1909, p. 6, col. 6

Dublin  Irishman, Oct. 24, 1863, p. 4, col. 1

Jo Anne Corrigan, “Yellow Fever in New Orleans, 1853, Abstraction and Realities,” Journal of Southern History, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug, 1959), p. 342

New Orleans Daily Crescent, May 15, 861, p. 2, col. 3

Brendan O’Cathaoir, “The Rising of 1848,” History Ireland, Issue 3 (Autumn 1998), Vol. 6

King’s County Chronicle, Aug. 9, 1848, p. 2, col. 2

Tipperary Vindicator, Sept. 6, 1848, p. 2, col. 4

Louisiana Marriages, 1816-1906, Orleans Parish, Oct. 17, 1850; La. Death Records, vol. 168, p. 777

New Orleans Daily Crescent, April 9, 1856, p. 1, col. 3

New Orleans Daily Crescent, April 30, 1866, p. 9, col. 2

Plaquemines Southern Sentinel, April 12, 1856, p. 1, col. 2

New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 9, 1856, p. 3, col. 1

Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, April 10, 1856, p. 2, col. 3

New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 9, 1856, p. 3, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 24, 1856, p. 1, col. 7

Kathrine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 53, 73, 75, 99, 103

New Orleans Item, Dec, 2, 1880, p. 4, col. 5

Louisiana Parish Marriages, 1837-1957

2 thoughts on “Michael Nolan, Commander, Part III

  1. I have done much reading, research, and some writing about the post-Civil War period. Modern people have no real understanding of the suffering during (and beyond) reconstruction. The “War of Yankee Aggression” was an apt phrase for the Civil War, and while I have a favorable opinion of Robert E. Lee … as a man, he was lacking as a Confederate Army Commander. Had the south maintained Longstreet’s strategy, a period during which the Union won no battles, the aftermath of the war would have turned out much differently among those living in the rural south. Perhaps we would not have had the ”wild west,” for one thing, and maybe far fewer years of animosity from the pitiable years of reconstruction … a time when Union officials deserve no credit as men of honor or renewal. The aftermath of the Civil War, due in large part to Reconstruction attitudes and policies, lasted into the 1960s … and while I think that “we” had (for the most part) overcome racialism by 1970, it didn’t take Barak Obama long to re-instill it into the new century.

    I apologize for rambling. This is an excellent post, and I thank you for the read.


  2. Thanks for coming by, Mustang. My regular readers may not realize this, but I think you are a Mustang. Meaning you received a direct commission from the ranks. Officers like you are legendary. You and Audie Murphy and a very few others.


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