Joseph Brenan, Young Irelander

The Young Ireland movement was started by young Irish revolutionaries who believed Daniel O’Connell was not doing enough. The Young Irelanders advocated the use of force if necessary, a step Daniel O’Connell long resisted. In 1846, the Young Irelanders seceded from O’Connell’s Repeal Association. Among those early rebels were William Smith O’Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, future commander of the New York 69th Irish Brigade and John Mitchel, future Confederate States of America supporter. I have previously written about Mitchel here.

Joseph Brenan, born in Cork city in 1828, also supported the Young Ireland movement. Brenan found inspiration in John Mitchel’s writings. The Young Irelanders organized a brief uprising in 1848. It was short-lived, but it scared the British authorities immeasurably. The firefight at Widow McCormack’s house occurred on July 29, 1848. Michael Nolan, an Irish native who had emigrated to New Orleans, then returned to his former home County Tipperary in August, 1848. 118 Young Irelanders were arrested in the days after the fight at McCormack’s house. Joseph Brenan was one of those arrested. Upon his release in 1849, he returned to his work for the Dublin Irishman, a militant nationalist newspaper. It was the Irishman that later published a lengthy obituary for Michael Nolan when he was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. See my prior post on Michael Nolan here.


In September, 1848, some of the Young Irelanders, including Brenan, made plans to launch an uprising in Cappoquin, County Waterford. Brenan and Michal Cavanaugh, launched an attack with pikes and firearms on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks. One of the rebels was killed and one of the constables was piked to death. The rebels were repulsed, after which they retreated. The band then proceeded to Dungarvan, where the constables were cooperative. The British then sent the 7th Fusiliers Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers to Cappoquin. The rebels remained active for another two weeks, at which time they abandoned their efforts. The leaders were not arrested. The British only managed to arrest some of the participants. Brenan and Cavanaugh and others fled to America. [1]

An Exile’s

Brenan first came to New York and worked for Horace Greeley on the Tribune. In October, 1851, now married, he moved to New Orleans to work on the New Orleans Daily/Weekly Delta, published by Denis Corcoran. He published one of his poems titled “An Exile’s Dream.” That poem ends with this stanza:

I will seize my pilgrim staff and cheerily wander forth

From the smiling face of the South to the black frown of the North;

And in some hour of twilight, I will mount the tall Slievebloom,

And weave me a picture-vision in the evening’s pleasant gloom;

I will call up the buried leaders of the ancient Celtic race,

And gaze with a filial fondness on each sternly noble face –

The masters of the mind, and the chieftains of the steel,

Young Carolan and Grattan, the McCaura and O’Neill;

I will learn from their voices, with a student’s love and pride,

To live as they lived, and to die as they died.

Oh, I’ll sail from the West, and never more will part

From the ancient home of my people – the land of the loving heart.

The Slieve Bloom mountains are in central Ireland.

Escape from Van Dieman’s Land

Brenan became one of the leading Irishmen in New Orleans. He was President of a Committee that organized a welcome reception for John Mitchel after he escaped the penal colony in Australia. Mitchel came to New Orleans in 1853. Brenan helped organize a similar reception for Thomas Francis Meagher when he also escaped the same penal colony. Meagher came to New Orleans in 1852. Meagher was received by the leading persons in New Orleans at the time: W.C.C. Claiborne, Barnard Marigny, Judah Benjamin, and by the leading Irishmen of the day: Maunsel White, J.C. Prendergast, and others.[3]

An Ardent Secessionist

In 1853, Brenan contracted the yellow fever in one of the worst epidemics to hit the Crescent City. The treatment for the illness left him partially blind. Brenan loved the South. In March, 1857, he stated a new newspaper, to be known as the Daily Times. The journal would focus on Southern interests, literature, and criticisms. Walter Hopkins, another former editor for the Delta assisted him. Brenan by this time had become an ardent secessionist. [4]

Brenan published a poem titled “A Ballad for the Young South.” The first stanzas went as follows:

Men of the South! Our foes are up

In fierce and grim array;

Their sable banner laps the air

An insult to the day!

The saints of Cromwell rise again,

In sanctimonious hordes,

Hiding behind the garb of peace

A million ruthless swords


In early May, 1857, he became ill. The treating physician reported that he would not recover. On May 28, 1857, the eloquent Irish patriot died of “consumption.” Joseph Brenan was described as an “esteemed friend” by the redoubtable J.C. Prendergast, Irish editor of the Daily Orleanian. Prendergast remarked that those best loved by God often die young. Prendergast lamented the loss of one so intelligent and so skilled with words. The young Brenan was buried in the old cemetery known as St. Louis. [6]

Brenan appears to have had some connection to the Crescent Dramatic Association. That amateur theater group put on a performance to raise money for Brenan’s widow and four children. The performance was held in a large venue, the Gaiety Theater. [7]

See Brenan’s entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography here.


[1] Anthony M. Breen, “Cappoquin and the 1849 Movement, History Ireland Issue 2 (Summer, 1999), vol. 7

[2] New Orleans Weekly Delta, Dec. 28, 1851, p. 6, col. 4; Dictionary of Irish Biography, entry regarding Joseph Brenan

[3] New Orleans Daily Picayune, Dec. 11, 1853, p. 4, col. 3; New Orleans Weekly Delta, July 4, 1852, p. 7, col. 1

[4] Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, March 19, 1857, p. 2, col. 3

[5] Bryan McGovern, “Young Ireland and Southern Nationalism” Irish Studies Issue 2, Article 5 (Celtic Studies, Kennesaw State Univ. 2016)

[6] Baton Rouge Daily Advocate, May 11, 1857, p. 2, col. 3; New Orleans Daily True Delta, May 29, 1957, p. 1, col. 2; New Orleans Daily Orleanian, May 29, 1857, p. 1, col. 1

[7] New Orleans Sunday Delta, June 14, 1857, p. 4, col. 1

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

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 Irish Need Apply”

New Orleans newspapers, like many newspapers across the country, saw their share of “No Irish Need Apply” warnings. J.C. Prendergast, the Irish born editor, must have seen them. But, one day, it was just too much for him. He thundered on the pages of the Daily Orleanian at the rank prejudice. He noted that the London Times, known as the “Thunderer of Printing House Square” often carried such advertisements. “No Irish need apply.” “No papists wanted.” “Protestants only accepted.” “A Church of England coachman will hear of a good situation.” Those hiring criteria would appear in the London Times want ads, Prendergast tells us.

But, he was deeply offended that one such ad also appeared in the New Orleans Picayune: “A wet nurse wanted. None need apply but a Protestant. Call at 117 Common Street.” Prendergast finds this deeply offensive. Or, another ad: “Wanted – a female of English or American extraction, at one of the boarding schools of the city!” Prendergast shouts. He asks which school, so he can advise the French, German, Spanish or Irish parents to send their children to that school. He asks if the British hostility and influence has so matured here in the U.S.?

And, who was at 117 Common Street? According to the 1851 City Directory, Edward Davis, cotton broker, Thomas Henderson (firm Chery, Henderson & Co., commission merchants), John Williams, commission merchant, worked at that address. Each of those men likely earned a good living as cotton brokers or as commission merchants.  Even if Prendergast did know these particular persons in a city of over 116,000, he would have known what sort of businesses occupied that address. He chose not to call out their names, but he published their address.

Prendergast was rightly upset, but the “No Irish need apply” ads persisted well into the nineteenth century in New Orleans newspapers.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 5, 1850, p. 2, col. 1

Irish Emigrants and the Liverpool Runners

Among the many problems facing the Irish travelers to the New World were the Immigrant brokers and agents of Liverpool. Almost all ships originated from Liverpool for the Americas. The Irish travelers would arrive in Liverpool aboard steamers from the various smaller Irish ports. Upon disembarking, the passengers would be met by the runners, or “sharks,” as J.C. Prendergast describes them. Prendergast was the editor of the Daily Orleanian and an Irish immigrant himself.

The rural peasants were particularly vulnerable to the runners employed by the brokers. Many more ships sailed to New York and Boston than to the Southern ports, such as Charleston, Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans. These country residents literally sold everything they possessed for the trip to the Americas to join family or friends. The brokers knew these travelers had all they owned, typically five to thirty pounds, in their pockets. So, it was in their interest to lie to the travelers and tell them that passage to New York or Boston would lead to easy travel to New Orleans or other distant locales.

Prendergast was reminded of this rapacious conduct by the plight of an illiterate mother with two young children who found her way to New Orleans in 1849. Very likely, her family were refugees from the famine.

A Small Family

She had been sent twelve pounds or about sixty dollars by her brother in Canada. But, the nefarious broker, his name was Lyne or Lynd, had told her the best way to Quebec was through New Orleans. Her ship, the Sailor Prince, had sunk and the mother was then sent to Mobile and then onto New Orleans. She ended up in New Orleans with no money, no food, no possessions and no friends, with two children. The rivers and lakes were now frozen, warned Prendergast. So, there was no way to make a journey to Quebec. The Irish Immigrant Society was prevented by its constitution from offering assistance unless the traveler could provide some portion of the expense. So, there she was, stuck in New Orleans, some 1,800 miles from her brother in the dead of winter.

Prendergast ends his account with a plea for someone to come forward to help the poor mother with her little ones.

On Jan. 9, 1850, the Irish Union Immigrant Society of New Orleans met with the British consul in that city to discuss the matter. The consul said he would inform the Liverpoool mayor of the deceptions practiced by the Liverpool ship brokers. The consul appeared to feel some urgency about the matter.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 22, 1849, p. 2, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Jan. 10, 1850, p. 2, col. 2

The Montgomery Guards: Blessing of the Flag

Before the War, the New Orleans Daily Delta was not a pro-Irish immigrant newspaper. The Delta had published a series of articles condemning the Irish for causing all sorts of ills in the city. The Irish, said the Daily Delta, were forever “kicking up rows and breaking heads.” Yet, that same newspaper reported the consecration of the Irish Flag to be borne by the Montgomery Guards. The Montgomery Guards were named for Gen. Richard Montgomery, Irish born, who served in the Continental army during the American Revolution. He had risen through the ranks of the British army, and took up the patriot cause. He fell at Quebec. For the Irish in the 1850’s, he was a great Irish-American hero.       

War Drums

By March, 1861, Louisiana had already seceded. Ft. Sumter and Lincoln’s levy of 75,000 troops had not yet occurred. But, by St. Patrick’s Day, war looked very likely. The Montgomery Guards were the oldest Irish militia in New Orleans. In the 1800’s, militias were more than martial organizations. They served a prominent social role, as well. And, the Montgomery Guards were at the top of the Irish social ladder. Indeed, they had been criticized over the years for the expense of their uniforms. That large expense limited their membership to only the most prosperous Irish immigrants.

In times like war, the Irish turned to their trusted institutions. In 1861, the Montgomery Guards celebrated St. Patrick’s Day be seeking the blessing of the church on their flag. The flag was beautiful. It was green with fringe. On one side, there was a wreath of cotton plants, with the words, “Montgomery Guards, organized 8th January, 1861.” On the other side, there was a wreath of cotton plants, with the words, “Louisiana, our home: her cause is ours.”

St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Guards marched with their flag from their armory in what is now downtown New Orleans to St. Alphonsus church.  St. Alphonsus is uptown in the area now known as the Irish channel. St. Alphonsus was largely erected and built by Irish labor. It is said that the Irish workers would come home from their various jobs and then go work as volunteers on the church after hours.

At the church, the esteemed Fr. Duffy blessed their flag. Representatives from other militia units attended. The commander of the Louisiana Greys, Capt. Dean, attended. Sponsors of the flag included two Misses Redmond, Ann Farrell, two Misses O’Neil, Miss O’Shea, Gen. E.L. Tracy, Gen. Denis Cronan, Capt. C.D. Dreux (Orleans Cadets), Capt. C.E. Girardey (Louisiana Guards), and Capt. Dean. Fr. John B. Duffy exhorted the Montgomery Guards that defending their country with the spirit of a Christian soldier was to serve God. The female sponsors may have been the women who made the flag.

After the blessing, the Guards marched around town and returned to their armory. They held a celebration which likely included food and drink. The Daily Delta said this was the only St. Patrick’s Day celebration that year. The Irish may have left their country, but they brought much of their country with them.


New Orleans Daily Delta, March 19, 1861, p. 2, col. 6

New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 19, 1861, p. 4, col. 6

Earl Niehaus, The Irish in New Orleans (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1965), pp. 88

The Shipwrecked Irish Passengers

Arriving in the Crescent City in December, 1849, were the passengers from two ships, the Sailor Prince and the Larne.  Both ships suffered catastrophes at sea. The Sailor Prince had sunk. After sinking, the Sailor Prince passengers had been sent to Mobile. From Alabama, they were then sent to New Orleans.

The second ship, the Larne, was impacted by another ship soon after leaving Liverpool. It was forced to lay in at an Irish port and effect repairs. While laying in, the passengers were forced to consume their meager funds. Both ships carried Irish passengers bound for New Orleans. The passengers of the Larne were assisted by the Irish citizens of the Irish port to travel back to Liverpool and find new passage to New Orleans.

So, two shiploads of passengers arrived in New Orleans in December, 1849, penniless, in the midst of winter. The Irish Immigrant Society could not provide aid unless some other funds were first donated. The consistent goal in the Crescent City was to send the Irish immigrants on to the river ports on the Mississippi River where they could find work. Funds were necessary to pay for passage upriver.


J.C. Prendergast, editor of the New Orleans Daily Orleanian, reported that thanks to some generous New Orleanians, the funds were obtained. The folks who could not donate money, took in some of the passengers until funds could be located. But, some Irish residents of the city refused to help. One person said he would not donate one cent to Irishmen who did not fight tin the recent rebellion of 1848. Another Irishman said he would not offer fifty cents even if that amount would feed all the hungry passengers crowding the levee.

Prendergast was elated that the largest pledges of support for the famished travelers came from the Third Municipality, the good old Third. The Third Municipality was that part of New Orleans where resided working class immigrants. Mr. LeBeau, president of the Cotton Press (a business that “pressed” or compressed the cotton bales), donated $25. Mr. Randolph, president of the steam ferry boat, also pledged $25. Alderman Ougatte donated $20.

The Famine refugees could escape the Famine, but they could not escape the perils of ocean travel.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 29, 1849, p. 2, col. 2

Irish Orphans Traveling Alone

J.C. Prendergast, the sharp-tongued editor of the New Orleans Daily Orleanian, castigated the landlords back in Ireland for their treatment of Irish orphans. Prendergast accused the landlords of sending to the new world Irish orphans with no adult guide or escort. Prendergast said there were 5 or 6 boys, aged 10 to 15, in the immigrant home on Spain street in New Orleans. There were an equal number of girls, even younger. But, not one of the children had an adult relative in the U.S. Neither did any of these children have a single dollar with which to purchase lodging or food. Prendergast, also the President of the Irish Immigrant Union Society, called on the British Consul to make known this situation to his government and stop this practice. There would be a public meeting in the city on this very subject.

The Irish Immigrant Union also posted advertisements in the newspapers seeking unwanted clothing for the poor children.

It is hard to imagine today how persons could send children unescorted and alone to a new, strange country. Judging from his reaction, Prendergast found it just as unimaginable in 1850.

New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Feb. 7, 1850, p. 2, col. 2

Fr. Mullon, the Bravest Man

Fr. James Ignatius Mullon was one of those extraordinary priests in an extraordinary time. He was pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in New Orleans from 1834 to 1866. Fr. Mullon was born in 1793 in Derry, Ireland. He came to the U.S. with his parents when very young. His first parish was in Cincinnati, before coming to New Orleans.

At St. Patrick’s in New Orleans, he conducted 53 baptisms in 1835. That number increased to 163 in 1840 and then to 337 in 1845. The Irish population was booming and the new Father was ready for it. The church itself was a mess. Construction of St. Patrick’s started in 1835, but the tower started leaning in the soft soil. The parties agreed to take the dispute to arbitration. The construction company balked. James Gallier, an Irish architect, was called in. He succeeded in getting the church completed.

See a picture of St. Patrick’s Church here.

Raising Funds

Paying for the brick church became difficult. The parish tried to take out a mortgage. The church tried selling pews, but that did not raise enough money. The trustees took out bonds secured by the mortgage.

This was a time of significant strife for the Catholic faith. It would have been very  embarrassing if the newest church – and the only church serving Irish immigrants – failed.

By 1834, the debt load on the church had risen to $56,000. By one estimate, that would amount to $620,000 in 2019 dollars. Fr. Mullon was excluded from these financial decisions by the trustees of a corporation responsible for the financing. The church could not pay the interest on the bonds. One of the bond holders sued and won. The sheriff sold the pews for non-payment of the interest. Other bondholders and note holders began to press for payment.

In 1842, Fr. Mullon formed the Church Debt Paying association. Its members paid 25 cents each week. Fr. Mullon’s “two bits a week” association paid for the improvements to the interior of the church. But, the overwhelming notes and bonds remained outstanding.

In 1845, the sheriff seized the church for sale. Later, that year the bishop, Antoine Blanc assumed the debt for $40,000. The Bishop saved the church.

Jews and Protestants

Fr. Mullon was a friend of Jews and Protestants, at a time when such friendships were rare. He also owned two slaves. It is easy to judge the Father now. But, we do not know the circumstances of his slave ownership. It was not unheard of for persons of good-will to purchase slaves for positive reasons, such as keeping slave families together or close by. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson purchased two slaves for those very reasons. Starting in 1837, Fr. Mullon let the German Catholic immigrants use the church. He was a friend to theater people. The father was a forceful, eloquent speaker. He generally had standing room only when he said Mass. Many non-Catholics attended his Mass.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades

Fr. Mullon did not support St. Patrick’s Day parades. He believed those parades only caused censure and criticism. The Irish were handy targets for the nativists. Fr. Mullon would say Mass and then urge his flock to go home and eat a good dinner with family on St. Patrick’s Day. 

In 1837, the bishop invited Fr. Mullon to deliver the homily at St. Louis Cathedral to mark the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. The solemn Pontifical Mass was attended by legislators, judges, and civic officials. Fr. Mullon took the opportunity to lambast the nativist sentiment then growing. He criticized the “anti-American principles” of the Nativists. This drew the attention of the Nativists. In 1839, Fr. Mullon looked in on a meeting of the Native American Association at the elegant St. Charles hotel. He was surprised to see a friend there. He asked his friend what drew him there. When he heard the response, Fr. Mullon told him that if he joined the Native American party, their friendship would end.

Fr. Mullon was a very athletic man when he was young. Sometime in the late 1830’s, he found himself in a dispute over rent at a tenement. The short, Jewish proprietor struck the father. But, he did not respond. J.C. Prendergast, editor of the Daily Orleanian and a fellow Irishman, taunted the Father for not responding. Fr. Mullon asked Prendergast what would he have Fr. Mullon do, he being a man of the cloth? I could tear him to pieces, said the priest, but a minister of the meek Savior must remain a non-combatant.

The Know-Nothings

Fr. Mullon stood up to the Know Nothings. The American party members were known as Know Nothings. It was a nativist party which opposed immigration, especially Irish Catholic immigration. In 1854, there were riots, mob brawls and beatings between the Know Nothings and the Irish. The Irish were generally on the losing end of these fights. These Nativist sentiments likely kindled for Fr. Mullon memories of the severe sectarian strife in Ireland. In 1854, a large group of Irish left the St. Mary’s market, the center of the Irish neighborhood, marched down the street toward St. Patrick’s. On the way they met a mob of Know Nothings. A large brawl broke out. Fr. Mullon deplored the violence erupting across the city. But, St. Patrick’s church was never harmed.

When the Civil war broke out, the father blessed many banners and flags as the Irish troops marched off to war.

The Yankees

Fr. Mullon did not care for the Yankee occupation. The Union authorities ordered that prayers for the Confederates in churches cease. The churches, instead, must substitute prayers for the Union forces. Fr. Mullon exploded in the pulpit, excoriating this attack on religion and conscience. Gen. Butler summoned Fr. Mullon. Fr. Mullon eventually substituted silent prayer.

Another time, Gen. Butler summoned the priest. He accused him of refusing to bury a Union soldier. Fr. Mullon replied that he would be happy to bury the entire Union army, including Gen. Butler, whenever the opportunity would arise.

The Bravest Man He Ever Knew

Many of the Federal troops on duty in New Orleans were Irish Catholics. And, back in Massachusetts, Gen. Butler had been a politician who relied on support from Irish voters. So, the Federals generally left Fr. Mullon alone.

Fr. Mullon passed away in 1866. It was the end of an era. His body lay in state for two days in the church. He was laid to rest in the church in a tomb which he himself had built.


Charles Dufour, ed., St. Patrick’s of New Orleans, 1833-1958 (New Orleans: A.P. Laborde & Sons 1958), p. 63-75.

Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), p. 174.

New Orleans Daily Orleanian, March 8, 1850, p. 2, col. 2

Michael Nolan, Part II: Young Irelander

I wrote about Michael Nolan’s background as a young man here. Now, let’s talk about his older years.

In 1848, Michael Nolan heard news of the rebellion in Ireland. The rebellion in 1848 was somewhat accidental and almost unplanned. But, Michael knew something. He left his business – probably a grocery store – took his rifle and boarded a ship bound for County Tipperary, Ireland.  The New Orleans newspaper says Michael was arrested upon his arrival. But, in reality, some time passed before he was arrested. He arrived in August, 1848 in County Tipperary. This was the same county in which occurred the well-known fire fight at the Widow McCormack’s house. This rebellion was almost accidental. Its leaders agonized over strategy. The rebels were quickly put down after the brief fight at the McCormack house on July 29, 1848.  The young Michael Nolan arrived in Tipperary just days later. Michael came to the town of Thurles, which was just 25 kilometers from the Widow McCormack’s house. Thurles was the large cross roads town near where Michael grew up.


Michael was arrested in Thurles, a major cross-roads village in County Tipperary. He came under the observation of the British authorities and was watched. He arrived wearing a “large pair of whiskers.” He soon lost the whiskers. He was arrested during the evening of Aug. 8. He told the constable he had returned to Tipperary to visit family and friends. There were indeed many Nolans in County Tipperary. On his person was found a letter of introduction identifying Michael as a “real gentleman.”

Another “stranger” was arrested that same night. It is not clear if the second stranger had some connection to Nolan. The second person identified himself as Patrick Vincent Fitzpatrick. He was a “good looking young man.”  He said he formerly worked for the Dublin firm of Tierney, McGrath and Co. at 3 Christchurch place, Dublin. There was indeed a drug company known as Tierney Brothers for many years at that address. The company was indeed known as Tierney, McGrath and Co. in 1848. But, whatever his real name, the second stranger must have had a sense of humor. Patrick Vincent Fitzpatrick was a person known in political circles as a dedicated supporter of Daniel O’Connell since 1828. By 1848, the real Patrick V. Fitzpatrick would have been 56 years old, not a young man. It is not apparent from the news report whether the British authorities actually believed the “good looking young man” was truly Patrick Vincent Fitzgerald. Vincent was not a common name in 1840’s Ireland. The British must have known the name Patrick Vincent Fitzpatrick.


Michael Nolan was charged with buying guns and distributing them in the Roscrea and Birr districts, apparently meaning the civil parish of Roscrea, which includes the Goldengrove townland.  The erstwhile rebel was released after three months in the Thurles jail, based on his promise to leave the country and return to New Orleans. In 1863, Michael will be killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Dublin nationalist newspaper,  Irishman, will publish a touching tribute to Michael. He was clearly well-known to the Young Irelanders in Dublin.

Michael returned to New Orleans and re-married in October, 1850. He married Ellen Hackett, a native of King’s County, now known as County Offaly. Michael signed his own name, as did his surety and friend, Patrick McDonald.  It does not appear that Michael and Ellen had any children.


On April 8, 1856, in New Orleans, about 11:30 a.m., Michael Nolan encountered a reporter for the Daily Delta. He ran into one David L. Crowley crossing Canal Street with a man named D.C. Jenkins, one of the editors of the Daily Delta. Nolan demanded an apology for an article Crowley had written about Nolan’s contract to provide supplies to the Marine Hospital. The Daily Delta article had described Nolan as “heartless” and questioned the quality of the goods he sold to the hospital.  Newspaper accounts differ. One says Crowley drew his pistol first, while others say Nolan attacked Crowley with his cane first. In any event, Nolan struck Crowley with his cane several times. Crowley fell to the banquette (sidewalk), and shot at Nolan several times while laying on the banquette. Michael wrenched the pistol from Crowley’s grasp and tossed it away.

Meanwhile, Michael’s brother, Thomas, came on the scene. He pulled out his own revolver and fired a few shots into the air, to keep bystanders away. Jenkins drew his pistol, but was arrested by a nearby citizen.  Jenkins was taken to jail and charged with carrying a concealed weapon. A passing policeman, who knew Thomas Nolan, rushed up to take away Thomas’ pistol. In so doing, Thomas accidentally shot the policeman, named Gustave Laferranderie. All the persons involved were arrested and then released on bail.

The U.S. Marine Hospitals were a system of hospitals set up to provide care to the merchant marine seamen. Eventually, that system evolved into the U.S. Public Health Service. The Daily True Delta article described Michael as a “well known resident of the seventh precinct,” meaning the Seventh Ward.

A couple of weeks later, a hearing was held regarding the charges against Michael Nolan,  Thomas Nolan and David L. Crowley. The Recorder (a criminal court judge) found Michael and Thomas should be committed to jail or pay a bail of $100 each. The two brothers paid the bail and were released. David Crowley was discharged. From then, Michael disappears from public record until April, 1862. In April, Michael is the elected captain of the Montgomery Guards, the most prestigious Irish militia in New Orleans. That year, he and the Guards go to war.


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

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, p. 1, 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

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