Irish Travelers 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.

Source:

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

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

The Yankee Occupation Begins

The young Clara Solomon ignored her diary for a couple of weeks before recording her depressed thoughts. She was completely overwhelmed that her heroic Southerners had lost the city of New Orleans. The teenage girl thought this the worst calamity. She and her neighbors, the Nathans, were mortified that the Confederate army was withdrawing from New Orleans and the Yankees had penetrated the outer perimeter of forts. Mrs. Nathan was, of course, terrified for the prospect of her husband in the militia. The schools closed immediately. Clara, a young substitute teacher, would not be occupied with her former duties. Likely, her sewing duties, or wrappings for patients, would also be curtailed. Their days would change dramatically.

Family friends advised the Solomons to leave the City and find their father in Virginia. Solomon Solomon was a sutler for the Confederate army in Virginia. But, they stayed, as if frozen by fear.

Burning the Cotton

The next day, the Solomons went downtown. Meeting a family friend, they resolved to leave the city on the last few trains. Suddenly, a great crowd of downtown pedestrians started shouting, “They are coming!!” Over and over they shouted as the crowd started in a mad scramble going nowhere. Clara and her family saw the boats burning at the docks. The Confederate forces were burning the cotton and the boats to deny their use to the Yankees.

The two families, the Solomons and the Nathans arrived home later that day, April 25, 1862, wet from the rain and bone tired. They started packing. They had no idea where they would go, so long as it was away from the invaders.

Negotiations

No train was leaving. The newspaper revealed the Confederate and state leadership had fled the City. The mayor was now the ranking official. The family found solace in the Mayor’s determination not to remove the Louisiana flag. Commander Farragut threatened to bombard the city unless they removed the flag. The Commander noted that the flag the U.S. forces had raised at the Customs house had been removed and dragged through the streets. He warned the Crescent City that women and children needed to leave within 48 hours before the bombardment would commence.

Mayor Monroe then replied to the Commander that there was no way to remove the women and children in the city of 150,000 persons.

All the Men Were Gone

It was then that young Clara understood the awful truth, there was no man, no men left to protect their families in the City. The women and children were at the mercy of the Yankees.

The family then resolved to go to Carrollton, a small town upriver from New Orleans. A few hours later, a male family friend came by and assured them that if there was to be a bombardment, it would surely be focused only on City Hall, where the Louisiana flag flew.

The next day, the newspapers published accounts of the outer forts at the mouth of the Mississippi River; The forts had indeed surrendered. Mr. Nathan came home, after days of no word. He said his militia regiment had disbanded. He was home to stay. A male family friend came by the Solomon house and told them the flags had been lowered downtown. The City, said Clara, had resisted as long as it could and had retained its dignity.

Gen. Benjamin “Picayune” Butler had arrived. The Delta newspaper would continue to publish. That was Clara’s favorite newspaper. But, she lamented, it would no longer publish stories about the Confederate armies in Tennessee and Virginia. It would be limited to city news. Clara gloried in the fact that $2,000,000 worth of cotton was burned, denying it to the enemy. She hoped “Yellow Jack” (yellow fever) would make one of its frequent visits and take many of the Yankees. Gen. Butler forced the fashionable St. Charles hotel to open and accept his staff.

The Rabbi prayed for the Confederate states. Clara worried about the future of the schools and churches.

What Clara did not admit – if she knew –  in her diary was that the Louisiana regiments largely disappeared in the mad rush to exit the City. It was not just the militia units that disbanded and simply went home, as her friend, Mr. Nathan, did. One of the perimeter forts, Ft. Jackson, saw a mutiny by the troops. This was the only mutiny in the Confederate army during the war. She also did not mention the crowd who initially gathered on the levee as the first U.S. ship sailed upriver into the port. A crowd of men cheered the Yankees. The Union supporters waived their hats. But, the celebration only lasted a few minutes when a troop of Confederate cavalry rode up, and fired into the gathering crowd. The city had more Unionist support than we might expect today. Many New Orleanians were transplants from Northern states.

Union Sentiment

Later, the young Clara will mention the strong Union sentiment in the City. After some weeks have passed under Yankee occupation, she will acknowledge that the Union sentiment has been suppressed in New Orleans. The Queen City of the Mississippi was unique in the South because she had so many immigrants from Northern states.

Yes, these were dark days for the young Clara as the war changed completely in her little part of the South. But, she was not broken. As she said, “we are conquered, but not subdued.” She considered evacuating the City as some of her friends did. But, she believed she should stay in the Queen City of the South in her hour of need. That is patriotism indeed.

Sources:

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

Michael D. Pierson, Mutiny at Ft. Jackson (Univ. of N. Carolina Press 2008), pp. 2-3, 124.          

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 343-351, 358.

Here Come the Yankees

On April 22, 1862, nothing was more frightening for a resident of New Orleans, white or black, than the Yankees coming. The Emancipation Proclamation had not yet been issued. Federal troops were not yet seen as protectors of the black residents. Clara Solomon was very patriotic. She was also a dedicated reader of the newspapers, often consuming more than one newspaper per day. By April 22, 1862, she knew the Union forces were literally at the gate. They were bombarding the forts at the mouth of the Mississippi – just downriver from the port of New Orleans. On the same day, the reports from the bloody Battle of Shiloh rolled into the Crescent City. The city knew in a deep, palpable way that the toll on young New Orleans men was indeed great.

Her neighbor and close family friend, Sammy Nathan, was a member of the Crescent Artillery, a militia unit. The militia units today come with a reputation of avoiding service. But, Sammy was different. He was a patriot. He was quite prepared to offer his life to defend New Orleans. He was prepared to follow his regiment to “h—l,” wrote the young diarist. Sammy was over 35 years and, therefore, free from the Confederate Conscription Act. But, Sammy was determined to do his part. Clara herself was dedicated to her country and equally patriotic. She would expect no less from her friend and a close friend of the entire Solomon family, Sammy Nathan.

Clara and Sammy were Jewish. But, this invasion inspired patriotism among all.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995)

Clara, p. 208, 338.

Undying Devotion to Duty

It is a beautiful hand-carved memorial. The Rapides Parish Confederate memorial asks the viewer to recall those who served in the Civil War from Rapides Parish and did not return. The front or north face is inscribed:

Dedicated to the Confederate soldiers in Rapides parish

Their memory is enshrined

In the hearts of the people

And the record of their

Sublime self-sacrifice as is

Undying devotion to duty in

The same service of the South and

In the proud heritage of

Loyal posterity.

Erectd by the Thomas Overton Moore Chapter

Daughters of the Confederacy

Alexandria, Louisiana

1914

Faithful to our fallen heroes

On the west face appear these words:

Ye kept the faith

‘Twas glorious thus to die

And woman’s love has

Raised a lofty stone,

To tell the truth to

Those who pass by

On the southern face are carved these words:

In loving memory of the

Mothers and sisters and

Sweethearts of the gallant

Soldiers of Rapides

It was the teaching of the

Southern home which provided

The Southern soldier the

Deep foundation of whose

Duty and reliance of God

By the side of every Southern

Soldier, there marched unseen

A Southern woman

And, on the east side appear the stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s poem:

God of our Fathers,

Known of old, battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand, we hold

Dominion over palm and pine,

Lord God of Hosts be with us yet

Lest we forget, lest we forget

Recessional

Kipling’s poem was first published in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Kipling’s poem, “Recessional,” suggests the British empire will pass one day. But, reliance on God will stand the test of time. The poem warns of a time when all the “pomp of yesterday” recedes. The navies are gone. The achievements of man turn to dust and disappear. Men should be wary of their boasting and pride.

The poem quickly became popular in the U.S. which had seen so many dead just three decades before. The Recessional poem was adopted for many Confederate memorials in this time period. Unlike their Northern antagonists, virtually all Southern boys never saw a proper, marked grave. Few families could visit a grave for their sons and husbands. These memorials took the place of those graveyards.

The memorial includes no words about Jim Crow or maintaining a certain social order. Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes this Rapides Parish memorial as a “symbol of hate and white supremacy.”

The Yankees at the Gates

Clara Solomon wrote a wonderfully detailed diary during the Civil War in New Orleans. She was born in 1844. Her family were Sephardic Jews from South Carolina. Her father was Solomon Solomon who made a good living as a merchant. After the Civil War, his finances would reverse. But, for now, they were solidly middle class.

The Provost Marshalls

The war was never far from Clara’s thoughts or activities. But, on March 15, 1862, Clara felt fear when the Confederate Army (i.e., Maj-Gen. Lovell) declared martial law in New Orleans. She commented that the news “startled the timid,” but on seeing the Provost Marshals, confidence was at once restored. The marshals were as follows

Wm Freret                               First District

Cyprien Dufour                       Second District

Hon. Pierre Soule                   Third District

Col. H. D. Ogden                    Fourth District

Capt. Norbert Trepagnier       Algiers

Judge Victor Burthe                Jefferson Parish

And, well they should have confidence. William Freret was the man for whom Freret street is named. He had served as mayor of the city in the 1840’s and was a strong supporter of the school system.

Pierre Soule was one of those persons in Louisiana politics who was a household name. He had served as senator from Louisiana and as ambassador to Spain. He has been described as  a “fire-eater,” meaning he was an ardent secessionist. He was a lawyer in New Orleans, known for defending the filibusterer, William Walker. Soule had a colorful past. He published in France an article critical of church and state. He was sentenced to prison, but left for the United States. Later, during the Yankee occupation, he will be arrested for allegedly provoking unrest. He will be sent to prison in New York, but will escape. For more about Pierre Soule, see Dictionary of Louisiana Biography here.

Cyprien Dufour had studied law in the office of Pierre Soule. He later served as District Attorney for Orleans parish and as assistant Attorney General for the state of Louisiana. These were the heavy-weights in New Orleans political circles who were still in town. Everyone else was off at war.

Martial Law

Martial law also meant the city’s coffee houses and saloons would close at 8 pm every night, recorded the young Clara. Not mentioned by Clara, there would also be a system of passports issued which would restrict egress and ingress into the city.

The Federal fleet had appeared at the mouth of the Mississippi on March 13, 1862. The Confederate commander, Maj-Gen.Mansfield Lovell, had been begging for reinforcements. Now, all that was too late.

Sources:

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 290.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, March 15, 1862, p. 1

Sherman Shelling Civilians

A reader recently asked about one of my posts about Gen. Sherman. He disagreed with my post which charged Gen. Sherman with a war crime. See that post here.

My post focused not on the war crime itself, but on the dialogue that ensued between Gen. Hood and Gen. Sherman. The reader brought up a valid point, that there were facilities in Atlanta, a large railroad depot, an iron works, etc. which the Federal artillery may have been targeting. The reader suggested the Federal artillery was not deliberately targeting civilian homes. In the Army, we call that collateral damage. And, in 1864, or in 2021, collateral damage can be very hard to avoid. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we did everything we could to avoid collateral damage. But, the Federals before Atlanta did not.

Fire at the Houses

And, now we know from Sherman’s own military records what he told his commanders. Gen. Sherman did not tell his gunners to fire at the railroad depot or at the iron works. The depot could be seen from the Yankee positions. It was a large building. But, no, Sherman did not tell his generals to target the large building. He told Gen. Thomas on Aug. 1 as the siege was commencing, “You may fire from 10 to 15 shots from every gun you have in position into Atlanta that will reach any of its houses.” On Aug. 7, he told Gen. Thomas to bring down his Parrot guns from Chattanooga and put them into position to “knock down the buildings of the town.”  Sherman told his generals to target the houses and the buildings.[1]

In another dispatch, he told his soldiers to “make sad havoc” on Atlanta and “reach the heart of Atlanta and reduce it to ruins.” There was no mention in these dispatches of the railroad depot or iron works. In another dispatch to Gen. Thomas, he told him to “get your guns well into position . . . let them open up slowly, and with great precision, making all parts of the city unsafe.” Here, Sherman makes it clear that all parts of the city are fair game. He warned Gen. Oliver to ignore the Confederate artillery fire – the Confederates want to draw your fire, said Sherman. But, that would distract them from their more important goal: destroy Atlanta and “make it a desolation.” And, of course, the Federals had a huge advantage. They had virtually unlimited artillery shells. The Confederate artillery batteries had to husband their shells very carefully.[2]

The Federal artillery could range the center of the city, so they could effectively fire anywhere they wished. Stephen Davis in his book,“What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta,” found that the Yankees dropped about 32,418 shells on the city during that 36 day siege. All those rounds fell within a 2 mile radius of the commercial center known as Five Points. See website here.

5,000 Civilians

The better defense of Sherman’s violations of the rules of war is that he believed the Atlanta civilians had evacuated. But, no, the general had sufficient intelligence from Confederate prisoners and even from the few Atlanta newspapers to know some 5,000 civilians remained. The ones who remained were those too poor or with too few resources to evacuate. It was generally the better off folks or those who had family in the rural areas who evacuated.[3]

Fire at Night

And, too he told his gunners to fire at night. It is incredibly difficult to target artillery at night. Artillery fire, even today, must be observed to make it accurate. A person, even today, cannot simply look down the barrel of an artillery piece and aim it. Someone must observe the point of impact and adjust fire toward the intended target. That would be exceedingly difficult to do at night. In theory, they could have registered targets and then fired them at night. But, if a target was registered, why were they missing the supposed target by miles.[4]

One could argue, perhaps, that Sherman told his gunners to target houses, but perhaps his men did not listen to him. No, unfortunately, that is not true. There are accounts of artillery men gloating over their success. “I have the honor to report that at least three houses, two frame and one brick, were destroyed by the fire in Atlanta,” said one signal officer one afternoon. “Our shells burst in the city right and left of brick stack,” (apparently meaning chimneys) Gen. Thomas reported in a dispatch. Some batteries reported they heated up some shells in furnaces with the hopes of starting fires when the shells landed within the city. Whether these “hot shots” worked is not known.[5]

Targeting Burning Houses

But, there were many fires during the siege. The Atlanta fire companies were kept very busy. Houses caught fire almost daily. The few firemen remaining in the city – many were serving in the Confederate army – found it dangerous to go to the fires. The Federal gunners would typically target the burning fires. The smoke was easy to see in the day. And, the fire was easy to see at night.[6]

And, of course, the gunners did not succeed in damaging the train station. It remained standing until the Federals evacuated and burned the city.

Notes

1. Russell S. Bonds, War Like a Thunderbolt (Pennsylvania: Westholme Publ. 2009), p. 212-214

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4.“A Very Barbarous Mode of Carrying on War”: Sherman’s Artillery Bombardment of Atlanta, July 20 – August 24,1864,” Georgia Hist. Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp.57-90.

5. Russell S. Bonds, War Like a Thunderbolt (Pennsylvania: Westholme Publ. 2009), p. 212-214

6. Ibid.

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.

Sources:

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.

Donations

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.

Source:

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

Cow Peas

By May 31, 1863, Day 15 of the siege of Vicksburg, the Confederates were reduced to eating ground up cow peas (black-eyed peas) as a substitute for flour or corn meal. Baking this concoction resulted in the hardest of hard-tack on the outside. But, inside, it would be nearly raw. It was not a popular food item with the soldiers. The Union soldiers learned about the new rations, perhaps from deserters. As often occurred between the two opposing armies in close quarters, the Union soldiers would harangue the besieged Confederates. “Come over,” they would urge, “and join us for a good cup of coffee and a biscuit.” Some of the Confederates would respond that the Federals need not worry, they still had many mules to fall back on for sustenance.

A.A. Hoehling, Vicksburg: 47 Days of Siege (Penn.: Stackpole Books 1996), p. 83-84.