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

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.

Arrested

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.

Gun-running

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.

Insulted

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.

Sources:

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

Who Were the Montgomery Guards?

I talked about the Montgomery Guards getting ready to deploy in 1861 here. We talked about their first commander, Michael Nolan. But, how about the other Montgomery Guards? Who were they? They did not leave a diary or memoir, that I can find. But, we can glean some clues about these early Irish immigrants to the port city of New Orleans. Many were members before the war began.

Dennis Callahan/Callihan started with the Montgomery Guards from the beginning. He enlisted on April 24,1861, suggesting he was a member prior to the start of the war fever. He started as the First Sergeant. But, by November, 1861, he had been promoted to 2d Lieutenant. He was 31 years old in 1861 and was a clerk before the war. He does not appear in the 1860 census or the 1861 City Directory. As a clerk, he was doing well for an Irish immigrant. But, he still remained invisible in greater New Orleans. Dennis was the Drill Master in camp. That role afforded him extra pay. Doubtless, he developed those drill skills during his militia days.

John Dunlap joined the Montgomery Guards at the outset on April 28, 1861. He left in February, 1862 to join the Confederate Navy. There was one John “Dunlop” in the 11th Ward. That John was 27 years old in 1860 and was born in Ireland. He was a laborer. He owned no real state and claimed the paltry sum of $90 in personal possessions.

James M. McDonald/McDonnell enlisted on April 28, 1861, suggesting he was a probably a member of the Montgomery Guards before the war fever started. James went AWOL in April, 1862 and did not return until he was arrested. He was court martialed. He was released from arrest by Gen. Jackson and lost $30 pay. He died July 28, 1863 at a Richmond hospital due to double pneumonia. His death reflects the reality that in camp, illness was a deadly killer. He started as a private and died as a private.

Most of the service returns use the name “McDonald.” There are several James McDonalds in the New Orleans census for 1860. All of them live within the Third, Second, and Eleventh Ward area. That area was not just the home of the Montgomery Guards. It was also the center of the Irish community. One James McDonald lived in a boarding house and coffee house. It appears his family ran the boarding house and coffee house. This James had no specified occupation, suggesting he helped with the family business. A second James McDonald of military age was a laborer and married. Neither James McDonald claimed any personal estate. In the 1860 census

John R. Maskew was literate. He started as a private and ended up s 1st Lt. by 1865. Then, as now, it was an extraordinary achievement to be commissioned as an officer from the enlisted ranks. 1stLieut. Maskew commanded the Montgomery Guards, now Co. E by the end of the war. He enlisted on April 28, 1861 in New Orleans. He was apparently a member of the Montgomery Guards before the war. He was wounded and captured at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was retired from active service in March, 1865 due to some unspecified impairment.

No Maskew appears in the 1860 census. But, there is a James Maskey who lives at 177 Tchoupitoulas, which was near the wharves. James Maskey was a track driver, according to the 1861 City Directory. That meant he rode horses in the races. New Orleans had a vibrant horse and mule track. In 1865 John Maskew married Mary Hickey. In the 1868 City Directory, which generally reflects 1867 information, John was Constable for the First Justice Court. He also worked at a coffee house in the same building as the Justice Court. He lived at 197 Magazine, somewhat close to the future Irish Channel neighborhood. John Maskew died in 1867. He was 27 years old. He was said to be a native of Ireland. His widow, Mary Hickey Maskew, 45 years old, died in 1885. She was a native of County Tipperary.

James McClaughery and Andrew M. McClaughery both enlisted in the Montgomery Guards on April 28, 1861. Andrew was enlisted by Capt. Nolan himself. They lived in the Second ward, close to the Armory. Andrew and probably James were enlisted by Capt. Nolan himself, suggesting they were prior embers of the Guards. The 1860 census records James McClaughery as “John,” but that is such an unusual name. It appears the census taker made a mistake. James/John was a tinner or tinsmith. Andrew was a “C.P.” C.P. perhaps represented colporteurs, or seller of books and newspapers. Both McClaugherys were skilled workers Both were born in Ireland.

Andrew was promoted to Sergeant in 1862. He later wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and left in the “hands of the enemy.” Eventually, he was paroled back to a Confederate hospital. Andrew was found to be unqualified for further duty.

Sources:

New Orleans Daily Picayune, Oct. 13, 1867, p. 3, obituary available at the New Orleans Public Library (Maskew)

New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 29, 1885, p. 4, obituary available at the New Orleans Public Library (hickey)

1868 Gardner’s New Orleans City Directory

Confederate Service records, available at http://www.fold3

The Montgomery Guards Go to War

The city of New Orleans had militia units, mandatory and volunteer since its founding in 1718. Several militia units helped defend the city against the British in 1815. The Irish immigrants formed their own militia units. The oldest Irish militia and the most prestigious was the Montgomery Guards. I previously spoke about the Montgomery Guards and Emmet Guards here. As the drum beats of war sounded in early 1861, the Montgomery Guards ramped up their activity, as did the other New Orleans militias. They elected as their commander, Michael Nolan, a grocer with a shop on Common street. This was the heart of the third and fourth wards, the working class areas of the Crescent City.

The Fenian

And, who was Mike Nolan? Unlike most of the newly arrived Irish, Mike owned real estate./ He claimed $30,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal estate in the 1860 census. Small groceries were used frequently by the Irish as a means to a white collar life. And, it worked well for Mike Nolan. He was married to Ellen. They had no children, but had three persons, probably employees, at their home.

Michael was born in County Tipperary about 1819. In 1848, Michael Nolan heard news of the rebellion in Ireland. He left his shop in New Orleans, bought a rifle, and sailed to his homeland. But, he was arrested as soon as he landed. He spent nine months in jail. He was released only after he agreed to leave the country. He was said to be a leader of the Fenian Brotherhood in ante-bellum New Orleans.

Fr. Hubert

Mike Nolan was also a close friend of the esteemed Father Darius Hubert. Fr. Hubert would become the chaplain of the First Louisiana Regiment and Mike Nolan would become their commander. But, before the war, Fr. Hubert was serving in Baton Rouge. So, it is not clear how the two met.

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 lead 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 the a Catholic, marked burial, rare for a Confederate soldier or officer.

It was said that the death of Lt.-Col. Nolan was a blow to the kindly priest, Fr. Hubert. 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. See here for a picture of Micheal Nolan, but notice the web site states erroneously that Nolan was buried in Richmond.

Re-Burial

After the war, Michael Nolan’s body was indeed returned to New Orleans for re-burial. The logistics of removing a body in 1866 were enormous. He was accorded a large funeral. The funeral cortege was said to be more than two miles long. Fr. Hubert and Fr. Sheeran presided.

After his death, his widow, Ellen apparently sank into poverty. In the 1870 census she was living with the William and Kate Behan family. Ellen claims no property and is listed as “Domestic Servant.” 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.

And so passed a patriotic Fenian and his family.

Sources:

Kathrine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 50, 53, 73.

Gardner’s 1861 New Orleans City Directory

Michael Dan Jones, The Fighting First Louisiana Infantry Regiment (Michael Dan Jones 2016), p. 15.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, Aug. 20, 1866, p. 1

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. They were forever “kicking up rows and breaking heads,” said the newspaper. Yet, the Daily Delta 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, but 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, war looked very likely by St. Patrick’s Day, 1861. 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 successful Irish immigrants.

In times like war, the Irish trusted the social norms they had always known. 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. 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.

After the blessing, the Guards marched around town and returned to their armory. They held a celebration with including food and drink. The Daily Delta said this was the only St. Patrick’s Day celebration that year.

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

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

Irish Militias In New Orleans

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the port of New Orleans was the second busiest port in the country. It was the fourth busiest port in the world. The influx of Irish immigrants into the Crescent City was second only to that of New York. 20,000 immigrants entered New Orleans in 1855 alone. A very large percentage of those immigrants were from Ireland. Having come from a country deeply divided over religion, the Irish gravitated to the churches. They also joined groups. One of those groups was the militias.

The leading militias in New Orleans were closed to the Irish. So, the Irish quickly formed their own militias. The Montgomery Guards was the best known.  In the ante-bellum time, militias were as much a social organization as martial organization. The Montgomery Guards were first organized in the mid- 1830’s. Their first captain was Sean O’Callaghan. Richard Hagan was the first lieutenant, John Christie was the second lieutenant, and Nicholas Sinnott, Jr. was the third lieutenant. This militia honored Gen. Ricard Montgomery of the Revolutionary War. Gen. Montgomery, a native born Irishman, captured Montreal and lead the assault on Quebec. Gen. Montgomery was killed in that assault.

The Montgomery Guards were not working class. The cost of their uniforms was criticized as excessive. The cost alone limited membership. They held a magnificent military ball every year.

The Emmet Guards was the second most prominent Irish militia. They were organized in 1850. It was often compared unfavorably to the “expert and crack” Montgomery Guards. The Emmets looked good in their splendid uniforms, but were described as more dashing than military. That likely means they did not march well. They wore coats of a very bright green, pantaloons of bright blue, with a gold braid down the sides, a cape and plumes of green. This was another uniform which the average Irish immigrant could not afford. The members came from the Latin Creole part of town, known then as the First Municipality. The Emmet Guards also held a military ball each year. They combined the event with a fund-raiser for the Orphan Boys Asylum of the Third Municipality. The Third Municipality at the time was a working class section of New Orleans.

The Emmet Guards included some of the leading politicians in the city. Its first captain was Alderman McLaughlin. Its next captain was William J. Castell, a well known lawyer and notary in his day.

In addition to these two militias, there were some half dozen other Irish militias which existed more on paper than in reality. But, the Louisiana Greys did exist in reality and it did last for years. The Greys would join with the Emmet Guards for target practice and parades. One chief function for all the Irish militias was the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. In the 1850’s, St. Patrick’s Day started with Mass. Soon after Mass, the parades commenced and they would last for much of the day.

The Louisiana Greys were composed of members from the Second Municipality, an area that corresponds roughly with the area soon to be known as the Irish Channel. It was also the American section. The Greys were more middle class. The Greys established a special relief committee for victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1853 for residents of the Second Municipality. One of the early secretaries for the Greys was this author’s ancestor, George Price.

Other companies, the Irish Volunteers, the Hibernian Guards, the Irish Republican Volunteers, and the Mitchell Guards did not last long.

The Third Municipality never did develop its own militia company. The Montgomery Guards and the Emmet Guards would later become part of the First Louisiana Volunteers in the Civil War.

Laura D. Kelley, Erin’s Enterprise, Ph.d Dissertation 2004 (on file at Tulane Univ.), p. 50

Laura Kelly, The Irish in New Orleans (Lafayette: Univ. of L. at Lafayette Press 2014), p. 56.

Earl Niehaus, The Irish in New Orleans (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1965), pp. 112-116