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

 

 

The Winter of 1862-1863

The Confederate Army was chronically ill-equipped. It was still the second year of the war, yet the soldiers lacked basic necessities. After the Battle of Antietam and the invasion of Pennsylvania, William Monaghan assumed command of the Louisiana Sixth Regiment of Infantry. He was their fourth colonel. The Louisiana Sixth was known as the Irish Brigade, because it had so many Irish members. Out of a nominal strength of 664, by November, 1862, it had decreased to 289 soldiers ready for duty.

Many were barefoot or close to barefoot. They lacked shoes, blankets, coats and other clothing items. The boys, wrote one Louisiana soldier, were “shivering & huvering around their little chunk fires.” One soldier wrote that the entire army was basically shoeless. Capt. Ring, a company commander, wrote in a muster report that the health of his men was excellent, “conduct in the difficult engagements beyond all praise.” But, they were in want of blankets and shoes.

The winter of 1862-1863 in northern Virginia was particularly harsh. The men endured frequent, heavy snow falls. “Snow nearly knee deep, weather wet, cold and disagreeable,” wrote Capt. Michael O’Connor in his February muster report. Capt. O’Connor also complained about the slim rations for the men. Before the war, Capt. O’Connor was a store-keeper in New Orleans. Rations for the prior two weeks included one quarter pound of flour, one-quarter pound of bacon, three ounces of sugar, per man per day. This for men living outdoors and engaging in regular physical exercise. Yet, added the Captain, the men are in good health and in good spirits.

During the winter encampment, the Confederate and Union armies were separated by the Rappahannock River, some 100 yards wide. By mutual agreement, the opposing sentries did not shoot at each other, so long as the two armies remained static. Such was the winter of 1862-1863 in northern Virginia.

James Gannon, Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers (Iowa: Da Capo Press Press 1998), p. 144-148

 

Recruiting the Irish In New Orleans

Recruiting Irish soldiers was pretty simple in 1861 New Orleans. William Monaghan knew how to do it. He published an ad in the New Orleans Daily Picayune:

“The roll for the formation of Company B. Irish Brigade will be opened on Monday, the 29th ins[tant], at 10:00 o’clock A.M. at the Olive Branch Coffee House, corner Erato and Tchoupitoulas streets, the undersigned will be present every day and evening until the roll shall be filled up . . . prompt action is now expected of every Irishman in the present crisis.”

Daily Picayune, May 12, 1861. Capt. Monaghan’s choice may have been meant as humor, or perhaps it was simply good recruiting. The coffee house in those days served everything but coffee. They were drinking establishments, precursors to saloons. It has been said by some historians that many business deals were concluded at the nearest coffee house. Capt. Monaghan knew where to find his Irish recruits and where to close the deal.

Capt. Monaghan picked the right geographical location for the Irish dock workers and draymen. The corner of Erato and Tchoupitoulas was ground zero for the New Orleans docks. Capt. Monaghan knew where to find strong Irish men.

Before the war, Capt. Monaghan was a notary in the Crescent City. Notaries in early New Orleans operated under the civil law system. In the civil law system, notaries draft contracts and wills. They were educated and prominent. Capt. Monaghan would eventually become commander of the Sixth Louisiana Regiment, known as the South’s Irish Brigade.

The same day on which Monaghan’s ad appeared, a separate ad appeared in the same newspaper announcing that “Company A, Irish Brigade,” would drill that evening. The notice was signed by S.L. James, Captain. Capt. James would later be elected major of the Sixth Louisiana Brigade the next month.

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

James P. Gannon, Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers (Iowa: De Capo Press 1998), pp. ix, xii

When They Can’t Be Fired

It is an understatement to say that slavery was inhumane. But, when we read diaries or letters from our Southern ancestors, one cannot help but notice their complete ignorance about race. I know that is to be expected to some degree. Science was so new and raw in the 1860’s. Educated people truly believed some races were inferior in some scientific way.

We read diaries like Clara Solomon’s wonderful diary and we are just amazed at their ignorance. The Solomon family had one domestic slave, Lucy. The Solomons lived in New Orleans, which treated slaves much better than in the rural parishes. Clara is only 17 years old, so we expect she was reflecting the sentiments of her parents. Her father, Solomon Solomon was in Virginia. But, Clara talks several times in her diary about how duplicitous and dishonest Lucy was at times. Yet, Lucy was loyal. She stayed with the family even after emancipation.

In one passage, Clara talks about Lucy engaging in numerous unwarranted falsehoods. Clara is simply reflecting her mother’s angst, I am sure. But, it is clear the Solomons have no real leverage. In a modern employment relationship, an employer can deduct pay, issue written warnings, or demote a worker who engages in “unwarranted” falsehoods. But, slavery was nothing like a modern employment relationship. When you have taken someone’s complete liberty, what else is there?

In the slave narratives, we see the same effect. Essentially, these former slaves report that their masters had two courses of action for mis-behaving slaves: whipping or selling them. Which was worse? To whip a man or woman until s/he was bloody, or sell him or her away from his/her home? Both courses of action engage in some level of cruelty. See the slave narratives here.

What could the Solomons do other than complain about Lucy? The Solomons were a nice, middle class family. If they would not whip or sell, there was little else they could do.

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995, p. 144

Why Would the Irish Fight for the South?

The Irish immigrant enlisted in the Confederate army in droves. Throughout the South, they joined their American neighbors. Why would they bother? In the North, a non-citizen was not required to serve. In the South, non-citizens were not expected to enlist. Although, there was substantial pressure especially later in the war to enlist. So, if the Irish immigrant could avoid service, why bother?

Pat Cleburne, a native of County Cork, rose to Major General in the Confederate army before he was killed at the Battle of Franklin in 1864. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1828. He became a very popular division commander in an army with many well-respected division commanders. In May, 1861, in the earliest days of the war, he wrote to his brother regarding his opinion of the upcoming war:

                  “I believe the North is about to wage a brutal and unholy war on a people who   have done them no wrong, in violation of the government. They no longer acknowledge that all government derives its validity from the consent of the governed. They are about to invade our peaceful homes, destroy our property, and inaugurate a servile insurrection, murder our men and dishonor our women. We propose no invasion of the North, no attack on them, and only ask to be left alone. They cannot conquer us but would turn the wolf from their own door by letting this idle, brutal mob come here to be destroyed. . . . Our army is for protection. Lincoln’s to subjugate and enslave the whole Southern people and divide the property among his vulgar unprincipled mob.”

A lawyer in Arkansas, still on the edge of the frontier, Mr. Cleburne set forth the views of the average Southerner well. The remarkable thing, perhaps, is that so many immigrants came to the South and also felt that siege mentality so quickly. The thing about the ante-bellum South that most folks overlook is that defensiveness or siege mentality so many felt at the time. The South had been attacked by abolitionists for decades by 1861. They were defensive.

Maj-Gen. Cleburne reflects that defensiveness. But, he makes a salient point. The North invaded the South, not the reverse. His views that early in the war were prescient. See more about Maj-Gen Cleburne here.

Laura Kelly, The Irish in New Orleans (Lafayette: Univ. of L. at Lafayette Press 2014), p. 58.

John Mitchel, Twice a Rebel

One of the remarkable persons in Irish history was John Mitchel. He was born in northern Ireland in 1815, son of Unitarian clergyman. His father had been a United Irishman, meaning he supported the rebellion in 1798. John attended Trinity University in Dublin. He practiced as a solicitor until he became editor of the Nation, a newspaper in Dublin. He supported the repeal movement, which advocated repealing the union between Ireland and Britain. He became one of those young men who surrounded the Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell. Mr. O’Connell’s overarching goal was to repeal the union, so Ireland would once again have its own parliament.

In 1846, Mitchel, Thomas Meagher, and others, separated themselves from Mr. O’Connell, believing his more peaceful methods were too slow.  They formed the Irish Confederation. Soon, Mitchel withdrew from that group, as well. He started a new newspaper, the United Irishmen. Issuing flaming rhetoric, he advocated violent change in Ireland. He called for a holy war to wipe the English name from the Irish isle. Within weeks, he was arrested. He was sentenced to 14 years transportation – meaning he would be exiled to the Australian colony.

Soon, Thomas Meagher and other members of Young Ireland were also sentenced to Australia. They were allowed to live in the community on parole. Meagher, Mitchel and the other Young Irelanders became fast friends. With help from a friend from New York, Mitchel escaped and came to the U.S. He arrived in New York to a hero’s welcome. Bands played, crowds cheered, the Napper Tandy Light Artillery gave him a 31-gun salute. Within weeks, however, Mr. Mitchel offended his hosts. Mr. Mitchel never shrunk from controversy. He alienated the Irish born Archbishop, John Hughes for his support of the papacy’s temporal powers. He grievously offended abolitionists with his open support of slavery. Abolitionists tended to be Evangelical and puritan, which was antithetical to his Presbyterian views. And, many Abolitionists tended to be nativists who disliked the Irish. A friend suggested he be more judicious with his public pronouncements. He responded, “they might as well whistle jigs to a milestone.” Milestones were (and still are) those stones on English and Irish roadways marking the distance traveled.

Mr. Mitchel visited the South. He found their views on slavery consistent with his. He settled in Tennessee in 1855 and bought a farm. By 1857, he and his family were living in Knoxville, where Mitchel started a newspaper and earned money giving lectures. Mitchel’s views on slavery strengthened. He believed the Negro race was inferior, as did many so-called learned men of the day. He believed slavery was good for the slaves, as much for society in general. He started a newspaper advocating slavery and seeking to re-open the African slave trade. Even in the South at the time, most educated Southerners opposed the African slave trade on moral grounds. Some Southern newspapers denounced him and his views. They believed he was playing into the hands of the northern abolitionists. Mitchel believed the North was trying to impose its views on the South, just as England imposed its views on the Irish.

Mitchel went to Europe in 1859, thinking a breach between England and France might help Ireland. That hope did not materialize. He stayed in Paris. As the states began to secede in 1861, he approved. When war broke out in May, 1861, his two oldest sons enlisted. Mitchel returned to American in 1862 with his youngest son, Willie. Willie also wanted to join the Confederate cause.

They crossed over near Baltimore, evading Federal patrol boats. Willie immediately joined the First Virginia Infantry with one of his brothers, James. Mr. Mitchel himself tried to enlist, but was turned away due to near-sightedness. He did serve with an ambulance unit and performed occasional guard duty. John Mitchel then became the editor of the Richmond Daily Enquirer. He wrote scathing editorials of the Emancipation Proclamation and about Lincoln. He believed the proclamation would incite slaves to rebel, which would get them killed. He denounced Lincoln as the common enemy of “both black and white.”

When some generals, such as Robert E. Lee and Patrick Cleburne (another native of Ireland) supported making slaves soldiers in return for their freedom, Mitchel opposed the move. He noted, ironically we would say today, that if blacks could serve as soldiers, then Southern society had been wrong about slavery from the start. “Duh,” we might add today.

Mitchel’s old friend, Thomas Francis Meagher, became commander of the famed New York 69th Regiment, the Irish Brigade. At the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, the Federal 69th Regiment faced off against the 1st Virginia Regiment with Willie and his brother, James. John Mitchel visited his sons and cursed his inability to participate. The Irish Brigade advanced over and over, lead often by Meagher himself, and were mown down. The 1st Virginia fell under Gen. Pickett. Pickett wrote his wife that as he watched their green flag advance again and again, “his heart almost stood still as he watched those sons of Erin . . . My darling, we forgot they were fighting us, and cheer after cheer at their fearlessness went up along our lines.” Meagher watched as some 90% of his brigade was killed or wounded.

In subsequent battles, Willie Mitchel was killed. The 1st Virginia under Gen. Pickett was there at the Battle of Gettysburg and suffered its own horrendous charge. Willie died bravely, seizing the colors as its bearer was about to fall. Although wounded, he carried the Regimental flag forward until he was cut down himself. John Mitchel wrote that Willie died in honorable company and could have asked for no more an enviable fate. Upon learning that a son of John Mitchel had fallen, Irish soldiers on the Union side made particular effort to look for his body, but did not locate it.

As the war dragged on, Mitchel became increasingly disillusioned with Jefferson Davis’ leadership, as did many Southerners. Moving to a second newspaper in 1863, Mitchel became a regular critic of Jeff Davis. He also wrote for some Irish newspapers. In a letter to the Nation in Dublin, he applauded the bravery of Irish soldiers fighting for the Union army. But, he added, they were dupes, fooled by false promises of land in the South and said they were fighting for a government that despised them.

As U.S. Grant assumed control of the Federal army, casualties mounted. John Mitchel’s ambulance unit saw carnage and horror. He observed the horror, but noted that he never saw cowardice and found delight as people were roused in this way, determined to meet their fate. He denounced Grant as a butcher willing to sacrifice four Federal soldiers to kill one Confederate.

In 1864, John Mitchel learned that his eldest son, John, was killed at Ft. Sumter. James was now the only son still alive and he had lost an arm. Probably to spare the family further grief, James was transferred to a staff post in Richmond.

After the war, James moved to New York and become a city fire marshal. His son, James Purroy Mitchel will be elected mayor of New York in 1913.

When Lee surrenders, Mitchel will be one of those die-hards who refuse to admit the war is over. He evacuates to Danville, Georgia with some members of the Confederate government. After the last Confederate force surrendered in May, 1864, Mitchel returned to New York, where he thought he could earn a living. Many New Yorkers insisted John Mitchel be arrested. Some claimed Mitchel had advocated mis-treatment of Union prisoners. Mitchel responded by denouncing the harsh conditions in which Jeff Davis was then being kept. He was arrested in June for an allegedly seditious article he had written.

His prison cell was damp, which made his asthma much worse. The food was not edible and he could not exercise. He could not write. The prison doctor warned that Mitchel’s prison conditions were not improved, he would die. The authorities relented and let him walk, have materials with which to write, and gave him better food. Mitchel was now stooped, haggard and looked much older than his 50 years. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis praised him as a gallant gentlemen. Many leading Irish-Americans and Fenian veterans from the Union army complained about his treatment. He was released in October, 1865. His lawyers told him that he if said anything offensive, he would likely be arrested, again. They recommended that he move to Europe until passions cooled in the U.S. John Mitchel responded that he had now been imprisoned for expressing his views by the two states in the western world that most prided themselves on progressive and liberal ideals. “They are both in the wrong; but then, if I am able to put them in the wrong, they are able to put me in the dungeon.”

To get him out of the U.S., the Fenians made him their financial agent in Paris. In the remaining ten years of his life, he was more subdued and contemplative. He acknowledged that his support of the Confederacy, while a good cause, had cost him two sons, for a country that was not theirs. Like many Irish rebels, he gave the best part of his life to the cause of another country. Shortly before his death in 1875, he was elected to Parliament from his old home town in northern Ireland, without opposition.

Today, John Mitchel is often the forgotten revolutionary. His views lead directly to the Fenian movement, which in turn lead to the IRA in 1916. But, his views on slavery have become hard to swallow in a country, where the Irish Catholics themselves were enslaved at times. See here for a biography of John Mitchel.

Source: “Southern Citizen: John Mitchel, the Confederacy and slavery,History Ireland, Vol. 15, Issue 3, May/June 2007.

 

Letters Home

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is essentially a regional archive. It contains voluminous records of Ireland and Irish history. It also includes countless letters home from Irish abroad in the U.S. Most Irish and Most Irish-Americans today expect the Irish immigrants surely condemned slavery. After all, the Irish had been subjugated by England for centuries. They had even been enslaved by the English on occasion. Yet, the letters home reflect a more mixed bag of sentiments.

One letter from William McElderry to relatives in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim advocated slavery. Mr. McElderry, writing from Lynchburg, Virginia, pointed to the Bible to justify slavery. After all, he noted, slavery existed in the time of Jesus Christ. Yet, Christ, who criticized all that was evil never criticized slavery. He supported John Mitchel, the Irish rebel who escaped from an Australian prison and landed in New York. In New York, the Irish firebrand Mitchel advocated slavery in a town filled with abolitionists. Mr. McElderry thought Mitchel was spot on.

Yet, from Georgia came a letter by R. Campbell to John Campbell in Belfast decrying slavery and pointing to the Bible for authority.

Ft. Sumter

Pvt. John Thompson, 1st US Artillery, wrote to his father, Robert Thompson of Articlave, Co. Londonerry, about the surrender at Ft. Sumter. The bombardment at Ft. Sumter started the U.S. Civil War. The young Pvt. Thompson loved the U.S. flag. But, he described the Confederates as the “rebel gentlemen.” The rebel gentlemen afforded the Union soldiers the honours of war. They were allowed to retain their personal weapons. They were allowed to salute their flag and would then be provided transportation to any destination north they desired. Brett Irwin, archivist at the PRONI, noted, the two sides generally respected one another, more than in most nineteenth century wars. He found a sense of respect and courtesy reflected in these letters home.

Battle of Antietam

William McFarland, born in Co. Antrim, wrote to his brother in Philadelphia about the Battle of Antietam. The young McFarland served in the union Army, commanded by Gen. McLelland [sic]. He served during the Battle of Antietam. He believed Gen. McLellan was not aggressive enough after the battle. He served at the siege of Richmond. He told his brother he “faiced [sic] death on the edge of all those battle fields.”

Brett Irwin, “Irish Voices from the American Civil War,” History Ireland, Vol. 23 *Nov/Dec, 2015)

Some Irish Immigrants Tolerated Slavery

So, what did the Irish immigrants to the Southern U.S. think about slavery? We know from numerous sources that many Irish laborers saw themselves as competing against slaves and free African-Americans. Most immigrants were not “fire-eaters” – that is, they were not ardent secessionists. Some wealthier Irish did purchase slaves. This author’s own Irish immigrant ancestor owned a slave for a few years. Even the well-respected Father Mullon in New Orleans owned two slaves. Father Mullon was pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans and helped face down the Know Nothings. He was said to be a friend to Jews and Protestants in a time when that was a rare quality.

Some immigrants wrote home about slavery. At about the same time that the Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, was publicly criticizing the “peculiar institution,” Irish in the Southern U.S. were distancing themselves him. Maria McLaughlin wrote to her Irish brother in Savannah, Georgia criticizing him for questioning Daniel O’Connell’s right to criticize slavery. Maria believed the Great Liberator was right to question the “enemies of liberty.” But, her brother worked as a clerk for men involved in the slave and cotton business.

William McElderry and his brother, Robert, Irish immigrants and now living in the South defended their new home against criticisms by their sister back In Ireland. They insisted the black slaves were contented. William added that the slaves were well dressed and often have money of their own. William said he had seen some slaves who had been whipped, but, he assured his sister, they “deserved it.”

Moses Paul, also writing home to his sister in Ireland, took offense at his sister’s charge that they were “savages” for owning slaves. Mr. Paul admitted many Southerners owned slaves, so they could earn money. But, he insisted the slaves were contented and lived better than the poor back in Ireland. He did point out that unlike the Irish landlord, no slave owner would ever deliberately starve his slaves.

Dennis Corcoran, a New Orleans newspaper man, wrote Daniel O’Connell on behalf of the New Orleans Repeal Association that any attempt to subvert slavery now, as the abolitionists contemplate, would start a civil war. Mr. Corcoran argued that Mr. O’Connell’s advocacy against slavery was hurting the Irish immigrants. He pointed out that the Louisiana Native American Association (a society that advocated more stringent requirements for naturalization and which opposed immigrants) used O’Connell’s advocacy to attack all New Orleans Irish immigrants. The newspaperman pointed out that the slave-owning Southerners had accepted Irish immigrants and that acceptance should not be jeopardized.

Daniel O’Connell accepted funds from the Southern Repeal Associations. But, many Irish in the South abandoned O’Connell’s Repeal Association because of his opposition to slavery. The Charleston Repeal Association closed due to O’Connell’s advocacy.

It is ironic that the Irish, often accused of being racially inferior, would themselves see the black man as racially inferior. But, such was the tenor of the times.

David T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of N.C. Press 2001), pp. 121, 122, 126, 129, 130

Courting and Singing the “Bonnie Blue Flag”

A couple of weeks later, near the end of the Summer, Clara is still broken-hearted that her hero, “Robert” Wheat fell at the Battle of Manassas. She tries to tell herself that it was a dream, but she knows it was true.

Her spirits are lifted when her friend, Annie leads a visit to one of the Spanish warships. There were Spanish warships in the port, after a mission to Mexico. One of Clara’s neighbors, Zulma Vienne, was being courted by a Spanish naval officer. Clara was charmed by the three midshipmen on the ship. They played the piano and sang songs. Of course, they sang the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” They ladies wrote their names for the officers, and the officers did the same for the ladies. The three officers promised to visit the ladies.

At the end of her diary, her thoughts went back to her dear Robert. She prayed that he and Clara would meet in Heaven. Clara did not mention that Roberdeau Wheat was Christian and she was Jewish. She promised to find for him a robe. And, that remark drew her diary to an end in the late Summer of 1862.

Paper was short in 1862 New Orleans. Clara may have kept other journals, but they have not found their way into modern times. For decades, Clara’s fate was unknown. But, eventually, she was located. She married an older man – by twenty years – after the war. Two years later, her husband died. She re-married again and had four daughters. When Clara died in 1907, the New Orleans Picayune recorded that she left “grief-stricken friends and four inconsolable daughters.” Her friends, said the newspaper, would cherish the memory of her brilliant mind and gentle heart.

Her dear father would die in 1874 at the relatively young age of 58, in difficult financial circumstances. His time as sutler for the Confederate army did not result in the financial success he had hoped. But, we expect his family loved him all the same.

Elliott Ashkenazi, ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 436-444.

 

 

Maj. Wheat Falls

The worst that could happen did happen. At the Second Battle of Manassas, Maj. Wheat fell. The worst thing for Clara would have been the loss of her father. But, losing her beloved Roberdeau Wheat was a close second. Maj. Wheat was a legendary figure. He was filibusterer, something like a mercenary soldier and the son of a minister. I previously wrote about Maj. Wheat here.

The major was a close friend of the family. More than that, he was a dashing, gallant man who genuinely cared for the two Solomon sisters, Clara and Alice. She adored the man for his kindness. On hearing the news, she was disbelieving. He was so brave, so impetuous, she knew. Clara speculated that he may have died thinking about his mother with his “affectionate” heart.

Maj. Wheat’s death meant the end of the Louisiana Tigers, the name given to Wheat’s Special Battalion. But, in one young woman’s heart, Maj. Wheat lived ever again.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 12, 432-433.