Edward McCann and his wife Rose were married in Magherafelt by the Rev. John Quinn on the 2nd. Dec. 1853. Though Magherafelt is named the administration of the
immediate area was centered on Magherafelt chaple though they could well have been married in one of the local churches within the area eg Newbridge, Milltown mentioned below associated with James McPeak.
This is quite likely as the name Henphey is mentioned in Edwrad's files. Edward and Rose would appear to have left immediately for America. Their 1st child Mary Jane was born Nov.10th 1854 followed by John born Dec 5th. 1856 and Susan born Oct 12th. 1860. All were baptised in St. Michaels church in Philadelphia. I would assume Edward simply worked as a labourer from the date of his arrival in Philadelphia.However aged 30 Edward decided to join the 69th Pa. infantry and enlists in Philadelphia 5th May 1861 He is eventually placed into Co. G. of the regiment and would remain there for his whole service period in the army. Edward would have no doubt fought in the engagements that Co. G. took part in. However post Gettysburg and health failing due to dysentry he died in the Lincoln Army Hospital Wash. D.C. 27th. Sept 1863 per the report of a surgeons paper on his death. He "died from chronic diarrhoea and hepatic abscess". The autopsy taken 14 hours after his death makes grim reading.
Edward left behind a widow and three children back in Philadlphia. His remains were not returned to Philadelphia but buried in the U.S. Soldiers and Airmens Home National Cemetery in Wash. D.C. However on 16th. Dec. 1864 Rose re-married a Cornelius (Neil) McCann who she claimed was not a relative of her late husband. Rose and her new husband Cornelius (Neil) had at least one child a son called Cornelius born in 1874 but who died young aged just 28 in Philadelphia April 25th 1902. He left a wife Mary Elizabeth behind. He was buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery Philadelphia April 29th 1902.
However Rose McCann the wife of the soldier Edward McCann born in Magherafelt died in Philadelphia Jan. 12th 1914, She is buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery. Her first husband being buried in Washington as explained above.
The clergyman who married Edward McCann on Dec. 2nd 1853 the Rev John Quinn served in Magherafelt between 1822 until he died 4th Sept 1862 a period of some 40 years. This man would most certainly have administered to the parents of the many 69th. Pa. soldiers and indeed other regiments whose sons would emigrate to America and become combatants in the war. He probably baptised many of these men as children. This man most certainly would have been aware of the impending Civil War. Dieing in Sept. 1862 he would most certainly have had feedback from America of sons lost and killed from his congregations. An image of his headstone still standing is shown at top right of this small bio. Plot 425. It stands in the small graveyard of the Church of St John at Milltown about a mile from Magherafelt Co. Derry. The young parishioner Edward McCann's Army marker or headstone stands in Wash. D.C. as noted above.
In the era that Edward McCann was married in 1853 the main church now
associated with Magherafelt town had not been built. Assuming that McCann was from near the town or within the parish his choice of chaple was limited.
The only chaple that existed was the post penal one at Milltown about a mile from the town. Like so many chapels in the post penal era it had to be unobtrusive and was generally a converted barn with a few windows and a thatched roof. Its being allowed to exist was at the call of a group of more moderate
Protestants who no doubt made the site available, since a position in the town was still against the law and liable to cause offense.
The site at Milltown used for a chapel from 1792 onwards. The Ordnance Survey Memoir of 1834 records "A Roman Catholic Chapel is situated in the townland of Tamnadace on the road from Magherafelt to Castledawson and about a mile from the former town. It was erected in the year 1792 and was enlarged and newly roofed in 1831. It at present consists of a main and lesser aisle 54 feet long and 25 feet wide. It is but partially fitted up with pews. It contains a gallery and would accomodate 500 persons.
This chaple served the people of the Maghera area for generations until in 1882 with the agreement of the Salters Co. of London a new church was erected in King St. within the town boundaries. The new and inpessive church was opened and dedicated on Sept 10th 1882 and still stands.
It is possible to name search the graveyard surrounding the old church from the link below. Simply look for the name associated with this cemetery. Click the icon below and simply enter the surname search link on right hand side of page. Nothing elses is really needed.When you see the headstone or marker you recognise the name then double click on it and you will have a steady large image. If for intance you look for Father John Quinn simply enter Quinn and you will be presented with quite a few Quinns.Look for Rev John Quinn in list and his headstone image will display. Looking for possible ancestors of Pvt. Edward McCann simply enter McCann then select or look at list. Some of those named go way back to when Edward was born and in all probability may well have been his relatives. Some McCann names go as far back as 1819.
James McPeake is one of two Irish soldiers of the 69th. Pa Vols. who we know for sure returned to Ireland and lived out his life in the same place he was born and grew up in.The other is Pvte William Forbes from Ballyronan close by.
James McPeake was born in Derrygarve townland in Artrea parish Newbridge area of Co.
Derry as far as can be determined circa 1830 - 32, the son of John McPeake and Mary McGrogan. His parents farmed about 6 acres close to Lough Neagh where it joins the Upper Bann river close to the town of Toomebridge on the Derry Antrim border. The inhabitants of this rural area were primarily small holding Catholic tenant farmers/labourers mostly existing on a small allocation of land indeed many scratching a living from 1 or 2 acres. Many augmented their income by weaving and some fishing in the nearby Lough Neagh. Looking at the Griffiths Valuation of 1859 the McPeake's had 6 acres and 20 perches. The few Protestant farmers in the area generally had much more land. Their tenant rent in the case of the McPeake's was paid to Robert Dawson the local landlord. In the Irish famines of the mid 19th century the local population did not seem to have suffered starvation diets primarily due to the fact that in the case of the McPeake's their land was on alluvial soil which had probably been at a time the flood plain of Lough Neagh. Fish would have been available from close by Lough Neagh and river Bann where many of their neighbours fished. As far as can be gleaned from old parish records James had no brothers but a sister called Jane.
As to why James emigrated it is not easy to find a specific reason. He along with his parents could probably have survived through the "bad" times prior to the mid century famine. He was as far as is known the only son and given that he came home after the war it may suggest that what money he had gathered with his military service may have been used to purchase additional land. James would appear to have received a very basic education though he is noted as being unable to read and write in both census returns after the war and on his war papers. I have found these comments unreliable as it was kind of wise to avoid using ones signature!! I have found in my research in old Civil War papers that much use was made of the insertion of an "x" in place of a full signature. Possibly the person making "his mark" thought perhaps that it was not really legal and there was an opt out!. Not so, generally those cute recruiting sergeants countersigned the "x" and hey ho you really were in the Army.
I feel that because so many of the names in the 69th companies relate to the S. Derry area James may well have joined a group of his friends in his home area looking in some instances for excitement in the newly opening America but mostly to better themselves. If one looks at the names in the Regimental companies one sees numerous names from around the S. Derry area where he came from. Names such as McAnally, Cassidy, Higgins, Diamond, Stinson, Henfey, O'Neill, Bradley, Devlin, Donnelly, Mulholland, McNamee, Murphy etc. I have no doubt whatsoever if the descendant folks in the area as now knew their family history back to their gt grandfather they would soon find Union army soldiers and even the odd Confederate.
One source available to me states that James left for America aged 18 mid summer 1849 on the ship Venilia from Derry and arrived in Philadelphia 13th July 1849. He was listed as passenger No. 160 on the ships manifest. (Sourced Pa-2696 Co.147 District of Philadelphia documents).
What kind of city did he find himself in on his arrival as a very young and indeed raw immigrant?. Philadselphia was a city with a history of many problems between the incoming Catholic Irish immigrants and the "native" American Protestant population "nativists", themselves immigrants from earlier waves of immigration but considering themselves to be the "real" Americans!. If he had already relatives or close friends in the city from earlier emigrant groups he would be in a fairly secure environment. If not he would soon find his way into the various Irish taverns and bars in the city where he could quickly make friends and get help. Many of the bars and taverns in the city also acted as focal meeting places for the newly arrived immigrants. Many of the officers to be in the 69th Pa. when the Civil War started were members of leading tavern families people like the O'Kanes, Heenans and Duffys.
As the unrest between Catholics and Protestants in the city got worse many militia companies were formed up for the protection of the various wards of the city. Exactly what James McPeake did in America after he arrived until we find his joining the Meagher guard militia circa 1852 we cannot be sure. One source suggest he was employed as a weaver. This could be correct as he may well have had learned the trade back home in Derrygarve. He was most certainly in Philadelphia and settled there by 1852 when one of the newly forming up Militia units called The Meagher Guards was forming up in the city. Many of the militia units were named after Irish patriots of the era eg Montgomery Guards, Hibernian Greens, Emmett Guards, Shields Guards, Patterson Guards etc. No doubt James was inspired by feelings he brought with him from Ireland and probably flagged up his politics by joining one of the militia units. The clouds of the Civil war were still some eight years away. It is supposed that being a member of the Meagher Guards was a part time venture and he also held down a job either as a weaver or labourer. As war clouds gathered and 1860 approached the various militia companies evolved into what was to become the 69th Pa. Volunteer Infantry the so called Paddy Owens Regulars. It was into this regiment that James McPeake would find himself along with many many other Co. Derry and Tyrone men, many probably known to him in Ireland. In the 1860 census he is listed as a weaver living with a family headed by a Mary Corr in the 17th ward (Census page 765). One document records him as having lived on 2nd St. prior to his war service. The area where he was living in 1860 was close to the area of Kensington where the old St. Michael's chaple had been burned to the ground in the vicious anti Irish Catholic riots by the "nativists" in 1844. Perhaps he thought when he left Ireland he was putting such feelings behind him. Not so in the pre-war Philadelphia. However by 1860 James war would soon start. He would serve the Union cause like so many of his countrymen in his case in Co. D of 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment.
In August 24th 1861 he enlisted for 3 years. He was aged 30.This is confirmed in his army enlistment file which confirms he enlisted in Philadelphia for 3 years in Company D of the Regiment and he had been enlisted by Capt Harvey. In the Co. D Descriptive Book he is noted as being aged 30, 5ft. 5ins. in height, nine and half stone weight, dark complexion, grey eyes brown hair and born in Derry Co. Ireland.
Perhaps the best way to record James war service or what is known of is to examine the written information existant on him. The Co. D Muster-in roll of the 69th dated Oct 31st 1861 at Camp Observation Md. the muster-in date is noted as being Aug 23rd 1861. James McPeake is noted as joining for duty Aug 26th 1861. He is paid an initial bounty of $100 dollars.
In the Co. D Muster Roll for July and Aug 1862 he is noted as being "present".
The next time he appears in a Muster Roll nearly a year later is for May and June 1863 where he is marked a being "present". However for July and August 1863 he is marked as being "absent" and in the remarks column as being "absent since June 1863." In the Co. D. Muster Roll for Sept and Oct. 1863 he is noted as being "absent" and in the remarks column of the roll as "sick at Camp Convalescent Va. since June 28/63." This camp situated at Alexandria Va south west of Washington D.C. In the Company muster roll Jan-Feb 1864 he is noted as being "sick at Camp Convalescent Va. from June 28/1863.". (See image left). Also the lower image to the left is of the prison sheds at Elmira. (Note the prisoners lined up along the walkway awaiting mealtime.)
In the Company muster roll Feb 29 to April 29 1864 James is also noted as being "sick in the General Hospital Washington D.C."
This is a notable date in James McPeak's history.It appears he had been transferred from Camp Convalescent Va and moved to the General Hospital in Wash D.C.two changes being flagged up he was nearing the end of his initial three year enlistment and his long term health was being assessed in the Wash. D.C. Hospital. It looks like he was deemed well enough now perform light duries as allowed to join the Vet. Res. Corps. He was fit enough to serve in Capt H. D. Norton's Company of the 1st Regt. Vets Reserve Corps. He enlisted for three years on April 14th 1864. It should be noted that when he was in hospital in Washington nearing the end of his initial enlistment period the Army could have discharged him as no longer fit for duty on medical grounds as happened many men in such circumstances. In his case he was obviously deemed fit enough for the V.R.C. and if he wanted to re-enlist he could do so. This he did. He is later noted as mustering out of the Vet. Res. Corps at Elmira New York Nov 14th 1865 under War Office G.O. 155. He had served approx. eight months in the V.R.C. including an extra 3 months after the war ended in July 1865. James would appear to have been involved in the operation of the regiment from its initial muster in, and as the war gathered momentum he took part in the various skirmishes and battles of the Peninsular campaign, the battle of Glendale, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Maryes Heights then finally wintering at Falmouth and readying for the main confrontation at Gettysburg in the early days of July 1863. He would have survived some two years of dreadful conditions and some fierce confrontations. He would have fought in many of the great battles of the Civil War. He would be battle hardened and carried its mental and physical scars. He would have seen many of his comrades fall or die from disease and wounds.
Note: The Invalid Corps and The Veterans Reserves Corps, (the V.R.C). The Invalid Corps was set up by the U.S. Army by G.O. 105 of the War Dept April 28th 1862. This was primarily to use the services of soldiers who had been wounded or had illnesses they had recovered from to some degree.Though not fit for full front line combat they could carry out such tasks as escort duties, guard functions etc. However The Invalid Corps was superceeded by The Veterans Reserve Corps by G.O.111 of The War Dept March 18th 1864.
James McPeaks war files are very difficult to follow many having contradictory dates. In such a war at the time it should be noted that numerous clerks were charged with keeping and updating files from a fluid situation. There are numerous mistakes on the old records so a general overview is requied to try and follow his army service.
The fact that he ended up in Wash D.C. as a member of the Vet Res Corps ties up with what generally happened to many such men. It is I think likely he probably served in a limited capacity doing guard duties etc around the Wash D.C.area and later at Elmira in up state New York. It is possible James McPeake did guard and general duties at Elmira prison. Elmira prison was noted as being a "death camp" where Confederate prisoners were held in dreadful conditions. Several thousand died there. Some historians see it as a "revenge" prison for Andersonsville Ga. where thousands of Union prisoners were held and where so many died of disease and starvation diets, many amongst them men from the 69th Pa. James McPeake would have dreadful memories of his service in Elmira. Elmira prison closed in late 1865 James being discharged Nov 14th. 1865 from Elmira and he wasted no time in heading home from New York. He would have served a term of four years and three months. He was honourably discharged as seen from his records. I feel it is unlikely he ever went back to Philadelphia after he was mustered out.
Some questions have been raised over James McPeake's service especially if he fought at Gettysburg on July 2nd/3rd 1863. This question seems to be raised by the fact that his name is on the panel for Co. D on the 69th Pa panel on the Pennsylvania monument at Gettysburg ( See image to left) and statements he made in affidavits after the war when he applied for a pension.
As to whether James was or was not at Gettysburg is a moot point. James by June 28th 1863 had done his front line duty in the battles already fought. He continued his duty to the Union Army and the United States by joining the Vet Reserve/Invalid corps and rendering his services as best he could considering his state of health.
James like most of the Civil War soldiers suffered the dreadful conditions, poor food, numerous hazardous experiences during his term of service. His health would never be the same again. On return home in 1865 or early 1866 James lost no time in finding a bride and married a Mary Ann Lagan at Bellaghy (Ballyscullion) on 9th May 1866. They were married by a Father Rogers. James probably commenced to rework the small family farm in Derrygarve. This union produced three children Bernard born in 1868, Mary Ann in 1869 and Isabella in 1872.
The Pennsylvania monument was erected close to the famous "Wall" at Gettysburg by the State after the war. It has numerous bronz panels mounted on its walls naming the various Pennsylvania regiments who fought in the war and thousands of names of the soldiers who took part. However not all names were recorded. As always politics got involved and there were numerous examples of the embossed names being chiselled off when deserters or those who were dishonourably discharged or perhaps their papers simply lost were identified after the monument erected.There would no doubt be mistakes. The section with Jame's name on it is see to the lower left. Clearly there had been no action taken to remove his name. Looking at some other plaque sections spaces are clearly seen where chiselling has taken place. Also where a soldier had been killed during the war there is an embossed asterix beside his name. I am of the opinion that soldiers who were still enlisted and in good standing the the regiment at the end of the war and who were honourably discharged as James was, merited their names remaining on the Pennnsylvania Monument broze name panels.
Like so many ex soldiers getting back to civilian life James McPeake started to look to getting a pension for his war service. There would be many twists and turns in trying to get this pension. It should be noted that it was only by an Act of June 1890 when the United States allowed pensions to be given to non-Americans who had served in their army. It is recorded that he first filed for a pension on May 12th 1891.There would be no quick response or agreement on the settling of this application which dragged on for years. Bureaucracy had kicked in. By being a foreign national in the United States army he had already lost years of pension benefit.
Affidavit copies from James McPeake to the U.S. pension Office and their replies make interesting reading. In an affidavit signed by him 15th July 1892 and witnessed by a friend of his, Michael Hurl he makes application for a pension based primarily on his suffering from varicose veins which seem to have developed by long marches. He states that the problem started when the regiment were laid up at Harrisons Landing Va.in June 1863 just before Gettysburg . This would appear to have been his main ailment that effectively ended his active service. With a long period of rest and treatment he was able sometime in mid April 1864, about 10 months after his initial sickness started at end of June 1863 to serve in the V.R.C. until Nov 1865. However it is noted that apart from varicose veins he also complained that he had been plagued by severe rheumatism in his later life which he first experienced in his mid war years. From the limited information on hand it would appear he eventually got his pension of $12 per month sometime after 1905.
James McPeake died 20th. Feb 1913 his son Bernard being present at his death. He was buried in St Trea's cemetery 22nd Feb, 1913 a Father P.J. Moore C.C. officiated at his funeral.
Note A. The name St Treas.The greater number of Irish Catholic churches are named after the more
saints names eg St. Patricks, St Josephs, etc. However from time to time
one finds a church named after
one of the "old" Irish saints dating perhaps back to the era of Patrick.
was said to have been converted to Christianity in Patricks era, lived her
life as a hermit at Ardtrea Co. Derry.
Note B. There were also several known Confederate soldiers Hinfeys and Walsh from the Newbridge area who fought for the Southern Confederate cause in the Civil War. To see bio's on them go to link Some other Civil War Solders from Ireland at bottom of the Home page.
Acknowledgements and thanks:
To the extended McPeake family members both in Ireland and the United States for James McPeake's background history. A special thanks should be attributed to James Mullan a gt grandson
who made the design, manufacture and erection of this fine headstone possible. Also Charlie Coyle an American born gt. grandson who also contributed invaluable information on the life and times of James McPeake which he had himself researched.
Colgate University for Camp Convalesence image. Elmira image Scott Payne N.Y.
Members of the 69th Pa Volunteer Infantry re-enactment unit mostly based around Philadelphia who have shown great interest in James Mullans project and supplied invaluable information on James McPeake. Don Ernsberger, Bill Meehan and John Kopich in particular. Don actually visited Newbridge some years ago.
If I (the Website owner) have helped in any small way putting this information on line it has been an honour to do so. Maybe as you look at his memorial headstone you will also remember the hundreds of the young men from S. Derry and the nearby Sperrin hills who died in the Civil War most in the Union blue but some in the Southern grey whose names have passed into oblivion. Few ever returned.
"Pax tecum-Dulce Bellum Inexpertis". May peace be with you- War is sweet to those who have not experienced it.
Born Co. Derry 1821 and like so may of his fellow countrymen from S. Derry probably emigrated around 1840 to Philadelphia. On Aug.26th 1861 he enlisted in the 69th for 3 Yrs. He was aged 41. Edward fought Gettysburg July 1863 Prom. from Private to Sergt. Feb 1st 1864. Mustered out with Co. July 1865. At one stage he was demoted back to private rank for alleged cowardice at Fredericksburg 13th Dec 1862. Later reinstated to Sergt rank Feb 1864. Gave his trade as boatman. I would be fairly sure that he was Lough Neagh fisherman from around the Toomebridge area in the N.W. area of Lough Neagh where the name appears. Edward Hinphey is buried in St. Dominics Cemetery Torresdale Phil Co.Plot Section K Range 10 Lot 30. Also named as Hemphey. Wifes name Anna. Died Dec 15th 1893. Was also wounded at Hatchers run 25th Feb 1865 where he broke ribs in battlefield accident. Ended the war in hospital in Philadelphia.At a time lived at 512 Jefferson St Philadelphia. Death notice states he died at his residence 3049 Potter St 25th Ward and Mass was at the Church of the Visitation.
Many many of the Irish soldiers of the 69th. Pa. were economic emigrants from Ireland primarily due to the circumstances thrown up by the mid 19th century famines. However in the case of this branch of the numerous McGuckin families of S. Derry this was not really the situation. Research shows that a Henry McGuckin lived on the towland of Crany about 4 miles from Desertmartin and Moneymore on the slopes of Slieve Gallon hill held some 100 acres of land. Compared with his fellow Catholic tenant farmers who mostly held about 15 to 20 acres he was a man of property. However a combination of poor management and pressure from the local land agent of the Drapers Company of London (granted all the land in this part of Co. Derry during the early 17th century Plantation of Ulster) he would appear to have failed. Rowley Miller the land agent for the Drapers Company reported on the 10th Feb 1847 to the above company that Henry McGuckin had sold his farm and "it would be a great matter to get him and his family out of the country". He even asked the Drapers Company give an extra £10 to get "this troublesome family across the water". This ploy was used in many cases in Ireland and was much used in Scotland during The Highland Clearances to clear crofter farmers off the estates so that the laird could have more free land to rear sheep.
Henry married twice. From his 2nd. marriage he had a family of four. One, Henry junior married a Mary O'Brien and they had five chidren. One of this family a John McGuckin married in Desertmartin and they had a family of eight. James, Henry,Catherine, Thomas, John, ANDREW, Mary and James. Like all emigrants from mid 19th century Ireland to America it is very hard to trace. This was a time of poor or no documentation. One piece of emigrant documentation on this family was from the passenger manifest of the ship Susan E Howellof April 1847. Five young McGuckins are named in sequence, Patrick aged 22, Henry aged 20, John aged 18, ANDREW aged 10, James aged 9. This is the Andrew who would later join the 69th. Pa. at Philadelphia on the 14th Aug.1862. He was noted as being aged 26 and a plumber by trade. He signed for a 3 year enlistment. Andrew was 5ft. 4ins. tall, had blue eyes brown hair and a sandy complexion. His enlistment form was signed by Lieut. Joseph W. Sunderland of the 72nd. Regiment.
Andrew would have taken part in all the battles and skirmishes involving the 69th until the fatefull days in July 1863 the battle at Gettysburg. Sadly like some of his fellow Derry men he would lay down his life there. He would be temporarily buried in a shallow battle field grave.
In a very well researched book by a John H. McGuckin a descendant McGuckin extended family member it is stated that Andrew's brothers brought his body from his shallow grave at Gettysburgh where he had been killed and brought it home to Phoenixville. This would be a substantial journey. He is said to be the only soldier from Company B not have been buried at Gettysburg. The Philadelphia Public Ledger reported Andrews death on its edition of July 13th. 1863 and that he was buried from his mother's home to St. Mary's cemetery in Phoenixville. The McGuckin grave plots at St. Marys are situated on the north side of the church and close to the building itself.
Note that the name McGuckin has variant spellings. Even today in S.Derry there are numerous McGuckins. McGuckens and McGuckians. It should also be noted that Andrews name on the monument to the the 69th at Gettysburg is spelt as McGurkin. On his headstone (image to the left) at the old St Mary's cemetery Philadelphia he is named as Andrew McGuckian who died July 1. 1863..This should have been July 3rd. Probably a mistake by whoever got the monument erected. A common mistake. However the name Andrew is not a common McGuckin/McGuckian name so am certain that this is "the" Civil War soldier.
Note: It was with much pleasure that I made contact with John H. McGuckin in America when I was researching Andrew McGuckin several years ago and found that he was a descendant relative of this soldier and who made his research information available to me which I am pleased to present in the PDF file below.(Click on icon to open). Sadly John died in 2008. A most helpful and genuine man and I record my thanks for his information and sharing of material with me.
Edward who also fought at Gettysburg was perhaps a relative of Andrew above. He was promoted to Corp. 8th. April 1863. Wounded and captured May 17th. 1864. Absent at muster out.
The path to find some information on Richard has been circuitous. It really all came together when I had a copy from a friend in America of a handwritten letter from a Father Campbell of Magherafelt dated 17th Aug.1863 stating:
Extract of the Registry of marriages and baptisms of the parish church of Magherafelt for the year 1830.
I hereby certify that Patrick McErlain and Ann McKinless both of this parish were married according to the rites of the Catholic church Sept. 15th. 1830.
Given at Magherafelt this 17th of August 1863.
Patrick Campbell P.P. Magherafelt.
This letter was typical of the letters that would have been required by the Pension Authorities in America to consider any pension application for death or serious injury to serving soldiers in wartime. When a widow/widower or the dependant parent(s) were depending on the income of a serving soldier the first act of the pension authorities was to confirm the validity of the applicants claim. One of the first things to do in Richards case was to establish if in fact he was the real son of the applicant in this case his widowed mother Ann. Hence the letter back to his parish in Ireland. The reply letter being received by his mother or more likely the lawyer working on her behalf would trigger the application.
This letter would then be forwarded to the relevant government pension department for consideration. Many pension applications were rejected for many reasons or many settlements delayed.
Further research shows from St. Trea's marriage/birth records that Richard McErlain was born to Richard Patrick McErlain and his wife Ann McKindless and baptised 23rd. May 1834 at Newbridge Creagh Magherafelt. Probably Bernard was born the same day or a few days earlier. The baptismal sponsors were James Diamond and Susan Mulholland.
Sometime between this date in 1834 and 1861 the family emigrated to America and by 1860 a young Bernard aged 25 joined the ranks of the 27th. Pa. Inf. on May 5th. 1861. He was aged 25 and said to be a labourer. He was recorded as being a single man 5ft. 10ins. tall with blue eyes and light hair. He was living with his widowed mother at No. 1420 at 2nd. and Master St. Philadelphia. He would later transfer into the Co. G of the 69th Pa. Infantry. His commanding officer was Capt. J. F. Bierwith. At 5ft. 10ins tall he would be much taller than the majority of his fellow soldiers many of whom would appear to be in many cases a little over 5ft tall.
Bernard would have fought in many of the early battles that the 69th was involved in and by July 3rd. 1863 he along with the Stinsons and others from S. Derry would find themselves fighting alongside each other at The Wall at Gettysburg. This is were his young life was ended being shot through the head. He would have been aged about 28. His war was over. His dependant mother back in Philadelphia would have to act fast to get a pension. This she appears to have done as by the 17th. of Aug. 1863 Father Campbel in Magherafelt had penned a letter back to her lawyer in Philadelphia with confirmation of her marriage to Patrick McErlain.
In response to Father Campbell's letter Mrs. Ann McErlain filed for a pension on Sept. 9th. 1863 listing herself as "the widowed mother of Private McErlain". She stated she is aged 56 and that she was married to Patrick McErlain on the 15th. Sept. 1830 and he died about 9 years ago and that her deceased soldier son had contributed to her support since her husbands Patrick's decease and that the deceased soldier was her lawful son and that record evidence of her marriage the best she can obtain is herein annexed"
There appears to be no strong evidence of what happened to Bernards body after he was killed. In a report by 1st. Lieut. Bernard Sherry dated Oct. 27th. 1863 it is stated that Bernard's effects were lost at the battle of Gettysburg. Basically saying that both his body and effects lost. Would his body have been returned home to Philadelphia?. No traces of this found to date. It is probable that his mother could not afford this. It is probable that at best he may well be buried as an "Unknown" in the National cemetery at Gettysburg or in a battlefield grave. It is unlikely we shall ever know. The young man from Creagh had given his all.
Robert Stinson was born to Thomas Stinson and his wife Elizabeth McQuillan at Aughrim
Artrea Parish close to Toomebridge Co. Derry Ireland on the 30th April 1840.
He was baptised on the same day.
His godparents were John McGrogan and Elizabeth O'Neill. He was be baptised
at St Trea's chaple.
By the time of the 1847 famine he would be 7 years of age. He would appear to have served
to the weaving trade.
Emigration would be an option in those dreadful times
and by 1861 he would find himself
in Philadelphia along with his brother Thomas and possibly his parents and sister Isabel. We know from his records he married a Jane Brady whether in Ireland or America is not known. More likely in America though she is named as being Irish. One option for employment for the brothers would be as
soldiers in the Union Army. Robert enlisted initially in Co. G 27th. Regt. and transferred into the 69th Pa. 10th. 1st. 1861.
He fought at Gettysburg
alongside his brother. He would survive the war as did his brother though seeing many of
their fellow Derry men die including Colonel
O'Kane amongst them.
He would soon be promoted to Segt.
Robert Fought at Antietam where he was wounded but survived. He was hit by a bullet which shattered his canteen and shrapnel from it entered his hip area. He then spent four months 16th Sept. 1862 to 27th Jan 1863 in the 4th. and George St. hospital in Philadelphia before returning to the regiment and fighting in subsequent battles including Gettysburgh where he escaped injury. However Robert was wounded in the head and captured
at Petersburg Va. June 22nd. 1864 and taken to Libby prison in Richmond Va. then Belle Island and then sent to the notorious Confederate prison at
Andersonsville Ga. then to Camp Lawton Millen Ga. 31st Oct. 1864 then back to Andersonsville. He was roughly a year in Andersonsville. Two of his fellows soldiers in the 69th James Noon of Co. K. and James Milligan of Co. I. were close friends. Noon stated after the war that Robert contracted scurvey at Andersonsville and that he Noon traded his buttons for potatoes for food for Robert. Noon also stated that apart from dysentry Robert had major problems with his eyes which were permanently inflamed. Milligan also stated Robert had become a helpless cripple from the dysentery and that when they left Andersonsville about 4th Jan. 1865 by steamboat for Alabama Stinson had to be carried to the boat. The prisoners ended up in Mt. Jackson Miss.
Robert was exchanged April 12th. 1865 Vicksburg Miss. after having survived
Andersonsville. Discharged by
Gen. Order. June 22nd 1865. He had been transferred from Co. G to Co. H. on 1.10. 1861. He had re-enlisted 25th Feb. 1864. Robert worked as a beamer post war in Philadelphia. Milligan later testified on behalf of Stinson after the war explaining the reasons for his blindness seemed to relate to his time in Andersonsville. Stinson worked as a beamer post war but due to near total blindness in his later years had to give it up and ended up in very poor circumstances. He died March 25th 1897 and was buried from his home at 2352 East Huntingdon St. in the 31st. Ward of Philadelphia to the New Cathedral Cemetery. Buried Range M Lot 10-9.
Robert was 5ft 8ins tall with black hair and grey eyes. He had family named as wife Jane Brady Stinson and children Robert, Regina, Cornelius and Jane. All children were alive in 1897. Robert also had a friend Gerald Farrell who was a eye doctor who also helped with Robert's applications after the war for extra help from the Pensions Board. Robert and Thomas his brother enlisted in the Regt. on the same day in Philadelphia.
Thomas was a brother to the Robert above. Thomas was born May 29th. 1836 to Thomas Stinson and Elizabeth McQuillan. He was baptised the same day. His godparents were James and Mary McQuillan. Like his brother he found himself in Philadelphia in the early 1860's and actively engaged in Democratic Party politics. He would join the 69th. Pa. Vol. Inf. the same day as his brother Robert. He joined the regiment at Brandy Station Va. He is noted in a signed statement as having received $300 bounty when he joined. Thomas fought at the battle of Gettysburg being at "the wall " on that fateful day of 3rd. Aug. 1863. Thomas was promoted to 1st. Sergt. July 15th 1864 . In Sept 1864 Thomas took ill at Weldon R.R. Va. and sent to hospital at City Point Va. On the 20th. Sept he was given a 30 day furlough to go home for recouperation. On the expiration of this furlough he reported to the medical officer in Philadelphia who then sent him to Albertstown hospital where he remained until early Feb. 1865 when he went home without permission. He was arrested in Philadelphia 8th Feb. 1865 and taken to the Provost Martial who sent him to Prince St. prison in Alexandria Va. All was not lost and Thomas got back to the front and was promoted to 2nd. Lieut. June 16th 1865. Not mustered. He had also fought at the battle of Fredericksburg where he was wounded but survived. Mustered out with Co. July 1st. 1865 at Balls Cross Roads Va.
James enlisted on March 4th 1864 into the 69th Pa. However from his papers he would appear to have served initially in the 71st Regt. New York Vols.The information on his pension files and correspondence give a very confused read of his service in the army. So many contradictions as to where he fought where wounded etc. He was a brother to Robert and Thomas Stinson mentioned above. He would appear to have had received many wounds in his service. On this basis he would appear to have applied for a supplementary pension after the war was long over.This was rejected I think primarily because he kept changing his application information leading to the pension office rejecting his application. From notes on his application forms and testimonies from his friends seem to suggest that his war service had changed his character and it would appear that like so many ex soldiers had a bad drink problem even though he would appear to have held down employment in one of the steel smelting works of Morris and Tasker in Philadelphia. He would appear to have been captured at the battle of Reams Station and held prisoner. At a time his brother Robert Stinson as an ex 69th soldier (see above) in a testimony said he was indeed a younger brother to James and James was the eldest of a family of 11.This would tie up with the fact that James was 43 years of age when he joined the 69th.
It is thought James was captured at Reams Station and held at Salisbury prison N.C. He was released Feb. 28th. 1865 at N.E. Ferry N. Carolina.
The bottom line is that James fought throughout the war having been injured often and also captured and released. He had to fight tooth and nail to get a fair pension for his service. He ended up his days in the Old Soldiers Home at Hampton Va. and died there 19th. Oct 1894. His death certificate issued by the Old Soldiers Home in Hampton Va. states that he had served in the 71st. New York Vols. His body was shipped back to Philadelphia and he was buried in St. Michaels cemetery in that city 23rd Oct. 1894, a long way from the verdant fields of S. Derry his homeland.
On John we do not as now have a lot of information. He was born at Anahorish Newbridge Co. Derry on 26.6.1836 to James Stinson and Alice McWilliams. In the early 1860's he was in Philadelphia. He joined the 69th aged approx. 28. He fought at Gettysburg.
Thomas was born 17.7.1849 to John Stinson and Anne Lennox Anahorish Newbridge Co. Derry. Little is known of Thomas except that he mustered out with Co. July 1st 1865. Would appear to have joined at a very young age the same day as James above. One wonders if he was perhaps a son of James?. But we shall never know.
Note: The information on the Stinsons is as accurate as I can determine from rosters of the soldiers and birth records of their parish. In many books there is confusion as to which Stinson was which.
Private Martin McPeak of Co. A. No links found as now to James McPeak above. He is noted as being 32 when he joined the Regiment in 1861 making him born in 1832. Martin was wounded at the battle of Glendale in both arms. He was sent back home to Philadelphia to recuperate. He returned to the Regiment prior to the battle of Antietam but deserted near Harpers Ferry Va. Was a labourer in Philadelphia before the war and had been born in Ireland.
William Forbes is the 2nd soldier of the 69th Pa. who has been identified as having returned to Ireland. Coincidentally he was born and raised at Ballyronan More very close to where Pvte James McPeake was born and raised and both men were nominally the same age.
This man unlike the greater percentage of Irish soldiers in the the 69th Pa was not Catholic but identified with his siblings as being members of the Irish Church in the 1901 Irish census. ie was a member of the "Irish Church" meaning the Established Protestant Church of Ireland. As to when William emigrated to America we do not know for sure but a James and Susan Forbes from Magherafelt sailed to Philadelphia on the ship Superior in 1851 for Philadelphia from Derry. Did McPeake and Forbes they know of each others existence as they grew up in nearby townlands close to Ballyronan? They probably did. Did they know each other in their final years living so close they most certainly did. Did they know each other when on active service in Co. A and Co D of the 69th? They possibly did. Did they know where their Commander Dennis O'Kane was from they most certainly would have. Did they know men from all around them from back home being in various companies of the regiment they most certainly did.
William Forbes joined the 69th as a private soldier Oct. 12th 1861 for an enlistment of 3 Yrs. at Philadelphia. He mustered in on 31st Oct 1861 at Camp Observation Maryland. He was aged 32. McPeake had enrolled a few months earlier. Forbes was noted as being aged 30. As now it is not known what battles William fought in but most certainly he did take part in the early battles of the war. He was wounded in some engagement probable the battle at Antietam Va and was obviously badly wounded and unfit for further service and was discharged from the Army on Surgeons Certificate No. 926464 dated Nov. 19th 1862. As to when he came home we do not know but at some stage he had applied for and received a U.S. Army invalid pension. William shows up in the 1901 Irish census as living at house No. 40 at Ballyronan More together with a John Forbes, George Forbes and Mary Jane Forbes. William is noted as being an Army Pensioner the others listed as linen weavers and none of them married.
William died on 2nd Sept 1908. It would appear he was still due some of his Army pension from Washington. There was a reimbursement made Aug 31st 1910 for $59.33 payable to a John Keighley of Ballyronan Ireland. John Keighley was possibly the teacher at the local Ballyronan school and it is likely he must have been named by William as the contact person or executor to look his affairs. To date no grave has been identified for William though information on hand states that a Mary Jane, John and George Forbes are buried in the graveyard at the nearby Church of Ireland cemetery. There is apparently no headstone on their grave.
Above is the communication from the Army pension office in Wash. D.C to John Keighley about outstanding pension due to William Forbes. Click on icon below for image of the 1901 Irish census showing the Forbes grouping showing William as an army pensioner.