24.9.2012

BRIGADIER GENERAL MICHAEL CORCORAN.

Though a lot of material has been written about this man and is in the public historical domain in America little thought is given to his roots apart from the general application of "he was from Ireland". It might be of interest to add some notes about where he was from exactly in Ireland and his links to Ireland. Michael Corcoran was born 1827 in the townland of Carrowkeel which would at the time have a much much higher population than now. These were tough times for all as they had to scrape a living from very poor agricultural land. Basically many would have lived in hovels and their main diet would have been the potato and some grain and what meat they could afford. In the mid 19th century it was subsistence living not too far removed from what we see in parts of Africa today and perhaps at the height of the various Irish famines even worst.
It was into this environment that Michael Corcoran was born. His father had served for a time as an officer in the British army in West Indies. It was probably due to his father being on a pension of some value that a young Michael Corcoran received a reasonable education. This enabled him to join what was the police service at the time in Ireland the Royal Irish Constabulary aka the R.I.C. which he joined aged 19 and was stationed at Creeslough in Co.Donegal circa 1846-48. This was an era of much political agitation in Ireland and also a time of one of Irelands worst famines- "Black 47". He would have first hand experience of the plight of the people as well as being aware of political groups such as the Young Irelanders associated with such radicals as John Mitchel and someone who would be well known to him in the the Civil War one Thomas Francis Meagher. By 1848 Corcoran decided to look west for perhaps a better life to America and he emigrated sometime in 1848 from Sligo for New York. In New York he had several jobs from selling fish to being a clerk in the Post Office to being a revenue collector for the Revenue Service. However it appears that he had some latent political views and had an alignment to the Irish community in the city which was being swollen by the thousands if Irish emigrants fleeing the Famine. He would soon find employment with a John Heeney who ran a popular meeting and gathering place for the newly arriving Irish, Hibernia Hall opposite the old St Patricks cathedral. No doubt he listened with horror to the stories they brought about the state of affairs in Ireland. Like Philadelphia New York had its own militia units. Many of these units like those in Philadelphia reflected on the ethenticity of the areas in the areas in the City from which they drew their militiamen. One unit that would evolve from the Irish community would be the 69th New York Militia the later known "Fighting 69th" which would for many many decades carry on its tradition even up to modern times. Corcoran soon joined and very soon rose to be colonel of the regiment 1859-1861. However his ability was soon noted and he quickly rose in the ranks in the American army of the time ending up as a Brigadier General in the Civil War. Cocoran had been commissioned colonel in the Federal service April 29th 1861. He was captured at 1st Manassas on July 21st. 1861. He went on to recruit the so called Corcoran Legion of the 155th, 164th, 170th, 182nd. New York Vols.
Corcoran saw a lot of action in the early part of the Civil War most notable perhaps being at the battle of Bull Run. Alas he would not get to serve for the duration as he was killed when his horse fell on top of him at Fairfax Va. 22nd Dec 1863. However the exact circumstances of his death are not totally clear and it is also claimed that he had had a heart attack whilst on horseback and the subsequent fall to the ground probably made his condition much worse and fatal.

Brigadier General Michael Corcoran.
Born Carrokeel townland Ballymote Co. Sligo 21.9.1827 died Fairfax Court House Va 22.12.1863.
Image courtesy Russ Dodge

The memorial to Brigadier General Michael Corcoran Ballymote Co. Sligo. Note the three plaques in front of plinth.

The memorial detail. Center plaque.

Though the monument is only three years erected already the engraving is difficult to read. Here is the inscription on the above plaque.

IRELAND NATIONAL MONUMENT
TO THE FIGHTING 69TH REGIMENT &
BRIGADIER GENERAL MICHAEL CORCORAN
UNVEILED BY
THE HONOURABLE MAYOR MICHAEL R BLOOMBERG
NEW YORK CITY
22 AUGUST 2006
JOHN PERRY T.D.CHAIRMAN BALLYMOTE COMMUNITY ENTERPRISES LTD
JOHN MCGETTRICK SLIGO BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION NEW YORK
MONUMENT SCULPTED BY PHILIP FLANAGAN
PROJECT MANAGED BY RUAIN O CUIV

Left side plaque. More information on the monument and its structural material.

Here is some information from the left hand side plaque.

THE STEEL WAS PRESENTED BY THE MICHAEL F LYNCH FOUNDATION WHICH HONOURS THE MEMORY OF FIREFIGHTER MICHAEL LYNCH WHO DIED ALONGSIDE MANY OTHER RESCUE WORKERS ON THAT FATEFUL DAY

The steel for the monument was from a beam that supported one of the New York city towers that collapsed after the attack on 9/11/2001 when people from some 91 countries lost their lives.

Right side plaque. The crest of the 69th New York Regiment.

The townland of Carrowkeel is close to the town of Ballymote shown above. Co.Sligo.

The town of Ballymote is a smallish typical Irish town on the west side of Co. Sligo which touches on the counties of Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon. It basically services the surrounding area which is of poorish agricultural land. This was one of the areas of western Ireland which would have been very badly affected by the famines of the mid 19th. century. This is an area which would have witnessed massive emigration mostly to America and no doubt many of you reading this in the States will have ancestral links to this area.
Though this is still a very rural part of Ireland it has its linked history. If you look at the top left of the map you will see Killala Bay. It was here that the French General Humbert arrived with troops in 1798 to assist the Irish in the 1798 rebellion of United Irishmen against British rule in Ireland. Alas it failed and after a brief success at the town of Castlebar in west Mayo the "rebels" and their French allies were routed by General Lake and his troops under the control of General Cornwallis the commander in chief in Ireland. Cornwallis had a score to settle with the Irish as they formed a major political and military influence for independence in the War of Independence or the Revolutionary War as the British saw it. He Cornwallis had had to surrender to the American army at Yorktown. He would do a deal with the French showing such contempt for their fighting prowess that he allowed them to go by barge across Ireland by canal to Dublin and hence home. The Irish were another story and they were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in pits in such places as Lisnamuck in Co. Leitrim, pits still visible to this day. A young Corcoran growing up in the nearby area would no doubt hear these stories often. Perhaps they shaded his politics.

Corcoran and his wife are buried in the Calvary Cemetery N.Y.C. Section 4 Range 5 Plot 0 Grave 13/16.
Plinth erected by the Sligo Mens Assoc 1989.
Image courtesy Russ Dodge