Looking at the roster listings of the 69th. Pa. it is seen that there are quite a few examples of two brothers serving at the same time in the regiment and a few cases of a father and son serving at the same time. However in the case of the McNamaras we see three brothers. Most interestingly they all volunteered on the same day 19th. Aug. 1861. One wonders just what the motivation for this was. I should think that the motivation was either for employment or was it the love of the Union? In any case their joining together must have been a very painful exerience for their parents. In any case William McNamara as an Irish American, his father being a Cork man would mean he would fit in very well with the native born Irish soldiers
of the 69th. themselves mostly born in the northern part of Ireland especially counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. His McNamara parents having been born in the south east of Ireland in counties Cork and Waterford. Let us look at his life relative to his military service and also his civilian life because it is an interesting insight in a small way in the assimilation of the Irish into the civilian and indeed assimilation into the political life of Philadelphia and I suppose the work of a member of the Democratic Party in the city.
Michael McNamara a young man from Co. Cork and his young wife Margaret O'Leary from Waterford decided probably very soon after marrying in Portlaw Co. Waterford to head off for America circa 1833-36 to get away as thousands of others were also doing to seek a better life in America. They had with them their first child Catherine and also a family friend a Catherine Backus. One can only assume they sailed from either the port of Cork or Waterford. As to where they initially settled there is some conflict. Information extracted from their son William's later army files suggest that the family were settled in Conn. by Nov. 1842. Other notes on William's files suggest Springfield Mass. or simply Mass.
By the 12th. Sept. 1850 when son William was aged 7 the family seems to have moved to Hardwick Worcester Co. Mass. The family seem to have moved to work in the paper mills there. The family now consisted of father Michael now 40, Margaret his wife 34, daughter Catherine 17, son John 14, daughter Ellen 11, son William 9 and son Robert 7. The family noted in Hardwick Mass. in the 1850 census, a family of two daughters and three sons. However the family seems to have moved on and by 1860 the family noted as living in Ward 6 Division 1 in Philadelphia. As exactly when the family came to Philadelphia is not known but they seemed to have friends and relatives already in the city. Let us look in some relevant detail at the family focussing mainly on the three sons John, William and Robert.
First born. Born Ireland circa 1835. It would appear she along with her parents and family fiend Catherine Backus crossed the Atlantic from Cork or Waterford as a babe in arms. The rest of the family would be born in America. It is unlikely that parents or children ever made it back to visit Ireland.
This man seems to have fallen under the radar in any history I have read of the officers and men of the 69th.Pa. yet we basically have some good documented information on him especially from his early army career right up to his death. His life ticks all the boxes of an Irish American whose life was lived in the Philadelphia of the 19th century. He was a man who after his army career closely aligned himself to the Democratic Party and its ethos and proud of the history of the 69th.Pa. and its achievements in the Civil War. One major thing that stood him good stead was the fact that he was a businessman in the city throughout his life, a printer. This was a good profession/trade to be in during and post Civil War. Like Colonel O'Kane with his links to his brothers tavern business (a good place to meet up and not doubt to be influenced to join the 69th.) McNamara would be well supported by the Irish citizens in particular as they no doubt used McNamaras as a place to get all their notices/fliers printed. Reading his history it would appear that he and his family were simply referred to as the "Macks" the general name term used to this day in a very friendly way to anyone either Irish or Scots carrying a name prefixed by "Mc" eg McNamara which is generally pronounced "MackNamara". This would later cause him some problems. One of his other brothers also fell foul of the system and obviously enlisted as simply Robert Mack in a Conn. regiment. No trace at this time can be fond of his name in the two Conn. regiments he was supposed to have joined though when he died he was identified on the paperwork linked to his body being shipped back to Philadelphia. Let us now look at William's life.
Born Nov. 1842 Conn.or Mass.
William F. McNamara (probably William Francis) was born in Conn. as far as is known there being conflicting information between the census of 1900 as one of his later army pension files stated Springfield Mass. as birth place. The 1870 census lists simply Mass. as his birth place. The pen sketched image of him to the left is thought to be very accurate as later existent photos of his descendants bear an incredible resemblance to the pen sketched image to the left.
McNamara family settled in Philadelphia by April 18th 1860
The family now settled in Philadelphia living in a boarding house owned by Margaret McCambridge in Letitcia St. in Ward 6 Div.1 of the city. The census of 1860 show that Willaim was now 20 years old and an apprentice to a printer. This is intersting and to me shows that his father when working in the paper mills of Conn. or Mass. had learned the trade or figured out that a printing apprenticship would be a good trade for his son. The printing trade would be expanding massively in the America of the time as it's population was expanding massively and the increasing need for information to be passed by newspapers books, bill boards,fliers etc. There would be no radio at this period, that medium would come a long time later.
However the clouds of civil war in America were gathering. Being aged 20 and a young man perhaps full of patriotism and surrounded by numerous friends eager to serve the cause William and his two brothers decide to enlist. He is the first of the three brothers to do so.
18th April 1861
At age 19 on the 18th. April 1861 just as the talk of war was ramping up William enlisted in the 19th. Regt. Co. C. for the normal 3 month enlistment. He states his name is William Mack which later caused him some pension problems. However his service in the 19th Regt. went to plan and he was honourably discharged on Aug. 8th. 1861. He was ready for his next military adventure. 19th Aug. 1861.
William would appear to have liked his time in the 19th. Regt. and on coming home with tales of his experiences may well have played a part in his two brothers John and Robert enlisting with him. All three do so into Co. I of the 69th.Pa. on 19th. Aug 1861. They join for three years. William quickly rose through the ranks. He started off as Sergt and is shown as present in all muster rolls right up to the battle of Antietam 17th. Sept. 1862.
The Battle of Antietam 17th. Sept. 1862.
This would be William's first "real" experience of war. He would appear to have impressed the commanders and in what looks like payback he was promoted on Nov. 1st. 1862 to 2nd. Lieut. Around this period he was presented with his sword of command as 2nd. Lieut. His next military engagement, now as 2nd. Lieut. was at the battle of Fredericksburg 11th-15th. Dec 1862
The Battle of Fredericksburg 13th. Dec 1862
William no doubt in the thick of battle was not so lucky this time.In the attack on Marye's Heights he was badly wounded on the 13th being wounded in the left leg and had shell contusions of his chest a shot hitting and entering his left thigh and on exiting hit the scabbard of his sword. This was a bad wound and the mini ball exiting his leg caused considerable damage to his sword. The result of these wounds meant a prolonger stay in hospital in Philadelphia from Dec. 15th 1862 until 20th. April 1863. During his extended hospital stay in Philadelphia William was engaged in several written exchanges with the army as to his state of health and his difficulties managing his affairs and his mobility. It would appear the Army was getting a little impatient with him. However having "recovered" and available for service again" he is promoted to 1st. Lieut.
Promoted 1st. Lieut. May 1st.1863.
However William though no doubt sweetened by promotion again opts out and forwards a medical certificate. There follows a few medical certificates intersperced with "present" in a few instances untl by the May-June 1863 musters he is shown to be fully back on active service. He is now 1st. Lieut. Just in time for Gettysburg.
The Battle of Gettysburg July 1863.
On the 2nd. July the day before the main Gettysburg engagement Co. I commander Capt. Michael Duffy was shot and killed. The command fell to Lieut. William F. McNamara. On the 3rd. July he would find himself on the right flank of the 69th. behind the wall in front of the famous Copse of Trees.
Having survived Gettysburg 1st - 3rd July 1863 no doubt carrying out his duties as expected. However his health was causing him great problems plus the fact that he received news that his father Michael back in Philadelphia had died 20th. Aug. 1863. Father dies in Philadelphia 20th Aug.1863.
He sets off home being granted a certificate of leave to attend the funeral. On the way home to Philadelphia he is involved in an accident at a train station.
He obviously remains at home in Philadelphia from the date of his fathers funeral forwarding numerous medical certificates to Army Headquarters. In these he states that he was having lung problems. To cut a long story short he was ordered to report to the U.S. General Hospital in Annapolis Md. It is noted that during this period the Cammac Woods Hospital had some input into his treatment his having to stay there for treatment for several months. He was not really a well man.
However between March 10th and June 1864 he is well enough to take on the role of recruiting in Philadelphia. Again his health fails and after some exchanges with the Pension Office his career was ended probably with what was mutual agreement Aug. 20th. 1864 though there appears to be another document saying he was discharged 30th.Nov. 1864. The bottom line was his army days were over, he was now a free man and ready to go looking for a civilian career. He was still only a young man aged about 24. Though there is a lot of information recorded on his army career little has been recorded on what the men did after the Civil war. In William McNamara we have quite a trail of his subsequent life in Philadelphia post war right up to his death.
From the information I have on him he lead a fairly interesting civilian life. He would appear to have got initial employment as a mechanic in the city's transport system no doubt repairing the track systems and maintaining the repair shops and garages associated with the streetcars of the city. He would have had some knowledge of the job as a fireman as he had served in the Hibernian Greens Volunteer Fire service. He also decided to marry and on Feb. 7th. 1869 some five years after the war was over he got married. He and a Mary Mullan get married in St. Marys Church 4th. St. beyond Locust by Fr. George Stubel. Around mid March 1871 he appears to have changed jobs and joins the city police force and serving by Sept 1870. There is a notice about his police activities in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph 30th. May 1870 about his arrest of two local scoundrels. (See left)
However for whatever reason by 1874 we see that he has left the police dept. and is now listed as working for the Fire Dept. in the city by early 1874.
Some time time in 1875 he engages with the Pension Office in Washington about his pension. In April 16th. 1879 William still seems to be engaged with them and they examine the gun shot to the wounds on his left leg sustained at the battle of Fredericksburg. I can only assume he was looking for an increase in his pension. It was in Sept 1885 when in the service of the Fire Dept. he was severly injured when in the service of his Hosepipe Co. that he fell from a rooftop of a house between Cherry and Race Street above Vine. This was reported by the Philadelphia Times 2nd Nov 1885. However he survived the accident. In the records of 1886 we see that William had been promoted from hoseman in Engine Co. No. 8 (See image left) to foreman of Engine Co. No. 10. He was now aged 44. William's life from his being aged 44 shows that it had some twists and turns. However the over riding theme on his documented life was that at all times he seemed to have been in the printing business. As to whether it was actually running a print press as such or was it perhaps a business making such items as small scale advert, flyers etc I cannot state for certain at this stage but it was associated with the businesses associated with paper. He had other interests however.
4th. July 1887. Reunion and Dedication of Gettysburg monument.
Now in the Survivors Associaton of the 69th. and secretary of the Association during July 2nd- 3rd 1887 he attended the dedication of the new 69th Memorial at Gettysburg 4th July 1887. He is in the photograph that exists of the occasion.(See image below). The photo shows old members of the 69th. shaking hands with their former Confederate enemies acoss the famous wall at Gettysburg, the new 69th. Pa. monument in the backgroud. William McNamara is in the photograph and it has been suggested he is the second or third from the right on "this" side of the image.
Oct. 1888 Reunion at Richmond Va.
In this month a sizeable number of old soldiers from the 69th Pa. and other regiments from Pennsylvania who had fought at Gettysburg in July 1863 exchanged the vist from the Va. troops who had visited them in 1887 and who had faced them at the Wall at Gettysburg. This was a visit which took place over a period of four days and would appear to have been big success and friendships with old foes further enhanced, the swords had been beaten into ploughshares as the old saying goes. The men who headed the various commands were Vice Commanders William F. McNamara, 69th. Regt. William Stockton 71st. Regt. Benton O Stevens 72nd Regt. L.D.C.Tyler 106th. Reg. and Q.M. William J Simpson.
The Committee of Arrangement who organised the event were. John E. Riley 69th. Regt. Dr. J.G.R. Miller 106th. Pa. James M. Whittaker 69th. Pa. James O'Reilley 69th. Pa. Thomas Furey 69th. Pa. William Stockton 71st. Pa. John W. Frazer 71st. Pa. William G. Mason 71st. Pa. Benton O. Severn 72nd. Pa. Sylvester Byrne 72nd. Pa. William Prior 72nd. Pa. L.D.C. Tyler 106th. Pa. and J.R.C.Ward 106th. Pa.
Sept. 11th. 1889. Re-dedication of Gettysburg Memorial
Re-dedication of Gettysburg memorial. Dedicated as "Pennsylvania Days" Ceremonies at all the Pa. memorials. The 69th. survivors assembled around the 69th. memorial.
17th. Sept. 1896 Antietam Memorical Dedication..
William McNamara attended the dedication of the Antietam Monument at Antietam. He was a member of the Antietam Monument Committee who also attended. Amongst the 69th Pa names seen on the list apart from William were H.H. Newman, Joseph L Garrett and Thomas FureY. Among other notables in attendance were Mayor Warwick and Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia, the State Governor, Adjutant General and other importanr Pennsylvanians. The unveling oration was delivered by another old 69th. Pa. survivor Capt. John E. Reilly.
30th. Sept 1899
William now aged 56 had another unfortunate accident having a bad fall in a street in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Times runs a small article on the event with a pen portrait of what he looked like. The article gives a small resume of who he was and some background of his life, his army career, his links to the Democratic Party, his lifelong friendship with former Governor Pattison. He had as a result of this accident spend some time in Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia.
William makes a good recovery and a trace of his life from 1899 onwards until he died in 1909 shows him generally running his print business intersperced with a couple of spells as a clerk and at a time as a bank messenger.
William McNamara died 26th April 1909 in Philadelphia.
William died aged 66 when living at 309 North Lawrence St. He was buried in the Holy Cross Cem. Yeadon Pa. Buried with wife Mary Mullen McNamara. Buried Section Y Range 2 Lot 53. Extender family plot with two markers.
This remarkable man the son of two Irish immigrants from the counties of Cork and Waterford epitomises to me an example of the grass roots of the Democratic Party of which he was a member engaging with the Party in the 6th Ward. He was also a member of Camp No. 20 United Veteran Legion and a comrade of Post 46. In the days of the Volunteer Fire Dept. and was a member of the Hibernian Engine Company. In political circles apart from his friendship with Governor Pattison who at one time appointed him as Deputy Harbour Master he also held positions in the Sheriffs Office and also the Fire Dept. He also served as a police officer in the city for a short period.
In one of his early army files he is recorded as being 5ft 5 and 1/2" in height a small man by todays measurements, dark complexion, aged 26 135lbs in weight (about 9.5 stone), living at 250 Crown St.in the 6th ward of Philadelphia.
I explained earlier about the use of the name Mack in the family and how it would cause him later pension problems. William in 1900 aged 58 decided to make enquiries about possible pension money due to him. The background to his writing seems to be one of his own making. When he decided to join up initially he chose the 19th Regt. It would appear that he and indeed his two brothers later were simply referred to as "the Macs" simply related to their surname McNamara and a term frequently used relating in a personal way to a friend with Mc or Mac in their surname, usually associated with Irish or Scots rooted names. Perhaps William though as he was so well known in the locality of the recruitment office everyone would know his "real" suname. Not a good idea if confronted with a Greek or Norwegian clerk recording the recruit's names. He did his three months enlistment. He then joined the 69th. Pa. under his real name and he had no further problems. Now in 1900 he decided to write to the head of the U.S. Comm. of Pensions. Best to start from the top!. This letter is shown by clicking on the icon below. Whether he got the pension money said to be due I do not know. One of his brothers who had also been in the 69th. with him but who was invalided out of the 69th. Pa due to health problems later joined the Conn. 19th Regt. using on this occasion the surname Mack. He would also appear to have problems as there is no record of his name in the Regt. records though when he died in service his body was shipped back to Philadelphia using his proper name.
There are few symbols that personify war than a sword. No lonnger used by officers leading and pointing and encouraging their men to face and attack the enemy it has disappeared from use in modern warfare where "leadership" has taken on a very different perspective,officer-technicians running the show from a well protected bunker to the rear of the "action" with keyboards computer screens and software options and perhaps a radio link back to H.Q. perhaps on another continent, Such is a kind of progress. However on July 3rd 1863 things were different. Officers led the men from the front pointing the way towards the enemy. The officer leading Co. I at Gettysburg Lieut. William F. McNamara used the combat sword shown below in repulsing Picketts charge.
Robert McNamara was born as were his brothers and sisters either in Conn. or Mass. This young mans life seems to have had turns and twists. I do not know much about his early life but it is know from census returns that the family was probably living in Hardwick Mass. by 1850. His parents along with many other Irish immigrants probably worked in a paper mill there.
However in the 1860 census we find that Robert is now living in Philadelphia calling himself Robert Mack (on which more later). He states he is now 18 years old and has the trade of an appentice printer. He is living in Letitia St. His brother William lives next door. In the 1861 Philadelphia Directory he is at No. 13 Letitia St. He now named as a printer. However with the Civil War pending Robert decides to enlist in the Union army and together with his brothers William and John enlists into the 69th.Pa. Inf all on the same day 19th. Aug. 1861. All three in Co. I.
However things did not go well for Robert and the following March 1862 he was admitted into hospital at Yorktown with typhoid fever. He never really recovers and on 29th. May 1862 is medically discharged from the army. One can only think that he made it back to Philadelphia.
However sometime in 1863 Robert re-enlists. For whatever reason he chooses a Conn. Regt. the 14th. Regt. He is off to serve again. However things go bad for Robert again and on 25th. Feb. 1864 he died at Brandy Station Culpeper Va. His remains are shipped back to Philadelphia and he us buried in the Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia in the same plot as his father Michael and brother John. Plot E.3.58. He was aged apprx. 21. For whatever reason to date there appears to be no paperwork trail for his service in the Conn. 19th. Regt. or indeed in the records of the 14th. Regt. which is named on his obituary notice in the Philadelphia Ledger of March 8th. 1864. See below.
John McNamara was probably born in Hardwick Mass. It would appear that he like his two brothers Robert and William received a good basic education. This is flagged up by his being able to join the 69th.Pa. as an officer. He enlists in the 69th.as a 2nd. Lieut. on 19th. Aug. 1861 Co. I.
However Johns health caused him problems and due to heart troubles was discharged 12th. Feb. 1862 and went home to Philadelphia. It is noted that he was still alive in the Special Pa. census of Sept. 1863. He is noted as living in Philadelphia 6th Ward 8th. Division. He is noted as having as occupation U.S.A. (United States Army). However his health further fails and John died 20th.Jan 1870. He is buried in the Old Cathedral cemetery in plot E.3.58 (2 from East) next to father Michael, brother John who died in 1864 and a nephew John. He was aged just 31.
Acknowledgements and thanks to:
Engine Room No. 8 Image courtesy Library of Congress.
Obit. Phil. Ledger March 8th.1864.