NOTE: Though this website is primarily about the officers and men of the 69th. Pa. it is of interest to know of the social, political and religious background of this regiment. In the case of the 69th. Pa. a very large percentage of it's officers and men were Irish and Catholic. We know also that the other 69th.Reg the 69th. New York Reg formed up in New York city had an even greater percentage Irish officers and men in its ranks and that this regiment still exists in the United States Army. From the information I have turned up below it is seen that several bishops,archbishops and other clerics born in Ireland in Co. Tyrone in particular left a legacy that left an historic imprint for both regiments of the Civil war and of the general Irish American Catholic ethos in North America. To my reading the prime motivator though dead before the Civil war started was Bishop Henry Conwell. By ordaining a young John Joseph Hughes a young Tyrone emigrant Oct. 15th. 1826 having been encouraged to do by Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton,ordaining him in Philadelphia he changed the standing of the Catholic immigrant Irish in New York and in the States generally. Sister Seton a convert to Catholicism for her incredible work was canonised to sainthood by Pope John XXIII Sept 14th 1975. The story of the impact of two sons of poor tenant farmers and the grand daughter of an original English Huguenot immigrant family of high social standing, the Bayleys into New York is very interesting.
In many publications and historical documents Philadelphia is often referred to as "The City of Brotherly Love". Sounds good but is a general statement well intentioned and no doubt is accurate in the general sense. However it just may not have been all together true in the Philadelphia prior to the Civil War or during the Irish famines of the early and mid 19th century. In these dark decades the Irish population was unable to manage or feed itself. This inability primarily due to the loss of their land due to forcefull appropriation or by direct conquest by the British Crown in earlier times.
The conquest of what was initially to become British N. America primarily the initial conquest of the eastern seaboard of the continent was initially a small adventure. The French also got into the act moving into the lands surrounding the St. Lawrence river leading subsequently to the development of the province of Quebec. As news filtered back to a Europe either in a state of war or the needs of populations expanding rapidly the exit route they embarked on was to the newly forming up colonies where there was space, cheap land and opportunities. Soon the flow of migrants from all over Europe westerly to these new lands would become a flood. Well known cities would soon be forming up and expanding rapidly as their populations increased dramatically.
Let us primarily focus on Philadelphia in the pre war era circa 1800 onwards until the Civil War of 1860-65. The 69th Pa Infantry formed up in Philadelphia is our particular interest. As the 69th Pa was a regiment with a particular Irish Catholic ethos we need to look just a little at the Catholic bishops and leaders of this era in the Philadelphia dioceses. They would be very much seen as leaders of their communities. Let us look at some of these men and their roles in the Society of the time and especially when the 69th Pa was forming up. As so many of the soldiers were from Tyrone and Derry as can be seen from the names in the various regimental company roisters, were themselves from or families came from the Sperrin Ridge hills on the Derry Tyrone border in the Diocese's of Derry and Tyrone it is not surprising that the town of Dungannon is of much interest. The town that was the old headquarters of the O'Neills of Ulster. Reading the notes below we will also see the links to the 69th.New York Inf. the "Fighting 69th." via some of these clerics.
Philadelphia was a very important destination for Irish emigrants from way before 1860. It was very accessible for emigrants from the N.W. of Ireland in particular. The port of Derry ensured a high proportion of the immigrants into Philadelphia were from the counties of Derry, Tyrone and Donegal. See pie chart above which relates to the proportion of soldiers in the 69th Pa but can equally be applied to emigrants from those counties.
The Irish would continue to flow into Philadelphia from the early, mid 19th century and start to form a high percentage of the populaton enhanced by the mass immigration during the infamous Irish potato famine in the mid 19th century. There would be problems with the existing population. Much has been written about the city at the time but much has been air brushed out or edited by many writers perhaps intentionally to keep their readrship on side. Looking at the scenario in pre-war Philadelphia from this side of the Atlantic there seems to have been a few powerful forces at play in the expanding city. Let us at the situation in the city and its inhabitants and their allegiances.They loosey fell into the following groupings.
A: The people well established for not really too many years earlier mostly European stock with a very high percentage of them of English Scots and Welsh origin. These people condidered themselves to be Americans not giving too much thought to the fact that they were themselves immigants from not too many decades before the mid 19th century. The Indian tribes were long gone having been forced West. The Africans from the Slave Trade era were around but not in any great numbers and were mainly passive and subservient. The society was predominately white with a very large proportion of Anglo-Saxon stock and not Catholic in religious belief.
B: However coming into the mix were two very powerful players. The Catholic Irish and also, though a lower percentage people from the north-east part of Ireland Protestans mostly Presbyterians from the province of Ulser. Old grievances between the emigrant Catholic and Protestants was set to carry on. However it must be noted in fairness that the Presbyterians of Ulster sailing out of ports such as Derry played no small part in the successful War of Independence that broke the link with England earlier in the successful War of Independence from British rule.
C: A political grouping formed up in the mid 1840's naming itself as the Native American Party later to be commonly known as The Know Nothing Movement or Nativists. This movement gained some power in the late 1840's espousing white supremacy and most of all have an anti Catholic ethos. Gaining some momentum in the 1850's under its leader Louis Charles Levin himself a white politican from the southern States. The movement as such gained in strength through the pre-Civil War era and gained its strength by focussing its attention on the massive Irish and to a lesser extent German Catholic immigration percentage into the eastern states in particular.The history of the period shows that there were also problems in many forming up American cities where Irish immigration was dramatically increasing. There was a great opportunity to stoke up feelings and no doubt gain political gain in what was a non Catholic population not particularly benine in its view of that religion. There would be trouble ahead in pre-war Philadelphia with its rapidly expanding Irish Catholic population, an immigrant population with people from all over Ireland but with a great percentage from the counties of Tyrone, Derry and Donegal.
By the 1820's onwards reading into the history of Philadelphia the Catholic immigrant Irish seemed to feel so much under pressure they started to form up groupings of what could be taken as low key protective groupings associated with neighbourhood fire hose campanies associating themselves with patronage of the names associated with Irish patriots. Names such as "The Hibernian Greens", the "Montgomery Hibernian Guards" and others named after Irish patriots or well known names associated with Ireland's troubled past. Philadelphia if one reads its pre-war history was a place of confrontation in politics, religion and nationality. It was frighteningly so alike the recent "Troubles" associated with N. Ireland. Having set a very basic background to the political, ethnic, and religious scenario of pre-war Philadelphia let me look at main religious leadersassociated with the formation of the 69th Pa. Infantry a regiment evolved from the Firehouse compamies and pre war militia units. Evolving from these companies were the 69th.Pa. Vol. Infantry with its high proportion of men drawn from counties Tyrone, Derry and Donegal in particular. These men would have been most certainly near 100% Catholic as would their families. They would as Catholics have their local priests with a Bishop or Archbishop in overall charge. They would see these men as their leaders in their societies with the government and city authorities secondary though they would follow the "laws of the land". A high percentage of the early Catholic clergy and bishops amongst the Catholic population of Philadelphia would be Irish.
Let us look at the first four or five bishops of Philadelphia who would have been known to the soldiers of the 69th Pa and their families. We will look at the initial bishops in some detail but in much more detail at Bishop's Conwell and Hughes.
This man was a Franciscan missionary. He served at a period of great change and with at times fractious relationships with some lay trustees associated with what was the new St. Marys church in Philadelphia which was run by a board of trustees. It all ended up with him being ejected from the board of trustees and the cutting of priest salalies. I am mentioning this man and St. Marys as they would set out the scenario of the Philadelphia we are going to look at.
For six years 1814-1820 Philadelphia had no bishop. This was apparently known as "The Philadelphia Question" and in this period two others were offered the post but refused. Rome had a problem!. Let us look at a couple of these bishops in particular as they most certainly contributed to the history of Philadelphia and its Irish popuation pre, during and post Civil War.
Though Henry Conwell was dead long before the Civil War commenced in 1861 he having died in Philadelphia in 1844 he was nevertheless around and serving in the Philadelphia of the sectarian era's prior to the Civil war
These years from 1830 onwards after he arrived from Ireland and as such he must be considered a player in the scenario of this era. He was also a Derry man and being born close to the Tyrone border would be seen as "one of us" in pre war Philadelphia. Tyrone and Derry people are like that!. He would have been well liked despite his advanced years. He would play a part in Philadelphias history. Let us look at his life in some detail.
Henry Conwell was born in the townland of Ballymilligan or Ballymulligan a small townland close to the villages of Loup and Moneymore in Co. Derry close to the western shore of Lough Neagh circa 1745.The family were most certainly smal tenant farmers on lands owned by the Worshipfull Company of Salters a London based company gifted the lands in this area after the fall of the old ruling Irish families in Elizabeth 1st's reign. As to how many acres of land the family ownned circa 1745 it is impossible to say but it is noted in the Griffiths valuation of Ireland 1859 the Conwell family had a portion of land of 11 acres 3 roods and 13 perches.
Probably Henry Conwell received his initial education at what were known as hedge schools in his immediate area. He obviously was a fairly bright student which encouraged his faniy to send him to the Irish College in Rome to take up a fellowship fund established there for his education. It may well be that the local Catholic community clubbed together to finance his expenses and education in Rome. This was not an uncommon practice in those years. This obviously worked out and Henry Conwell was ordained a priest in Rome on Nov. 1776 for the Armagh diocese. No doubt as a young man in Rome he followed events in both Ireland and America where many of his friends were emigrating to. He was now approx. 30 years of age. He was now ready to return home to Ireland. He finds himself serving in the town of Dungannon Co. Tyrone in the diocese of Armagh as a curate.
Taking his position as a curate in Dungannon would leave him administrating in a relatively small town but with a fairly high percentage of the population Catholic but he would have few facilities in either a proper church or schools in what then was a smallish town. However between 1796 and 1820 he would be promoted by Rome to the post of Archdiocean Vicar and later become Vicar General of Armagh. He would be on a steep learning curve. He would also be home in an Ireland very restless politically where politics and religion were entwined as much
then as now as seen in recent decades.
His initial church was probablly a single story old farmhouse with a thatched roof and a clay floor and
un-obtrustive. This was a very common requirement at the time and if one looks at the many chaple sites across the country as now even though the churches may be modern the sites they are on are unobstrsive. There are numerous examples of this in Tyrone and Derry. I am of the opinion that the original Dungannon chaple or Mass house followed these requirements set by the landlord. This "benine" allocation of land was of a small area commonly about 1 rood (a quarter acre) granted to local Catholics on whom he in many cases found necessary to service his estate. The image above left is probably very like the original Mass house or chaple that was initially built in Dungannon. The picture above is of the Rocks chaple at Magheracranmoney townland near Crossgar in Co. Down. This church was typicel of the post Penal chapels found in Catholic districts. This one was built in 1769.
By 1799 part of the site now occupied by the current Dungannon church was leased from the local landlord Lord Ranfurley (Thomas Knox Viscount Northland) for £2.14.6 per year with the rider that there was to be no burials on the site or no dwellings except for a small cottage suitable for perhaps a watchman or administration purposes. It is possible to prove the area of this site was small. No doubt the initial small thatched Mass house
would be improved through the decades after its initial purchase and have a slate roof and perhaps re-built to a better specification and have pews installed with kneelers and a tile floor etc. But it certainly would not have been built beyond the initial landlords land allocation. This would not happen until 1865 way after Henry Conwells time.
It is known that in 1865 as the American Civil war drew to a close that a Dean Felix Strane of Dungannon purchased a further 31 perches. Why this ususual number?. We know that 40 perches equalts to 1 Rood or a quarter area. It would be a fair assumption that the initial Mass house occupied apprx. 7 perches the further 31 perches would make up the classic 40 perches= 1 Rood. This was in 1865. However lets see the scenario prior to 1865. Let us revert to earlier times and Henry Conwell's era in Dungannon.
Some progress was being made in the relaxation of the Penal Law era and the facilities for the Catholics of Dungannon but in dangerous times around the United Irishm en's rebellion of 1798. This was an era of extreme danger to anyone perceived to be acting against the Crown. What was formally British North America had severed it's ties with Britain in the war of 1775-78 the so called War of the Rebellion through Britsih eyes or The War of Independence as seen through American eyes. There was also a war scenario with France. It was a time when England would feel under great pressure from many sides.
Ireland was quite unstable but that problem could be deal with militarily. Ireland had been effectively colonised in earlier generations and the land distributed to British landlords after the fall of the Irish ruling families. Aided by the victory of William III in 1690 in the case of N.E. Ireland ie William of Orange and their descendant followers and earlier established English landlords the Crown had total control over life and death especially in the Province of Ulster aided by the various Orange societies and what were private militias under the command of the local landlords. Law was also admisistrated locally by the local magistrates most of whom would be the local landlords. For a United Irishman death by hanging would inevitably be the result of a "trial". No one escaped. In 1797 for example a Father O'Coigley a priest of the Armagh diocese was hanged. A man most certainly known to Henry Conwell. No doubt Conwell knew from the nature of his profession who was a member of the United Irishmen or Catholic Defenders another secret organisation etc and no doubt the authorities of the State knew that Conwell knew which members of his flock were possible members and as such he himself would have been under constant suspicion. At aged 77 and probably looking forward to handing over the reins of his role as the senior cleric of the diocese of Armagh to a much younger man things changed dramatically for Henry Conwell. His masters in the Vatican had plans for him. No he would not be allowed to live out his days in Dungannon or in the Armagh diocese. He was offered a position in far off Madras in India or Philadelphia. For an old man his choice was between a rock and a hard place. But why?. The answer may be obviouse to readers who know the politics of the clash of two power brokers at the time Britain and the Vatican and the politics of Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There had been prior to Henry Conwells departure for America pleas from his flock in the Armagh diocese that he remain with them but alas Rome would get its way. However another rather peculiar event seems to have happened to his life after he was sent under orders from Rome to England so that an Englishman a Bishop William Poynter would consecrate Conwell to full bishops rank in London 24th Aug. 1820. This done Bishop Conwell set off for America accompanied by a young man called Bernard Keenan himself a Tyrone man and about 30 years younger than Conwell in 1820. From the dates available it looks like this Bernard Keenan who accompanied Henry Conwell was aged about 40 when he went with Henry Conwell to Philadelphia in 1820. It looks like he was being taken to America perhaps as someone having a "late vocation" for the priesthood to receive his religious education in America and be ordained there. His presence with the aged Conwell now 77 would be support in what in 1820 was an ardous voyage.
Both men arrived in Philadelphia 2nd Dec. 1820. However it is later noted that this Bernard Keenan was sent to be educated for the priesthood at Mount St. Marys in Maryland where he completed his studies. On comletion he was ordained in Philadelphia and was the first priest to be ordained in that city. As Father Bernard Keenan he would go to serve in a church in Lancaster Pa. Serving in St Marys Church there as pastor for 54 years and died there with the rank of V.G. Vicar General a very senior ranking. He died there Feb 17th 1877 aged 97.
So that Henry Conwell would have appropriate rank to serve in Philadelphia he was before setting out for America sent to have the appropriate rank bestowed on him. I mentioned Poynter above. Here are a few notes on Poynter.
Bishop Poynter of London (1762-1827) had been educated in the English school in Douai France and ordained there 1795 but was caught in the French Rebellion there and imprissoned there for 18 months. However he was released from jail in 1795 and returned to England. However the new post French revolution army would send troops to Ireland, to West Mayo in 1798 but failed miserably with their military attempts to help the local United Irishmen. The English were so contemptious of them as a fighting force after capture they sent them across Ireland by barge to Dublin and shipped them home. The Irishmen were not so lucky as the grave pits in Co. Mayo still show. So it would be fair to say that Conwell and Poynter knew very well each others background and had obvious good knowledge of the politics of France, England and Ireland at the time.
Though the rebellion in Irelnd was primarily a Catholic event the more liberal Presbyterians especially those in Co's Antrim and Down also got involved not necessarily because of their liking of Catholics on the whole but because they as a religion were also being discriminated against mostly economically and because the ruling elite were generally of the the Anglican Protestant faiths evolving from the initial Anglican High Church of England and subsequently the Church of Ireland, Scotland etc. They were 2nd. class citizens and Catholics 3rd. Arriving in Philadelphia on Dec. 2nd. 1820 Henry Conwell arrived in a Philadelphia whose Catholic dioceses were in a very unstable state. Bishop Egan had died in 1814 and the post of a replacement was offered to the Rev Ambrose Marechal, and the Rev. Louis De Barth who look like French stock. Both these men declined the Papal Bulls forwarded to them by Rome. This primarily due to the activities of the trustees of St. Marys church in the city and those of the Rev. William Hogan a somwhat controversial cleric. There was somewhat a type of schism and Heny Conwell was left to manage the fallout. However he got sucked into a situation that he probably did not fully understand. First mistake was to recall as vicar general a Dominican called William Vincent Harold who Conwell's predecessor had dismissed. This complicated the situation. However Henry Conwells next mistake was that on the 9th. Oct. 1826 he capitulated to the trustees of St. Marys Church their right to set salaries and veto any appointments he made to that church. This surrender of power drew great displeasure from Rome. They appointed an admisistrator and summonsed him back to Rome. Another sea and land journey for an old man now aged 83. His explanations to Rome were deemed unsatisfactory and he was forbidden to return to his see. However he did just that and as an obvious deal allowed perform episcopal functions only. His fully operational functional operation as a bishop had lasted from 1820 until 1830 approx 10 years. In 1830 Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick took over the full operational function of the Philadelphia diocese with Henry Conwell having a secondary role.
Though the Dublin born Bishop Kenrick took over as the primary bishop from 1830 Henry Conwell would appear to have played his part in the affairs of Philadelphia and this is where the links to the history of the later formed up 69th. Pa. Infantry come in. Many of the later to be soldiers of the 69th. would be born in the 1830's and no doubt along with their families would have been very aware of Bishop Conwell and his day to day reaction with them no doubt because of where he came from in Ireland he would be eyed with great affection. Though Bishop Kenrick was the prime bishop in the diocese from about 1830 Conwell was still around. In the Diary and Visation Records of Bishop Kendrick he makes the folowing comments.
On June 12th 1827 I blessed solemely according to the rite of the Pontificate the cemetery of St Michaels in Kensington. About two thousand people attended or more were present.
Another entry from his records dated Sept. 28th 1834 states.
I blessed solemely the church of St. Michael in Kensington near the city.The bishop of Philadelphia ( obviously Henry Conwell) was present at the blessing. The Rev. J. Donahoe pastor of the church celebrated the Mass. The Rev John Hughes preached.. In this statement he refers to Bishop Conwell as "the bisop of Philadelphia" and not by his name. This is because both seemed to have had a poor relationship and it is atated that when both men were sharing the same parochial dwelling Conwell requested Kenrick to move out.
Moving on in time in the evolving Philadelphia towards the late 1830's and early 1840's the Catholic population of Philadelphia was increasing in great numbers and becoming more confident.There would be confrontation ahead as relationships with the newly arriving Irish Catholics soured
relations with the already established population from earlier inward migration.This confrontation reached a peak in the early 1840's.
Bishop Henry Conwell died of pneumonia at the rectory of Old Saint Josephs Rectory. He was initially interred in the Old St Josephs Catholic church and later removed to the Cathedral Basilica of St Peter and Paul when it was completed. (See image above left).
This man came into a Philadelphia where the religious teaching in what were public schools was based on the King James version of the bible and as all the schools had evolved from the generally Protestant Anglo Saxon school system it would naturally follow they would generally continue to do so irrespective of the new immigrants or their ethos or religion. Trouble waiting to happen! and it did.
With a Catholic immigrant population expanding massively. Between 1830 and 1890 the Catholic mostly Irish population grew from around 35,000 to 170,000 nearly five times and the number of churches they were building growing by the year from some 22 to 94. Things were changing. Co-incidentally with these changes Bishop Kenrick perhaps under pressure from his flock or by good intention picked up on the fact that the public schools were teaching the King James version bible with readings from it each day at the start of lessons. He would insist that the Douai version would be read in Catholic schools or Catholic children would be facilated in these schools by being read the Douai version. There would be trouble ahead. Waiting in the wings would be members of the Nativists but more likely to stir up trouble were the descendants of Ulster Protestants and members of the Orange order. Thus kicked in the riots of 1844. This was a situation that would roll on and on. Rather than have an ongoing confrontation about this problem the Bishop and his flock simply decided that the most effective way to get round the problem was to build their own school system and this they did. Basically in the 1850's Philadelphia evolved a junior school system similar to that in modern N. Ireland.
Like Conwell Kenrick would have been very well known to the parents of children later to serve in the 69th Pa. Inf.
Let us look closer at this mans life. Henry Conwell in my view has been badly overlooked in the history of Irish Catholic Philadelphia and by association indirectly with the development of the ethos of the 69th Pa. Infantry. Yes he was dead by 1844 some 16 years before the Civil war 1860-65. Young men with Irish parents joining up in Philadelphia in 1860 would have heard their parents talking about Bishop Conwell and his ties with them and Ireland.
It is interesting to try and sort out several major events in Henry Conwells life. I feel that it may be worth looking at particularly his life in Dungannon as he reached the age of 77. Surely he must have thought that after such a long period of service in the troubled years of Irish history he would simply be replaced by a much younger man and he could simply have enjoyed his last years in peace and reflection. He had served his congregation well and taken them through periods of strife both economic, social and political.
Would this happen?. The information I have on hand as now is worth looking at. For his long service to his flock perhaps he looked for some award or acknowledgement from Rome. However Rome would appear to have other ideas. No, not release him to retirement or perhaps to a smaller parish. He was given a choice as to where he would now serve in Madras in India or Philadelphia in America!. He was between a rock and a hard place. What to do?.
Probably very little. He had to comply. The son of a small farmer and his family probably long dead he had few choices. He was not a man of independent means. It was now circa 1830 he was aged 77 so after a visit to Bishop Poynter it was off to America in a sailing ship of the era not a comfortable or particularly safe journey though he had another Tyrone man a young man Bernard Keenan as a companion. Settled in Philadelphia in his new post and probably not too au fait with the politics of the relationships between individual bishops and flocks he was in some trouble. He was unable to solve their problems in Philadelphia. Word soon reached Rome again and obviously displeased they summonsed him back to Rome again. Henry Conwell was in yet more trouble. He was now approx 83 years. From Philadelphia he had to make the long sea voyage to Europe and overland to Rome to hear his fate. It would appear he faced down Rome not a thing they would expect. He then went home to Philadelphia. Then Bishop Kenrick took over as main bishop of Philaelphia. But is there another story from a prior time in the relationship between Henry Conwell and Rome?. I feel there had to be. Had he displeased them perhaps with his politics in the Ireland of the late 18th century? the era of the United Irishmen and general unrest in Ireland amongst the Catholic population causing the now established estate owners some concern. Would there be another 1798 rising? Were there still radical thinkers still alive and well and in positions of influence in Ireland? There were few people in the native Irish population of much influence the only Irish ones of much influence were the Catholic clergy who could be on the whole easily controlled by favouritism and failing this by political pressure. No doubt as Ireland's population was overwhelmingly Catholic except the N.E. province of Ulster. Rome would no doubt see Ireland as part of its Catholic area of influence. Not a country to lose influence over after the losses of England, Scotland and Wales in Reformation times. Was Henry Conwell perhaps his own man and could rock the political boat displeasing both Rome and the local Anglo Irish landlords?. Were the back channels of communication between the the British parliament many of whose members had many ties to the Anglo-Irish landlords in Ireland carrying tales of these trouble some Catholics in Ireland? Possibly. No two States do better "back channel" communication than the Vatican and the British parliament then as well as now. Was Henry Conwell seen by both Rome and the governing landlords and the parliament in London as a "troublesome Irish cleric" in the years of the 1798 rebellion and into the early part of the 19th century?. Just maybe I think. But where is the proof of subtle suppositions being made about Henry Conwell in previous chapters?. Though by no means a proof the co-incidence of and content of a letter written by a Bernard Mc Kenna a New York school teacher who would appear to have been a member of the United Irishmen's society of 1798. This letter in reply to a letter to him from Henry Conwell in 1811 is most interesting. Keep in mind that it was Henry Conwell who seems to have triggered a reply from McKenna.The letter worth printing out an reading.
The transcript is very interesting. Now before being too critical of its content and language, phrasing etc it must be realised that Bernard McKenna's initial schooling was at a hedge school in rural Co. Tyrone probably in the Aughnacloy area. Before jumping to a quick judgement on this letter it would be prudent to look at his background and where he was coming from. Yes we know he probably attended a hedge school. As far as is known he was the son of an inn keeper from somewhere in the Aughnacloy area. His politics would no doubt be formed by what he was witnessing around him. Seeing the unbalanced political scenario and the inequality of his treatment as being a third class citizen. He probably looked at the massive changes that took place in Franch's 1789-99 revolution where the seeds of power going down to the actual French people would germinate. However in the Ireland of the time McKenna and thousands of his fellow countrymen could really do nothing to change the system.
Lets look at the letter. Yes it is a rather rambling one and I pick up that he is obviously out to impress Henry Coswell even though his basic education was a hedge school he had greatly improved his education by enhansing his education in America so much so that he had become a school teacher obvioulsy with some ability. He is clearly out to impress Henry Conwell by the use of many many words not in common use at the time I suspect, Bernard was out to impress Henry Conwell.
However that aside lets look at the material of note in the letter. In the first section he most certainly flags up that he and Henry Conwll were very well know to each other from earlier times in Ireland. He mentions jovial hours and social times together. The line "It has been observed to me that at the time of an indulgence in Dungannon that he perceived your regard for me was much declined he said he saw me salute you and that you took very little notice of it ...etc etc". One wonders when this incidemt took place and for what reason. Was it perhaps just prior to May 1797 when McKenna hot footed it off to America?. It might be that Henry Conwell knew well that McKenna was indeed a United Irishman and as the place at the time was littered with spies and Dungannon was a relatively small place Henry Conwell was ensuring that any spy might not be suspicious and report the incident. Such practices were common an a report back from a spy would soon filter through to the forces of the Crown and be given high priority as evidence. Many would find it enough to hang them. I feel this is where Henry Conwell was between a rock and a hard place and not for the first time.
Looking further down the letter Bernard McKenna makes the statement that he left Aughnacloy 7th May 1797 and "sorrowfully took my leave of you" and headed off for America via Derry. He descrbes in some detail his walk to Derry avoiding the yeomen etc. He finally arrived in Derry and joined a boat for the journey to America. They moved down the Foyle and anchored off Moville until 7th of June nearly a month later when they finally headed off for America. On the 15th of August they arrived in Dover Delaware. He had reached America after some two months en route.
By the 24th Sept he has reached New York.He then goes on to state that he had purchased a farm and had befriended a family of Quakers who were very kind to him but he did not yield to their expectations that he would convert to their religion.He then goes on to describe how he married and had a couple of children but sadly lost his wife. He would appeare to have realised that though he had turned his hand to learn his subsistence as a teacher he was not really well enough qualified for the task and again focussed his attention in improving his education. Another adventure he had was his purchasing of a farm but alas did not ensure his deeds of ownership were not particularly accurate to prove ownership but after having to "talk the law" on the rogue claimant but at the end of the day retained ownership of farm. Also at one stage he survived a very bad health scare.
In the last section he goes on to list in some detail and name quite a few clerics calling it the "ecclesiastical of the church". These would appear to be names of clerics who would appear to be associated with the New York area and some of whom may have been already known to Henry Conwell. This paragraph is difficuly to understand. Were these men known to Henry Conwell from earlier days?. The names quoted are by no means typical of Derry or Tyrone so one can make suppositions.
Bernard ends up his letter by signing it with a very subservient style. Signifiganty he states that this is his first letter back to Ireland, some 14 years after he left.
Another Tyrone man. This time from near the village of Augher about 28 miles west of Aughnacloy where Rev.Terrence Donaghue came from. If one refers
to the notes of Archbishop Francis Kendrick Philadelphia 1830-51 and notes the entry he made in his Diary and Visitation Record, it is noted on on Sept 28th 1834 he visited St. Michaels church on that day. Bishop Conwell was present at the blessing as was the Rev. T. F Donoghue the pastor who celebrated the Mass and that the Rev John Hughes presided. This was the young man aged 37 who would later become the well known
Bishop John Joseph Hughes of New York city and by direct association with the building of the famous St. Patricks Cathedral on 5th Ave. New York (Manhatten).
This man became a very influential figure in the standing of Irish Catholics in New York indeed by association with the general importance of the Catholic ethos in America and its standing and also of its followers.
Though there is much in the public domain about Hughes it is always interesting to look at these men and their roots, what townland and village they were from in Ireland, who his parents were etc. This is a kind of Irish thing. One has to yield lots of background information to get fully accepted by your newest best friend!
Archbishop Hughes was administrating in the New York city and diocese which at the time was taking in a massive number of immigrants. Ones from Ireland in particular. Not a man to suffer fools gladly or yield to pressure from City leaders or Governemnt officialdom he stamped his personality on events. Known as "Dagger John" to both his flock and no doubt to his detractors because of his penchant for signing his name as a bishop did at the time with an + before his name construed as a dagger by his detractors and perhaps by his flock in a benine way when he displeased them!
Let us take a short snap-shot of his life. Born June 24th 1797 a year prior to the height of the 1798 rebellion the third of seven children born to Patrick Hughes and Margaret McKenna small farmers and linen weavers in that part of rural Co.Tyrone eeking out a living in an area of Co.Tyrone not too well disposed towards Catholics. He had what would be an unsettled childhood. His sister who died young was denied the freedom of a Catholic funeral and he escaped being lynched by a group of Orangmen. He certainly would have understood the 1844 riots in Philadelphia!. The family initially lived in the townland of Annaloughan but later moved across into Co. Monaghan to the townland of Dernaved (Image left of their original home-Restored) about three miles east of their original home. Looking at the later census and the names listed I would be fairly certain they moved to a more benine area where the proportion of Catholic names is much higher. This would probably an area of much poorer land. A young Joseph Hughes was not as they say cut out for a farming life he being interested in horticulture. His father got an apprecticeship for John for him in the gardens of the local estate of the local Landlord on his estete at Favour Royal Manor close by. John came under the tutelage of Roger Toland the head gardner. However his family still under the pressure of the politics of the time decided to emigrate to America in 1816 and settled in Chambersburg Pa. Joseph however no doubt missing his family decided to join them and did so a year later in 1817. Here Joseph started to move on and join the Church. To do this he befreinded Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton herself well lnown to Bishop Henry Conwell and with her recommendadtion enabled him to study for the priesthood at Mount St. Marys College in Emmitsbugh Md. by Sept 1820. He would be a fully functional priest back in Philadelphia by the fall of 1826. He would soon establish a good relationship the another Tyrone man from a similar background back home, Bishop Henry Conwell.
The relationship with Conwell obviously gained strengh and the would be promotion ahead with a quite and incredible outcome in the history of the Church in N. America.
The fact that a young Hughes would have impressed Sister Ann Seton is quite remarkable. She would appear to have recognised perhaps leadership and determination skills in the young Hughes. If you click on the icon below with her name you will see the life story of this remarkable woman ending up in her being raised to full sainthood by the Vatican. I kind of see Conwells influence behind all his. Perhaps not a great preacher but he could "Network" to use modern day parlance. Let us add a few more notes on John Hughes clerical life.
John Hughes was odained a priest in Philadelphia by his fellow Co. Tyrone man and friend Bishop Henry Conwell Oct 15th 1826 and served in the Philadelphia diocese. His first assignment was curate at St. Augustine's church in Philadelphia. He then was sent as a "missionary" to the Bedford area of Mass. which was quite successful mission as quite a few people were converted to Catholicism. On recall to Philadelphia he was named as paster of St. Joseph's church. He then was assigned to the somewhat infamous St. Mary's a church in Philadelphia with had many governance problems, For an old Bishop Conwell this new dynamic Father Hughes would get things done and did so.
One could raise an eye brow about what subsequently happened next when Hughes instigated the building of a new and very modern church of St. John the Evangelist in 1832 considered one of the finestchurches in the City. This effectively caused the demise of the St. Mary's troublemakers. The St Marys's issue was solved. He had a year earlier founded the St. Josephs Orphan Society. Rome obviously started taking notice of Hughes and he was chosen by Pope Gregory XVI as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of New York on Aug 1st 1837 and subsequently bishop of St. Patricks Old Cathedral (Manhattan) on Jan 1st 1838. He would serve as Bishop of New York until his death in office Jan 3rd 1864 towards the end of the the Civil War. No doubt he would have been well known to the families and soldiers of that other regiment, the 69th. New York Infantry. During his reign in the diocese of New York several St. Patricks churches would have been built in the earlier years all very modest buildings. Archbishop Hughes when installed would have plans for a bigger and more established St. Patricks Cathedral, the present world renown St. Patricks Cathedral (Mannhatten) on 5th Ave. He laid the corner stone Aug 15th 1858. Though good initial progress work was suspended during the Civil War and sadly Hughes died on Jan 3rd. 1864 just befoe the end of the war but work re-commenced and it was finished a few years later.
No doubt Archbishop Hughes was well aquainted with the men of the New York 69th. and their families. He achieved many things during his reign including the establishment of Fordam University and great improvements in Catholic education system. Hughes Was also among many other things an unofficial link with the Vatican for President Lincoln and advisor to him on hospital chaplains. He also went on Lincoln's request to France to engender a more sympathetic attitude towards the Union cause in the Civil War.
John Joseph Hughes the son of a small poor tenant farmer from Co. Tyrone would change the status and standing of the Catholic population in the United States for ever, especially that of the Irish emigrants. Perhaps a lot of thanks should also be given to Henry Conwell. This man to me was the main motivator of this remarkable story.
The Most Rev. Dr, John Joseph Hughes D.D. was initially buried in the Old St. Patricks Cathedral but his remains were exhumed and he was re-interred in the crypt under the altar of the "New" Cathedral cemetery ie the world famous St.Patrick's Cathedral (Manhatten) on 5th Ave Manhatten New York City. Click on Icon below for more information.
The Rev. Terrence James Donaghoe was born in Aughnacloy Co. Tyrone not too far from Bishop Conwell's birth place. Donaghoe was born on 29th. Feb 1795 and by 1843 was the pastor at St. Michaels church near Kensington Philadelphhia.
In the same year the convent of The Congregation of the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, had been established in Philadelphia with quite a few sisters from Ireland. However also in 1843 the bishop of Dubuque Iowa Bishop Lorcas requested the Rev Donaghoe and the sisters of his convent to relocate to Iowa. This was agreed and most of the nuns set off for Iowa to set up their new convent. Father Donaghoe would follow later. Several nuns were allowed to remain in Philadelphia to settle accounts and close down their operation. However shortly after they left for Iowa things started to get unsettled in Philadelphia and Fr.
Donaghue and the remaining sisters would get caught up in the Nativist riots of 1844. In the riots in the city the Nativist mob had demolished a house said to have been the convent of the nuns engaged in teaching in the school attached to St. Michaels. Fr. Donague was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had to remain in Philadelphia during the riots and witnessed St. Michaels being burnt to the ground as well as the school. Many houses owned by the Irish were alos destroyed. It is of interest to note that before the church was burnt it had been searched by what was the state militia of the time under the command of a Capm Fairlamb. No arms were found needless to say it was the Catholiic Irish who were somehow responsible for the riots!. The keys of the church had been handed over to Capt. Fairlamb by a Father William Loughran Father who himself was another Tyrone man. He returned to Dungannon and died there having returned to Ireland and probably Dungannon in 1860.
Six days after the burning and destruction of St Michaels Father Donaghey erected a temporary church. On Aug 24th. 1844 Father Donaghue had the corner stone of what is the current church (see image above) erected.
After things settled down it would appear that Father Donaghue went west to Dubuque to get involved with the nuns who had relocated there. The Rev. T. F. Donaghoe died in Dubuque Iowa on 5th. Jan. 1869. He was aged 74. He is buried in Mount Carmel cemetery Dubuque Iowa.
Father Bernard Keenan Born Co. Tyrone 1779. Died Lascaster Pa. 19th. Feb. 1877.
This the the man who accompanied Bishop Conwell to America in 1820
as a layman. He was educated for the priesthood at Mount St. Marys College in Emmetsburg in Maryland a large college established at the time
espousing Catholic education and still operational as the somewhat
prestigious Mount St. Marys University. He was ordained in Philadelphia and was the first priest ordained in the diocese of Philadelphia. By whom I do not as yet know. After ordination he was sent to administrator at St. Marys church at Lascaster Pa. Here he would find a smallish Catholic and German community which had in its earlier existence had its initial wooden church burned down burned down in Dec. 1760.
Though rewards were offered for information surprisingly there is no record of anyone being found guilty of the attack. Surprisingly!. Perhaps Nativism was also alive and well in Lancaster.
The initial Catholic community in the Lascaster area at the time was mostly a mix of Germans and Irish but though having a common religion they were very different people culturally. This caused problems resulting in the German section of the area building their own church a somewhat radical solution. The subsequent new chaple was named St.Josephs sometimes known locally as "The German Church" which was built within sight of the original St Marys. However as time moved on the Irish would become the dominant propotion of the community. They would go on to build a new church named St. Marys.
Bernard Keenan was obviously a much loved cleric. H was promoted to V.G. (Vicar General) a rank I believe just be below having Bishop status. Bernard Keenan lived to the great old age of 97 beating Henry Conwell by a few years! The script at the top of his tomb are the two Greek letters Alpha and Omega the first letters of the Greek alphabet...thus meaning the beginning and end of life. No man is immortal.
Father Bernard Keenan V.G. is buried in St Marys Catholic Cemetery in Lancaster, Lancaster Co. Pa.
If one reads the history of the turbulent times in the Philadelphia of 1844 this mans name turns up. He was the priest who was present at St. Michael's church the night it was burned in 1844. It was he who handed over the keys of the church to Capt Fairlamb during the rioting so that the church could be searched for rioters. Sadly it was apparently left unlocked and rioters gained access to burn it. Father Loughran later returned to Dungannon and died there.
Above is the copy of a very interesting letter which really confirms the links between a soldier of the 69th Pa. Dennis McAnespy and the historic St. Michael's Church in Philadelphia and also with the then current pastor Rev. William Loughran at St. Michael's who performed the wedding on 7th. May 1848. Thomas Kierdu was the paster in 1862 who issued this letter confirming that the marriage in 1862. This letter was countersigned by the then Bishop of Philadelphia James T. wood Oct 9th 1862.This letter was part of the documents required to legitimise the pension claim by the widow of Sergt Dennis McAnespy a soldier in Co. D of the 69th PA. shot an killed 5th Sept. 1861 in action in woods at Gt. Bethel near Cold Harbour Va. April 6th. 1861. Buried site unknown as now. His wife was Susanna Donaghy and the witnesses were Felix McOscar and Margaret Lafferty. Dennis and Susanna had three children before he was killed. Susanna re-married a few years later. It is interesting to see the number of well known Tyrone/Derry names associated with this wedding.
Not a lot is known about this mans earlier life. It would appear that he was possibly born near Berah Co. Tyrone in the diocese of Armagh Ireland circa 1820. I know nothing about his early life or how, when and under what circumstances he went to America. The only possibility is that like Archbishop Hughes of New York he was sponsored by the diocese of Philadelphia and his education to the priesthood took a similar path to Hughes. By 1860 the year the Civil War started Michael Martin would appear to have been well established in his ministry in the city. He was aged 43. It would appear by 1860 he was well known established and respected in the city and heavily involved with the Irish community which had increased greatly through the famine era and right up to the commencement of the Civil War. Being a Tyrone man he would be very well aquainted with the circumstances of the Derry, Tyrone and Donegal immigrants already in the city and still pouring in. If anyone was minded to set up a regiment to fight for the Union Father Martin would be a person to get on board. What had he going for him on this account?. I suppose it would be prudent to look at the senior clerics of greater Philadelphia the men who called the shots on the behaviour and control of the clerics and conmgregations within their see.The bishop of Philadelphia from 1811 until 1860 was the Bohemian born German John Neumann. Perhaps well intentioned but in essence totally incapable of understanding the mindset of the thousands of Catholic Irish immigrants in and coming into the city. Yes there was also a sizeable population of German Catholics also arriving so he had perhaps a problem. I have read somewhere that the relations between the Catholic Germans and Catholic Irish were somewhat "strained" so much so that in one parish the Germans opted to build their own church. By Jan 1860 just before the Civil War was starting Neumann was gone. Who would be the next archbishop of Philadelphia?. If an Irish born archbishop had been installed then at this juncture to me things may well have evolved differently as regards the path of Father F. Martin who by 1860 was obviously well esablished in the city and no doubt was a fairly major player in the lives of the Catholic Irish. I would be of the opinion as regards the Catholic Irish population he would have been held in much more esteem than that for Neumann. This is where it is interesting to look at this section of the 1860 Federal census secion below.
We see the names listed on the census day those living in what was probably a sizeable property in Ward 10 of the city a "family" designated as Family No.1607. This dwelling in Europe would be known as "the Bishops Palace" not necessarily a palace but in most cases a fairly substantial dwelling. It was obviously sizeable as was catering for a bishop, a seniot cleric and two junior clerics and a staff of three and a young boy aged 12.
Looking at the ages of Woods and Martin they were close with Woods being 47 and Martin 42. The younger clerics being in their 20's.
It is at this juncture of early 1860 that one poses questions. Here we have Martin probably well established and with the Irish population of the greater area of Philadelphia holding him in great esteem. It is now we must see just where the new Archbishop James F. Wood would fit. Did he initially?. In my opinion he would have initial problems. Don't forget that Woods though American born was the son of an English father and mother who had emigrated from the Manchester area of England. His parents were in fact Protestant from the Unitarian faith. Woods himself had converted to Catholicism in earlier years.
Looking at the census form above we see Bishop Woods of very recent English stock and a Convert to Catholicism and Father Francis Martin a well established first generation Irishman probably very well liked by the Catholics of Philadelphia. Would Woods even try to mark his authority in any way covert or ouvert?. Certainly not. I feel Martin was his own man and when called to join the 69th Pa as its chaplain did so and Woods would have no say, the Varican even less as they had their fingers burnt in engagements with Archbishop Conwell in earlier years.(See above).
In any case Michael F.Martin no doubt very well in touch with the Philadelphia militias and the politics of the time decided that he though at a late age of 43 decided to enlist in the newly forming up 69th Pa. He would be very well known and greatly liked by the Irish officers and men of both the Field and Staff structure and the various companies of the regiment. He was "one of ours".
Father Martin served only a short period in the regiment. He enrolled at Philadelphia 19th Aug. 1861, Mustered in as chaplain 15th Oct. 1861 at Camp Observation Md. After only a period of about 10 months he was medically discharged 19th.June 1862 with a standard S.C.of D. He would soon return to his pastoral duties in Philadelphia. However he would again be involved in things 69th Pa when he was the Mass celebrant at the funeral of Col.
Dennis O'Kane prior to his burial in the New Cathedral cemetery July 1863 after O'Kane had been killed at Gettysburg. There he would meet up with many of the officers and men from the regiment who were attending the funeral. No doubt he knew many of them personally.
Michael Martin would appear to have been held in great esteem by the officers and men in the regiment. In a letter From Capt. James O'Reilly Co. C. of the regiment from the Upper Potomac near Monacy Md. dated Nov 18th 1861 to his parents back home he states.
"Our worthy chaplain Father Martin is well and in very good spirits.He is doing the boys an immensity of good by his sermons as otherwise making them attend their religious duties. He says mine is the best behaved Co in the Regt. His letters come addressed to Co C. Capt O'Reilly so we claim him as a member of C.". On a lighter note the above comment by a Tyrone cleric (Martin) to a Cavan commander (O'Reilly) about a company with quite a smattering of Tyrone and Derry men in its ranks speaks volumes.This is military psychology at its best. Everyone praised, made to feel good etc but all knowling that perhaps it was kind of untrue, but just maybe it was true!. Even O'Reilly's parents back home must have felt good about their boy being in command of a possible compamy of saints,not swearing, no bad thoughts and all those terrible sins associated with young men on the loose!. After his army service Michael Martin seems to have recovered and taken over pastoral duties in various parishes in Philadelphia. No doubt attending the funerals of and consoling the families of many soldiers of the 69th.Pa. known to him coming back in coffins or badly wounded. Father Michaael F. Martin died in Philadelphia 18th. Feb 1884 and was buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery in plot E-2-18-E. He had served in various parishes in the city including his last parish at St. Bridgets Falls of Schuylkill ( East Falls), St. Marys 4th. and Spruce St, and St James in West Philadelphia. He was buried 24th Feb.1884. He was 65 years of age. His grave has no marker or headstone as fas as I am aware.(May 2016)
Acknowledgemants and thanks to;
Image of post Penal chapel Ron Davis Co. Down N.I. Family History site. Chaple 1769 at Magheracranmoney Co. Down.
Information from Internet Site Wikipedia.
Ulster American Folk Park Omagh site.
The Times Philadelphia Feb 19th 1884