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John and Catherine Maher Tombstone

John and Catherine Maher Tombstone, Parents of Major Patrick Maher, Saint Bernard Cemetery, West Haven, Connecticut

Robert Larkin tells me that there will be a commemoration of the Soldier’s Monument at Saint Bernard Cemetery in West Haven on October 23 at 1 p.m. He explained that this will mark the 125th anniversary of the dedication by the State of Connecticut of the 32 foot high monument (note photo in my previous post, Miscellaneous Thoughts, 8/22/11). It will include a wreath laying, bagpiper, taps, a short ceremony, a handout with soldier information and assistance in locating individual Civil War grave sites. Over the summer Ellen Bohan, Pat Heslin and Paul Keroac were able to find the location of 190 Civil War markers or tombstones, including some veterans who had been buried with their families. Their list includes more than 300 soldiers in total. Congratulations to them for this invaluable work!

Soldiers in the cemetery represent about 20 Connecticut regiments or artillery units, nine regiments from other states, 20 from the United States Infantry and Navy, a Medal of Honor recipient and one soldier who died in 1942. Each of the identified markers or stones will have a flag placed at its site. Among the many veterans from the Ninth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers are: Colonel Thomas Cahill, Captain Lawrence O’Brien, Captain John G. Healy, 2nd Lieutenant William O’Keefe, Captain James Hennessey. Neil Hogan, author of Strong in Their Patriotic Devotion, has written a two-page flier and two pages of soldier information will also be available for those who attend the ceremony.

At the Naugatuck Historical Society will also be events in commemoration of the Civil War. Beginning at noon on October 23 will be concert, fellowship and cocktails, the annual meeting of the society, and at 2 pm a buffet dinner with a Civil War Music program.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend either of these events, but I will be there in spirit. I offer this “almost” chapter that I had considered including in my book, but am finding that it ranges too far outside my already complicated topic. This venue seems to be the right place for it.

I wish my friends in Connecticut and everyone who attends the commemoration events a glorious time honoring the heroes!

Colonel Cahill Tombstone

Colonel Thomas Cahill Family Stone, Saint Bernard Cemetery, West Haven, Connecticut

Company E, of the 2nd Regiment, the Washington-Erina Guards of New Haven was begun in July 1849 and officially recognized in March 1852. It was comprised of American citizens, either naturalized or American born. Among the 1850 petitioners to form the militia were: John Maher, Patrick Maher and Thomas W. Cahill (of Massachusetts). The group “purchased their own uniforms and received flint-lock muskets from the State.”[i] The Irish companies in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Derby, and Norwich included:

Infantry Company E, 2nd Regiment, Washington-Erina Guards – Capt. Thomas W. Cahill, First Lieut. Patrick Maher

• Infantry Company D, 2nd Regiment, Jackson Guards – an offshoot of New Haven’s Company E (Murray noted that when the company was disbanded there was no captain and John Maher, Jr. commanded as First Lieutenant. John was likely the brother of Patrick Maher, whose parents’ tombstone is above. They require their own article.)

• Infantry Company F, Emmet Guards – Hartford

• Infantry Company C, Jackson Guards – Norwich

• Rifle Company B, 2nd Regiment, Derby Rifles – Derby

• Infantry Company B, 8th Regiment, Montgomery Guards – New Haven

Despite prejudice against them throughout the decades, when the American Civil War began in April 1861 many Irish in Connecticut were willing to enlist. Mahers fought in both sides of the Civil War, most on the side of the Union. The National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System includes information about 26 Mahers in the Union Army between 1861 and 1865. (Five Meaghers, five Mahars and twenty-six Maher listings occur for Connecticut regiments. Eighty-six men by the name of Butler were listed, as were 121 by the name of Martin.) Reverend Thomas Duggan noted 7,900 Irish soldiers, and that Irish priests, such as Reverend Thomas Francis Hendricken of Waterbury’s Immaculate Conception, raised flags above their churches. Captain Cahill was notified that his Emmet Guards would be quickly commissioned, to which he tersely replied:

“Six years ago I was captain of a company of volunteer militia and a native of New England. I was, with my comrades, thought to be unfit to shoulder a musket in time of peace, and the company was disbanded…under circumstances peculiarly aggravating to military pride. The law by which we were disbanded still stands on the Statute Book, and as long as it is there my fellow-soldiers and myself feel it to be an insult to us and to all our fellow-citizens of Irish birth and Catholic faith. If we were not fit to bear arms in time of peace, we might be dangerous in time of war.”[iii]

The 1855 law was repealed and the Irish Regiment, the Ninth Connecticut Volunteers, was begun at Camp English in New Haven. Neil Hogan and Right Reverend Thomas S. Duggan, D.D., wrote extensively about the Connecticut 9th, in particular about their mistreatment through lack of Hartford’s support during the war.[iv]

Their first tour of duty began in Massachusetts under General Benjamin Butler, who had requested Connecticut soldiers. When the Connecticut 9th, along with the 26th Massachusetts Regiment, arrived in the Gulf of Mexico on the desolate Ship Island, near Mississippi, Hogan noted “Nearly half of them were without shoes and as many more without shirts; several had no coats or blankets. Some drilled in primitive attire of blouse and cotton drawers…The tents were hardly capacious enough to cover them.” [v] By contrast, the Massachusetts company had been given “warm blankets, ample tents, and two uniform suits of clothing per man.” In 1862 a letter from one of the Connecticut 9th soldiers was printed in the New Haven Register, setting in perspective the loyalty of the Irish to their adopted American homeland despite the conditions in which they served. It stated “the Ninth will do their part, when they are led forth in defense of the country which gives more freedom to the stranger than any other on the face of the Earth. Irishmen have fought for France under Sarsfield, for Russia under Delacy and for Spain, in their shirt sleeves, under O’Donnell, at Bull Run under Corcoran; and the adopted sons of Connecticut will prove themselves as good as their ancestors either in France, Spain, Russia or America.”[vi]

According to Duggan the military pay that the Connecticut 9th sent back to their families amounted to almost $20,000 during their difficult time in the south. He noted the finding of a cache of canvas shoes that Cahill gave to his men against regulations to which he replied, “My men are bare-foot and necessity knows no law.”[vii] Cahill had been serving as Brigadier-General for the Connecticut 9th, and a New York Tribune article regarded the company as “one of the oldest and best disciplined regiments.” When Cahill retired after his notable service, however, he was only awarded his initial title, Colonel.[viii]

From rosters listed in Thomas Hamilton Murray’s study of this regiment I have compiled the following information:[ix]

• On September 27, 1861 the following men mustered into Connecticut Ninth, Company E from Derby: Thomas Healy (1st Sgt.), Michael Dolan (Cpl.), James McNally (Cpl.), John Crowley (Pvt.), Edward Heffernan (Pvt.), Cornelius Ryan (Pvt.), James Ryan (Pvt.); also on that day, John Maher, of East Windsor, mustered into Co. G.  From New Haven on that day the following mustered into Company E: Thomas Kennedy (1st Sgt.), Michael Mullins (2nd Lieut.), Daniel Heffernan (Sgt.), Thomas Ryan (Sgt.).

• Between October 4 and October 30, 1861 the following men from Derby mustered into Company E: James Dolan (Cpl.), James Shea (Pvt.), John Healey (Pvt.), John Lawler (Cpl.), Bernard Whelan (Pvt.), and from New Haven, James P. Hennessey (Capt.), Francis McKeon (1st Lieut.), and Terence Sheridan (Capt.).

• On November 25, 1861, from Derby, Michael Naylor (Cpl.), Timothy Crowley (Pvt.), John Maher (Pvt.) mustered into Company E.

• From New Orleans, on Nov. 30, musician John Burns also mustered into this Company. He was followed on May 27 and 29, 1862 by Hugh Lynch (Pvt.), Garrett O’Toole (Pvt.), John McTague (Pvt.), and William Grace (Pvt.), who mustered into Company E from New Orleans and Cape Parap’t.  (Might those who ended up in the south when they emigrated have intentionally decided to join friends in the Connecticut 9th when the opportunity arose?)

• In 1862 and 1863 the following of the aforementioned men died: William Grace, John McTague, John Maher (both), John Burns, John Crowley, Cornelius Ryan, James Ryan. Edward Heffernan was discharged. John Lawlor, Michael Dolan, Thomas Healy, and Michael Mullins transferred into Company K. On October 12, 1864 the following men transferred into Company B: Garrett O’Toole, Hugh Lynch, Timothy Crowley, John Healey, Terence Sheridan, Thomas Kennedy, Daniel Heffernan, Thomas Ryan. In addition, Hogan noted, “Timothy Maher was promoted to corporal in Company B, and served to the end of the war.”[x]

Joseph Casimir O’Meagher noted another Patrick Meagher, First Lieutenant 13th Infantry, Brevet Captain for gallant and meritorious services in 1863 during the siege of Vicksburg.[xi] Captain Daniel Maher, Lieutenant Patrick Maher, Sergeant Jeremiah Maher, and Private Patrick Maher served in the 63rd Regiment, New York Infantry, which was attached to Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade. John Meagher, who enlisted at 19 in his home state of New York, according to O’Meagher, was promoted to corporal, sergeant, and second lieutenant. He fought in “Fredericksburg…Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristow Station, Rapidan, Mine run, The Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Laurel Hill, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Deep Bottom [twice], Ream’s Station, Skinner’s Farm, Hatcher’s Run and Sutherland’s Station. [xii]

In the early 1900s many tributes were paid to the valiant Ninth Connecticut Volunteers, thoroughly documented by Thomas Hamilton Murray. On August 5, 1903 he included a notice from the Naugatuck Daily News that recounted the trip taken to New Haven by “the Hibernian Rifle Company, the Saint Francis T.A.B. (Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society) Drum Corps, members of Isbell Post, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), the Young Men’s Catholic Institute and the Naugatuck Drum Corps” to participate in ceremonies for the unveiling of a New Haven monument in honor of the Ninth Regiment.[xiii] Included among the invited were members of the New Haven Society, Knights of Saint Patrick. Attending the formal dinner that evening were members and dignitaries from Connecticut cities as well as from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island, including:

• Hon. William Kennedy, Naugatuck

• Col. John G. Healy, New Haven (9th)

• Thomas Hamilton Murray, Boston

• Michael P. Coen, Naugatuck (9th)

• Joseph R. Hall, Naugatuck

• John F. Hayes, M.D., Waterbury

• Thomas M. Cahill, M.D., New Haven

• Stephen J. Maher, M.D., New Haven

• Major Patrick Maher, New Haven (24th)[xiv]

The graves of war veterans in Naugatuck are still decorated by the Veterans’ Association every year with flags, although there does not seem to be specific records about them. Among all the veterans buried in Saint Francis Cemetery, Naugatuck are:

• Adamson, James, Co. B., 20th Regt. Conn. Vols., G. A.R., Post 13

• Brennan, John, Co. I., 5th Inf. Conn. Vols., G.A.R.

• Burke, John P.,  G.A.R., Post 16

• Carolen, Thomas, G.A.R.

• Campion, Wm., Sgt. Co. C., 1st Conn. Cav., G.A.R.

• Coen, John P., Corp. Co. F., 9th Reg. C.V., G.A.R.

• Coen, Michael, Co. K., 20th Reg. C.V., G.A.R.

• Conran, James, G.A.R., Post 7 (Co. F., 1st Conn. H.A.)

• Davy, John, G.A.R., Post 170

• Duffin, James, Co.D., 158 Inf., N.Y. Vols., G.A.R.

• Ford, Thomas, Co. H., 15 Regt. Conn. Vols., G.A.R., Post 10

• Fruin, Michael, Co. H., 15 Inf. Conn. Vols., G.A. R., Post 15

• Harper, Thomas P., 152D. Dep. Brig.

• Jones, Horace E., Co. H., 2 C.V.R.A., G.A.R.

• Keefe, Arthur, Co.E., 2 Reg. Mass. Vol. , G.A.R.

• Keogh, Michael, G.A.R., Post 165

• Maher, Thomas, Co. E, 3 U.S. Arty. G.A.R.

• Martin, John A., U.S.N., World War I

• Murphy, Patrick, Spanish American War

• O’Donnell, James

• O’Donnell, John, Co. E., 5th Conn. Vols. G.A.R., Post 6

• Ruth, Patrick K., Capt., Co. B., 8 C.V.I., G.A.R.

• Shields, David, Co. K., 23rd U.S. Inf., G.A.R., Post 4

• Young, Peter, G.A.R., Post 1

May they all rest in peace.

James Maher, Civil War, Saint Bernard Cemetery, West Haven, Connecticut

Note: In the course of posting this article I stumbled upon a chapter of the book Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, which includes a chapter about Bishop Hendricken. Although I did research him and include some information in my book, I had not seen this until now and did not know that his mother’s name was Ann Maher! His connection to Kilkenny has already been interesting to me, as so much of my own research leads directly back there, but that his mother was a Maher may be significant.

©2011 Janet Maher/Sinéad Ní Mheachair

All Rights Reserved


[i] Murray, Thomas Hamilton, History of the Ninth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, The Irish Regiment, In the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65; New Haven, CT: The Price, Lee and Adkins Co., 1903; pp. 12-14.

[iii] Duggan, Right Reverend Thomas S., D.D., The Catholic Church in Connecticut, New York City: The States History Company, 1930, pg.90.

[iv] Hogan, Neil, Strong In Their Patriotic Devotion: Connecticut’s Irish in the Civil War, Connecticut Irish-American Historical Society, 2003.

[v] Ibid., pp. 14-15.

[vi] Opcit., pg. 15.

[vii] Duggan, Right Reverend Thomas S., D.D., Vicar-General of the Diocese of Hartford, The Catholic Church in Connecticut, New York: The States History Company, 1930; pp. 91-92.

[viii] Ibid., pg. 92-93.

[ix] Opcit.

[x] Civil War Soldiers and Sailors web site notes this Timothy as 16th Regiment, Co. D. A second Timothy Maher (2nd Reg., Co. C) had an alternate spelling, Mayher.  He also appears as Corp. Timothy Meagher. (M535, Roll 11)

[xi] O’Meagher, Joseph Casimir, Some Historical Notices of the O’Meaghers of Ikerrin, American Edition, New York, 1890, pg. 182.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Murray, Thomas Hamilton, History of the Ninth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, The Irish Regiment, In the War of the Rebellion, 1861-65; New Haven, CT: Price Lee and Adkins Co., 1903, pp.391, 392.

[xiv] Ibid., pp 394-396.