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O'Connor, Jeremiah Darby
Grady, Eleanor
O'Connor, Michael


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O'Connor, Michael

  • Born: 29 Sep 1830, Ballynabuck townland, Parish of Dingle, County Kerry, Munster, Ireland
  • Died: 29 Sep 1912, Vail, Crawford County, Iowa, USA
  • Buried: Catholic Cemetery, Vail, Iowa

bullet  General Notes:

Michael fought on both sides of the Civil War. He was a Confederate Soldier who was captured by the Federal Forces and offered a chance to fight for the Union against Indians. He accepted the offer. Grandma Clare said, "He told the story that when someone puts a gun at your back you agree to fight". He is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Vail, Iowa.

Michael was a bachelor and before the war and work in New Orleans he had lived with family in Aurora, IL after the war he lived the remainder of his life with Maurice and Mary O'Connor in Denison, Iowa.

From a letter dated 1983 and written by John H. O'Connor, a lawyer in Vail, Iowa

Michael 'O'Connor was a Civil War veteran and a bachelor who lived in Vail Iowa with Maurice O'Connor and Mary Hickey in the early 1900's. I don't recall what year he came there, but it was before 1912, and the information I can give on him is that as an immigrant he got a job as a stevedore on the docks in New Orleans, and when the Civil War broke out, he with a number of other stevedores, mostly immigrants, were marched with bayonets at their backs and forced to enlist in the Southern Army, and that the Southern Army was so short of uniforms that he was placed in a uniform of the Northern Army and was wounded at the " Battle of Resaca " near Dalton, Georgia in the northwestern corner just south of Chattanooga and left on the field for dead. He was discovered jf by the Northern Army who thought he was one of their members because of his uniform and was taken to the hospital at Rock Island, Illinois, where he recovered, but the Army was unable to find any record of him. He explained to them what happened, and after his recovery, he enlisted in the Northern Army and received an honorable discharge. I was a boy about the age of 14 or 15 at the time of his death, and he is buried in the Vail cemetery on the lot with my parents.

In St. Ann's Cemetery, Vail, Iowa, the following appears on the marker - Uncle Mike served in Confederate Army, was taken prisoner at Battle of Resaca. Enlisted in Co. E, 2nd Regular U.S. Vol. Inf. Oct. 6, 1864, at Rock Island, 111. Mustered out at Port Leavenworth, Kansas, Nov. 7 1865.
On Tombstone:

Michael 0'Connor, Son of Jeremiah Darby 0'Connor and Ellen Grady 0'Connor of Bally Nabuck, subdivision of Moores Town, Parish of Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland. Baptised Sept. 29, 1830. Died Sept. 29, 1912. Age 82 years.

There is also the possibility that Michael O'Connor was a Galvanized Union Soldier (Confederate Prisoner who served in the Union Army) Mary Cobb noted that Michael was wounded at the " Battle of Resaca " near Dalton, Georgia in the northwestern corner just south of Chattanooga. The battle took place Saturday, May 14, 1864 and several days before and after. Gen. Joseph Johnston was the Confederate general and Sherman the Yankee. Lots of activity in that area---Yankees were still there October 12 and on Nov. 11th they pulled up the railroad lines between Resaca and Chattanooga. This was in 1864 so he could not have spent much time at Rock Island.

Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Vol. 2.
Robertson, James I., Jr. A. P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior (1987)
Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond (1992).


"Galvanized Yankees" was the name given captured Confederate Soldiers who agreed to enlist in the Union army in exchange for release from prison camp. Six regiments, designated as the 2nd through the 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, were composed of these former Confederate soldiers.

These men enlisted in the Union army for various reasons: some wanted to escape from the disease or boredom of imprisonment; some were disillusioned with the Confederate cause; and perhaps some intended to desert and return to the Confederacy. Whatever their reasons, almost 6,000 Confederate prisones from prison camps in the Midwest enlisted with the understanding that they would not be forced to fight their former comrades. Theses regiments spent the entirety of their service on the Great Plains fighting Indians. Besides the six regiments made up entirely of Galvanized Yankees, other contained former Confederates who enlisted as individuals or in small groups.

Many who became Galvanized Yankees were foreign born. For them the Civil War evoked little of the emotion that it stirred among native southerners. Many Irish or German prisoners enlisted in ethnic Union regiments, including 228 Irish prisoners from Camp Douglas (Chicago) who served in several Illinois regiments during a two month period in the spring of 1862. The most famous of these foreign born Galvanized Yankees was Henry Morton Stanly, an Englishman by birth, who would become a newspaper correspondent and an African explorer.

The decision to enlist these prisoners in the Union army was not taken lightly by the federal government. Both President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton resisted the idea until 1864, when the need for manpower in the face of draft riots in the Eastern cities made the decision credible. Even after the men were mustered into the service, many Union officers remained highly suspicious of the former Confederates. Most changed their minds, however, when they saw the Galvanized Yankees in battle. Many veteran Union officers came to believe that the U.S. Volunteers were among the best troops they had ever seen. Whatever their reason for enlisting the former Confederate soldiers who made up the !st through the 5th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiments served the Union well during their two years of existence.

Part of the reason for the excellent service record of the U.S. Volunteers was the quality of their officers. They tended to be Union veterans (many had served as noncommissioned officers in state regiments) who were young and energetic. Of the six regimental commanders, Colonel C.A.R. Dimon, 1st U.S. Volunteers, had began the war as a private in the 7th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; Colonel Andrew P. Caraher, 2nd U.S. Volunteers was an Irish-born veteran of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg; Colonel Christopher McNally, 3rd U.S. Volunteers was an English-born veteran of fighting in the Southwest; Colonel Charles Thornton, 4th U.S. Volunteers, had served as an officer in the 12th Maine; Colonel Henry E. Maynadier, 5th U.S. Volunteers, was a West Point graduate (class of 1951); and Colonel Carroll H. Potter, 6th U.S. Volunteers had attended West Point before being expelled in 1869 for academic deficiency. In addition, the Galvanized Yankees themselves had the opportunity to earn commissions and several made it to the rank of captain.

Between September 1864 and November 1866, the 1st through the 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiments served on the western frontier from Minnesota to the Oregon Territory in the North and from New Mexico to California in the South. Serving in desolate posts throughout the frontier, many died in combat or from disease. Some became victims of harsh weather of the Great Plains. Yet their desertion rate was only slightly higher than that of state volunteer regiments and was markedly lower than that of regular regiments serving on the frontier after the Civil War.
- Alexander M. Bielakowski

bullet  Obituary:

Michael O'Connor, Confederate Conscript and Union Soldier, Passes Away at Vail Sunday
Most of Life Spent in South, but for Many Years Had Lived in Crawford County

Special to The Review -
Vail, Iowa, Oct 1 - Michael O'Connor, of Vail, died Sept 29, 1912, at the home of his nephew, Maurice, where he has lived for the past ten years. His sickness was of short duration, and death came after one week's illness brought on by the infirmities of old age. He passed away peacefully and calmly about 5:30 o'clock Sunday evening. Everything was done for him that kind and loving hands could do.
Deceased was born in Bally-na-buck parish of Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, Sept 29, 1930. His death occurred on his 82d birthday. He emigrated to this country by way of Canada in 1852 and lived n the south at New Orleans, St Louis and other places until the commencement of the war of the rebellion, when he was conscripted into the confederate army in which he served as a gunner in the artillery until he was wounded by the bursting of a gun. He was serving at the battle of Resaca, Ga, when he was taken prisoner of war and carried to Rock Island prison hospital, where he remained until his wounds were healed.
He then enlisted on Oct 6, 1864, in Company E, Second Regiment U S infantry volunteers, from which he was honorably discharged at muster out of regiment at Fr Leavenworth, Kans, Nov 7, 1865.
Since the close of the war he spent most of his time in the south. He occasionally visited his relatives in the north, and about twelve years ago he came and lived with his brother, John, who was an early settler in East Boyer township, southeast of Denison. After making his home here for about two years his brother died and since that time he has made his home with his nephew, Maurice, in Vail.
Mr O'Connor was one of a family of eight children, seven boys and . . . . . . . . of Aurora, Ill, and Mrs Kate Guheen, of Yan Oren, Ill. His jovial, gentle and sunny disposition endeared him to all who came in contact with him, and his memory will ever linger in the hearts and minds of those in the community which his presence brightened and over which his sudden death cast a gloom.
Mr O'Connor was a devout and faithful member of the Catholic church. His kind manner, his charity and goodness won for him hundreds of friends in the community that he had chosen to spend the last years of his life.. He was a square, upright and honorable man in all his dealings, one whose integrity was never questioned, whose word was his bond and up to the time of his fatal illness was unusually active for one of his advanced age.
The funeral will take place today (Tuesday) at 9:45 from the house of St Ann's church. Interment will be made in St Ann's cemetery. The pall bearers are: Thos Ryan, Jas E Walsh, Joe Kral, Mike Houlihan, Sr, Dan Scanlan and Tim Oairk. Uncle Mike, as he was familiarly known, will be greatly missed on the streets in Vail. May his soul rest in peace.

The Denison Review, Wednesday, October 2, 1912, page 1, column 1

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