Famous Links

Midleton’s Most Famous Forgotten Son? General John Joseph Coppinger

Many of Midleton’s men and women have emigrated down through the years, settling all over the globe and becoming part of the Irish diaspora. Some went on to become relatively famous abroad- for example Nellie Cashman– a woman who will be the topic a future post. However one man, although his family name remains closely associated with Midleton, is not well-known in the town of his birth. This is despite the fact that he is undoubtedly one of the town’s most successful and colourful emigrants. His name was John Joseph Coppinger.

Coppinger was born in Midleton on 11th October 1834, into the powerful Catholic landowning family. He was one of six children of William Joseph Coppinger and Margaret O’Brien. We don’t know much about John’s early life, until he begins his first associations with the military- associations that would continue across more than half a century. He first tested out the military in the 1st Regiment of the Warwickshire Militia- The London Gazette of 12th October 1855 recorded that ‘John Joseph Coppinger Gent.’ was to be an Ensign from the 29th September. However, his life of adventure really started in 1860 when he became a Captain in the Papal Battalion, a group of Irishmen which travelled to Italy to defend the Papal States from the ongoing efforts to reunify Italy. During the fighting there the young Midleton man performed well- his defence of the La Rocca gateway that September earned him the position of Chevalier and two Papal decorations. (1)

Medaglia di Pro Petri Sede (For the Chair of Peter) awarded to members of the Papal Battalion, including John Joseph Coppinger (Robert Doyle)

Medaglia di Pro Petri Sede (For the Chair of Peter) awarded to members of the Papal Battalion, including John Joseph Coppinger (Robert Doyle)

When the Papal War was lost, John Joseph Coppinger was one of a number of men in the Battalion who elected not to return home permanently. Instead he travelled to the United States. According to one account, upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, Archbishop Hughes of New York sought advice from clergy in Ireland as to young Irishmen of influence who might come to America to become officers: …’Bishop Keane, the patriotic prelate of Cloyne, who had been parish priest of Midleton, recommended [Coppinger]…and he was one of six young Irishmen who came to the United States as commissioned officers.‘ (2)

So began John Joseph Coppinger’s long an extremely successful career in the United States military. In September 1861 he was appointed to the rank of Captain in the 14th United States Infantry. Joining the Union Army of the Potomac in July of 1862, he was severely wounded when he was shot through the neck at the Second Battle of Bull Run on 30th August. Lucky to survive, it took him six months to recuperate. John returned to active duty and in 1863 participated in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. (3)

General Torbert and his staff during the American Civil War. John Joseph Coppinger is seated at the front left (Library of Congress)

General Torbert and his staff during the American Civil War. John Joseph Coppinger is seated at the front left (Library of Congress)

During the Civil War Coppinger was brevetted a Major for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Trevilian Station on 12th June 1864, and brevetted Lieutenant-Colonel for the same reason after the Battle of Cedar Creek on 19th October that year. At the time he had been serving on the staff of Cavalry General Alfred Torbert. Recommended for promotion by men such as George Armstrong Custer and Phil Sheridan, Coppinger was appointed Colonel of the 15th New York Cavalry on 19th January 1865, a position he held until the close of the war. (4)

Detail of the Civil War photograph showing Midleton's John Joseph Coppinger (Library of Congress)

Detail of the Civil War photograph showing Midleton’s John Joseph Coppinger (Library of Congress)

After the war Coppinger returned to the rank of Captain in the regular army and was transferred to the 23rd United States Infantry, with whom he served on the Western Plains. He earned another brevet, this time to Colonel in 1868, for ‘energy and zeal while in command of troops operating against hostile Indians in 1866, 1867 and 1868.’  In 1871 he returned to Cork to attend to family business resulting from a bereavement, and took the opportunity to visit Egypt. However, it was always his intention to return to the United States, and he was soon back in the American West. The Midleton man had a reputation as a dashing officer, and after his return to America he landed in hot water, when he was accused of seducing another man’s wife in California. Described by his accuser as ‘a gay Lothario in epaulettes…a…bold, unprincipled adventurer …a serpent’, Coppinger was outraged by what he described as ‘infamous falsehoods’, but whoever was in the right, the incident eventually died down. It did not hurt his military career, as John was promoted to Major in 10th United States Infantry in 1879 and Lieutenant-Colonel in the 18th United States Infantry in 1883. 1883 was also the year he finally married, tying the knot with Alice Stanwood Blaine (25 years his junior) in Washington D.C. on 6th February. The wedding was attended by President Arthur and his cabinet, a mark of how high Coppinger had risen. The couple would go on to have two sons, Blaine and Conor, but Alice would die tragically young just seven years later, during an influenza epidemic. (5)

John’s march through the ranks of the army continued. He was promoted to  Colonel as a result of service rendered against hostile Native Americans between 1886-1888, and took command of the 23rd United States Infantry in 1891. He finally became a Brigadier-General on 25th April 1895. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, the Cork native took charge of the 1st Independent Division in Mobile, Alabama. He later served as Major-General of Volunteers commanding the IV Corps. John Joseph Coppinger retired from his 36 year career in the U.S. military on 11th October 1898. The Midleton man died in Washington D.C. on 4th November 1909, where he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (6)

General Coppinger during the Spanish-American War, 1898 (National Archives)

General Coppinger during the Spanish-American War, 1898 (National Archives)

Today John Joseph Coppinger is all but forgotten in his home town. Indeed he is one of the many hundreds if not thousands of men from around Midleton and East Cork who fought in the American Civil War and who are no longer remembered at home. Surely one of Midleton’s most successful and noteworthy emigrants, remembering John Joseph Coppinger’s life is hopefully something that will improve in the future.

The grave of General John Joseph Coppinger in Arlington National Cemetery (Brian C. Pohanka via Find A Grave)

The grave of General John Joseph Coppinger in Arlington National Cemetery (Brian C. Pohanka via Find A Grave)

*The most comprehensive research on John Joseph Coppinger to date has been carried out by the late Brian C. Pohanka, who’s work is referenced in this article and should be rightfully acknowledged.

(1) Pohanka 2013, London Gazette 1855, Tucker 2009: 135, Irish Nation 1883; (2) Irish Nation 1883; (3) Foreman 1943: 125, Tucker 2009: 135; (4) Foreman 1943: 125, Hunt 2003: 84; (5) Foreman 1943: 125, Pohanka 2013, Irish Nation 1883; (6) Foreman 1943: 125, Tucker 2009: 135;

References

The Irish Nation 17th February 1883. Colonel Coppinger.

The London Gazette 12th October 1855. Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Warwick.

Foreman, Carolyn Thomas 1943. ‘General John Joseph Coppinger Commandant Fort Gibson’ in Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 21, No. 2.

Hunt, Roger D. 2003. Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War: New York.

Pohanka, Brian 2013. Defender of the Faith and the Union Cork Born John Joseph Coppinger 

Tucker, Spencer 2005 (ed.) The Encyclopaedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars

John Joseph Coppinger Find A Grave Memorial

Categories: Famous Links, Nineteenth Century | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lord Broghill, Ballymaloe and Oliver Cromwell

Today Rob Mitchell explores Lord Broghill, one of the area’s most notable past residents and former owner of Ballymaloe House. 

Lord Broghill

Lord Broghill

Roger Boyle, the 1st Earl of Orrery was born 25th April 1621 in Lismore, Co. Waterford. Boyle was the third surviving son of the famous Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. His mother was Catherine Fenton daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton of Dublin. Roger was named after his parents’ first son who died at the age of nine. He was created Baron Broghill on 28th February 1628.

Roger Boyle became best known as a soldier, making his reputation during the Eleven Years War of 1641-52. He was also a dramatist and politician, and he regularly sat in the House of Commons between 1654 and 1679. When war erupted in Ireland in 1641 Boyle returned to Ireland from his travels in Europe to help suppress the rebellion. It was in the same year that Ballymaloe passed to Boyle, part of an association which lasted for thirty-eight years and saw the construction of the west wing.

In 1642 Boyle fought with his brothers for the Government forces in their victory of the Confederates at Liscarroll in north Cork. The outbreak of the English Civil War left men like Broghill with a choice to make- King or Parliament. Broghill elected to side with Parliament, and he served publicly until the execution of King Charles I in 1649. After this he retired from public affairs and settled in one of his residences at Marston, Somersetshire.

Broghill appears to have been uncomfortable with the execution of the King and was suspected of trying to bring about the restoration. However Oliver Cromwell offered him a command in Ireland to help bring about the end of the war there, and Broghill accepted. During the ultimately successful Irish campaign Cromwell stayed in Ballymaloe, and Broghill played a key role in crushing the Confederate cause.

Broghill helped to secure Ireland for the King on the Restoration in 1660, and was rewarded by being created the Earl of Orrery. He also became a Lord Justice of Ireland and drew up the Act of Settlement. He spent most of his time at his estate in Broghill, near the town of Charleville, which he founded in 1661. He died 16th October 1679.

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William Penn: Quaker, Founder of Pennsylvania and Occasional Resident of East Cork

Rob Mitchell has been continuing his great work each week in the Rubicon Office’s on the Midleton Heritage Project. Having compiled a database of references in the witness statements to the IRA in Midleton during the War of Independence, he has also been looking at local castles in the area, and is currently compiling information on those who lived on Midleton’s Main Street during the 1901 Census. In his latest post Rob looks at local connections with the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

William Penn was born on October 14th 1644. He was the son of Sir William Penn, an English admiral and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1670. The younger William was educated first at Chigwell School, by private tutors whilst in Ireland, and later at Christ Church, Oxford. After a failed mission to the Caribbean, Admiral Penn and his family were exiled to his lands in Ireland. It was during this period, when Penn was about fifteen, that he met Thomas Loe, a Quaker missionary, who was maligned by both Catholics and Protestants. Loe was admitted to the Penn household and during his discourses on the “Inner Light”, young Penn recalled later that “the Lord visited me and gave me divine Impressions of Himself.” After many years, the free-minded William Penn announced publicly that he was a Quaker. He did so in an attempt to slip past charges stating that since Quakers had no political agenda they could not be subject to laws that restricted political action by minority religions and other groups.

Penn Castle, Shanagarry (www.buildingsofireland.ie)

Penn Castle, Shanagarry (www.buildingsofireland.ie)

In 1669 Penn travelled to Ireland to deal with many of his father’s estates. Whilst there he attended meetings and stayed with leading Quaker families. He became great friends with William Morris, a leading Quaker figure in Cork, and often stayed with Morris at Castle Salem near Rosscarbery. He also owned a castle and estate which he inherited through his family in Shanagarry. Known as ‘Penn Castle’ it still stands today and offers a permanent reminder of East Cork’s links with Pennsylvania.

As the prosecution of Quakers began to accelerate rapidly and with religious conditions deteriorating, Penn decided to appeal directly to the King. Penn proposed a solution which would solve the dilemma—a mass emigration of English Quakers. Some Quakers had already moved to North America, but the New England Puritans, especially, were as hostile towards Quakers as Anglicans in England. Some had even been banished to the Caribbean. In 1677, a group of prominent Quakers that included Penn purchased the colonial province of West Jersey (half of the current state of New Jersey). That same year, two hundred settlers from the towns of Chorleywood and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire and other towns in nearby Buckinghamshire arrived, and founded the town of Burlington. In 1682, East Jersey was also purchased by Quakers.

With the New Jersey foothold in place, Penn pressed his case to extend the Quaker region. Whether from personal sympathy or political expediency, to Penn’s surprise, the King granted an extraordinarily generous charter which made Penn the world’s largest private (non-royal) landowner. In possession of over 45,000 square miles, Penn became the sole proprietor of a huge tract of land west of New Jersey and north of Maryland (which belonged to Lord Baltimore), and gained sovereign rule of the territory with all rights and privileges (except the power to declare war). The land of Pennsylvania had belonged to the Duke of York, who acquiesced in the transfer, but he retained New York and the area around New Castle and the eastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. In return, one-fifth of all gold and silver mined in the province (which had virtually none) was to be remitted to the King, and the Crown was freed of a debt to Admiral Penn of £16,000, equal to £2,120,595 today.

Penn first called the area “New Wales”, then “Sylvania” (Latin for “forests or woods'”), which King Charles II changed to “Pennsylvania” in honor of the elder Penn. On March 4, 1681, the King signed the charter and the following day Penn jubilantly wrote, “It is a clear and just thing, and my God who has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.” In 1682 in England, he drew up a Frame of Government for the Pennsylvania colony. Freedom of worship in the colony was to be absolute, and all the traditional rights of Englishmen were carefully safeguarded. Penn drafted a charter of liberties for the settlement creating a political utopia guaranteeing free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment and free elections.

East Cork’s connections with William Penn are being celebrated as part of the The Gathering. The William Penn Symposium will be held in The Kilkenny Shop, Shanagarry on 25th August 2013. For more details on the event see here.

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