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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

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

Who Lived on Midleton’s Main Street in 1901?

We decided to have a look at the 1901 Census to see who was living along Midleton’s Main Street in 1901. Our Transition Year student Rob Mitchell took up the challenge, and picked out some of the well known businesses on the street today to see what was going there over 100 years ago. The results are fascinating- read on to find out about the Australian, Tasmanian and Americans living on Main Street, as well as the ‘Fowl Fanciers’ and ‘Fancy Tobacconists’ who worked there. From new born baby’s to immigrant German jewellers, there was a lot happening on the Main Street in 1901. Rob takes up the story:

I have researched the buildings and inhabitants of the Main Street of Midleton from this era and compared this to the present day. Many of the buildings remain largely intact and unchanged. Some questions addressed are;

Who lived in the buildings of the Main Street?

What was the function of the building?

Is there any connection to today’s tenants?

I have selected some of the findings and detailed them below.

Main Street, Midleton, Co. Cork

Main Street, Midleton, Co. Cork

McDaid’s, 55 Main Street, Midleton

This is presently one of the most popular pubs in Midleton. 112 years ago an old shop keeper named Mary Ann Blansfield (80) who sold provisions, along with her daughter Mary Margaret Blansfield (44). The same architect who designed the Palace of Westminster, A.W. Pugin also designed McDaid’s in 1852 at the request from Lord Midleton. Originally designed as two buildings, by 1901 it had become one.

Shanghai House, 25 Main Street, Midleton

This was home to one the O’Brien families. John O’Brien (42) was a shop keeper as was his wife Kate (42). They had five sons Daniel Joseph (16), Thomas (14), Paul (12), Michael (10) and Maurice (9). Two servants were also present on the night of the census, Fanny Morrison (22) and Michael O’Dwyer (24), as well as Kate’s mother Kate Lisk (84).

Boots, 26-27 Main Street, Midleton

As this was once two buildings it was home to two separate families. In No. 26 lived the Barrys. Head of the family was Patrick Barry (49). a shop keeper who lived with his Limerick-born wife Johanna (50). He also had three apprentices- Bridget Barry (16), Kate Colbert (23) and Katie Draddy 16), one servant- Ellie Gearey (18) and one boarder, shoemaker Patrick Lane (23). No.27 was home to a small collection of the Daltons. Robert Richard Dalton (58), born in Derry, was a baker by trade. He lived with his wife Annie (57) and his daughter Queenie (17) who was a scholar.

Cummins Sports, 41 Main Street, Midleton

This was lived in by the Kelleher family. John Kelleher (58) was an accountant in the distillery, his wife Bridget Kelleher (56) was a vintner. They had two daughters Josephine (21) and Mary Ellen (15).

Wallis’s, 74 Main Street, Midleton

Today the site of another popular pub, in 1901 it was home to Richard Fitzgerald (56) a shopkeeper and draper who was the Head of the Family and led a very large household.. Also in residence were his wife Ellen (46), his brother and business-partner Michael (50), children Norah (13), Michael (15) and William (5) (all scholars) and brother and sister-in-law William Walsh (39) and Kate Fitzgerald (43). They had two servants, Hannah Higgins (24) and Kate Keeffe (16) as well as five boarders- Shop Assistant Michael Desmond (27), Dress-Maker Norah Higgins (26), Milliner Margaret Power (26) and Apprentices William Lane (15) and Michael Manning (15).

Leonardo’s Restaurant, 83 Main Street, Midleton

This was the home of William Deasy (33) who was a tailor and his wife Mary (33). Also present was Timothy Riordan (17) who doubled up as their servant and as a second tailor. They had three sons, Thomas (3), Francis (1) and William who had not yet reached a year old.

Muckley’s Jewellers, 85 Main Street, Midleton

Victualler and vintner Daniel Gilmartin (32) was the head of the family here, with his wife Katie (34) from Kilkenny running the business with him. They had four children, Christopher (6), Erin (5), Bartholomew (3) and May who was under one. Daniel’s 21-year-old nephew Michael Allen also resided there as a butcher, as did a servant/butcher Michael Spillane, also 21. The family also had a waiting maid, Lizzie Dunlea (28) and a cook Bridget Burke (24).

It is interesting to note that at the time of the 1901 Census two German brothers had taken rooms in No.28 Main Street. These were Albert (30) and Edward (25)- both were jewellers by trade and were surely the originators of the family and shop which retains a presence in Midleton over a century later.

123 Main Street, Midleton

Some of the more unusual residents of the Main Street resided in this house in 1901. Richard Walton Long (41) was the head of the family, He was a physician and surgeon and must have been an important man in the town. His wife Maria Long was 30-years-old and was described as a ‘Fowl Fancier.’ In addition she had been born a long way from Midleton- she came originally from Tasmania. They had a three-year-old daughter Iris Maria Walton Long. Also in the house was 27-year-old Marian Lilla Clockie, from Australia. The family clearly had strong connections to the other side of the World. Sisters Elizabeth Deacon (a 27-year-old nurse) and Edith Deacon (a 26-year-old scholar) were visiting on the night of the census. Another nurse, Mary Jugh (26) lived in the house with domestic servants Minnie Curtin (29) and Kate McCarthy (28).
The Maple Bar, 5 Main Street, Midleton

This building has been a pub for more than one hundred years as in 1901 this was owned by licensed publican John P. Barry (45) who was originally from Whitegate. He lived with his wife Marie (36), a native of Ballinacurra, and their five children James (10)  Louise (8), Lillie (5),  Margaritte (3) and ‘Ez O C’ who was only two days old. The family had recently returned from living in America, as eldest three children had had been born there, Also in residence were two domestic servants- Hannah Meade, an 18-year-old domestic servant from Ballincurrig, and Elizabeth Riordan, a 16-year-old from Thomas Street in the town.

O’Farrell’s Butchers, 19 Main Street, Midleton

This was occupied by May O’Keeffe (66), a widow who ran a grocery shop from here. Working with her were her son Eugene (40) and his wife Hannah (33). They also had a domestic servant, 18-year-old Hannah Brien who lived with them.

Ballycotton Seafood, 46 Main Street, Midleton

In 1901 Denis Desmond (52), who worked as an accountant at the distillery but also had a business as a ‘Fancy Tobacconist’. He lived with his wife Christine (51), who was from the city, and their 24 year-old daughter Ellen, a shop-keeper, and their son Michael (19) who was a medical student. Denis’s older brother James (60) who had been a mariner and was an invalid.

Paddy Power, 14 Main Street, Midleton

This was originally home to the Days. David Day (40) the head of the family was a merchant tailor, married to his wife Ellie (40). They had three daughters Winifred (6), Johanna (4) and Margaret (2). David’s mother Hannah (60) also lived with them in 1901.

101 Main Street, Midleton

In 1901 this was occupied by the Fishbournes. This family is interesting in that they were all born outside Cork. John G (45) was the head of the family and was a bank agent born in Carlow, His wife Sarah (40) was born in Co. Kildare, It seems likely that John had travelled around the country working with the bank, as the couple’s daughter Dorah (10) had been born in Laois (Queen’s County) and their son Derrick (4) in Waterford City. They employed a 25-year-old governess, Mable Shaw, who was born in Dublin. The family cook, Hannah Holsour (21) was from Co. Kilkenny; their house maid, 26-year-old Annie Ryng [Ring?] and groom, 24-year-old Denis Murphy were both from Co. Cork.

We intend to put all the families from the 1901 Census up on the site, but if you are interested in finding out more you can see a full list of the occupants of Main Street in 1901 on the National Archives site here. We intend to expand our search to look at other streets in the town, as well as the 1911 Census to see what changes had taken place.

*Please see the comment of Kathryn Walsh below regarding an error in the census information which throws out some of the house numbers (Thanks Kathryn!)

Categories: Midleton Census | Tags: , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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