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Friday, March 1, 2013

Historian's Report March 2013


Irish Historian’s Report


Division One is honored to share Irish History articles provided by The National Historian of The Ancient Order of Hibernians
 


A.O.H. National Historian Michael McCormack



MYLES KEOGH

by Mike McCormack, AOH Historian

Myles was born, one of 13 Keogh children, to a nationalist family in Co Carlow.  His uncle Pat had been executed by the English following the rising of 1798.  He could have lived the life of a farmer for he inherited the family estate in Kilkenny, but there was something in him that craved adventure.  In March 1860, Pope Pius IX called upon young Catholic men to defend the Papal States, which were threatened by the revolutionary forces of Garibaldi seeking a united Italy.  Keogh was one of 1,400 Irishmen who volunteered and was appointed a battalion lieutenant.
In September, the Papal Army was defeated.  Following a brief incarceration in Genoa, Keogh and 45 Irish comrades traveled to Rome, where a special papal medal Pro Petri Sede was instituted and presented by Pius IX.  It literally means ‘for the seat of Peter’ and depicts an inverted cross like the one on which St Peter was crucified.  They then joined the Papal Guard as the green-uniformed "Company of Saint Patrick."  For his service there, Keogh was also awarded the Order of St Gregory medal, but the real fighting was over and he was getting restless. 

Colonel Myles Keogh

The American Civil War was raging and President Lincoln authorized New York’s fiery Bishop ‘Dagger’ John Hughes to travel to Italy to recruit veterans of the Papal War.  He met with Keogh and his comrades and in March, 1862, Keogh resigned his commission in the Company of Saint Patrick, and with another officer, Daniel J. Keily of Waterford, returned briefly to Ireland, then set sail to New York, where they met with another Papal comrade, Joseph O'Keefe.  Through Secretary of State, William Seward's intervention the three medal holders were given Captains' rank and on April 15 assigned to the staff of Irish-born Brigadier General James Shields, whose forces were about to confront the Confederate army of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.
Keogh won praise for his bravery in the Valley Campaign and at Port Republic where Dan Keily was severely wounded. On July 31 Keogh and O'Keefe were transferred to the staff of cavalry Brigadier General John Buford who commended them as "dashing, gallant and daring soldiers." Army commander George McClellan described Keogh as "a most gentlemanlike man of soldierly appearance," whose "record had been remarkable."  Keogh served with Buford through the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville campaigns, and was in the thick of the huge cavalry clash at Brandy Station, where O'Keefe was shot in the leg and captured.  He would later be killed in action.  Keogh, for his part in the battle of Gettysburg received the brevet rank of Major and was later transferred to the staff of General George Stoneman, commanding the mounted forces of Sherman's army in the western theater of the war.
Captain Theodore Allen of the 7th Ohio Cavalry later recalled that Myles Keogh's dandy appearance made him unpopular with the hard-bitten western troopers who didn’t like his flawless appearance. Allen wrote; "there was altogether too much style. He was as handsome a young man as I ever saw. His uniform was spotless and fitted him like the skin on a sausage."  And he always carried that foreign medal.  But Allen revised his opinion when Keogh displayed undaunted courage on the battlefield.  General Stoneman saw to it that Keogh was promoted to Major and acting chief of staff.   He accompanied the General on a daring raid behind enemy lines to free the Union prisoners incarcerated at Macon, Georgia.  If all went well, Stoneman planned to continue on and liberate the notorious stockade at Andersonville. But on July 31, 1864, they had their horses shot from under them and were taken prisoner. Confined in Macon and later at Charleston, Keogh was lucky enough to be freed in a prisoner exchange with General Stoneman on September 30.  He wrote to his sister, Ellen, "I thank God I was thought enough of by Genl. Sherman to be exchanged.  I would have died in a very short time and as it is I am almost broken down."
After recovering his health, in the war's final months Keogh rendered distinguished service and at age 25, emerged from the war with the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel and hoped to obtain a commission in the postwar Army.  In the meantime he spent several months on duty in Tennessee where he befriended Colonel Andrew J. Alexander and his young bride, Evy Martin Alexander and General Emory Upton.  When General Upton wed Evy Alexander's sister, Emily Martin, he asked Keogh to serve as Best Man.  Through his association with Upton and Alexander, in October, 1855, Keogh first visited Willowbrook – the Martin family home on Owasco Lake, in Auburn, NY.  Over the next decade Myles Keogh became almost a family member and there was a rumored romance between Keogh and Cornelia Martin, one of Evy's and Emily's sisters.
In November of 1866 he was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, to become Captain of Company I in the newly formed 7th Cavalry Regiment, in which the flamboyant George Armstrong Custer was now serving as Lieutenant Colonel.  The second of the three original Papal medal holders who enlisted together, Dan Keily, died of yellow fever in Louisiana.  Lieutenant Henry Nowlan, became Keogh's closest friend in the regiment.  On October 14, 1875, Keogh went to Fort Lincoln, and from that day until his death was present for duty with Custer and the 7th Cavalry.


Meanwhile, Sitting Bull, Chief of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, was attracting an assembly of tribes from the Cheyenne, Hunkpapa, Miniconjou, and Oglala led by Crazy Horse, Gall, Two Moons, and a host of Chieftains to a spiritual rally involving the Ghost Dance – a new religion based on a merge of Indian and Christian traditions.  The 5-day dance was for universal love and peace with the white man, but the assembly of 1,000 Indians frightened the Indian Agent who called for more troops to break up the gathering.  The army dispatched Col Gibbons from the west, Gen Crook from the south, Gen Terry from the east to catch the Indians in a pincer movement.  Custer, as part of Terry’s command, left Fort Lincoln to join Terry at the Little Big Horn valley.  Custer was first to arrive.
Myles Keogh seems to have sensed that the 1876 campaign would be his last. He gave copies of his will to several comrades, including Lieutenant Nowlan, and took out a $10,000 life insurance policy. He also left a satchel of personal papers with Mrs. Eliza Porter, the wife of Lieutenant James Porter, and instructed her to burn them should he be killed. Finally Keogh wrote what would be his last letter to Nelly Martin, concluding: "We leave Monday on an Indian expedition & if I ever return I will go on and see you all.  I have requested to be packed up and shipped to Auburn in case I am killed and I desire to be buried there.  God bless you all, remember if I should die -- you may believe that I loved you and every member of your family -- it was a second home to me."
Perhaps the strongest testimony to Keogh's bravery and leadership ability came at Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. The senior captain among the five companies wiped out with Custer that day, Keogh died surrounded by the men of Company I. When the sun-blackened and dismembered dead were buried three days later, Keogh's body was found at the center of a group of troopers.  He was the only one beside Custer who was not mutilated, perhaps because of the "medicine" the Indians saw in the Papal Medal he wore on a chain about his neck.  His left knee had been shattered by a bullet that also wounded his horse, "Comanche," indicating that they may have fallen together. The badly injured animal was found on the battlefield and nursed back to health as the last survivor of the tragedy.  As regimental mascot it was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas where it was used in parades and exhibited a fondness for beer.  It died at 29 years of age in 1891and was sent to the University of Kansas to be stuffed.  When the Army refused to pay the taxidermy bill it was donated to the University of Kansas museum where it stands to this day.
As for Siting Bull, after a brief career with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, he returned to the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, where he was welcomed by a large group of his former followers. Agency police, afraid he would resurrect interest in the Ghost Dance, tried to arrest him and in a scuffle with agency police he was shot and killed by Indian members of the Agency Police force.  Around his neck was found a Pro Petri Sede medal
Keogh Gravesite, Auburn, New York
As for Myles Keogh, no one felt his death more keenly than his surrogate family, the Martins of "Willowbrook." In 1877, they had Keogh's remains re-interred in the family plot at Auburn, where he had wished to be.  This gallant Irish soldier of fortune, veteran of three wars on two continents was buried on the afternoon of October 25, 1877.  Today the town of Auburn sponsors an annual Myles Keogh Day which starts with a parade in his honor, an afternoon of athletic competitions, an award ceremony and concludes with a dinner; among the sponsors is the Auburn AOH.  On a visit to Auburn many years ago I was taken to see the grave of Myles Keough.  It has a cross over the grave and at the head, a huge white marble stone on which is carved a military cape and sword; and carved on the base is an epitaph from the pen of poet Bayard Taylor which reads:
Sleep soldier! Still in honored rest
Your truth and valor wearing
The bravest are the tenderest
The loving are the daring.





DIVISION OFFICERS


Chaplain

Rev. Matt Janeczko OFM

President
Kevin Ellis

Vice President
Jim Walsh

Recording Secretary

Robert Eggen

Financial Secretary
Dan Mulvey

Treasurer
Mike Morley

Chairman Standing
Committee

Dennis O'Brien

Marshal
Ronan O'Brien

Sentinel
Scott McGown

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Mailing Address:

A.O.H. Myles Scully
Division One
P.O. Box 1020
Yonkers, NY 10703

Email Address:

aohyonkers@gmail.com

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