I had forgotten that I had sent for civil war records back in early August. I was looking for clarification on James Donegan, my third great grandfather. James was born in Ireland in 1824, by 1847 he was living in Roxbury, Massachusetts and married. Because of the birth locations of his six children I knew that at some point after 1854 James would move west into New York state and settle in Olean, New York. At that point everything else was pretty much of a guess.
From documents I found on line, it seemed that James had served in the military during the Civil War and it also seemed that James had died in Richmond, Virginia. I wanted proof of this and sent off the information to see if this was correct and what other information the file might contain. Little did I know there were to be a few new nuggets and one surprise.
When I opened the package the first sheets that I found confirmed I had the correct James Donegan (Donigan, also spelled Donnigan). The sheets showed James’ six children all in birth order, Catherine, John, Mary, James, Thomas Michael and Jerry. I had wondered about Jerry before, the youngest of the clan and someone I had entered before and removed from my file previously.
The next pages told me more about James’ wife. I knew her first name was Mary; these documents would give me her maiden name of McCarty. Mary was born in Ireland around 1826 and would immigrate to the states and live in Massachusetts where she would meet and marry James. I also now knew the date of their marriage as June 10, 1847. Mary couldn’t read or write so she would ask a friend to write to her husband in the war. Included in the package is a letter written to a friend of Mary’s that talks about seeing her husband in the hospital in Richmond:
U. S. Gen. Hospital, Annapolis, Md.
Oct the 11th 1864
I embrace the present in droping you a hasty line to let you know how I get along. I am well and in good helth. I received a leter from home stating you wrote to me for Mis Donegan for information in regard to her husband, but I am sary I never received it but you can tell her James, her husband was a prisoner with me on Bell Island and was quite well at the time I left for our lines but thare is a man here in my Company that came her this Spring and he told me yesterday that Jas Donigan was taken Sick and went to the Hospital in Richmond and died shortly after going thare. He toled me this also a Sargent says the same that come the same time he did. I made pratickaeral inquiries in regards to him. So thare is now dout he is ded and if I can assist her in any way to get her pay I will do so becose James was a good solger.
Sargent I spoke of above belong to my Company and his also I sapose you hered of Lew coming here a Paroled Prisoner he is getting along finly. His woned has got well but he has not got a vary good apitite but he feels beter to day than he has felt since he come. The Lutent of his Company come from Richmond Yesterday. He is well and at Camp Parole Lew had a hard time while a Prisoner but thank Heaven he got away. He ishapy as any man you ever saw to think he got out of rebels hands alive he is in St. Johns Hosptial Ward 21 Annapolis, Id. The wether has bin wet and cold and bin bad for him bud has since cleared off and become warm. So now I think he will get right along if you should write to him direct as above
I am here the same old ticket al right and a buly boy. I wrote some time ago to you inquiring how all of my old Sweet harts get along. I should like to here vary much. Let me know if Tracy Sullivan is in Olean or whare in fact all of the Stock tell me all the news be shure and elect Father Aberham in Olean. Write at once and tell me all the news.
James Hanigan (Hannegan)
U.S. Gen. Hospital
James had in fact died the year before, November 11, 1863 in Richmond, Virginia. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg, July of 1863. He would be imprisoned at Bell Isle prison and die from a case of diarrhea.
Mary would continue to live in Olean, New York following James’ death. James body was never returned to Mary. The only other listing of his death was found in the Nw York Herald spelled as Dunagen.
By August of 1866, Patrick O’Keefe had applied for guardianship of the minor children, under 16, of Mary and James. Further digging in the documents revealed that Patrick and Mary were married February 28, 1865, the month before their first son Patrick was born according to the 1900 Census.