Monday, June 05, 2006

Francis Maloney - 54th Regiment NYS Militia

Rochester, NY's 54th Regiment Goes to War in 1864

Anxious crowds was gathered along both sides of Exchange Street awaiting the appearance of its own "citizens soldiers," the 54th Infantry Regiment of the New York State National Guard. Since the commencement of the Civil War, hundreds of men from the Rochester and Monroe County area had already enlisted and were serving in various volunteer units of the Union Army. This day, the 27th of July in 1864, members of the New York State National Guard's 54th Regiment are to join them, if only for one hundred days.

Cheers went up from the crowd, made up of wives, mothers and other family members of men of the regiment, as they came into view. After mustering at the Armory and marching through portions of downtown Rochester area they could now be seen on Exchange street led by Newman's Band and their acting commander, Captain Lawrence Sellinger, on their way to the Genesee Valley Railroad depot.

As the regiment marched by the spectators, the Maloney family—Mrs. Ellen Maloney and her sons of State Street—got as close to the street as they were able. Commenting on how fine and handsome soldiers the individual regimental companies looked, Mrs. Maloney and her sons let out a loud yell as Company "I," commanded by their son and brother, Captain Francis Gallery Maloney, marched in review. And the yell grew even louder as they spotted, in the ranks of Company "I," Sergeant Michael J. Maloney, the Captain's brother.

The regiment moved on along Exchange Street to the , boarded the special Erie Railroad train and finally left the station at noon, some two hours after the scheduled departure. The train proceeded south through Avon, Mt. Morris, Dansville, Corning and finally arriving at Elmira at 10:00 PM. Embarking from the train the regiment marched to their home for the next 100 days—the Elmira Prisoner of War camp, said by some to be the worst of the prisoner of war camps, Union or Rebel.

Captain (later Major) Maloney was my great grandfather; and it was because of him that my interest in the 54th Regiment came about. While a teenager, my mother passed Major Maloney's officer's saber on to me. She had received it from her father, who, in turn, had received from his mother after Major Maloney's death. Today the saber is in the possession of my son Patrick Michael Eagan, the 2nd great-grandson of Major Maloney and it is hoped that he will pass it on to his oldest child, Shealagh Marie Eagan, the 3rd great-grandchild of Major Maloney. This work is a result of research I have done to find out who the 54th Regiment were, what they did in the Civil War, and how did Rochester view and learn of the progress of their "citizen soldiers." From that it expanded to look at the 54th at its organization in 1852 until it was disbanded in 1880. Before looking at the 54th and its history, though, allow me to introduce my great grandfather, Francis Maloney.

Francis Gallery Maloney
Francis Gallery Maloney was born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland on 19 May 1841, the son of Anthony Maloney and Ellen O'Kearney. Although Francis's 1864 discharge from the Union Army notes that he was born in Ennis, it is possible that he may have actually been born in Corofin, a small town northwest of Ennis in the Parish of Kilnaboy as his father, Anthony, was from Corofin at the time of his marriage in 1840 and two additional sons (Michael and Edward) of Anthony and Ellen Maloney was baptized in Corofin.

In the 1837 Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Corofin is described as a small market and post-town containing 900 inhabitants and about 140 houses, mostly thatched. It consisted of one main street and a Roman Catholic chapel, St. Catherine's, built about 1827 and this chapel is the site of the baptism of two of Francis's brothers. Today this chapel is a museum and is a part of the Heritage Centre for County Clare.

At present, we are unsure exactly when the Maloney family left Ireland. Francis's brothers, Michael and Edward, were baptized in Corofin in 1842 and 1844 and Edward is the last member of this family in the baptismal records. The next brother, Thomas, who was born in 1851, may have been born in either Ireland or he may have been born in Canada. Although most records for Thomas give his birthplace as Ireland, some census records give it as Canada, a fairly common destination for Irish families during the Great Famine of 1845-1849.

The Maloney family is first found in the United States in 1855-1856 in Rochester, NY in Monroe County. The Rochester City Directory for that year lists Anthony Maloney, a grocer, working at State and Jay Streets and Ellen Maloney, a domestic, working at 18 N. Washington Street. The family kept a grocery at 217 State Street and Anthony probably died shortly after 1857-1858 as that is the last year that he is listed in the City Directory. Ellen Maloney is first listed as "widow" in 1871.

Francis Maloney is first listed in the Rochester City Directory as a machinist and living at home on State Street in 1860 when he would have been about 19 years old.

My great grandfather was not among the original members of the 54th Regiment, but did become a member of the regiment in 1863. The Rochester Union & Advertiser carried the following article in its 1 October 1863 issue:

ANOTHER COMPANY FOR THE 54TH -- The last company to complete the 54th Regiment was organized last evening by Col. Clark. It is to be know as Company I, and has elected the following officers: Captain, F. G. Maloney; 1st Lieutenant, E. H. C. Griffin; 2d Lieutenant, C. K. Sabin; 1st Sergeant, W. J. Winfield; 2d Sergeant, M. J. Maloney; 3d Sergeant, R. Lavers; 4th Sergeant, G. M. Carmichael; 5th Sergeant, M. D. Whipple; 1st Corporal, H. Mathis; 2d Corporal, Wm. Forkel; 3d Corporal, P. Griffin; 4th Corporal, F. Maloney.


It is almost certain that 2d Sergeant, M. J. Maloney was Michael J., brother of Francis Maloney. It is unknown who 4th Corporal, F. Maloney is.

The 54th Regiment was mustered into the United States service on 26 July 1864 and served for 100 days at Elmira, NY, mustering out on November 10. During the Civil War, Elmira, NY was originally a mustering and training ground for as many as 5,000 Union troops from New York and Pennsylvania. By May 1864 those forces had all been sent to battle and the camp was vacant when the order came from Washington to prepare the site for 10,000 captured Rebel soldiers - double the original capacity - and the 54th Regiment served as guards at the camp.
The Confederate soldiers who were imprisoned within its walls called it "Hellmira." The infamous Civil War prison camp became a death camp for nearly 3,000 Rebel prisoners during the last year of the war.

Following their service in Elmira, the 54th Regiment returned to Rochester and most members of the regiment remained as part of it. The Rochester Union & Advertiser issue of 25 July 1865 carried the following article concerning the 54th:

PRESENTATION - Last evening, a pleasant affair came off at the Armory, in Company I's room. The occasion was a presentation by the members of the company to their Captain, F. G. Maloney, of a beautiful gold ring, suitably inscribed. Sergeant Isaac Ellis did the honors for the company, and the Captain responded in Frank's well known pithy and happy style. Good feeling was the order of the evening, and the boys entered into it with a will. There was no lack of good whistles, songs, etc. We are pleased to see this many of our veterans of those regiments which have returned and been mustered out and joining the 54th. This is as it should be, and there is no reason why we may not have the 54th filled up to a thousand strong with good and efficient soldiers.


Among the many friends of Francis in Rochester was one very special person, his future wife, Sarah Lany Weed. Sarah was born on 9 July 1846 in Lockport, NY in Niagara County, the daughter of Fellows Obel Weed and Mary Hare. Although the Maloney family had been in America since the early 1850's, Sarah's German ancestors (through her mother) had been in New York since 1710 and her English ancestors had been here since 1630 when her 5th great-grandfather, Jonas Weed, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Governor John Winthrop and Sir Richard Saltonstall.

Sarah's family came to Rochester from Lockport about 1857 and they resided, along with the Maloneys on State Street. Sarah's father, Fellows, along with her brother, Fellows, Jr., were edge tool makers. The Weed family lived on State Street until about 1865 when they moved to the Jackson County, MI to farm along with other members of the Helmer family (relatives of Sarah's mother) had moved to.

In 1866 Francis traveled to Leoni Township, MI where on the 10th of May he married Sarah. Although no marriage certificate is found in the Jackson Co., MI records, Sarah completed an affidavit on 12 July 1912 as a part of a process of obtaining a widow's pension based on Francis's Union Army service in 1864. The affidavit states:

I was married to the soldier [Francis Maloney], May 10, 1866, by Rev. Harry Hodgekiss of Leoni Tp., Jackson Co., Mich. And there was only a small company there and the only living witness to the Ceremony except myself was Albert M. Helmer [a cousin of Sarah] now of Parma, Mich.
Sarah L. Hawkins


Following their marriage, Francis and Sarah returned to Rochester where their first two children, Mary Frances and Frederick (my grandfather) were born in 1868 and 1870 respectively. In Rochester, Francis and Sarah lived at 67 Frank Street and Francis worked as a machinist at the corner of Mill and Factory Streets.

Francis was quite active as a member of the Machinist's Union and was a delegate to the 1867 New York State Trades' Assembly in Albany. The 24 June 1867 issue of the Rochester Union & Advertiser carried the following article:

STATE TRADES' ASSEMBLY -- The State Trades' Assembly meets at Albany tomorrow. Rochester sends as delegates James Laverty from the Monroe County Trades' Assembly; F. G. Maloney from the Machinist's Union, and Thos. Donohugh from the Moulder's Union.

It appears that his union activity did not sit well with his fellow officers in the 54th Regiment. Although the details are missing, we get a flavor of it from a letter to the editor of the Rochester Union & Advertiser from other members of the 54th. The following letter appeared in the 28 February 1870 issue of the Union & Advertiser:

Lieut. Col. Westcott and Major F. G. Maloney
Gentlemen - We, the undersigned, commissioned officers of the Fifty-fourth Regiment N.G.S.N.Y. [National Guard State of New York], in view of the differences now existing in the command, and believing it to be vital to the interests of the Regiment to ensure harmony would respectfully represent that in our opinion this cannot be done or ????? while your retain the positions now held by you, particularly with the assertions thrown upon us by the action of the late Workingman's Convention at Albany in regard to our Major. We do, thereby, most urgently but respectfully request you to tender your resignation:

Phillip Rappaport, Capt., Co. A; Francis A. Madden, Capt., Co. C; J. George Bursted, Capt., Co. D; Henry B. Henderson, Capt., Co. E; W. J. Clark, Capt., Co. F; J. H. Wilson, Capt., Co. G; Thomas L. Grant, Capt., Co. H; Donald O'Neil, Capt., Co. I.
J. A. Haines, First Lieut., Co. A; Edward Blackford, Jr., First Lieut., Co. C; John Schwartz, First Lieut., Co. D; C. L. Dodds, First Lieut., Co. F; F. C. Lener, Jr., First Lieut., Co. G; Robert Levis, First Lieut., Co. I.
Samuel R. Campbell, Second Lieut., Co. C; Edwin F. Babbage, Second Lieut., Co. E; V. P. Schwartz, Second Lieut., Co. F; Henry H. Vandolph, Second Lieut., Co. G; J. Schroder, Second Lieut., Co. I.
Robert J. Linder, Adjutant Fifty-fourth Regiment; R. H. Warfield, Quarter-Master Fifty-fourth Regiment; H. A. Smith, Conn. Sub. Fifty-fourth Regiment.


It appears that some members of the 54th Regiment were also officers of the Machinists Union. Two days later, on the 2nd of March, Major Maloney responded as follows:

Card from Mr. Maloney
Rochester, N.Y., March 2, 1870
Eds. U. & A: Having noticed in yesterday's issue of your paper, a card signed by the President and Corresponding Secretary of the M. and B. Union No. 7 of New York, I beg leave to state for the information of the public, that I tendered my resignation to the above Union some two years since, having been disgusted with the manner in which it was then conducted, and have had no connection with it or them. Furthermore, if ???????ing the cause of capital against the unjust demands of those Union men is disgraceful, I will leave the public to judge.
By publishing the above you will greatly oblige yours, respectfully yours, etc.
F. G. Maloney


This was not the end of the "disagreement" between Francis and fellow Union and 54th Regiment members. The Rochester Union & Advertiser of 17 May 1870 published the following short article:

COURT MARTIAL - It is reported that charges have been preferred against Major Maloney of the 54th Regiment, and a Court Martial to assemble the 1st day of June next has been ordered.

I have read the entire Union & Advertiser from the 17th of May until the end of July for 1870 and am unable to find any details concerning this Court Martial. In addition, I have contacted the New York State Adjutants office and the New York State Archives looking for additional information to no avail.

The following year, 1871, was the last year for Francis, Sarah and their family in Rochester and they moved that year to Leoni Township, MI to take up farming. In Leoni Township they farmed on Hawkins Road near the current location of the Michigan State Prison.
On 21 June 1872, Francis Gallery Maloney died at the age of 32. He was not forgotten in Rochester though and the following obituary appeared in the Union & Advertiser of 22 June 1872:

Death of Major Frank G. Maloney -- The announcement is made of the death of Major Frank G. Maloney, a former and well known resident of our city. About a year since the Major removed to Olean, Mich. [sic], where he entered into the business of farming. He had been sick for some time, but still his death was in a measure unexpected. He leaves a wife and three children. He has a mother, brothers and sisters still residing here. Major Maloney was a machinist by occupation, born here [sic], of active and genial temperament, and was noted in military circles. He had command of a company of the 54th regiment for a long period of time, and by strict attention to his business was elected Major of the Regiment, in which capacity for a year or more. His death will be regretted by all who enjoyed his acquaintance.

My great grandfather is buried in the Maxon Cemetery on Seymore Road in Leoni Township, Jackson Co., MI along with his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Mary Frances. In the fall of 1998, while in Michigan, I traveled to Jackson Co. and had the opportunity to spend some time at the grave site of my great grandfather.

In 1900, his son, Frederick, my grandfather, returned to live in Rochester, NY and among the effects that he took with him were his father's saber that he had worn as an officer of the 54th Infantry Regiment. In 1905, Frederick married Bridget Hanley and the following year their first child, Mary Frances Maloney, my mother, was born. When Mary grew up her father passed Major Francis Maloney's saber along to her to pass on to her descendants. In 1936, Mary Frances married Austin Edward Eagan and in 1939 their first child, Patrick Joseph Eagan was born. While Patrick was a teenager his mother passed Major Maloney's saber on to him. Today the saber is in the possession of Patrick Michael Eagan, the 2nd great-grandson of Major Maloney and it is hoped that he will pass it on to his oldest child, Shealagh Marie Eagan, the 3rd great-grandchild of Major Maloney.