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Patrick Hanley
From the 28th Wisconsin to the U.S. Navy

Patrick Hanley was born on November 1, 1844 in Roscommon County, Ireland. While there is no documentation to show the fact, it is believed he may have come from the village of Ballykilcline.

Patrick's parents, Michael and Mary (Gill) Hanley, immigrated to the U.S. in or around 1855 when Patrick was about 11 years old. He must have lived for some years in Sullivan County, New York because a sister, Helen "Nellie" Hanley was born there in 1858. By the early 1860's they had settled in Monches, a small village in between North Lake and Hartford, Wisconsin off Highway 83.

Patrick Hanley
Patrick Hanley
Patrick Hanley's story picks up in August 1862. The Union Army was actively recruiting young men to fight for the army and either the Irish boys were looking for adventure or money, but they were quite numerous among recruits. Patrick got his $25 bounty when he enlisted on August 21, 1862 ... he was 17. He enlisted in the 28th Wisconsin, Company H. They trained at Camp Washburn, in Milwaukee, Wis. for the next 3 months and were ready to ship South. Patrick decided to get leave to visit his family before he shipped out. When he returned his regiment had already left. He attempted to find or catch up to them, but he was not able to. At this point he was fearful that being AWOL he would be arrested. He wanted to serve his country and went to Chicago to join a mercantile battery. He couldn't because of some health issues, but he was able to join the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1863.

Patrick was initially on the receiving ship, the U.S.S. Clara Dolson, but probably only to transit to his actual ship a week later, the U.S.S. Covington, a tin-clad gunboat of the Mississippi Fleet. This was his ship for the next 11 months. I have read the captains logs (one good thing about the Navy was the regular documenting of daily events) for the duration of his naval service. While most of it was mundane and the cruising up and down the Mississippi without event, there were some interesting things ...

USS Covington
U.S.S. Covington
July 2, 1863 - Covington seizes C.S.S. Eureka near Commerce, MS for violation of River Blocade (Acting Lieutenant George P. Lord, captured steamer Eureka near Commerce, Mississippi, with cargo of whiskey.).

July 6, 1863 - Patrick finds out Wisconsin 28th company H is nearby his port at St. Helena, Arkansas. He makes contact with some people in his regiment, but does this unofficially fearing he will be put in the brig for desertion.

August 7, 1863 - Helena, AK; Transferred armaments and supplies from sinking USS Paw Paw; Guarded her.

May 4, 1864 - This was written up in various military books including the authoritative book on the Navy in the Civil War: The Naval History of the Civil War, by Admiral David D. Porter. The U.S.S. Covington was part of the Red River Campaign. The Union was trying to drive up the Red River to reach Shreveport, LA and gain access to Texas. Partly this was to gain supplies of cotton, but also to further divide the Confederacy.

The following is the narrative of the battle: "A large steamer, the Warner was loaded with cotton at Alexandria, LA and dispatched with 400 soldiers for New Orleans. The Admiral (Porter) asked for a convoy and was sent the two best gun-boats he could spare that were below the "Falls" (in Alexandria), the Signal and the Covington. There was a minor skirmish with some Confederate infantry firing from the river bank and one man was killed on the Warner. The fire of the Covington soon drove off the Confederates, but this was only an earnest of what was to follow.

The next morning (May 5), on arriving at Dunn's Bayou, a Confederate unit (identity unknown) had passed around the Union army at Alexandria with 6000 men and 25 pieces of artillery. The gunboats fought like hell for five hours, with their steam pipes cut and boilers leaking. Finally, Lt. Lord landed the Covington on the far bank, offloaded his crew and set fire to his ship. The Signal had too many wounded to get away and fell into the hands of the Rebels, who took her guns and sunk her as an obstruction. Most of the guns, Porter claimed, which sank the Union ships were captured from the Union army at Pleasant Hill!"

Admiral David Dixon Porter, US Navy
Admiral Porter
Admiral Porter commented in his book: "The brave men in these vessels, only musket proof, defended them for five hours, and many of the actions heralded to the world during the late war were much less worthy of notice than this contest between two little gun-boats and twenty pieces of artillery (canons)."

You can imagine these men fighting against unbeatable odds, but never giving up until their rudder was disabled and they could no longer navigate. There were 74 in the crew and 42 were killed. (I visited this area in May 2003 and saw Alexandria and tried to find Dunn's Bayou. No one knew where it was, but from the descriptions, I got to where I thought it might be. With many of the Corps of Engineers flood control projects, the Red River has changed course and locations may not be the same. - The Author)

Patrick and the survivors from the Covington escaped over land and reconnected with Union forces near Alexandria. Patrick ends up on the U.S.S. Fairy for the next two months. He is discharged, but re-enlists (I believe he was a coxswain, the person who steers the boat ... an advancement in rank) and is assigned to a new gunboat, the Kickapoo.

U.S.S. Kickapoo
U.S.S. Kickapoo
July 12, 1864 - Patrick Hanley is assigned to the U.S.S. Kickapoo

March 29, 1865: Kickapoo is involved in the siege of Mobile Bay and rescues the crew of the Osage, which was sunk by a torpedo.

July 25, 1865 - Patrick Hanley on U.S.S. J.P. Jackson

August 22, 1865 - Patrick Hanley Transfers to Aroostock going from New Orleans to Pensacola, FL.

September 7, 1865 - Patrick Hanley departs on Aroostook for Philadelphia Navy Yard.

September 18, 1865 - Hanley and Aroostook arrive at Philadelphia Navy yard for repairs.

October 15, 1865 - Patrick Hanley discharged from Navy in Philadelphia (listed as Milwaukee too).

For years Patrick was troubled by his apparent listing as a deserter and this came to issue in 1896 when he applied for military benefits and to live in the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, Wis.

Patrick provided documentation that actually went to the Department of the Navy and then to Congress which removed the desertion charges and provided him with an honorable discharge in 1898. In the committee hearings the following was transcribed:

James Murray
James Murray, his former captain in the 28th Wisconsin, testified in writing on Hanley's behalf.
In addition to the foregoing House report, the committee gives an extract from a private letter, written by James Murray of Fremont, Nebraska, to a Senator who says he has implicit confidence in his statements. Mr. Murray was a Captain in the Twenty-eighth Wisconsin, from which Hanley "deserted." He says:

"I was one of the line officers in the Twenty-eighth Wisconsin. You were another. My company was H. Now to business. A man whose name is Patrick Hanley enlisted upon the occasion of the organization of the Twenty-eighth from Merton or Lisbon and chose company H to go in; Went to Camp Washburn with the rest of us, mustered, drilled, and on the whole was a good soldier, no way disorderly, and was, I verily believe never reprimanded by any of his superior officers. He went home; we marched the next day; he failed to get back in time; he followed us to Chicago; we were gone; he enlisted in a battery at that place (mercantile) was rejected for a physical disability of some kind. In a short time he enlisted in the Navy and served three years.

Of course most of this has been told me after we got home, by him. I know this however, while we were in camp in Mobile (AL probably March/1865), one of my men came to me one day and said: "Patrick Hanley is down on board of a gunboat and expressed a desire to see us, but said that I would have him arrested as a deserter, and that he had seen about as much service as any of the Twenty-eighth, he would not like to be arrested. As the war was about winding up I forbore to send for him. Well, of course, he reported and the muster-out rolls so reported him as a deserter. It seems that he not long since found it out. He writes that he is seeking to get the disgrace effaced on account of his children. I sympathize with the boy (Patrick was 52!) particularly in that respect. Congressman Cook of Wisconsin (Samuel Andrew of Neenah) is trying to have a bill passed restoring him. Now, as you were in those days one of us, could you not, if you deem it right, etc. give the matter a helping hand? My recollection of the boy is quite vivid and I found him dutiful, orderly, and a manly young man."

While Hanley might have persevered in his attempt to overtake the Twenty-eighth Wisconsin and thus avoided the charge of desertion, we think that his conduct in seeking to enlist in the Mercantile Battery , and enlisting and serving a year in the Navy, shows that he was not endeavoring to avoid the service of his country and the committee report the bill back with a recommendation that it do pass.

July 8, 1898 Act of Congress (private no. 384) Approved July 1, 1898 honorable discharge given.

May 20, 1907 Patrick passed away in Waupaca. He is buried at the cemetery at the Veterans Home in Waupaca next to his mother Mary.

Biography generously shared by by Patrick Hanley's great-great grandson David Bunzel.

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