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Rochester, NY's 54th Regiment Goes to War in 1864
Anxious crowds were 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 train and 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,
Francis Gallery Maloney
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
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
“PRESENTATION - Last evening,
a pleasant affair came off at the Armory, in Company I's room. The
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.,
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
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
Phillip Rappaport, Capt., Co. A; Francis A. Madden, Capt.,
Co. C; J. George Bursted, Capt., Co. D;
J. A. Haines, First Lieut., Co. A; Edward Blackford,
Jr., First Lieut., Co. C; John Schwartz, First Lieut.,
Samuel R. Campbell, Second Lieut., Co. C; Edwin F. Babbage,
Second Lieut., Co. E; V. P. Schwartz,
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
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.
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