Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What does it mean to be Irish?

As I learned through my experience writing the 5th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture about the Irish language, Ireland and the Irish mean many things to many people.

What does the Emerald Isle and its heritage and culture mean to you? Share with us your stories about Ireland and what it means to be Irish in the upcoming 6th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture. (Note: An Irish pedigree is not required to participate.)


Posts for this edition of the carnival are due Saturday, May 31, Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland. Submit your entries here. The carnival will be posted here at Small-leaved Shamrock on the actual June Bank Holiday, June 2.

Ireland has been known by so many names and means so many different things to different people. You might know it as:
  • Erin
  • The Emerald Isle
  • Hibernia (as the Romans referred to it)
  • The Land of Saints & Scholars
  • The Silk of the Kine
  • The Old Sod
  • The Poor Old Woman

Hope you'll join us to tell about your own personal experience with and understanding of the land so many love so well.

Because "one language is never enough"...

Want a little introduction to the Irish language, Hiberno-English and the Irish "gift of gab"? Stop on over at A light that shines again for A little Irish language, a bit of Blarney.... It's the 5th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture and its not to be missed!


Agree with the Irish phrase Neamhleor atá teanga amháin? (Translation: One language is never enough.) You'll enjoy a tribute to the language of the bards of Ireland and how that language has influenced places and people throughout history - and how it still does today.

What are you waiting for? Be off to your reading! Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ode to Civil War soldiers

On the heels of the poem by Walt Whitman entitled The Artilleryman's Vision, I'd like to share two additional poems from the Civil War era that I came across while reading The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry: From Whitman to Walcott edited by Richard Marius.

The first, All Quiet along the Potomac Tonight, reminded me of the hand-written description by Thomas Cowey of he and his brother's own time spent at the Potomac River during the year 1861.
All Quiet on the Potomac Tonight
by Thaddeus Oliver

"All quiet along the Potomac to-night,"
Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.

'Tis nothing--a private or two now and then
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost--only one of the men---
Moaning out, all alone, the death-rattle.

"All quiet along the Potomac to-night,"
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
Their tents, in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
Or the light of the watch-fires, are gleaming.

A tremulous sigh, as the gentle night-wind
Through the forest leaves slowly is creeping,
While the stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard--for the army is sleeping.

There is only the sound of the lone sentry's tread,
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two on the low trundle-bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.

His musket falls slack--his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for his children asleep--
For their mother, may Heaven defend her!

The moon seems to shine as brightly as then,
That night, when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips, and when low-murmered vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.

Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun close up to its place,
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.

He passes the fountain, the blasted
pine-tree, The footstep is lagging and weary,
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Towards the shades of the forest so dreary.

Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it the moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle--ah! Mary, good-bye!
And the life-blood is ebbing and splashing!

All quiet along the potomac to-night,
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead--
The picket's off duty forever!


If my great-great-grandfather had met the same fate as the private in the poem, I would not be here today nor would hundreds of his other descendants.

The second poem, Ode, was first sung while decorating graves of Confederate soldiers in South Carolina in 1867:


Ode
by Henry Timrod

Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,

Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.

In seeds of laurel in the earth
The garlands of your fame are sown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!

Meanwhile, your sisters for the years
Which hold in trust your storied tombs,
Bring all they now can give—tears,
And these memorial blooms.

Small tributes! but your shades will smile
As proudly on these wreaths today,
Than when some cannon-molded pile
Shall overlook this bay.

Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!

For more poetry and song lyrics from the Civil War Era, you might enjoy Rick Hearn's Civil War Poetry website.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One, two...a trí, a ceathair, a cúig!

Count with me:

A haon (uh HAY*N)...
a dó (uh DOH)...
a trí (uh TREE)...
a ceathair (uh KA-hir)...
a cúig (uh KOO-ig)...

One...
two...
three...
four...

...five more days to submit your post for the 5th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture to be hosted by A light that shines again. The theme is Irish Gaelic (or your experience with it, no matter how limited) and the deadline is Sunday, April 27. Hope to see you there!

Numbers one through five in Gaelic (and their accompanying pronunciation guides) are courtesy of The Irish People's Learn Irish Gaelic Lesson 36.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Then resumed the chaos louder than ever..."

I often think about the life of my great-great-grandfather and wonder if he told any stories to his family about his time in service of the nation during the "Great Rebellion". Surely he lay awake some nights remembering the trials he faced as a young soldier.

Walt Whitman's poem, The Artilleryman's Vision, describes such a night spent in memory of long-ago days still fresh on a soldier's mind. According to a description of the poem in The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry: From Whitman to Walcott edited by Richard Marius, "All this is imagined since Whitman never saw combat. But no poem in this collection better expresses the nostalgia for the war once it was over, the remembered excitement that brought thousands of men on both sides together for reunions with their comrades as long as they lived. Probably no better description of combat emerged from the Civil War - certainly not in poetry."

Here Whitman takes us into the mind of a soldier as he remembers the war while his wife and child are sleeping nearby:

The Artilleryman's Vision
by Walt Whitman

While my wife at my side lies slumbering, and the wars are over long,

And my head on the pillow rests at home, and the vacant midnight passes,

And through the stillness, through the dark, I hear, just hear, the breath of my infant,

There in the room as I wake from sleep this vision presses upon me;

The engagement opens there and then in fantasy unreal,

The skirmishers begin, they crawl cautiously ahead, I hear the irregular snap! snap!

I hear the sounds of the different missiles, the short t-h-t! t-h-t! of the rifle-balls,

I see the shells exploding leaving small white clouds, I hear the great shells shrieking as they pass,

The grape like the hum and whirr of wind through the trees, (tumultuous now the contest rages,)

All the scenes at the batteries rise in detail before me again,

The crashing and smoking, the pride of the men in their pieces,

The chief-gunner ranges and sights his piece and selects a fuse of the right time,

After firing I see him lean aside and look eagerly off to note the effect;

Elsewhere I hear the cry of a regiment charging, (the young colonel leads himself this time with brandish'd sword,)

I see the gaps cut by the enemy's volleys, (quickly fill'd up, no delay,)

I breathe the suffocating smoke, then the flat clouds hover low concealing all;

Now a strange lull for a few seconds, not a shot fired on either side,

Then resumed the chaos louder than ever, with eager calls and orders of officers,

While from some distant part of the field the wind wafts to my ears a shout of applause, (some special success,)

And ever the sound of the cannon far or near, (rousing even in dreams a devilish exultation and all the old mad joy in the depths of my soul,)

And ever the hastening of infantry shifting positions, batteries, cavalry, moving hither and thither,

(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red I heed not, some to the rear are hobbling,)

Grime, heat, rush, aide-de-camps galloping by or on a full run,

With the patter of small arms, the warning s-s-t of the rifles, (these in my vision I hear or see,)

And bombs bursting in air, and at night the vari-color'd rockets.
I share this poem to honor the memory of my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey and all fellow soldiers who did their part in the Civil War. It is posted in celebration of today's Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Everybody needs a little elf

I've written previously about leprechauns, but this is the first time I've written about an elf. Let me let you in on a little secret: I love my elf!

I had heard about this little fellow quite a few months ago, but never took the time to get acquainted. You see, I was busy with other things and didn't think I had time to intoduce myself. Now that I have, I see that we should have met much earlier. This little elf saves me time. I don't know what I did without him!

The elf I am speaking of is Library Elf. This "little fellow" is a godsend to someone like me who loves to read. You see, I love my local library and visit often. Not only am I a card-carrying member, but I also carry the local library cards of my children as well as my cards for various other local and not-so-local libraries. It seems I am always finding the need to search for a book that is not at my own neighborhood branch and often not even in my library system. That's why I've accumulated various cards and visited many, many libraries.

Library Elf, helpful little fellow that he is, helps me keep track of my various materials on loan from different libraries by consolidating all the due dates, holds, etc. into one email message sent at whatever intervals I prefer. The message he sends includes links to the libraries' websites for easy renewal and makes it easy on me to remember to turn materials in on time and therefore avoid late fees.

Visits to libraries have become a regular part of my life and that of my family. We frequent our local branch and many of the staff members there have become like family. On trips I often find myself working in a visit to a library. I have even benefitted long-distance from a few libraries, such as the wonderful help I have received from several in towns that hold my ancestors' records. And of course I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the amazing benefit that I've received from my local Family History Center which has brought microfilmed records from the Family History Library within my reach.

If I had to choose a favorite in library-land, however, it would have to be the New York Public Library at 5th Avenue & 42nd Street (particularly its Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy). Who couldn't love a library guarded by Patience and Fortitude?

Now to go check and see if I've gotten today's message from that little elf...
Thanks to Lori Thornton of Smoky Mountain Family Historian for suggesting a post about libraries during this week's celebration of National Library Week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Things for pockets: maps and poems

As I mentioned over at 100 Years in America, I am a lover of maps. What joy when I found a map representing another of my favorite things: poetry!

Check out the National Poetry Map at Poets.org and make sure you don't forget to celebrate April (National Poetry Month) in some kind of poetic way.

You might even want to carry a poem in your pocket...

Happy National Poetry Month!

A challenge to all readers who write their own blogs: Share a favorite poem on your blog for Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 17, 2008. I look forward to reading all of your favorites!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two weeks left to work on your Irish Gaelic

...in time for the Irish Gaelic edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture, that is!

Do your spring cleaning (glanadh an earraigh) along with us and help us air out a few words and phrases by dusting off your Irish Gaelic dictionary and joining us for the carnival.

It is springtime! The time has come to put away the winter clothes (tá an t-am tagtha éadaí an Gheimhridh a chur ar leataobh) and bring some Irish Gaelic out into the fresh air!

Hope you'll join us for the 5th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage & Culture to be posted over at A light that shines again, We will honor the beauty of the Irish language with a focus on Irish Gaelic names and words.
  • Has the charm of the name of a place in Ireland always called to you to visit someday?
  • As a child did you secretly wish you had the Irish name of a great-grandparent instead of the name you were born with?
  • Do you have a story to tell about someone with an Irish surname?
  • Is there an Irish proverb that you have always loved to let slide off of your tongue in its original language?
Join us for the carnival. The only prerequisite is that your post must tie in with our focus on the Irish Gaelic language.

Posts for this edition of the carnival are due April 27. Submit your entries here. The carnival will be posted at A light that shines again on St. Ciarán's Day, April 30. (Well, one of the St. Ciarán's days - there are actually 14 in the calendar of Irish saints. Now there's one popular Irish Gaelic name!)

There is no better way to revive Irish
than for a crowd of people to spread it.
~ Douglas Hyde

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Just where was William Cowhey during the Civil War?

As always with the study of genealogy, one discovery opens up more questions and sets the seeker of family history off in new directions.

It was no different when I received the multi-page file from the National Archives & Records Administration detailing my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey's application for pension for his service during the Civil War.

The file is a fascinating series of affidavits, medical reports, declarations, claims, and other government documents, including a gem handwritten by his brother Thomas detailing a particular war experience that he suffered through with William. Read that story at Crossing the Potomac with William: a soldier's story.

One new piece of information that appears on various documents throughout the pension file had me puzzled initially. I knew from previous research that the two brothers had served together for 3 months during 1861 in Pennsylvania Infantry Company I-16 of Pottsville: from April 26, 1861 to July 30, 1861. Alongside William's service in Company I-16, his additional time in the service of the Union is also mentioned. According to affidavits signed by William and his wife Margaret (Foley) Cowhey and also according to the War Department, William also re-listed and served from January 30, 1862 to January 30, 1865 in Company L-5.

That's a significant time in the service of the Union. Of particular interest to me is the fact that it occurred after the onset of William's rheumatoid arthritis (which, according to his statements in the pension file, had its onset during his first three months of service in 1861).

These facts open up many more questions for me in terms of what type of action William Cowhey saw during the Civil War and what type of life he led, health included.

In my initial search for more information about these additional three years of William's life as a soldier during the Civil War I've received help from Military History Online and its Civil War forums. Thanks to the knowledgeable and generous individuals who read and comment on the forums, I've confirmed that William seems to have served in Company L 5th Artillery, Regular Army. (There is more than one Pennsylvania 5th, you see).

I've also received a brief summary of what type of action William's regiment saw during the course of their three years of service, but have lots more to learn. The history of the U.S. Regular Army Battery L 5th Artillery online at the Civil War Archive doesn't seem to square exactly with the dates listed in the documents that I have indicating William Cowhey's time of service. That and the History of the 5th U.S. Artillery online along with the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors website may provide some clues as to William's life as a soldier from 1862 to 1865, but I have a lot more research to do before I can make sense of it all.

Now, there was no draft back during the time of the Civil War, so William had to have been recruited as a volunteer. Why would a man with rheumatoid arthritis (which presumably was first set off because of his duties as a soldier) offer to enlist again - and how would he serve for three full years?

I was interested to read the suggestions of one commenter on the Civil War forum: "Maybe his arthritis was better, and maybe he had liked his stint in the 13th PA. Possibly he was down on his luck and 'three hots and a cot' sounded good. Maybe he had a friend(s) enlisting in the Regular Army."

There is probably no way for me to learn what William Cowhey's motives were for serving in the Union Army those three additional years. (Unlike William, his brother and fellow-first defender Thomas never re-enlisted.) But just what did William Cowhey experience during the Civil War? Three years fighting for the Union is a long time. With a little more research I hope to find out just where Company L-5 went and what they did during their three-year tour of duty.

Stay tuned for more on the story of my great-great-grandfather William Cowhey, Union soldier...

Source: William Cowhey (Pvt. Co. I, 16th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. S.C. WC 376.459, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

PA records access: not the good or bad, but the ugly

With my genealogical research focusing in on only a few key states in my family history, I don't have experience with searching for vital records and other documents in too many states around the nation.

In light of my resulting tunnel vision, I found it interesting to read Craig Manson's post over at GeneaBlogie entitled "Open" State Vital Records: The Bad and the Ugly. A law and public policy professor as well as a genealogist, Craig has written several posts about open government laws and genealogy. His post on states with limited vital records access listed 15 states as "bad" (including a couple from whom I need records for my 100 Years in America side of the family) and 7 as "ugly" (including Pennsylvania, the home state of Small-leaved Shamrock history).

Yikes!

Genealogy is tough, tedious work, fellas. Can't you give us a hand?

If you have an interest in improving access to Pennsylvania's vital records, don't forget to visit the website of PaHR-Access (People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access) and see what you can do to help.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Vrrooomm!!! Vrrooomm!!!

An early "Wordless Wednesday" entry for you, sponsored by some favorite cars in Small-leaved Shamrock history...

This 1952 Studebaker owned by traveling salesman Charlie Stanton (beloved husband, father and grandfather; favorite uncle and great-uncle to many):


This 1956 yellow and white Pontiac, first car of the eldest daughter of George & Anne (Cowhey) McCue (photo taken in 1958 in Hicksville, New York):


For more family car photos (and stories, too!) see The love of fine cars: it's in the genes and A ring, yellow roses & a Flying Cloud over at 100 Years in America, or visit the 45th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy whose theme is Cars as stars!

A Wordless Wednesday entry (such as this one, which I've posted early on a Tuesday just to confuse you!) is a picture that speaks for itself without a lot of description. The picture may be one whose subjects are not yet identified or whose story is not fully understood. If you have any information about the subjects, date or location pertaining to the above photographs, please post a comment or send an email and share what you know.

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