‘I Will Sing the Song of Companionship’: Limerick’s Peter Doyle, the Former Confederate Who Became Walt Whitman’s Muse & Lover

‘I Will Sing the Song of Companionship’: Limerick’s Peter Doyle, the Former Confederate Who Became Walt Whitman’s Muse & Lover

Irish in the American Civil War

I am very pleased today to have a guest post from historian Liam Hogan. Liam has spent may years exploring this history of Limerick City and County, research that has seen the production of resources such as this site, which examines Limerick 100 years ago, and this interactive map that illustrates the locations where Limerick men died in the First World War. Liam is currently engaged in a detailed examination of the history of Irish slave ownership. Today he shares research he has been carrying out into Peter Doyle– Limerick emigrant, Confederate veteran, and ‘intimate friend’ of famed American poet Walt Whitman:

As Ireland has just debated and voted on a same-sex marriage referendum, it seems like an appropriate time to remember Peter Doyle, an immigrant from Limerick who fought on the Confederate side during the American Civil War and afterwards witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln. But his…

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Using interactive maps to highlight Limerick’s history

Over the past two years I’ve used various mapping tools to highlight specific aspects of Limerick’s history. The aim was to compress a complex topic into an easy-to-interpret visual.


The Limerick Tornado of 1851

An interactive map based on the writings and research of John Tyrrell, Dept. of Geography, (UCC). This map plots the path of a T4 level tornado as it tore through the centre of Limerick City. The Tornado occurred at 5.20pm on Sunday the 5th October 1851. The weather that day was described as “cold and blowing, with occasional showers” and as “overcast and rather gusty”. Griffin records that the temperature that day varied between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius.

Despite the force of the tornado, and the amount of destruction it caused, there was just one fatality, Thomas Ryan, who was struck on the head by a flying tile. This occurred on Carr Street. The track of the tornado was described as being “zig-zag” and it moved from west to east.

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A Journey through the Limerick Petty Sessions (1912-1914)

The courts of petty sessions were local courts that dealt with minor cases, both criminal and civil. They are an invaluable resource for local historians as they offer a glimpse of the social landscape in Limerick at this time, as well as giving a voice/platform to the ordinary person who is otherwise omitted from the “public record” of the contemporary printed media. Here is a list of the more interesting cases I have stumbled upon in the Limerick Leader and the Limerick Chronicle newspapers (1912-1914) as well as some from other counties that caught my eye. The tone of the reporting is interesting and in many cases there is laughter in the court room at some of the evidence given. Did individuals attend the petty sessions as a form of entertainment? The contrast between the sentencing is telling. Petty crime often resulted in a prison sentence whereas something like the negligent management of a factory (which could lead to death) resulted in a token fine.

Irish Petty Session (1853) - iIlustrated London News
Irish Petty Session (1853) – Illustrated London News
  • Croom Petty Sessions: Ann Meehan, convicted on a charge of assault, was stated to have 600 convictions recorded against her. She is 77 years of age, and was alleged to have been drinking whiskey since she was 17. The police said the Cork jail authorities refused to keep her on a former occasion; and the Chairman of the Court said she would not be kept in a Home. She would not remain in a Workhouse and she could not be sent to a Lunatic Asylum. It was decided, in the Chairman’s words, “To try the jail again.” (03/1912)
  • City Petty Sessions: Bridget Morrissey imprisoned for a month for stealing two pairs of boots. James McCarthy fined 5s for assaulting his wife. (03/1912)
  • Bruree Petty Sessions: Three boys from the village of Bruree were brought before the court on suspicion of being “dangerous, quarrelsome and scandalous..they are night-walkers who sleep in the day and go abroad at night; likely to disturb the peace, are idle, vagabond and persons of evil fame.” They were accused of assaulting a young girl by putting a rope around her and of throwing a man’s donkey-cart into the river. When the Judge asked why was there none of the injured parties in court, the prosecutor replied “they may be called informers then, you know the country as well as I do.” The case was dismissed and the boys got off with a curfew warning.
  • Special Court in Glin: Mary Neville, with a child in her arms, was charged with being drunk and incapable, and was sent to Tralee Prison for one month’s hard labour. Her three children were conveyed to the Listowel Workhouse. (03/1912)

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