Special thanks to Craig Swain and Jimmy Price for bringing this man to my attention. There’s all too little data out there on the 1st U.S. Cavalry in the Civil War, so every bit of detail unearthed is a victory. Readers will see more on the 23rd Illinois and the 1st U.S. Cavalry shortly. This is another of those threads that lead far afield once it is pulled and followed.
Timothy O’Connor was born in County Kerry, Ireland on August 15, 1842. After immigrating to the United States, he settled in Chicago, Illinois.
At the outbreak of the war, O’Connor joined one of the many volunteer units forming in the Chicago area. He enlisted in Company F, “somebody’s Guard, Rifles, etc” 23rd Illinois Infantry at Camp Douglas, Illinois on March 15, 1862. The regiment was raised entirely in Cook County, Illinois. He was mustered in by Captain Moriarty when the regiment officially mustered in Chicago on May 14, 1862. Like so many soldiers, his name is incorrectly entered in his enlistment documents. Timothy “Conner” is described in his enlistment papers as 22 years old, 5’9” tall, with light hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion. He reported his residence as Chicago and his occupation as a laborer.
The regiment was assigned to Colonel James A. Mulligan’s “Irish Brigade,” not to be confused with the Army of the Potomac storied unit of the same name. The regiment initially operated in Missouri, near Jefferson City and Lexington. At the time O’Connor joined the regiment, it was guarding prisoners at Camp Douglas. In June 1862 it was ordered to Harpers Ferry, where its duties principally involved guarding the railroad lines in the area until the end of the year.
Timothy took quickly to the life of a soldier, earning promotions to corporal and sergeant within months of enlisting. By December, O’Connor had apparently had enough of guarding railroads. On December 24, 1862, he took advantage of a War Department order issued after the battle of Antietam which authorized volunteer soldiers to join regular army regiments. Given the experience of the year’s campaigning, hundreds of volunteers chose to join cavalry regiments.
Sergeant O’Connor was enlisted as a private into Company E, 1st U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant Judson Haycock at New Creek, Virginia. Four others from his company and at least three others from other companies in his former regiment joined the 1st U.S. Cavalry the same day. His new enlistment documents described him as 22 years old, 5’8 ½” tall, with fair hair, gray eyes and a ruddy complexion.
During fighting at the first battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia on July 28, 1864, Private O’Connor captured the regimental colors of the 18th North Carolina Infantry. He was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor in General Orders dated January 5, 1865. His citation reads “for extraordinary heroism on 28 July 1864, while serving with Company E, 1st U.S. Cavalry, in action at Malvern, Virginia, for capture of flag of the 18th North Carolina Infantry (Confederate States of America).”
Private O’Connor was discharged from the army at the expiration of his enlistment on December 24, 1865 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He returned to Chicago, where he lived the rest of his life.
Timothy O’Connor died in Chicago on March 26, 1915, at the age of 72. There is a memorial headstone at Arlington National Cemetery because he is a Medal of Honor awardee, but his remains are in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago.
Civil War Centennial Commission of Illinois, Illinois Military Units in the Civil War, 1962.
Dyer, Frederick, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion
NARA, RG 94, Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914
Regimental roster, accessed on June 20, 2013 at http://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/reg_html/023_reg.html
Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, 9 vols., 1900-1902, accessed on June 19, 2013 at http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/reghist.pdf