It’s the Memorial Day weekend in the United States, a federal holiday intended to remember and honour people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Although I’ve done extensive research on Heenan soldiers from England, Wales, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand I haven’t spent much time on the United States records.
Preliminary research shows me that more than 100 people with the Heenan surname served in the American Civil War.
Of those, only one is included in the Roll of Honour for this conflict.
Michael Heenan (alternative spelling of Henan) was one of around 360,000 men sent by Pennsylvania to fight in the Civil War, the second-largest number of troops from any Northern state.
He enlisted on 1 December 1863 and participated with the 47th Infantry in Union General Nathaniel Banks’ Red River Campaign across Louisiana (as part of the only Pennsylvania regiment so engaged from March to May 1864). He also participated in Union General Philip Sheridan’s tide-turning 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
He was killed in action at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia on 19 October 1864, the culminating battle of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 . At the conclusion of this battle, the final Confederate invasion of the North was effectively ended. The Confederacy was never again able to threaten Washington, D.C. through the Shenandoah Valley, nor protect one of its key economic bases in Virginia.
Victory came at a price.
The battle saw significant losses on both sides. It’s estimated that 644 men Union soldiers and 320 Confederate soldiers were killed and some 8,000 men injured. For the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry, the 19 October was the bloodiest day of the entire war. Before the day was over the regiment lost the equivalent of nearly two full companies of men.
About Michael Heenan we know next to nothing. According to a website dedicated to the history of the 47th Pennsylvania regiment he came from Perry County, Pennsylvania. This was the area of the state from which most of the initial members of the regiment were recruited in 1861. Census records do not however show a Michael Heenan living in that vicinity in 1860 or any family with that surname in the area in subsequent years. So we have no idea what his occupation was or his country of origin though it’s a reasonable assumption that he was from Ireland as were many of the other members of his regiment.
Quartermaster General’s Office. Roll of Honor. Names of Soldiers Who Died in Defence of the American Union. Volumes VIII-XXVII. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1867.
U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865]
47th Pennsylvania Volunteers website