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P.J. Downing

P.J. Downing

Federal (USV)


Patrick James Downing

(1837 - 1885)

Home State: New York

Command Billet: Regimental Adjutant

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 42nd New York Infantry

Before Antietam

He came from Ireland to New York in 1859. On 22 June 1861, then age 23, he enrolled on Long Island, NY and mustered as First Lieutenant of Company E in the 42nd New York Infantry. He was discharged on 24 September but re-commissioned on 1 December. He was appointed Adjutant on 19 February 1862.

On the Campaign

He was wounded in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862.

The rest of the War

He was promoted to Captain of Company I on 27 October 1862 (to date from 28 August) and mustered as Major of the regiment on 17 March 1863. He was in action with them at Gettysburg, PA and mustered out with them in New York City on the expiration of their term on 13 July 1864.

He enrolled on 11 July 1864 in the 99th New York National Guard (commanded by Fenian Brotherhood co-founder and head Colonel John O'Mahoney), mustered as Lieutenant Colonel on 2 August, and was with them on US service at the Elmira prison camp to their muster-out on 9 November 1864.

After the War

During his service and afterward, to at least 1865, he was a recruiter in New York City for the Fenian Brotherhood in America. He was Brotherhood Secretary for Civic Affairs by 1866 in New York, and a leader on the Fenian raid (or attempt) into Canada in April 1866, but by 1870 -and to his death in 1885 - he was a clerk in the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC.

References & notes

His service from the State of New York1 and Phisterer.2 His wounding at Antietam from a casualty list in the New York Daily Herald of 25 September 1862. Personal details from family genealogists, William D'Arcy's dissertation The Fenian Movement in the United States: 1858-1886 (1947), the US Census of 1870 & 1880, and the Official Register of the United States (1871, 1885). His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture is from a photograph at the Library of Congress.

He married Margaret Jane Spillane (1841-1920) in July 1861 in Newark, NJ and they had 11 children.

His brother Denis, once Sergeant-Major of the 42nd New York, lost a leg at Gettysburg, then Captain of Company H, 97th New York.

More on the Web

Some of his correspondence, and much more, is in the Fenian Brotherhood Collection, online from the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.


03/17/1837; Skibbereen, County Cork, IRELAND


07/25/1885; burial in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, DC


1   State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, For the Year 1900, Ser. No. 23, p.946  [AotW citation 30079]

2   Phisterer, Frederick, New York in the War of the Rebellion, 6 volumes, Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1909-12, Vol. 1, p. 717-718  [AotW citation 30080]