Civil War author to hold book signing at Holy Cross Cemetery

Thu, Jun 11th 2015 01:00 pm

William Donahue, author of, "Himself, A Civil War Veteran's Struggles with Rebels, Brits and Devils," will sign copies of his book on Saturday, June 13, 1:30 p.m., in the old chapel near the Ridge Road entrance to Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna.  

Donahue said he asked to hold the book signing at the cemetery since half the characters in his book are buried there, along with a number of other family members.

Donahue says the story of his ancestors makes for engrossing reading.

Patrick and John Donahue, sons of immigrants from Cork, Ireland, who died in a cholera epidemic in Rochester, were brought to Buffalo in 1849 by their grandmother and grew up in the clamor and hustle of the First Ward.  They worked for Bishop John Timon, first bishop of Buffalo, who bought the original cemetery property with his own money.

Later, Patrick became an iron roller at the Union Iron Works on Catherine Street.  At the ages of 18 and 19, when The Civil War broke out, the boys joined the 155th Regiment New York Volunteers, formed in Buffalo mostly from First Ward Irish.  In May 1864, the 155th became a part of General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac.  

John was wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Pat was wounded at Petersburg and was later captured at Reams Station and spent eight months in Confederate prisons, barely surviving.  Both men mustered out with rheumatism, pneumonia, dysentery, and other diseases they carried for the rest of their lives. 

Pat became a Fenian and under Captain Michael Bailey (buried in Holy Cross), invaded Fort Erie in 1866, only to be captured once again.  Both men married and had families of five, whom they struggled to support because of their lack of education and war weaknesses.  Pat's life and that of his wife, Mary Nagle Donahue, and their children, were conflicted by his addiction to alcohol.  She died at 45 and was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in Holy Cross (only rectified in 2013 by her descendants).  

Pat spent the last 12 years of his life in the Bath Soldiers and Sailors Home where he died and was buried in 1914.  His older brother, John, resided at 51 Alabama Street, where he died three months later in the same year.  John, his wife Johanna, and four children are all buried in Holy Cross.  Patrick's son and Bill's grandparents, Robert and Mary Alice, and daughter Annie are buried in Holy Cross Annex.  Bill's infant brother, Patrick was buried with his grandparents.  Numerous aunts and uncles likewise lie beneath Holy Cross green. 

Ron Paszek, superintendent at Holy Cross Cemetery and the cemetery's historian, will lead tours of historic burials after the presentation.

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