The Biography Of

Dennis Leary.

    On May 26, 1861 Robert King and Dennis Leary volunteered to become cannoneers. They were recruited by Smith P. Bankhead. Although not believed to be Irish, Bankhead had recruited 15 Irishmen in the three days before. By the end of July Bankhead's Battery was sent to New Madrid and by September was posted in Columbus, Kentucky.

    On October 23, 1861 Leary was wounded when a 6 pound parrot exploded. The cause of the accident was blamed on the use of rifle powder to fire the gun instead of using cannon powder. The rifle powder burns faster and hotter. Here is the quote from the newspaper:

>> The LOUISVILLE DAILY COURIER of October 26, 1861 quoted from the issue of the Columbus, KY. DAILY CONFEDERATE NEWS dated October 24, 1861: "CANNONS EXPLODE - One of the Parrot six pounders in Capt. Bankhead's battery, during an experimental firing yesterday, accidentally burst and wounded one of the men. This gun was manufactured in Memphis, and was supposed to have been sufficiently tested."

>> The "Memphis Daily Appeal" of November 2, 1861 quoted an updated issue of "Daily Confederate News": " Irish Humor and Coolness. - Just after the bursting of one of Capt. Bankhead's six pounder cannon a few days since, several Irishmen were sitting off some distance, and were covered with dirt thrown up by one of the fragments which had burned itself at their feet. On hearing of the accident one of the members jumped to the place, and removing the rubbish, took out the piece - some ten pounds in weight - and ran to a loose heap of dirt close by and began burying it. Michael, who had not yet uncrossed his legs, exclaimed: "An" what in the h-ll, Pat, will ye be afther in burying the like o' that, before Misther Bankhead has seen after its mending?" "Och, an' is it any yer bissness?" replies Pat, at the same continuing in a soliloquizing tone: "Ates me that will write this very night to Mary Delone, an' put the piece in my letter, and tell her I found the Yankee wid the gun an' took it away from 'em and' broke the same against a tree.'"

    General Polk sent A.S. Johnston a note about the exploded gun in his report the next day: 

>> HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, WESTERN DEPARTMENT, October 24, 1861. General JOHNSTON, Bowling Green, Ky.; GENERAL: I have sent to Mc Culloch two Parrot guns and two smoothbore iron guns. They were asked for and forwarded through Broadwell, the Missouri agent. I have also sent two Parrot guns to Zollicoffer, to be added to a battery of one brass and three iron 6-pounders which were in the Cumberland Gap in charge of Churchill's regiment. The order to send them was accompanied with an order to send caissons also and harness for the whole battery, and to send the whole by the hands of a special agent. I think it right to say, as some of these guns have been sent also to General Bucker that we had one of them to have burst yesterday while firing, they were exploded by the free use of rifle powder instead of cannon. The charges were in powder of that description. The tests were made in Memphis and the guns seemed to stand well.... We are occasionally getting an accession of powder to our stores.

Respectfully, your obedient servant, L. POLK. Major-General, Commanding.

    Dennis Leary was sent home to recover from his wound. He had his arm amputated. However, he had no money to pay for his expenses and Captain Bankhead arranged for a fund raiser to help. The following newspaper story appeared in the "Memphis Daily Appeal" November 7, 1861. "The Wounded Artilleryman - In a response to an appeal of Col. Bankhead, on behalf of private Leary of his company, who had lost an arm by the bursting of a cannon at Columbus, the theatrical company that has been performing at Odd Fellows Hall will this evening play the drama of "Retribution" and the face of "The Secret", the proceeds of the performance to be for the unfortunate Leary. Between the pieces, the Inkerman Zouaves will sing some of their best songs. This is an occasion which perticulary appeals to the Memphis public, Mr. Leary being one of their citizens wounded while in his country's service in a manner to disable him for life. The dramatic company we learn, will perform again on Saturday night.

   Dennis Leary was marked absent on the rolls on December 31, 1861.

Below are photocopies of the original newsclippings.


"Last Updated... 12-7-2010"

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