Object of the Week: An American Civil War buggy owned by a priest from Armagh

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 February 2016

Object of the Week: This week we bring you an American Civil War buggy which belonged to a priest from Co Armagh who received the dying and wounded

A photo of a buggy from the 19th century American Civil War at the Ulster Museum in Belfast
© PressEye
This buggy belonged to Father Arthur Michael McGinnis, who was born in 1835 in the Dorsey area of Co Armagh. He left Ireland in 1856 for Philadelphia and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest before being sent to the small town of Gettysburg in 1861.  

Oral family history has it that Father McGinnis was called upon to give the last rites to a dying soldier in the Confederate camp outside Gettysburg. By the time he got back to the town, the Battle of Gettysburg, which was to define the American Civil War, was about to start. Father McGinnis was the first to open his church to receive the dying and wounded from both sides in the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Father McGinnis was transferred from Gettysburg in 1864 to Columbia, Pennsylvania, then to Danville, Pennsylvania, where he died in 1873 at the age of 38 years. The buggy, which pre-dates the American Civil War, was likely to have come into Father McGinnis’ ownership in his first parish.

A photo of the American Civil War painting Hancock at Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrup
Thure de Thulstrup, The Battle of Gettysburg© Wikimedia Commons
Since Father McGinnis owned the buggy, it has moved down the generations through the family maternal line. Father Arthur’s younger brother, James McGinnis, also emigrated to America and set up a funeral business. On Father Arthur’s death, James inherited the buggy.

James had paid the passage for his two nephews Arthur Mallie and James Mallie, the sons of his and Father Arthur’s sister. He brought them into his undertaking business. The two brothers inherited the business from James McGinnis when he died in 1899.

On a visit back to Newtown Hamilton, Arthur met his future wife, Ellen McKee. They married and went back to Philadelphia but often returned to Ireland. When Arthur retired, in around 1922, they returned to live in Armagh, and he brought Father McGinnis’ buggy with him.

Arthur never drove a motor car in Ireland and often was to be seen out in his buggy with his black horse called Beauty. After Arthur died in 1925, Ellen kept the buggy in a coach house.

Ellen died in 1954 and her daughter and son donated the buggy to Belfast’s Ulster Museum.

  • Visit the Emigrants gallery at the museum to see the buggy. Visit nmni.com/uafp to find out about events and exhibitions to mark the museum’s 40th anniversary.

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