Gen. John McConihe

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880. It was typed and submitted by Bob McConihe.

GEN. JOHN MCCONIHE, third son of Hon. Isaac and Sarah Strong McConihe, born at Troy, N.Y., Sept. 4, 1834, was shot through the heart at Cold Harbor, Va., June 1, 1864. The name McConihe, formerly spelled McConnochie, is of Scottish origin, and belonged to a Highland clan of great power and number. While young, John McConihe evinced a refined and sensitive nature, always gentle, kind, and patient, and was never known to swerve from the truth or be guilty of deception. While very young he developed a decided taste for mechanics, and his knowledge of machinery seemed intuitive.

At the age of sixteen he entered the sophomore class of Union College, and was graduated there from with honor in 1853, His life at college was not characterized by intently striving for the first honors of his class, but by fair and honorable scholarships, by studying to excel, particularly in English composition and oratory. He studied law with his father, attended the law school of the University at Albany, and was graduated from that institution in 1855, and opened an office for the practice of his profession in the city of Troy the same year. He almost immediately succeeded in securing a very successful practice. In the spring on 1856 he was elected a member of the board of education, and in the fall of the same year resigned and went West. In 1857 he settled at Omaha, Neb. Ter., and commenced the practice of the law. In 1858 the gold-mines five hundred and fifty miles west of Pike's Peak were discovered, inducing a large emigration through Omaha. He took advantage of this, and formed a copartnership in the freighting business to Denver, which he conducted until he entered the army. The same year he was appointed private secretary to Governor Richardson, and afterwards held the same position with Governor Black until the end of his term. In the spring of 1860 he was a candidate for mayor of the city of Omaha, but his party being in the minority he was unsuccessful. On the same day his brother, Isaac McConihe, ran for mayor of Troy, and was elected. During the same year he was appointed adjutant-general of Nebraska. Subsequently, at the head of a regiment, he proceeded on an expedition to the frontier against the Pawnee Indians, who had by their depredations and atrocities become a terror to the scattered inhabitants living along the border. This expedition was most successful. The Indians were routed and put to flight, and afterwards a treaty of peace was made, which was faithfully kept by them.

In this expedition he evinced all that endurance and bravery that characterized him in the marches and battles of the Rebellion.

Animated by a patriotic desire to serve his country, at the breaking out of the Rebellion he raised a company for the 1st Nebraska Regiment, and as captain of the company participated in all the stirring incidents of the Missouri campaign.

In February, 1862, he was sent to Washington on official business connected with the military department of Missouri. While there he was taken sick and came to Troy, where he was confined at his father's house with typhoid fever for nearly six weeks. When he had recovered sufficiently to travel, he hastened to rejoin his regiment, which he reached the day before the bloody battle of Shiloh. Although an invalid, he participated in that battle and was in the thickest of the fight. He was severely wounded in the left arm, the ball completely shattering the bone below the elbow-joint. From this wound he suffered for over twelve months before he recovered the use of his left hand and arm. While in Troy, awaiting the healing of his wound, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 169th Regiment, New York Volunteers, then being raised in the city. He went with the regiment to Washington, in October, 1862, where it remained in and about that city for several months, doing duty as provost-guard. Subsequently the regiment was ordered to North Carolina, then to Florida, with Gen. Gillmore, then to Fortress Monroe, where it joined Butler's column and marched to Bermuda Hundred. Col. McConihe participated in all battles in which the regiment had been engaged, including that of the Edenton Road, in North Carolina, when Gen. Buel was wounded, and when the command of the regiment devolved on him; in the siege of Charlestown; in Gen. Butler's battles at Bermuda Hundred, and in the army under Gen. Grant, in the battle of Cold Harbor, where he lost his life. On the resignation of Col. Buel he was promoted from lieutenant-colonel to the command of the regiment.

While lieutenant-colonel, he displayed such marked bravery and indomitable energy at the siege of Charlestown, before the belching cannon of Forts Gregg and Wagner, that his townsmen of Troy, as an appreciation of his gallant services, presented him with a most magnificent sword, gold-mounted and studded with jewels.

Col. McConihe's regiment formed a portion of that gallant corps at the battle of Cold Harbor, whose charge was so fierce, so irresistible, so deadly, that it appalled treason and made rebellion quake. He died almost instantly, exclaiming, "Oh!" as he fell. His last order as commandant of the regiment was given an instant before his death, in these words: "Cease firing; fix bayonets and charge again. Dress up the colors - don't leave the colors!" The order was wisely given to meet a sudden emergency, and was necessary to prevent the regiment being mowed down. The colonel fell instantly after giving the order.

To give a complete history of Col. McConihe's military life would be to sketch an outline of the marches, privations, and battles of the regiment and the army with which he was connected. Col. McConihe's remains were brought to Troy, where his funeral took place. The arrangements were under the direction of Lieut.-Col. John I. LeRoy, and the order of the procession as follows:

Platoon of police, forming on Third Street, near Broadway, under Chief Barron.
Schreiber's Band
Twenty-fifth Regiment N.Y.S.N.G., Col. Walter S. Church.
Doring's Band
Twenty-fourth Regiment N.Y.S.N.G., Col. John I. LeRoy.
Troy City Artillery as guard of honor.
Military mourners.
Mount of Zion Lodge of Masons, No. 311, of Troy, as mourners.
Relatives of deceased.
Gov. Seymour and Staff.
Gen. Wool and Staff.
Gen. Allen and Staff.
Mayor and Common Council of Albany.
Mayor and Common Council of Troy.
Civic associations.
Citizens in carriages.

The funeral services were performed at St. Paul's church. Flags were at half-mast and business generally suspended during the services, in honor of one who "lived like a man and died like a hero."

The very high esteem in which Col. McConihe was held by those who had known him from childhood may be better expressed by quotations from resolutions and addresses made by the Rensselaer County Bar, the Common Council, and other public bodies of Troy.

By the Common Council: "Resolved, That in the early demise of our fellow-townsman, Col. McConihe, the nation has lost a brave and patriotic defender, his regiment an accomplished and efficient commander, and the city of Troy one of its best beloved and most popular sons, who had, by his known integrity, recognized scholarly attainments, and fine social qualities of head and heart, conquered the respect and won the confidence of the masses of his fellow-citizens, and particularly those whose happiness it was to have known him intimately."

By the Rensselaer County Bar: "Resolved, That as a lawyer he had achieved an honorable position, and was rapidly rising into eminence. Deeply read in the theory of the law, he possessed every qualification to insure its successful practice; zealous and indefatigable in behalf of his clients, conscientious, high-minded, and fearless in the discharge of his duties toward them; and that in abandoning, at the call of his country, a profession he was so well fitted to adorn, and in sacrificing its fast-accumulating reward of wealth and honors, we recognize the attributes of the hero, the self-denial, the sterling worth, and the enthusiastic zeal that proclaims the devoted patriot.

By Mount Zion Lodge of Free Masons: "Resolved, That "For though cutoff in the flower of his youth, and away from those he most loved on earth, his was a soldier's death amidst the carnage of a battle-field. As a friend and companion he was ever genial and kind; as a citizen in his daily intercourse with his fellow-men of unsullied character."

At the reception given to the regiment on its return by the citizens of Troy, the late Wm. H. Merriam, a former lieutenant and a war correspondent of the New York Herald, in a fervently-eloquent address of welcome, referring to the dead heroes, alluded to Col. McConihe as follows: "Foremost among the noble fallen, let us on this auspicious occasion not fail to remember the patriotic services of that fresh young child of the republic, whose honored remains today rest, in the silence of death, in yonder Oakwood. Let us not forget that to the gallant Col. John McConihe was accorded the immortal privilege of falling in the field of battle, 'in the front rank of the peril,' in defense of an indispensable principle, and let it be ours to see to it that the memory of one who, in life no less than in death, twined around the historic features of the good old One Hundred and Sixty-Ninth New York so many amaranths of sempiternal fame and glory and honor, be not forgotten in all the hours that are to come and go. Unselfishly offering his life upon the alter of his country and its cause, let fragrant memories ever cluster around the grave of our young, daring, and heroic leader.

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