Patrick Edward O`Connor

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Patrick Edward O`Connor, a soldier, building contractor, mining entrepreneur, and political leader was Born in the town of Killarney on March 17, St Patrick`s Day, 1820, in County Kerry , Ireland.

 

He left Killarney for New York City at the age of twelve for the United States and enlisted, as Patrick Edward Connor, in the United States Army on November 28, 1839.

He was sent to the West and the Mexican wars. Shortly after his arrival in California he was involved in a boating accident in the surf while attempting to reach the mouth of the Trinity River and found a settlement.

O`Connor and his men were unaware that the Trinity River empties into the Klamath River instead of the Pacific. Of the 10 people in the whale boat attempting to navigate heavy surf, 5 were drowned.

On May 28, 1853, he was called by Harry S. Love to be his lieutenant in the company of California State Rangers with 20 other experienced Mexican War veterans.

They hunted down and killed the Mexican outlaw Joaquin Murrieta and three others of his gang, captured two others, breaking up the Five Joaquins. He and the rest of the Rangers were well rewarded by the state before being disbanded.

Patrick enlisted in US Army in 1839, Seminole war, otherwise known as the Florida wars. He saw service as a dragoon at Fort Leavenworth, Fort Atkinson, Fort Sandford, and at the second Fort Des Moines. 

He was honorably discharged, as a private, on November 28, 1844 and after two years in New york he went to Texas.  On April 5, 1845, he became a naturalized citizen.

In Texas he joined the Texas Volunteers in May 1846 using the name "P. Edward Connor", serving as a first lieutenant in the Texas Foot Riflemen.  On July 7, 1846, at Galveston, Texas, he was mustered into the United states Army as a first lieutenant, enlisting for 12 months.

His independent company of Texas Volunteers under the command of Captain Charles A. Seefield was ordered to Port Lavaca on Matagorda Bay as a part of General John E. Wool`s Army of the Center which was slated to invade Mexico.

Marching through Monclava, Parras, and Saltillo the company, now under his command as Captain Connor, and attached to the 2nd Illinois Volunteers under the command of Colonel William H. Bissel, fought in the Battle of Buena Vista.

The company saw heavy action, Connor being wounded in the hand; two of his lieutenants and 13 men were killed. He was honorably discharged on May 24, 1847 near Monterey, Mexico, resigning due to rheumatism. 

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When the California Gold Rush developed he crossed Mexico from Texas and arrived in California on January 22, 1850. However he rejoined at the outbreak of the Civil war. He commanded the Stockton Blues of the California Militia and was appointed Colonel.

In the early 1860s, population pressures in the Washington Territory (present day Idaho-Utah border) led to conflicts between immigrant settlers and native Americans. 

In the fall of 1861, his regiment was ordered to Utah Territory to protect the Overland Stage and Pacific Telegraph against the Confederacy. In 1862, he established Fort Douglas Utah, secured the impending Confederate threats and incursive Indians.

In October 1862 he moved his command to Salt Lake City, where he founded Camp Douglas and at once engaged in an acrimonious and bitter cold war with Brigham Young and the Mormon people, whom he accused of being disloyal and immoral.

After an attack on miners and by American Indians and revolting Mormons from Salt Lake City by the survivors, Connor marched his regiment 140 miles over the frozen winter landscape to 'deal' with the Indians.

On January 29, 1863, Connor's troops encountered the Shoshoni encampment along the Bear River. Connor and his militia crossed the river and attacked the camp, they feigned a retreat only to encircle the camp and renew their attack.

Connor sent additional troops to block the Indian escape route through a ravine; and sent the rest of the soldiers on a flanking maneuver to a ridge, from where they fired down into the Indians.

The soldiers also fired on Indians as they attempted to escape by swimming across the bitterly cold river. The troops killed nearly all the Indians, including women and children, with fatalities estimated at 200-400.

In March 1863, he was promoted Brigadier General in command of Utah Military and led the Powder River expedition to quell the Sioux and Comanche.

In October 1863, Connor along with Governor Doty signed peace treaties with the remaining hostile Indian tribes thereby bringing to a close all Indian hostilities within the Utah Terrority.

Shortly after the signing of the treaties, officers and enlisted men of the California Volunteers stationed at Fort Douglas established the first daily Utah newspaper called The Union Vedette. This newspaper offered a balance of news unavailable through the LDS Church owned Deseret News.

Connor provided protection for non-Mormons and those wishing to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his three years of service in Utah. He also discovered valuable mineral wealth in Utah that was reported to his superiors.

This led to the gradual immigration of non-Mormons into Utah that led to weakening of the power of the LDS Church on every-day affairs in the territory. Connor engaged in extensive military correspondence which was published in 1897 under The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Connor remained in command of the District of Utah until it was merged in March 1865 into the District of the Plains, established at his suggestion that a "Department of the Plains" be created which he would command.

The new district, in the Department of the Missouri, combined the former districts of Utah (re-designated West Sub District), Nebraska (East Sub-District), Colorado (South Sub-District), and Territory of Idaho (North Sub-District). Connor was named commander of the new District.

By late 1865. In August, 1865, Connor defeated a small combined Sioux-Arapaho force at the Battle of the Tongue River and effectively brought an end to the Army's campaign.

The Expedition was judged mostly a failure due to poor planning, lack of equipment and supplies and poor coordination by Conner with his subcommands. In his after action reports, Conner placed blame on his subordinates.

Upon being mustered out of the service in 1866, he was brevetted Major General of US Volunteers. He settled in Utah where he established the first daily newspaper, the first silver mine and founded the town of Stockton. (bio by: John "J-Cat" Griffith)

Halleck suggested that Connor reconnoiter the Salt Lake City area. Connor did so and established Fort Douglas in a commanding position over the city, despite the wishes of the Mormons.

Brigham Young tried through his personal representative Kinney to Congress to displace Federal troops. However, through the efforts of Governor Doty and Colonel Connor, Federal troops were sequestered at Fort Douglas by Washington and the Pacific Theatre commanding general.

When the Civil War ended, Connor was appointed a brevet major general in the Volunteer Army and mustered out of the volunteer service in 1866. Never having been in combat against the Confederacy in the East, he continued to command troops on the frontier. He recruited Confederate veterans for service against the Indians.

Making his permanent residence in Salt Lake City, Connor established one the city's first newspapers. He also got involved in mining again. He founded a city in Utah and named it Stocton in honor of his California militia unit.

From this time until his death in 1891 he devoted himself to the development of mining property in Utah and Nevada. Successful at first, he eventually lost his most valuable mines and died relatively poor.

He was also involved in politics and ran unsuccessfully for major offices in Nevada while also combating Mormon economic and political control in Utah.

He lived long enough to see the Saints renounce their practice of polygamy (which he abhorred) and to watch the non-Mormon population succeed in gaining political offices. Connor is remembered as the founder of the Gentile "Liberal Party" in Utah and as the "Father of Utah Mining."

Died December 17 1891, Salt Lake City UT.




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