Massachusetts 27th Infantry Regiment

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Between 1861 and 1865, 1,543 men served in the Massachusetts 27th Infantry Regiment.  Many were immigrants ready to fight for their new country, others were bored farm boys looking to join up to relieve the boredom of every day farm work.  Of those, little is known of the men at the personal level.  In attempt to add some personality to the men who fought in the regiment you will find some insightful biographies below:

Name: McDonald, John
Rank: Private
Unit: Company G
Age: 21 At Enlistment
Height: 5' 7"
Eyes: Blue
Complexion: Light
Hair: Brown
Born: County Kerry, Ireland
Occupation: Farmer
Muster-In Date: October 14, 1861
Enlistment Date: November 1, 1861
Enlistment Place: Springfield, Massachusetts
Muster-Out Date: September 27, 1864

Throughout his military and pension records obtained from the U. S. National Archives, John's last name appears spelled McDonnell and McDonald. The name McDonnell appears on a copy of John's death certificate obtained from the Holyoke, MA, City Clerk's Office. John died on June 6, 1905, in Holyoke, MA. There are pension documents signed by John with the last name McDonald. More than likely, the army had misspelled his name along the way and it was easier for John to sign the documents McDonald rather than McDonnell to get his pension.

Military Records:

This section includes copies of John McDonnell's military records copied from the National Archives. They include copies of his muster roles beginning October 14, 1861, in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he was mustered into service and runs through September 1864, when he was mustered out of service. Of interest is the fact that his last name is spelled two different ways throughout the muster rolls: McDonald and McDonnell. This is due to a clerical error. John's last name appears spelled McDonnell on a copy of his death certificate obtained from the Holyoke, MA, City Clerk's Office. John died on June 6, 1905, in Holyoke, MA. Although he signed documents as John McDonald, it is almost certain he originally spelled his last name McDonnell.

Roll Call Pages:

The other military records include a court martial hearing for John McDonnell. It appears that John went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for thirty-six hours. He was brought up on charges by his sergeant and lieutenant, pleaded guilty (the smart thing to do), and was given a month's worth of "fatigue duty" and a $5.00 fine as his punishment.

Court Martial Pages:

Had he pleaded innocent, he very well could have been charged with fleeing in the face of the enemy, cowardice, or any other like charge that probably would have resulted in a prison sentence or possibly death. Again pleading guilty was probably the smartest thing he could have done. A court martial sounds rather imposing when in fact it is the general practice for the army to hold them for even the smallest of infractions. The movies have made it out to be a soldier's death sentence when it actually is only the army's military court system.

Pension Records:

This section includes copies of John McDonnell's pension records copied from the National Archives. They include copies of forms filled out by John McDonnell, his doctor, and his lawyer in an attempt to receive a "invalid pension" from the U. S. government. It appears that an act was passed on June 27, 1890, allowing Civil War veterans to file for a pension if they could prove that they were not able to work as a result of wounds or injuries sustained during the war. John retained an attorney and filed several petitions. He was finally granted a petition and later petitioned for an increase.

Of most importance are the two "GENERAL AFFIDAVIT" documents. The reason being that one of the "Affiant" signatures on each of the documents is signed by John J. Fitzgerald. John McDonnell had a sister Mary McDonnell. Mary married Patrick Fitzgerald and had a son: John J. Fitzgerald. Hence, John J. Fitzgerald was John McDonnell's nephew. This is the tie in to the Fitzgerald family.

Within the pension records, the following facts are revealed: he was 21 when he enlisted, he was 5' 5", had a light complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, he was born in county Kerry, Ireland, his occupation was a farmer, and he never married. John McDonnell died in June 6, 1905, at the age of 65.

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