Struggles and Triumphs
Zouaves and 9/11
regarded his comrades in the 5th New York Duryée Zouaves living
history organization as brethren. They marched in parades on the East
Coast, participated in local history events and Civil War re-enactments,
and traveled to France. Together they revered the soldiers of the "Old
Fifth" who fought in the Civil War and honored them on occasions
such as Memorial Day and Remembrance Day.
After the tragic event on September 11, 2001, the Zouaves launched a
fundraising event to assist the families of the firemen that suffered
personal losses. They were struck by their group's historical connection
with the Fire Department of the City of New York, as the 5th New York
had a contingent of firemen in its ranks. They saw the comparison between
the trials of the firemen-soldiers of the 5th who lost their lives in
the Battle of Second Manassas, and the modern day firemen who sacrified
their all in the hellish inferno at the World Trade Center. And they
felt deeply for the families and friends these soldiers/firemen left
a memo that was posted at "The Wild Geese Today: The Epic History
and Heritage of the Irish" Web site—as well as at this Web
the 124 members of the Duryée Zouaves who perished on that
30th of August 1862, were former firemen Robert Amos (Hook & Ladder
Co. 9), Jonas A. Bryant (Hose Co. 46), William M. McDowell, Jr. (Hook
& Ladder Co. 9), John Milligan (Engine Co. 11) and Robert R. Whigam
(Hook & Ladder Co. 9).
men of the New York Fire Department went to their work on September
11 with no idea that for so many it would be their last day in this
life. They kissed their loved ones goodbye, and they were gone. They
were heroes who gave their lives trying to save lives. Their selfless
devotion has touched many hearts, and their families deserve whatever
we can do to assist and to honor the memories of those whose bravery
the members of the 5th New York present our contribution to the Widows
and Childrens Fund, we will also present a reproduction Firemen’s
Belt, as worn by the red-shirted Volunteers of the 1860s. David Dellacato
of Dell’s Leatherworks crafted this belt to represent the one
worn by members of Hook & Ladder Company Number 3. This is appropriate
for a number of reasons.
native of Roscrea, Tipperary, Daniel J. Meagher enlisted at the age
of 17 in Company H, 5th New York. He was a good soldier, and served
through all the campaigns and battles of the Duryée Zouaves.
Following the organization of the paid Fire Department in 1865, Daniel
Meagher became Foreman of Ladder Company 3. He was awarded the James
Gordon Bennett Medal for Valor in tribute to his bravery fighting
a fire on May 2, 1878. When a woman was trapped on the upper floors
of a burning tenement on 14th Street, Meagher had his truck’s
ladder extended vertically, and climbed to its upper rung. The woman
jumped, and Meagher caught her and lowered her to the fireman below
Company 3 was one of the hardest hit in the recent disaster. The belt
we present is in honor of the members of that company and of all their
brothers in the Department who gave their lives at the World Trade
Center. The motto of the old Hook & Ladder 3 was “Phoenix”
and the word appears on the front of the belt. Like that mythical
bird, the great city of New York and the indomitable spirit of its
people will rise from the ashes of this tragedy, with undying admiration
for those heroes of the Fire Department.
up the Good Fight
Brian first told me the news about the diagnosis of his cancer, he wrote
about his condition with grace and dignity. That chivalrous tone about
this topic never ceased until his final days. On January 28, 1999 he
expressed these unwavering, spiritual thoughts, as he regarded his heroes
such as Joshua Chamberlain and their suffering in combat:
draw great strength from my lifelong study of, and indeed communion
with those gallant souls, like [Joshua] Chamberlain, who suffered
so much for their ideals -- for transcendent things greater than mere
self. Their spiritual example will be with me as I go through this
[surgery]. And, with God's grace, I shall be back on my feet quickly.
now this is scheduled for Monday, in New York, and I will be back
home the next day.
wanted you to know, in case I am a tad tardy in my email correspondence,
and also as I say, since I value your kindness and shared devotion
to that nobility of arms -- to those eternal heroes.
August 28, 2003, Brian had unfortunate news to deliver. The cancer that
had been removed in 1999 had not been completely eradicated. Still,
he was hopeful for the best in this situation but asked that I would
not tell anyone about his condition, as he did not want people to worry
about him too much. He continually drew strength from those spiritual
comrades in arms who went before him:
also need to let you know in the last month they found some more what
they think is cancer from the old eye problem, though not entirely
as I say does not appear as bad as I was prepared and I do not feel
sick or anything.
my interests and those I admire I think you well know when I think
of all those heroes of mine who went into the face of death and battle
-- think of WWI for instance -- they went out with bravery and knowing
in many cases that life was virtually gone into that but went bravely
and with fortitude, and I can do no worse.
will let you know as things sort out but I am really trying to cut
back on lectures and other things to concentrate on some more of those
books I need to get done, which I have been getting done. And of course
to spend quality time with [my wife] Cricket who has been a great
blessing in this challenge.
felt little self-pity about his condition and sometimes regard his situation
from a detached viewpoint. He was satisfied with his life and his accomplishments,
and wrote confidently on August 29, 2003:
am hopeful from what I am informed that I will be back mending before
too long and that there is no iminent threat of my premature demise
-- but even if there was, of course I have not only accomplished a
good deal, but have the strength of my convictions and ideals, based
upon all those I have admired and drawn inspiration from. If nothing
else ought to be an interesting experience -- and have certainly taken
the time to get all manner of legal and other things in order....
[Despite all she has had to endure,] Cricket is doing superbly.
successfully made it through his procedures at the hospital, and commented
on September 14, 2003:
am a little tired and the pills I take to prevent infection, swelling,
etc. make me feel a little "off," but all in all I am OK
and working on my 5th NY Regimental History.
of his main goals before he died was to complete his book on the regimental
history of the 5th New York Volunteers Infantry. This was a project
that was long in the making. Meanwhile, though he had dramatically cut
back on the number of appearances he made as a guest speaker nationwide,
Brian continued to occasionally make appearances for the sake of battlefield
preservation. On June 6, 2004, he wrote:
[Cricket and I] are planning to go to Montana [to the Little Bighorn
battlefield on the occasion of the anniversary of the battle]. It
is always a good thing to be out there. Even though my health is not
100% I still think I will enjoy it as always. Yes, I did get that
Carrington Williams award. They told me about it and...I was not planning
to attend the conference when they said that I had to go. To thank
the CWPT [Civil War Preservation Trust] but also to speak to the audience
about how important it is we keep up the good fight.
November 2, 2004, Brian's condition seemed to have worsened, though
he still remained in good spirits. This would be the last detailed message
I received from him:
wanted to let you know that although I am feeling pretty good that
my health situation is rather precarious. I don't want to dwell on
that, it is stressful as well as time consuming to have to wrestle
with that -- but thought you ought to be aware of it. I am not planning
on "crossing the river" anytime soon, but when and if that
does happen, please know I've appreciated all your fine work on those
events and especially those human beings -- souls -- we both cherish
am grateful to have known Brian and to have had him as a friend. He
was an inspiration to me on many different levels and had contributed
so much to this Web site. He worked very hard for what he believed in,
and was a devoted and loyal individual. With his positive attitude,
he was able to put aside his own personal suffering and accomplished
many of his goals in his lifetime that benefitted the general public.
Brian is greatly missed.
In closing, I would
like to share an email message dated April 12, 1999, in which Brian
contributed the first of many fine quotations and materials to this
site. In this message, Brian summarized his thoughts about the soldiers
of the Civil War as he composed this Memorial Day tribute featured in
the Veterans page at this site. In retrospect, these haunting words
about the soldiers of that era seemed to echo his very own existence:
Theirs was a sublime
amalgam of patriotism, duty, devotion, acceptance of self-sacrifice,
and idealism -- above all, idealism. They were the least apathetic
people in our Nation's history. And while doubtless many rallied to
the colors because they, like their neighbors and friends, were electrified
by the summons of the fife and drum, those who found themselves locked
in that terrible four-year ordeal persisted to the finish, or to their
deaths, out of a sense of idealism -- devotion to ideals they cherished
more than life itself. Their devotion was a Transcendence of Self.
I bless and revere them -- North and South alike -- heroes to me forever.
As the poet wrote, 'Love and tears for the Blue; Tears and love for
May their gallant souls rest in peace, and be honored and glorified,
to the last pulse of this country's existence!
-- Brian Pohanka
to Brian's Pages
Back | Home
Copyright © 2005 - 2009 1st
Dragoon's Civil War Site. All rights reserved.