Michael Deering

helena-arkansas-1871

Helena, Arkansas

About three years before the Civil War there was a famine so desperate that thousands of the Irish people came to the United States to earn a livelihood.  Among these people was a young man from the north of Ireland named Michael Deering.  He had been educated by the Catholic Church as a priest and was a very smart young man, being especially proficient in Latin and Greek.  He landed in Philadelphia and went to Louisville, Kentucky, hunting work.  Always the hope of a job led him to the south, and finally he found his way to Helena, Arkansas working his way on a flatboat.

At Helena he was told of work in Tunica County and crossing the river, secured work as a wood-chopper in a land clearing crew near Trotter’s Landing.  Here he worked until he met Mr. John L. Trotter, who on finding Michael Deering very much of a scholar hired him as a tutor to the Trotter children.

At the beginning of the war, Mr. John Trotter raised a company and was sent to Pensacola.  One of the Privates in his company was young Michael Deering. When the Tunica County men were used to fill vacancies in other commands, Mr. Deering was placed in Blythe’s Regiment and proved his mettle on many a hard fought field.

At the battle of Shiloh he was wounded by a shell, his leg being broken nine times between his ankle and hip.  He used to tell the story that a comrade carried him back and placed him near a heap of supplies where another shell struck and scattered hard-tack all over the ground.  This army bread was spattered with blood but was picked up and eaten by Confederate soldiers who were without rations.

As soon as he could travel Mr. Deering was sent back to Austin while convalesssing and trying to walk, the Yankee gunboats shelled the town and his leg was again broken in two places.  It was this time that he married an Austin girl, Miss Louise Quissenberry.

When he landed at Helena on his first trip south he had met a northern gentleman, Mr. J.F Jaquess of Quincy, Illinois, who was visiting there.  After the war J.F. Jaquess, who had been a Colonel in the Yankee Army came to Austin. This was at the time that all County officials were appointed and Colonel Jaquess secured the appointment as Chancery Clerk.  He appointed Michael Deering as Deputy Clerk and gave him the Clerk’s salary less one dollar.  A strange thing this, a Yankee Colonel and a Republican turning over the entire salary of his office to a wounded Confederate soldier who never pretended to be anything but a Democrat.  Perhaps it was actions like this that placed the Jaquess family in a class to itself.  Certainly the citizens of this county never thought of them as Yankees although they had served in the Northern Army.

While serving as Clerk, Mr. Deering sent for his brother James and his sister Elizabeth from Ireland.  His brother helped in the clerk’s office and Miss Elizabeth soon married Mr. Edwin Brady and is still held in affectionate regard by those who knew her.  He also brought to Austin his orphan nephew, L.E. Daughterty, whose parents had settled in Philadelphia.

He was never a rich man, never made more than a simple living and all he left his daughter at his death in 1876 was the record of his good name.  His daughter, Mrs. Maud Hoffman, lives in Chicago and he has a nephew and niece in the county.

There is another odd thing in Mr. Michael Deering’s life.  He died a citizen of the United States and he was foreign born and was never naturalized.  It came about this way, he was Irish when he enlisted in the C.S.A.  After the surrender of the Confederate soldiers were given their citizenship back and finally their franchise, and in this way, Michael Deering became a citizen.

The above story was taken from the WPA records found for Tunica County at the Mississippi State Archives.  It was an interview of Mr. E. M. Daugherty.

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