If there is an archetypal image for an Irishman in the rural south before the Civil War, it would have to be Gerald O’Hara. He is a fictional character, of course, depicted as a colorful, hard-drinking owner of a Georgia plantation worked by slaves, married to an American wife, and father of three American-born daughters. His eldest daughter is much more famous than he: Scarlett, the fiery protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.
The Tenery family has its own Gerald and Scarlett. John Hockshaw and his wife Catherine emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the years prior to 1827 when their two eldest daughters – Isabella Jane and Mary Margaret – were born in South Carolina. John and Catherine had two more daughters born in 1830 and 1832; sometime between the two births the family moved to Giles County, Tennessee. Records documenting John and Catherine’s origins in Ireland have not been found, but their surname points toward the southern part of the island where as “Hockshaw,” “Hawkshaw,” or “Hauckshaw” it shows up in many families in cities such as Dublin and Cork. If this guess is correct, the Hockshaws would be distinct from earlier Scotch-Irish immigrants in the family who came from Ulster in northern Ireland. They are likely “Irish” without the “Scotch.”
This conclusion would be consistent with the nature of immigration from Ireland in the era between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Anti-Catholic laws had kept the native Irish from journeying to America in colonial days, so it was generally the Ulster Scotch-Irish Protestants who made the trans-Atlantic move. But the religious toleration of the new United States opened a door to native Irish who long felt oppressed by British landlords at home. The tide of Irish immigration was small in the 1820s when the Hockshaws made the journey – only about 51,000 arrived during the decade. Numbers expanded vastly in the next 30 years prior to the Civil War, particularly during the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852. By 1860, there were more than 1.6 million Irish-born individuals living in the United States.
John Hockshaw bears a resemblance to Gerald O’Hara in that he had a household full of daughters and that he took up farming in a rural southern county. Most of the 1800s Irish immigrants in the southern states were urban dwellers in cities like New Orleans, Memphis, and Charleston. The number of Irish living in a rural place like Giles County was very small – a scan of the 1850 county census reveals less than a dozen families with members who were born in Ireland. Much like Gerald was the only Irishman among his neighbors, the same was true for John Hockshaw and his wife Catherine.
There were many differences between the two families, however. The Hockshaw family was about a half-generation older than the O’Haras. While Scarlett was just reaching adulthood at the start of the Civil War, Isabella Jane, Mary Margaret, and their third sister Martha Ellen were in their early 30’s and were married with children of their own. John and Catherine never appear to have owned slaves and likely had a smaller farm than the fictional Tara. Mary Margaret and her husband Hardaway Manson Tenery who were Lola Belle Tenery‘s direct ancestors (Hardaway was the son of William Daniel Tenery and grandson of William Tenery, the Revolutionary War soldier) also did not have slaves in their household. John Hockshaw the immigrant died in the 1850s before the start of the Civil War, but his wife Catherine lived through it and for some years afterwards.
While no family stories about the Hockshaws and Tenerys during the Civil War have been handed down, there are hints of hardship in public records. In 1860 Catherine Hockshaw lived in her own home with her youngest daughter Rebecca, while her daughter Martha lived on an adjacent farm with a husband and one child. After the war in 1870, Catherine and Rebecca had given up their own household and moved in with Mary Margaret and her family. Hardaway and Mary Margaret had seen their personal fortunes fade in the decade of the Civil War. One young daughter died between 1860 and 1870, their real estate had declined in value from $3,300 to $2,500, and their personal property from $1,995 to $1,300. Their children were too young to fight in the war and Hardaway was too old, so they avoided direct participation in the conflict. However, at least two of Hardaway’s younger half-brothers did serve in the Confederate army; both survived.
Giles County was periodically occupied by both Union and Confederate troops from 1862 until the end of 1864, and was the scene of several skirmishes. Most significant was the Battle of Anthony’s Hill, south of Pulaski, in which Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest successfully covered the retreat of the battered Army of Tennessee on Christmas Day, 1864, after a devastating defeat at Nashville. The Army survived to fight a few more months until the end of the war. A year earlier the residents of the county had watched the army of Union General William T. Sherman pass through on its way to besiege Chattanooga, from where Sherman then launched the successful campaign to take Atlanta. Mary Margaret would not have witnessed anything akin to the burning of Atlanta that Scarlett experienced (or rather, that real-life residents of Atlanta experienced). However, the depredations of visiting armies and rogue soldiers searching for supplies, the stress of being proximate to imminent violent confrontations, and the fearful uncertainty of living under occasional military occupation were no doubt a part of her life for four years. Hardaway and Mary Margaret lived into the 1890s, so they did have a chance to rebuild and participate in the post-war struggle to create a new southern society to replace the one that was “gone with the wind.”
Except for the parents of Abraham Loeb, the Hockshaws were the only ancestors in the family described by this blog to arrive in America after the Revolutionary War. While late arrivals for the family, they were early for the southern Irish. They do give the family an authentic license to wear green and otherwise celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
Hardaway and Mary Margaret are buried at Bee Springs Cemetery in Pulaski, Tennsessee.
Find-A-Grave Memorial #92973469 for Hardaway Manson Tenery
Find-A-Grave Memorial #92973495 for Mary Margaret (Hockshaw) Tenery
General information about Irish in the southern states from Daniel T. Gleeson, The Irish in the South, 1815-1877 (2002).