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Meet the Union Army private who bought a mustang at 46% interest


The following is an article by author BeardsOverFredericksburg from the January 1865 issue of Duffel Blog’s Civil War-era predecessor, The Knapsack Gazette.

TROY, N.Y. — Pvt. Seamus Achilles O’Connell may have only been in the Union Army for a month, but he is already proving himself as a soldier and infantryman.

O’Connell, the son of Irish immigrants, is the first man in his household to serve in the Union military. Despite being a fresh fish, he has made his family and country proud by not only enlisting with the 169th New York Volunteer Infantry, but also purchasing an 1857 mustang soon after mustering into the service.

Shortly after receiving his first bi-monthly pay of $13, O’Connell went to a saloon in nearby Brunswick and quickly became betrothed to Theresa Hayes, a fancy-girl who works there. Wanting to impress her further, he went to a used-horse dealer right outside camp and financed the acquisition of a tamed feral horse for $120, to be paid over 60 months at 46% interest.

“I want to surprise my love at her work and take her for a ride through the countryside,” O’Connell told the Knapsack Gazette outside his tent, referring to his fiancée. “I hope to wed her soon so I can move out of the diggings and into a house.”

“It doesn’t hurt that she’s saving up for a medical apprenticeship so she can become a surgeon.”

Unfortunately, O’Connell quickly found that he doesn’t earn enough greenbacks per month to afford both horse-feed and equine insurance, much less rent off-post. He is required to keep his uninsured ride stabled while he continues to live in the Union Army encampment outside Troy, New York.

These wishful notions have been further derailed by O’Connell’s platoon being ordered to join the rest of the 169th down in North Carolina.

“I thought I told that paleface O’Connell to manage his rocks better than that,” 1st Sgt. Thaddeus Archibald Paddington told reporters right after yelling at some buglers to get off his grass.

“In his financial state, he’ll be selling secrets to the Grey Backs for cash in no time. I’m pretty sure this is every first sergeant’s nightmare,” he added, although the interview was interrupted by O’Connell walking in to tell Paddington that “it burns when [he pees].”

At press time, O’Connell was seen getting wallpapered at a local tavern with his fellow soldiers. He says he intends to get a tattoo of his lover’s name before his unit travels south.

Editor’s Note: After this story was published, Pvt. O’Connell received a Dear John telegram from his fiancée while fighting at Fort Fisher. Meanwhile, the mustang broke its leg in a two-carriage collision while Ms. Hayes and area man Jodediah Grinder were drunkenly gallivanting around town. O’Connell is presently unaware his horse has been put down.

Duffel Blog writer L.T. Original G. contributed to this report.

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