Saturday, November 3, 2012

Michael Flynn is Drunk All the Time

Looking through Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) is not a particularly thrilling endeavor, but in one case, I was in for a treat. Upon opening one set of records I discovered a letter. On the outside it read “Michael Flynn is drunk all the time. What shall be done with him?” Two thoughts immediately flashed in my mind, “this ought to be interesting” and “I hope this isn't my Michael Flynn.” Allow me to back up and explain.

When I first began ferreting out my family history I didn't have much to go on. My mom's aunt told me that “all of the Flynn boys served in the Civil War.” I think this is like the story we've all heard about how our ancestor was one of three brothers who came to the US and then lost track of each other. Anyway, I was trying to determine if “my” Michael Flynn had, in fact, fought in the war. To that end, I requested the CMSR of every Michael Flynn who served with a Michigan unit that I could track down. I collected the files in the reading room at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and sat down to peruse them.

I was quietly going about my self-imposed task when I came upon the letter. I nearly burst out laughing. Intrigued, I unfolded the letter to read the rest of the story.

Here is the letter, verbatim:

Camp Stockton, June 2, 1863
Lt. Col. J. R. Smith, Military Commander

Sir

I have a man By the name of Michael Flynn
Inlisted in the Battery and I am
Sorry to Say he is a most ineberet
Drunkard and I do not know
What to do with him I have tried
Almost Everything I could think off
I have talked to him until I am tiered
of talking I have Put him in jail three
times Since I have been in Mt Clemens
I released him last night and this
morning he was in a beastley state of
Intoxication. Sir will you Please
Inform me what Steps to tak to get
rid of him or to mak a Soldier of
him waiting a reply

I am Sir
Respectfuly
Your [can't decipher word] Servt
E G Hillier
Capt 12th Battery

This find was so unexpected and funny, especially because it wasn't “my” guy that I clapped my hand to my mouth in an attempt to stifle my mirth. I can't help thinking that whoever put that letter in the CMSR must have had a sense of humor. Even though he wasn't one of “my” people I simply had to make a copy of the file because who knew if anyone else would ever look at it. This was too good to simply leave, moldering away, in the archives.

Let me reiterate, the drunk Michael Flynn in this letter is definitely not “my” Michael Flynn, the age, birthplace and occupation were all wrong. As it turns out, “my” Michael Flynn does not seem to have participated in the war. He was a notable carriage maker in Three Rivers in the 1860s and 1870s, until his untimely death in 1880. I found his Civil War draft registration and tax records for his business during most of the war years and no mention of service was given in his obituary or on his grave stone.

Here is the information about the drunk Michael Flynn, as provided in his Compiled Military Service Record, in case anyone else has a Michael Flynn in their tree.   He was born about 1831 in Ireland and was by occupation a tailor.  He enlisted on 8 May 1863 in Detroit into Company F of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery regiment.  Private Flynn mustered out 1 August 1865 at Jackson.

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