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Sailor's Snug Harbor
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Civil War Profiles
James BurkeFrom Ed Jacoby, ejacoby at comcast dot net
My ggg grandfather, James Burke was a US Marine veteran of the Civil War. He sailed with Admiral Faragut and went with the Admiral after the war to the capitals of Europe. He wrote articles for the Brooklyn Eagle from Europe at the time.
He is a founder of the Col Shaw G.A,R. post on Staten Island. You may recall Col Shaw led the all black unit in the war and was memorialized in a film starring Mathew Broderick as Col Shaw.
Capt. Burke was a prolific writer of poetry and frequent contributor to Harper's weekly. He died at the age of 92 and is buried in St Peters Cemetery. Also note that his son James, a prominent SI lawyer, is featured in the Leng and Davis book and Capt Burke's grandson [my grandfather] was honored by the Staten Island Advance as a sports legend. They gave an award each year to the SI athlete that showed the positive attributes of Joseph Burke.
Transcribed from Staten Island Advance - April 24, 1928
Civil War Vet,
Is Dead At 92
Deceased, Born in Ireland, Won Laurels in 1861
And became Famous for His Poems
And Literary Works
Captain James Burke, oldest G.A.R. veteran, poet and prominent Staten Islander, died early this morning at his home, 15 Wallbrooke Avenue, West Brighton in his 92nd year.
Born in Limerick. Ireland, July 4th. 1836 of Thomas Burke, revenue officer of the English government and Mary Carroll, distantly related to the Carrols of Carrolton, he was educated in the Christian Brothers’ Schools, later graduating from the Kent School of Musketry at XXXXX after becoming drill master in the English army.
He served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers in the Crimean War, being the youngest officer ever to attain a commission. The Army and Navy Journal of London made special comment of the attainment,
Enlisted in Marine Corps
Coming. to this country at the outbreak of the Civil. War, Captain Burke at once enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving under Colonel John Reynolds, Commander of the Marine Barracks, Brooklyn Navy Yard.In the course of a week he was appointed drill master of the battalion, later serving in several prominent engagements of the Civil War.
At the close of the War, Captain Burke was detailed as master-at-arms to Admiral Farragut In his historical foreign cruise on the frigate Franklin which consumed nearly two years, during which he met most of the crowned heads of Europe. During this cruise Captain Burke was correspondent for the Brooklyn Eagle, then owned and published by Thomas Kinsella. Upon his return from the cruises he was made Recorder of the Navy under Admiral Goldsborough with headquarters at Washington, D.C.
Chief Lighthouse Clerk
Following this designation, Captain Burke ,was appointed chief Clerk in the General Lighthouse Depot, Tompkinsville under Inspector Boggs, in which position he was engaged for 51 years, being retired under the pension rules in 1920. During this period he served under all prominent admirals of the Navy, Including Admirals Schley, Evans and Dewey.
Captain Burke, during this time wrote hundreds of poems and other articles, one of which, "Similar" so attracted the attention of the late George Curtis that the latter offered him a post on Harper’s Monthly of witch he was then editor. This offer, however, was refused, the Captain preferring to remain in the Government Service, but the friendship thus formed remained until the editor’s death.
Headed G.A.R. Post
He was Commander for many years of Robert G. Shaw Post G.A.R., oldest post on Staten Island, and has for many years been singly honored in the Memorial day exercises by first the Spanish American War Veterans and more recently by the American Legion, the program always carrying his Memorial poem, which will also appear this year, it having been the last work Captain Burke completed prior to his sudden passing.
He leaves his widow who was Mary E Higginbotham of Fredericksburg, Virginia; five sons, James Burke Jr. prominent attorney of Port Richmond; John T. Burke, editor of the Newark News and formerly European Correspondent for the Hearst publications; Charles A. Burke, realtor of Port Richmond; Eugene A. Burke and Edmund J. Burke; also three daughters Mrs. M. H. Kuhn of Hollywood, California; Mrs. Elmere T. Smith of Westerliegh, and Mrs. Stuart L. Walker of West New Brighton.
Funeral services are under the direction of the Spanish War Veterans, Colonel John T. Oates, commander, will be held at the convenience of the family.
Pencil note on top of clipping:
Lauretta 3 years old April 29,1928
Elaine 8 months old April 26, 1928
CAPT. JAMES BURKE
POET- WARRIOR DIES
Veteran of the Civil War Succumbs in Ninety-second Year
WAS IN BRITISH ARMY
Dean of Island Military Men
Father of NotedEditor
Captain James T. Burke, oldest G. A. R. Veteran on Staten Island, poet, writer and civil died this morning after a career of distinction, in his ninety-second year at his residence, 115 Walbrooke avenue, West Brighton.
The dean of Staten Island’s military men, always a picturesque figure at patriotic and civic occasions, his military career in the British Army after graduating from the Kent School of Musketry. He served in the Crimean War with the Royal Muenster Fusilliers, with which regiment he achieved distinction in battle. He was rewarded with a commission and attracted attention on account of his youth, being the youngest officer in the British Army at that time.
Captain Burke who was born in Limerick, Ireland came to this country at the outbreak of the Civil War, indicated the significance of his birthday July 4. Having been born on the Fourth of July, he lived up to its significance immediately enlisting with the Union forces and fought through four years to preserve the country which came into being on his natal day sixty years before.
Captain Burke’s enlistment was with the United States Marines under Cpt. John Reynolds. He rose to drillmaster of the battalion and served at the front during major engagements. After the war he cruised with Admiral Farragut, serving the great naval officer as master-of-arms. On this trip he was rulers of the old world. He reported the cruise and acted as correspondent for the Brooklyn Eagle. He later served as recorder to Admiral Goldsmith In the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
On his discharge from the navy, Captain Burke was made chief clerk in the Lighthouse Department on Staten Island and served in this position for fifty-two years until his retirement in 1920. During his service in this branch of government work his chieftains were Admirals Dewey, Schley and Evans.
Captain Burke was a prolific writer of verse, the majority of which was serious in nature dealing with the complex problems of life and death. For many years he has been the poet laureat of Memorial Day and before his death composed his last contribution to his comrades who departed before. This poem will be published posthumously in the Daily Dispatch to which, as the Staten Islander, he was a frequent contributor.
During his tenure in the Lighthouse Department, Captain Burke attracted attention of George William Curtis, then an editor of Harpers Magazine, with a poem entitled ‘Familiar’. This effort resulted in the offer by the distinguished literateur of a post on the staff of the periodical. This was, however, declined by the captain.
Captain Burke always interested himself in the welfare of veteran of all wars and served as commander of Robert G. Shaw Post, G.A.R.
The deceased is survived by his widow, Marie Higginbotham Burke, four sons, John T. Burke. prominent newspaper executive, James Burke. Jr. lawyer, Edmund J. Burke. a realtor, and Eugene A. Burke and three daughters; Mrs. M.H. Kuhn. of Hollywood, Cal; Mrs. Elmore D.Smith of Westerleigh and Mrs. Stewart Walker of West Brighton.
The funeral will be held under the auspices of the United Spanish War Veterans, Col. J.F. Oates, commanding at the convenience of the family.
Transcribed from Staten Island Advance - April 25, 1928
High Military Honors to be Paid Captain James
Burke, Deceased Civil War Vet, at Funeral
Services Tomorrow Morning
Captain James Burke, oldest G.A.R. veteran and poet of Staten Island, who served under Admiral Farragut in the Civil War, died yesterday at his home, 15 Walbrooke Avenue, West Brighton. He was in his 92nd year.
High military honors will be paid to Captain James Burke, Staten Island Civil War veteran who died yesterday in his 93rd year, at the funeral tomorrow morning in West Brighton.
The Robert G. Shaw, Richmond and Lehnhardt Posts of the Grand Army of the Republic will be represented by a full array of members. Other organizations, which will send uniformed members, are the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Spanish-American War Veterans and the American Legion.
Fort Wadsworth will send a detachment of soldiers, who will fire shots over the grave in St. Peter’s cemetery.
A requiem mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart church, Castleton avenue, at 10 am with Rev. Thomas J Heafy, the rector, on the alter will be Monsignor Charles A. Cassidy of St. Peter’s Church.
Arrangements for the military’ tribute to Captain Burke are being made tonight at a meeting In Stapleton of committees from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Spanish-American War Veterans.
At this meeting, plans will also be discussed for the Decoration Day parade May 30, which in other years was always dignified by the presence of Captain Burke. It was always the greatest day of the year for the venerable veteran.
Colonel John T. Oates, past commander of the Spanish-American War Veterans, paid high tribute today to Captain Burke’s literary work. He is thought to be the only one of the dead soldier’s friends who has a collection of his poems.
"Captain Burke was a scholar," remarked Colonel Oates. "For a long while, he was intimately connected with George William Curtis, then editor of Harper’s Magazine. At the Decoration Day celebrations, thousands flocked to hear him.
"In his literary work, he was a poetical genius. I think he is the equal of the other great Staten Island poet, Edwin Markham. Right up to the last, he was marvelously active. His typewriter was alongside his bed. He will be remembered many, many years for his fine patriotic poems."
Expressed Wish to Be Carried to Patriotic Festival
Both Crippled and Stone Deaf He PredictedVerse Would Be His Last
Although Captain James Burke, Civil War Veteran, is dead, his unusual poem on Decoration Day will be read at the celebration May 30. He finished the poem one day before his end.
The typing of the poem consisting of 48 lines, was one of the last acts of the 92-year old veteran. The work indicates that the writer’s thoughts were on the celebration, always the greatest day of his life. It also revealed that he was not conscious of the closeness of his death.
Colonel John T. Oates, past commander of the Spanish-American War Veterans, received a copy of the poem from the veteran twelve hours after his death. With it was a letter dated April 23. It was as follows:
"My dear Comrade and devoted Good Friend: You will be pleased, I know, to receive from me the enclosed poem on Memorial Day, my only contribution to the celebration this year. It will probably be my last as I am both a cripple and stone deaf. If I can be carried to the park I trill try to go, but my presence on the platform will be my only contribution to the services of the program. Kindly acknowledge receipt of the poem,"
The funeral is taking place today. Members of the three posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Spanish-American War Veterans, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are attending. A requiem mass is being celebrated at Sacred Heart church. Burial is taking place in St. Peter’s cemetery.
Captain Burke’s poem, entitled Memorial Day, Is as follows:
The birthday can’t too often be of
those who helped humanity,
Be they events or men,
For they helped to perpetuate the
motives grand that made them great,
Extolled by tongue or pen.
A case in point, a noted one, a herald
of the Summer’s sun,
The Thirtieth of May,
that flowers beautified the scene,-
The graves where comrades lay,-
A festival to be defined as one of
-joy and grief combined.
Which none can fail to note, ---
Of joy in that our comrades gone
Kept Freedom’s Flag afloat!
Of grief for those who kept us free,
in battles fought on land and sea,
Now sleep beneath the award.
That is, their bodies turned to dust,
their souls have found, we hope and trust,
The favor of the Lord!
This combinationholiday, one
that for us has come to stay,
Transcends, in glory’s view,
All yearly similar displays of a free
people’s meed of praise,
For those to whom ‘tis due.
The boys who left all they held dear,
and ‘neath our banner, far and near,
Served both on land and sea,
And, in their battles, having gained
the victory, in each maintained
Their birthright to be free!
Our zeal for Memorial Day Mohammedans
On feasts like Ramadan,
When their Muezzin’s hymnal cry
From Minaret is welcomed by
Each pious mussulman;
For their feast brings and with it
too a love of country that will do.
Again, as in the past,
The deeds for country and for kind,
whose potence in their flag they find,
And which they think will last.
When holidays of nations were the
feasts of all the churcher there,
The case was not like ours,-
A mingiling both of joy and grief,
of grief. and pains,-described
0f joy the fragrant flowers!
The G.A.R. for sixty years, ‘till
now when their last service nears,
Have had the day in charge,
Assisted by, for fifteen years, the
Spanish War young volunteers
And Civic Bodies large;
And,for the ten years just gone by,
On hand from near and far, --
Xxxx xxxx xxxx and display,
The heroes none more brave
Who won the World War,
Combined, for fifty years they’re
good, and in the meanwhile if
Come peace on earth to stay.
Our sons and grandsons will take
care. with men and money
To keep Memorial Day !