Charles Graham Halpine was born in Oldcastle, co. Meath, Ireland to Reverend Nicholas John Halpin and Anne Grehan. Although originally educated for the medical and law professions at Trinity College in Dublin, the early death of his father caused Halpine to take up journalism. Immigrating to the United States in 1851 (Boarse), he initially supported himself by working in advertising and later as the private secretary to P. T. Barnum (Monoghan). He would later become a well-known poet and journalist most recognized under the name Miles O’Reilly.
Halpine’s earliest writing appeared in the Carpet Bag, a humorous magazine which he started with Benjamin P. Shillaber, and also became assistant editor of the Boston Post. He became a French translator for the New York Herald in 1853 (Derby). In he anonymously compiled a collection of his previously published works, but the collection was not met with a great deal of critical approval (Monoghan).
Halpine next worked as a correspondent, and eventual associate editor, for the New York Times where he eventually became an associate editor. In 1857, he assumed the job of editor for the Leader and under his guidance the magazine saw an increase in popularity and importance. While maintaining his job as editor, Halpine also published numerous articles and poems. Monoghan explains that “his contributions to magazines and newspapers were clever and voluminous and brought him a large income.” Halpine also edited the New York Ledger, a Democratic weekly paper (Lause).
Mentioned as one of the “bright spirits” who met at Pfaff’s in a Charles Pfaff obituary (“In and about the City”), Halpine was a well-known and much admired presence in the literary scene (Winter 61). Multiple sources place him at Pfaff’s, as he is identified as one of the “others who rallied” at Pfaff’s (Maurice 396) and as one of the “Knights of the Round Table” of the “lions of Bohemia” (“In and about the City”). Derby mentions him as "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day” (239). He also describes a letter of introduction from Shillaber which “stated that the bearer was not only a brilliant writer on any subject, but a born poet and a real genius in wit and humor” (426). A brilliant conversationalist, Halpine “stammered to fame at Pfaff’s, speaking inadvertently of ‘H-H-Harriet Beseecher Bestowe’” (Starr 9).
Much of Halpine’s work grew out of his experiences during the Civil War. When the fighting began in April 1861, he enlisted in the 69th New York Infantry and was soon promoted to lieutenant. He was then transferred to work under General David Hunter as “assistant adjutant-general with the rank of major” (Boarse). He was repeatedly promoted for “gallantry and distinguished services” until he reached the rank of brigadier-general (Monoghan).
After his military experience, Halpine "resigned, and lived to make his name famous by his humorous sketches of army life supposed to have been penned by 'Private Miles O'Reilly,'" which were published in Northern periodicals (Hemstreet 220). His “Sambo’s Right to be Kilt” was useful in calming white soldiers’ objections to the enlistment of black soldiers for a new regiment. He retired from the army in 1864 due to his deteriorating eyesight. According to Gunn in 1862, he “had a wife and children in New York or Washington” (20.56).
Halpine had long showed interest in politics, becoming a member of the “Young Ireland” group in Dublin and serving as private secretary to American politician Steven A. Douglass. In 1866, Halpine was elected Register of the County and City of New York, beating the candidate from Tammany Hall with a majority of 20,000 votes. Gunn annotates a related news clipping with, “As editor of the Citizen, General Halpine has rendered important support to the Conservative party in America by his popularity and active political service” (20.189). He published Miles O’Reilly His Book in 1864 and Baked Meats of the Funeral in 1866.
Halpine died suddenly from an accidental overdose of chloroform in 1868. While Gunn suggests that his death may have been suicide (20.189), J.C. Derby explains that had taken the draught to soothe a migraine. Derby writes, “Thus, by a mere accident, a most important life was taken away from this public and at its period of greatest usefulness. He died ere more than half his natural term of activity had run, at the age of thirty-nine, at a period when his faculties were in their most perfect development” (430).
Miles O'Reilly is mentioned as one of the "bright spirits" who met at Pfaff's.[pages:1-]
He is mentioned as one of the "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day," known to rally around the book store of George W. Carleton. Derby notes that "the noonday hour frequently found most of them at Pfaff's celebrated German restuarant, in a Broadway basement, near Bleecker-street, the rendezvous at that day of the so-called Bohemians" Derby also notes that his pen name was "Miles O'Reilly" (239).
Derby writes that he met Halpine, a "young Irishman," later known as "Miles O'Reilly" in 1854, when he was about twenty-five. The young writer brought him a letter of introduction from B.P. Shillaber of the Boston Post. "The substance of the letter gave me to understand that the bearer was an educated young Irishman who had been employed on the Post and alos on the Carpet Bag, a weekly humorous paper on which both of them had been associated. The letter also stated that the bearer was not only a brilliant writer on any subject, but a born poet and a real genius in wit and humor. After reading the letter I congratulated Charles G. Halpine, for such was his name -- better known a few years later as Miles O'Reilly -- on being in possession of so much literary talent. Young Halpine disclaimed any of the attributes which the letter conveyed; he thought it might be one of Mrs. Partington's last jokes" (426).
Derby published a book of Halpine's verses anonymous, at Halpine's request, "for the purpose, he said, of testing the public pulse as to his poetic talent, if he had any" (427). Halpine let Derby have the verses without copyrightm "if I would risk an edition at my onw expense" (426). "This little volume of poems was the beginning of Halpine's brilliant literary, military and political career" (427).
According to Derby, Halpine had no trouble getting editorial work at the Herald, Tribune, and the Times and was well-paid for his well-written editorials. Halpine was also "connected with several weekly semi-literary papers. His great versatility of talent enabled him to write on almost any subject" (427). Derby writes that Halpine was a "great favorite" of Horace Greeley, Henry J. Raymond, and James Gordon Bennett, the influential editors of the time (427).
During the Civil War, Halpine sided with the Union, "rendering good service with both tongue and pen, thsu illustrating in his own person the apothegm 'the pen is mightier than the sword;' for although he was a brave and efficient Federal officer, one song of his alone was probably more effectual in inducing the Irish element of the country to enlist in the Union army, than all the recruiting officers in the Empire city" (428). According to Derby, rousing the Irish was essential to building troops, as their prejudices prevented or impaired their involvement in the war and army (428). Halpine maintained a correspondence with Northern papers during the war under the pen name "Private Miles O'Reilly," and "was for a long time believed to be a genuine Milesian private soldier" (429). Derby reprints the song that Halpine wrote as Miles O'Reilly "which became very popular among the Irish, and produced a revulsion in the feelings towards the contrabands, who had been armed by the Federal authorities" titled "Sambo's Right To Be Kilt" on p.429-430 (429).
According to Derby, Halpine died unexpectedly in 1869. The following account was printed in the biographical sketch of Halpine that prefaced his poetical works, edited by his friend Robert B. Roosevelt, and published by Harper & Bros., 1869:
"Early in the last week of his life he had written his poem commemorative of the Irish Legion, and on his final Saturday he was at the office of the Citizen until about two o'clock, in gayer humor and more genial mood than usual, alhtough he was invariably a charming companion. Later he was attacked with violent pain in the head and he had recourse to chloroform. The apothecary, by a well-intentioned but unfortunate error, gave him a diluted article which had no effect, and which he detected as deficient in strength. Then he sent for more, and under the delusion that it was also weak or adulterated, while it was actually of full strength, inhaled too much of it and became insensible. Thus, by a mere accident, a most important life waws taken away from this public and at its period of greatest usefulness. He died ere more than half his natural term of activity had run, at the age of thirty-nine, at a period when his faculties were in their most perfect development" (430).
Aside from his poetry, Halpine also publised two humorous books called, "Miles O'Reilly, his book" and "Baked Meats of the Funeral." "Miles O'Reilly" Halpine, as Derby calls him, became so popular "among all classes of voters, that the year prior to his death he was elected to the important and lucrative office of Register of New York, by a majority of over 50,000 over the Tammany nominee" (432).
Colonel Forney, in his book, Anedotes of Public Men, reprints the Lines of Miles O'Reilly on the Downfall of Richmond and writes: "they are among the most beautiful productions in the English language; recalling the handsome features and royal gifts of Colonel Charles G. Halpine, who was endeared to so many during his life and who is still so sincerely mourned" (433).
Charles A. Dana recollected that during a farewell dinner for Henry J. Raymond in the summer of 1867, at the Athenauem Club before Raymond left for Europe, "Mr. Robert B. Roosevelt, so well known in the political and piscatory world, sang on that occasion to the tune of 'Jeannette and Jeannot' an impromptu parting song, written by the late Charles G. Halpine, so well known as 'Miles O'Reilly.' The song opens as follows: --
'To Raymond on His Travels.
(Air: Jeannette and Jeannot.)
'Oh, your boat is at the pier,
And your passage has been paid,
But before you go, my dearest dear
Accept this serande!
For with friendliness we burn,
And rejoicing come the rhymes,
To toast the health and safe return
Of him who rules the Times,--
To toast the heath and safe return of him who rules the Times.'
After Halpine had finished writing the song and the toasts had been drank, Mr. George Jones asked him if he had got it all down. The former quickly replied, 'yes, and more too" (360).
Derby notes that some of Halpine's earliest writings appeared in Shillaber's Carpet Bag. "Mr. Halpine was for a short time associate editor with Mr. Shillaber, where, the latter tells me, he learned to admire and respect his great genius. A more versatile writer, he says, he thinks he never knew, nor one who possessed more power -- often revealed in his strictures upon contemporaries -- which made him enemies; but they were afraid of him and rarely struck back. He was a ripe scholar, and hated the namby-pambyism of the literary press, and the feeble nothings, as he regarded them, of their contributions. He was a remorseless writer, and dashed among people right and left, impaling them upon his pen-point and showing them no mercy. As a poet he was brilliant and senuous; one poem -- 'An imperfect Hymn to the Types' -- was a really sublime effort. He was most fascinating in his manner, holding every one to his will, whether liking him or not, and a true friend where he became attached. He was very classical, had Horace at his finger-ends, and sported an alias for every phase of his writing. Resulting from the bitterness of his witticism, he was actually challenged to a duel, to come off in Canada, by one that he had excoriated" (411-412).[pages:239,360,411-412,426-33]
Henry Clapp is quoted as saying, "After the Saturday Press failed, I went on the Citizen with Miles O'Reilly."[pages:9]
Mentioned as one of the Bohemians at Pfaff's "gossiped" about by Rufus B. Wilson in a "reminiscent letter to the Galveston News." Listed here as Charles G. Halpine.[pages:479]
Mentioned as one of the Bohemians at Pfaff's "gossiped" about by Rufus B. Wilson in a "reminiscent letter to the Galveston News." Listed here as Charles G. Halpine.[pages:479]
Gunn describes Halpine's well-known writings: "Halpin, or Halpine, an ex-newspaper man himself, was very civil to the representatives of the press generally, and democratically politic in propitiating them. He had a wife and children in New York or Washington. He was destined, a couple of years after this date, to attain considerable celebrity by writing certain poems, satirical and serious, on the war, under the nom de plume of 'Miles O'Reilly', many of them published, I think, in the Herald, which started one of its customary canards about them, attributing their authorship to a private soldier and asserting that he had been punished for it" (56-57).
Gunn describes Halpine's appearance at supper: "At night I loafed on deck with my fellow passengers. Halpine appeared at supper only, being then only half sober. He had came on board after a debauch which brought him to the verge of delirium Tremens, and had with him a huge demijohn of brandy, which he intended taking to his friends at Port Royal, but as it remained in his berth all the time and he applied himself to it without stint, I don't think one drop of it reached South Carolina" (60).
Gunn describes Halpine's illness during the voyage: "Summer lighting in the evening and some prospects of rough weather. Below, the vicinity of Halpine's cabin was nauseous from the combined smell of spirits and sea-sickness. He kept his berth, nor hardly quitted it once during the remainder of the voyage" (61).
Gunn details the worsening of Halpine's illness at sea: "Really rough weather; woman passenger washed out of her berth into the saloon. More howling. Fellows staggering about; Capt King alert and attentive. Halpine carried into a cabin aft, where his odour would be less perceptible: last night he had an attack of delirium tremens and was chanting vociferously, before the beginning of the gale" (62).
Gunn describes his time at Port Royal: "At Port Royal again: with Babcock to the asistant [sic] -adjutant-general's office, where Halpine received me very hospitably. Introduced by him to Lieut. Stockton, a nephew of the wife of Gen. Hunter, and a very gentlemanly young fellow. Drinking claret punch in the coolest of undress, in Halpine's back-office, and writing my letter to the Tribune, being favored with all the documents that had come to hand about the James Island affair, including a lively letter from a young officer who had been a witness of it. Congratulated myself on my position, as contrasted with reporting in Virginia" (71).
Gunn describes his time at Gen. Hunter's headquarters: "Rode back to headquarters with Fessenden and Hickox, another of Gen. Hunter's aides; at the lodgings of the former awhile, then to Halpine's. Quite a little claret party of young fellows, temporarily visited by the General. Songs and smoke. Presently I adjourned to the front office and got to work scribbling till 1 1/2 A.M. finishing my account of the James Island disaster for the Tribune, to go North by the next day's steamer. As I wrote a tremendous storm of thunder, lightning and rain was raging without, which presently exhausted itself. Not very fall off, in one of the apartments ending the row, was Gen Benham (the same unprepossessing officer I had once met in New York at the house of Martin the clergyman) now placed under arrest by Gen Hunter, as a reward for his recent 'successful reconnaisance [sic]' as he called it. Halpine had shown me Hunter's order-book containing a letter expressly forbidding Benham making any attempt of the sort, and I could perceive, was anxious that such an account should go to the Tribune as should exonerate Hunter from all responsibility in the matter. Indeed all The officers with whom I talked subsequently blamed Benham, most of them ridiculing him as a braggart. Surely if an innocent he was a most unlucky man. Finishing my letter I left it on Halpine's desk for mailing and turned out, finding the sentry sitting on the steps in front of the building, fast asleep. I didn't wake the young fellow" (74-75).
Gunn learns of Halpine's new position in Washington: "We learn that Halpine has gone to Washington to assume a position on the staff of Gen. Halleck that the negro regiment has been disbanded because Gen. Hunter couldn't get money to pay the men or clothing from the government" (140).
Halpine is featured in a newspaper clipping. Gun annotates it with Halpine's cause of death: "PRIVATE MYLES O'REILLY – General Charles G. Halpine, better known as 'Private Myles O'Reilly', has been elected by a majority of 20,000 votes to the post of Registrar of the city of New York, worth upwards of 6,000 sterling. As editor of the Citizen, General Halpine has rendered important support to the Conservative party in America by his popularity and active political service. – Tablet. [Gunn's handwriting] He died Dec 1866. from an overdose of chloroform – perhaps committed suicide" (189).
A newspaper clipping of one of Halpine's poems is annotated by Gunn (191).[pages:56-57, 60, 61, 62, 71, 74-75, 140, 189, 191]
Halpine's song is mentioned in a newspaper clipping.[pages:220-222]
This text identifies the following pseudonyms: Lyrics by the letter H. (58), Miles O'Reilly (63), Private Miles O'Reilly (78).[pages:58, 63, 78]
Listed here as Charles Graham Halpine. He was a friend of O'Brien's; Hemstreet mentions that Halpine was "the only literary man of the Seventh to return to New York." After his military experience, Halpine "resigned, and lived to make his name famous by his humorous sketches of army life supposed to have been penned by 'Private Miles O'Reilly'" (220).[pages:220]
The obituary identifies him as one of the "Knights of the Round Table" of the "lions of Bohemia." He is primarily identified here as Charles G. Halpine.[pages:2]
He is described as one of the "others who rallied" at Pfaff's. His real name is given as Charles G. Halpine.[pages:396]
The column notes that Private Miles O'Reilly (Halpine) is rumored to be writing about Jefferson Davis's life in prison. The column also reports that he is "anxious...to write the obituary of the Saturday Press" (4).[pages:4]
Halpine (Miles O'Reilly) is mentioned as one of the "happy, careless children of Bohemia" who attended the "carnivals in Pfaff's cellar" (5).[pages:5]
O'Reilly is mentioned as a frequenter of Pfaff's who, along with others, found Nast "amusing" and "took him to theatres and other cozy resorts and 'showed him the town'" (22).
Paine puts his name in quotation marks to suggest that "Miles O'Reilly" is a pseudonym, but he does not explicitly say so.[pages:22]
Starr writes that in the days prior to the Civil War, like many others in New York, the "Pfaffians were exposed increasingly to the clamour of a world beyond their ken. Something like a revolution was afoot in the realm of journalism, a revolution that would lift these light-hearted pranksters from their subterranean retreat ad whirl them in its vortex. Soon O'Brien, Aldrich, Thomson, Williams, and Stedman, together with others in Clapp's happy coterie--Charles G. Halpine (who stammered to fame at Pfaff's, speaking inadvertantly of 'H-H-Harriet Beseecher Bestowe'), William Conant Church, William Swinton, E.H. House, Charles Henry Webb, a couple of artists, Frank H. Bellew and Thomas Nast: in all more than half of the identifiable clientele at the Cave--would take the field along with hundreds of other youths of like mind to participate in the greatest undertaking in the history of journalism" (9).
In early 1864, Halpine was one of a group of members of the press who were to "varying degrees" enthusiastic about the "Chase-for-President" movement (312).[pages:9,312]
Following his resignation from the army in 1864, Halpine took up permanent residence in New York and became editor and later proprietor of The Citizen, a journal that "advocated for reform in the civil administration in New York city".[pages:53]
Charles G. Halpine edited "The New York Leader" when Clapp contributed to the paper after the end of the first "Saturday Press" (61).
Halpine was "widely known and much admired, in his day, as 'Miles O'Reilly.' Halpine's fame under his pen name occured during the Civil War (61).[pages:61]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015