The Irish population in the sprawling metropolis of Buffalo, N.Y., and its environs included many personalities. One of its most honorable members, shoemaker Michael G. Stapleton, enjoyed a sterling reputation for “his pleasing manners and upright character.”
Stapleton brought his winning ways with him to the militia. In 1858, at about age 40, he joined the 65th New York State Militia. He is pictured here in his full-dress captain’s uniform.
Considering his heritage, it is not surprising that after the war began he became an officer in the Buffalo Irish Regiment, which mustered into federal service as the 164th New York Infantry. It was one of four in an Irish brigade known as the Corcoran Legion. It’s commander, Brig. Gen. Michael Corcoran, had been captured a year earlier during the First Battle of Bull Run.
The much-beloved Corcoran led the Legion until his accidental death in late 1863. The Irishmen he left behind continued to fight on, seeing action in the Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns.
Stapleton ranked as first lieutenant and served as quartermaster and commissary of subsistence of his regiment. In March 1865, suffering ill health, he took a brief leave to rest in a Washington, D.C., hotel.
On March 26, he enjoyed breakfast with a friend, and then went up to his room to put on his boots before running business errands. Minutes later, a chambermaid heard a heavy thud. She found Stapleton unconscious after a fall that left a deep cut on his head. A doctor was called, but Stapleton died before he arrived. He was 43 and unmarried.
Comrades and friends remembered him as “a gallant soldier and a high-minded, honorable gentleman.”
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