Francis B. Spinola

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Francis Barretto Spinola
Francis Barretto Spinola (March 19, 1821 – April 14, 1891) engraved portrait.jpg
Francis Barretto Spinola
Born (1821-03-19)March 19, 1821
Old Field, Long Island, New York
Died April 14, 1891(1891-04-14) (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Allegiance United States
Union
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brigadier General
Commands held "Excelsior Brigade" (the Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps)
Battles/wars

American Civil War

Francis Barretto Spinola (March 19, 1821 – April 14, 1891) was the first Italian American[1][2][3] to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving as a representative from New York from 1887 to 1891. He also served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Biography[edit]

Spinola was born in Old Field,[4] near Stony Brook, Brookhaven, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.[5] He attended Quaker Hill Academy in Dutchess County and then passed the bar exam before establishing a law practice in Brooklyn. He was elected alderman of the Second Ward in Brooklyn in 1846 and 1847, and was reelected in 1849 and served for four years. By 1854, when he joined a special force known as "Special Police" to keep order in the streets of New York, he was already one of the "most respected and influential citizens" of the city.[6] Politically a Democrat, he was a member of the New York State Assembly (Kings Co., 2nd D.) in 1856. He was a member of the New York State Senate (3rd D.) from 1858 to 1861, sitting in the 81st, 82nd, 83rd and 84th New York State Legislatures. He was a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Convention.

He was commissioner of New York Harbor when the Civil War erupted. Spinola joined the volunteer army in a New York regiment and was commissioned as an officer. He was appointed brigadier general of Volunteers on October 2, 1862. He commanded two relief efforts to lift the Confederate siege of Washington, North Carolina. In July/October 1862 he recruited and organized a brigade of four regiments, known as Spinola's Empire Brigade.[7]

Spinola assumed command of the New York "Excelsior Brigade" (the Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Army Corps), on July 11, 1863, following the Battle of Gettysburg as the Army of the Potomac strove to fill open command slots created by battle casualties. Spinola's brigade led the Union troops on July 23 at the Battle of Wapping Heights near Warrenton, Virginia, suffering 18 men killed, including two officers. Spinola was wounded in the fighting, along with dozens of his men. He was honorably discharged from the service in August 1865.

Following the war, Spinola was a banker and insurance agent, and became an influential figure among the rapidly growing Italian immigrant community in the New York City area. He was again a member of the State Assembly (New York Co., 16th D.) in 1877, 1881 and 1883. He was a U.S. Representative from New York's 10th District from 1887 to 1891.

He died in office in Washington, D.C. on on April 14, 1891.[5]

His funeral was held at the Immaculate Conception Church on April 16, 1891, and he was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.[8]

His estate, valued at over $1,000,000 in 1897, was left to his wife (d. 1896), and a nephew, Ferdinand McKee. In 1897 his sister Annie Douglass contested his will.[9]

Family[edit]

Spinola had his country seat at Crane Neck, Long Island. It was menaced by a fire in 1887.[10]

Portrait of Mrs. Eliza Spinola, mother of Gen. Spinola, commissioned to William Sidney Mount by her son in 1853

Francis Barretto Spinola was the son of João Leandro Spinola (b. 1782, Madeira Island), later Anglicised as John Leander Spinola,[11] a merchant from Madeira Island, and Elizabeth Phelan (1790, Long Island – 1873),[12] daughter of Captain John Phelan (1747, Waterford, Ireland – Sep 14, 1827, Baltimore, Maryland), who served in the American Revolutionary War, and his wife Susanna Davis (b. Long Island, d. 1857). João Leandro Spinola married Eliza Phelan in Jun 18, 1808, at Trinity Church parish, New York.[13]

Frank W. Alduino, in his book Sons of Garibaldi in Blue and Gray: Italians in the American Civil War (p. 180), refers his father John as a "prosperous farmer and oysterman" who migrated to the United States from Madeira Island, Portugal, whose family had originally hailed from the city of Genoa.[4] The Spinolas, of noble Genoese origin, moved into Madeira Island in the late 15th, early 16th century, as merchants.[14] John Leander Spinola is recorded travelling between Funchal and New York on board of the brig Pomona in 1821. He is also recorded travelling to Havana and Rio Grande. He was buried in the Meadow Avenue of Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.[15]

His grandfather John Phelan was a lieutenant in Wigglesworth's 13th Massachusetts Regiment, and his grand uncles Edward and Patrick were respectively captain and lieutenant at the same time.[11] He was a member of the Order of the Cincinnati.[16] His grand uncle Phillip Phelan joined the American forces during the Revolution War, where he served as lieutenant, and died at the Battle of Eutaw Springs in May 22, 1781. John Phelan's mother was Mary Heron Phelan, from Waterford, Ireland. One of her descendants, Mrs. Regina M. Knott, was one of the earliest members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.[17]

He had an older brother, John Leander Spinola (b. 1818) who worked as a druggist,[18] an younger brother, Douglas A. Spinola (b. 1830), an older sister, Angelina Spinola, seamstress (b. 1814), and two younger sisters, Ann Eliza (b. 1829) and Louisa (b. 1825).

Gen. Spinola provided for his sister Ann Douglass until his death in 1891. She supported herself teaching music until her eyesight failed, and by 1903, with over seventy years of age, she was living on charity, on an allowance of $120 a year by the Society of the Cincinnati. This motivated a newspaper article, pleading for help and referring her family, the Spinolas, as New York aristocrats, a "distinguished family".[11]

Gen. Francis Spinola married Elizabeth Nancy Glazebrook, from Kings, Saratoga, New York, at May 7, 1855, in New York City. Eliza N. Spinola, as she was known, survived her husband for five years, dying in 1896.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ACR 248 Assembly Concurrent Resolution - INTRODUCED". Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 248--Relative to Italian American Heritage Month. Official California Legislative Information. August 22, 2002. "Francis B. Spinola, the first Italian American Member of Congress" 
  2. ^ Burgan, Michael; Robert Asher (2009). Immigration to the United States: Italian Immigrants. Infobase Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 9781438103594. 
  3. ^ Alduino, Frank W.; David J. Coles (2007). Sons of Garibaldi in Blue and Gray: Italians in the American Civil War. Cambria Press. p. 179. ISBN 9781934043806. 
  4. ^ a b Alduino, Frank W.; David J. Coles (2007). Sons of Garibaldi in Blue and Gray: Italians in the American Civil War. Cambria Press. p. 180. ISBN 9781934043806. 
  5. ^ a b "Gen. F. B. Spinola Dead. End Of The Tammany Congressman's Career. After Several Days Of Improvement Death Came At 1:25 O'clock This Morning. A Long Career In Politics". The New York Times. April 14, 1891. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. "Gen. F.B. Spinola died at 1:25 o'clock this morning after an illness which had lasted several weeks. His condition had so improved during the last few days that his friends had begun to entertain some hope of his recovery. ..." 
  6. ^ "The Street-Preaching Excitement. Street-Preaching In New-York. The Angel Gabriel And Mrs. Bishop". The New York Times. June 12, 1854. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  7. ^ "The New Call For Troops. Recruiting In The City. The United States Mustering Office. The Quartermaster's Office. Filling Up The Old Regiments. The Halleck Guard. The Staton Legion. The Metropolitan Guard. The Spinola Brigade. The Fifth New-York Zouaves". The New York Times. July 22, 1862. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Gen. Spinola's Funeral. The Body In New-York And Services To Be Held This Morning". The New York Times. April 16, 1891. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. "The body of Congressman Francis B. Spinola arrived in New-York yesterday afternoon in charge of Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the House Kavanaugh and two or three assistants. It was taken at once to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Fourteenth Street and Avenue A, where funeral services will be held at 10:30 o'clock this morning. ..." 
  9. ^ "Francis B. Spinola's Will. Contest Begun by His Sister. Alleged Letters of His Which Speak of Undue Influence". The New York Times. October 23, 1897. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Gen. Spinola Fights Fire". The New York Times. April 11, 1887. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c A Poor Aristocrat, Reno Evening Gazette, January 21, 1903
  12. ^ Early New York Naturalization Records, p. 278
  13. ^ Early New York Naturalizations, p. 444
  14. ^ Noronha, Henrique Henriques de (1700), Nobiliário Genealógico das Famílias aparentadas com Henrique Henriques de Noronha III, Câmara Municipal do Funchal 
  15. ^ Green-wood, a directory for visitors, Nehemiah Cleaveland, Pudney & Russell, printers, 1857, p. 116
  16. ^ "Read the ebook Ceremonies at the planting of the liberty tree in Golden Gate Park by Sequoia chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. April 19, 1894, the one hundred and nineteenth anniversary of the Battle of Lexington by California) Daughters of the A". ebooksread.com. 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2011. "Phelan" 
  17. ^ "Full text of 'Lineage book of the charter members of the Daughters of the American Revolution'". archive.org. 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  18. ^ "1877 Court News". bklyn-genealogy-info.com. 2011. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
George A. Searing
New York State Assembly
Kings County, 2nd District

1856
Succeeded by
Thomas Mulligan
Preceded by
George Y. Whitson
New York State Assembly
New York County, 16th District

1877
Succeeded by
James Fitzgerald
Preceded by
Edward P. Hagan
New York State Assembly
New York County, 16th District

1881
Succeeded by
James Edward Morrison
Preceded by
James Edward Morrison
New York State Assembly
New York County, 16th District

1883
Succeeded by
Peter F. Murray
New York State Senate
Preceded by
Daniel E. Sickles
New York State Senate
3rd District

1858–1861
Succeeded by
Henry C. Murphy
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Abram S. Hewitt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

1887–1891
Succeeded by
William Bourke Cockran