James McManus was born in Ireland
around 1841 to James and Catherine McManus. Little is known of his
early years or when the family moved to America. James Sr. died on
Jan 15, 1856 leaving fourteen year old James Jr. to care for his
mother. There is no record of any other children from this marriage.
On May 18, 1861, James enlisted in
Company A of the 3rd Iowa Infantry and was sent to Benton
Barracks in St. Louis for training. He said on his enlistment papers
that he lived in Dubuque, but it is unclear exactly which side of
the river he lived on.
Prior to his enlistment James worked
as a laborer for John Beattie who ran a livery stable in Dunleith
(now East Dubuque) Illinois. Beattie later testified that most of
James wages were paid to his mother, Catherine and that she was
dependent on James for her “sole and entire” support and had been
since the death of her husband.
Phineas W. Crawford a thirty-year-old
Vermont native, living in Dubuque, who had enlisted the same day as
McManus was appointed 2nd Lt of Company A. After the war
he described the tragic accident that took the life of James
McManus. He “…was killed by a gunshot wound in the back of the head,
at Benton Barracks, St Louis MO while engaged with his Regiment in a
drill and sham battle. He was supposed to have been killed by his
rear rank man, as the muzzle of the gun was so close as to burn his
cap. At the time the Regiment was firing with blank cartridges,
while moving on the double quick. He died instantly.” Crawford also
admitted “I was present at the time, though I did not see the
occurrence, but saw the body of McManus immediately after he was
McManus’ body was returned to
Dubuque and interred in the Old 3rd Street Cemetery
on Kelly’s Bluff. Years later his remains were removed to Mt.
Olivet Cemetery in Key West.
3rd Iowa Infantry
photo courtesy of Ron
After the usual Government delays, in
1864 forty-five year old Catherine McManus was awarded a pension of
$8 a month back dated to the time of his death. Her pension was
later raised to $12 per month until her death in Chicago in 1890.