About Jane "Jennie" Mitchel
Jane Verner Mitchell (1826-1899)
Jane (Jenny) Verner Mitchel was born into a Unionist family in Verner's Bridge, Co. Armagh, Ireland circa 1826. Her father, Sir William Verner was a colonel in the British army who fought in the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. After he retired from the army he became a member of the British Parliament from Co. Armagh and a deputy grand-master of the Orange Order of Ireland.
During her early years Jenny lived with her siblings, two boys and six girls, in the Churchill Mansion on the Verner estate and at a second residence in Eaton Square in London. Jenny was educated at Miss Bryden's School for Young Ladies in Newry.
At age sixteen Jenny met John Mitchel, the son of a Unitarian minister and a law student at Trinity College in Dublin. Both family's disapproved of their courtship and forbid them to see each other. Determined to be together they eloped to England. They were pursued by her father who brought them back to Dublin. Mitchel was brought back in custody and spent eighteen days in Kilmainham before been released. They eloped again in January of 1837and were married. John Martin, a life-long friend of Mitchel, who knew of their courtship, is reputed to have arranged secret meeting places for them, and possibly lent them money to elope to Drumcree Parish Church at Portadown, Co. Armagh where they were married.
For the next number of years thy settled down to married life in Newry where John practiced law. The raised five off-springs; three boys and two girls.
In 1843 John became a member of O'Connell's Repeal Association and began to contribute to 'The Nation' newspaper. From that time on life for the Mitchel family changed. Mitchel became disillusioned with O’Connell and the lack of progress in repealing the Act of Union. Together with other younger members he parted company with O'Connell and joined the Young Ireland movement believing that force was the only way to achieve a degree of control and freedom for Ireland. This belief was reinforced by the devastation caused by the contrived famine on the native Irish and the lack of action or concern on the part of the British government. From 1845 through 1848 john published numerous articles in 'The Nation" and 'United Irishman' critical of the British and advocating force to free Ireland from their control. During this same period Jenny, under the pseudonym Mary, which she shared with other contributors, also published critical and controversial articles in The Nation.
In 1848 when John Mitchel was arrested and charged with sedition, later changed to Treason Felony, Jenny organized his defense campaign. The outcome of the ensuing trial was a foregone conclusion. He was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude in Van Diemen’s Land. Here he was joined by his old friend John Martin who suffered the same fate.
In May of 1851, Jenny, together with their five children joined her husband in exile. For the next two years the family, once again, settled down to a normal family life. This all ended in 1853 when PJ "Nicuagara" Smyth arrived at Mitchel's door with a plan for his escape to America. .After Mitchel made good his escape he eventually arrived in New York via Australia, Sandwich Islands, Tahiti and San Francisco. Jenny, with John Martins help, joined John in their new home in New York. Martin received a conditional pardon in 1854 and went to live in Paris.
The Mitchel's settled in America where John edited poetry and established the Irish nationalist newspaper The Citizen in New York. Apart from its anti-British bias the paper was controversial for its defense of slavery. The Mitchel's felt that slaves in the south were better cared for and fed than the Irish under British rule. After resigning from the newspaper the Mitchel's moved south where John founded a new paper, the Southern Citizen and became a spokesman for the Confederacy.
Jenny and John paid dearly for their support of the Southern cause. They lost two sons fighting for the Confederacy. Private Willie Mitchel lies in an unmarked grave in Gettysburg scarcely a hundred yards from the high water make of Pickett's Charge, at Gettysburg, bearing the regimental color of the illustrious 1st Virginia Infantry (which was founded by Patrick Henry before the Revolution and once was commanded by Colonel George Washington). The other son, Major John C. Mitchel, gave his life on the parapets of Fort Sumter during a Union Navy artillery barrage where he was commander of the 1st South Carolina Artillery. His body lies in Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.
After the Civil War ended John Mitchel spent in a Union prison for his support of the Confederacy. After his release he returned to Ireland and ran for parliament on an abstentionist ballot from Tipperary. He was elected a Member of Parliament on two occasions. He was elected a second time after the British declared his first election null and void. He died shortly thereafter and is buried next to his father the family plot in Newry.
Jenny who passed away on December 31, 1899 outlived all the family except for her son James. Her remains rest in the family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York next to son, Captain James Mitchel, CSA, who survived the civil war. Woodlawn Cemetery is the only resting place containing the remains of two Mitchel's. The remains of one daughter, who had entered a Catholic order of nuns in Paris, was buried there. The remains of her second daughter, who married Charles Sloane of a wealthy Catholic family in New York is buried in the catacombs under St Patrick's Old Cathedral in downtown Manhattan.
The Mitchel's -- a family representative of the Irish Diaspora -- parents and children scattered to the four winds.
Jane "Jennie" Mitchel's Timeline
January 24, 1838
Ireland, United Kingdom
Banbridge, Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Banbridge, Down, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom