John Joseph Coppinger
The most successful career enjoyed by any Irish veteran of Papal service was that of John Joseph Coppinger, who retired with the rank of Major General after 46 years in the U.S. Army. Coppinger was born at Middleton, County Cork, on October 11, 1834. He was one of six children of William Joseph Coppinger and Margaret O'Brien.
In 1857 John J. Coppinger entered the ranks of the Warwickshire Militia with the rank of ensign. By 1860 he had been promoted Lieutenant, but left his position in the Yeomanry for what he saw as a higher duty. In 1860, when Pope Pius IX called upon Catholics throughout Europe to rally to the defence of the Papal States, Coppinger was one of over 1,400 young Irishmen who made their way to Italy. Perhaps because of his earlier military service, Coppinger was appointed Captain and placed in command of the Second Company in Major Myles O'Reilly's Battalion of St. Patrick He was created as Knight of the Pian Order for his services in La Rocca in 1860.
He subsequently enlisted in the United States army and served with distinction during the Civil War. He was promoted to Colonel as a result of service rendered against hostile Native Americans between 1886-1888, and took command of the 23rd United States Infantry in 1891. He finally became a Brigadier-General on 25th April 1895. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, the Cork native took charge of the 1st Independent Division in Mobile, Alabama. He later served as Major-General of Volunteers commanding the IV Corps. John Joseph Coppinger retired from his 36 year career in the U.S. military on 11th October 1898. The Midleton man died in Washington D.C. on 4th November 1909, where he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.