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In various documents Denis Healy reported his date of birth as 3/15/1867 or 3/14/1869 and his place of birth as Cork. A Navy enlistment record shows his dob as 14 Mar 1869 in Cork, Ireland. Family tradition has always been very strong on the point that our Healys were from "County" Cork.

According to family tradition Denis left home in Cork on his 15th birthday (3/14/1882) and walked? to Tipperary where he enlisted in the British Army. (It was not necessary to do this to enlist, so this story may be apocryphal.) He served in Burma for ten years until 1892. We have his Indian Service Medal which indicates that he served in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusilliers from 1887 - 1889. There is evidence to suggest that the normal enlistment period for the British Army was 12 years. If this is true in Dennis's case, one must wonder why he didn't serve the last two years. It is probably during this period that he acquired the scars and tattoos that are later described by the U.S. Army doctor who examined Denis when he enlisted in the US Army at 146 Park Row in Manhattan on March 15, 1894, his 27th birthday:

Personal Marks: "Scar centre of forehead. Scar right side of neck. "Girl" right forearm. "F.H.C." clasped hands and shamrock ring right middle finger. forget-me-not, arrow and heart, clasped hands, rose, thistle and shamrock and girl's face left forearm. Scar back left hand. ring middle left finger. 2 scars left side of neck, one on left knee."

The same scars are again described and mapped 6 days later on March 21, 1894 by another Army surgeon at David's Island (Later Fort Slocum) near New Rochelle. For the left forearm: "Tattoo clasped hands, heart penetrated by arrow. The words "Forget me not" and wreath below." For the right forearm: "Tattoo ballet girl." For the right wrist (forearm above): "Tattoo of clasped hands. Rose bud and letters "F.H.C."" Left wrist: "Tattoo of bracelet"

The Army stationed Denis in Rhode Island as a cook's helper but quickly grew weary of dealing with what they described as his drunken debauches and discharged him with an Honorable Discharge.

Here is a letter he sent from Fort Warren dated Nov. 23, 1894. Fort Warren is on Georges Island in Boston Harbor. It was a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and had various other uses through the years. I have not yet determined what its use was in 1894 or what Denis was doing on the island.

The letter shows a middle initial "B" for Bernard. Both Francis and Bernard appear on documents as Denis's middle name.

The letter, dated November 23, refers to Mary's letter of November 23. Since it is not possible for Denis to have received a letter in Fort Warren on November 23 which was written in Brooklyn on the same day, we may assume that he means that he received Mary's letter on November 23 or that he simply wrote the wrong date.

Dennis refers to the fact that Mary is illiterate. He also refers to his ability to knit and perhaps crochet, skills which were probably learned as a child participating in this very common cottage industry: the knitting of garments and furniture dressing.

Denis's reference to Katy's liking the country and his request that Mary take care of her suggest the possibility that Katy had not yet arrived in the US before Denis joined the army. Or, he is simply responding to some comments in Mary's letter. Family tradition has them all (Denis, Mary and Katie) arriving at the same time.

Fort Warren
Nov 23 1894

Dear Sister
I received your letter of nov 23
and i am glad to heare that you
and your husaband and Kate are
in good health and i will do all
i can to come and see you as soon
as i can you asked me to make you
a daisy mat for the palor lamp i
will make it as soon as i can and
also a pair of slippers when i
will get some time for myself i
am glad to heare that kety likes
the country and i hope that you
will look after her but i am
sorry for what had happened of
Jack Sullivan and his sisters
and that they may get over the
lost 27 Dollars. I have no more
to say at present

from your affectionate Brother

Dear Brother-in-Law i thank you
very much for writing my Sisters
letter to me and also it gives me
great Pleasure.
your Brother-in-Law
D. B. Healy
you must excuse the putting on of
the stamps on the last leter as it
was in the dark when i did it and
i tried to get it of but could not
do so

A few months after leaving the Army (date?) Denis walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and enlisted in the US Navy (date?).

While in the Navy Denis served as a coal passer and Fireman 1st Class on board a Monitor Class ship, The USS Amphitrite, one of the four largest ships in this class. After the unexplained explosion of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898 the Amphitrite was towed to Cuban waters and participated in the destruction of the Spanish fleet as it attempted to sail out of the harbor at Santiago on July 3, 1898.

Port Royal,
South Carolina
March 17 / 1898

Dear Brother-in-Law

I have but verry leattle to say
at preasent owing to all the
drilling we are getting over
the Maine disaster.

My entensions all along was in
going to the Clondick but as
the Country is now in trouble
it would not look nice for me
to buye my disgard.

I am in the best of health and
getting along grand
Denis Healy's Letter, 1898, p.1
I am glad to heare that you
have another baby girl

I send my regards to one and
all of you whiching you all
good health

Your Brother in Law D. Healy

I would like to heare from
Lottie Asher how is she getting
along and is she waring the cap yet.
I send my best Respects to her and
also to her Father and Mother and
hoping the are all in the best of health
Denis Healy's Letter, 1898, p.2
Denis Healy U.S.S. Amphitrite
Port Royal South Carolina
Denis Healy's Letter, 1898, p.3

(In corner:)
I send my best reargards
to you and wife and famly
and also Keaty your
Brother in Law
Denis healy

Boston Mass
October 22th / 1898

I drop a
few lines to you
thanking you for the good advice
you sent to me in your leatter
about saving my money. I am
saving it and expect to leave
the navy with a nice leattle sum
of money. and also a good
government gob. I am awfull
sorry when I read in your
leatter about poor Nellie
Sullivan husband being so bad
Iff you see Nellie tell her
for me that I feels very
sorry for what hapened her
Husaband. and if you have
her adress i would be verry
thankfull to you if you would
send it to me as i would
like to write her a leatter.
You told me some time ago
that Maggie Sullivan was
Marred. You tell me in your
leatter that she is working
in the laundry and living with
Nellie and she is not engaged
yet. I hope all this is true
as i would like to have her
myself and i know she
would make a good
woman for a man
and if you see Maggie
tell her what i said
and also tell her that
if she stays single untill
June 17th she will not have
to work no more for the
reamander of her life.
as i am sure of a goverment
employment first for
being a solder in the army
2 for being a first class
fireman during the war
and my military exparince
came into play in that
little fight we had down
in Porte Rico wheare we
killed 127 Spanards in
a night attack. that
must be the fight
you did not reid about
we lost olnly one man
and he was an officer.
So you see theare is every
thing in my feavor for
employment in the
government Navy yard
and theare is good pay
for men working with the
goverment. I entend to seattle
down in life as soon as i
leave the Navy. for my experince
in working in the navy
under suchs hard tryels as
175 degrees in heath and no
cool breese and no cool drinking
water and nothing to eate
most of the time. tells me that
i can work with any man

Port Royal, S.C.

April 25th, 1899

Dear Brother-in-Law

I take the pleasure of writhing to you a few lines leathing you know that i am
geatting along all right. Hoping that this leatter will find you and your wife and children in
good health. and also Keaty. I hope Mrss Hall is all right and Nellie Sullivan and her sister
Maggie and Brother Jack.

I received your leatter on March 17 the day we got to Port Royal. So i had not
much to write about all along as this place is verry dreary down heare. But i was very glad
to read in your leatter the good advice you give in your leatter about married liefe. I did
not write to Maggie Sullivan but i wrote to her sister Nellie about the loss of her Husaband
poor girl, but i taught that Maggie was saying something to you and that was the reason i
asked you in my last leatter whether she told you to write to me. But as you say theare is
plenty of time yeat. Theare is some newes down heare about we leiving for new york next
month i hope we will as my time i meaine my 3 years will be up on the 17 of June. I have
got no more to say at present. I send my best regards to you all hoping that you are in good
health and getting along as i am in the best of health myself thank God

Port Royal
South Carolina
your Brother-in-Law
Denis Healy

Denis Healy's Letter, 1899

Upon mustering out of the Navy on June 17 Denis returned to Brooklyn and the hospitality of his sister and brother-in-law. Unfortunately, Denis was evidently a mean drunk, who became abusive when he'd had too much alcohol. Family stories document how, more than once, Denis was taken away in the Paddy Wagon to dry out at Raymond Street Jail.

Brooklyn July 31, '99

Dear Charley'
I Hope you will get me out
of this place as I wish to
go back into [the] navy again.
I will pay [for] your trouble
and settle everything as you
wish as you know I was very
Drunk that night and did not
know what I was saying or doing
I am very sorry for what I done
and I will go right back into the
Navy the day I get out
From Your Brother in Law
Denis Healy
Raymond St Jail

Denis reenlisted on September 1, 1899 and was assigned to the Vermont until October 2, 1899 (31 days), the Texas until October 11, 1899 (9 days), the Brooklyn until October 8, 1902 (1087 days, or 8 days short of 3 years) and then on the Wabash until December 23, 1902 (81 days).

An early picture of The USS Brooklyn.

U.S.S. BROOKLYN in New York Harbor during the victory fleet review, August 1898. USS New York (CA-2) is in the left background. Denis joined the Brooklyn 2 months after this picture was taken. The original photograph was copyright by George P. Hall & Son, New York, 1898. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Photo #: NH 61500. Current link for pictures of the USS Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn did not participate in the Battle of Manila Bay (1 May 1898) in which the Spanish Fleet was destroyed but arrived in the area later. Denis joined the crew of the Brooklyn on 11 October 1899. On 16 October 1899 the Brooklyn departed from Hampton Roads, Va. sailing for Manila in the Philippines via the Suez Canal, arriving 16 December 1899 where she became the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron. She participated in the North China Relief Expedition, more commonly known as the "Boxer Rebellion" (8 July-11 October 1900). From 10 April - 7 August 1901 she made a cruise to the Dutch East Indies and also to Australia and New Zealand in 1901 for the opening of their first Parliaments.

She remained with the Asiatic Squadron until 1 March 1902, when she sailed for the United States via the Suez Canal and arrived at New York Navy Yard, 1 May 1902. On 20 May 1902 the Brooklyn was at Havana, Cuba, for ceremonies related to the transfer of authority from the United States Government to the Cuban Government and the Inauguration of President Palma. Then during June and July 1902 she was on special duty in connection with the obsequies of the late British Ambassador to the United States, Lord Pauncefote, sailing from Annapolis to Southhampton, England. A month before Denis left the Brooklyn, she was briefly grounded off New Bedford, Mass, on September 3, 1902.

Here is an interesting excerpt from an old newspaper, the Snow Hill Democratic Messenger of Snow Hill, Maryland, (on the Patuxent River south of Salisbury), June 21, 1902, about another sailor on the Brooklyn:

"Robert Richardson, son of Mr. James Richardson of Box Iron, is home on a seven day's furlough from the United States warship Brooklyn on which he is a sailor. The Brooklyn is now at League Island, Philadelphia, having just arrived from Cuba, where her officers and men witnessed and participated in the innaugural ceremonies which made Senor Palma President of the Cuban Republic. Young Richardson has been around the world since he has been in the navy, and his boat is now to take the remains of the late British Minister, Lord Pauncefote, to England for interment, so he will probably get to witness the coronation ceremonies of King Edward."

Denis Healy, 1922 Denis Healy, Medals, 1922

For a discussion of the medals and relevant links please go here.


For this occasion Denis took leave from the Old Soldier's Home where he resided at the time (Arlington?) and travelled north to Brooklyn. He appears healthier and more robust in this picture even though he is ten years older than the 1922 picture.
Denis Healy (63),
his niece,
Rose Jensen Trumbull (35),
a friend,Mrs. Hare
(or is that Mrs. Hall?),
his sister,
Mary Healy Jensen (65),
his grandnephew,
Trumbull (4),
Billy McCourt (also proabably about 4), a foster child under Catherine's care.
Healy-Jensen Family, June 18, 1932




Denis Healy in wheelchair