After resigning as 2nd Lt. Company A, 24 Alabama Infantry O'Connell joined the CSN. Appointed from Alabama. Acting Assistant 3rd Engineer March 1862. Resigned the second quarter of 1862. 3rd Assistant Engineer August 13, 1862. 2nd Assistant Engineer May 21, 1863. 2nd Assistant Engineer Provisional Navy , June 2, 1864. Served with the Mobile Squadron 1862-1865; CSS Morgan 1862-1863; CSS Selma 1863; CSS Tennessee 1863-1864; exchanged at Ship Island, MS , March 2 1865. Final parole May 10, 1865.
Source: 'Register of Officers of the Confederate States Navy, 1861--1865'
C. Carter Smith, Jr. first published the diary of John C. O’Connell in 1964 in TWO NAVAL JOURNALS 1864. O’Connell helped bring the formidable, but slow steam-powered ram, C.S.S. Tennessee, into battle against Union warships at the Battleof Mobile Bay. Following intense cannon fire from opposing vessels, the O’Connell’s Tennessee was forced to surrender upon receiving massive damage, including loss of steering capability. He was wounded in the action.
First imprisoned aboard Union warships, O’Connell traveled to the U.S.Naval Hospital in Pensacola, then to a prison barracks in New Orleans and, finally on November 6th 1864, to the prison camp on Ship Island. He would occupy a tent near the beach until his exchange six months later.
Officers were kept separate from the enlisted men. He writes of monotony, boring food, foggy mornings and cold winter days. He hates those times when it is his turn to help cook for the men in his particular group.
Every four days, O’Connell has the opportunity to wander the island for a distance of two miles and back, though he says he seldom does. His treatment appears to be tolerable and notes being treated with respect by his captors, but also mentions that the enlisted men are knockeddown in '…a shameful manner.'
Food packages from New Orleans livened up his existence, but O’Connell writes of envy as he watches other Confederate prisoners leave the island for permanent prisons elsewhere or a possible return home. Finally on March 2nd, 1865, the naval engineer gets word that an exchange ofprisoners has been arranged between sides. John C. O’Connell boards a ship and under a flag of truce sails back to Mobile and away from Ship Island.
JOHN CHARLES O'CONNELL, cotton commission merchant and buyer, was born in Mobile, Ala., October 12, 1837, and was educated at the Christian Brothers' school. At the age of seventeen he entered a foundry in Mobile, and remained about two years, and then went on a steamboat as engineer, eventually reaching the position of chief engineer. Subsequently he became an engineer in the Confederate service, serving about eighteen months at the beginning of the war in the Twenty-fourth Alabama regiment, and afterward in the navy until the war closed. He was wounded in Mobile Bay while fighting Farragut. He located in Montgomery in 1871, and was employed as engineer and then as shipping clerk, and in 1874 went into the cotton business, which he now carries on. He is president of the Standard Building & Loan association, and of the National Banking & Trust company, and is a thoroughly practical business man. He was married in 1870 to Lucy A. Merritt, daughter of George W. Merritt, of Richmond, Va. Bernard O'Connell, father of John Charles, was a native of Ireland. He came to America when a youth, settling in Alabama in 1836. He was in the Mexican war, and was also captain of Company B, Twenty-fourth Alabama infantry in the Confederate service. He died in 1871. His wife's maiden name was Katharine Smith, a native of Ireland.
Source document - 'Memorial Record of Alabama', Personal Memoirs- Montgomery County, pp 725-726
John died in Montgomery, AL on July 14, 1898 and buried in Saint Margarets Cemetery, 1304 Upper Wetumpka Rd,