Members of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade Charging in 1864 (Library of Congress)

Dying at the Death: Remembering the Dorcy Family at Appomattox Court House

On 9th April 1865– 150 years ago today– Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Although the event stopped neither ...

Massmount, Fanad, Co. Donegal, where James McFadden was married (Google)

‘Killed At The Surrender': The Journey of Two Irishmen to Their Deaths at Sailor’s Creek

There is something particularly poignant about those who lose their lives in the final throes of a conflict– deaths that come when the soldiers themselves are aware the end is ...

'The Fenian Banner', 1866 (Library of Congress)

‘The Next War': The New York Irish-American Looks Towards John Bull, April 1865

150 years ago this month the American Civil War seemed on the verge of ending. The fall of Richmond on 3rd April appeared to have hammered a final nail in ...

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The Return of the 69th New York, 1861 by Louis Lang. Thomas Madigan had been anticipating such a homecoming before Bull Run (New York Historical Society)

The Madigans: Famine Survival, Emigration & Obligation in 19th Century Ireland & America

Each pension file contains fragments of one Irish family’s story. They are ...
Irish emigrants sending money back to Ireland from the Emigrants Savings Bank in 1880 (Library of Congress)

‘As Good A Chance to Escape As Any Other': A Cork Soldier’s Aid to His Family in Ireland, 1864

Occasionally, I am asked why any Irish impacted by the American Civil ...
Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Smith and officers of the 69th New York, an image exposed just a few weeks after the Battle of Skinner's Farm (Library of Congress)

‘I Trust the Almighty Will Spare Me My Life': Charles Traynor & the Battle of Skinner’s Farm, 25th March 1865

In March 1865, Charles Traynor wrote home to his mother Catharine in ...
Mining coal three miles underground in Pennsylvania, c. 1895 (Library of Congress)

Coal Mining, Draft Rioting & The Molly Maguires: From Laois to Schuylkill with the Delaney Family

The Widow’s Pension Files often offer us the opportunity to explore the wider Irish emigrant experience through the lense of a single family. Such is the case with Private Thomas Delaney of the 19th Pennsylvania Cavalry. His family’s story allows us to travel with them, as they journeyed from the coalfields of pre-Famine Laois to […]

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Antietam Battlefield. The Confederates held the Sunken Lane to the left of the image, with the Irish Brigade advancing from right to left across the field. It was in the vicinity of this field that John Conway died (Damian Shiels)

Speaking Ill Of The Dead: Eulogies & Enmity For An Irish Brigade Soldier

On 18th October 1862 the New York Irish-American published an article on the ‘gallant fellows’ of the Irish Brigade who had recently given their lives at the carnage of Antietam. One of them was Tullamore native Lieutenant John Conway, who had fallen in the ranks of the 69th New York Infantry. The paper described Conway […]

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An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with President Barack Obama in The White House (Wikipedia)

Selling ‘Ireland’ and Forgetting the ‘Irish’? Some Thoughts on the Taoiseach’s St. Patrick’s Day Speech

This week Ireland’s Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, visited America for St. Patrick’s Day. Each March, our small country enjoys exceptional treatment on the other side of the Atlantic, treatment which includes a meeting with the President of the United States at The White House. Ireland’s relationship with the U.S. is the envy of other small countries. […]

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Fairfax Seminary Hospital, Virginia (Library of Congress)

‘Quite A Merry Time': A Union Irish Soldier Describes His Last St. Patrick’s Day, 1863

On 17th March 1863 David O’Keefe, a cabinet-maker from Co. Cork, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Virginia. Some six months previously David had left his adopted home of Reading, Massachusetts, to join the Irish soldiers of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry at the front. He wasn’t a young man- by the time he enlisted he was […]

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A hospital ward in a convalescent camp near Alexandria (Library of Congress)

‘I Am Not Long For This World': An Irish-American Soldier Says Goodbye to His Family

The last post on the site examined a mother’s desperate attempts to contact her wounded son. Equally poignant are those letters, occasionally included in the files, which impart a soldier’s final words to his family from his deathbed. On 23rd February 1864, George Carl of the 7th Ohio Infantry sat by the bed of William […]

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An image exposed by Irish photographer Timothy O'Sullivan of Union troops entrenched on the northern side of the North Anna on 25th May 1864. The day before John Heron had been shot on the south side of the river (Library of Congress)

‘For God Sake Dear Son Write To Me': An Irish Mother’s Desperate Plea in the Summer of 1864

I have come across hundreds of letters written by Irish people during the American Civil War in the Widows and Dependents Pension Files. In reading each one, I always do so in the awareness that the story ultimately did not have a happy ending- in every case the soldier died as a result of his […]

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The USS Monitor and CSS Virginia do battle the day after James Leahy's death (Library of Congress)

Hearing the Irish Accent of a Merrimac Victim Across 150 Years

On 8th March 1862, the Confederate Ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) steamed out of Norfolk, Virginia to attack the Federal fleet in Hampton Roads. The resulting two-day encounter remains one of the most famous naval engagements in history. One Yankee sailor would later recall how an awful silence descended over the men of the […]

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Boatswain's Mate Patrick Murphy (Erie Maritime Museum)

Medal of Honor: Boatswain’s Mate Patrick Murphy, U.S.S. Metacomet

It has been a while since the site has looked at one of the Irish-born Medal of Honor recipients from the American Civil War. Issues regarding recording of nativity means there is, as yet, no definitive total number for Irish-born men who earned this award during the conflict. Each time I investigate the figure evidence […]

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Corporal William Kelleher displays his wound (National Museum of Health & Medicine)

‘One of Our Brave Men Twice Wounded': An Image of Corporal William Kelleher, 125th New York Infantry

In the first of a couple of guest posts coming up on the blog, friend of the site Brendan Hamilton brings us the story behind a fascinating image of a young wounded Irishman. Brendan has spent a lot of time looking at images of wounded Irish soldiers and also researching the 25th New York Infantry. […]

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dublin1

The #ForgottenIrish of Co. Dublin

The latest #ForgottenIrish story looking at Co. Dublin is now available on Storify. Tens of thousands of Dubliners were impacted by the American Civil War, both in Ireland and America. Its consequences stayed with many until well into the twentieth century. This is the seventh county to be examined, joining  Cork, Kerry, Donegal, Galway, Cavan and Sligo. Ireland has thus […]

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