Researching the New York Irish in the Civil War

This third post in the Internet Resources series takes a look at the website of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. The Museum’s mission is to ‘preserve, interpret and disseminate the story, history and records of New York State’s military forces and veterans.’ They have undoubtedly taken a giant leap towards achieving this goal with this excellent online resource. The site covers the entire breadth of New York’s history, with sections dedicated to different periods and conflicts. One such section explores the American Civil War, where many useful texts and articles relating to the conflict have been made available.

New York was where the majority of Irish emigrants arrived and settled upon reaching the United States, with many concentrating in notorious districts such as the Five Points. It is little surprise that when the Civil War broke out many of the New York regiments had a large Irish contingent. In addition to this a number of the units also chose to adopt a distinctly Irish character, with perhaps the most famous examples being the founding regiments of the Irish Brigade and Corcoran’s Legion. The Irish association with the State’s war experience goes further than this however; the 1863 Draft Riots which engulfed New York involved a large contingent of the Irish poor who lived in the city. The numbers who served in her regiments and the size of her Irish community mean that New York is undoubtedly the State most linked with the Irish experience of the Civil War.

Chief amongst the websites resources is its Unit History Project section. Here a page is dedicated to each of the units raised in New York during the war. A brief history of the formation can be found, along with information on the battles in which they participated and casualties they sustained. Civil War newspaper clippings relating to each regiment are included, as are details on memorials and flags. Recommendations for further reading allow visitors to discover where they can learn more about a specific unit. In addition, the rosters for each organisation have been made available in pdf format.

The website offers more than just a history of the New York units. The Unit History Project section also includes resources such as the Annual Reports of The Bureau of Military Statistics, a list of the New Yorkers who died at Salisbury Prison, North Carolina and brief histories of the contributions of each county in New York to Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers, to name but a few.

The Research section of the site carries further resources of interest. These include the reports of the Adjutant General of the State of New York during the war and Phisterer’s New York in the War of Rebellion. Details are also available on recipients of the Medal of Honor who were affiliated with New York.

The wealth of information available in other parts of the site include details on the Museum’s large holding of battle flags, and an Articles section that contains much of interest, such as Gustav Person’s Masters Thesis on the role of the New York State Militia in the Civil War.

The New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center has developed a fine online resource for the student of the Irish in the American Civil War. The quality and quantity of information made available is invaluable, particularly to those who do not have easy access to libraries and research institutions in the United States. A visit to the page is a must for anyone interested in New York’s participation in the conflict. It is to be hoped that the site will continue to see further additions and that like information from other States will become as readily accessible online.

Further Reading

New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

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Categories: Databases, Genealogy, Internet Resources

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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