The Fenian movement in America was extremely active before, during and immediately after the American Civil War. It recruited Irishmen with the aim of ‘striking a blow’ for Ireland when the opportunity arose. Many high profile Irish officers during the war were members, particularly in the Union ranks. Some returned to Ireland in 1866 to assist the movement in its aim of rising against British rule. Heavily infiltrated by spies, many of these men were arrested and eventually expelled from the country. During their incarceration they were photographed, and these early ‘mugshots’ provide us with a fascinating record of some of Ireland’s American Civil War veterans.
The National Archives of Ireland also hold a Fenian collection which contains images of prisoners, including some who were American Civil War veterans. However, the New York Public Library has now made a series of these mugshots available online. They were taken in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin in November 1866 and form part of the Thomas A. Larcom collection. At least 30 of the images are of Fenians who were, or claimed to be, American Civil War veterans. Thanks to the pioneering work of Michael H. Kane in his American Soldiers in Ireland, 1865-67, we have access to the histories of some of these individuals. This is what they looked like.
Michael Duffy, Lieutenant, 1st Illinois Light Artillery. Born in Milford, Co. Donegal. Enlisted in Battery L in 1862 (attached to 23rd Illinois). Recruited into the Fenians in the field (Kane 2002:120)
John Whitehead Byron, Major, 88th New York, Irish Brigade. Enlisted in 69th NYNG in 1861, wounded and captured at Ream's Station, Virginia. Prisoner at Libby and Danville (Kane 2002:117)
John Dunn, Regimental Quartermaster, 164th New York, Irish Legion. Enlisted 1862. Shot in right arm and shin, sabre blow to thigh at Cold Harbor. Captured and sent to Libby and later Charleston where he escaped (Kane 2002: 120)
John A. Comerford, Brevet Major, 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry. Born in Kells, Co. Kilkenny and commissioned in 1862 (Kane 2002: 118)
Eneas Doherty, A.D.C. to General Joshua T. Owen. Born Carndonagh, Co. Donegal. Served in 24th Pennsylvania and later 69th Pennsylvania. Mentioned in official report by Owen for carrying messages under fire at Fredericksburg. Honourably discharged December 1862 (Kane 2002:119)
Denis F. Burke, Colonel, 88th New York, Irish Brigade. Born in Limerick. Enlisted in 69th NYNG in 1861 and later in the 88th New York. Wounded at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Petersburg. Commanded regiment for much of 1863 and 1864 (Kane 2002: 115-6)
Daniel C. Moynihan, Acting Ordnance Officer, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. Born Killarney, Co. Kerry, Enlisted in 164th New York in 1862. Wounded and captured at Cold Harbor. Prisoner at Libby until paroled and promoted to A.O.O. (Kane 2002: 128)
Daniel A. Mykins, Captain, 170th New York, Irish Legion. Born in New York, and wounded in the head during the war. Sworn into the Fenians while in the field by Captain Francis Welpley (Kane 2002: 129)
Andrew J. Byrne, Lieutenant, 65th New York. Born in Dublin, served in U.S. army before the war. Wounded at Malvern Hill and exchanged, wounded again at Cedar Creek. Wrote his memoirs, published in 2008 (reviewed on this site)
William Pope, Private, Confederate Army. Original caption notes his service with the Confederates (unit as yet not established) and states he was formerly a warden in Spike Island Prison, which lies in Cork Harbour
*With thanks to Joseph Maghe for additional information regarding Denis Burke
Kane, Michael H. 2002. ‘American Soldiers in Ireland, 1865-67’ in The Irish Sword: The Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland, Vol. 23, No. 91, pp. 103-140
Mountjoy Prison Portaits of Irish Independence: Photograph Albums in Thomas A. Larcom Collection
New York Public Library Digital Gallery