As recent posts indicate, I am currently in the process of conducting extensive research into Irish-born Medal of Honor recipients from the American Civil War. Research work in the United States has added a number of names to the ‘Irish-born’ list, and I would like to put forward a further name that I feel may merit inclusion. This would bring the number of confirmed Irish-born recipients of the Medal of Honor from the American Civil War to 146.
Sergeant Thomas Horan of Company E, 72nd New York Infantry, received the Medal of Honor for actions at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 2nd July 1863. His official citation reads: ‘In a charge of his regiment this soldier captured the regimental flag of the 8th Florida Infantry (C.S.A.)’. Horan was awarded the medal on 5th April 1898. As part of Sickles 3rd Corps, Horan and his comrades had been involved in fierce fighting along the Emmitsburg Road. Despite Horan’s distinctly Irish name, due to a lack of information his birth place is consistently given as ‘unknown’.* (1)
What evidence is there to suggest Irish nativity for Horan? Looking first to the information regarding his service in the 72nd New York, the following are his roster details:
Horan, Thomas- Age 22 years. Enlisted, May 28, 1861 at Dunkirk, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. E, June 20, 1861; promoted corporal, November 1861; sergeant, September 26, 1862; wounded and in hospital, at muster-out of company; awarded a medal of honor for distinguished gallantry in action at Gettysburg, Pa., July 2, 1863. (2)
Examination of Horan’s Muster Roll Abstract confirmed his roster details, most crucially his age and enlistment location- Dunkirk, a city on Lake Erie in Chautauqua County, New York. A review of the 1860 Census for Chautauqua County to examine likely candidates revealed two Thomas Horan’s living there that year. The first lived in the right city, Dunkirk, but was 28 years old at the time of the census, which does not tally with the details for the Gettysburg Medal of Honor recipient. However, the second Thomas Horan, also a resident of Dunkirk, provided much more promise.
On 2nd July 1860 the census enumerator visited the household of Michael Horan, a fifty-year old laborer, and his forty-year old wife, Mary. Michael had a large family of seven children; four-year old Anna, nine-year old Andrew and eleven-year old Dennis- all of whom were born in New York- as well as thirteen-year old John, fifteen-year old Michael, eighteen-year old Patrick, and the eldest, twenty-year old Thomas. All of the latter children were born in the country of their parents, Ireland. The twenty-year old Thomas is listed as a laborer like his father, and is the only individual who matches the age and location profile for the man who would go on to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in 1863.
The birthplaces of the Horan children suggests that the family emigrated to the United States in the late 1840s, most likely between 1847 and 1849, making the Famine the most likely cause of their departure. The surname is most often associated with Galway and Mayo, and it may well be that they hailed from Connacht. More work is needed on Thomas Horan, but there is strong evidence to suggest that he is indeed the 145th Irish-born man to be identified as a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the American Civil War, and that he increases to six the number of Irishmen who earned the honor at the Battle of Gettysburg.
*See Proft 2002:892, Broadwater 2007: 102, Congressional Medal of Honor Society
(1) Proft 2002:892; (2) A-G Report 1902: 806;
Broadwater, Robert P. 2007. Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients
Proft, R.J.(ed.), 2002. United States of America’s Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients and their Official Citations, Fourth Edition
New York A.G. 1902. Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901
1860 United States Census
New York Civil War Muster Roll Extracts