Although some 170,000 Irishmen served during the American Civil War, it is extremely difficult to gain a picture of what service was like for them across a broad spectrum. This is a symptom of the fact that for the majority of Irish troops their wartime experience occured outside ethnic Irish units. I have been considering for some time how to meaningfully address this, in order to explore a range of men from across different branches of the military. With that in mind I have decided to delve further into the lives and experiences of the Irish-born men who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during the American Civil War.

Civil War Era Army Medal of Honor (United States Army)

Civil War Era Army Medal of Honor (United States Army)

To date 146 Civil War Medal of Honor recipients have been identified as Irish-born. Of this number, fewer than twenty served in what might be called ethnic ‘Irish’ regiments (although others undoubtedly served in Irish companies). All branches of the service are represented among their number, which encompasses the infantry, artillery and cavalry and crosses the regular/volunteer divide. It also includes fifty naval recipients, an area where little study of the Irish has taken place. Although not without its limitations, examining these 146 men as a group offers a window into the wider Irish experience of the conflict.

I envisage the project being a long-term undertaking. Although the actions for which each of these men were awarded the Medal of Honor will be examined, this and their wartime service will form only one part of the exercise. it is worth remembering that the period between 1861 and 1865 was but one aspect of these mens lives. Among the questions I will be seeking to explore are the following:

  • When and where were they born?
  • When did they emigrate?
  • What was their social standing and how did this change? (I intend to deal with officers and other-ranks seperately)
  • Were they married, if so when and where, did they have children?
  • Where did they live in the United States before and after the war?
  • What was their pre and post-war occupation?
  • What was the nature of their wartime service?
  • Were they enlisted/drafted?
  • Were they injured, maimed, killed during the conflict?
  • Did they suffer from physical or psychological trauma in post-war years?
  • Were they remembered/honoured for their service or award during their lifetime?
  • Did they record any of their experiences in the post-war years, and if so what do they reveal?
  • Were they active in the GAR/Medal of Honor societys and did they attend reunions?
  • When and where did they die and where are they buried?
  • How are they remembered today (if at all)?

I expect that this list of research questions will grow over time, and clearly for many of the men it will not be possible to answer many of the queries posed. In order to undertake the project I will be looking at sources such as pension records, census information, service details, unit histories and contemporary newspapers, among others. The project is ambitious, but if even partially successful would fulfill a desire I have long held to look at a range of Irishmen and their families across a wide spectrum of wartime experience.

I hope that readers can be of assistance in this undertaking, by spreading the word regarding the project; I am also eager to receive any information you may have that you think may add to it, all of which would be greatly received (and fully acknowledged in any project output). I am also interested in hearing your thoughts regarding the current research questions and suggestions on any you feel might be added. I am looking forward to getting started!

The current list of known Irish-born Medal of Honor recipients is below. I will soon be adding a dedicated page to the site specifically for the project- if you would like to contact me concerning it please email me at irishamericancivilwar@gmail.com.

NameUnitAction
Ahern, MichaelKearsargeCherbourg, France
Allen, James16th NY Inf.South Mountain, Md.
Anderson, RobertKeokukCharleston, S.C.
Barry, Augustus16th US Inf.Various
Bass, David L.MinnesotaFort Fisher, N.C.
Begley, Terrence7th NY Hvy Arty.Cold Harbor, Va.
Blackwood, William48th PA. Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Bradley, CharlesLouisvilleVarious
Brannigan, Felix74th NY Inf.Chancellorsville, Va.
Brennan, ChristopherMississippiFts. Jackson & St. Philip, La.
Brosnan, John164th NY Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Brown Jr., Edward62nd NY Inf.Fredericksburg, Va.
Burk, Michael E.125th NY Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
Burke, Thomas5th NY Cav.Hanover Courthouse, Va.
Byrnes, JamesLouisvilleVarious
Campbell, William30th OH Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
Carey, Hugh82nd NY Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
Casey, David25th MA. Inf.Cold Harbor, Va.
Cassidy, MichaelLackawannaMobile Bay, Al.
Colbert, PatrickCommodore HullPlymouth, N.C.
Collis, Charles H.T.114th PA. Inf.Fredericksburg, Va.
Conboy, Martin37th NY Inf.Williamsburg, Va.
Connor, ThomasMinnesotaFort Fisher, N.C.
Connors, James43rd NY Inf.Fisher’s Hill, Va.
Cooper, JohnBrooklynMobile Bay, Al.
Cooper, JohnBrooklynMobile Bay, Al.
Corcoran, Thomas E.CincinnatiVicksburg, Miss.
Cosgrove, Thomas40th MA. Inf.Drury’s Bluff, Va.
Creed, John23rd IL. Inf.Fisher’s Hill, Va.
Cullen, Thomas82nd NY Inf.Bristoe Station, Va.
Curran, Richard33rd NY Inf.Antietam, Md.
Delaney, John C.107th PA. Inf.Dabny’s Mills, Va.
Donoghue, Timothy69th NY Inf.Fredericksburg, Va.
Doody, Patrick164th NY Inf.Cold Harbor, Va.
Doolen, WilliamRichmondMobile Bay, Al.
Dougherty, Michael13th PA. Cav.Jefferson, Va.
Dougherty, PatrickLackawannaMobile Bay, Al.
Downey, William4th MA. Cav.Ashepoo River, S.C.
Drury, James4th VT. Inf.Weldon Railroad, Va.
Dunphy, Richard D.HartfordMobile Bay, Al.
English, Edmund2nd NJ Inf.Wilderness, Va.
Fallon, Thomas T.37th NY Inf.Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Va.
Flood, ThomasPensacolaFts. Jackson & St. Philip, La.
Flynn, Christopher14th CT. Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
Ford, George W.88th NY Inf.Sailors Creek, Va.
Fox, Nicholas28th CT. Inf.Port Hudson, La.
Gardner, WilliamGalenaMobile Bay, Al.
Gasson, Richard47th NY Inf.Chapins Farm, Va.
Ginley, Patrick1st NY Light Arty.Reams Station, Va.
Gribben, James H.2nd NY Cav.Sailors Creek, Va.
Haley, JamesKearsargeCherbourg, France
Harrington, DanielPocahontasBrunswick, Ga.
Havron, John H.1st RI. Light Arty.Petersburg, Va.
Highland, Patrick23rd IL. Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Horan, Thomas72nd NY Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
Hinnecan, WilliamAgawamFort Fisher, N.C.
Horne, Samuel B.11th CT. Inf.Fort Harrison, Va.
Howard, MartinTaconyPlymouth, N.C.
Hudson, MichaelBrooklynMobile Bay, Al.
Hyland, JohnSignalRed River, La.
Irwin, Patrick14th MI. Inf.Jonesboro, Ga.
Jones, AndrewChickasawMobile Bay, Al.
Jones, William73rd NY Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
Kane, John100th NY Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Keele, Joseph182nd NY Inf.North Anna River, Va.
Kelley, JohnCeresHamilton, N.C.
Kelly, Thomas6th NY Cav.Front Royal, Va.
Kennedy, John2nd US Arty.Trevilian Station, Va.
Keough, John67th PA. Inf.Sailors Creek, Va.
Kerr, Thomas R.14th PA. Cav.Moorefield, W.Va.
Lafferty, JohnWyalusingRoanoke River, N.C.
Laffey, BartlettMarmoraYazoo City, Miss.
Logan, HughRhode IslandMobile Bay, Al.
Lonergan, John13th VT. Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
Madden, Michael42nd NY Inf.Masons Island, Md.
Mangam, Richard C.148th NY Inf.Hatchers Run, Va.
Martin, Edward S.GalenaMobile Bay, Al.
Martin, JamesRichmondMobile Bay, Al.
Martin, WilliamVarunaFts. Jackson & St. Philip, La.
McAdams, Peter98th PA. Inf.Salem Heights, Va.
McAnally, Charles69th PA. Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
McCarren, Bernard1st DE. Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
McCormick, MichaelSignalRed River, La.
McEnroe, Patrick H.6th NY Cav.Winchester, Va.
McGough, Owen5th US Arty.Bull Run, Va.
McGowan, JohnVarunaFts. Jackson & St. Philip, La.
McGraw, Thomas23rd IL Inf.Petersburg, Va.
McGuire, PatrickIL Light Arty.Vicksburg, Miss.
McHale, Alexander U.26th MI Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
McHugh, MartinCincinnatiVicksburg, Miss.
McKee, George89th NY Inf.Petersburg, Va.
McKeever, Michael5th PA. Cav.Burnt Ordinary, Va.
Molloy, HughFort HindmanHarrisonburg, La.
Monaghan, Patrick48th PA. Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Montgomery, RobertAgawamFort Fisher, N.C.
Moore, CharlesMarbleheadLegareville, S.C.
Morrison, John G.CarondeletYazoo River, Miss.
Morton Charles W.BentonYazoo River, Miss.
Mulholland, St. Clair A.116th PA. Inf.Chancellorsville, Va.
Mullen, PatrickWyandanakMattox Creek, Virginia
Murphy, Dennis J.F.14th WI. Inf.Corinth, Miss.
Murphy, John P.5th OH. Inf.Antietam, Md.
Murphy, Michael C.170th NY Inf.North Anna River, Va.
Murphy, PatrickMetacometMobile Bay, Al.
Murphy, Thomas C.31st IL. Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
Murphy, Thomas J.146th NY Inf.Five Forks, Va.
Nolan, John J.8th NH Inf.Georgia Landing, La.
Nugent, ChristopherFort HenryCrystal River, Fl.
O’Beirne, James R.37th NY Inf.Fair Oaks, Va.
O’Brien, Peter1st NY Cav.Waynesboro, Va.
O’Connell, ThomasHartfordMobile Bay, Al.
O’Connor, Timothy1st US Cav.
O’Dea, John8th MO. Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
O’Donnell, Menomen11th MO. Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
Platt, George C.6th US Cav.Fairfield, Pa.
Plunkett, Thomas21st MA. Inf.Fredericksburg, Va.
Preston, JohnOniedaMobile Bay, Al.
Quinlan, James88th NY Inf.Savage Station, Va.
Rafferty, Peter69th NY Inf.Malvern Hill, Va.
Rannahan, JohnMinnesotaFort Fisher, N.C.
Reynolds, George9th NY Inf.Winchester, Va.
Riley, Thomas1st LA. Cav.Fort Blakely, Al.
Roantree, James S.OniedaMobile Bay, Al.
Robinson, John H.19th MA. Inf.Gettysburg, Pa.
Robinson, Thomas81st PA. Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
Ryan, Peter J.11th IN. Inf.Winchester, Va.
Scanlan, Patrick4th MA. Cav.Ashepoo River, S.C.
Schutt, GeorgeHendrick HudsonSt. Marks, Fl.
Sewell, William J.5th NJ Inf.Chancellorsville, Va.
Shields, Bernard2nd WV Cav.Appomattox, Va.
Smith, WilliamKearsargeCherbourg, France
Spillane, Timothy16th PA. Cav.Hatchers Run, Va.
Stewart, Joseph1st MD. Inf.Five Forks, Va.
Sullivan, TimothyLouisvilleVarious
Tobin, John M.9th MA. Inf.Malvern Hill, Va.
Toomer, William127th IL. Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
Tyrrell, George William5th OH. Inf.Resaca, Ga.
Urell, M. Emmett82nd NY Inf.Bristoe Station, Va.
Walsh, John5th NY Cav.Cedar Creek, Va.
Welch, Richard37th MA. Inf.Petersburg, Va.
Wells, Thomas M.6th NY Cav.Cedar Creek, Va.
Welsh, Edward54th OH. Inf.Vicksburg, Miss.
Welsh, James4th RI Inf.Petersburg, Va.
White, Patrick H.IL Light Arty.Vicksburg, Miss.
Williams, WilliamLehighCharleston, S.C.
Wilson, Christopher W.73rd NY Inf.Spotsylvania, Va.
Wright, Robert14th US Inf.Chapel House Farm, Va.

*Names in italics represent naval vessels