An Image of Union Donors to the 1863 Irish Relief Fund, Forty Years On

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the donations made by hundreds of Union troops in 1863 towards the relief of the suffering poor in Ireland (see here, here, here and an overview here). These men were about to embark on campaigns that would leave many dead, maimed or captured. Despite this they chose to give money to those in Ireland, individuals who they deemed less fortunate than themselves.

The Irish Brigade at Chancellorsville, New York 'Irish World', 1903

The Irish Brigade at Chancellorsville, New York ‘Irish World’, 1903

I was recently informed of a most remarkable illustration that accompanied an article in the New York ‘Irish World’ on 2nd May 1903. The piece dealt with the Irish Brigade’s role in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 and was published on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of that engagement. The image is centred on Brigadier-General Thomas Francis Meagher (Chancellorsville would be the last fight in which he would command the brigade) and also portrays the rescue of a Union battery by the Irishmen. What is most fascinating is the depiction in the bottom right hand corner. Here the artist has chosen not to present an incident of the battle, but rather a line of Irish Brigade soldiers putting their hands in their pockets and placing money in a box nailed to a tree. On the box is marked ‘Cause of Ireland.’ Clearly even four decades after the event, the fact that these soldiers had remembered those at home on the eve of battle was a source of pride to the veterans and the wider Irish-American community alike. It certainly ranks as one of the most intriguing images portraying the Irish in the American Civil War that I have seen. Unfortunately the story of the relief efforts of these men has been largely forgotten in the intervening 150 years and is deserving of more study. It is a topic to which I intend to return in future posts on the site.

'Irish Brigade Giving to the Cause of Ireland', Detail from New York 'Irish World', 1903

‘Irish Brigade Giving to the Cause of Ireland’, Detail from New York ‘Irish World’, 1903

*I am deeply indebted to Jeff Giambrone who discovered this image and brought it to my attention.

References

New York Irish World 2nd May 1903.

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Categories: Battle of Chancellorsville, Irish Brigade, Irish in the American Civil War

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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