Occasionally one has to look no further than a soldier’s service record to see both the poignancy and cruelty of war. Such is the case with Edward B. Carroll of the 63rd New York Infantry, Irish Brigade. As I carry out work on the 63rd and other ‘green flag’ New York regiments, even a few matter-of-fact lines in the regimental roster cannot but highlight Carroll’s extraordinary service.
A native of Co. Tipperary, Edward B. Carroll enrolled in the 63rd New York as a fresh-faced 21-year-old in Albany, mustering in as a Corporal in Company K on 8th October 1861. He clearly showed his value during the hard fighting of 1862, as he began an inexorable rise through the ranks. He became a Sergeant on 4th August 1862, then a First Sergeant on 17th September 1862 (the same day as the 63rd endured the great bloodbath of Antietam). On 28th January 1863 he became Sergeant-Major, and made the jump to officer when he became a Second-Lieutenant in Company B on 7th April 1863. Then, despite the fact that Edward was clearly a highly-valued soldier, he was mustered out of the 63rd New York and the army on 12th June 1863. This was most likely caused by the consolidation of the regiment, which meant that less officers were required. It was a symptom of the ever-shrinking size of the Irish Brigade. Having survived some of the toughest fighting of the war, Edward would have been forgiven for sitting out the rest of the conflict- but clearly this was not the Tipperary native’s style. (1)
After the passage of a few months, presumably spent back in Albany, Edward Carroll returned to both the army and the 63rd New York Infantry on 23rd February 1864. Having lost his commission he was back to square one, enlisting as a Private in Company F. It would appear that his feelings for his regiment and his comrades trumped all else for Edward. However, his quality was clearly recognised by all, and once again he began to rise through the ranks. He became First Sergeant on 26th April 1864, a Second-Lieutenant in Company E on 15th September 1864, First-Lieutenant on 22 November 1864 and finally Captain on 13th January 1865. When reading through such an exceptional record of service you can’t help but admire this young man’s dedication to the 63rd, the Irish Brigade and the Union. Unfortunately his long and faithful service was not rewarded with a long life in peacetime as it might have been. The cruelty of war is indiscriminate. Captain Edward Carroll was killed in action at Sutherland Station, Virginia on 2nd April 1865, during the final days of the war in the east. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia a week later, on 9th April. A cursory look at Carroll’s pension index card shows that he had not married, but that his parents had relied on him for their financial support. Even in regimental rosters, the heartbreak of the American Civil War is often on full display. (2)
(1) AG Report 1901: 20, Conyngham 1867: 572; (2) AG Report 1901:20, Edward B. Carroll Pension Index Card;
Adjutant-General 1901. Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1901.
Conyngham, David Power 1867. The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns.
Edward B. Carroll Pension Index Card.