The Last Union Irish Veterans of the American Civil War

The site has previously looked at Limerick man Jeremiah O’Brien, the last known Irish veteran of the American Civil War who died in 1950. He had served as a Confederate, but many thousands of Irishmen who served the Union also lived into the Twentieth century. I have spent some time looking for candidates for the last Irishmen alive who fought under the star-spangled banner. Here are six such Irishmen who lived into the late 1930s and 1940s. There undoubtedly remain many more to be found. 

Michael Broderick, 49th Massachusetts Infantry. Died 29th April 1936, Lenox, Massachusetts.

Michael was born in Ireland on 4th April 1839, emigrating to the United States with his parents John and Mary when he was a year old. He spent his entire life in Lenox, and at age thirteen went to work for the Sears family farm. He spent ten years there before enlisting in the nine-month 49th Massachusetts Infantry on 2nd September 1862. The regiment served in Louisiana before their muster out on 1st September 1863. He married in 1872 and moved into a house on East Street in Lenox, where he spent the remaining 64 years of his life. The last Civil War veteran in Lenox, he was an honorary member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. When he died aged 96 he left behind two brothers, William (86) and James (83) as well as his sons Francis (who lived with him) and Harry, daughter Mrs. James Moccio, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. (1)

Robert H. Keown, 7th Connecticut Infantry. Died 1st March 1937, Renton, Washington.

Reported as being born in the northern part of Ireland on 13th May 1846, he claimed to have traveled to the United States as a stowaway at the age of fourteen, eventually settling in Connecticut. He enlisted in Company D of the 7th Connecticut Infantry on 13th November 1863. He said that he had been captured at Drewry’s Bluff in 1864, ultimately spending nine months in Andersonville. Released on 11th December 1864 he was honorably discharged on 20th July 1865. He moved to the west coast and Washington State in 1882 where he lived in Renton, before relocating to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He moved back to Renton in the early 1920s, where he worked as a shoemaker. By 1930 he was living in the Soldier’s Home in Pierce, Washington. His death on 1st March 1937 left three daughters- Mrs. Kate White and Miss Shirley Keown of Renton and Mrs. Florence Tvete of Seattle. (2)

Michael Harlow, US Navy. Died 28th February 1939, North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Born in southern Ireland in 1844 he emigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States in 1849. The family settled in Providence, Rhode Island, where Michael worked as a laborer before the war. He initially tried to enlist in the 3rd Rhode Island Infantry but was rejected due to his youth. He enlisted in the navy in 1863 and served as a Jack for the remainder of the war. Michael was the last surviving member of the Prentiss M. Whiting post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He died aged 96 in the home of his son, James A. Harlow, at 3 Devlin Avenue, North Attleboro. (3)

Union Veteran Orlando Learned shows a flag he obtained at Vicksburg to his Great-Grandson, 1931 (Library of Congress)

Union Veteran Orlando Learned shows a flag he obtained at Vicksburg to his Great-Grandson, 1931 (Library of Congress)

Edward Foy, 9th Pennsylvania Infantry?. Died 1939, Portland, Oregon. 

Born in Galway in 1846, Edward William Foy went to the United States in 1861. His daughter recounted that he lied about his age to serve in Company G of the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War (although I have found no record of this, he may have served under an alias). He was naturalized at the age of 21 and after spending a number of years in Iowa he moved to Portland, Oregon in 1910. When he became a US citizen at 21 Edward also became a mason, remaining in the society for the next 74 years. He belonged to Doric lodge No.132 in Portland. Interestingly on 12th April 1939 his lodge held a special gathering attended by Grand Master Franklin C. Howell to honor Foy, who it was claimed was the oldest mason in the United States. Edward Foy died in a veteran’s home in Oregon in 1939. In 1948 his daughter, Miss Nettie Leona Foy, donated two flags to the Rainbow Division veterans of Oregon, Chapter No.1, in memory of her father. (4)

Michael Hearn, US Navy. Died 28th May 1940, Cleveland, Ohio.

Michael Hearn was born in Co. Wexford around 1847 and emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of three. His family settled in Cleveland’s West Side, where he was living at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He traveled to Buffalo to enlist in the Union navy. His family claimed he served aboard the USS Osage, which sank having struck a mine during the Battle of Spanish Fort near Mobile, Alabama on 29th March 1865. Reportedly wounded during the engagement, he was initially reported missing but survived to muster out at Chicago in 1865. Returning to Cleveland he became a shipbuilder, a trade he continued until his retirement in 1923. His wife Mary Walsh predeceased him in 1927. He was 92 years old when he suffered sun stroke while sitting on his front porch at 1418 West 48th Street in Cleveland in May 1940. He died two weeks later, just a week short of his 93rd birthday. Seven of his 12 children survived him- John Hearn, Mrs. E.L. Sherer, Mrs. Loretta Henzey, Mrs. Irene Christner, Mattie Hearn, Mary Hearn and Margaret Hearn. He left 23 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. He was one of only three remaining members of the Memorial Post of the Grand Army of the Republic at the time of his death, and was the last Union sailor thought to be then alive in the Greater Cleveland area. (5)

John R. Sears, 1st Connecticut Cavalry, 11th Connecticut Infantry. Died 26th July 1941, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

John was born in Ireland on 15th August 1843 and emigrated to the United States with his parents Robert and Elizabeth when he was three years old. The family first settled in Lowell and then Concord, New Hampshire, before moving to Brattleboro, Vermont. At the outbreak of the war Sears enlisted in the 1st Connecticut Cavalry but his parents interceded with the Governor of Vermont to have him discharged due to his young age. He subsequently joined Company E of the 11th Vermont Infantry, fighting through the Overland, Shenandoah and Petersburg campaigns. He was wounded at Spotsylvania. Still only 22 when the war concluded, he married Elizabeth H. Cosgriff and worked as a coal dealer in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The trade he finally settled on was that of a stonemason, an occupation he followed until his retirement in 1923. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic, and was the last commander of the Day post. In addition he had also been a member of the Greenfield lodge of Elks, Galvin Council, Knights of Columbus, an honorary member of the Galvin post of the American Legion, the United Spanish War Veterans and the Moulton Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans. He died having contracted pneumonia at his home on 26 Beech Street, Greenfield. He was survived by his daughters Miss Anne Sears (with whom he lived) and Mrs. David Corcoran of Belmont, as well as eleven granddaughters, six great-grandsons and numerous nieces and nephews. (6)

(1) Springfield Republican 1936, Pension Index Card, Adjutant General: 484; (2) Seattle Daily Times, Pension Index Card, 1930 US Census; (3) Boston Herald, 1860 US Census, 1930 US Census, Navy Survivor’s Certificate; (4) Oregonian 1948, Oregonian 1939; (5) Plain Dealer; (6) Springfield Republican 1941, Pension Index Card;

References

Adjutant General, 1932. Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, Vol. 4

Boston Herald 1st March 1939. Michael Harlow Dies in North Attleboro

Cleveland Plain Dealer 29th May 1940. Civil War Sailor Dies Here at 92

Oregonian 12th April 1939. Meeting Notices. Doric Lodge No.132

Oregonian 10th November 1948. Flags Donated to Honor Dad. Late Edward Foy Remembered Here

Seattle Daily Times 3rd March 1937. R.H. Keown, Civil War Vet, Dies

Springfield Republican 30th April 1936. Michael Broderick, 96, Had Seen Community Grow From Hamlet to Busy Summer Resort

Springfield Republican 27th July 1941. Civil war Veteran Dies at Age of 97

Michael Broderick Pension Index Card Application No. 1862.080

Michael Harlow Navy Survivor Certificate No. 39983

Robert Keown Pension Index Card Application No. 1473926

John R. Sears Pension Index Card Application No. 434819

1860 US Federal Census

1930 US Federal Census

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Categories: Galway, Irish in the American Civil War, Wexford

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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2 Comments on “The Last Union Irish Veterans of the American Civil War”

  1. August 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on Gunlord500 and commented:
    Fascinating look at some Irish men who served in the Union army during the American Civil War.

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