Memorial Day: The Irish-American Dead of Cold Harbor National Cemetery

During my recent trip to the United States I visited a number of National Cemeteries, including Glendale, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Cold Harbor and Arlington. Many of the headstones in these cemeteries stand as testament to the extent of Irish and Irish-American involvement in the American Civil War. In each cemetery I photographed many graves where ‘Irish’ surnames were in evidence- a random sample based upon where I wandered. The numbers were staggering. Worse still these are only the small percentage lucky enough to be identified. Although we have largely forgotten these men in Ireland, thankfully they are well-remembered in the United States. To mark Memorial Day weekend in America, I am sharing the images from one of the smaller cemeteries- Cold Harbor. Behind every headstone lies a personal story- behind every cemetery an army of friends and relatives who mourned the loss of these men. Behind some is a tragic end to what many emigrants hoped would be a better life than the one they had left in Ireland.

I have not researched these men beyond their entries on Find A Grave, but if you have information on any of them please do share it in the comments section.

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Categories: Memory

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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8 Comments on “Memorial Day: The Irish-American Dead of Cold Harbor National Cemetery”

    May 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Nice post Damian. 

    US Grant wept after the battle known it was a horrible mistake to make the charges against the Confederate fortified positions. 

    The Confederate soldier defending their positions called it “Simply Murder.”

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

      Hi Joe,

      Many thanks for the comment. It really was a disaster at Cold Harbor, particularly for units like Corcoran’s Legion. 1864 saw slaughter on a massive scale.

      Kind Regards,


  2. Bob
    May 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Well done Sir.

  3. Thomas F. Meagher
    May 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Damian: Thanks for this. Tom Meagher

    • June 1, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Tom,

      No problem at all, many thanks for reading!

      Kind Regards,


  4. Kathleen Craney
    June 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Thank you for this. I am interested in the grave of Lawrence McGrath as that was the last name of my Great Grandmother, from Ireland. I hope to find out if he was family. Glad to have this brought to my attention.

    • June 9, 2014 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Kathleen,

      I am glad you found it of use! I have no more detail on these men at present but it might be possible to find out more, have you access to ancestry and or/Fold 3?

      Kind Regards,


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