Visualising the Impact of the American Civil War in Ireland with Palladio

I have been building a database of information relating to the 219 U.S. military pensioners who were recorded as living in Ireland in 1883. These pensioners and their families have been the topic of numerous posts on the site and I hope in the future will form the basis for a book recounting their stories. The group represents an ideal sample with which to attempt to ‘visualise’ the impact of the American Civil War on Irish people. Recently I took to the web-based platform Palladio, developed by the Humanities & Design Research Lab at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, Stanford University, in order to explore the types of visualisations possible with this data.

Palladio was developed for the visualisation of complex, multi-dimensional data. It is free to use- all that is required is having the information to upload and the time to prepare it appropriately. For that purpose I developed three tables based around the Irish pensions. The information contained within the tables was gleaned from a variety of sources. Details on which pensions were being paid in Ireland was taken from the 1883 List of Pensioners on the Roll; this was supplemented with additional data drawn from the marvellous online resources that have been made available by the National Archives via the Fold3 website. These included the Pension Numerical Index, the Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index, the Civil War “Widow’s Pensions”, Navy Widows Certificates and Navy Survivors Certificates. In addition to gathering baseline data on each of the 219 pensioners a further 65 pension files were examined in detail, revealing further details on aspects of the pensioners life, such as marriage details and death location.

An extract from the 1883 Pensioners on the Roll which shows how the information was presented in the list.

An extract from the 1883 Pensioners on the Roll which shows how the information was presented in that list

The first table I prepared contained details of the pensions themselves and (where the information was available) included the name of the pension recipient, the name of the veteran, the state for which they served if in a volunteer unit, the veteran’s place of death, the veteran’s cause of death, the year of the veteran’s death, the post office location in Ireland where the pension was received, the year of death of the pensioner, marriage location, marriage year, U.S. habitation location of the pensioner and the year in which the pension was awarded.

The second table contained the full name of every pensioner and veteran, and their relationship.  All of the Irish pensions were being claimed by one of four groups- the veteran themselves, the widow of a veteran, the dependent mother of a veteran or the dependent father of a veteran. The final table listed the locations in the United States and Ireland associated with the pension, with coordinates for each added using Google Maps. These three tables were then uploaded to Palladio and linked together, creating an opportunity to interrogate the data visually. To gain the full benefit of Palladio you need to upload the data and view it at their website in realtime. I hope to make the tables readily accessible in the future- in the meantime if any reader is particularly interested in viewing the full results themselves, I would be happy to make a copy of the .json Palladio file for the project available, so you can view it and interrogate it for yourself at the Palladio site. In order to bring a flavour of its use to readers of the blog, I have captured a number of screenshots of the visualisations from Palladio to share here (Note: to see the images at full size click directly on them).

The post offices in Ireland where US military pensions were being collected in 1883. The points are scaled to highlight areas with multiple pensioners. What is apparent is the coverage of the entire country (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

The post offices in Ireland where U.S- military pensions were being collected in 1883. The points are scaled to highlight areas with multiple pensioners, notably Dublin, Belfast and Londonderry. What is apparent is the coverage of the entire country. Some of the pensions were being collected for pre-Civil War and post Civil War service, but the vast majority relate to service between 1861-65. (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

In the majority of cases it was possible to discover the unit in which a veteran had served. For those not in regular army or naval service this allowed for a 'state of service' to be assigned. The capital of each state was selected as the representative point within each state for the purposes of visualisation. This map shows the different states, with the points scaled to highlight states which had multiple individuals. Unsurprisingly New York dominates. (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

In the majority of cases it was possible to discover the unit in which a veteran had served. For those not in regular army or naval service this allowed for a ‘state of service’ to be assigned. I selected the capital of each state as the representative point for illustrative purposes in the visualisation. This map shows these different states, with the points scaled to highlight states which had multiple individuals. Unsurprisingly New York dominates. (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

The locations where veterans died. Some of these locations are battlefields, some hospitals, some POW camps. Note that one died in Nicaragua, while others died at sea of the Carolinas. Each of these deaths related directly to the award of a pension across the Atlantic in Ireland (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

The locations where veterans died. Some of these locations are battlefields, some hospitals, some POW camps. Note that one (a young man from Tralee, Co. Kerry) died in Nicaragua, while others died at sea off the Carolinas. Each of these deaths related directly to the award of a pension across the Atlantic in Ireland (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

The long arm of war. This visualisation links the death locations of servicemen with the localities where pensions were received in Ireland as a result. This visualisation shows the global impact of the American Civil War. It is also striking how Ireland 'disappears' under a sea of dots. Only 219 pensions were being claimed in Ireland in 1883, indicating that few people came back. When one considers that well in excess of 150,000 Irishmen served in the war, the true figures of tens of thousands of Irishmen from up and down the island who lost their lives is difficult to comprehend. Each line carries behind the information relating to specific soldiers- that highlighted is the link between the death of a young man at Spotsylvania Courthouse 150 years ago and its link with the pension his mother received as a result in Bruff, Co. Limerick (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

The long arm of war. This visualisation links the death locations of servicemen with the localities where pensions were received in Ireland as a result. This visualisation shows the global impact of the American Civil War. It is also striking how Ireland ‘disappears’ under a sea of dots. Only 219 pensions were being claimed in Ireland in 1883, indicating that few people came back after emigration. When one considers that well in excess of 150,000 Irishmen served the Union in the war (with a further 20,000 in the Confederate military), the true figures of tens of thousands of Irishmen from up and down the island who lost their lives is difficult to comprehend. Each line carries behind it the information relating to specific soldiers- that highlighted is the link between the death of a young man at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse 150 years ago and the pension his mother received as a result in Bruff, Co. Limerick (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

Till Death Do Us Part. This visualisation links the locations where couples were married in Ireland- usually in the 1840s or 1850s, with the locations where the man died during the American Civil War. Widows often recorded this information in their Widow's File applications. It charts visually the start and end of their time together and is another reminder of the long reach of the American Civil War (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

Till Death Do Us Part. This visualisation links the locations where couples were married in Ireland (or in some cases the United States), usually in the 1840s or 1850s, with the locations where the man died during the American Civil War. Widows often recorded this information in their Widow’s pension applications. It charts visually the start and end of their time together as husband and wife, and is another reminder of the long reach of the American Civil War (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

The March to War. The state for which the veteran served linked to the location in North America where they died. The highlighted link is a man who served in a New York regiment, who died as a POW in Camp Lawton, Georgia. This event later resulted in the award of a pension in Ireland (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

The March to War. The state for which the veteran served linked to the location in North America where they died. The highlighted link is a man who served in a New York regiment, who died as a POW in Camp Lawton, Georgia. This event later resulted in the award of a pension in Ireland (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

Palladio also allows information to be visualised in other ways. This example is a portion of a diagram which links each Post Office where pensions were received in Ireland with the relationship the pensioner had to the veteran (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

Palladio also allows information to be visualised in other ways. This example is a portion of a diagram which links each Post Office where pensions were received in Ireland with the relationship the pensioner had to the veteran (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

It is similarly possible to look at just the pensioners from one location- this graph shows the people who were in receipt of U.S: military pensions in Dublin in 1883 (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

It is similarly possible to look at just the pensioners from one location- this graph shows the people who were in receipt of U.S. military pensions in Dublin in 1883 (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

Fathers. This graph shows the men identified as receiving pensions as dependent fathers due to the loss of their sons, Ireland, 1883 (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

Fathers. This graph shows the men identified as receiving pensions as dependent fathers due to the loss of their sons, Ireland, 1883 (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

Mothers. The dependent mothers who had lost sons in United States service for which they received pensions in Ireland, 1883. Although some had spent time in the United States, many of the dependent parents had never been outside of Ireland, yet were nonetheless dramatically impacted by the Civil War. (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

Mothers. The dependent mothers who had lost sons in United States service, for which they received pensions in Ireland, 1883. Although some had spent time in the United States, many of the dependent parents had never been outside of Ireland, yet were nonetheless dramatically impacted by the Civil War. (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

 

Widows. The widows who were in receipt of U.S. pensions in Ireland, 1883. Behind the names lie a multitude of stories; women who had been abandoned by husbands who emigrated, women who's husbands had gone ahead to the United States to 'clear the way' for their family only to die before they could be reunited, women who had made their home in the United States but who were forced to return with their children to Ireland and the support of family after their husband's death (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

Widows. The widows who were in receipt of U.S. pensions in Ireland, 1883. Behind the names lie a multitude of stories; women who had been abandoned by husbands who emigrated, women who’s husbands had gone ahead to the United States to ‘clear the way’ for their family only to die before they could be reunited, women who had made their home in the United States but who were forced to return with their children to Ireland and the support of family after their husband’s death (Damian Shiels/Palladio)

The visualisation of data in this form allows us to see the impact of the American Civil War in different ways, beyond simply casualty figures from the battlefield. It is also a stark reminder that the misery the war inflicted was not restricted to the United States. Similarly, it highlights that the benefits and supports of the pension system introduced in 1862 could be felt thousands of miles away, even by people who had never set foot in America. For me, seeing the tendrils of impact spread far and wide, touching so many individuals and places- based on just 219 pensioners- tells us much about the colossal effect of the war on the hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants who experienced it.

*None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3. A team from NARA supported by volunteers are consistently adding to this treasure trove of historical information. To learn more about their work you can watch a video by clicking here.

References & Further Reading

Palladio at Stanford

National Archives

Fold3

 

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Categories: Pensioners in Ireland, Research, Resources

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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12 Comments on “Visualising the Impact of the American Civil War in Ireland with Palladio”

  1. May 31, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Damian, As someone who does a civil war GIS also, this is exceptional work and study on your part. Great use of new technology applied to Irish Civil War research. Huzzah!

    • June 1, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks Jim! These new technologies are magnificent, particularly for providing us with fresh perspectives and ways to disseminate information. I suspect they will be a recurring theme on the blog :-)

      • June 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

        Damian,

        Another look at history through technology: Professor Anne Kelly Knowles, used GIS to reexamine Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.

        http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f4pkzHP3qyA

        While slightly different then what you did, it still takes technolgy and history to answer questions at another level. Before I discovered Knowles’ study, I did similar research for the Irish Brigades charge at the Wall in Fredericksburg 1862. I used Civil War Trust Maps layered over modern elevation maps in a Delorme XMap GIS program. Panning and rotating 360 degrees one gets an interesting view of this battlefield, including watershed views from any point on the field. Having visited the Battlefield many times, it gave me a different perception of the daunting task asked of the Union Army, including Meagher’s Irish Brigade, charging Marye’s Heights and the Wall. I have done similar studies of Culp’s Hill and Salem Heights.

        What really comes to full light is the positioning of the troops, especially in defensive positions not only following the terrain but also roads and other natural contours, which normally can’t be seen on a troop 1D map.

      • June 3, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

        Hi Jim,

        That is very cool! That sounds like great work in relation to the Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg- I think Antietam would also be an interesting one to look at with that technique, given the differential casualties suffered by different regiments dependent on where they crossed the field to the stone wall- largely to do with topography. Have you ever looked at that? Mapping these type of things really does add new perspectives!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

  2. May 31, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    Great job Damian. As big as big data is … Might be fun for atorymapjs for you.

    • June 1, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks Shawn! Thats a great idea I was just looking at that there, I think I will definitely explore that!

      • June 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

        Sorry for the brevity of the last. Great application of Palladio and very much appreciate the big story there. Look forward to seeing the more micro story as an experiment through StoryMapJS. I took a few of my artefacts and built a short narrative the other fay just to contrast the engagement versus Omeka, ESRI or Neatline. I am remind how many of your blog posts could be easily adapted and take a different sort of approach through StoryMapJS. I don’t yet know what the different impact might be in the tool, but have a gut instinct that it taps a different set of synapses ;-)

      • June 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

        Hi Shawn,

        Thanks! I am going to crack into StoryMap JS, I think it looks a potentially excellent medium for many of these stories. I am going to experiment around with some of the pensioners to see what comes out- thanks for alerting me to it, a few exciting hours ahead as I delve into it!

        Kind Regards,

        Damian.

  3. gerald griffin
    June 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Fantastic . thanks for sharing

  4. June 4, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    This is fascinating, Damian. I’m curious – were all your pensioners volunteers in the war? You mention “the state they were serving” – were none of them Army Regulars?

    • June 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Lois,

      Many thanks! No far from it, many were in the regular army or navy. Although these men are included in the post office distribution map in Ireland they don’t have a state assignation in the visualization. There was a long tradition of service in both the regulars and the navy and that is strongly reflected in the Irish pensions as well. What is a bit more surprising is that there are not more from states such as Massachusetts, as I would have expected to see that- plenty of work still to do on them!

      Kind Regards,

      Damian.

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