Author Archives | Damian Shiels
The 69th Pennsylvania Monument as it appears today (Photo by Jen Goellnitz www.goellnitz.org)

‘I Am Confused': The Emotional Shock of Pickett’s Charge as Experienced by a Family & Friend

At 1319 North 16th Street, Philadelphia on the 3rd of July 1863, Irish mother Jane Hand would have been going about her daily routine. Her two daughters were likely proving a handful; with her eldest Lucy Ann just 5 and her youngest Mary Jane 3, they were exactly the right age to get stuck under […]

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Steamboats on the Mississippi River in New Orleans during the 1850s, a scene that would have been familiar to Maurice O'Donnell (Hippolyte Sebron))

Abbeyfeale’s Louisiana Tiger: A Confederate Veteran Returns to Ireland

Although it is often possible to track Union veterans who returned to Ireland through resources such as pension files, this is not an avenue available when searching for former Confederates. One method of uncovering these men is through the pages of Irish newspapers, which occasionally make reference to American Civil War veterans. In 1915 the […]

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'Wanted A Substitute' A Wartime Sheet Music Cover (Library of Congress)

‘Induced to Enlist': The Last Letter Home of an Irish Draft Substitute in 1864

There is sometimes a perception that large numbers of Union troops– particularly in the latter months of the war– had been drafted into the Federal military. This was not the case. Of the c. 776,829 men whose names were drawn during the four Civil War drafts, only about 46,347 men (a little under 6%)  ever […]

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Irish Hunger and Migration: Myth, Memory and Memorialization

Irish Hunger and Migration: Myth, Memory and Memorialization

This time last year I had the opportunity to speak at the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium in Athens, Georgia. It was the second element of what was a two-part conference held in 2014 (the first part having taken place in Quinnipiac University, Connecticut) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the biennial symposium, which explores Ulster’s connections […]

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Hay Fest Event_0

Day of American Civil War Talks at Hay Festival Kells

I have long bemoaned the fact that across the years of the American Civil War sesquicentennial there has been no Irish conference or series of talks on the Irish experience of the American Civil War. Thankfully that is set to change this year. I am delighted to say that the prestigious Hay Festival in Kells, […]

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The Charge of Hawkins' Zouaves at Roanoke Island (Harper's Weekly)

The Civil War Letters of Captain James Fleming, Part 4: With Hawkins’ Zouaves at Roanoke

The fourth instalment of letters from James Fleming of Antrim (Find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here) joins the 9th New York in North Carolina with the Burnside expedition of 1862. In the first letter, James provides a detailed description of his part in the Battle of Roanoke Island on 8th February that year. He also responds to […]

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“Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle” (c. 1869) Source: Ohio Wesleyan University, Bayley Collection. Public Domain.

‘I Will Sing the Song of Companionship': Peter Doyle– Former Confederate, Walt Whitman’s Muse & Lover

I am very pleased today to have a guest post from historian Liam Hogan. Liam has spent many years exploring this history of Limerick City and County, research that has seen the production of resources such as this site, which examines Limerick 100 years ago, and this interactive map that illustrates the locations where Limerick […]

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The new Ballymote Monument

New Ballymote Monument to Irish of the American Civil War

Towards the end of April I received notification that a new monument dedicated to Irish soldiers of the American Civil War is being unveiled in Ballymote, Co. Sligo next weekend. This is a positive step in what has been, up to this point, extremely disappointing engagement in Ireland with the history and heritage of her […]

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A soldier springs the trapdoor, with men looking on from the trees beyond (Library of Congress)

Edward Wellington Boate: The Andersonville POW Who Came to the Defence of Henry Wirz

Waterford’s Edward Wellington Boate belongs to the large cohort of Irish journalists who ended up fighting, or in someway participating, in the American Civil War. His story is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating. A member of the Tammany regiment, the 42nd New York, his capture and incarceration as a POW set him on a path […]

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A girl in mourning clothes holds an image of her father during the Civil War (Library of Congress)

Bonds Between Women & Daguerreotypes of A Dying Man in 1862

Families often relied on volunteer nurses to keep them informed of a loved one’s condition in hospital. Over time, bonds could develop between these caregivers and the soldier’s wives far away. The correspondence below, written by Emma Smith from St. Elizabeth Hospital, Washington D.C. to Sarah Welsh in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, are a case in point. This poignant collection of […]

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