Author Archives | Damian Shiels
26. A final general view from the Observation Tower incorporating the Sunken Lane at left (marked by fence line) and the field across which the Irish Brigade advanced at right.

The Irish Brigade at Antietam: A Photographic Tour

Many of the posts on this site explore elements of the Irish experience at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War, fought on 17th September 1862. Many of the widow’s pension files that I now concentrate on were created as a result of those day’s events. It was also a […]

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The last words written by Hubert McNamara, hours before his death at the Battle of Cold Harbor (National Archives/Fold3)

‘Goodbye For A While': An Irish Soldier’s Last Letter Home, Found on his Dead Body at Cold Harbor

On the 8th June 1864 Captain Dexter Ludden and his men from the 8th New York Heavy Artillery were picking their way through corpses. They had been assigned the unpleasant task of burying some of the many, many dead who had fallen assaulting the Confederate works at Cold Harbor. By then the bodies they were […]

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Cavan and the American Civil War

Major Event in Cavan to Remember the American Civil War

I regularly come across Cavan natives during my pension file research. They are men Like James DeLacy of Templeport, who left behind a dependent mother when he was gunned down along with many of his Irish Brigade comrades at Antietam; men like Mathew Henry of Lattoon, whose immigrant experience in America was cut short when […]

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Refugees from fighting with Native Americans in 1862 (Library of Congress)

Scalping, Big Braves & Butchery: An Irish Indian Fighter Writes Home to His Mother in Dublin

I recently came across the remarkable letters of Sergeant Thomas Mangan, which are here transcribed for the first time. The 22-year-old Dubliner was a recent emigrant from Ireland, who within a year of arriving in his new home found himself in the midst of the savage and brutal struggle for control of the Western Plains. […]

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Ayer's Pills were a popular medication for stomach complaints. This is a post Civil War advertisement for the product (East Carolina University DIgital Collections Image 12.1.23.13)

Meagher’s ‘Drunken Freaks’ & Old Abe ‘Astonished': The Last Letters of John Doherty, 63rd New York, Irish Brigade

Corporal John Doherty of the Irish Brigade wrote a series of letters home to his family from Virginia and Maryland in the summer of 1862. Transcribed here for the first time, the letters detail John’s pride in the Irish Brigade– ‘the envy of the rest of the army’– but likewise suggest that the realities of […]

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A Soldier's dream of Home (Library of Congress)

‘You Put Your Arm Around My Neck and Kissed Me': Sex, Love & Duty in the Letters of an Irish Brigade Soldier

Letters included in the pension file often contain some very personal information. Surely few match those written by the Irish Brigade’s Samuel Pearce to his wife Margaret. The correspondence details not only the railroad man’s initial efforts to avoid the draft and use of an alias, but also provides a unique and intimate insight into […]

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Iveagh_House_morning

The Iveagh House Lecture on the Irish of the American Civil War

As I have noted regularly over the last number of years on this site and elsewhere, Ireland has not done enough to remember the impact of the American Civil War on people from the island. Recent months have however seen an increasing effort in this regard, with a number of events taking place which suggest […]

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The National Library of Ireland (YvonneM)

The Catholic Parish Registers Online: Revolutionizing the Search for 19th Century Irish Ancestors

Each week I receive correspondence from people with Civil War ancestors in search of their family’s origins in Ireland– something which is unfortunately often extremely difficult to determine. However, today has seen the release of a set of records that promises to open up new avenues for those seeking such information. To much fanfare in Ireland, the National Library of […]

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Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (Wikipedia)

‘My Brother! My Dear Brother': The Extraordinary Encounter of an Irish Redcoat & Rebel During the War of Independence

The 4th of July is Independence Day in the United States, marking the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on 4th July 1776. Unsurprisingly given the nature of the conflict between 1775 and 1783, there were many Irish to be found on both sides. Although a departure from the American Civil […]

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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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