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The first page of the 170th New York Infantry Bounty List of October 1862 (Copyright: Joe Maghe Collection)

Witnesses to History: A Bounty List of the 170th New York, Corcoran’s Irish Legion

This is the first in a new series of posts on the site which seeks to tie surviving American Civil War objects to the stories of those people associated with them. Surviving objects from the Civil War era are tangible links to the past- they served as ‘witnesses to history.’ I have long been fascinated by the […]

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Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Murphy and Officers of the 170th New York Infantry, Corcoran's Irish Legion, 1863 (Library of Congress)

‘Transported to Fairyland': Christmas With Corcoran’s Irish Legion, 1862

Brigadier-General Michael Corcoran’s Irish Legion spent their first Christmas in the field at Newport News, Virginia in 1862. While the Army of the Potomac licked its wounds further north after the catastrophe of Fredericksburg, Corcoran’s brigade- yet to be inured to the horrors of combat- created an unforgettable festive atmosphere at their camp, where those who visited […]

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The Photograph of Company B, 170th New York with the card-players in the foreground- George Silkworth, John Vandewater, George Thomas and Wash Keating (Photographic History of the Civil War/National Archives)

‘Today I am a Boy Again': A Civil War Veteran Faces an Image of His Past

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1911, the ten-volume Photographic History of the Civil War was published. One of the photographs showed a group of Union reserves on picket-duty in c.1863, relaxing by reading, chatting and playing cards. It is surely one of the most evocative images of troops in […]

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The Battle of Deserted House, Virginia, 1863 (War of the Rebellion Atlas- Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections)

Baptism of Fire: The Corcoran Legion at Deserted House, Virginia, 30th January 1863

Formed in late 1862, the early war experience of Brigadier-General Michael Corcoran’s ‘Irish Legion’ is often forgotten. Their first major battles would not come until 1864, when they suffered severe casualties during Grant’s Overland Campaign. However, their initial taste of Rebel fire had come over a year earlier, on 30th January 1863. This engagement, which […]

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Dennis F. Burke, Colonel, 88th New York, Irish Brigade.

Face to Face with the Fenians: Mugshots of American Civil War Veterans, Part 1

The Fenian movement in America was extremely active before, during and immediately after the American Civil War. It recruited Irishmen with the aim of ‘striking a blow’ for Ireland when the opportunity arose. Many high profile Irish officers during the war were members, particularly in the Union ranks. Some returned to Ireland in 1866 to […]

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