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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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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

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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Irish emigrants sending money back to Ireland from the Emigrants Savings Bank in 1880 (Library of Congress)

‘As Good A Chance to Escape As Any Other’: A Cork Soldier’s Aid to His Family in Ireland, 1864

Occasionally, I am asked why any Irish impacted by the American Civil War should be remembered in Ireland. After all, the argument goes, these people left our shores, and they weren’t fighting for ‘Ireland.’ In response, I usually point out that many were Famine-era emigrants, who often felt they had little choice but to leave. […]

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The Stone Wall at the base of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, the target of the Irish Brigade Assault (Library of Congress)

‘In Account Of We Being Irish’: A New Irish Brigade Letter After Fredericksburg

As some readers will be aware I am currently working on a long-term project identifying and transcribing the letters of Irish and Irish-American soldiers contained within the Civil War Widows & Dependents Pension Files. This work has already identified large numbers of previously unpublished letters of Irish soldiers, which I intend to prepare for ultimate […]

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Officers of the 63rd New York Infantry in June 1865 (Library of Congress)

‘Friend Patt theres only 8 of us that left…’: An Irish Brigade Soldier’s Letter at War’s End

For a number of weeks after Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia thousands of Union troops remained in the field in Virginia. During this period men often reflected on the past and the many comrades they had lost and looked forward to returning home. Meanwhile officers tried to keep the men […]

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Photograph of John Ruddy taken at Harewood Hospital following his wounding at the South Side Railroad on 2nd April 1865 (National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Looking into the Face of a Dying Irish Soldier

Around late April or early May of 1865 a photographer in Harewood Hospital, Washington D.C. exposed a photograph of a wounded Union soldier. The man, who still wore the beard he favoured on campaign, had been shot through the left shoulder during the fighting around Petersburg. His name was John Ruddy, an Irish farmer and […]

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Screenshot of Google Fusion Table Heat Map, showing detail of Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and southern Pennsylvania, and highlighting the major battles where the 63rd New York suffered significant casualties

Mapping Death in the American Civil War

I have been experimenting recently with different ways of visualizing the impact of the American Civil War. I am interested in how we can combine data recorded in the 19th century with some of the new digital tools available, in an effort to find new ways of engaging with this history and potentially reveal further […]

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Officers of the 63rd New York Infantry with their Colors. This image was likely taken in late 1863/ early 1864 (Library of Congress)

Bowld Soldier Boys: The Return of Irish Brigade Veterans to New York, January 1864

150 years ago, as 1864 dawned, the veteran volunteers of the Irish Brigade came home to New York. These men had come through some of the toughest battles of the war but had taken the decision to carry on the fight. Some were motivated by a desire to see the conflict out, while others were […]

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Lincoln Hospital as it appeared during the American Civil War. Corporal Patrick Scanlan died here, and William Duffie wrote from War 10 to inform Ann Scanlan of his last words (Library of Congress)

‘After I Am Dead, Write to My Wife’: An Irish Soldier’s Last Moments Revealed

I have read the Widow’s Pension Files of many Irish families who were devastated by the American Civil War. The information contained in each reveals much about both the family behind the soldier and the long-term impact of the conflict on generations of Irish-Americans. However, when reading the application of Ann Scanlan, whose husband Patrick […]

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The Pension Index Card of Captain Edward B. Carroll, 63rd New York Infantry, Irish Brigade (

War’s Cruel Hand: The Dedicated Service of Edward Carroll, Irish Brigade

Occasionally one has to look no further than a soldier’s service record to see both the poignancy and cruelty of war. Such is the case with Edward B. Carroll of the 63rd New York Infantry, Irish Brigade. As I carry out work on the 63rd and other ‘green flag’ New York regiments, even a few […]

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