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The William Higgins Pendant. Obverse to left, Reverse to right (Arrangement by Sara Nylund after original photograph by Cathy Nicholls)

Witnesses to History: A Memento of a Missing Man

The Witnesses to History series aims to connect an object or document which still exists today with the story of the people behind the item. Following the first post, which featured the 170th New York Bounty List, I was contacted by reader Cathy Nicholls in England. Some 40 years ago in Brooklyn, Cathy had purchased […]

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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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Bringing in the Wounded at Fredericksburg (Arthur Lumley/Library of Congress)

‘Hell Personified was Close at Hand': Captain John Donovan’s Account of Fredericksburg

Captain John H. Donovan of the 69th New York went into action at the Battle of Fredericksburg already bearing the scars of war. While serving with the Irish Brigade at Malvern Hill in July 1862 he had suffered the loss of one of his eyes and the mutilation of his right ear. He had then been captured […]

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General Hospital No. 1 in Richmond where Sister Valentine wrote to Hugh McQuade's mother (Library of Congress)

‘It is Colonel Corcoran I Blame': An Unhappy Irishman After Bull Run

The Georgia Daily Constitutionalist received permission in July 1861 to publish a letter received by one of its Irish readers. It was a note from the Georgia Irishman’s brother, who had fought with the 69th New York State Militia at Bull Run and had been wounded in that battle. Although the authenticity, circumstances and motivations behind the […]

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An extract for the document where Mary Casey (nee McCormick) grants power of attorney regarding her pension application. She has made her mark with an 'X' in the bottom right.

‘Any One Finding This Note…': A 69th New York Soldier Prepares for His Death

The Irish Brigade’s first taste of active campaigning arrived in the summer of 1862, when Union forces advanced along the Peninsula towards Richmond. They had yet to experience serious action when they settled into ‘Camp Winfield Scott’, near Yorktown in April. Despite the absence of the enemy, death arrived in unexpected circumstances for one member […]

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Officers of the 69th New York State Militia pose beside one of the guns in Fort Corcoran prior to the Battle of Bull Run (Library of Congress)

Captain James Haggerty 69th N.Y.S.M. and the Battle of Bull Run

Shortly before midday on 21st July 1861 Captain James Haggerty of the 69th New York State Militia splashed across Bull Run creek, Virginia with the just over 1000 Irishmen of his unit. He and his comrades were moving to add their weight to an attack on Confederate forces who were retreating from their position on […]

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