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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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The Second Battle of Ream's Station as depicted in Frank Leslie's Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War (Frank Leslie)

‘The First Time the Old Corps was ever Whipped': A Letter from Ream’s Station

This year we are remembering the 150th anniversary of the 1864 campaigns of the American Civil War. 1864 looms large in many of the pension files relating to Irishmen and their families that I have examined. That year, thousands of Northern Irishmen died both on battlefields and in Confederate prisons. For Irish-America, as for much […]

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Men of the 164th New York, Corcoran's Irish Legion (Library of Congress)

The Forgotten Sixty-Ninth: A Thesis on the 69th New York National Guard Artillery

Although a significant amount has been written about the wartime exploits of the Irish Brigade, particularly between 1861 and 1863, very little ink has been spilt on the other Irish brigade formation- Corcoran’s Irish Legion. This is a serious anomaly given their significance with respect to both Irish-American attitudes towards the Civil War and also […]

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The Charge of the 164th New York at Cold Harbor on 3rd June 1864 by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

‘God Help Her': The Emotional Impact of Cold Harbor, 3rd June 1864, On Two Irish Women

150 years ago today one of the bloodiest and costliest assaults of the American Civil War was underway at Cold Harbor. The Union attackers were slaughtered in droves. Few suffered as much as the men of Corcoran’s Irish Legion. Among their brigade were the Zouaves of the 164th New York Infantry, who sustained a staggering 154 […]

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The W.P. Gunnell House where Brigadier-General Michael Corcoran died (Photograph Dave Sullivan)

‘Our Orphan Children Will Not Soon Forget Him': The Death of General Michael Corcoran

150 years ago, on the evening of Tuesday 22nd December, 1863, a stunned Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Reed prepared to send a message that promised to send shockwaves through New York City. The commander of the 69th New York National Guard Artillery dictated the following telegram to be immediately communicated to the press: FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE , Tuesday, […]

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Doe Castle, near Creeslough, Co. Donegal.

In Search of Michael Corcoran’s Ireland

Michael Corcoran emigrated to the United States in 1849, shortly before his 22nd birthday. In the fourteen years that remained to him he became one of Irish-America’s most popular and influential leaders. Rising to Colonel of the 69th New York State Militia he notoriously refused to parade the regiment on the occasion of the Prince […]

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Sketch showing portions of the Union secondary line at Petersburg, including Fort McMahon and Fort Patrick Kelly (Official Records Atlas)

Remembering The Fallen At Petersburg: Forts McMahon and Patrick Kelly

By September 1864 the Union forces at Petersburg had been facing their Confederate foe across a series of entrenchments and fortifications since mid-June. The Federals decided to commit to a strategy of continually extending their lines westward, seeking to exploit their advantages in manpower. With this stratagem they sought to stretch the Army of Northern Virginia to […]

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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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Men of the 164th New York, Corcoran's Irish Legion (Library of Congress)

‘Rum Racker’s Club': A Ballad of the 164th New York in the Field

Throughout the course of the war the New York Irish-American received regular correspondence from Irishmen serving in the field. These men usually wrote pieces under a pseudonym or using only their initials. Regular reports arrived from Corcoran’s Irish Legion via a correspondent called ‘Fenian’ of the 164th New York ‘Phoenix’ Regiment. On 1st January 1863 he […]

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