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Congress Avenue looking towards the Capitol in Austin, Texas. John Hannon died on this street. (Wikipedia)

‘Tears Ease the Heart’: A Teenage Galwegian Civil War Veteran in Texas, 1866

Many Famine emigrants found themselves on the front lines of the American Civil War. Others watched as the children they had taken to America in search of a new life marched off to war. One couple who endured this was John and Mary Hannon, who saw their underage son, John Jr., ride to Virginia in […]

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Union soldiers find remains of their comrades on the Second Bull Run battlefield, 1863 by Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)

‘His Death is an Uncertainty:’ Two Irish Women Search for Missing Husbands after Second Bull Run

As I am currently on a few days leave I have been taking the opportunity to catch-up on some reading. A book I am particularly enjoying is John J. Hennessy’s Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. I was struck by the savage intensity of much of the fighting on 29th August, 1862, […]

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Fairfax Seminary Hospital, Virginia (Library of Congress)

‘Quite A Merry Time’: A Union Irish Soldier Describes His Last St. Patrick’s Day, 1863

On 17th March 1863 David O’Keefe, a cabinet-maker from Co. Cork, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Virginia. Some six months previously David had left his adopted home of Reading, Massachusetts, to join the Irish soldiers of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry at the front. He wasn’t a young man- by the time he enlisted he was […]

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The USS Monitor and CSS Virginia do battle the day after James Leahy's death (Library of Congress)

Hearing the Irish Accent of a Merrimac Victim Across 150 Years

On 8th March 1862, the Confederate Ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) steamed out of Norfolk, Virginia to attack the Federal fleet in Hampton Roads. The resulting two-day encounter remains one of the most famous naval engagements in history. One Yankee sailor would later recall how an awful silence descended over the men of the […]

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Alfred Waud's sketch of powder for the mine being carried down the covered way while under fire (Library of Congress)

‘He Was Never Seen or Heard From After’: Dealing with Disappearance at the Battle of the Crater

In July 1865 the State Census came to the town of Westfield, Massachusetts. One of the community recorded there was Abby Sullivan, who was described as a 42 year-old Irish woman. Abby was also recorded as married, but in July 1865 she must have felt in limbo. For she was a wife without a husband; […]

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Jefferson Davis shown hanging from a 'Sour Apple Tree' in Harper's Weekly (Library of Congress)

‘Tell Him I Am A Soger’: Lyrics, Loyalty and Family in the Letters of an Irish Brigade Faugh

Patrick Kelly emigrated from Co. Galway to Boston with his parents. In 1861 he enlisted in the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, an Irish regiment that ultimately served in the Irish Brigade. During his service he wrote frequently to his parents at home in Boston; the letters portray a young man who was a lover of music […]

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Sheridan's Final Charge at the Battle of Third Winchester (Library of Congress)

‘For The Love of the Holy Mother, Blow Out My Brains’: An Irishman Dies at Third Winchester

John Hines was a Private in Company F of the 34th Massachusetts Infantry. He was described as a ‘rough, coarse, uneducated Irishman, with a keener nose for whisky than any other man living.’ He would be able to seek out the spirit even when it was thought there was none for miles, and often returned to […]

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Officers and men of the 9th Massachusetts (Library of Congress)

‘Before the Reaper’s Sickle’: The 9th Massachusetts at Gaines’ Mill

It is the 27th June 1862. Colonel Thomas Cass and the 9th Massachusetts Infantry have just retraced their steps under orders, marching back towards their old camping grounds near a mill and millpond that empties into Powhite Creek, Virginia. The men have fond memories of this pond, a spot where they have enjoyed relaxing swims […]

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Thomas Plunkett

Medal of Honor: Sergeant Thomas Plunkett, 21st Massachusetts Infantry

This second post exploring the stories of Irish born Medal of Honor winners focuses on Sergeant Thomas Plunkett of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry. He received his award for actions at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia on 13th December 1862, when he participated in the fateful Union charge against the Confederate positions on Marye’s Heights. Irishman […]

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Saunders Field, Wilderness

Slaughter in Saunder’s Field: The 9th Massachusetts at The Wilderness

On the afternoon of 5th May 1864 Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick T. Hanley of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry stood with his men in the tangled and confusing wooded landscape that characterised the area known as ‘The Wilderness’ in Virginia. As battle raged, Hanley’s brigade commander Colonel Jacob B. Sweitzer came rushing up to confront the Irishman, loudly […]

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