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A sketch of the USS Wabash (Library of Congress)

‘I Feel Very Lonely and Downhearted': Isolation, Idealism and Kindred in the Letters of an Irish Emigrant

Widow’s Pension Files are among the most remarkable records that survive relating to the American Civil War. Filled with fascinating social information, they often also contain primary sources from 1861-1865- such as wartime letters- that have lain unread for over a century. Many thousands of these files relate to Irish people, and contain important details […]

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The scars recorded on New York Irishmen who enlisted in the Union Navy, July 1863- Click to Enlarge (Sara Nylund)

Scarred Men: The Disfigurements of New York Irishmen, 1863

The first post relating to my work on the New York Irishmen who enlisted in the Union navy in July 1863 looked at their tattoos. However, the marks on their body that they had not chosen for themselves were far more prevalent. Of the 319 Irish recorded as signing on that month, at least 131 […]

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Examples of some late 19th century tattoos (Wikimedia Commons)

Marked Men: The Tattoos of New York Irishmen, 1863

The enlistment records of many Irish recruits during the Civil War provide detail on age, height, hair/eye colour and complexion. Although informative, this data still leaves us without a picture of life experience, or any insight into character. One exception was those men who enlisted in the Union navy. The marks and scars they acquired […]

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The crew of the U.S.S. Colorado, another member of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron (Library of Congress)

‘Rather a Monotonous Affair': An Irishman on the Union Blockade

The Union navy often does not receive the attention it deserves when it comes to the American Civil War. This is particularly true of the Irish involvement; the Irish contribution to the Union navy was proportionately greater than that to Union armies. Of the 118,044 men who served as Union ‘Jacks’ during the war, some […]

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Commander Stephen C. Rowan

First Shots: Stephen Rowan and the Fall of Fort Sumter

On the 4th April 1861 Commander Stephen C. Rowan received the following orders from Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy. ‘Sir: You will proceed immediately with the U.S. Steam sloop Pawnee to the navy yard at Norfolk, for the purpose of receiving a month’s supply of provisions. The commandant of the yard there will be […]

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