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An unidentified Union Sailor (Library of Congress)

‘In the Midst of Sorrow': An Irish-American Sailor’s Fate, Christmas Eve, 1864

The Christmas period tended to be a tough one for working-class New Yorkers in the 1860s. The seasonality of many laboring jobs and an increased cost of living caused by heightened fuel consumption saw many families struggle. Between 1861 and 1865 many had the added burden of worrying about a loved-one at the front. This […]

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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 This work has already identified large numbers of previously unpublished letters of Irish soldiers, which I intend to prepare for ultimate […]

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Camp Wool, where James Fleming was writing from (Charles Johnson, The Long Roll)

The Civil War Letters of Captain James Fleming, Part 3: With Hawkins’ Zouaves at Hatteras Inlet

In the third instalment of letters from James Fleming of Antrim (Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here), we join the young Irish officer of the 9th New York “Hawkins’ Zouaves” at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. These three letters span November 1861 to January 1862. In the first of them James talks of his many countrymen in the […]

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A woman in mourning clothes holding an image of a soldier (Library of Congress)

‘God Has Called Your Husband to the Other Shore': The Letters that turned Wives into Widows

Few historic documents intrude on the intimate emotional experiences of past people quite like the letters that brought them news of a loved ones death. To read them is to at once imagine that first occasion when they were read. Though death may have occurred days, weeks or even months before, it was the act […]

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Officers on the deck of the U.S.S. Onondaga. The identity of the Irish correspondent, 'Garryowen', has not been established (National Archives)

Celebrating Thanksgiving Aboard Union Ironclads, James River, 1864

In November 1864 a number of Union Ironclads were to be found on the James River in Virginia, supporting Federal ground operations there. A large number of the men on board the vessels of the James River Flotilla were Irish; indeed they made up an estimated 20% of all Union sailors. How did they and […]

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Underground lodgings for the poor of New York around 1869. Many people who ultimately ended up in Poor Houses would have been familiar with such scenes (Library of Congress)

Dependents: Portraits of 50 Irish People in New York Poorhouses, 1861-1865

On 4th August 1865, an Irish emigrant woman from Cork City gave birth to a baby girl in New York. The child -Mary- had been dealt a tough start to life. Her mother was a pauper, and Mary had entered the world in Richmond County Poor House. Mary’s brother and sister were also paupers, and […]

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The first page of William Duffie's Letter to Ann Scanlan, informing her of her husband Patrick's death (Fold3)

‘I Hope…To See You Once More And Then I Would Die Contented': An Irish Mother Writes to Her Son

Bridget Burns married her husband William in Ireland on 18th August 1840. When her husband died eight years later, he left Bridget a widow and their only child, Henry, fatherless at the age of six. By the time 1861 came along, Bridget and her son were living 125 Greenwich Avenue, New York. On 19th August […]

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The % percentage breakdown by birthplace of the men in Thomas Francis Meagher Post #88. Ireland dominates with 18, followed by the United States by 16. The other countries were England (6), Germany (4), France (1) and Unknown (1). (Click on image for larger view)

A Visual Look at Irish Veterans in the G.A.R.: Thomas Francis Meagher Post #88, Staten Island (1)

The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was a Union veteran organisation originally founded in 1866. It would eventually become a significant lobby group with major political clout, particularly when it came to veterans affairs. In the State of New York, a number of G.A.R. Posts bore the names of Irishmen who served in the […]

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The Camp of the 9th New York- Hawkins' Zouaves- at Newport News, Virginia in 1861. James Fleming wrote his letter home to Larne from here that August (Library of Congress)

The Civil War Letters of Captain James Fleming, Part 2: With Hawkins’ Zouaves at Newport News

In the first of the James Fleming letters the man from Larne, Co. Antrim described his emigration to Canada in 1857 and the first weeks of his new life across the Atlantic. We join him nearly four years later. Now settled in New York, James writes home to Ulster to tell his family of his […]

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Staten Island and the Narrows c. 1861 (Library of Congress)

Remembering James Sharkey: The Final Letters of an Irish-American Boy

As regular readers of the blog will know, I spend a lot of time looking through Civil War Widow’s & Dependent’s Pension Files. Many of these files contain original letters written home by soldiers during the war. Having spent a number of months compiling a database of Irish-American letters from men in New York regiments, […]

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