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The Battle of Fair Oaks by Currier & Ives (Library of Congress)

‘A Deep Blow to Your Heart': Patrick Clooney’s Newly Uncovered Description of the Irish Brigade at Fair Oaks

On 16th September 1862, 33-year-old Ann Dunnigan appeared before an Albany judge to begin the process of claiming a widow’s pension. Her husband Patrick had been mortally wounded in the Irish Brigade’s first major engagement- the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia- on 1st June 1862. As part of her evidence, Ann handed over a detailed […]

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A Sketch of Con Garvin and his Mother Catharine Garvin in the Troy Record of 1965, sketched by artist Robert W. Daley (www.newspapers.com)

In Search of Con: The Remarkable Story of the Hunt for the ‘Idiot’ Boy Sold into Service

In late 1863, details of a sensational case began to emerge throughout the newspapers of the Union. It was a story that would be told and retold for decades to come, and was ever after remembered by all who had come into contact with the particulars. At its centre was an intellectually disabled ‘idiot’ boy […]

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A woman enjoying her new sewing-machine, c. 1853 (Library of Congress)

Stuck for Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas? Some Suggestions & Advice From 150 Years Ago

Today is Christmas Eve, and for many of us that means a final dash to the shops as we seek out those last few gifts. If you are struggling for ideas, why not take some of the suggestions and advice offered to readers of the New York Irish-American, 150 years ago in December 1864. Remember, […]

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On Board an Emigrant Ship (Library of Congress)

‘Strange Soil Your Doom': Advice on How to Prepare for Emigration in 1863

In the Spring of 1863 the Reverend John Dwyer of Dublin penned a series of three letters to the New York Irish-American newspaper. Entitled ‘Hints to Irish Emigrants’, each was themed to provide advice for different stages of the emigrant’s journey from Ireland to America- what to do before you left, what to do while on the […]

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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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