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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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Separation. Many Irish families could not afford to emigrate together. For whatever reason, all three of these women's husbands left their family home for America, never to return (Library of Congress)

‘The Hard Industry of My Own Hands': Three American Civil War Widows in Ireland Struggle to Survive

On the face of things, Irishwomen Honora Cleary, Eleanor Hogg and Maria Sheppel had little in common. For a start, they were from different parts of Ireland; Honora hailed from Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, Eleanor lived in Boyle, Co. Roscommon and Maria had grown up in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Neither did the women share the same religion; Honora and Eleanor were […]

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Provost Guard of the 9th New York Infantry in 1862 (Library of Congress)

The Civil War Letters of Captain James Fleming, Part 1: Larne to Canada

In 1832 James Fleming was born to Malcolm and Ann Jane Fleming in Islandbawn, Co. Antrim. The family would later move to nearby Larne when Malcolm established a nursery there, and it was here that James grew up. In 1857 the young man decided to leave Antrim to try his luck in North America. Arriving […]

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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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Gangs of New York: Recruiting the Irish ‘Straight Off the Boat’

One of the best known scenes in Martin Scorcese’s 2002 movie Gangs of New York is that which depicts the enlistment of Irish emigrants ‘straight off the boat’ into the Union army. The seemingly unsuspecting men are quickly dressed in uniform and packed off for the front, even as those unfortunates who have gone before are brought […]

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The Excelsior Brigade Monument at Gettysburg (Photo: Cory Hartman)

‘Your Likeness Was Buried With Him': A Letter to An Irish Soldier’s Wife After Gettysburg

The second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a tough one for New York’s Excelsior Brigade. Although not an ethnic Irish formation, many of the brigade’s regiments- such as the 70th New York Infantry- had large contingents of Irishmen in their ranks. The 2nd July at Gettysburg left many of these men dead. In […]

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