Ireland produced more American Civil War Generals than any other foreign country. In all 18 Irishmen acted as serving generals during the war; 12 Federal and 6 Confederate.They range from the Confederacy’s Patrick Cleburne, the highest ranking Irishman on either side, who advocated arming the slaves in return for their freedom, to the Union’s James Shields, who almost fought a duel with Abraham Lincoln before the war and took on Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. This page presents a very brief synopsis of these men’s Civil War activities.
Browne, William Montague C.S.A.
Born in Dublin in 1823. Served in Crimean War before emigrating to the United States in 1855. Appointed to the personal staff of Jefferson Davis with the rank of Colonel of Cavalry. Served as Secretary of State ad interim from 17th February to the 18th March 1862. Appointed Commandant of Conscripts for the State of Georgia in April 1864 and later temporarily commanded a brigade during the defence of Savannah from Sherman. Appointed by Davis as Brigadier-General with temporary rank from 11th November 1864, though this was rejected by the Confederate Senate on the 19th February 1865. Died in Athens, Georgia on 28th April 1883. Buried in an unmarked grave at Oconee Hill Cemetery, Athens, Georgia.
Busteed, Richard U.S.A.
Born in Cavan on 16th February 1822. Moved with family to St. Lucia, back to Ireland and eventually on to the United States. Admitted to New York bar in 1846. Appointed Brigadier-General of volunteers 7th August 1862. Served in occupation forces at Fort Monroe on the Virginia Peninsula. Appointment expired on 4th March 1863 as it was not ratified by Senate. Appointed judge of the U.S. District Court for Alabama in 1863. Died in New York on 14th September 1898, buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.*
Cleburne, Patrick Ronayne C.S.A.
Born at Bride Park Cottage, near Ovens, Co. Cork on 16th March 1828. Served as a Corporal in the British 41st Regiment of Foot. Emigrated to the United States in 1849. Elected Colonel of the 15th Arkansas Regiment in 1861, and was promoted to Brigadier-General from 4th March 1862. Commanded a brigade at the Battles of Shiloh and Perryville. Promoted to Major-General on 13th December 1862, the highest rank achieved by an Irishman on either side during the war. Commanded a division at battles such as Murfreesboro (Stone’s River), Chickamauga, Chattanooga and during the Atlanta Campaign. He received a vote of thanks from the Confederate Congress for his actions in halting the Federal advance at Ringgold Gap after the debacle of Chattanooga, thus saving the rear of the Army of Tennessee. His hard fighting reputation earned him the epithet ‘Stonewall of the West’. Although he occasionally acted up to the position of Corps Commander he was never promoted to this rank, principally as a result of his proposal to enlist slaves into Confederate armies in return for their freedom. He was killed at the head of his division during the assault on Federal breastworks at Franklin, Tennessee on 30th November 1864.
Connor, Patrick Edward U.S.A.
Born in Co. Kerry on 17th March 1820. Emigrated with his family to New York as a child. Appointed Colonel of the 3rd California Infantry on 4th September 1861. Assigned to command District of Utah with headquarters at Salt Lake City. His role was to keep the central mail road open to California, which principally involved actions against native tribes such as the Bannocks, Shoshones, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho. He was promoted to Brigadier-General of volunteers from 30th March 1863 following a victory over the Bannocks and Shoshones at Bear River, Idaho. Brevetted Major-General at the end of the war. In late 1865 he defeated the Arapaho at Tongue River. Died at Salt Lake, 17th December 1891, buried in Fort Douglas Cemetery.
Corcoran, Michael U.S.A.
Born in Carrowkeel, Co. Sligo on 21st September 1827. Emigrated to the United States in 1849. Rose to Colonel of 69th New York Militia, which he refused to parade on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wale’s to New York in 1860. Was court-martialed but his trial had yet to take place at the outbreak of the war. Commanded the 69th at Bull Run (Manassas) where Corcoran was wounded and captured. He was not exchanged until August 1862, in the meantime being held for potential execution if Federal authorities executed the crews of Confederate privateers. Promoted to Brigadier-General dating back to the Battle of Bull Run following his release. Participated in the Suffolk campaign in southeast Virginia as a division commander in early 1863. Transferred to the Department of Washington with his ‘Irish Legion’ after Gettysburg, succeeded to division command in October 1863. He was killed when his horse fell on him while riding with Thomas Francis Meagher near Fairfax Court House on 22nd December 1863. Buried in Calvary Cemetery, Long Island City, New York.
Finegan, Joseph C.S.A.
Born in Clones, Co. Monaghan on 17th November 1814. Emigrated to the United States in his early twenties. A member of the Florida secession convention in 1861. Put in charge of military affairs for the state and on 5th April 1862 and was commissioned Brigadier-General. Commanded the District of Middle and East Florida until after the of the Battle of Olustee, where he nominally commanded the Confederate troops. He was transferred to Virginia in May 1864 with a brigade of Florida troops where he took part in the Battle of Cold Harbor. He remained with the Army of Northern Virginia until 20th March 1865 when he returned to duty in Florida. Died at Rutledge, Florida on 29th October 1885. Buried at the Old City Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida.
Gamble, William U.S.A.
Born in Duross, Co. Tyrone on 1st January 1818. Emigrated to the United States around 1838. Appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 8th Illinois Cavalry in September 1861, appointed Colonel of the regiment on 5th December 1862. The regiment first saw action at Warrenton, Virginia where it remained until the commencement of the Peninsular Campaign. Gamble was wounded in the chest at Malvern Hill, rejoining his command at Fredericksburg. He was commanding a brigade by 31st January 1863. At the battle of Gettysburg his old regiment fired the first shot of the engagement. Relieved from duty with the Army of the Potomac in May 1864 and assigned as commander of the cavalry division in the Department of Washington. Brevetted Brigadier-General of volunteers from 14th December 1864. Honourably mustered out of service on 17th July 1865. Was mustered back into service and in July 1866 was appointed Major of the 8th Cavalry. Died while on route to California with his regiment at Virgin Bay, Nicaragua on 20th December 1866. Buried in Virgin Grove Cemetery.
Hagan, James C.S.A.
Born in Co. Tyrone in 1822. Emigrated with his family to United States as a child. Served in the Mexican War. When the war commenced he became a Captain in a cavalry company from Mobile, Alabama. Commissioned a Major in a proposed regiment to be commanded by General Wirt Adams. Appointed Colonel of the 3rd Alabama Cavalry following the Battle of Shiloh. Served during the war in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and the Carolinas, and for the majority of the last two years of the war commanded a cavalry brigade under General Wheeler. Was wounded at Franklin and Kingston in Tennessee, and at Fayetteville in North Carolina. Was commissioned Brigadier-General in February 1865.
Jackson, Richard Henry U.S.A.
Born in Kinnegad, Co. Westmeath on 14th July 1830. Emigrated to the United States in his youth. Career soldier, was a First Lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery at the outbreak of the Civil War. Served in the defence of Fort Pickens and the capture of Pensacola, Florida in 1861. Served with the X Corps in the Department of the South. Stationed on Folly Island, Charleston Harbour during the operations against Fort Sumter. Reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Inspector General in the volunteer forces, and acted as Chief of Artillery for X Corps. Moved to the Army of the James at Petersburg and commanded the 2nd Division of Weitzel’s XXV Corps until the end of the war. Advanced to Brigadier-General of volunteers on 19th May 1865. In 1866 reverted to the rank of Captain in 4th Artillery. Died at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia on 28th November 1892 holding the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Buried in the National Cemetery at West Point.
Jones, Patrick Henry U.S.A.
Born in Co. Westmeath in November 1830. Emigrated to the United States at age 10. At the outbreak of the war became a Second Lieutenant in the 37th New York ‘Irish Rifles’. Was in reserve at Bull Run (Manassas). Promoted First Lieutenant in November 1861, and Major in January 1862. Fought during the Peninsular Campaign and Second Bull Run. Promoted to Colonelcy of the 154th New York on 8th October 1862. Fought at Chancellorsville where he was wounded and taken prisoner, being exchanged in October of 1863. As part of Howard’s XI Corps was ordered to Chattanooga and was present at Missionary Ridge. Fought as part of the XX Corps from Chattanooga to Atlanta through to the Carolina Campaign and the eventual Confederate surrender. Was promoted to brigade command on 7th June 1864, and to the rank of Brigadier-General of volunteers on 8th April 1865 backdated to the previous December. Died at Port Richmond, Staten Island on the 23rd July 1900. Buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Staten Island.
Kiernan, James Lawlor U.S.A.
Born in Mount Bellew, Co. Galway on 26th October 1837. Emigrated to United States c.1854. Acted as Assistant Surgeon to the 69th New York Militia at First Bull Run. Appointed Surgeon of the 6th Missouri Cavalry, serving at Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern). May have subsequently been appointed Major of the 6th Missouri but this is unclear. Was badly wounded at Port Gibson, Mississippi and left for dead but he successfully escaped. Resigned as Surgeon of 6th Missouri on 24th May 1863 and was commissioned Brigadier-General of volunteers on 1st August 1863. Commanded the post at Milliken’s Bend on the Mississippi. Resigned due to poor health on 3rd February 1864. Died on 26th November 1869 on West 33rd Street, New York. Buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.
Lane, Walter Paye C.S.A.
Born in Co. Cork, 18th February 1817. Emigrated to the United States with his family in 1821. Served in the Mexican War. Elected Lieutenant- Colonel of the 3rd Texas Cavalry in 1861, fighting at the battles of Wilson’s Creek and Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge). Operated in Louisiana in 1863 and during the Red River Campaign in 1864. Severely wounded at the Battle of Mansfield. Recommended for promotion by General Kirby-Smith and commissioned Brigadier-General to rank from 17th March 1865. his promotion was confirmed on the last day that the Confederate Senate met. Wrote and published post war memoirs. Died at Marshall, Texas on 28th January 1892 where he is buried.
Lawler, Michael Kelly U.S.A.
Born in Co. Kildare on 16th November 1814. Emigrated to the United States with his family in 1816. Fought during Mexican War. Commanded the 18th Illinois Regiment which was mustered into service by then Captain U.S. Grant. Was court-martialled for his extreme disciplinary methods but was acquitted. Was wounded on the assault on Fort Donelson. Promoted to rank of Brigadier-General in 1863 (ranking from 29th November 1862), commanded a brigade at Port Gibson during the Vicksburg Campaign. Captured over 1100 Confederates during an assault during the siege of Vicksburg. Served as a brigade and division commander in Louisiana and Texas for much of the remainder of the war, finally appointed to command the District of East Louisiana based at Baton Rouge. Brevetted Major-General from 13th March 1865. Died at Equality, Illinois on 26th July 1882. Buried at Equality, Illinois.
Meagher, Thomas Francis U.S.A.
Born in Waterford, Ireland on 3rd August 1823. Banished to Tasmania in 1849 for activities with the Young Irelanders. Escaped to the United States in 1852. Organised a zouave company in 1861 which formed part of the 69th New York Militia. Fought as a Major at First Bull Run (Manassas), with the regiment being commanded by Michael Corcoran. Organised the ‘Irish Brigade’ in New York and was appointed Brigadier-General of volunteers on 6th February 1862, ranking from 3rd February. Participated with the brigade in all subsequent battles of the Army of the Potomac to Chancellorsville, most famously at Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg in December 1862. Was denied permission to recruit reinforcements for the brigade and submitted his resignation effective from 14th May 1863. His resignation was rejected and cancelled on 23rd December 1863. Served in various capacities in 1864 and 1865 behind Sherman’s forces. Again resigned on 15th April 1865 while stationed at Savannah. Drowned subsequent to falling into the Missouri River from a steamboat on 1st July 1867. His body was never recovered.
Moore, Patrick Theodore C.S.A.
Born in Galway on the 22nd September 1821. Emigrated to Canada with his family in 1835. Moved to Richmond in 1850. Commissioned Colonel of the 1st Virginia Infantry at the outbreak of the war. Commanded the regiment at First Manassa’s (Bull Run) under Longstreet, where he was wounded in the head, preventing his further service with the unit. Acted as a volunteer aide to Joseph E. Johnston until Johnston was wounded at Seven Pines, and served on Longstreet’s staff during the Seven Days battles. Assigned to court-martial duty until 1864 when he was temporarily assigned to General Kemper to assist in the organisation of the reserve forces of Virginia. Promoted to Brigadier-General to rank from 20th September 1864. At the wars conclusion he was in command of a brigade of General Ewell’s Richmond local defense troops. He was paroled at Manchester, Virginia on 30th April 1865. Died in Richmond, Virginia on 19th February 1883. Buried at Shockoe Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.
Shields, James U.S.A.
Born in Co. Tyrone on 10th May 1810. Emigrated to the United States in 1826. Served a senator for three states, and came close to fighting a duel with Abraham Lincoln. Served in Mexican War. Commissioned Brigadier-General of volunteers on 19th August 1861, fought Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley as a division commander. Resigned from the service on 28th March 1863. Died in Ottumwa, Iowa on 1st June 1879 while on a lecture tour. Buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Carrollton, Missouri.
Smyth, Thomas Alfred U.S.A.
Born in Ballyhooley, Co. Cork on 25th December 1832. Emigrated to the United States in 1854. Formed a company of infantry in Delaware in 1861 which became part of the 24th Pennsylvania, a three-month regiment. Subsequently appointed Major of the 1st Delaware Infantry, becoming its Lieutenant-Colonel in December 1862 and Colonel in February 1863. Fought at the Battle of Antietam where the regiment lost almost one-third of its strength. Other notable engagements included Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, where Smyth commanded a brigade of Hays’s Division, Hancock’s Corps which helped repulse Pickett’s Charge. Continued service in the Army of the Potomac and was promoted Brigadier-General of volunteers on 1st October 1864. He was wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter at Farmville, Virginia on 7th April 1865 during the Appomattox Campaign and died two days later, the last Federal General killed during the American Civil War. He is buried at the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery, Wilmington.
Sweeny, Thomas William U.S.A.
Born in Co. Cork on the 25th December 1820. Emigrated to the United States at age 12. Served in the Mexican War, losing his right arm at the Battle of Churubusco. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry, with which unit he served until the outbreak of the war in 1861. Served at St. Louis and commanded the 90 day Missouri Militia at Carthage. He was wounded at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Appointed Colonel of the 52nd Illinois Infantry In January 1862. Served at Fort Donelson and commanded a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was wounded. At the Battle of Corinth in October 1862 he succeeded to brigade command following the death of General Hackleman. Promoted to Brigadier-General on 16th March 1863 ranking from 29th November 1862. Spent the majority of 1863 in garrison duty in the Tennessee and Mississippi, before being promoted to division command in the XVI Corps which he led during the Atlanta Campaign. Was arrested following this campaign as a result of charges put forward by the commander of the XVI Corps but was acquitted. He was never restored to command. In December 1865 he was dismissed from the regular army for being absent without leave but he was restored in 1866. He was heavily involved in the Fenian Invasion of Canada in 1866 and was arrested by the U.S. Government, though later released. Placed on the retired list of the army with the rank of Brigadier-General on 11th May 1870. Died at his home in Astoria, Long Island on 10th April 1892. Buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
*With thanks to Harriet Busteed for information regarding the combination of pension records relating to General Richard Busteed and Captain Richard Busteed which has led to confusion regarding their respective careers.
References & Further Reading
Evans, Clement A. (ed.) 1899. Confederate Military History Vol. VII
Marmion, William F. K. 2002. ‘Generals of Irish Birth in the U.S. Civil War: The Complete List’ in The Irish Sword Vol. XXIII No.91, Summer 2002.
Warner, Ezra J. 1959. Generals in Gray
Warner, Ezra J. 1964. Generals in Blue