Tag Archives: New York Irish
The last words written by Hubert McNamara, hours before his death at the Battle of Cold Harbor (National Archives/Fold3)

‘Goodbye For A While': An Irish Soldier’s Last Letter Home, Found on his Dead Body at Cold Harbor

On the 8th June 1864 Captain Dexter Ludden and his men from the 8th New York Heavy Artillery were picking their way through corpses. They had been assigned the unpleasant task of burying some of the many, many dead who had fallen assaulting the Confederate works at Cold Harbor. By then the bodies they were […]

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Ayer's Pills were a popular medication for stomach complaints. This is a post Civil War advertisement for the product (East Carolina University DIgital Collections Image 12.1.23.13)

Meagher’s ‘Drunken Freaks’ & Old Abe ‘Astonished': The Last Letters of John Doherty, 63rd New York, Irish Brigade

Corporal John Doherty of the Irish Brigade wrote a series of letters home to his family from Virginia and Maryland in the summer of 1862. Transcribed here for the first time, the letters detail John’s pride in the Irish Brigade– ‘the envy of the rest of the army’– but likewise suggest that the realities of […]

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'The Fenian Banner', 1866 (Library of Congress)

‘The Next War': The New York Irish-American Looks Towards John Bull, April 1865

150 years ago this month the American Civil War seemed on the verge of ending. The fall of Richmond on 3rd April appeared to have hammered a final nail in the coffin of the Confederate cause. When the New York Irish-American Weekly came out on Saturday 8th April, they printed a piece entitled ‘The End […]

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The Return of the 69th New York, 1861 by Louis Lang. Thomas Madigan had been anticipating such a homecoming before Bull Run (New York Historical Society)

The Madigans: Famine Survival, Emigration & Obligation in 19th Century Ireland & America

Each pension file contains fragments of one Irish family’s story. They are rarely complete, but nonetheless they often offer us rare insight into aspects of the 19th century Irish emigrant experience. Few match the breadth of the story told in the Madigan pension file. That family’s words and letters take us from the Great Famine […]

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Irish emigrants sending money back to Ireland from the Emigrants Savings Bank in 1880 (Library of Congress)

‘As Good A Chance to Escape As Any Other': A Cork Soldier’s Aid to His Family in Ireland, 1864

Occasionally, I am asked why any Irish impacted by the American Civil War should be remembered in Ireland. After all, the argument goes, these people left our shores, and they weren’t fighting for ‘Ireland.’ In response, I usually point out that many were Famine-era emigrants, who often felt they had little choice but to leave. […]

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Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Smith and officers of the 69th New York, an image exposed just a few weeks after the Battle of Skinner's Farm (Library of Congress)

‘I Trust the Almighty Will Spare Me My Life': Charles Traynor & the Battle of Skinner’s Farm, 25th March 1865

In March 1865, Charles Traynor wrote home to his mother Catharine in New York. A veteran of some of the most famed Irish Brigade actions of the war, he was still at the front as the conflict began to enter its final days. ‘I trust the Almythy will spear me my life’ he confided to […]

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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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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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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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