One of Fort Donelson's River Batteries (Hal Jesperson)

‘Beyond the Power of My Feeble Pen’: The Fate of a Limerick Octogenarian’s Sons in the West, 1862

Limerickman Patrick Vaughan had lived a long life by the 1860s. He was born sometime around 1783, the year that the conflict between the American Colonies and Britain had finally ...

Irish in the American Civil War Needs Your Votes (Again!)

I am delighted to say that Irish in the American Civil War has been shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Blog Awards in the Arts & Culture category. This is the same category ...

Chart of desertion rate in the 63rd New York Infantry, Irish Brigade, from 1861 to 1865 (Damian Shiels)

Charting Desertion in the Irish Brigade, Part 1

The Irish Brigade is rightly regarded as one of the finest units to take the field during the American Civil War. However, just like all other Union formations, they had their ...

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Portraits from the New York Irish-American Weekly: 1861

Every week the New York Irish-American brought it’s news to Irish readers ...
Punishment of Union soldiers, as depicted by Alfred Waud. In the case of Patrick Griffin, he was tied up by the thumbs, with his feet barely touching the ground, and gagged (Library of Congress)

Killed By Torture? The Story of an 18-Year-Old Irishman’s Death at the Hands of his Officers, New Orleans, 1865

In May 1860, 47-year-old Bridget Griffin stepped off the boat in the ...

The Forgotten Irish Book: Cover and Contents

As many of you know, I have spent the majority of my ...

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Salem Harbor in 1853, where John was a mariner before the war (Boston Museum of Fine Arts via Wikipedia)

Why They Fought: An English-Irish-American Soldier on Orangemen, Englishmen & Why he Died for the Union

My work on Irish in the Widow’s and Dependent Pension Files has led me to read and transcribe hundreds of letters of Irish and Irish-American soldiers who lost their lives as a result of the American Civil War. There are many themes evident across much of these men’s writings; discussion of finances, health and family […]

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The fighting on Chinn Ridge at Second Bull Run as drawn by Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)

“Mike, The Color Bearer”: How a Famine Emigrant Became an American on the Battlefields of Virginia

On the afternoon of 30th August 1862, the outcome of the Battle of Second Bull Run hung in the balance. James Longstreet’s Corps had been hurled against the Union left, and desperate fighting broke out along a key portion of the field known as Chinn Ridge. As Federal officers sought to buy time to organize […]

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South view of the Stockade at Andersonville Prison, 17th August 1864 (Library of Congress)

“We Irish had a Hard Time of it in Those Days”: An Irish Veteran Remembers Andersonville

In 1877 The National Tribune newspaper was founded. Aimed at Union veterans and their families, over the course of the following decades it provided many insights into not only veterans issues, but also their experiences of the American Civil War. There is much of relevance to those interested in the Irish experience of the conflict to be […]

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Roche's Point, Cork Harbour by Charles W. Bash

Celebrating American Independence in Cork Harbour, 4th July 1862

Just as Americans today celebrate 4th of July–their Independence Day– wherever they find themselves around the World, such was also the case in foreign climes during the American Civil War. Cork Harbour has long had strong connections with North America, and in 1862 many U.S. nationals found themselves there on their national day. Efforts to celebrate […]

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The Brierwood Pipe by Winslow Homer, 1864. This depicts the 165th New York's sister regiment, the 5th New York, but their uniforms were almost identical (Cleveland Museum of Art CVL491292)

“My Own Dearest Maggie”: The Last Letters of a Scottish Soldier of the American Civil War

My work on the widows and dependent pension files of American Civil War soldiers has revealed many hundreds of letters relating to Irish emigrants in the Union military. During the course of my research I have also come across files relating to other immigrant groups. Among them are many Scottish soldiers, whose dependents– like those […]

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“I want to see you before I die”: Last Letters of Ulster Emigrants in American Civil War Pension Files

Two years ago I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium in Athens, Georgia. The Symposium alternates between Ireland and North America every two years, and this year was back at its spiritual home, the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park outside Omagh, Co. Tyrone. I was […]

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The Academy of Music was an impressive venue. This was the Russian Ball held there, only a few months after McClellan's speech, in November 1863 (Library of Congress)

“I Sprung from A Kindred Race”: George McClellan Cultivates the Irish Vote, 1863

The Irish of the North overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party during the period of the American Civil War. Many had little time for Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, and in the 1864 Presidential Election most rowed behind George McClellan– the former commander of the Army of the Potomac– who was hugely popular among the Irish. Though […]

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The "Down Hill Road", an 1878 image which highlighted the dangers of alcohol (Library of Congress)

“I Not Onley Loved You But I Adored You”: 19th Century Irish Emigrants Speak of Love, Loss & Alcoholism

On 13th October 1863 Irishwoman Margaret Martin of 84 Fourth Street, East Cambridge, Massachusetts applied for a widow’s pension. Her husband Michael, a private in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, had lost his life at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 3rd May that year. Margaret’s file demonstrates the range of information that can be found in […]

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The Battle of Opequon (Third WInchester) by Kurz & Allison (Library of Congress)

The Ties that Bind: An Emigrant Derry Community & Those Left Behind

The google image below is the modern view of a rural laneway in Ballyriff townland, near Magherafelt in Co. Londonderry. Over a century ago, it was a road that was well known to Thomas McKinney. He had spent his entire life walking it, making a living for himself and his family in the surrounding fields. […]

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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)

“Our Ironclads on the James River”: The Collected Correspondence of “Garryowen”

During the Civil War, newspapers frequently published correspondence written by soldiers and sailors at the front. Some servicemen took the opportunity to act as quasi-reporters for particular publications, ensuring that their views and opinions regularly appeared in print. In May 1864, letters from an Irishman who went by the pen name Garryowen began to appear in the […]

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