Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin is the largest in Ireland, with over one million burials since it first opened in 1832. Amongst the headstones are a number of graves and memorials to men who served far away from Dublin, representing both North and South in the American Civil War. A recent visit to the Cemetery brought an opportunity to record five such monuments to men who had experienced the horrors of the fight between Blue and Gray.

The Memorial to the ‘Manchester Martyrs’ in Glasnevin Cemetery. William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien were executed in England for the murder of a police officer during the rescue of two Irish Republican Brotherhood leaders.

Detail of the Manchester Martyr’s Memorial. Among the executed was Michael O’Brien, an American Civil War veteran who had fought with the Union army. One of the Irish Republican Brotherhood leaders who he helped to free was Thomas Kelly, who had served as an officer in the 10th Ohio Infantry and on the staff of General George Henry Thomas. Although buried in England, these executed men are commemorated by this memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Another memorial in Glasnevin to a man buried elsewhere. This restored monument was erected by friends of William Dillon Walker, from Goldenbridge on the outskirts of Dublin. He joined the Federal army and was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864.

A detail of the William Dillon Walker memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery. Though difficult to read, it records Walker’s service in the Papal Forces in the Italian War of 1860, where he was proclaimed a Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester. His later enlistment in the Union army and death at the Wilderness is also inscribed, surely one of the very few memorials to an individual in Ireland which specifically names an American Civil War battle.

The grave of John O’Mahony (1816- 1877). The Limerickman was the founding member of the Fenian Brotherhood which he set up while living in New York. He served as Colonel of the 99th New York National Guard towards the end of the Civil War.

Detail of John O’Mahony’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. He died in New York in 1877 and his body was transferred with much fanfare to Ireland for burial in Glasnevin Cemetery.

The grave of James Francis Xavier O’Brien (1828-1905) who was a member of the Fenian Brotherhood and also served as a Member of Parliament for the Irish Parliamentary Party. He was in America at the outbreak of the Civil War, and served briefly as an Assistant Surgeon for the Confederates in New Orleans.

A detail of James Xavier O’Brien’s grave. He had studied medicine at Queen’s College Galway and in Paris prior to travelling to Nicaragua to fight with William Walker, eventually settling in New Orleans.

The Jesuit section of Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of that order are buried. Amongst those who lie beneath this cross is Father John Bannon (1829- 1913), the ‘Confederacy’s Fighting Chaplain’. He was sent to St. Louis following his ordination, and when war broke out he served as Chaplain to the First Missouri Confederate Brigade. He was captured with his unit following the fall of Vicksburg in 1863. He subsequently returned to Ireland in an attempt to assist in the disruption of Union recruitment efforts on the island.

Detail of the inscribed cross recording the names of the Jesuits buried in the order’s plot in Glasnevin. ‘P. Joannes Bannon’ can be seen second from bottom. Bannon never returned to America following the war, instead remaining in Ireland and becoming a Jesuit.

References & Further Reading

Glasnevin Cemetery Trust

Faherty, William Baranaby S.J. 2002. Exile in Erin: A Confederate Chaplain’s Story: The Life of Father John B. Bannon

O’Duffy, Richard 1915. Historic Graves in Glasnevin Cemetery

Tucker, Phillip Thomas 1992. The Confederacy’s Fighting Chaplain: Father John B. Bannon