The American Civil War and Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

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


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Categories: Dublin, Fenians, Memorials, The Civil War and Ireland

Author:Damian Shiels

I am an archaeologist based in Ireland, specialising in conflict archaeology.

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11 Comments on “The American Civil War and Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin”

  1. Liam McAlister
    November 16, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    I have been trying, without sucess, for the last number of years to get copies of some burial records for ACW vets that returned to Ireland and were still in receipt of an Army Pension in 1899!!! Well done on this info. I already knew of these but fair paly for bringing it to a wider audience.

    • November 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Liam,

      I think there must be quite a few of them, especially from a Fenian background, but your research has probably given you some indication of the numbers. The story of the veterans on their return is a fascinating one!


  2. Laurie Winslow
    January 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Hi Damian. JFX O’Brien is my greatgreat grandfather on my mother’s side. His son (by his 1st wife Maria Cullimore who died) Fitzpatrick emigrated to the United States. I wish I could read the inscription on the monument, it is difficult to figure out. If you have any info on JFX’s service in the Civil War, could you forward it to me? I would greatly appreciate it. Laurie

    • January 31, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

      Hi Laurie,

      Many thanks for getting in touch! That is quite an impressive ancestor! I will try to see if I can get a copy of the inscription for you from the monument- there was a bit of an issue with the light when I took it but I will try to see what I can do. I have been trying to find out more about his service and I wish I had more for you at present- his presence as an assistant surgeon at the start of the war is all I have been able to find out thus far, and I am not sure where he was based when he held this position. However I will continue to keep my eye out and hopefully can track down more infromation that I can pass on to you.

      Kind Regards,


      • Laurie Winslow
        February 14, 2011 at 1:47 am #

        Thanks Damian. I would appreciate any info . By the way, my great grandfather (Fitzpatrick) and his brother Clare were born in Louisiana while JFX was there. They went back to Ireland several years later and grew up there.

    • January 19, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Laurie, came across your request from some years ago regarding inscription on grave of JFX O’Brien. If you didn’t get it I can send it to you.
      Ray Bateson

      • Laurie Winslow
        January 21, 2013 at 1:38 am #

        Ray, I would really appreciate that-thank you!

      • January 21, 2013 at 8:57 am #

        Thanks for helping Laurie out Ray- I have long hoped to get back but have not been in Glasnevin since!

  3. March 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Hi Laurie,

    I have come across some further information on J.F.X. that might be of interest to you- I will send you a direct message with the details.


    • daniel bannon
      August 11, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

      Hi Damian, My name is Daniel Bannon and my great uncle was father John B Bannon of St Johns Church in St Louis USA. I am 79 years old and just returned back home,after tracing my family/clan’s lands and history. I stayed in Tullamore,visiting Leap Castle and Roscommon areas of the Shannon river where my family links came from. I believe part of the family moved to Dublin dealing in farming products, maybe some of them are still dealing there. I tried to see my great uncles grave, but the traffic around the city was to much for us. I found your site on the web,and found his grave which I thank you very much for,I hope I can copy and paste it for my brother john. I often wondered why my family never called my brother by his name but joannes, I was often called my Donald by my grandmother. Best Regards D Bannon

      • February 18, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

        Hi Daniel,

        Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this. I am delighted you got over to visit and were able to see the grave on this site- quite an ancestor to have. Please feel free to share it with your brother!

        Kind Regards,


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