Irish Born Brevet Generals: A New Resource on Irish in the American Civil War

A new resource page has been added to the Irish in the American Civil War site, providing brief biographies of the 32 Irish born men who were breveted Brigadier-Generals. The page has drawn on Roger D. Hunt and Jack R. Brown’s 1990 Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue as a source for the men’s birthplace and key details, with the biographies expanded through recourse to other sources. These references are listed beneath each biographical entry.

Some of the men are already well known, but many others have not received much prominence. Although the amount of information varies from officer to officer, what is apparent is that many led extraordinary lives both before, during and after the American Civil War. Amongst their number are Irishmen who fled their native country following the 1848 Rebellion, served in the British Army, fought in the war of 1812 and the Mexican War, or joined the Papal forces in the Italian War of 1860. During the war itself many rose to the command of regiments and occasionally brigades, be they in the Eastern or Western Theater. One spent the war fighting Native Americans on the frontier. Some went on to be awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions, while another saw his son join the Confederate forces and yet another was dismissed for stealing Government funds. Careers in politics and the legal profession followed the war for many, while others stayed in the military, became marshals or went into business. Some went on to hold more unusual roles and the list includes one U.S Ambassador to Colombia, and one ‘Commissioner Extraordinary in the United States for President Kruger of the Boer Republic’.

Details are also available (thanks to the work of Hunt and Brown) on the burial places of these Irishmen, and it is perhaps surprising that a small number are buried in graves with no marker to commemorate them. If you are interested in exploring the page it can be accessed through the Brevet Generals tab at the top of the page or by clicking here. It is intended that the Generals page will also be updated in the near future with further information added on each of those men where possible.


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Categories: Generals, Research, Resources

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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6 Comments on “Irish Born Brevet Generals: A New Resource on Irish in the American Civil War”

  1. February 27, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    Great resource here. I am using it for a blog series I’m starting for Long island immigrants called The Immigrants’ Civil War.
    The Immigrants’ Civil War is a new series that will look at the impact of the American Civil War on immigrant communities and retell the stories of immigrant participation in our greatest conflict.

    • March 1, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

      Hi Pat,

      Many thanks I am glad you find it of use. Your endeavour looks really worthwhile and I look forward to reading your monthly pieces about the Immigrant’s war- if you need any further information on the Irish don’t hesitate to give me a shout!

      Kind Regards,


  2. March 16, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    Thanks Damian. I am looking for any good online sources of diaries, letters, etc. from enlisted men who refer to their ethnicity.

  3. March 16, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Hi Pat,
    Have you had a look at the books page on this site? There are a few memoirs of veterans on it with links to the online book at that might be of some use, and let me know if I can be of any help!

    Kind Regards,


    • March 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Thanks. I have. Great Resource.

      Particularly appreciate the regimental after-action reports. The NY 69 after Fredricksburg is particularly sad.

      My readers tend to be recent immigrants from Latin America and Asia and many have expressed surprise at the role of immigrants in the Civil War. As the series goes on, I wonder how they will react to the racial aspects of the Irish community’s change in support for the war after 1862. Any clues as to Irish American leaders with more progressive views on race so that I can provide some balance? I think a lot of my readers will sympathize with declining Irish support due to the toll of war, but they will have a lot more problems with the racial aspects.

  4. March 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Hi Pat,

    The race issues are definitely a complex one- particularly with regard to events such as the 1863 Draft Riots- many of the Irish were concerned about what they saw as a direct threat to their social standing, and associated many of the abolitionists with the Know Nothing party. Many of their were views were borne directly out of the ill treatment the Irish had themselves received in the 1850s. I have come across some comments on it from a couple of sources that I can try and dig out for you- Colonel Patrick Guiney of the 9th Massachusetts makes some reference to it in his letters, as does James P. Sullivan an Irish Iron Brigade veteran, although his views are expressed late in life and may not have necessarily reflected his view when the war was still ongoing. There are some others- in any event I will try to dig these out and pass them on to you.

    Kind Regards,


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