Portrait of an Irish Soldier

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog offers access to a large number of Civil War related images. Among them is this hand-coloured ambrotype of a Civil War soldier. It is identified as Private William Haberlin, a native of Ireland who was killed at the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee on 16th December 1864. He served in Independent Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, which was recruited from Franklin and Erie Counties. Haberlin mustered into service on October 11th 1861. He survived many of the major battles of the Western Theater from Shiloh to Franklin, only to fall during the unit’s final significant engagement of the war.

Private William Haberlin, Independent Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery (Library of Congress)

There are very few details available on Haberlin’s life and service. However, the image is accompanied by a hand-written note, which gives us a glimpse at the personality and motivations of the man in the portrait. It reads as follows:

Now to the field again I’ll go,

for the union to defend,

Untill Jeff Davis is made to know,

His Kingdom is about to end.

And now if I would not live,

To hear freemen shout for joy,

This miniature to you I give,

In memory of a soldier boy.

William P. Haberlin.

Aside from the Irishman’s efforts at poetry, the note also tells us something of his motivation for continuing in service. Along with many of his comrades he had reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer when his initial two year term expired. Haberlin was fighting to preserve the Union and to end slavery. It is tempting to speculate that he may have written the note while on veteran furlough in the winter of 1863-64, before passing on the ambrotype to a loved one. (1)

Private William Haberlin's note which accompanied his ambrotype portrait (Library of Congress)

(1) Bates 1871: 859, 862


Bates, Samuel P. 1871. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5. Volume 5.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Battle of Nashville, Pennsylvania, Photography

Author:Damian Shiels

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

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10 Comments on “Portrait of an Irish Soldier”

  1. barry bradfield
    June 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    Possibly William Haberlin born in Co Kilkenny in 1835.

    • July 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Hi Barry,

      Thanks for that info! it would be great to pin down his county of origin!

      Kind Regards,


  2. Donal Doolan
    May 18, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    Definately William Haberlin, born in Slieverue, Co Kilkenny, Ireland in 1835. Son of Patrick Haberlin and Johanna O’Keefe, who emigrated to Quebec.

    • May 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

      Hi Donal,

      That is great work well done, have you managed to dig out any more information on him? I have no details on any of his service.

      Kind Regards,


    • Jack Haberlin
      June 21, 2013 at 12:38 am #


      My great great grandfather Patrick Haberlin and his wife Johanna (maiden name unknown) are buried in Brigus, Newfoundland. Could there be a familial connection here?

  3. Steve Farrell
    April 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    William Haberlin, son of Patrick Haberlin and Johanna O’Keefe, was married to Catherine Elizabeth Redmond on 24 Sep 1867 at Saint Patrick Church, Quebec City. Therefor he would not be the same William Haberlin in the picture who died 16 Dec 1864.

  4. December 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    This unit was heavily engaged at Franklin, where it fired some 600 rounds. At Nashville on Dec. 15 it was again caught in the fury and fired 507 rounds. Then on Dec. 16 it fired another 199 rounds and, according to battery commander Capt. Jacob Ziegler, the battery was enfiladed by two Confederate batteries. The left section was entirely disabled and Haberlin was killed.

    • December 17, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Hey Eric,

      Thanks for this detail- they had certainly been through the mill during the Tennessee Campaign. I have tried in the past to find out a bit more about him, but with little success- something I must revisit.

      Kind Regards,


    • January 8, 2015 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks Joe, and thanks for the link- he was unlucky. It would be great to get more detail on him and his service but I have made little headway thus far.

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