The Georgia Daily Constitutionalist received permission in July 1861 to publish a letter received by one of its Irish readers. It was a note from the Georgia Irishman’s brother, who had fought with the 69th New York State Militia at Bull Run and had been wounded in that battle. Although the authenticity, circumstances and motivations behind the letter are open to question given the propaganda efforts of both North and South at the time, it is nonetheless an interesting reminder that not everyone may have been enamoured by their decision to put themselves in harm’s way for the Union.
A LETTER FROM A FEDERAL SOLDIER
A gentleman in this city, a native of Ireland, has received a letter from his brother who was a member of the 69th New York Regiment, under command of Col. Corcoran, was wounded at the battle of Manassas, and is now a prisoner in Richmond. Having been permitted to publish the letter, we append it here, as showing that “humanity is still the guiding star of our Government,” and that “a change has come over the spirit of the dreams” of some of our would-be conquerors. Here is the letter:
New Alms Hospital,
Richmond, Va., July 30, 1861.
I wrote you a few lines last week which a gentleman either posted or took on with him as he resided near Augusta. I know you were surprised to hear that I was in Richmond wounded; but if we had got our rights I would have been in New York the day the battle was fought, our term of service having expired the day before, but Old Abe or Scott would not let the regiment go home. Well, it served us right, when we were fools enough to fight in such a cause; but I hope the time will come when Irishmen will mind their own business.
Early in the fight, I got a ball in the thigh which broke the bone. I lay on the field 35 hours, a rain falling most of the time, and might have laid there since, if it was not for the kindness of the Southerners- enemies I cannot call them, for they have treated us more like brothers than anything else. I got a hard shaking on the railroad, but now, thank God! I am very comfortable here. I expect to have my leg set today. If it is I hope to recover soon, when I will be a much wiser man. Owing to the great number of wounded I could not be attended sooner: besides the doctor was afraid of mortification; but I think I am now safe, and that, with God’s help, I will have the use of my leg.
Dear Pat, you could not believe the way our soldiers were treated by Scott. There were eight regiments on the field whose time was up, but could not get home. But worse than all, they left the dead and wounded on the field, and never sent a flag of truce in to know how or what would become of us. It is Colonel Corcoran I blame for keeping us; he is now a prisoner here. Many is the heavy curse he got from wounded and dying men. I wish you could send a letter to my wife, poor creature; probably she thinks me dead. She lives at 212, West 26th street. Direct, care of Thos. Kiernan. Tell her I hope to be with her soon; also, that I am well treated; get meat three times a day, and splendid soup at dinner time.
I remain, dear Pat, your affectionate brother,
Daily Constitutionalist 6th August 1861: A Letter From a Federal Soldier