In April 1938 the New York Times and Gettysburg Times brought news of the death of a 96-year-old veteran of the American Civil War. Michael Gaffney’s passing was newsworthy in itself as the numbers of veterans were dwindling, but it was also claimed that the Irishman had been present when Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address almost 75 years before. (1)

The Pennsylvania Reserves in Action on the Peninsula in June 1862 by Waud (Library of Congress)

The Pennsylvania Reserves in Action on the Peninsula in June 1862,by Alfred Waud (Library of Congress)

Born in Dublin around 1840, Michael had emigrated to the United States in 1853. During the war he served in 33rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, better known as the 4th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, enlisting on 11th June 1861 and mustering out with his comrades on 17th June 1864. The Gettysburg newspaper covered the story with the headline ‘Vet Dies; Heard Lincoln‘. The New York Times offered the most detailed report:


Civil War Veteran Who Heard Lincoln at Gettysburg

Special to the New York Times

West Orange, N.J., April 3. Michael F. Gaffney, 96-year-old veteran of the Civil War, died here last night at the home of his daughter, Mrs. William Conner of 28 Llewellyn Avenue, after a week’s illness. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he came here as a child and at 20 enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment, with which he fought at Antietam, Bull Run, second battle; Gettysburg and the Wilderness. He heard Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. In the Eighteen Seventies Mr. Gaffney served as a captain in the Fifth Regiment, New Jersey National Guard. For some years he was a stationary engineer in the employ of the city of Newark. He belonged to the Phil Sheridan Post, G.A.R., of Newark. Also surviving are two other daughters, Mrs. Elizabeth Robshaw of Newark and Mrs. Margaret Crinnian of Brooklyn. (2)

(1) New York Times 4th April 1938; (2) 1930 Census, Gaffney Pension Index Card, Gettysburg Times 4th April 1938, New York Times 4th April 1938;


The Gettysburg Times 4th April 1938. Vet Dies; Heard Lincoln.

New York Times 4th April 1938. Michael F. Gaffney. Civil War Veteran Who Heard Lincoln at Gettysburg. 

Michael F. Gaffney Pension Index Card.

1930 US Federal Census.